The Marseille Deck
IMG_0131.JPG

The Marseille deck is one of the classics when it comes to tarot. Its bright cheerful colors and bold lines are striking and playful at the same time. Its characteristic style comes from the method of block printing that was used to create this deck. It took no fewer than four master craftsmen to complete these designs: a paper maker, a designer, a form cutter, and a printer.

The designer would first draw the images on a block of wood. For Tarot cards, the blocks were quite large, with many rows of cards carved into a single piece of wood. Next, the form cutter whittled away the background, leaving raised images that were then covered with ink. Afterward, paper was laid on top of those raised images and rubbed with a wooden implement to transfer the ink. When the ink was dry, the images were colored in by hand or with stencils. Once dry, the cards were cut apart and glued onto heavy paper.

This elaborate procedure is why the deck features only a few colors. It’s minimalism when it comes to color and design make this deck a bright stand out worthy of any tarot readers attention. The more that I learn about tarot history the more honored I am to be part of this ancient tradition. I feel that when you use a classic deck, like The Marseille, you’re able to tap into it’s amazing history which only adds to it’s powerful divinatory capabilities.

What are your thoughts on the Marseille deck? Share below in the comments.

Popularity & Tarot
Snapseed 36.jpg

Often I think many of us dream of discovery when it comes to finding our next deck. A deck of tarot cards can be like a book of magic - shouted in secret until discovered dusty and forgotten in a corner of some antique shop. As if it was waiting, waiting for you, to come pick it up and learn it’s secrets.

Yet, most of the time we come across our decks in a much more ordinary way, perhaps purchased on amazon or at your local metaphysical shop. The Wild Unknown deck is certainly not an elusive find; you can purchase it just about anywhere. Does its popularity make it any less meaningful or inspiring? I personally don’t think so. Perhaps its very popularity makes its symbols even more profound. All across the world expert readers and novices alike have picked up this deck and been inspired by it’s striking minimalism and nature-based symbols. Of all the decks out there, this is the one that I attribute to beginning the resurgence of tarot in contemporary culture. Where that leads us - who knows. But I for one am excited when I think of how many people, like yourself perhaps, that has begun their journey with tarot.

To me, it doesn’t matter which deck first strikes your interest in tarot. What matters is that you’ve arrived and you’re ready to learn about all the amazing ways tarot can change your life. Your first tarot deck is like your first love - never to be forgotten. My first deck was the Rider-Waite Smith deck and it has stayed my constant companion for over 15 years now. I don’t mind at all that it's a popular deck - what matters is that it brought me to a path that I’m honored to be on.

What was your first deck? Was it a more popular or obscure deck?

10 Types of Witches
Snapseed 94.jpg

There are a multitude of different types of witches out there in the world and I'd like to give you an introduction to some of them.  To begin with, I think it's important to first define what a witch is.  To me a witch is simply someone who practices witchcraft. Witchcraft is something you do, like ritual or spellwork, and it’s not necessarily a belief system in of itself.  So, you don’t need to follow any specific religion to call yourself a witch or to practice witchcraft.  There are, however, many witches who use witchcraft as part of their religious practice.  So it's up to you to determine which path best fits your own spiritual journey. 

1: Gardnerian Witch

A Gardnerian Witch is someone who follows the belief system of Gardnerian Wicca, which was created by Gerald Garner in the 1950s.  Gardnerian Wicca is hierarchical system that consists of a high priest and priestess as well as various initiations. So, one is not a Gardnerian Witch until they have learned their specific traditions and have gone through proper initiation.

2: Alexandrian Witch

Alexandrian Witchcraft is like Guardian Wicca in that it is a formalized belief system which contains it’s own traditions and initiations.  Alexandrian witches follow some of the similar traditions in Guardian Wicca, but also incorporate ceremonial magic as well as the Qabalah.

3. Solitary Witch

A solitary witch is someone who performs spellwork and rituals alone and without a coven.  This may be by choice, or perhaps they just haven’t yet found a group of fellow witches they would like to work with.  A solitary witch can incorporate various different paths based on their interest and may or may not use witchcraft as part of a wider spiritual path or religion.

4. Eclectic Witch

An Eclectic witch is someone who pulls from various witchcraft traditions for their spellwork and rituals.  They rely on a variety of different cultures, beliefs, and systems to formulate their own personal witchcraft practice which may change and evolve over time. 

5. Traditional Witch

A traditional witch is someone who takes a historical approach to witchcraft.  They look at old grimoires, witch trials, various witch lore, and historical accounts to lay the foundation for their own spells and rituals.  Often traditional witches focus on working with the nature and history of the place they live and may work with the genius loci, or the local spirits.

