Uh Oh

Hello, all! Well, I have some news. I seem to have slightly pissed off the AFA. Darn! *snaps fingers*

I honestly didn’t do a whole lot, and I don’t expect it to amount to much at all. But I would be remiss if I didn’t do what I can to protect myself and my people from possible fallout, especially considering what’s been going on lately.

My personal Facebook page will be locked to Friend’s Only and my business page will be unpublished until such time as this whole thing dies down. I have no desire to be flooded with Nazi memes or doxxed.

This blog will continue as usual, however, as will my Instagram. Twitter I’m not yet sure about, so we’ll see on that one.

I can always be reached by email, too, of course.

Hopefully I’m way overpreparing and this will all be of minimal concern. I’ll keep y’all posted – and I’m working on my next blog post now.

Stay tuned, and blessings to you all!

The Hanson-Roberts Tarot – Tarot Review

Back in the dawn of time, when I was but a wee lass, I watched my aunt read Tarot with the Hanson-Roberts deck. I loved to watch the cards flip and I never forgot the Queen of Rods – it was the card I most associated with her. Years later, when I went back to find this deck, it was the image of the Queen that let me know I’d found the right box.

Honestly, though, it wasn’t all that hard to find. As far as I can tell it’s been in continuous print since 1985. It’s definitely an RWS-inspired deck, and that combined with the non-threatening size and artwork makes it suitable for beginners and advanced readers alike.

The Deck

One of the first things I noticed about this deck as an adult is that the cards feel tiny. They’re regular playing card size! Those with small hands will find this deck a better fit for them, and it makes larger spreads much more doable in tight quarters. It’s also helpful if you like to have clients shuffle your deck, as it’s more easily managed by people unused to Tarot-sized cards.

A card from the Hanson-Roberts deck on top of a card from the Gilded Tarot. The size difference is obvious.

A card from the Hanson-Roberts deck on top of a card from the Gilded Tarot. The size difference is obvious. And isn’t that reversible back design pretty?

The deck comes in a tuck box with a LWB. The smaller size of this deck makes it wonderful for travel. The tuck box fits nicely in a purse, for instance, and the box can take a decent amount of wear before it needs to be replaced.

The Hanson-Roberts Tarot. The tuck box is in the center, flanked by the 2 title cards that come with the deck. The LWB is below the tuck box and the deck is fanned out below.

The Hanson-Roberts Tarot. The tuck box is in the center, flanked by the 2 title cards that come with the deck. The LWB is below the tuck box and the deck is fanned out below.

The card stock is standard and these cards shuffle well. The art has an almost fairy-tale feel and is done with pencils, making the images both vivid and soft. The portrayed figures are also more dynamic than seen in decks like the original Waite-Smith, with a full range of human emotion and a sense of movement.

A selection of cards from the Hanson-Roberts. Here we see the energy of the Knight of Swords, the wonder of the Star, the utter desolation of the Five of Pentacles, the dreamy quality of the Seven of Cups, and the triumph embodied in the Six of Rods.

A selection of cards from the Hanson-Roberts. Here we see the energy of the Knight of Swords, the wonder of the Star, the utter desolation of the Five of Pentacles, the dreamy quality of the Seven of Cups, and the triumph embodied in the Six of Rods.

Suits are also standard RWS, except that here the Wands are called Rods (a common substitution). There’s also an emphasis in this deck on blooming, on florals and greenery. It all contributes to the lush feeling of the art, helping the deck feel more friendly and approachable.

The Fool and the four Aces from the Hanson-Roberts Tarot.

The Fool and the four Aces from the Hanson-Roberts Tarot. Note the greenery on every card.

One thing I especially appreciate about this deck is that it’s obvious the Minors got as much time and attention as the Majors. That can be hard to find sometimes, but all the cards are visually consistent and equally well-thought out across the deck.

It should be noted that esoteric symbology is less prevalent in this deck than found in, say, the original RWS. I personally don’t miss it, but as always YMMV.

And now I’m going to include another gratuitous pic of the artwork because I’m writing this and I can. 🙂

Cards from the Hanson-Roberts Tarot. The top row is the Page of Cups, the Seven of Cups, and the Eight of Swords. The bottom row is the Eight of Rods, the Moon, and the Four of Swords.

Yes, here’s that dreamy Seven of Cups again (oops). We’ve also got the Page of Cups looking surprised at the fish in his chalice (as we all would be!), one of the most stunning Eight of Swords cards in any deck anywhere, an Eight of Rods that really appeals to me, a lovely Moon, and a rather quietly reflective Four of Swords. I’ve never pictured myself as the guy in the tomb when this card appears – I’m visiting the tomb, with all the quiet contemplation one should have in holy places.

The deck comes with a LWB, but as we’d expect of a deck with this kind of longevity and popularity there are companion books on the market. Two, in fact, and which one you get depends on what exactly you’re looking for.

