Daily Devotions – Mealtime Offerings

Honoring the Lady of Home and Hearth was the heart of regular day-to-day practice in ancient times. Taking place in kitchens across the Proto-Indo-European world, it was carried over to the descendent hearth cultures too.

For the most part, our ancestors were practical people. They understood that regular practice couldn’t be maintained if it was approached like a full seasonal festival every time. Seasonal festivals can only be lavish and complicated because they’re done seasonally. As our day-to-day lives are much simpler than a three-day festival involving the whole town, so our daily devotions are simpler than a full High Day ritual.

Perhaps that’s why one of the most pervasive types of regular devotional activity is the humble mealtime offering. Even those of us raised in non-religious households are familiar with the idea of bowing our heads in thanks before a meal. If you’ve ever done it yourself feel blessed – you’ve taken part in a practice that was prevalent before Christianity and has survived remarkably intact to the present day.

Mealtime offerings are one of my absolute favorite types of regular devotional work. Mine only take about sixty seconds per meal and still manage to resonate throughout my whole day. That’s a lot of bang for your buck!

Intrigued? Read on!

Why Mealtime Offerings?

Oh, the many reasons, y’all. This type of devotional work has some serious traction behind it.

  1. It’s a time and type of devotion we’re already accustomed to in modern American culture. Granted we might not see it out and about very often, but if someone bows their heads over their plate before eating we know exactly what they’re doing without having to ask. Some of us may have even grown up doing it. It’s a familiar place devotion-wise, is what I’m saying, and if it ain’t broke why fix it?

    A family praying before a meal.

    Many of us might have taken part in this over the recent Thanksgiving holiday even if it’s not part of our usual practice.

  2. Mealtime offerings aren’t time- or labor-intensive, and there’s no expectation that they should be. We want to eat while it’s still hot! There’s no pressure to make them longer, or fancier, or hugely profound, or whatever else. We’re hungry. Get it done.
  3. They’re not intimidating because we know they vary, and that’s ok. Some folks have a set prayer every time, others make it up as they go, some adults go on forever with it, and some kids use quick nursery rhymes. It all works, so we can feel confident in knowing that whatever we come up with works, too.
  4. Eating is when we take the produce of the Earth and consume it, our foods dying so that we might live. When we die we’ll become part of that same cycle, feeding the earth for those who come after. Recognizing that most fundamental of truths is about as nature/earth/cycle centered as we can get, making it an excellent anchor for devotions.
  5. Mealtime offerings are in the lore! Not only can we draw on our own experiences with this, we know for a fact ancient polytheists did them too. Greek and Roman families made offerings from every meal on their household shrines/in their hearth fires, for instance (which is what my personal approach is based on).
  6. Mealtime devotions continued from ancestral practices right through to the present day (albeit in different forms). Because of that, they connect us directly to what our ancestors did regardless of the faith they practiced. There’s not much else in our lives that can do that. Nifty, huh?

With all of that going on it makes all the sense in the world to take a minute or three out of our day to join the party!

Timing 

We all eat. Ideally, we all eat multiple times a day. We don’t need to look for opportunities to do mealtime offerings. We’re kind of spoiled for choice!

I make offerings at every meal that involves heat to prepare. Some folks might be more comfortable with something else, though, and that’s ok too. Other timing options include only meals eaten in your home, only the evening meal, only Sunday dinner, breakfast every other day… Honestly, they’re your meals and your devotions. What works for you?

My Mealtime Offerings

In my practice meals are the dominion of Wéstyā, the Proto-Indo-European Lady of the Flame and Goddess of the Hearth. She is naturally the Goddess I look to for all domestic matters, and it is to Her that I make mealtime offerings.

I have two versions: one for when I eat at home and one for when I don’t.

At Home: In the old days Wéstyā was always present in the hearth fire. Few of us even have hearths anymore, though. That’s ok. All it takes is a candle or oil lamp in the kitchen, lit when we start preparing our meal and extinguished when we’re done with clean up. Can’t make the kitchen candle/lamp work, for whatever reason? Put Her candle on your shrine instead. I have roommates and limited counter space, so I honor Her on my shrine.

Anyway, when I begin preparing my meal (or when I start ordering delivery), I take a moment to light a candle for Wéstyā. As I do, I say:

Wéstyā is here, heart of my home. 

When the food is ready to serve/arrives courtesy of the local pizza joint, I offer Her a small bit of whatever it is before anything else is served or eaten. She gets first dibs. I just take a bite-sized piece of whatever (no meat, though – She doesn’t care for it) and put it in the little dish I keep ready for the purpose by Her candle. As I do, I say:

Burn on our hearth, Wéstyā, source of all that is holy. Bless us who dwell here, and smile on our home, and give special care to guests that our care of them might honor You.