6. Hereditary Witch

A Hereditary witch is someone who was born into a family that practices witchcraft.  Usually their knowledge is passed down through generations and each family may have their own traditions and belief system.  Though, just because someone is born in a witch family it does not necessarily mean that they will be more knowledgeable or powerful than a non-hereditary witch.

7. Hedge Witch

A Hedge witch works with the liminal spaces and the spirit realm.  In the past a ‘hedge’ would mark a boundary of a village or settlement and thus represents the boundary between our physical reality and the spirit world.  A hedge witch may be skilled at crossing that boundary through practices like astral travel.

8. Kitchen Witch

A kitchen witch enjoys making their home and surroundings a sacred space.  They often like to incorporate witchcraft with their cooking and put their energy and focus into to the food and the meals they create.  They care deeply about the ingredients, and may have their own herb and vegetable garden.

9. Green Witch

Green witches are extremely nature based.  They are likely to be in-tune with the seasons and often use natural materials to create their own magical tools.  They most likely try to perform all their spellwork and rituals outside in nature when possible.

10. Cosmic Witch

A cosmic witch incorporates astrology and astronomy into their witchcraft.  They most likely closely follow the alignment of the planets and they will often will coordinate their spells and rituals based on the location of the planets and the moon.


What type of witch are you?  Share in the comments below!

You can learn more about these types of witches in my corresponding Youtube video below:

Dive into Occultism with the Alchemystic Tarot
Facetune_21-06-2018-15-22-27.JPG

If you’re a fan of woodblock prints, Hermetic Qabalah, and obscure occult references then you’ll definitely enjoy The Alchemystic Tarot.  This deck is jam packed with symbolism and ideas that span multiple religions and spiritual systems. The artwork is derived from woodblock images found in books from 1600 - 1900 CE.  The creator of this deck, D.W. Prudence, clearly has an in-depth understanding of ceremonial magic and various western occult traditions. It’s delightful to find a deck that really uses and incorporates vast amounts of knowledge.  I’m a complete sucker for a puzzle to solve (see my review of the English Magic Tarot) so I love the idea of sitting down with these cards and researching the origins and symbolism of the woodblock print images.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big fan of the Rider-Waite Smith deck - I’m a tarot classics girl, what can I say ;) - so I do tend to initially scoff at decks that deviate considerably from the RWS system.  While the Majors do fit in well with a classic RWS understanding of tarot, the Minors are a bit different. To begin with, instead of using Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles we have Alchemists, Mystics, Shekinah, and Magicians.  I’m pleased to see that the Minors do have full detailed images as opposed to minimalist pips and that each Minor card seems just as jam-packed with symbolic wisdom as the Majors. Rather than the Minors showcasing narrative scenes, like in RWS, the Alchemystic Minors relish in advanced inclusion of numerology, hermeticism, and Qabalah.  

Facetune_21-06-2018-15-24-40.JPG

The detailed and often obscure references contained within means that this deck is definitely not for beginners.  There is a guidebook, which helps considerably with understanding the enigmas presented - though I still would recommend this deck for people who already have a base understanding of occult systems and history.  Personally I plan on using this deck to help with my own personal tarot study and knowledge of the occult.  However, I don’t think I will end up using this deck often for my client readings as it might be tricky to interpret this deck through a lens that examines our daily lives.  As my tarot clients well know, my reading style is very therapeutic and practical so this deck might not be the best fit for my professional readings.  Though someone who has a different reading style might find this deck to be right up their alley.

Facetune_21-06-2018-15-23-24.JPG

My main issue with this deck is not the complexity of understanding required to read it properly - instead my biggest issue is the design of the artwork.  The concept of using woodblock prints is wonderful and the woodblock prints chosen for each card I find to be well thought out. My issue is with the execution of the overall aesthetic design. The backgrounds use various saturated colors with radiating beams of light.  While this design choice might work well for a psychedelic themed deck, I find the colors distracting from the gorgeous design of the woodblock prints. I would have personally chosen plain backgrounds and a more matte finish to create a historical feel that better encapsulates the design of the woodblock images. Though, this is just my own artistic preference and I’m sure many will enjoy the bright background colors.

Overall, this is a really fun deck for anyone obsessed (like me!) with occultism and I encourage you to try your hand at deciphering all the symbolic and numerological meanings hidden within.

What are your thoughts of this deck? Would you use it as part of your tarot practice? Share in the comments below.

Do Witches Believe in the Devil?
Snapseed 81.jpg

It's certainly tempting to just immediately say 'No, of course witches don't believe in the devil!'  But today I'd like to take the time to think deeply about this question and I don't think the answer is as clear cut as many would suggest.  To begin with, not all witches believe in the divine or would consider themselves religious.  To me, witchcraft is a practice or something you do and as such it can be completely void of any belief in the divine.  And if you choose to perform witchcraft without the addition of divine energy than of course the answer would be irrelevant as the devil is Christian religious entity.  

