The Illustrated Herbiary

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I promised myself I wouldn’t get any more books, but that was before I saw The Illustrated Herbiary, by Maia Toll.

herbiaryInitially, I purchased it because it looked like a beautifully illustrated collection of green magic based spells, without a lot of extraneous information. At this point, I have pretty much all of the “beginning witch” guides I could possibly use, and it’s not always easy to find a book of spells that doesn’t use up a lot of space on the basics of spellcasting. Upon further inspection, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it wasn’t actually just a collection of spells and meditations — the back cover contains a pocket with a set of really lovely oracle cards.

My favorite aspect of The Illustrated Herbiary is its simplicity. The book isn’t quite what I originally thought; I figured I was getting a book of spells, each written to focus around a single herb. In reality, this book is much closer to a divination aid… At least, that’s how it’s functioned for me so far. Each of the oracle cards corresponds to a section of the book. After drawing a card or doing a spread, you can turn to the book for more information about the meaning ascribed to the card, a focus for meditating on the card, and a spell for working with the herb’s energy. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the information presented (some of the section on white sage, for example), but it’s easy to use, it’s fun, and the illustrations are really, really cool.

That said, I would have liked this book to have more information. It’s certainly stylish and fun to look at, but it would’ve been nice if it contained more spells, herb lore, or even instructions for creating herbal charms or other crafts. My only real complaint is that, once you’ve assembled the deck of oracle cards, there’s no good way to put them back in the envelope and still close the book properly. (I used it as an excuse to get a new bag from Talitha’s Altar. They make beautiful, well-constructed tarot bags.)

deckbag

Seriously, I love them.

If you’re brand new to spellwork, this book won’t really cover the basics for you. If you don’t need the basics reiterated, it’s a very fun, original divination tool and source of inspiration. I’ve really been enjoying this deck thus far, and have even experimented by combining it with the Crow Tarot and Wild Unknown Animal Spirit decks.

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Man, the Ten of Swords does not screw around.

Betrayal, sure.

I had a feeling my body was going to be what betrayed me, because that’s generally how it goes. The only thing I enjoyed less than being correct about this was waking up so dizzy I couldn’t see, and spending several hours hunched over a trash can feeling simultaneously certain I was going to die and terrified I was not. Idiopathic intracranial hypertension carries a risk of stroke, which freaked me out for a bit, but most of my face was working okay so I figured that wasn’t it. Why’d this happen? No idea — I just woke up like that.

It was frustrating. It was disheartening. It was pretty much exactly what I’d been warned about.

(Enough about that, though, because it’s gross and I want to stop thinking about it.)

I did get a lot of reassurance afterward, though. I drew cards related to healing, cleansing, and optimism. I even saw a tiny hummingbird pause and hover right outside my window, which I thought was pretty impressive considering I live in a walk-up with no outdoor space to speak of. As long as I’ve lived in this area, I’ve never seen a hummingbird here before — if I hadn’t looked at the right moment, I would’ve missed him entirely!

Anyway, this week’s one-card reading felt a little more familiar. I admit, it was supremely weird to pull the Ten of Swords last week. I usually get such good news relating to what I’m up to or things I’m working on, to have my primary deck suddenly go all “DANGER, WILL ROBINSON” at me was extra unsettling. I get a lot of cups and wands. When I do draw something from the suit of swords, it’s usually a court card.

All of this is to say that I drew the Knight of Wands and I’m feeling a lot better.

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Knight of Wands from the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, artwork by Pamela Coleman Smith.

The Knight of Wands is a person (or, in this case, bird) of action, like all of the Knights. This card represents the pursuit of an idea, and the drive and energy needed to bring a vision to fruition. By that same token, it also represents looking before you leap. Unlike the Knight of Pentacles, the Knight of Wands is not patient and definitely not into conservative courses of action.

This card comes at a pretty good time — my S.O. and I finished a book not too long ago, and are now working on what needs to be done to turn it into something other people can (and might actually want to) read. It’s taken a lot of planning and strategizing already, so I definitely don’t feel like we’re acting on impulse here. Rather, the Knight of Wands seems to represent the desire and ability to actually act on the plans we’ve been sitting on for so long!

