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.

Wands12

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.

 

 

 

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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.

Fresh herbs.

Getting Real Sick of “Wellness.”

A big part of witchcraft is learning to see through illusions, and let go of that which is no longer useful. So how much longer are we going to keep putting up with wellness?

Sorry, I should probably specify — “wellness.”

I’m not sure when it began, though I imagine it’s an insidious trend that you could probably follow all the way back, beyond the days of irradiated water jugs and Eben Byers’ jaw. There’s money to be made in solving problems, but there’s a fine line — make sure people know they’re unwell, but not too sick in any verifiable way, just unwell enough to require an easily-marketable brand of help. Blame stress, and you can turn attention away from the socioeconomic factors that are actually making us ill in the first place. We’re stressed, and that’s a problem that needs solving! Maca lattes! Yoni eggs! Self-care!

I could go into the ways that self-care has gradually morphed into self-indulgence, or the various racialized and gendered aspects of the wellness industry, but these are things for another day. Instead, I’d like to point out the ways that self-care has adopted a more sinister role: Not only are we supposed to spend money and energy to properly perform “self-care,” we’re supposed to do this in order to prolong our own exploitation. Take enough eleuthero so you don’t feel worn out at your second or third job. Stay hydrated so your eyes don’t get puffy and tired-looking after you’ve been up until five AM with a sick child, or you’ll hear about it from your boss. Your company won’t give you benefits, but there are beanbag chairs in the break room. You have to put in mandatory unpaid overtime, but they’ll let you nap in your office. Forget about adequate sick leave, vacation time, therapy, or health care, you need ping pong tables and this herb-, vitamin-, and crystal-infused water!

The thing is, I’m not stressed by electromagnetic frequencies, or because I don’t know how to sleep properly. People around me aren’t stressed because they don’t have a relaxation app or aren’t drinking the right tea. They’re stressed because economic insecurity requires both parents to work in the majority of families (61.1% in 2016, up from 31% in 1970) while affordable child care options remain sparse and birth control, abortion access, and adequate maternity/paternity leave is considered an entitlement. (Don’t even start me on our maternal death rate.) They’re stressed because they have to hope they can crowdfund insulin this month, or figure out how to make their child’s medical equipment out of scraps from Home DepotOils won’t fix that, Brenda. 

(Cue someone inevitably supplying an ironically smug, “Well, don’t have kids if you can’t afford them,” even though they’re eventually going to need the generation being born now to empty their bedpans, administer their medication, and keep them from wandering into traffic. Save your energy, my dudes. I see you.)

In an article by Jessica Knoll in the New York Times, Smash the Wellness Industry, she mentions that many aspects of it rely on the trope that women, especially, are silly bubbleheads that can’t care for themselves:

[W]ellness also contributes to the insulting cultural subtext that women cannot be trusted to make decisions when it comes to our own bodies, even when it comes to nourishing them. We must adhere to some sort of “program” or we will go off the rails.

The wellness industry exists as a sort of modern day panem et circenses that places the blame for our exhaustion and dissatisfaction squarely on ourselves, while absolving the structures that create these feelings with the vague, yet seemingly immutable, idea that “life is just stressful.” If we’re tired, it’s not because of the number of us required to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, it’s because we’re not sleeping right or drinking enough green juice. If we feel stressed, it’s not because the gig economy is quietly undermining worker’s rights and protections, it’s because we don’t take the right supplements. If we have brain fog, it’s not because of the anxiety and depression we can’t afford to treat, it’s because we sleep in the same room as our cellphones. Modern life, man. Whaddyagonnado?

It doesn’t help that wellness has effectively become a luxury, either. In I Helped Turn Wellness Into a Luxury Good. Now It’s Out of Control, Rachelle Robinett discusses just that:

I see healing sessions staged for the photo-op. I listen to supplement retailers position their wares with promises instead of information (“Calm”, “Youth Water”, “Meditation Tonic”). And, at the boardroom tables of so many companies, I hear how they want their products to represent “a movement,” be “a lifestyle,” and “empower” people. But I believe there’s nothing empowering about selling detox waters, vitamins we can’t absorb, or overpriced herbs without giving people the tools they need to create real, lasting change.

We’re worn down, and the solution we’re offered is something that costs time and money that more and more of us don’t have. The most overworked, underslept, undercompensated, stressed demographics — theoretically the most in need of the wellness industry — are also those least likely to be able to afford help. And, as Robinett points out, even those who can afford it are more likely to get placebos and platitudes rather than assistance achieving actual mental, physical, and spiritual health.

I am not against some of the things co-opted by the wellness industry, myself. Some of it helps. Gods know I use crystals, herbs, and oils. I meditate every day, keep a gratitude journal, and listen to binaural beats-enhanced music, because they work for my situation. I’m not against using them, I’m against pushing them as vague remedies for the symptoms of a much deeper problem. Unfortunately, the commercialization of wellness has turned many of these things into a performance, items to add and check off of a list in the pursuit of a nebulous vision of health and happiness. When we are told what we need to have and do to be well, rather than given the opportunity to get in touch with what we actually need, that’s a problem. When taking care of ourselves becomes a shopping list rather than a mindful practice that we are afforded the time and energy to do, that’s a problem. When we are given things to buy rather than ways to effect lasting societal change at the core of what makes us unwell, that’s a fucking problem.