There are, however, many witches who do channel divine power for their witchcraft practice.  Sometimes this may include calling upon the power of the Goddess and the God. The god in this case is sometimes called the Green Man or the Horned one and can appear as a satyr type figure with horns or hooves.  This archetype is inspired by pre-christian gods like the Greek God Pan or the Celtic God Cernunnos. This pagan God rules over the wild energy of the forest, our own human sexuality, and is a manifestation of the masculine energy in the world.  Like many pagan Gods, he is neither good nor bad as Pagan societies did not view their religious figures in a rigid binary system.

When Christianity came to Europe it viewed chastity and modesty being righteous and sexual freedom as being immoral.  So naturally, this put figures like Pan and Cernunnos in a difficult spot. Over time Christians overlaid their own story of the Devil with the much older masculine archetypes of pre-christian Gods, which is why the Devil often looks like the Greek God Pan.  This is why it’s so difficult to say if witches work with the energy of the Devil. If a witch is calling upon the divine masculine energy of the wild, are they working with the Devil?

 

To complicate matters further, there are also some witches to do work with the Christianized concept of the Devil as opposed to the Pagan masculine archetype.  Some believe that the Devil represents the very embodiment and power of witchcraft. In Christianity the Devil is connected with things such as ecstatic pleasure, celebrations, feasting, and unbridled revelry.  These are things that are often connected to various witchcraft traditions. This concept of the Devil is still somewhat removed from the character of Satan - the one who casts evil doers into the fiery realms of hell.  So in that way, you could say that yes, some witches do celebrate the wild and unpredictable power of the ‘Devil’, but not the fire and brimstone figure that is Satan.

My 'Pan' costume I wore for the Lyric Opera House Masquerade Ball

My 'Pan' costume I wore for the Lyric Opera House Masquerade Ball

On the other end of the spectrum, there are many witches that do not work with the wild masculine energy at all.  There are some groups, like the Dianic witches, who focus more on the Goddess and the ideas of the sacred feminine.  There are also groups that work with a much more watered down version of the sacred masculine that is very much removed from the idea of the Devil.  So once again I leave you to determine the direction of your own spiritual path and which, if any, divine forces you will choose to work with in your witchcraft practice.

So, to conclude, I think this question is more complicated and I don't believe a 'yes' or 'no' answer would suffice. To practice witchcraft requires a thinking beyond the binary of Good vs. Evil (or God vs. Devil) to which most belief systems are based. 

Unlike the Abrahamic traditions, Witchcraft is not based upon a strict division of what is good and what is evil.  Witches use nature to fuel their concept of the divine and in the world of nature there is no battle between good and evil.  A lion is not ‘evil’ because it kills the gazelle, and a deer is not ‘good’ because it eats only plants. Nature is both cruel and beautiful at the same time.  Likewise, witchcraft can be used for both positive and malevolent gains.  

With witchcraft there is no governing body or official rule book telling you what you can and cannot do.  Witchcraft is not something that was invented and controlled - it has always existed.  The power of witchcraft lays within the plants, the moon, the stars, and ourselves.  Witches over time learned to tap into this natural power and created spells for what they needed help with in their day to day lives.  There have been many witches that have cast curses against others from time to time and there have been many that have dedicated their craft to healing and helping others.  There are some witchcraft traditions, like Traditional Witchcraft, that are not morally opposed to hexes and will perform them if a significant need arises.  There are also some belief structures, like Wicca, where most of the followers are very much morally opposed to casting hexes and curses.   

How you choose to perform witchcraft is entirely up to you, and the moral consequences of those actions will likewise lie entirely on your own shoulders.  Witchcraft respects that you are an individual, capable of defining and establishing your own sense of morality and justice.

What are your thoughts on this?  I'd love for fellow witches to share their thoughts in the comments section.  Do my ideas resonate with you or am I way off the mark? 

The Sacred Symbolism of the Death Card
Snapseed 72.jpg

A menacing card of skeletal figures and morbid despair, the Death card has brought worry and anxiety to countless individuals.  Though is true purpose of this memento mori to bring about fear? Or, is there something more complex going on within this image?  

In my view the Death Card is a card of transformation and by reading the symbols you can uncover a beautiful narrative of death and rebirth.  I view this card as equally about things ending and new things beginning. This is why the scene represented here occurs not at night but during the sunrise - A reminder that after the darkness comes light and that after death comes rebirth.

