Crowned in Prayer: Hair Care as Spiritual Practice

Hair has had a special significance in spiritual practice for millennia. Whether we consider it our crowning glory, a symbol of self, or the part of our bodies closest to the Divine, tending our hair as a spiritual practice has a long and varied history. We polytheists can use that foundation to support our own spiritual work. 

How can hair be spiritual?

When considering our hair as a tool for our spiritual practice, it’s important to consider what our hair means to us, or what it might symbolize in our lives, before we start. Most of us take our hair for granted, but we often do have pretty intense feelings when we think about it a bit.

Is your hair merely something you ignore? A frame for your face? A method of self-expression? Perhaps it’s your favorite feature, or favorite fashion accessory, or preferred way to pamper yourself. Maybe your hair is a sexual thing for you, and you consider colors and styles to be your plumage. Maybe it’s something to hide behind, a curtain between you and the world. Maybe, like the Biblical Samson, you think of your hair as the seat of your power. Maybe your hair is one way you identify with your culture, heritage, or community. Maybe having someone else pet and play with your hair is relaxing. Maybe that makes you feel vulnerable, though, or you feel violated when other people touch your hair. Maybe it’s a safety hazard at work. Perhaps you don’t have any strong feelings attached to your hair but your spouse loves it.

Once we know how we relate to our hair, we can begin to see how we can relate it to our spiritual practice. If your hair is your favorite way to express yourself, then it can be used to express your devotion too. If it makes you feel vulnerable, maybe you want to cover it up so only those with whom you feel safest – including the Powers – can see it. If it’s a symbol of vanity for you, and you see vanity as a flaw you’re trying to improve, maybe shaving it off completely would be incredibly meaningful for you. If it’s a matter of heritage or cultural affiliation, then obviously look back to any hair practices that might be associated with that and work from there. If you don’t feel any kind of way about it, maybe you can start using it as a mindfulness tool and give it meaning.

There are no right answers here. It’s all about your personal relationship to both your hair and your practice, and that’s going to vary individually. Really give yourself some time to work it through, and keep it in mind as you check out the below options. You’ll naturally find that some of these methods speak to you more than others do. And that’s great! Those are the places to start exploring.

Some Practices to Consider

When it came time to put this post together I did a lot of research. Interestingly enough, everything I came up with fit rather neatly into three general categories. I love when that happens!

Those categories are Hair Care, Styling, and Covering.

Hair Care

This is the easiest and most subtle place to start. If we consider our hair to be a symbol of ourselves, and we either incorporate it into our spiritual practice or dedicate it to a specific Power, then the way we tend it can symbolize the way we tend our spiritual practice or the Power(s) to Whom our hair is dedicated. Cool, huh?

Some options here can include (but are not limited to):

  • Ritually rinsing or washing our hair before ritual or during sacred baths

    This is easy peasy. We can ritually rinse or wash our hair before engaging in ritual, on High Days, and/or on days sacred to a given Power. Light some candles, use smell-good products, sing or chant, lavish our hair with care and attention, the whole time keeping in mind the reason behind the action. Then, every time we see or smell our hair afterwards it’ll bring that symbolic action to mind again. It’s a great way to encourage mindfulness, and no one around will have the slightest idea that there’s anything different going on.

  • Using products made with ingredients or scented with a fragrance sacred to a Power
    This takes the above idea and advances it a single step. For instance, let’s say you’re cultivating a relationship with Aphrodite (for Whom hair care would be an excellent devotional act). Why not use rose-scented hair products? The scent would be another reminder of Her, or even of Her place “above” you. That can work for a wide variety of different Powers! Can’t find anything scented for the Power you’re working with? Consider buying an unscented product and adding your own essential oils. Problem solved!

  • Using only natural hair care products
    This whole ideas runs right along the same path as “don’t use plastic ritual tools”. If you hold by that, and you’re tending your hair as a spiritual act, then it just makes sense to use natural products. This doesn’t have to be complicated, though. More and more natural hair products hit the market every day. My favorite brand – Shea Moisture – is even carried at Target. No trip to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s required.

There are TONS of options when it comes to natural hair care!

There are TONS of options when it comes to natural hair care!

  • Using only hair care products we’ve ritually made ourselves
    Again, this is a natural continuation of the above. Making our own products allows us to choose all the ingredients and scents with intent and then ritualize every step of the production process. Using what we’ve made would continuously remind us of the energy that went into the making. There are recipes and tutorials all over the internet, so I won’t get into all the possibilities, but here are a few to consider:

    • Making your own shampoo/conditioner soap bars
    • Brewing tisanes (herbal teas) and using them as hair rinses
    • Using soap nuts to wash and condition your hair
    • Making various deep conditioning treatments
    • Going no ‘poo (shampoo, that is)
  • Never cutting our hair

    This is a more long-term strategy, but it can be a pretty powerful one. If we see our hair as symbolic of our relationship to a Power, then cutting it could be seen as cutting the relationship. So don’t. Let your hair grow forever, only trimming it as necessary to maintain hair health. This naturally slides into some of the Styling options listed explored below, too.

  • Shaving our heads

    This is obviously a polar opposite view of the “never cutting our hair” option above. There the hair itself as seen as symbolic of the relationship to a Power, so cutting it would be bad. However, if we instead see hair as symbolic of our relationship to the world, to vanity or attachments or a secular life, then shaving it off can by symbolic of both our rejection of that and of our putting our spirituality first.

    Shaving might strike some folks as more extreme than never cutting our hair, but it’s becoming more accepted for men and women every day. And don’t forget that different lengths and even styles are possible with shaving. It doesn’t have to mean “completely bald” unless that’s what you’d like it to mean.

Captain Picard, boldly (and baldly) going where no man has gone before.

Captain Picard, boldly (and baldly) going where no man has gone before.

Hair care can be as simple or complicated as you’d like it to be, and as you can see there are a ton of options that fall into this category! It’s also something that’s dead easy to include in just about any lifestyle. Bonus!

Styling

Regardless of what methods you use to care for your hair, how you style it after can also become a significant part of your practice. As a bonus, many of these methods will work under full veils if you’d like to transition between the two.

Here are some options:

  • Wear a Blessed/Sacred Accessory
    This is a rather simple approach that won’t draw much attention.
    Pick up a hair accessory – a jeweled bobby pin, for instance, or a hair comb – and dedicate that to whatever Power you’d like. Then wear it when you feel the need.

    How about a hair stick?

    How about a hair stick?

    There are so many options available that it’s easy to tailor our choices so that the color(s) and/or materials used in the jewelry are sacred to a particular Power. We can also do a formal dedication blessing, ask for the accessory to be blessed every morning during devotions before tucking it into our hair, etc.

    Don’t worry if you’ve got little or no hair, either – you can still get in on this! If nothing else, headbands (and the things we attach to them) are options too. No hair required! Other options include hats of all kinds, beanies, etc. Get creative!
     
    How gorgeous is this look?

    How gorgeous is this look?

  • Dyes

    The current trend of unnatural dye jobs plays beautifully into this. It’s hair styling via color correspondences! Do you follow a Power associated with purple and gold? Why not dye your hair purple and wear gold accessories? Scarlet, green, purple, brown, the sky’s the limit, and you’ll be reminded of the Power you’re honoring every time you look in the mirror. There are even temporary spray-in colors, or colored chalks, that let you do this for shorter periods of time. Those preferring natural hair care aren’t left behind either – natural box dyes, vegan semi-permanent colors, and henna are all options too.

    This technique might work out very nicely for some folks depending on their God(s) and their lifestyles. Considering recent trends it’s also likely to be less fraught to explain to the general public, although you might run into problems in the workplace.