… I’m not gonna lie, though, I’m just happy it wasn’t the Ten of Swords again.

 

 

 

Three white candles in the middle of dried vines.

Of Brown Moths and Synchronicities

Literally minutes after I finished writing the previous, I hit “Schedule” and got up to do my usual nighttime ablutions. I’m standing there, trying to rinse the soap out of my eyes because I am a fool who couldn’t properly use a facial brush if my life depended on it, when something suddenly flies into my field of vision.

“Holy crap,” I responded, followed by a, “WHO told you?!”
(NB: “Who told you” is how I react to pretty much anything that surprises or displeases me, and also many things that don’t. They are good words for when you don’t have any better ones, like when a moth pings off of the side of your face, lands on your mirror, and acts all huffy about it.) 

It was a little brown moth. Not the sort of pantry moth I might’ve expected, though it was equally small and nondescript. If I had to guess, I would peg it as a Macaria aemulatariathough I didn’t really stick around to check its license or anything. I said goodnight, and got into bed.

That’s when I noticed that I had a new email alert on my phone. The Bloggess put up a new post: The silver moth. Her post is beautiful — full of love, kindness to a wayward moth that found its way into a pool, and memories of her grandfather. She talks about moths as representations of faith, and sphinx moths, specifically, as omens of death. It made me curious about my little brown moth. It wasn’t a sphinx, but it might be a good idea to find out if Common Angle Moths are omens of anything unpleasant. The timing struck me, and life doesn’t have many coincidences.

In dreams, brown moths are said to represent love and attraction. Moths, in general, are symbols of faith, transformation, psychic awareness, vulnerability, and adaptation, among other things. To some, they are omens of good luck. To others, bad luck. Coming on the heels of the cards I drew, I was at least happy to see that small brown moths seem to be a sign of more good things than bad… The kind of things I need to hear right now.

I’m grateful to the little brown moth that wandered its way into my bathroom. I’m grateful that The Bloggess rescued that silver moth, and I wish peace and good things for her and her family. I’m happy that I have another little message of hope, even if it did startle the everloving crap out of me and then sit on my mirror and look at me like it was my fault.

When the News is (Mostly) Bad

So, I did my usual one-card draw, like I do pretty much every week.

My health hasn’t been great lately, which probably isn’t much surprise — stress tends to complicate things, and we have a lot going on. None of it is necessarily bad, to be honest. It’s just A Lot.

So, with that in mind, I inquired about my health. I’ve been trying some new things, hoping for a little relief. What could I look forward to this week?

I drew the Ten of Swords.

Swords10

Image from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, artwork by Pamela Coleman Smith.

The Ten of Swords is generally regarded as crappy. How could it not be? In more or less every deck I’ve used, it features a depiction of a figure lying face down, back pierced with ten blades. It speaks of betrayal, which I can certainly identify with — not all betrayals come at the hands of other people. For example, I spend a lot of time feeling betrayed by my own organs, pollen, barometric pressure, gravity, temperatures, and bread.

In short, it’s…
I mean, it’s not a great omen.  

No card is universally bad, however, and the Ten of Swords is no exception. Does it kind of suck? Of course it does. It’s also a Ten, though, which marks the culmination of the progression depicted by the pip cards — whatever betrayal and suffering it describes is coming to an end. Are things going to get worse before they get better? Probably. But at least the sucky bit’s going to be over soon.

Not exactly reassured by this, I wanted to know how I could avoid the worst of it. I already feel poorly, how can I keep things from getting worse before they get better? I’m hoping to keep things on an upward trajectory, so a setback would be really discouraging. (Mostly because setbacks generally involve getting needles in my spine.)

I drew The Star.

The Star is particularly interesting here. It speaks of hope and optimism, which I can understand… Dwelling on how crappy I feel right now is only going to add to the stress that’s making things more difficult in the first place. That makes plenty of sense. The really intriguing thing about The Star is its position in the major arcana: it follows The Tower.

The Tower is the card of destruction and turmoil. It’s the utter demolition of old things that makes room for the new. It’s a period of tremendous upheaval, and The Star is the renewed hope, stability, and understanding that follows it. In short, things could be a lot worse. I’m nearing the end of a difficult energy cycle, and working to maintain my sense of hope is what’s going to carry me through it. Things could definitely be better, but this gives me some encouragement that there’s still something I can do. (And something I should be doing anyway, let’s be real.)