The Four Riders of the Apocalypse (1498) by Albrect Durer.jpg

This card asks you to consider what needs to be cut out of your life so that new things can flourish, whether that be a relationship, a dead-end job, or anything that’s been preventing you from manifesting joy or success in your life.  This card uses the metaphor of death and rebirth to remind us that after we make these difficult decisions we will be creating space for something new to flourish. This card tells us that we sometimes must take on the role of the horseman and commence with the difficult task of bringing things that no longer serve us or our goals to an end.

When we read the symbols in this image you begin to understand the profound complexities of this card.  When looking at the horseman you are reminded of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, after all it is said that ‘death rides a pale horse.’  While here in the Rider-Waite-Smith card he conjures images of the apocalypse, in many other interpretations, such as the Visconti-Sforza and the Pagan Otherworlds Decks, he is shown as a simple Grim Reaper wondering the land and collecting his souls.

Illustration of a group of Templars being burned at the stake.jpg

Perhaps this macabre figure is even tied to the Knights Templar.  When you look to the top of the image you see that this is card number 13.  In 1307 King Philip IV of France sent out a secret letter across the realm that the Templar Knights were to be captured on killed on Friday the 13th.  Even today the number 13 is considered unlucky. Perhaps our skeletal character in this image is one of these murdered knights coming back from the dead to kill King Philip.  And indeed, there is a deceased king beneath the horses hooves. There’s also the idea, though unconfirmed, that the Knights Templars were guarding the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail is of course is a powerful object of transformation in of itself so it would make sense to connect the Knights Templars to this card.  

The horse that Death rides is white, a color tied to ideas of purity.  Death is therefore the ultimate purifier. All things are reborn fresh, new and pure and he passes by.  He also rides the same horse as the child seen in the Sun card, so Death and Rebirth are connected through a purifying force represented by the horse.  The skeleton in Death card and the Child in the Sun card also wear the same orange feather. Are they perhaps the same individual? Does Death go through his own transformation and become reborn as the child in the Sun card?

By looking at the other figures in the Death card you can see that Death does not discern between age, gender, or status.  All are equal before death, so death is also the great equalizer. He destroys class structures and hierarchy as he passes.

The woman and child here even get their own transformation narrative as they appear once more, in the Judgement card, as figures rising to their rebirth in a better place.

art130.jpg

The banner that death carries is not some morbid image, but a beautiful white rose.  The white rose indicates beauty, purification and immortality. The white rose makes an appearance in the Fool Card which is the very first card in the Major Arcana. Once again we see how endings and death is always tied to beginnings and rebirth.  
The specific rose seen on the banner ties to a real historical event known as the War of the Roses.  York and Lancaster were the 2 families involved in the War of the Roses for the English Crown in the 15th century.  The two rose symbols which represented these families were later combined to create the device for the Tudor dynasty. The marriage of Henry Tudor & Elizabeth of York brought about the end of the Wars of the Roses and started a new royal dynasty for England.  The rose featured here in the death card is the Tudor Rose. After so much death from the War of the Roses, comes the peace and unifying force of the Tudor dynasty. So here England itself has gone through a state of transformation - from war and death to the rebirth of strength and prosperity.

Looking to the background scene in the Death card we see a long river with a solitary boat.  Perhaps this is the River Styx from greek mythology where the souls travel from the realm of the living to the dead.  There is another card in tarot that shows a boat traveling along the river. The Six of Swords is often seen as a card representing journeys and significant rites of passage.  The idea of death and rebirth can definitely be seen as a journey and a rite of passage so could the woman and child in the Six of Swords be the same figures in the Death card? Is this a scene in their story line that occurs after they die in the Death card and before they reach rebirth in the Judgement card?

What happens to after you board the boat in the river styx?  Where do you go next on your journey? Perhaps you travel to card number 14 - Temperance.  Temperance represents balance, patience, and moderation. The water the angel pours between two vessels is flowing upward, defying the laws of gravity.  Perhaps we two are traveling from a physical plane to a higher place of divinity.

There is a valley behind here as if we travel along a continuous route, from top edge of the death card, down into the valley of Temperance.  You can see here that it is no longer the Winter of death, but it now Spring and one of the earliest spring flowers, daffodils, bloom by the pond.  

temperance-universal-waite.jpg

The sun is also beginning to rise higher in the sky.  Enclosed in the image of the sun is a crown. The crown in the Death card was a crown of status, hierarchy and power.  Though as death travelled along the image, he brought equality to all the figures, so here the crown that rises is no longer a symbol of ego, but a symbol of higher ideals.

Once you pass through the realm of temperance, where do you travel next?  Looking back at the death card we see two watchtowers you need to pass through before reaching the Sun.  These watchtowers appear in the Moon card, a card of great mystery. The moon represents the subconscious, falsehoods, and even emotional instability.  After all the Moon, or Lune, is the base of the word of lunacy. The moon card is also tied to the idea of the shadow self, which was a concept created by the great thinker, Carl Jung.  