  • Updos

    Want to save the sight of your hair for the Powers or because modesty is a part of your practice, but don’t want to cover it entirely? Keep it up!

    This very traditional approach can be as easy or complex as you like and definitely works for more professional environments. Crown braids. Buns. French twists. Snoods. Clips. Combs. Spin pins. Whatever works for your hair and lifestyle. (I don’t really recommend ponytails for this because they’re too free-flowing for me to consider them an updo, but you do you. 🙂 )

    Personally I’m a huge fan of the Scunci Upzing. It’s made of two combs connected by elastic cording (my preference) or elasticized beadwork. The elastic makes the combs hold beautifully while adapting well to various lengths and hair thicknesses. I can securely put my hair up in about 5 seconds flat.

    An Upzing used for a bun. Suitable for any professional environment, no? Works for a night out, too, and easily transitions between events.

    An Upzing used for a bun. Suitable for any professional environment, no? Works for a night out, too, and easily transitions between events.

As a bonus, almost all updos can be worn under veils. The Upzing I mentioned above is crazy comfortable for that!

Veiling (aka Covering)

Veiling can be loosely grouped into partial veiling and full veiling, but the lines between the two can be pretty blurry. For instance, lots of folks who do full covering may also leave their bangs exposed, or cover the crown but leave the back open. I define veiling as “anything put on the head to block visibility of the hair/scalp”, and that can include lots of options!

  • Hats and Beanies

    This is super easy, especially in the winter. Who doesn’t already wear beanies anyway? They don’t even rate a second look. They’re a little more noticeable in the summer, but there are enough styles that even that can be navigated.

    On the plus side, hats and beanies have zero learning curve. Put your hair up (if you have any) and pull one of these beauties over it. Done! They’re also an excellent option for folks who want full coverage but don’t have the mobility to wrangle a scarf regularly.

    A selection of beanies and pull-on hats from https://www.headcovers.com.

    A selection of beanies and pull-on hats from https://www.headcovers.com.

    Beanies provide adjustable coverage. You can wear them so your bangs show and your hair hangs out of the bottom, or you can wear them so your hair is completely covered. Not all hats are created equal in this regard, though. If you’re looking to completely cover all your hair, maybe check out places that cater to those experiencing medical hair loss (like the site in the photo above) as those products are designed to cover the whole scalp. Just keep in mind that they’re not designed for people with lots of hair.

    If you do have a lot of hair, and find that even beanies don’t accommodate you, consider a “slap“, or a satin-lined cap. These are especially good for folks wanting to pamper their hair and/or looking for sleep cap options. They also come in a variety of contemporary colors and styles. The video below shows the versatility of the turban-style slap, but there are other styles that do the trick too.

  • Wide Headbands and Bandanas
    This is a great option for covering regardless of how much hair you have, and can get the idea of covering across without being particularly note-worthy. The ones marketed as yoga headbands seem to be particularly wide, or you could go even wider by looking for the stretchy tube underscarves used by hijabis.

    A yoga headband.

    A yoga headband. It can be stretch to maximum coverage like this, but it can be folded or scrunched when less coverage is desired.

    Even better, almost all of these styles (depending on print) are completely unisex. Guys can get in on this too! I’ve seen the above style of headband on guys with longer hair and dreads, for instance.
  • Wear a Wig

    This option is very well established in Jewish communities, where married Orthodox women are encouraged to cover for modesty reasons. Wigs worn for this purpose are called sheitels, and ideally they cover the hair so naturally that it’s hard to tell it’s covered at all. It’s a great option for those who want full coverage in the workplace without drawing attention, it can adapt to various trends as needed, and styling it can be fun. Wigs/sheitels are absolutely not cheap options, though, so be prepared for a significant up-front investment if you want to go this route, with even more required for upkeep.

    A sampling of sheitels and their prices from http://www.sheitel.com.

    A sampling of sheitels and their prices from http://www.sheitel.com.

  • Scarves

    Scarves are the budget-friendly go-to for the majority of folks who cover, all around the world. They can easily be found for less than $20, in a wide variety of colors and materials, and the same scarf can be worn in a variety of creative ways. I recommend checking out Youtube for a plethora of different styles, as there’s no way I can cover even a tenth of the possibilities out there!

    What I can do is help with sizes. While technically a scarf is simply a piece of fabric of just about any measurement, there are some standardized size ranges that dictate the kinds of wraps we can do with them. I’ve listed the most common ones below to help you narrow down styles you might be interested in. I’ll let Youtube do the rest. 🙂

    • Bandanas: A bandana is really just a small square scarf (the size often used for neck scarves), but with a very distinctive “bandana” print on a whole rainbow of colors. They typically measure 22″ square, but a jumbo size of 27″ square is also available. Bandanas are great for headbands and partial covers, and make awesome skullcaps for folks with short hair and bald scalps.
      Wearing a bandana as a skullcap. A particularly masculine look.
      Wearing a bandana as a skullcap. A particularly masculine look.
    • Square Scarves: Typically larger than a bandana, square scarves used for covering generally hover between 36″ square and 44″ square. They’re great for those preferring retro looks, turbans, and Turkish hijab styles, but they aren’t as flexible as rectangular scarves when it comes to tying options.
      A Turkish hijab.

      Yes, this Turkish hijab style is done with a regular square scarf. The stiff front is achieved by folding the scarf corner-to-corner and inserting a flexible piece of cardboard or plastic in the fold before tying.

    • Rectangular Scarves: There are lots of sizes possible here, but the typical size used for covering tends to be around 28″ wide and 70″ long. Much larger than that and it’s unmanageable, while anything much smaller won’t provide enough coverage. Thinner rectangular scarves can make excellent sashes, though, that can be worn on top of another wrap or on their own for a pop of color/interest. These are the scarves most often used for both tichels and hijabs.

    • Infinity Scarves: An infinity scarf is a simply a rectangular scarf that’s been sewn together along the short ends to make a long loop. They’re not as standardized size-wise as rectangular scarves but the above measurements for good coverage still apply, so check sizes before buying. Infinity scarves make super-simple hijabs, can be used as tichels with a little work, and are especially nice for draping and pinless styles.
 

A Final Note on Timing

Please note that timing for all of these can vary. We can do any of these as frequently or sporadically as we’d like, on whatever schedule suits us and our practice. I fully cover every time I leave the house but prefer to rely on updos at home. Some folks only cover when at shrines/altars, or while praying, and others only uncover at those times. Some save it for High Days, and others on days sacred to various deities, and still others only toss a scarf over their heads when they feel a call to do it. Feel free to experiment!

The goal of all of these practices is to bolster and support your spiritual practice. If anything on this list does that for you, then yay! You’ve got a new tool! If it doesn’t, though, or you find that these practices are actually distracting, then by all means don’t use them. Tools need to suit the user, and one of the joys of polytheism is that we’re encouraged to find our own way as we go. May you find whatever best works for you!

The Magic of Tidying Up: Connecting With and Honoring House Spirits

Marie Kondo kneels to greet the spirit of the home and invite it to participate in tidying up.

“Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” is on Netflix right now and we’re at the time of year when a bunch of folks commit to reorganizing their homes. Put those together and people are once again talking about Kondo’s 2014 best-selling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up“.

Organizational expert Marie Kondo and the cover of her best-selling book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up".

Organizational expert Marie Kondo and the cover of her best-selling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”.

Most Westerners think of this book, and the KonMari method it introduces, as just another approach to organizing the home. However, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is one of the most prized books on my spirituality shelf.

I thought it might be helpful to explain why.

The Sacred Home

Household deities are common fixtures in polytheistic practice. For instance, like many folks I maintain a shrine for the Goddess of the Hearth. She is the flame at the heart of the home and oversees all domestic matters.