 

 

 

The Heirophant and the King of Wands

Okay, I’ll admit — sometimes I look for the easy way out.

It’s a habit I’ve slipped into over the course of several years, pushed by the need to find easier ways to do pretty much everything. When you regularly forget you’ve let the stove on (until the smoke alarm reminds you), you find easier ways. When it’s tough to stand in the shower without falling over from vertigo, you find easier ways. Sometimes, finding the easy way isn’t a bad thing. Besides, laziness creates efficiency.

Unfortunately, there’s no substitute for hard work.

I have a lot of goals right now, which I won’t enumerate here so I don’t jinx myself. For most of them, there is no easy way. (Gods know I’ve looked.) One or two I’ve managed to make a lot of headway on the past few days, bolstered by last week’s Knight of Swords.

For this week, I didn’t do my usual one-card reading. Instead, I used one I reserve for times of frustration. I don’t put much stock in mediumship as a rule, but there’s someone I connect with through the Queen of Wands. When I want their advice, or even just an encouraging word or two, I shuffle my deck, seek out the Queen, and look at the cards immediately in front of and behind her. The one in front may be an obstacle; the one behind, the solution. Sometimes the one in front is a situation, and the one behind is the context. Sometimes the one in front is a problem, and the one behind is the outcome. It depends.

Today, she was sitting between The Heirophant and, oh hey, it’s your boy the King of Wands again.

kingwands

Okay, it’s not a traditional depiction of the King of Wands, but it’s still my favorite. 

The Heirophant is a card that comes up for me fairly often, usually when I need to stop trying to reinvent the wheel. He’s old-school, traditional, pragmatic, and conventional. Here, he’s a reminder that, sometimes, the only way out is through. There is no substitute for doing things the old-fashioned way, and sometimes that means hard work.

The King of Wands is a creative force. He’s a charismatic leader, able to bring ideas to fruition. I went a bit deeper into him in a previous post, but his appearance here is… interesting, to say the least. Before, he was a sign that I achieve what I want as long as I put some energy and focus behind it. Now, he’s here with The Heirophant to call me out.

It’s disheartening, but I know it’s true. I can achieve the things I want, but most of them are going to take an old-fashioned approach — and, in all likelihood, more energy than I have right now. Sometimes there just isn’t a way to make things easier on myself, but, buoyed by the promise of the Ace of Wands and the Knight of Swords, I still have hope.

Now I just need to keep my choroid plexus from kicking my ass..

Knight of Swords

Last week came with a lot of downtime, interspersed with bursts of activity. Most of my S.O.’s time was taken up by studying for an important certification exam (he passed!), while mine was eaten up by writing for clients, working on my own projects, and dealing with medicals. I have more tests coming up this week, and, at times, it feels like they’re never-ending. It’s had my energy at a pretty low ebb — it’s hard to rouse myself to do anything beyond the bare necessities when I’m feeling poorly as it is, and upcoming medical stuff hangs over my head like a cartoon anvil.

It’s a bit disappointing after last week’s Ace of Wands. I have so many ideas and places I want to devote my energy to, but not enough to go around. If I try to spread myself thinner, something inevitably suffers for it. It’s a frustrating position to be in, but it can’t last forever… Can it?

So, I drew a card to see what this week has in store for me. More waiting and brainstorming, or will I finally be able to start to see some things through?

I drew the Knight of Swords.

Knight on horseback on a crackled brown background.

Not actually from a tarot deck, but I thought it was pretty cool.

In many (though not all) decks, the Knight of Swords shown riding at a swift pace. His is  an energetic, active state. He is ambitious, quick-witted, and driven and, once his mind is made up, few things are able to get in his way.

He is basically the polar opposite to how I’m feeling right now, to be honest.

In The Crow Tarot, the Knight of Swords indicates an energetic start to a new project. Following the Ace of Wands, it’s a really good sign — the Ace of Wands is the seed, and the Knight of Swords is the energy of germination. He shows that there is a lot of potential here, and the strength to see it through. It’s not all roses, however, since he is no more a guarantee of success than the Ace of Wands is. It’s still possible to screw up, even in the face of these two very good omens, by acting without thought.

Really, this comes at a good time for me. I’m feeling low-energy, but knowing that my ideas have potential helps give me some impetus to see them through. By the same token, not having the energy to spare means that I’m more likely to apply it carefully, and avoid wasting it on frivolous pursuits. With the potential of the Ace of Wands and the strength and warnings of the Knight of Swords, I feel like I’m in a pretty good place.

Here’s hoping I’m right.

Ace of Wands

Few things feel as nice as a new beginning — that’s why I like the Aces so much.