Here our pathway goes between two monolithic towers.  With their one small window they look like guard towers which begs the question - What are they guarding?  Are they meant to prevent us from visiting or understanding the darker aspects of our own subconscious. Maybe we wouldn't like what we find.  Yet there is no gate or barrier between these guard towers, only a jagged pathway leading to yet another pond. Before we arrive at water we first must walk between the dog and the wolf.  As we do so we delicately walk the road between or civilized or tamed selves and our wild or untamed side that we often try to pretend doesn’t exist.

the-moon-universal-waite.jpg

The Moon card represents the unknown and that can be scary.  And so is death, death is the unknown and it can be a terrifying concept.  But here in the Moon card you have to bravely pass through this unknown and liminal space before you reach the stage of rebirth.  As we reach the pond we greet our final challenge. Our own fears, here represented by the monstrous lobster creature, comes out the waters of the subconscious.  To reach the Sun, you first need to face this monster head on and plunge into the depths of the unknown. Just like in the real world where we need to face our subconscious fears before creating any transformative change in our lives.

After you face the monster and passthrough the realm of the Moon card, you finally end up at the Sun, the place of rebirth.  The Sun is also a symbol of the divine. Some of the earliest deities were Sun Gods and Goddess, such as Horus in Egyptian Mythology and Amaterasu in Japanese Shinto.  Even today, it’s no coincidence that our olympic athletes are given a gold ‘sun disk’ to wear. There is this primal connection we humans feel to the Sun and idea of divine success.  So here we are receiving our golden reward after making it through the river passage in the death card and past the great guard towers of the moon. We end up here, at the Sun, a perfect symbol of rebirth, vitality, and success.

cf9b529822f8bbd3020ff2f6e9922ed2.jpg

When we get the Death card in a reading it forces us to face an uncomfortable truth.  When it appears it means that our life is in stagnation and there are various forces preventing us from achieving our goals.  As humans we reflexively stay in situations longer than we should because we fear transformative change. The Death card reminds us that only we are responsible for our life path and that occasionally need to become the horseman ourselves and cut what no longer serves us out of our life, weather that’s a dead end job, an abusive relationship, or a draining friendship.  This is not meant to be an easy task, this is process (like the journey through the realm of the Moon Card) means facing our fears and taking action.

What is so brilliant about the Rider-Waite-Smith Death card is that is contains a whole narrative within it’s symbols. Reading tarot is not simply memorizing some keywords connected to each card.  In my view tarot is about really looking, looking at the images, looking at the symbols, and understanding the wider idea or metaphor being presented. The role of the reader then is to comprehend these narratives and frame them so that they can bring guidance and understanding into our own daily lives.  

If you’d like to learn more about the Death card you can watch the video below.  Let me know your thoughts on these ideas and interpretations in the comments below.

Controlling Your Energy
ff0fb22489ab1c20d01b6320d060c960.jpg

***This is a guest post written by the lovely Rena from her blog, The King Paimon.  Check out her blog for more great content on the occult and spirituality. 

_____

It is very important, both when working with magic as well as in mundane life, that you have an awareness of your personal energy and how it affects your body and mind. This post discusses various techniques for managing your personal energy and “remaining present” in ritual and magic.

There are a number of ways to control your energy levels, as well as your mental, emotional and spiritual states. Here are some:

Mundane-ing – Get the person out of the ritual mindset and into a mundane, normal mindset.  Ask them what they did yesterday, if they like their boss, what their favorite color is.  Anything to engage their rational mind and get it to focus on something other than what is/was happening to them.

Shielding – Create energetic shields around the person to block energy flows that are causing them problems.  If they are unable to create their own shields, do it for them (temporarily).

Blocking – Like shielding, but more physical.  Put yourself physically between you and the source of distress.  Provides the energetic benefits of shielding with the physical obstruction added in for additional blocking power.

Charging – Raising a person’s energy level by putting energy into their system.

Re-Tuning – This is where you re-tune someone’s energy to a higher vibratory level (or rarely, lower level) so that they can handle the higher levels of energy without adverse effect.  This is analogous to shifting a car into a higher gear.  Like when you shift to a higher gear, the engine sounds quieter, but it is actually capable of running faster.  Retuning someone’s energy has a similar effect in that they will perceive energy levels as lower than they actually are because their capacity has increased, and people tend to measure energy related to their own capacity to hold and use it.  Retuning should not be done without permission as it can permanently change the person’s vibration and energy levels.  It often has an adjustment period of a day to a week where physical and energetic problems may be noticed as your physical and energetic bodies realign.

c278da7fad6f350133ab8d9e2c894765.jpg



Energy Shifting – Like Retuning, but on a smaller and temporary scale. Temporarily shifting the person’s vibration rate, either higher or lower for a short period of time.