There’s another type of household spirit, though, that’s often considered similar to or even a variation of a land spirit. We see them throughout the Indo-European world, albeit with different names and characteristics. Whether they’re Celtic brownies or Norse húsvættir or Roman panes, though, they protect and promote the health/happiness of the home and all within it.

Figuring out how to work with the Hearth Goddess is fairly easy. We have records, right? We have poems and descriptions and temple remains that at least give us frameworks to work with, and when in doubt we can reach out using techniques originally associated with other deities.

That doesn’t really work for house spirits, though. Honoring them wasn’t connected to a temple and there wasn’t a dedicated priesthood. Parents passed the lore of their family’s house spirits down to their children as part of other lessons. “This is how you mop the floor, which both gives you a clean surface and makes the house spirit happy.” No one bothered to write much of that down. For the most part we have to rely on the traces of practice left in folklore and fairy tales.

As a result many polytheists are uncertain about how to interact with our house spirits. I think that’s why so many of us tend to approach them through formal rituals and offerings. We’ll light candles for them, maybe leave them dishes of milk or bread, but these activities are all too often distinctly separated from day-to-day life.

From what we can tell, house spirits were much more integrated into the lives of our ancestors than they are our lives today. It can be intimidating and overwhelming to figure out how to reach that level of integration now, though. Where do we even start?

“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has an answer for that.

The Magic of Tidying 

Marie Kondo is Japanese, with a solid grounding in Shinto. She even spent five years as an attendant maiden at a temple. That’s important, because Shinto is an animistic faith. In Shinto, kami – sacred spirits – take the form of things important to life. This can range from inanimate objects like rocks to concepts like fertility. When people die, their spirits even become ancestral kami, who watch after their descendants.

shinto shrine

A public Shinto shrine.

Some of the things most important to life are the objects we use to actually live. In Shinto, our house and dishes and clothing and craft supplies all possess kami. Working with that kami is so fundamental to the whole KonMari approach that the system is not complete without it.

Animism and polytheism aren’t the same thing. However, in this case the differences are pretty easy to overcome. Whether we’re interacting with the spirit of our home/spirits of our things or a resident house spirit is more a matter of perspective than technique. And since Kondo emphasizes Shinto-based animism throughout her book, we polytheists can use her approach as a springboard for our own practices.

That’s a good thing, because the “magic” of tidying is that fostering a more harmonious relationship with our homes provides a foundation for harmonizing the rest of our lives. Honestly, in my opinion the organizational tips in this book are just a bonus.

Hospitality in Action

My approach to working with the Powers, regardless of type, is to always start with Hospitality. It’s something I’ve emphasized since I started writing this blog, and I consider it the key to both facilitating those relationships and living a virtuous life in general. While the mechanics may differ across cultures, the concept of hospitality itself is universal.

The three steps of Hospitality I work with are Being Ready to Entertain, Offering Food/Drink, and Showing Respect. For the most part, Kondo’s KonMari method does that. It’s just all blended together. Being Ready to Entertain flows into Offerings, which flows into Respect, which flows back into Being Ready to Entertain.

This integrated approach is why I treat “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” as a spiritual guide as much as an organizational one. Tips for interacting with the spirit(s) of our home/house spirit are liberally scattered all throughout the book. Better yet, they’re treated as a matter of course, not as novelties or something woo-woo. It’s just the way things are done.

Because everything is so well integrated it can be difficult to separate the threads out so we can look at them individually. I tried, though!

Be Ready to Entertain

The initial tidying up method Kondo promotes prepares our space for the spirit of the home. She clearly states that as a goal. “One theme underlying my method of tidying is transforming the home into a sacred space, a power spot filled with pure energy.” By clearing out extraneous things and keeping only those that “spark joy”, and then neatly and respectfully putting away what we keep, we create a space for the spirit of the home/house spirit(s) to fill. And since everything we keep makes us happy, we’re setting the stage for that spirit to be happy too.

Offerings

Perhaps the biggest difference between Kondo’s animistic perspective and a more polytheist one is that she doesn’t suggest offerings of food and drink for the spirit of the home. However, she does make offerings. They’re simply of service instead. That’s an approach even we polytheists can incorporate into our practices, and other offerings can be seen as a further enhancement.

At a minimum, simply maintaining the organizational system and putting things back where they go can be seen as an offering. After all, according to Kondo storage is “the sacred act of choosing a home for my belongings.” By cleaning and tidying with intent, the things we’d already do become sacred too.

Of course, intent can be used for everything, not just storage. For example, consider the following: “Folding clothes is not about making [them]compact, but [about] communicating your affection and gratitude for their continuous support.”

Folding our clothes with intent? Communicating love for our homes and everything inside while we tend them? How is that not an offering?

Showing Respect

Respect for the spirit of the home bleeds through the whole KonMari method, and it’s approached in a very practical way. There’s actually a whole section in the book on greeting your house/house spirit. “Greet your house every time you come home,” Kondo says. “Just as you would greet your family or your pet, say ‘Hello! I’m home’ to your house when you return. If you do this repeatedly you will start to notice your house respond when you come home. You will sense its pleasure passing through like a gentle breeze. Then you will gradually be able to feel where it would like you to tidy and where it would like you to put things.”

Feel odd just starting out with a casual greeting from the get-go? Kondo recommends doing a formal introduction prior to the tidying process she endorses, and explains exactly how to do so. We can use that technique even if we’re not fully on board the KonMari train!

I was worried that the Netflix show would gloss over this aspect to appeal to a more Western audience, but nope – in every episode, before the family begins tidying, Kondo kneels and greets the house. She explains that she’s introducing herself as well as enlisting the help of the home’s spirit moving forward. According to her, our homes want to help us if we let them. This is their formal invitation to do so.

Marie Kondo kneels to greet the spirit of the home and invite it to participate in tidying up.

Marie Kondo kneels to greet the spirit of the home and invite it to participate in tidying up.

By regularly interacting with the spirit of our home/house spirit, we become more attuned to it and can even learn to “hear” it. Introducing ourselves formally indicates our willingness to listen and act on what we hear. That’s absolutely a demonstration of respect, and it’s a clear and solid technique we polytheists can use too!

Listening for feedback from spirit(s) during the initial sorting, when we’re deciding what to keep and what to discard, is another way we become more attuned to the spirits of our home. Kondo tells us to hold each item in our hands, one by one, to see if it “sparks joy”. If so, we keep it. If not, we thank it for its service and dispose of it. It’s easier to part with something when we do it with a little respect and reverence. Thanking before disposal also helps formally cut any ties between owner and object in a very gentle way. Whether we’re listening to our response to the object, the object itself, or the input of our house spirit is a matter up to personal interpretation.

By the time we get to the hardest stuff to sort and part with – the sentimental items – we’ve become attuned enough to the voice of our home to hear feedback even for that. It provides support and understanding as we go. No wonder so many followers of her method claim that maintaining a tidy space is easy forever after! They’ve learned to listen to their house spirit and act accordingly!

Reciprocity

Kondo is very clear on the importance of reciprocity to a happy home. She’s got a whole section titled “Your Possessions Want to Help You”, and another titled “Appreciate Your Possessions and Gain Strong Allies”. It’s all spelled out for us. Caring for our things motivates them to care for us, resulting in sweaters that don’t pill as much and spills that don’t happen as often. It also contributes to a more harmonious life.

One example in the book is about socks. “I pointed to the balled-up socks [in a client’s drawer]. ‘Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?'” By folding socks in a way that lets them “rest”, she’s both serving their physical needs (why stretch out the elastic unnecessarily?) and allowing her care for them to let them care for her.