Tarot Unveiled is a Tarot 101 book using the Hanson-Roberts images. It’s been around for awhile, and you can find used copies on Amazon for under $2 plus shipping. If you’re relatively new to Tarot this is the book to get.

The Hanson-Roberts Tarot Companion Book is written specifically for the Hanson-Roberts deck. It’s more like the book you’d find in a Tarot set than a Tarot 101 book and is around $13 used plus shipping on Amazon. If you’re looking for something specific to this deck and are beyond 101 stuff this would be the book for you.

Using the Deck

The somewhat cutesy art might make you think this is a fluffy deck, but it is surprisingly well-rounded. The Hanson-Roberts is one of my favorite RWS-inspired decks because it’s so universal. It’s a deck that will grow with a reader, from beginner to advanced, and everyone will appreciate how easy to manage it is.

Even better, this deck nicely works with all three purposes I have for a deck. They read beautifully, they can be great tools for Tarot spellwork, and the life in these cards makes them useful for meditation despite the smaller size. It’s like a trifecta of awesome!

The Hanson-Roberts has stood the test of time for good reason. If the art style appeals to you I say go for it. It’s a great buy.

Available here.

After the Tower Falls

I staunchly maintain that there’s no such thing as a bad Tarot card. However, I have to admit some are a damn sight more uncomfortable than others. One of the best illustrations of this concept is the Tower, and that’s the card I’ve been living for the past few months. I’ve finally moved into the realm of the Star, though, and looking back I’m once more reminded that the Tower is only scary until we gain perspective from its passing.

The Towers leads into the Star. Both cards from Le Tarot Noir are shown with an rightward-facing arrow between them.

My life in Tarot card form. Images from Le Tarot Noir.

The Tower’s Fall

The first brick of my personal Tower fell when I was suddenly laid off last May from my job of three years (hence my lengthy blog hiatus around that time). Everything – and I do mean everything – kind of dominoed after that.

As might be expected my professional life profoundly changed with the layoff. My finances went into a period of freefall and necessitated an unwanted change in location too. My personal life and health both experienced dramatic flux. With all of that going on I fell face-down into a rather wicked lake of depression, which led to a period of withdrawal that was extreme even for me (I tend to be fairly naturally withdrawn to begin with).

Thing is, I stubbornly (and perhaps obliviously) thought all of these changes were isolated. It can be hard to see the whole Tower when you’re dodging individual bricks! It was only when I stopped dodging that I could see the true extent of the devastation.

Standing in the Rubble

There’s a clarity that comes in the aftermath of a disaster, a quiet shock that allows us to observe our surroundings without filter or bias. As the dust settled I stumbled into the middle of what once was a pretty cozy life and looked around.

What exactly had been destroyed? What random parts still stood, and did they need to be rebuilt or further demolished? Going deeper, what weaknesses and strengths were exposed by the Tower’s fall? What lessons had this all taught me?

And then I had to go deeper still. Previously I had thought that I was made up of all the things that had fallen down. That obviously wasn’t true, though, because I was about the only thing left standing. So who exactly was the Me standing dazedly in the rubble?

I’ve spent months diligently answering these questions. At times it’s felt like my own little archaeological excavation. There have been bits and pieces I’ve tossed over my shoulder with a shrug and a “good riddance”. Others I’ve further destroyed with a sledgehammer while laughing in maniacal glee. There have been heirlooms I’ve bitterly wept over before deciding they couldn’t be salvaged, things that inspired a sense of vindication by their very survival, and a few lost items newly exposed that I had to learn about all over again.

I’ve reassessed who I am and the foundations on which I stand. It’s been an interesting journey, this sorting and evaluation process, but after all of it was done I was left with one overwhelming question: what now?

Star-Gazing

In the Major Arcana the Tower is immediately followed by the Star. There’s a reason for that. When all of our walls have come down and we’re ready to rebuild, the Star’s gifts of hope, faith, and renewal guide us forward.

What I’ve seen by the Star’s light has been transformative.

For years I’ve known that my Lady wants me to live a life grounded in my spirituality. Even more than that, She’s pushed for a more holistic and integrated life, one where all of the pieces work together instead of against each other. After all, it’s not like I can grow into my full potential when my life is shoved into tidy but limiting boxes.

Thing is, I’ve agreed with Her. The need for a holistic life is an obvious conclusion to draw and I’ve been fine with the idea of it. It’s just that every time I actually started Doing the Work to make it happen something stopped me. Often I stopped myself. Some changes required tearing down support structures in my life that I thought I needed or relied upon. Other changes were intimidating, overwhelming, or even baffling.

All the motion without forward progress resulted in nothing truly changing at all.

Dithering over taking action is a luxury I no longer have. Despite my best efforts everything crashed down anyway. What was incredibly scary at the time has turned out to be freeing, because there’s nothing left to block me anymore. My life is open and receptive, the walls are down, and I can build whatever I want to encourage me to grow however I want. The Tower’s fall wasn’t a disaster, it was the start of a brand new opportunity.