Then eat as usual. When the meal is done, collect Her plate along with all the other dishes and clean up. Return Her cleaned dish to Her shrine while saying:

I welcomed You into my home with the offerings due a guest, Wéstyā, but I know that I am ever a guest in yours. May Your flame always shine bright. Blessings to You, Lady of the Flame!

Blow out Her candle, thus scattering Her blessings around the home. Done!

What I particularly like about this setup is that it reminds me to consider Her during the entire meal, from preparation through cleanup. However, at no point does it feel overwhelming, scary, or difficult. When I first started with this approach I kept little cards with my lines by Her candle (since everything is said there), one for each section, so I didn’t forget or stumble. After a while I naturally memorized them, but I didn’t feel like I had to. And I still keep the cards underneath Her candle, just in case.

Westya's place on my shrine.

Wéstyā’s place on my shrine. On the left, you can see the cards tucked underneath and the dish I use for Her offerings. On the right, the cards are spread out so you can see them. Unless I’m burning the candle the top covers it – I like this particular candle holder because the handle part looks like a flame too!

Away from Home: The process doesn’t really change, just the actions. I say the things I’d normally say, but in my head instead of out loud. Instead of lighting a candle I visualize it. And instead of putting Her offering on Her shrine I set a small plate up for Her to the side. I’ll either bring one with me or, if I’m in a restaurant, I’ll just request an extra saucer from the wait staff. I’ve never once had anyone not dining with me question it. Not a plate-type meal? That’s fine. Use whatever is being used for whatever you’re eating.

Variations

What I use is obviously not the be-all/end-all of possibilities for mealtime offerings. It’s totally ok if you want to change it up. Hell, I based what I actually say in large part on prayers written by Ceisiwr Serith in Deep Ancestors. Feel free to adapt what I’ve provided here to reflect your practice, the Powers you honor, and the way you take your meals. Or write your own!

I usually prepare, eat, and clean up my meals solo, so my devotions are written that way. Want to involve more people? Have the head cook do the first part, whoever’s in charge of clean up do the third, and maybe rotate the second. Or have the oldest/youngest do it. Or rock/paper/scissors for it. Or draw lots. Or roll dice. Be creative!

Want to honor a different Power? Feel free! An obvious substitution here would be the Greek Hestia or the Roman Vesta, but any home and hearth goddess would be a perfectly suitable choice. Want to honor Ancestors or Land Spirits instead of a goddess? Go for it!

Really like the candle part and want to use one away from home too? Or live somewhere that candles are absolutely prohibited (like a dorm)? Consider dedicating one of those battery-operated tea lights to Her and using it instead. Switch it on when you would usually light the candle, leave it on during the meal, and click it off when the plates are cleared and you’ve given thanks. Use a real candle if you can, but if you can’t by all means use what works.

A package of 2 LED tea lights.
Two for $1 at the Dollar Tree. Complete with “flickering effect”.

Really, the sky’s the limit here.

Devotional work doesn’t have to be difficult, complicated, intimidating, or time-intensive. It always, always goes back to hospitality – being ready and willing to entertain, offering food/drink, and being respectful. As long as you hit those three points you’re on the right track!

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Prayer Ritual Basics

Since posting about my upcoming Prayer Ritual I’ve gotten several requests for a how-to guide. I figured the best place to start would be an explanation from the one who inspired me to do this, Stevie Miller over at Feathers in Amber. She graciously provided the below explanation and photos of her techniques. One of the things I most like about her practice is that she’s not afraid to experiment with different approaches, so you’ve quite a few examples to start with!

Starting an Open Prayer Ceremony
Stevie Miller

If you have spent any amount of time on social media–and really, who hasn’t?–you’ve probably seen a surprising amount of people asking for prayers. It might not occur to you, as it didn’t for me, until you start looking for it, but these requests are everywhere: sick and injured friends and family, job searches, hurting relationships, house fires, cars breaking down. In a circle of just a couple hundred people, things like this can be going wrong every day.

As a spirit worker, I seem to have something of an “on duty” sign that lights up when people specifically ask for prayer. Even if the people making the request are from different traditions than mine, or outside of polytheism altogether, I often feel moved to help. But since I didn’t want to impose my beliefs on others, I wanted to come up with a way to figure out who wanted that kind of help from me, and how I could offer it on a regular basis without it taking over my life.

A simple prayer ritual to Odin with an offering of mead and incense.

A simple altar layout for a prayer ritual, featuring an offering of mead and incense.

Enter the weekly open prayer ceremony. I let people know that I will be lighting candles and reading out petitions once a week and that I’m open to requests. Suddenly, those requests came flooding in from every direction–more than I even had candles for! People loved the idea, and I even got asked if others could pray for me in return, and if I wanted donations to be offered to any charities in return for this sacred work. I was also asked to write the article you’re reading now.