Later she says: “One of the homework assignments I give my clients is to appreciate their belongings. For example, I urge them to try saying ‘Thank you for keeping me warm all day,’ when they hang up clothes after returning home.”

Whether we’re directly thanking our things or the house spirit that protects and helps maintain those things is again a matter of personal preference. The techniques are sound regardless. And if nothing else, gratitude is always a useful attitude to develop!

A Place to Start

Shinto and the Indo-European-derived faiths are literally a world apart. “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” requires us IE folks to make some adjustments as we go. However, it provides us a tangible, practical, and very specific place to start integrating these ideas into our own lives. That alone is worth the cover price!

Want to dip your toes in without buying the book? Check out the Netflix special! And as always you’re more than welcome to reply in the comments!

 

I’ve always enjoyed organizing and I’m a minimalist by habit and preference, so I didn’t really see the need to have this book in my life when it came out. However, it was Stevie Miller’s post over at Grundsau Burrow that encouraged me to pick it up in the first place. Check that out to see her thoughts on it too!

Tarot Review: Tinker’s Damn Legacy Edition

I’m always on the lookout for something new and different when it comes to Tarot. When I saw the Tinker’s Damn Legacy Edition on Kickstarter I pledged in about, oh, two seconds. It’s billed as both a Tarot deck and an expanded Mantegna, which obviously meant I had to have it.

It finally came in this week, and while I’m still getting acquainted with this edition I’m absolutely thrilled. It’s also a limited edition, so I wanted to get it reviewed and bring it to your attention before all chance to grab it for yourself disappeared.

Let’s do this.

The Deck

This is not one deck, but two. The packaging reflects that. It consists of a flat box with two plastic wells inside. The packaging is sturdy and looks nice, but I rather quickly picked up a bag instead. Cards easily slip from one well to another, irritating my sense of order.  If you like matching your bag to your deck, Tinker’s Damn bags are available on the designer’s website (you’ll want the largest size offered for this set). I tossed some options around and eventually used the green bag from this set on Amazon, which matches the back of the cards and beautifully holds the entire deck with the LWB. Go with whatever works for you!

Here we see the the decks in their plastic bands. Also shown is the LWB that comes with the deck. The whole set has a very steampunk vibe.

Here we see the the decks in their plastic bands. Also shown is the LWB that comes with the deck. The whole set has a very steampunk vibe.

The Tarot

The first deck is a standard Tarot deck. I say “standard” because all the cards you expect to see are present, but they’re not presented in the way you might expect to see them. For instance, many of the cards have changed names (like “The Librarian” instead of “The Hierophant”, which I happen to love). Also, while quite a bit of traditional iconography is there, you have to squint to see it.

Tinker's Damn

A few cards from the Tinker’s Damn Tarot. Here we have the Tinker’s Damn version of Justice, the Hermit, Strength, the Page of Swords, the Eight of Cups, and the Ten of Swords.

Some of the more obvious changes:

  • Major Arcana

    The order of the Major Arcana follows the RWS pattern, but almost every single name is different. Suspension for the Hanged Man and The Wild Unknown for Death are fairly easy to adjust to, but Evolution for the Lovers and Moloch for the Tower take a bit more work.

  • Minor Arcana

    The names for the suits are elemental, with Swords being Air and Wands being Fire. Cups and Pentacles are Water and Earth respectively. This is probably the most common place deck designers deviate from the RWS template, and there are no curve balls here.

  • Court Cards

    Another interesting shift. Pages are instead Couriers (although the LWB calls them Messengers). Knights have become Soldiers. Queens are Mayoresses, and Kings are Mayors. Meaning-wise they’re still RWS Court cards.

The Mantegna

That brings us to the second 78-card deck, the expanded Mantegna. The first 50 cards consist of the original five suits of the fifteenth century Mantegna deck, which is an ancestor to the modern Tarot and dates from around the same time as the Visconti-Sforza decks. The remaining 28 cards expand on those themes.

A selection of cards from the Tinker's Damn Mantegna.

A selection of cards from the Tinker’s Damn Mantegna.

It is unlikely the Mantegna was originally designed as a gaming or divination system. They appear instead to be visual learning aids, and they cover the five “estates” of Humanity as understood during the Renaissance. However, divinatory meanings are provided in the LWB, and I’m pretty impressed with them so far!

The five suits of the Mantegna all consist of ten cards.

  • The Conditions of Humankind

    These conditions are overall more socio-economic than spiritual, and ascend in a hierarchy from Pauper on up. Note that the King is trumped by the Emperor, and the Emperor by the Pope. The Pope is the highest “condition” possible.

  • The Muses and Apollo

    These are the nine Greek Muses (representing epic poetry, history, flutes and lyric poetry, comedy and pastoral poetry, tragedy, dance, love poetry, sacred poetry, and astronomy) and Apollo, who according to some sources led the Muses.

    So far this is my favorite of the sets, just because it offers such intriguing reading possibilities. As an example, Terpsichore is the Muse of Dance. The meaning of the card is “Discover the hidden melodies of Life and move in harmony with them”. Euterpe is the Muse of Lyric Poetry, and the meaning of that card is “One who observes the passions of life and records them for others, but does not live them herself”. How fun is that?

  • The Arts and Sciences

    Again, these are the arts and sciences emphasized during the Renaissance. They are Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Geometry, Arithmetic, Music, Poetry, Philosophy, Astrology, and Theology.

  • The Virtues and Geniuses

    These are the four cardinal virtues (Temperance, Strength, Justice, and Prudence), the three theological virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity), and the three “geniuses” (Intellect, the Senses, and a sense of the vastness of the Universe).

  • The Cosmic Spheres

    The seven celestial bodies known during the Renaissance (so the planets out to Saturn, plus the Sun and Moon). Also included are the Upper Heavens, the Celestial Power, and the Divine Light.

The other 28 cards in this expanded Mantegna are pretty interesting, too. They consist of:

  • The Modern Zodiac (12 cards)

    Aries through Pisces.

  • The Alchemical Elements (4 cards)

    Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.

  • The Phases of the Moon (4 cards)

    Waxing, Full, Waning, and Dark. Excellent for timing and gauging where an event is energy-wise.

  • Totem Animals (6 cards)

    These are fun. Each animal – Gryphon, Sphinx, Phoenix, White Stag, Satyr, and Selkie – is seen as the “Keeper” or Guardian of an abstract concept, like Hope or Mysteries. I’d prefer a collective name other than “totem animal”, though. I’ve already started calling them the Keepers.

  • The Wild Unknown and The Legend (2 cards)

    The Wild Unknown is listed in the LWB, but no interpretation is given. The Legend card isn’t even mentioned. I’d suggest using your own interpretation for both.

There are two Wild Unknown cards in this set - one as Death in the Tarot (left), and one in the Mantegna (right). They have very different looks, though, so you won't get them confused.   

There are two Wild Unknown cards in this set – one as Death in the Tarot (left), and one in the Mantegna (right). They have very different looks, though, so you won’t get them confused.

The cards themselves are on really nice cardstock. They feel comparable to any other mass market deck out there, with a slick surface that works well for the bridge shuffle I favor. They’re also done in the standard Tarot size (2.75″ x 4.75″), which gives plenty of space for the art without feeling too big.

Note: Estara over at Caw, Motherfsckers reviewed this deck as well and noticed a representation problem. All 156 cards are white folks except the Devil (Enslavement) and the Muse of Erotic Poetry (Erato). Those cards are black. The hand on the Arithmetic card is also that of a black person, but that’s it. I’m ashamed I didn’t notice that on my first pass-through! If you’re specifically looking for a racially-inclusive deck this is not the best choice. 