I’m still working on what this looks like, to be honest. I don’t know where it’s going, only have the vaguest end game in mind, and I’m feeling it out as I go.

The biggest and arguably most profound change is that I am now working full-time as a diviner, spiritual consultant, and content producer. This swings from intimidating to thrilling by the day, and sometimes I wonder if it’s the right thing long-term. It’s honestly too early to tell on that yet. Things are looking good so far, though, and I do know that it’s absolutely the best thing for me right now. I need to pursue paying work that feeds my spirit, and this fits that bill admirably.

When I’m not reading for clients I’m working on my own Tarot deck, wrapping up the book I’ve been writing, prepping classes I’m teaching, taking classes as a student, and learning about alternative methods of interacting with our political process. I’m also toying with the idea of writing a devotional for my Lady, since there isn’t one for Her and I find that to be not ok. MystikNomad’s new internet home is being prepped as we speak and will hopefully go live over the next few months. I’m presenting at a conference this summer, too, and will likely be relocating sometime in the next year or so.

So many changes! So much forward momentum! So much amazingness in store! And none of it would have been possible had my personal Tower not fallen. I find that comforting, actually, because it reaffirms my faith that even utter destruction is a way to clear the path for future growth. I’m excited to see the harvest from what I’m currently planting, and I’m so glad all of you are here to appreciate the blooms too.

 

Connecting with Your Cards

Learning Tarot can be a long and involved process. Starting with a good beginner deck can help, of course, but once we get the deck what do we do with it?

Study and practice, of course!

These are the exercises that I personally credit with my understanding of Tarot. Give them a whirl and see what they can do for you!

Journaling

Whether you’re new to Tarot or simply have a new deck, this is a really useful way to start connecting with your cards. All you need is a card and a way of taking notes.

For this technique, I like to start with the Fool and work my way through the deck card by card. You can pull cards randomly too, though. Just stay consistent with whatever method you choose.

Feel free to light some candles and incense if that helps you focus, then pick a card.

Study the art. What do you get from it? Look at the label of the card – the Fool or the Hermit, for example. What does that word/concept call to mind? Pull out a Tarot book or two (the one that came with the deck is fine) and check that write-up. Does it enhance the meaning any for you? Do any words or phrases jump out at you? Think about the number the card is associated with – does that have an application for you? (If you’re new to numerology check out this convenient link.) Think about real-life situations that bring this card to mind and how the card reflects that. Write down any associations you come up with.

My process is a bit old school because I like to have the physical card when I do this. It’s not strictly necessary, though. Pretty much any card from any deck (especially the Majors) is available online, and there’s a lot you can learn by simply looking at the images on your computer. You could also type your notes out, although again I’m personally pretty old school with this part and prefer writing by hand.

My suggestion? Get a three-ring notebook and some tabs for each deck you plan to study (table of contents tabs are the best!). Make dividers for the Majors and each Suit. Write everything down on loose-leaf paper, and before you begin on the next card file the finished one in the appropriate section. By the time you’re done you’ll have a handy personal Tarot guidebook!

Card Dialogues

Here’s a fun one with the Majors and the Court cards!

Pull two Major Arcana cards or Court cards from the same deck and put them together. Then imagine the figures having a conversation. What would the Empress say to the Emperor, or the Hierophant, or the Star? What would the World have to say to the Fool? How do the Queen of Swords and the Page of Pentacles get along? Are any of them natural allies or complete opposites? Write down any conversational snippets that come to mind, and especially focus on how the personality of each card comes through their conversations.

File in your Journal, with the Majors in the back of the Major Arcana section and the Court cards in the back of the Minor Arcana section.

Card Comparisons

If one card can tell you a lot, what could you learn by comparing several? Lots!

There are a couple of ways to approach this.

From the Same Deck: This is handy for mastering the Minor Arcana. Pull out all of the Aces and compare them. How are they the same? How are they different? How does each Suit manifest in its respective card? Write down your comparisons. Then move on to all the Twos and do the same thing. Then the Threes. Then the Fours. Progress all the way through the Minors, comparing numbers/ranks together across Suits, and see what you get! File these in the back of your deck-specific Journal.

Across Decks: This technique is wonderful for learning a new deck! Grab two or three different decks (or a deck you’re comfy with and the new deck) and pull the same card out of each. (Again, I’d recommend starting with the Fool and then working your way through.) Compare them. First, what springs out to you about each card separately? What do you notice when you examine them together? What’s the same? What’s different? Does studying one card enhance your understanding of the other? Pull out the books that go with each deck and compare what they have to say. Does that add to your knowledge?

This is especially useful when comparing cards between different style families.

justice-deck-comparison

Justice from the Golden Tarot (RWS) and the corresponding Adjustment from the Tabula Mundi Tarot (Thoth). Their approach to this card is distinctly different, and studying both enhances my understanding of each.