Finding Equilibrium – Hot water poured into cold water creates warm water.  Energy will naturally seek to find balance on its own.  This state is called Equilibrium.  Simply relax and allow energy to flow in, out, around or through without forcing it.  This technique is also good for finding harmony with your environment by allowing it and you to flow through and into each other.

Breaking Connections – Energetic ties or threads can be formed while working magic or ritual, usually unconsciously.  By breaking this connection energetically or physically you can often remedy related problems.

Regaining Focus – A simple reminder to focus on a particular object or task is often all that is needed to help bring a person back to where they should be.

Stilling – Bringing your body to a calm, steady, relaxed state.  The physical version of Centering, Balancing and Attuning.

Centering – “Getting a grip” mentally.  Useful for when the concentration is poor, thoughts are scattered or coming in a flood.  The mental version of Stilling, Balancing and Attuning.

Balancing – Consciously working to balance energies.  Like Equilibrium, but can be used when the person is unable to relax enough for Finding Equilibrium to let energy flow naturally.  The energetic version of Stilling, Centering and Attuning.

Attuning – Getting in touch with your spiritual core and Spirit.  The spiritual version of Stilling, Balancing, and Centering.

Closing – Closing a person’s chakras temporarily, either in whole or in part, to prevent the flow of energy in or out of them.

914ce6b992826aea4dfc15bdf5dcff3a.jpg



Cocooning – Creating a shielding bubble of energy around someone.  Can be used to cut someone off from the energy of a circle without them realizing it.

Resting – Sometimes a person just needs a break.  Quiet time, a quick nap or a good sleep does wonders at all levels.

Remaining Present – A collection of skills for recognizing the signs and feelings of being moved out of control of your own body, such as through channeling or possession.  Training for noticing the warning signs, such as trace states, spontaneous body movement, perceiving thoughts, voices, and feelings that are not your own and ways to slow or stop the process if desired, along with establishing your boundaries and rules for passing messages through you to others.

Shock – A surprising sound or sensation can break someone out of many states where their attention is no longer present.  A loud noise near them, such as a sharp clap of the hands, will often snap someone out of an altered state.  In extreme cases, a physical action such as a slap in the face or a moderate kick to the shin will bring people back immediately with no long-term side effects.  These should obviously only be used as a last resort and under circumstances that would allow for it.

Radical Grounding – Techniques can be used to quickly remove excess energy from someone.  These involve physical, more than energetic, action.  For example, Heel Drop – Have the person jump up into the air.   When they are in the air, have them lock their knees and land hard on both heels.   There will be a physical jarring when they land that serves to drive their energy deep into the ground immediately.   Repeat if needed.   Note: This technique is not recommended for anyone with knee or spine problems.

Grounding – Grounding is listed last because it is the most overused technique available.  It is often suggested for nearly every situation and is usually the wrong thing to do.  If you are low on energy, grounding won’t help you.  If you have an imbalance or blockage of energy, grounding won’t help you.  If you are trying to build energy, grounding will suck it out of you.  If you are trying to be fluid and mobile, grounding will interfere with this and keep you rooted.  If you are trying to do out-of-body work, grounding will keep you in it.  Grounding is useful when you have some extra energy that you want to get rid of, and not much else.  In most cases where you would want to ground, you can simply do some “instant magic” and project the energy out with an intent behind it, and you will still get the benefit of getting rid of the energy, but you’ll have put it towards a goal.

By learning to practice these various techniques you will be able to better control your own internal world, which then lets you focus better on your external world.

What has been your experience with energy during ritual or spellwork?  Have you ever used these techniques and if so is there one that you find the most helpful? Share your thoughts below in the comments. 

Making Your Own Incense

My first memory of incense came from a church service when I was very young.  My parents did not often attend church but would make an exception when my mother's parents would come to visit.  My grandparents firmly believed in the Episcopalian faith so when they visited we made our yearly pilgrimage to our local church to attend Sunday service.  It may come as a surprise to hear, but I actually enjoyed going to church. As a child I was captivated by not the words of the service, but by the atmosphere of the church itself.  The stained glass windows gleamed with bold colors as the Sunday sun streamed through. I would look at the sequence of windows and wonder if the images were all related, as if they told one continuous story like a comic book or graphic novel.  