Style-wise the art has a very steampunk vibe, with lots of Victorian and mechanistic elements. The color palette combines black-and-white and sepia tones with pops of bright color in a way that’s somehow simultaneously consistent and jarring. Elements jump out at the reader without taking away from the fact that these cards were all clearly designed to work together. I don’t personally like the art style, but it’s very readable.

The little white book lives up to its name. It’s the standard type and size of LWB you’d find in any tuck-box Tarot deck on the market. It even includes a unique spread, one that has the subject of the reading pick their own cards from an up-facing deck. If you already know Tarot the LWB has plenty of info to get started with this set. If you don’t, though, maybe start with another deck and come back to this one later.

Using the Deck

There are so many reading options with this deck! It’s an embarrassment of riches! How you choose to use it depends on your personal style, but here are some suggestions.

Separate Decks

It’s a two-fer! With this approach the Tarot is read as a Tarot, the Mantegna is read as a separate oracle deck, and never the twain shall meet. Honestly, the Mantegna feels almost like a Lenormand deck in that it’s more focused on external aspects of life than internal ones, so this approach works well. You could even go with making this three decks – the Tarot, the core Mantegna, and the expansion Mantegna cards.

A bonus with this approach is that cards could be traded between the two decks without any real loss of functionality. For instance, don’t like “Librarian” as a Hierophant? Swap it out for the Pope card. Don’t like “Alchemy” for Temperance? Swap it with the Mantegna’s Temperance card. The Wild Unknown cards seamlessly swap with each other too. This gives you options for choosing the Tarot representations you’re most comfortable with while still allowing a full Mantegna for oracle purposes. Some folks might really dig that.

Auxilary Decks

With this approach, one deck takes point during the reading and the other is used to clarify any problem areas.

If emphasis is placed on the Tarot, readings would rely primarily on the Tarot with the expanded Mantegna as an auxiliary oracle deck.

If emphasis is placed on the Mantegna (which is especially good for out-in-the-world questions), Tarot would be used as an auxiliary for clarifications. It doesn’t flow as well as the reverse, but it’s totally doable.

Merging Decks by Separating Meanings

This is an easy place to start merging decks, and it’s especially useful for those of us who use both RWS and TdM systems. Basically, we can supplement the Tarot deck with additional cards from the expanded Mantegna to kind of straddle the line between the two systems, and then read our expanded deck just like it’s Tarot.

For example, the TdM Magician is a very different animal than the RWS Magician. When we read we have to choose between those two meanings. This set gives us the flexibility to avoid that choice. We can pull the Pauper (“Misero”, the Wretch) from the Mantegna and have him stand in the for TdM Magician, leaving the designated Magician card to represent the RWS meanings.

Another example here is the Star card. In Tarot it’s got two distinct interpretations – hope after a time of darkness, and glad tidings/blessings/grace. Pull in the Mantegna’s Hope card to represent the hope aspect of the Star, and use the designated Star card for the glad tidings and blessings part.

Other possible pairs are the Empress (Actress) and the Lady of Leisure, the Hierophant (Librarian) and Faith, the Emperor (Businessman) from the Tarot and the Emperor from the Mantegna… Get creative! This allows you the flexibility to use what you already know in a whole new way.

Minchiate-Style

I’ve talked before about my love for Minchiate decks. This set gives us the option to combine cards from the Mantegna with the Tarot deck to make a usable modern Minchiate! That’s three distinct decks to play with. How freaking cool is that?

First, remove the High Priestess (“Minerva”, here) from the Tarot deck. Then add to the Tarot deck from the Mantegna the four missing Virtues (Faith, Hope, Charity, and Prudence), the Zodiac cards, and the cards for the four alchemical elements. The order and names of the Majors won’t match up to a classic Minchiate, but to be fair the names don’t match to a classic Tarot either. *shrug* I find myself supremely unbothered.

And that’s all it takes! Bam – a whole new historical system, available with a little rearranging, and it’s all visually cohesive!

Tarot with Expansion Packs

Like the idea of using this set as a Minchiate-style deck but don’t really dig the Minchiate as a whole? Start off with a Tarot core and add whatever Mantegna suits you like to it. Maybe you like the idea of adding in just the Alchemical Elements, say, or the Conditions of Humankind. Maybe you want to keep your Tarot cards available for use in a reading and decide to use the Conditions of Humankind cards as significators. Who’s to stop you? The card stock, art style, etc are all consistent between the two sets, so this will look cohesive too!

Creating Multiple Special Purpose Decks

This is a little more advanced but super-cool. Break the expanded Mantegna apart into its nine separate suits. Then break the Tarot out too! You could do it by suits, I suppose, but I choose to do it by Majors, Courts, and Pips. Then mix and match for different purposes! Here are some ideas.

    • Add the Conditions of Humankind to the Major Arcana of the Tarot for a deck focused on growth/development. Interpretations could be super interesting here!
    • Use the Conditions of Humankind with the Tarot pips for a deck focused strictly on worldly concerns.
    • Combine the Muses, the Virtues, and the Totem Animals/Keeper cards for a deck focused on deity readings or other spiritual uses. This could be a handy ritual prep deck too.
    • Combine the Arts and Sciences with the Muses to help choose a path of learning. Could be useful for navigating college, choosing an area to expand knowledge, or even picking a focus area during a journeyman period. I can personally see using this combo at Candlemas (when I pick a focus of learning for the coming year) and for choosing the next book out of my TBR pile.
    • Combine the Alchemical Symbols, Moon Phases, and Zodiac cards into a “Timing” deck, and use as an adjunct to a Tarot reading. Whenever a timing question comes up you can check on whether it’ll happen within weeks (phases), a given 4-week-ish period (Zodiac), or a season (element). Timing is one of the hardest parts of a reading, and this could be super helpful.
    • Combine the Tarot’s Court cards with the Conditions of Humankind to have a people-focused deck. This could be especially helpful when it comes to selecting Significator cards, or when figuring out who best to approach to carry out a plan of action.
    • Combine the Virtues with the Muses to create an “Approaches” deck – what mindset would be most useful in a given situation? The Arts and Sciences cards, the zodiac cards, and even the Alchemical Elements might be fun additions here too.
    • Combine the Cosmic Spheres and the Zodiac cards for astrologically-based readings. Could be a fun way to do things like work a chart in card form, or compare different elements from different people. The Elements could be useful here, too, since they’re used in astrology.

This is one of the most engrossing and flexible deck sets I’ve ever seen. I feel like I’ve barely scraped the surface of all the possibilities here, and I’m really stoked to keep working with it. I wouldn’t recommend it for newbies, but if you’re already an experienced reader who wants to push themselves I highly recommend giving the Tinker’s Damn Legacy Edition a go.

RIght now it’s still available as a boxed set here for $60. There are only 500 of these available, though, including what sold on the Kickstarter, so I don’t expect these to stick around for very long.

If you miss out on the boxed set don’t despair – it looks like you’ll still be able to buy them as separate parts after the sets are gone. You’ll just spend more. The parts are available here and here for a total of $92. Make sure to select the full expanded version of the Mantegna if you go this route, or you’ll be missing out on cards!

A Year of Shrines

I’ve had an altar or shrine of some kind in every home I’ve lived in since I was 13. I love creating and tending them, and find it fulfilling to customize them for every new space I’m in.

This has been an interesting year, though, since I’ve been traveling. Each stay of longer than a month has required an established shrine, and each new space has presented new challenges and opportunities for me to create a shrine that fits the environment.

Let’s see how I did. (Useful links to my supplies are with the descriptions, but feel free to ask about anything I missed!)

Shrine #1: Ohio

In Ohio I had a TON of space for a shrine, and my shrine reflected that.

A sprawling shrine on multiple levels.