Divide a binder out just like you did for the Journaling exercise, except this one will be for each card independent of a deck. (I call it the “Tarot-General” binder.) Each time you do a comparison, file it with the other ones you’ve done on that card. Make sure to note which decks you used for the comparison and if possible print out a picture of each card and attach it to your notes. This is less about connecting you to an individual card and more about connecting you to the concepts behind the card.

Color Your Cards

Cards are full of symbolism, and we may not recognize that symbolism until we really dive into the card. One of the most fun ways to do that is to color them!

This is dead easy with the Rider-Waite deck (pick up a coloring book like this one and/or this one, or just print them out), but decent photo manipulation software allows you to do it with any deck you like. Some Tarot workbooks (like this one for the Mythic Tarot) come with coloring panels too, and there are even a few Tarot decks on the market (like this one and this one) designed to let you color the cards themselves.

Whichever way you choose, get what you’re coloring and what you’re coloring with together. Sit down and really look at the image, and then figure out how you’d like to color it. Don’t feel like you have to match the colors other people have used, either. Go with your gut on this.  This is a wonderful way to explore the cards in a deeper, more intense way than you might have before.

tarot-coloring-pages

Here we have the Sun and the Seven of Wands from the Rider-Waite.

For instance, look closely at the 7ofW above. Did you notice that the guy in the card is wearing two different shoes? If you didn’t before you certainly would when you colored it! As you color the card, think about that. Why don’t his shoes match? What might that symbolize about him, about his situation, about the card? After you finish coloring, jot down any thoughts you had about the art and file.

Opening the Tarot Door Meditation

Daily meditation is a wonderful practice. Adding Tarot to it, either daily or weekly, can lift meditation up even higher. This takes journaling o the next level, and I highly encourage you to try it.

First prep your space. Dim the lights (or light some candles), burn some incense, play nicely meditative music, and prop up your card.

Then study the card. I mean really study it. Learn it until you can recall every detail with your eyes closed. (Having trouble? Color it! It’s easier to retain details after you’ve colored it.)

When you can easily recall every detail with your eyes closed, visualize the card in front of you growing larger and larger. Keep expanding it until it’s big enough to step into, until the card’s borders are like a doorway.

Visualize yourself stepping through.

What’s it like in the card? Is it hot? Cold? Windy? Still? What is the figure in the card doing? If you speak to them, what do they say, and how does that relate to the card’s meaning? What elements in the frame can you interact with? What does that feel like?

When you’re through exploring the card and interacting with the figure, step out of the card and visualize it shrinking back to card size. Open your eyes.

Now write everything down and file it with your Journaling notes.

One a Day Pulls

Add a bit of divination to your Tarot study!

Every morning think about your day, and with your cards in your hands ask what card will either best inform your day or guide you through it. Then shuffle and look at the card that comes up.

Write down a few notes about it. What comes immediately to mind? Then either carefully pack the card in your bag so it doesn’t get destroyed (in a book, maybe) or snap a pic with your phone (my preference).

Think about the card throughout the day. How does it relate to what’s happening? Does keeping it in mind help you manage your day? Do you see anything that brings the card to mind? What situations does it relate to? Add these notes to the ones you made earlier before you go to bed.

File them in a binder specifically for One a Day pulls when you’re done.

For a fun twist, those of us with multiple decks can also go with whatever deck “calls” to us before starting this exercise. I do this with the daily pulls I post. One day it’ll be one deck, and the next could be a different one. See how switching daily between decks changes your experiences!

Three-Card Spreads

I do this every week.

Think about your upcoming week, and with your cards in your hands ask for information or guidance that will help you manage it. Then shuffle and lay out the cards in a simple Three Card Spread.

3cardspread

Three card spread. Image from here.

What does the spread say to you? How do you interpret it?

Write it all down.

At the end of the week, before you do the next spread, go over your notes from the previous week. What happened? How did this reading relate to your experiences? Was there anything that could have been interpreted differently to better fit your circumstances? Make notes at the bottom of that record, then file it and do the next one.

File with your One a Day Pulls.

Beyond Tarot

These exercises are in no way exclusive to Tarot. They can easily be adapted for any card-based divination system, and with a little creativity can be adapted for a wide variety of other divination tools too. Runes spring immediately to mind, as does lithomancy

Revamps and Updates

It seems like 2017 is ushering in change, and I am not immune. Thankfully the tagline for this blog applies here too!

not-all-those-who-wander-are-lost

So what’s happening?

Glad you asked!

Mystik Nomad – encompassing this blog as well as the services I offer – is now a distinct Facebook page. Feel free to Like/Follow me there to get all the updates!

I have overhauled my much-neglected Twitter account and hope to use it more often over the coming months. If you’d like to subscribe to my feed it’s @MystikNomad.

This blog is up for a long-overdue overhaul as well, which should be finalized in the next month or two. Details will be posted as they become available.