They’re a fresh start, the energy of limitless potential. They’re a blank page, an unlocked door, and a new day. They’re the impetus to take the first step on a journey of a thousand miles.

The Ace of Wands card from the Rider-Waite deck.

From the Rider-Waite deck, illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith.

I didn’t have anything in particular in mind when I drew this week’s card. I’m still working on things from last week, still looking forward to more medical tests. Sometimes, it’s just nice to have the encouragement that I’m going the right way.

It’s hard to interpret aces, sometimes. While they have the energy of all of that possibility, that’s all it is: possibility. Tarot never guarantees anything, aces doubly so. They’re the seed of an idea that needs effort to grow. They’re a promising opportunity, but only an opportunity.

I always seem to draw Wands when I have something creative going on. In this case, it’s the fact that holy crap I am completely sick of figuring out how to display things, I mean damn.

See, pre-stretched canvas is expensive, unwieldy, and difficult to store and ship. Canvas stretchers are cheaper, but still need space to store. Roll canvas is less expensive to buy, and easier to ship and store, but it’s also more difficult to work with and a pain to display. Want to frame it? Good luck — unless it’s smaller than 11×14, you’re probably going to have to figure out how to either stretch or mount it first. Hopefully there’s room to stretch it without losing any of the image! Good luck with mounting, too, because any permanent mount will decrease the piece’s lifespan (and probably its value),

I have a plan, I think, albeit a harebrained one. I’ve no idea if it’ll work. It’ll look really neat if it does, but will also involve ignoring a lot of what I’ve been taught and picking up a few new skills. It’ll be interesting to try, if nothing else, and the Ace of Wands indicate that it might not actually be a bad idea!

The Ace of Wands can also indicate an opportunity for personal growth. I’m hoping it’s pointing to my doctor’s appointments later this week — if I can get that resolved, if I can put those years of pain and frustration behind me, it’ll open up more opportunities than I can even begin to imagine.

Either way, I have a lot to look forward to.

 

Caraway Folklore and Magical Uses

I never paid much mind to caraway seeds, really. I mostly knew them as the little vaguely anise-flavored bits in my rye bread, and the occasional ingredient in a love recipe. Lately, though, they’ve gotten my attention.

As it turns out, caraway seeds are one of the best herbs for digestion — particularly for people with functional dyspepsia. Caraway is a carminative, which means that it relieves gas, and the licorice-like compounds in it have a very mild anesthetic effect that’s soothing to a troubled stomach. I have a bag left over from a spell, and I’ve been grinding the seeds to use as an after-meal tea. (I also have samples of a caraway-based digestive remedy called FDgard, but that’s a subject for a different kind of post.)

Long story short, since I’m going to be ingesting a bunch of it anyway, I thought it might be a good idea to brush up on some of the folklore and magical uses of caraway. If you’re going to be brewing it into a tea several times a day, might as well enchant it at the same time, am I right?

Caraway Magical Properties and Folklore

Need to keep your stuff from being messed with? Bust out the caraway.

In Germany, it was sprinkled on coffins to keep evil spirits away from the dead.

By a similar token, it is believed that anything that contains caraway can’t be stolen — putting a pinch of it in a wallet, purse, or car helps deter thieves. Placing a dish of it under a child’s crib was said to keep witches away. Sometimes, the seeds were even mixed into animal feed to keep chickens and sheep from wandering away!

Caraway seeds.

Caraway is often used as a love herb. Chewing some of the seeds before kissing someone is believed to entice them to fall in love with you. (Perhaps not incidentally, caraway was also used since antiquity as an after dinner breath-freshening and gas-fighting herb. It’s probably easier to get someone to fall for you if you’re not enveloped in a dense cloud of halitosis and farting like a Holstein.) Hiding caraway in your lover’s food is also believed to keep them faithful to you.

Bathing in an infusion of caraway removes the spiritual causes of disease.

Using Caraway Seeds

Herb lore usually treats herbs in terms of what they’re able to bring to or repel from you. How many herbs are described as love-drawing, money-drawing, or banishing? After reading about caraway, it seems to be more useful for keeping what you have over bringing in something new. Even in love recipes, its action is geared more toward helping you maintain what you already have — you need to be reasonably close to someone in order to kiss them and get them to fall for you, right?

I think caraway’s greatest strength is as a protective herb, where this preserving quality can really shine. It would also be a useful addition to house blessing spells, or other spells with the aim of maintaining love, providing protection, and keeping evil away at the same time. In love formulas, I usually combine it with other things that have a more direct action.

Caraway seeds are also used to improve memory (which, when you think about it, is another type of preservation). Combined with herbs like peppermint, lavender, and mugwort, they’d make a great addition to a dream pillow or sleep sachet to help with dream recall.

 

If you don’t often use caraway in magic or cooking, I suggest keeping some on hand. Medicinally, it has a whole list of benefits ranging from improved digestion, to better circulation, to pain relief, and relatively few side effects. Magically, it is a very versatile herb for helping you keep all of the things you hold dear.