A sprawling shrine on multiple levels.

This picture was taken early in the process, before it was completed, so there are a pair of empty frames on the top I later filled. But even in this picture you can see my representations of Land, Sea, and Sky – the Tree on the bottom right for Land, the Ancestors on the bottom left for Sea, and the armillary sphere on the top center for Sky/Universal Order/my Lady.

It also had photos for honoring, offerings, incense, candles, crystals, cards, my tuning forks… there was a lot going on here!

It was big and impressive, but even with that it was still pretty space efficient. Yay levels! This is actually the second time I’ve used this setup and I’ve enjoyed it both times.

It’s remarkably cost-effective, too. The structure cost about $30 – I got the base entertainment center for free, and the smaller entertainment center on top came from Family Dollar or Dollar General (I forget which, but they’ve had the exact same model for years). The frames are all from the Dollar Tree, and the images in them were all printed at home. The cards on the wall were a gift, as were several of the other pieces. Most everything else was collected from various thrift stores over the years, although I did purchase my armillary sphere new from Amazon.

Eventually, though, my time in that space ended. Onwards!

Shrine #2: Boston

Ohio was one of my more elaborate shrine setups. Boston is perhaps THE most compact shrine I’ve ever had (that wasn’t a set of prayer beads, anyway!). It was built on top of a plastic drawer unit thingie designed to hold legal-sized paper.

A compact shrine with a wishing tree.

A compact shrine with a wishing tree.

Boston is when I started actively exploring the ADF, specifically Proto-Indo-European practices. I wanted to explore the Tree/Well concept in an incredibly limited space, so this is what I came up with.

The Tree was a wishing tree from a wedding, made from two flat pieces of wood that interconnected. It was placed on top of a cardboard riser made from a cut box that rested over a black soapstone “well”. For some reason I really felt the need for a vertical Well/Tree representation – still do, as a matter of fact – and this gave me that. (For a sense of scale the bowl is only 4″ in diameter and 2.5″ tall.)

The Tree had three tealights nestled in the “roots”, and a tiny incense burner sat in front for offerings. I used a piece of trimmed scrapbooking paper as a pretty cover for the whole.

In the front pencil tray of the unit I stored a baggie of ground amber incense for offerings and the tuning fork/striker I use instead of a bell. Excess supplies (like a lighter!) were stored in the drawers underneath.

Voila! Done. But I was only in Boston for the summer. Off to winter in the frozen north!

Shrine #3: Maine

I spent the winter in Maine, on the edge of the sea. By the time I got to Maine I was waist-deep in exploring Proto-Indo-European culture, and I felt drawn to a more lararium-style setup reminiscent of Rome. With some modern additions.

Space-wise I was able to use the top of a standing dresser. I covered the top with a gold-edged red scarf, and put a marble slab on top of that as a base. Then time to get creative!

The centerpiece here was a flag case I painted white, chosen to give me the distinct house-shape of many larariums.

Shrine3

My lararium in daytime mode…

It’s hard to see in this light, but I mounted a window cling of a four seasons Tree in the glass of the case. The Well sat in front of the case, with an incense burner in front of that. To the left was a jar containing xartos (a Proto-Indo-European offering described in Deep Ancestors), and the jar to the right held incense.

All the other dishes were used for offerings, and of course my tuning fork and striker had a place too.

I did want to incorporate a little of the modern in this one, so I added LEDs to the flag case. It worked out well, although if I were doing it again I’d choose a softer glow.

And nighttime mode.

And nighttime mode.

All excess supplies were stored in the first drawer of the dresser, with my clothes beneath that.

But, like all things, the Maine setup came to an end when my time there did. Time to ditch the snow and head south!

Shrine #4: Texas

I was raised in Texas, but it’s been awhile since I’ve called the Lone Star State home. I always think of family when I’m here, and that was the inspiration behind my current shrine.

Tree setup part 2.

Tree setup Part 2. Sorry for the weird angle – the sun kept screwing with my shots.

There is some obvious similarity here between this setup and what I did in Boston.

The Tree has been updated to a lovely silver and crystal version I got from Gaelsong (yay clearance sales!). It was designed to be a family tree that held photos of relatives. I repurposed it. The frames of my tree showcase symbolic representations of the Three Realms as well as representations of the Nine Virtues celebrated by the ADF; I put them together on my computer. I see the Virtues as the seeds of the Tree and relationships with the Realms as the fruits, so this way I represent both. I also find it really useful to represent complex concepts with simple images, so figuring all that out was educational too.

The Tree rests on an acrylic riser over the Well, which is the same soapstone bowl I’ve used for that on the two previous shrines. An incense burner and a representation of Fire (crystal candle holder) sit in front of the Tree/Well, with the jars and offering dishes from my lararium setup serving the same purposes here.

Bonus: Kitchen Shrine!

One of the things I’ve most enjoyed exploring over the last year is a relationship with Wéstyā, the Proto-Indo-European goddess of the hearth. I make offerings to Her every time I use heat to cook a meal. Before I made those offerings on my main shrine. Now I make them right in the kitchen!

While She can be perfectly well represented by a flame alone – as Hestia was in Greece – I found a statue on a local resale site that I immediately knew would be perfect as a kitchen shrine.

It took a bit of work to get the statue ready for the job, though. The statue had seen better days. So I refreshed it a bit.

A Before and After comparison of my kitchen shrine.

Here’s the before and after. The original just looked tired, a little worn and cracked. The new and improved version required a little TLC, but the difference is night and day!

The supplies were all either bits I had in my stash already or picked up from Michael’s. The white was one bottle of Martha Stewart’s Multi-Surface Acrylic in the color “Wedding Cake”. The bowl was done with variegated copper and gold leafing and Modpodge; the latter was also used as a final coat to seal the paint. The pendant and necklace were made for me in Scotland but were way too small for me. It worked out to be ideal for this, though – so ideal that I wonder if this was the plan the whole while!

Flanking that statue are the cups and saucers I use to make offerings to Xáusōs and Négwntī, the Proto-Indo-European goddesses of Dawn and Dusk. I got the cup sets and the stands from Amazon.

My kitchen shrine.

My kitchen shrine. To the left is the teacup and saucer used to honor Xáusōs, in the middle is the statue before which I make offerings to Wéstyā, and to the right is the cup and saucer for Négwntī.

I love having this setup in the kitchen. Wéstyā, in particular, feels so much more present this way, more a part of the rhythm of the house. Having Her so visible also works to remind everyone here to live a life of hospitable piety, which I thoroughly appreciate.

Shrine spaces are, among other things, physical representations of our relationships with the Powers. As our relationships with the physical world changes (like during a move), and/or our relationships with Them, so too should our shrines.

Hospitality and the Border

One of my favorite little exercises when dealing with complex ideas is to figure out how to represent said ideas with simple symbols. It helps me clarify my thinking and get down to the most fundamental part of a concept that I can.

I’ve done this with all of the ADF’s Nine Virtues, and the symbol I use for the virtue of Hospitality is a key. Because really, Hospitality is the key to everything.

And America’s legendary Hospitality, as enshrined by Lady Liberty herself, is being sorely tested at our southern border.

The plaque of "The New Colossus", mounted to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

The plaque of “The New Colossus”, mounted to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

The dance of Hospitality between guest and host is a sacred one, a series of steps that ensure every movement apart will be followed by another chance to connect. To be hospitable is to make space in our lives for the experiences, insights, and feelings of O/others. Because of that, Hospitality is the key to every other virtue, is the key to the Three Realms, and is the key to interacting with E/everyone outside of ourselves.

Like most dances it’s also a joy when your partner knows the steps too. We in the US are stumbling hard during this particular dance, have been stumbling, and now we’re falling to the floor.