I am also in the process of getting my Tarot deck ready for publication, as well as working on a book containing the curriculum I use to teach beginning polytheists. I am making strides on both projects and hope to have beta copies of at least the Tarot deck ready by Ostara.

Everything is so exciting!

Transition and change have become old friends, and this is more of the same. I’m so grateful to have all of you wandering this path with me!

 

When Discernment Fails

When my students feel lost or unbalanced I tell them to “go back to the Center”. Find your personal Center, your internal balance point, and work out from there. When you’ve got that as solid as it’s gonna get for now, turn your focus to your physical needs (food, clothing, shelter, health, finances). Once that’s fairly stable focus on your emotional connections with other people, like friends and family. Only when that’s stable enough to get on with should you try to engage with the larger world around you. Doing any of that out of order makes everything harder.

So that’s what I’ve been doing lately. That’s why my blog’s been quiet. I’ve been taking care of what’s closer to home since I lost my balance.

During my quiet time I have accepted and processed recent events, and I’m once again fairly secure in my (new and improved) sense of self. I just this weekend past moved into a wonderful little apartment that suits me down to the ground. My finances are strong and my health is continuing to improve. I’ve reached out to people again after a period of hermitage. I’m once more tuning in to social justice and political issues. My shrines are all finally back up after a hiatus and regular offerings have resumed.

And now I once again turn my attention to this, my blog. At least after all the recent changes I knew what to write about!

What happened?

Last October I moved to New York. Everything came together for that move so perfectly that I saw my Lady’s hand in it. So I tried to figure out why She might want me to move to the East Coast.

Looking back a year later, I still believe She helped me move. I just think I got Her reasons all wrong.

Why? Because here I am, a year later, back in Seattle. She had just as much of a hand in getting me back to the Pacific Northwest as She had in getting me East in the first place. Which means returning was as much part of the plan as going. Or so it seems to me.

Train

Whaddaya know? Trains go both ways!

And that means my discernment at the time failed, at least in part. I’ve had to reassess everything.

I went to New York with the idea that here was a chance for me to live the life of dedicated clergy I thought I wanted. It didn’t work out that way, though. New York simply convinced me that I’m not suited to the role. And I’m thinking that might have been part of the plan all along.

Why?

Simply put, serving as 24/7 clergy – at least for that particular group – fits neither my perspective nor my temperament. And I would never have learned that about myself without doing it.

Perspective

Any group work at all requires compromise. However, the compromises required for my polytheistic self to work closely in a spiritual/ritual way with Pagans are no longer compromises I’m willing to make. That’s on me, and I accept full responsibility for it, but it’s still something I have to manage.

I am a hard polytheist, start and stop. The Powers are as real and individualized as you or I. That truth is the foundation of my life. My entire spiritual path is primarily based on personal UPG, and my relationships with the Powers are completely individualized. I came to this path through Paganism, but I no longer identify as Pagan. Trying to do so leads to feeling a very sharp disconnect. I feel like an outsider looking in instead of part of the group.

slide2_2

I am now the square peg. Awesome.

It’s important to note here that Paganism is just as valid a spiritual path as polytheism. That feeling of disconnect doesn’t mean that I’m right and other folks are wrong, it just means we have different perspectives.

I’m not about to start demanding that the Powers only be honored in the ways that work for me. I’m not the Faith Police, or an asshole, and I honestly believe that the Powers work with people in ways that are dependent on a host of factors I don’t understand. If They work with me as individuals, great. If They work with someone else in a different way, who am I to judge that?

However, while I can intellectually go with that logic I can’t work with it in a ritual setting. It’s profoundly uncomfortable and upsetting. And I certainly can’t effectively teach something I don’t follow! The two perspectives are too different to work with simultaneously and too far apart to bridge, at least for me. In my experience attempts to do either are usually clunky anyway, and dilute the experience for all involved. There’s no reason to do that when separate rituals get the job done.

Separate rituals, though, kind of negate the whole “we’re doing this as a group” concept from the get-go.

My takeaway here? If I’m doing a ritual with other people, those other people need to be as polytheistic as I am, even if that polytheism manifests differently.

That whole perspective doesn’t work with an umbrella Pagan organization, and it’s high time for me to stop trying to force it.

Temperment

Clergy for a group fulfill a number of roles, as I’ve previously discussed. *shrug* And honestly? I’ve discovered that, in general, I’m either not interested in or suited to fulfilling them.

Let me explain.

  • Visionary

The first role is that of a Visionary, someone who conceives of a better way and devotes themselves to sharing that way with others.

I’ve done the first part of that, no question. Over the years I’ve established my own relationships with the Powers, with the Wheel of the Year, with my approach to both spirituality and magick. They click in my head better than any other approach I’ve ever found.

That second part, though? That’s not me, not my path.