As the service began the altar boys clad in their crisp white robes would swing incense burners back and forth as they walked down the aisle.  The scent of the smoke filtered all the way to the back pews and made the whole church smell, well...heavenly. I would breath deeply as they passed and the scent would transport me somewhere other than my little upstate New York village.  I would get visions of spice markets from far away lands and imagine myself traveling there someday.

I believe that atmosphere is strongly underrated when it comes to ritual.  It is often the feeling you get, not the words, of a religious service that brings you closer to divinity.  I think the Catholic church has always understood this and this is why they consistently fill their services with pageantry, gilded statues, and of course incense.  

Incense goes back much farther than the Christian or Jewish faith.  There is evidence of incense being used as far back as the early Indus Valley Civilizations.  Quickly after incense was developed it began to be used in rituals and ceremonies to honor the Gods and Goddesses.  I sometimes like to close my eyes and imagine what some of the ancient Pagan temples must have felt like. I imagine that incense must have enhanced the mysterious quality that imbued these ancient mystic sites.

Nowadays we mostly use incense in our homes as a way to improve the smell or help us relax.  Though as practitioners of witchcraft we have the ability to tap into the esoteric qualities of incense and use it to enhance our spellwork and rituals.  You can of course purchase incense from many places but by taking it a step further and choosing to make your own incense cones you are tapping into a spiritual craft that has been done for centuries.  Making the incense cones yourself allows you to choose the herbs which best correspond to the intention of your spellwork and ritual so that your practice will be imbued with even more meaning and purpose.

 

MAKING YOUR OWN INCENSE CONES

Step 1 - Choose your dried herbs

You can use many different dried herbs to create incense.  The most common ones to use for homemade incense are Sage, Cedar, and Sweetgrass.  It’s even better if you’re able to use herbs that you’ve grown and dried yourself. You can also choose the herbs for your incense based on the magical qualities of the plant.

Step 2 - Crush the herbs into a powder

Using a mortar and pestle crush the leaves until they are the consistency of a rough powder.  This process may take awhile depending on which herbs you are using.

Step 3 - Add makko powder

Add one teaspoon of makko powder for every three teaspoons of ground herbs.  Makko powder is from the bark of the Thunbergi tree. The makko powder will act as a binding agent when water is added, helping to shape the incense into cones.  It’s also a natural combustible material that will allow the incense cones to burn slowly and evenly. While you can grind your own makko powder from Thunbergi tree bark it is much easier to purchase it online for the purpose of making your incense.

Step 4 - Add distilled water

Add water very slowly, a couple drops at a time, to the powder mixture until a ‘dough’ is created that you can mold in your hands.

Step 5 - Form the cones

You can either form the incense ‘dough’ into cones by hand or you can use a small conical mold.  I recommend checking your kitchen cupboard to see if you have any piping bags. The metal tips on these bags can be detached to make a perfect mold for your incense cones.  Measure out a ½ teaspoon of the mixture and press it into the mold. To help release the cone you can insert a pin or twisty tie into the tip of the mold.

Step 5 - Dry the cones

Place your cones on wax paper and allow them to dry for at least 12 hours.  Turn the cones over so the bottoms are exposed half way through to insure they have time to dry as well.

Step 6 - Burning the incense

Fill a heat-resistant bowl or small cauldron with sand or salt and then place the cone on top.  Light the tip of the cone, wait a couple seconds, and blow it out. The cone will continue to smoke for about an hour.

What is your earliest memory of experiencing incense?  Have you ever tried to make your own incense?  Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

*Images on this post are from Pinterest

The Restless Tarot - An Interview with Winslow Dumaine

The Restless Tarot is morbid, perhaps even sinister, yet I bet you won't be able to look away.  The longer you stare at the characters in these cards the more they appear grotesquely lifelike.  They seem to stare right back at you, pulling you down into their frenzied dystopian world.  

When I first saw images of this deck I knew I had discovered something truly unique.  This deck pushes the envelope in every sense of the word and these images are certainly not for the faint of heart.  Upon further research I discovered that the creator of this deck, Winslow Dumaine, happened to live in my city.  So for you my readers, I met up with him to discuss his story behind the creation of this dark and depraved deck.

Scarlet: Can you tell me what inspired you to make this deck?

Winslow: I would look at other tarot decks and think “how can we crank it to 11, how can we make it as extreme as possible?”  

At its core, this deck is based around the end of an relationship.  This deck came from a breakup with the woman I had known since childhood.  The cover of the box has an illustration of my left hand with the ring finger cut off. On the back of the box that the deck comes in, it shows the ring that I wore when I was with her. In a morbid way, I’m trying to show that the experience of this breakup prevents me from ever thinking about relationships or marriage again.