So, with these things in mind, I wanted to know when. When could I actually expect to begin to see improvement in my situation?

I drew the Knight of Cups. While court cards often indicate a blockage, or something that needs addressing before you can see improvement, Knight cards generally indicate some kind of forward motion. Great! Progress! I didn’t get a definite time this time, but still!

… I still wanted to know when though. At times like this, phrasing can be important. “When?” is generic — it can be any point in time. It could be after you recognize something the card is trying to tell you, you meet the person the card describes, or you learn a lesson the card is trying to give. Asking when, and nothing more, will not always yield an exact date. I should’ve known better… So, I asked how long from now I could expect to feel some improvement.

I drew the King of Wands. Have you ever experienced the decided feeling that your cards are great at telling you things you already know, but don’t really want to acknowledge that you already know?
I get that a lot.
In this case, the King of Wands in my deck is a confirmation that success will come with focused effort. I can’t look at my healing as a passive thing that’s going to happen to me, or something that will come with metaphysical work alone. It’s difficult to do the things I know I need to do in order to feel even marginally better, but there is no alternative. Even if I’m not experiencing any great benefits from a new treatment, gratitude journaling leaves me frustrated, rigidly scheduled polyphasic sleep is inconvenient, and I leave meditation just as frustrated as I was when I began, I have to stick with them and maintain a sense of optimism. In terms of timing, Wands indicate weeks or summer (though some consider them days or spring — experimenting with your deck can help you narrow down which is more accurate for you).

So, I have a lot of work to do. I’ve re-worked the strict schedule I adhere to, in a way that works better with the treatments I’m undergoing now. (I think most people might find that stifling, but I find it helps a lot with self-care and alleviates my anxiety.) If I can keep doing the work, even through the upheaval I’m experiencing, improvement will come.

Three white candles in the middle of dried vines.

The Wild Unknown called me an oyster and I don’t know how to feel about that.

Part of being Pagan, for me, is seeing the sacred in everything. I’ve seen some people arrive there because they were raised that way. Others arrive there after a crisis. From the unsprouted embryonic leaves in a seed (tiny, but strong enough to split a rock), to the chaotic force of a tornado, there is a majesty and a power in everything.

I am reminding myself of this because I do not want to be an oyster.

Don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with oysters. Farmed oysters are the most sustainable, least ethically objectionable source of animal protein. They turn bits of sand into pearls. Their shells are neat. They’re not exactly great judges of character, but they could be worse. They are basically questionably sentient water nuts filled with goo. It’s fine.

Still, as I was shuffling my new copy of The Wild Unknown oracle deck the other day, I had my hopes up. What energy would it help me connect with? A wolf? Lion? Maybe a snake?

An oyster.

“Surprise, nerd.”

Nah.

(I’ll level with you, this feels like a bit of hypocrisy considering my inward criticism of certain sectors of new age spirituality — like that nobody ever seems to have a dung beetle or a pantry moth as an animal guide.)

I don’t necessarily not want to be an oyster because I think they’re gross or boring, mind. They remind me of a sinus infection and aren’t exactly the kind of thing I’d want to hear Sir David Attenborough discuss at length, but still.

The Wild Unknown describes oysters as patient and persistent, but likely to hide things. They can be shy and withdrawn, and suffer from self-doubt. “When the oyster card appears, it’s important to reveal your inner treasures.” When in balance, oysters are generous and masterful. When they’re not, they are reluctant and silence themselves. To bring things back into balance, making yourself share something helps.

So, tomorrow, I’m gonna share you a thing.

 

 

The Ten of Cups

Hello! It’s been a month(ish) since I last posted. I’m sorry about that.

I do have a pretty good reason for dropping off of the face of the earth, though — sort of a combination of managing my health and that thing where you’re not supposed to tell people you’re doing a thing, because you’ll get the same emotional high from talking about it as you would from actually doing it and then end up never actually finishing it.

Anyway, in my time away I finished two paintings and one book, written collaboratively with my awesome and creative S.O. So that’s neat.