My way is personal, individualized, and in many ways unique. It’s better for me, but that in no way makes it a universal thing. Honestly, there aren’t many other people my way would suit. I teach and share my perspective when asked, I maintain a blog, and maybe eventually I’ll publish the books I’ve written for my own use that lay out my particular approach. I wouldn’t say the vague thought of “hey, that might be useful” is devotion to sharing, however, and it’s not something I feel called to do.

Being a Visionary is not a clergy role I feel I can claim. So I don’t.

  • Lore-Tender

The job of a lore-tender is to keep a tradition or path as close to the vision of the founder as possible, through judgment and education. Since I don’t consider my personal path a tradition, there’s no traditional lore to tend. I maintain a ridiculously extensive library containing books about every path I can find, mine or not, and enjoy sharing those resources with others if they’re helpful. But beyond that, tending the lore of a tradition I do not personally follow in my day-to-day life feels hypocritical. And I’ve already explained why teaching my personal path is problematic.

Now general hard polytheism? That’s something I can help with. But that help is either so generalized it’s 101-level knowledge, or so specific it’s more my personal perspective than anything else.

In other words, this isn’t a clergy role I fulfill in anything other than the broadest sense.

  • Ritual Facilitator

Rituals – or at least ritual elements – are what hold a group together, even beyond a shared history and creed. From full sabbat observances to ritual greetings, those elements give a group a foundation that unites its members.

What I do won’t hold a group together. This goes back to my way not being suitable for large numbers of people. My personal rituals aren’t nearly as meaningful to other people as they are to me. However, stepping aside from what I do follow the ritual of another tradition (especially non-polytheistic ones) feels like I’m setting aside all of my personal relationships with the Powers and the UPG with which I’ve been blessed. That feels damned near sacrilegious.

Individual rituals custom-crafted to a specific purpose are fantastic, and I adore the challenge, but they are intentionally one-offs. One-offs do not a tradition make or a group build, though, no matter how much I enjoy them.

  • Pastoral Care-Giver

Short story here? I don’t have enough spoons to make this a regular part of my life.

Pastoral care-giving – supporting group members through trouble and crisis – is something I find equally rewarding and draining. I do it well (or so I’ve been told), but I can’t do a whole lot of it without feeling beaten by sticks. I have occasional issues with fatigue anyway, and dealing with others going through crisis exacerbates this. I get so drained I get depressed. That leads to me becoming even more reclusive than I already am and avoiding people more than I already do.

fish

Little fishy, I totally feel you here!

It simply works out better if I’m not the first person others think of when a crisis situation occurs. There are a few folks who have me on speed-dial for this kind of thing, and all of my students are encouraged to reach out whenever, but for the most part I do this kind of work by referral. I’m like Tier 2 tech support. I only get the people who need their issues escalated.

I do read Tarot for other people, but I charge for each session and almost always require an appointment unless it’s a bona fide emergency. The fee is another kind of gate-keeping, and the appointment helps me manage my energy.

This is not the kind of baggage that works for a group. Wise woman in the woods? Solo urban monastic? Yes and yes, absolutely. But being on call 24/7 to an extensive group isn’t something I could realistically do for any significant stretch of time without draining myself dry and spreading myself way too thin. Maintaining some distance is not just better for me, it’s better for the quality of help I offer.

  • Administrator

I’m good at administration. Seriously, I rock it. However, this role only really becomes a thing within an established tradition or group. There has to be something to administer, right? I think I could fulfill this function for a group if it was the only role I fulfilled, but with everything else I think this talent is better suited to other types of tasks.

What does all that mean?

I realized – after much examination and thought – that I’ve been holding off on other parts of my life to keep myself available for a clergy role if and when it became available. Without my sojourn in New York I don’t know if I’d ever have figured out that I was holding out for something that would not bring me happiness or satisfaction.

I needed to confront it head-on to understand it and move on. My Lady made it almost impossible for me to do otherwise.

That being said, I do not consider my time in New York to be a failure. Not at all! I accomplished quite a bit while I was there. *amused* Just nothing I factored into my planning!

I also don’t have a problem with Pagan practice, in general or specific, and I wish the group I was working with every success. It’s just not for me, not anymore.

Now that I’ve come full circle I’m left with one question that has lasting implications: if serving as 24/7 clergy is no longer a goal to which I aspire, what other areas of life does that open up for me?

I honestly don’t know. There’s been a lot of soul-searching in Casa de Caer as of late.

Nature abhors a vacuum though, and my Lady isn’t shy. I might even have some ideas. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Believing in Rocks

Faith can be a funny thing. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately.

Someone recently described faith to me as “believing something without evidence or proof”. And yeah, that’s one definition. A definition as far from my practice as I am from Alpha Centauri.

I broke out the star charts. Shit just got REAL.
I broke out the star charts. Shit just got REAL.

The more balanced I get in my life and my practice, the more room I make for the Powers, the less I relate to that definition of faith. That’s not unique to me, of course – I’ve heard it from other people too.