When you experience trauma, you might think ‘I’ll make something out of this; I’ll use this pain to propel me into doing something cool with my life’ or ‘I’ll simply recover.’  I think that there’s not enough attention paid to how trauma can hamstring you and cause explicit distress. In all my work, I want to examine the experience of suffering, and how trauma changes a person's life.

Whenever I found myself in these intense, heated arguments with my former partner, I would find myself thinking “Well, this is it, this is what it is from here on out. The foundation is cracked; even if we make up, we’re just making cosmetic changes to something fundamentally flawed.” That sense of permanence is what helped to guide me to an eventual recovery.  The way that I’ve explained it is that - You should look at your pain.  You should look at your suffering, and ask, why am I here?

Too many people try to brush off serious pain. When I would tell people, “I’m in so much pain, my heart is so broken,” the first thing they say is “It will get better.” I want to say, “Yeah, but I’m suffering now.” When you say “it will get better”, it’s like going up to somebody who just lost their legs and saying “Well, someday you’ll be able to do some cool tricks with a wheelchair.” I don’t care, talk to me about my missing legs. When someone is suffering, talk to them about their pain, not some nebulous future when things are better.  

In a way, this deck is an act of revenge. All my work is. Revenge against the people who failed me, who betrayed me. I do believe that living well is the best revenge, but I focus on the humiliative aspects. The expectation that I will fail drives me to succeed.

As much as this is a deck about my experiences with this one relationship, it’s also very much about the culture of sex violence as a whole. I took a lot of inspiration from strong women in my life, and their experiences guided me throughout the process.

Scarlet: One of the things that really drew me to your deck is that you wrote a short story for each of the cards.  And on top of that you created your own storyline that places the characters within a wider dystopian world caused by the end of fertility.  Why did you choose this wider narrative for your deck?   

Winslow: The deck has one consistent storyline and the cards represent little vignettes of the wider story.  The feeling I was trying to go for was to convince people that they are just seeing the tip of the iceberg; where it leaves you wondering but not questioning ‘what was that about?’ You feel an appreciation for what’s going on but you’re not lost.

My goal with everything that I do is that I want it to feel heavy and ominous, like an asphyxiating wall of confusion and fear. That’s why I set it in this vast cosmological scale.

On a personal level, because I was in this relationship for so long, and we had always planned on having a family together, I developed a sort of relationship with the notion of this potentiality.  The potential for marriage and an eventual child.  As the relationship ended, it was the destruction of this future and the eventual child.

When people are suffering they try to push their pain down and pretend they’re fine.  What I want to say is take that pain and rip it open.  Make it as big and as terrifying as you can because that’s closer to your truth. So I take this sense of ‘I’ll never have a child, I’ll never be with this person I love’ and I expand it to a cosmological degree.  A future, as shown in the deck, without love and without fertility.

Scarlet: How did you get interested in tarot and decide to use tarot as your medium?

Winslow: My interest in tarot came from a few different things.  Before the collapse of the relationship we went to my Dad’s house where he did a tarot reading for us with the classic rider-waite deck.  I thought it was really interesting and artistically it caught my eye.  I just remember that relaxed evening being the last peaceable night of the relationship before it became this avalanche of transgressions and betrayals.  The tarot reading was this last little oasis before the storm.  

I was also inspired to create a deck from this computer game called Hand of Fate that is based around a deck of tarot cards.  I thought the artwork in Hand of Fate was really cool but asked myself ‘What if it was stranger, more morbid, more extreme?’

Scarlet: What is the hardest aspect to creating a tarot deck and do you have any advice for aspiring deck creators?

Winslow: You need to have an idea that is so broad and full of so many different variations that you can reliably get 78 interesting cards out of it.  You need to have an inspiration that is massive and ambitious. Don’t start on the major arcana - those you’re going to have ideas for. I started with the minor arcana because that’s the hardest part. If you can’t figure out how you’d convey your theme while incorporating nine cups in the image, you might want to reconsider your theme.

The most important thing is just sitting down and doing the work. Great ideas are worthless if you can’t just sit down and get the work done.  I would draw during every free moment at work and then I would go home and draw all night. Six to twelve hours a day, every single day. When you make a work of art as an act of revenge, you are unstoppable. If you stop, you cede to them that you are a failure.

To create a tarot deck, you have to have a great fire in you. I take my fire, and I burn their house down.

 

 

What are your thoughts on the Restless Tarot?  Is this a deck you could see yourself working with in your tarot practice.  Share your opinions in the comments below.

You can purcahse this deck and find more details about Winslow's creative projects on his website

The release party for the Tarot Restless will be at "The Chicago Museum of Contempt" at the Gallery Cabaret on Friday, March 2nd starting at 6 PM.  If you're in the Chicago area feel free to stop on by to pick up a deck and meet the artist.  

tarotSarah Johnson Comment