If we can’t dance the dance of Hospitality with other human beings, how can we ever hope to tred those steps with the Powers? How can we hear the whispers of the Gods when we close our ears to the screams of fellow human beings? What is a religious life, without Hospitality as an anchor and a shield?

As a human being I am horrified that children who came to us for safe haven are instead sobbing in terror on our southern border. As an American I find every justification for this horrorshow – as if traumatizing children is ever justified! – self-serving and hateful. And as a polytheist I find myself sickened by those using religion to support the infliction of said trauma.

The ADF has issued a statement of their own. Here it is, in full.

Statement from the Mother Grove:

The Mother Grove is aware of and concerned about the safety of families, both within ADF and in the communities around us.

At ADF, we look to our virtues as guiding principles, and the one that comes to mind is hospitality. We support safe environments for families, both within ADF and in the world in general. We see hospitality as acting as good guests and good hosts, both as members of the ADF community and as citizens of the world.

We cannot condone the separation of families, be they for political, religious, racial, or other reasons, that endanger the sanctity of family life, and put children in danger of being taken from their parents (except in instances where the children are at risk of harm or peril). We look to leaders everywhere to assure that families are kept together whenever issues relating to families or the movements of families arise. We ask this through the notions of national and international hospitality that come to bear when families are involved.

I am proud to see the ADF take a stand on this issue that mirrors my own. Here’s hoping the US will follow the examples of the ADF, other faith organizations, several state governors, and a large majority of the American people to reverse this disastrous policy and once again connect with people beyond our own limited perspectives and and national borders.

The Origins of Arianrhod

As most of y’all know I’ve been exploring Proto-Indo-European religion via the ADF. It’s been quite the ride so far, but perhaps nothing has been as meaningful for me as my new and deeper understanding of my Lady, Arianrhod of the Silver Wheel.

Arianrhod shows a different face to me than others seem to see. I’ve never known why, exactly, but finding people who see Her the way I do is one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place. It’s been a lonely road.

My PIE studies may have led me to some answers, although those answers kick off a whole other range of questions.

The Quest

I’ve been pretty open about my Lady and how the way I honor Her is different – sometimes wildly – from the standard stuff associated with Her. Stars yes, moon no. Fire is Her primary elemental association with me, and lore-wise She’s rarely associated with fire at all. Her being the vehicle of manifestation from potential isn’t referenced anywhere except a VERY loose read of the Welsh Triads, and I give that primary emphasis while most folks working with Her seem to ignore it completely. Ritual and petitionary prayer yes, magick not really. Rites of Passage yes, mystic moon mommy (or any other life stage) no. Her representation on my altar has been an armillary sphere, representing atomic/cosmic/universal order, and I haven’t seen that anywhere in relation to Her. And on and on it goes.

As a result my work with Her is different from pretty much everyone else’s. The difference is so stark that I’m often uncomfortable in public rituals involving Her. It usually feels like calling for my mom and having someone entirely different show up.

So, of course, as I started walking a more Proto-Indo-European path I started looking at Arianrhod through a PIE lens too. Could that lens maybe help explain why She’s so different with me than with others?

Following Breadcrumbs

PIE practices are, at core, based on linguistic reconstruction. It’s an academic approach encoded in the very language we speak.

So I started searching for the origins of Arianrhod’s name.

The first breadcrumb I found linked Arianrhod to a reconstructed PIE goddess named Arta. Arta is apparently the goddess of universal order and is specifically linked to cycles and time, as well as rites of passage.

That started clanging bells hard, so I started chasing more threads to see if they could add any information or clarity.

The PIE root of Arianrhod’s name is also linked to the Vedic idea of Ŗta (an obvious link to the name “Arta”), which refers to that which upholds and maintains the Wheel of Dharma (another wheel, and here meaning righteous law) and the order of the universe. That just plays right in with everything else.

The root of Arianrhod’s name in Proto-Indo-European is also shared by Varuna, a Vedic god associated with sky,  water, justice, and truth.

Varuna’s connections to sky and water brought to mind Arianrhod’s homes – according to which sources we credit, Her home is either in the Corona Borealis (sky) or in the sea off the coast of Wales (water). Or both.

Varuna’s streak of demonic violent tendencies, according to myth, led to His demotion and Indra taking away most of His powers. That reminded me of the gist of Arianrhod’s story, where responses to Her behavior led to Her losing Her place. It also reminded me of the “test of truth” in Her story (stepping over Math’s staff) and the justice or perceived lack thereof in the challenges She set Her son.

Varuna is called upon to this day to still the waters of the mind, bringing calmness and peace. This is strongly reminiscent of Arianrhod’s focus (with me) on centering and balance, although it’s not part of Her general lore. Up until very recently I also based my entire Wheel of the Year on the image of a stone dropping into a still pond and the ripples resulting from that, which brings that water connection to the fore. The rings made when a stone is dropped in a pool also reminds me of the rings in an armillary sphere, which pulls all of those associations back around again.

All of that led me to the Zoroastrian concept of asha, which shares the same PIE root as Arta and thus Arianrhod. Asha is linked to fire, truth, manifestation, cosmic order, and right action/right working.

All those things I honor with Arianrhod that didn’t make sense? That seemingly came out of left field and didn’t gel with anything about Her in common practice? They’re connected to Her linguistically. THIS is the goddess I’ve been working with! It even explains why the first goddess She had me work with that wasn’t Her was Hestia! Hestia’s damn near a direct continuation of the Proto-Indo-European goddess Wéstyā, who was the heart of PIE worship, so it makes sense that Arianrhod/Arta would guide me there.

Where to now? 

I am no linguist, and I’m certainly not an expert in this field. I also have no idea what to do with this information in a broader sense, or how to answer all the questions raised by it. The primary book I have on reconstructed PIE practice doesn’t even mention Arta. And yet here we are, here am, and and here is all this information that gels with what I’ve been shown even if I could never explain why. It’s at least a start at verifying my UPG.

Are Arta and Arianrhod the same deity? Am I working with a long forgotten face of Arianrhod, or a newer face of Arta? Have I been working with Arta this whole time under Arianrhod’s name (maybe because Arianrhod was more accessible)? Is Arianrhod simply Arta viewed through a Welsh filter? Does any of this relate to why I’m so solidly Hers, yet She’s the only Celtic deity I’ve ever been called to honor?

I have more questions than I have answers, but I have what may be a direction to follow, and hope that I will eventually find more information that relates. That’s more than I’ve ever had before. I’m excited to see what else I can learn!

Welcoming the Sisters – Dawn and Dusk Devotionals

Devotional activities can run the gamut from simply sharing tea with the Powers to performing full-on choreographed theatrical productions. I leave the theater to the High Days. I prefer something much more low-key for daily devotions, and over time I’ve learned that it’s best if they’re tied to some activity I’d already be doing anyway. It’s also the best way I’ve found to seamlessly integrate devotions, and thus honoring the Powers, into my day-to-day life.

I’ve discussed mealtime offerings before. Now it’s time to talk about offerings for dawn and dusk. Like mealtime offerings, they’re fairly quick and easy. They’re also way more meaningful than we might otherwise think.

The Herald of Dawn 

The dawn goddess pops up all over the Indo-European world, indicating that She was very important. In fact, the case can be made that She was the most important goddess of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. She’s certainly the most easily reconstructed!

The PIE name She’s given in Deep Ancestors is Xáusōs, or “Rising”. PIE-descendant cultures honored Her too: She appears as the Greek Eos, the Roman Aurōra, the Vedic Uṣás, the Lithuanian Aušrine, and the Germanic Ōstara.