I remember reading that Starhawk was once asked something like “do you believe in the Goddess?”. She responded with “do you believe in rocks?”. That stuck with me, and I get it now. How can I possibly doubt, when I see what I see? When I can feel the effects of my relationships with the Powers in my life every single day?

I know my Lady – and to a lesser extent the other Powers with whom I work – have my back. This isn’t bullshit I tell myself when I’m scared in the dark, or a personification of whatever-the-hell, or my Rice Crispies talking to me. It’s as self-evident as the fact that my hands are cold as I write this.

Although, gotta say, that would be SO much easier.
Although, gotta say, that would be SO much easier.

If ever I do start to doubt either the influence of the Powers in my life, or that moving to New York is what my Lady wanted for me (at least for now), thinking about my recent cross-country move would kill those doubts dead immediately.

Leaving Seattle

Moving cross-country is rarely an easy task. And I’ve done it a few times! There are a ton of details to juggle, and the further you get into the process the more details pop up. Handling everything is like playing a game of Whac-a-Mole, and it’s exhausting.

Who knew birthday parties at Chuck E Cheese were prepping me for adult life?
Who knew birthday parties at Chuck E Cheese were prepping me for adult life?

This move did have its share of moles to whack, but wow did the chutes clear faster than expected!

I plan my life. That’s just how I work. So my original plan had me leaving Seattle sometime between October 24 (when a dear friend of mine finally returned to the mainland after a year in Hawaiii) and October 30 (so I could be in New York by Samhain). That would have been tight, and frankly taken longer than I wanted to take, but there were upsides. For one thing, it allowed me to stay in Seattle long enough to meet the written terms of my lease. That’s important. The biggest benefit, though, was more time to save money. My area of New York is fairly economically depressed, very rural, and I don’t have a car. Finding a job after the move was going to be problematic, so every cent mattered.

My piggy bank only gets me so far, you know?

My piggy bank only gets me so far, you know?

I liked that plan. I was good with that plan. Then there was Stuff. And Things. And all of my careful planning had to be rewritten so often that by the end my “plan” was more of a recap of past events than anything else.

For instance, I turned in my move-out notice to my landlady, effective Oct 31 (with plans to actually leave a few days earlier than that). She informed me that rent was going up in October for the whole building, so I should go ahead and move out at the end of September. Simplified her paperwork, and prevented me from having to sign a new lease. She also assured me that moving out earlier than my lease stated would in no way affect my deposit, what with the new rent and everything else going on.

Ok. Sure. It cut into my savings time, but the deposit would help with that, and it definitely made sure I got out to New York early enough to help plan an awesome Samhain event. It also allowed me to avoid the rent hike and signing a lease. It just meant my planning time for moving cross-country was cut by more than half. That wasn’t a big deal, right? *deep breath* Right.

Then I talked to my boss about my moving. He informed me that there was no reason for me to leave the company. I do good work, so why not do good work from home? Same pay and everything, I’d just telecommute.

*blink* And… another change of plan that fixed the major defect of the first change! The frantic saving I couldn’t do because of the earlier-than-expected move date wasn’t necessary any more, because I’d still draw my normal paycheck in New York. No worries about job hunting in a low-job area, no stressing transportation to and from said job, no driving in the snow, nada. Hell, I even got paid to drive from my new place to Philly and back – hours AND mileage – to pick up the necessary equipment. I took a week off to move, and because they covered the Philly trip I only lost a day and a half of pay!

Although driving to and from Philly? NOT recommended if it can be helped. Traffic was INSANE.

Although driving in Philly? NOT recommended. Traffic was intense.

I won’t even miss seeing my friend when he gets back to the mainland. He just so happens to be spending the holidays in Pennsylvania (not usual, btw), and he’ll pop up to visit me before he heads back home.

Every major concern I had, handled one after the other, in ways I could not predict or control. Simple luck? Coincidence? Or my Lady working to smooth my way? I know how I answer that question.

The Trip

Like I said, I don’t have a car. So moving cross-country for me was an analysis of alternative transit options. Renting a car or whatever for the trip was way too pricey. That left me with travel by plane, bus, or train. After weighing everything out I decided to move by train. It offered the best combination of price, comfort, and allowable luggage while also checking something off my bucket list.

Practicality AND nostalgia. It’s a two-fer!
Practicality AND nostalgia. It’s a two-fer!

The plan started getting scrambled before I even left. The day I had the money to buy the ticket was also the day I just happened to hit a major Amtrak sale. I was able to travel first class from Seattle to Chicago for only $30 more than traveling coach – and that $30 covered all of my meals during the 2 day journey. Since when does first class save money?

Home sweet home. It was seriously like a tall coffin. I’ve been in bigger cars. But I had access to a shower and could sleep lying down. Absolutely worth it.
Home sweet home. It was seriously like a tall coffin. I’ve been in bigger cars. But I had access to a shower and could sleep lying down. Absolutely worth it.