He and I have no idea how and if it will ever be published, but, thus far, beta readers have received it well. After getting the first round of feedback, we’ll have to seek out an editor, and then decide how we want to progress.

(It is a very long, drawn out, complicated process, and I am glad he has elected to handle most of it. I got to compile everything, make the initial edits, and format it all into a readable manuscript.)

Even if no publisher wants it and nothing comes of it, it’s certainly a good feeling to look at your writing and be able to say you’ve finished a full-length novel.

So, I wasn’t that surprised when I pulled the Ten of Cups this week.

Cups10

Ten of Cups from the Rider-Waite tarot, artwork by Pamela Coleman Smith.

The suit of Cups speaks of emotional fulfillment, and Tens are the completion of a cycle. They’re the ultimate culmination, So, it’s probably unsurprising that the Ten of Cups, then, speaks of joy, peace, and happiness. It’s contentment, emotional security, and an abundance of love. Though the artwork varies from deck to deck, it usually depicts a couple joyfully surveying a landscape replete with signs of luck and happiness — a rainbow, flowers, sunshine, rolling hills, a neat little house, you name it. It’s one of the most positive cards in the deck.

Working with my S.O. on what has ultimately been a labor of love for the both of us has been a trip. We started writing collaboratively as a way to roleplay — acting out little scenes between the two of us when distance, money, time, or health didn’t let us go on many adventures. This practice evolved into a setting with deep lore, eons of history, its own cosmology, and a tremendously varied cast of characters. To be honest, last we counted, we’d written enough for several novels and two or three anthologies of short stories, but this is the first we’ve felt confident enough to put through the process of turning it into something actual.

I feel like it’s a bit like having a baby, only nobody had to throw up for months, we still get to sleep afterward, and everyone’s perinea stayed intact. So probably not actually much like having a baby.

Hopefully, when all the hurly-burly’s done, I’ll be able to share it with you, too.

All the Aces, I guess?

Hello! I haven’t posted in awhile because I was on some medication that made my brain feel like it was being squeezed out through my ears, but, now that that’s done, I’m back up to my nonsense again.

So, if you’ve been following along my (admittedly pretty navel-gazey) tarot journey, you know I’ve been pulling a lot of cards indicating new beginnings. This is unsurprising, for two reasons:

  1. A lot of tarot cards deal with changes and new beginnings, because of the nature of the medium.
  2. I have all kinds of things I could/should/want to begin, I’m just physically limited from doing a lot of them.

It’s a bit frustrating to be constantly surrounded by this very “Yes! Go! Do the thing!” energy all of the time, but I’ve started finding it more and more reassuring as time goes on. I mean, sure, you’ve gotta strike while the iron is hot and all that, but it’s nice to see that this energy doesn’t really expire — everything is a cycle, cycles start and end all the time, and the only constant is change. If I miss one opportunity, there will be another one.

All of this is to say, I did a small tarot reading for myself. It was a three card reading, in contrast to the quick one card draws I usually do each week. I had originally intended to only draw one, but, when I cut the deck, realized that I was unable to choose which pile to draw from. So, three it was.

I drew the Ace of Wands, the Ace of Cups, and the Knight of Pentacles.

aces.jpg

If Aces represent opportunities for Starting the Thing, the Knights are the Doing of the Thing — at least, in situations where they don’t indicate the actual Doer of the Thing. The Ace of Wands indicates new opportunities for growth, I usually find Wands relate to my creative life. The Ace of Cups is similar, but for spiritual and emotional matters. Together, these indicate a new chance to reach or meet others and exercise an outpouring of compassion, connection, growth, and creation. Pretty sweet.

The Knight of Pentacles is practicality. Pentacles are earth — they are monetary wealth, but also the hard work needed to achieve it. If Wand energy is the castle in the air, Pentacle energy is what puts a foundation beneath it. The Knight of Pentacles expresses a willingness to do the hard things, stick to a routine, and continue working at something even when it ceases to be fun or exciting. He has methods.

I can see where these cards relate to my own life, but I also feel a little frustration that the message I’m receiving here comes up so often. I want to be able to act on the opportunities presented to me, but physical obstacles hold me back. There has to be another way around them, but I haven’t quite found it yet.

Wish me luck!