The ubiquity of Her worship in the ancient world makes total sense for a traveling, migratory people. After all, no matter where you go She still appears in the east to open the Gates of Dawn and usher in the coming day. PIE-descended hearth cultures sometimes associated Her with spring, too, as the dawn of the planting season out of the chaotic Fallow Time.

Which brings us to the topic of liminality. Honoring the dawn was incredibly common because it was a transitional, liminal period.  And that made it dangerous.

We hear the most about the ambivalence of betweens from Celtic tradition, but the care necessary when navigating treacherous liminal spaces is part of all PIE-descended cultures. Dawn is a between, a transition zone between night and day, and as such it’s a dangerous opening through which chaos could enter the world. By opening and closing dawn’s gates, though, the dawn goddess controls and safeguards that opening. She’s on the front lines, defending existence itself against the agents of chaos.

The Goddess of the Dawn, in all Her pastel glory.

Pretty heavy stuff for a Goddess almost invariably shown clad in pastel rainbows.

In the Vedas She (as Uṣás) is also associated with prosperity. We see that with the Germanic Ōstara too, through a connection to the fecundity of rabbits and chickens. Every new dawn brings us a new chance for success, prosperity, and acclaim in our lives.

The dawn goddess also illuminates and “wakes up” the world with Her coming. Because of that She pushes back the darkness of the unknown and heralds the coming of enlightenment, strength, action, and activity. She energizes and inspires us.

With all of that in mind it makes sense to respect Her and Her role in the world with every new day that dawns.

Twilight’s Mistress

I’ve been using Deep Ancestors as my primary guide to exploring PIE religious practice. It’s what inspired me to start working with the dawn goddess Xáusōs in the first place. The more I did, though, the more frustrated I got. It felt incomplete.

Celtic lore holds that dusk is just as much a between as dawn, just as dangerous. Dusk too is a liminal time. Simply ignoring the danger inherent in an unguarded liminality seems entirely out of character for the Proto-Indo-Europeans, especially considering the emphasis they put on guarding dawn. However, the surviving lore doesn’t mention the dawn goddesses pulling double duty here. Who guarded the gates at twilight?

So I did some research.

In Vedic lore, the dawn goddess Uṣás has a sister goddess called Ratri. Ratri is usually seen as a quieter, more restful figure than Uṣás. Still beautiful, spangled with stars as She is, but more reserved. She protects us against all night-time dangers, guarding the earth as it sleeps. She’s also associated with dewdrops, and together with Uṣás is said to boost vital energies.

Uṣás and Ratri together are considered “weavers of time and mothers of eternal law”, and in their progression illustrate the cohesion of the created order that sustains the earth. I found that rather significant to PIE practices in general, personally.

We get something similar from the Baltic region, where we have another set of sister dawn/dusk goddesses – Aušrinė and Vakarinė. Aušrinė (associated with the Morning Star) saw the sun goddess off on Her journey through the sky every morning, while Vakarinė (associated with the Evening Star) made Her bed every night.

Another example is found in Slavic lore. The Zorya are yet another set of sister-twins. The first – Zorya Utrennyaya, or the Morning Star – opens the gates to the Sun Palace at dawn. The other – Zorya Vechernyaya, or the Evening Star – closes the gates to the Sun Palace at dusk.

In addition to these duties the Zorya are together the guardians of a winged doomsday hound named Simargl. If Simargl breaks the chains binding him to the northern star Polaris, he’ll eat the constellation of Ursa Minor and end the world. Like Uṣás and Ratri, the Zorya are crucial to maintaining universal order.

The Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurōra, doesn’t have a twin sister. However, She was married to Astraeus, the god of dusk, and together They birthed the four winds. In an interesting link to the Baltic and Slavic lore, Astraeus was also seen as the father of the five “wandering” stars, one of which is the Morning/Evening Star Venus (not to be confused with the goddess of the same name, although there might be some syncretism there). In another interesting link, the Zorya sisters were also collectively called the Auroras.

There’s just too much material here for me to ignore. I’m perfectly comfy moving forward with the idea that there once was a god(dess) associated with twilight who has been lost over the years. I’m also perfectly comfy with considering that deity to be a female sibling, if not an outright twin, of Xáusōs.

I needed a name to call Her, though, since whatever the PIE peoples might have called Her has been long forgotten. After oodles of searching I finally broke down and contacted the author of Deep Ancestors,  Ceisiwr Serith, with a plea for assistance. I simply don’t understand PIE language and linguistics well enough yet to figure this out for myself. He graciously helped – even showed his work with verb conjugation so I could follow! – and suggested “Négwntī”.

This name has a lot going for it. Xáusōs means “Rising”, while Négwntī means “Becoming Dark”. They mirror each other nicely in translation. I also like that both are verbs, action words, because for me that really brings home the fact that They represent a process instead of something static. They embody abstract concepts of Time, Cycles, and Order. So Négwntī’s what I decided to go with.

Welcoming the Sisters

I honor three goddesses as part of my daily devotions, in addition to my Lady.

First of those is Wéstyā, the Proto-Indo-European goddess of the hearth. I honor Her with the mealtime offerings I introduced in a previous post. She helps us maintain order in the domestic sphere, in our homes and families and day-to-day life.

I also honor Xáusōs and Négwntī – They who maintain the progressive order of Night into Day and Day into Night. I love the way they bookend everything. My shrine reflects that.

My kitchen shrine.

My kitchen shrine. To the left is the teacup and saucer used to honor Xáusōs, in the middle is the statue before which I make offerings to Wéstyā, and to the right is the cup and saucer for Négwntī. I’m debating switching the cups around, to reflect the sun rising in the east, but I haven’t decided yet.

Morning Offerings

When I wake up I take care of my immediate needs, walk my dog, and blearily try to activate my brain. Prior to now, my waking up process has been sitting in front of my computer with a cup of tea until the caffeine jolts my system awake.

Now I wake up with tea (coffee would work too) and Dawn’s Lady instead.

It’s really simple. I set up Her cup and saucer, fix the tea, fill Her cup, and say the following over it:

Good morn to You, Herald of the Dawn!
I welcome Your rising as I welcome sun’s glory. 
May I meet all on my path with
An open hand, an open heart, and an open mind. 
Praise to Your name, She Who Opens the Way!

Then I fix a drink of my own, sit down, and quietly think about my day as I wake up. No computers, no distractions, just communing. It takes around 15 minutes.

When I’m done, I empty and wash the dishes I used and return them to their places.

Evening Offerings

Evening offerings follow the same pattern as the morning. Instead of going for the caffeine, though, I go for a nightcap. It’s usually something like Egyptian licorice or chamomile tea.

Whatever it is, I set that to brewing while I prepare Négwntī’s cup and saucer. Then I pour Her a cup, over which I say the following:

Good eve to You, Twilight’s Lady!
I welcome Your presence as I welcome night’s repose.
May You guard my sleep and guide my dreams
That I awaken refreshed and renewed when next I rise

Praise to Your name, She Who Closes the Day!

After that I quietly sip my own cup and cuddle my pupper – without computers or books or anything else – as I calm down enough to sleep. Sometimes that takes another cup of tea, and that’s ok. Whenever I’m ready, though, I clean the dishes I used and return them to their places.

By doing simple devotional activities at dawn, for meals, and at dusk I do up to five devotional activities per day. They’re so simple, though, and so integrated with what I’d already be doing, that I do them with a sense of joy instead of feeling obligated or pressured.

And that – prioritizing joy over pressure – is to my mind the key to regular devotional work. I don’t even have to memorize anything! As with my mealtime offering prayers, the prayers for Xáusōs and Négwntī are written on little cards I can just read off (which is especially handy before my morning caffeine!).

What might/does work for you? I’d love to see your takes in the comments!