Once I reached my little sleeping compartment the whole thing began resembling a mini retreat/archetypal Journey. I was moving ever-forward towards my future but had no control over the process itself. I had to just relax and go with it. I spent the two-day trip from Seattle to Chicago sleeping, using my prayer beads, or reading as the wheels clacked on. I had plenty of time to process, more than I’d expected, and I took the chance to reconnect and rebalance and even grieve for what I was leaving behind. By the time I got off the train I felt renewed and revitalized in ways I didn’t even know I needed.

Then I hit Chicago. And what I thought at the time were a bunch of snags.

We arrived in Chicago about 2 hours late. I had plans to meet up with a friend while in town, but those fell through at the last minute due to some unexpected stuff happening as I pulled into the station.

But once again, everything worked out in ways I could not have predicted. Because I had traveled to Chicago in the sleeper cars I got access to the first class lounge, which had a holding area for carry-on luggage. That freed me up to get a little taste of Chicago solo. I grabbed a cab in front of the station and had the driver take me to the “best deep dish pizza in Chicago”.

Sorry, Chicago – as far as I’m concerned New York wins the pizza wars. This was like eating a casserole AND the pan it was cooked in!
Sorry, Chicago – as far as I’m concerned New York wins the pizza wars. This was like eating a casserole AND the pan it was cooked in!

I got to the pizza place and started stressing the time. We’d arrived late, Chicago drivers are apparently all insane (seriously, it was like driving in NYC), and the pizza place told me I’d be waiting an hour for a pizza. Casseroles take time to bake, apparently. *grin*

I decided I’d go for it, and if I felt rushed I’d just take my pizza to go. Not a worry, though. While I was waiting I got a text message saying my connecting train had been delayed by a few more hours. That let me relax into my very tiny Chicago experience. While I was nibbling my pizza on the patio and people-watching a busker set up nearby, treating me to some sweet drums. And since he was a pizza fan, he welcomed my leftovers so I didn’t have to pack them on the train. How cool is that? I even managed to hit a drugstore on the way back to the station for some caramels and ibuprofen.

Once I finally boarded the train there were several more hours of delays, which screwed up my car reservation. If things had gone as scheduled I’d have arrived in Syracuse at noon, been picked up by the car rental place, grabbed a car, and been at my destination by 3ish. However, we didn’t even get in to Syracuse until 6p – an hour after the car rental stopped picking customers up. I could just see me and my bags, stranded at the train station, sleeping on a bench overnight…

Welcome to New York?
Welcome to New York?

Again my way was cleared. I called the car company to explain the delay and ask that my reservation be canceled from the train. When I hung up the gentleman in the seat in front of me – to whom I’d not spoken word one during the trip – turned around and offered to share a cab with me to the open-much-later car rental place at the airport. He’d pay for the cab ride, of course, but since he was already going there anyway why not ride along?

Awesome! No bench for me! *happy dance*

We get to the airport, and come to find out the company I’d originally reserved the car with had a weird regulation that would have made them useless for my needs anyway. However, since I was at the airport I was able to walk 5 steps to the left and rent a car from a different company. Without all the delays I wouldn’t have been able to rent the car I actually needed without huge amounts of stress and cab fees. And it didn’t cost me a dime.

The gentleman who paid the cab driver even watched my stuff for me while I went to fetch my car. And two random guys in front of the airport even loaded my stuff into the rental for me. How sweet is that?

After Arrival

Here’s the final cherry.

Because yes, this whole move was as awesome as a chocolate sundae.

Because yes, this whole move was as awesome as a chocolate sundae.

The new place in New York really is a new place. As in, newly purchased. And that purchase was running into snags too. I did all my travel arrangements and moved out here before we knew for sure that we’d even get the house. When I boarded the train I knew I was moving cross-country to a place I couldn’t even legally enter yet. A bit nerve-wracking for me, and highly disruptive to the lives of the people I was moving in with! However, we just so happened to receive the keys (and permission to actually move in) the day I arrived. *raises brows* Convenient, that.

I could keep going – and will in future posts – but I’ll stop there.

Take Aways

I could say that everything that happened was merely a run of fortuitous events. Or even random coincidence. Pure luck.

Although if that's my luck I need to head to Vegas!
Although if that’s my luck I need to head to Vegas!

Going with random chance on this just doesn’t work for me. For me, it requires exhausting mental gymnastics to figure out how to dismiss all of this as some cosmic quirk. Frankly I don’t see the point in playing those kinds of games with myself. It doesn’t gain me anything. It’s easier to simply accept that my Lady loves me and wants me to be here than it is to try to explain everything away.

This move is completely changing my life. A lot of the ways are good even now. Some of them are less than comfortable. Others will be fine once I adjust. And when I’m not running myself ragged I’m a little homesick for Seattle. But I know that, for now, this is where my Lady wants me to be. I can trust that as much as I trust Her, and that really is rock-solid.