I also found that this practice has benefitted me. The routine is fantastic for ensuring that I’m offering to and talking to my Powers regularly. Social accountability–that is, other people expecting that you’re going to do something, and your posting evidence of it–is great for establishing and maintaining a good habit. It has also made me feel much more connected to others. Spirit work, especially when you serve a really niche tribe–and in my case, a discarnate, non-human tribe–can be an extremely lonely path. But with this, I’m using my skills to do good for others, and hearing back about how it has helped them. It has been starting to make me feel like I really do have a community, and they need me.

This picture shows the Odin candle, an offering of mead on top of a prayer list, and a piece of knot magick representing all the prayers made.

This picture shows the Odin candle, an offering of mead on top of a prayer list, and a piece of knot magick representing all the prayers made. She kept the cord on the altar for a week so that the Gods could watch over everyone’s intentions.

The Gods, Ancestors, and Spirits seem to enjoy being needed too. I’ve consistently gotten messages over the years, both intended for myself and intended for others, along the lines of “Ask Us! Come to Us when you are in need! We want to be a part of your lives and your works. You don’t need to do this all alone.” Calling on the Powers regularly for the people has strengthened my bond with Them too.

I wholeheartedly believe the world will be a better place when more of us are praying for each other and offering to the Powers. So if you’d like to start an open prayer ceremony of your own–which I would strongly encourage!–I’d like to offer some tips.

Define your community: Maybe you just want to open your ceremony to people close to you, or maybe you want to make it public. I post publicly on social media about it, and, odd exceptions aside, accept every prayer petition I receive. You may want to do it differently. Whatever you choose, figure out who you’re offering this service to and how you will let them know about it. An alternative is to simply gather up the prayer requests you see and hear in day to day life. You’ll be surprised how many you encounter once you start looking for them.

Set your boundaries: What Powers do you want to work with? Will you let people request prayers to a specific deity or spirit? What kinds of prayer requests will you accept? When will you accept prayer requests? What is your maximum capacity? These are all things you will need to define for yourself and your audience if you’re going to do open prayer ceremonies.

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A beautiful altar layout utilizing nine candles to represent the collective prayers said. Note the rune stones in front of the candles – she drew a general omen for everyone she prayed for and shared the results.

Create your ritual: I’ve found that it’s easiest for me to deal with open requests if I keep my ritual format simple. I do a simple invocation, I make offerings to the Powers I have invoked, I read the petitions of the people while lighting candles, and I thank the Powers for Their blessings. Sometimes I will add a component where I take an omen, such as a three rune pull or a card draw, or a component where I meditate and listen to see if the Powers have any messages for just me personally or for all the people being prayed for. That’s it.

Distance offerings: Since I’m praying for people who are scattered all over the country, I took up a practice that seems to be gaining popularity in polytheist circles: I promote offerings to charity in the name of the deity being honored that week. For example, the last couple times that I have worked with Odin, He has made it clear that He would like offerings in His name to be made to Alzheimer’s research. This allows people who are not present at your ceremony to take part if they feel so moved by giving something in exchange. Reciprocity is important in many traditions. It also helps you work on causes your Powers find important, which can only improve your devotional relationships, right?

Simplify: I keep the whole process simple because it’s easier for me to focus on the petitions, and to keep this process going without getting burnt out. For example, you don’t have to light an individual candle for every single petition. I sometimes use 9 which is a symbolically important number in my tradition; for many 3 is also a sacred number.

An image of nine tealights arranged in a pattern centered on an Odin jar candle.

Miller’s use of nine candles during a prayer ritual.

Offerings can be low key, like a nice beverage or some incense. I use Wednesday as my day of the week because that day is named after my Patron Odin (“Woden’s Day”). Keeping it on the same day each week makes it easier for me to remember (I’m lucky if I know what day it is!) and also makes it easy for people to know when their prayer requests need to get to me by.

After my prayer ceremony is over, I usually share a quick snapshot of the lit up altar just to let people know that their petitions have been spoken. I’ll share any commentary that I have from the rite itself, especially if I took an omen and want to share my reading of it.

In the future, I plan to work with different Powers and offer prayer ceremonies focused on particular intents, such as healing and abundance. I’m hoping to foster connections between people and deities or spirits they may not be as familiar with too.

I hope that this has been helpful and that you are inspired to start your own open prayer ceremony! Blessings to you and your communities.

Making a Deck Your Own: Tarot Mods

Here we can compare a card before the borderectomy and after.

Conventional wisdom tells us to make our spiritual and magickal tools our own. If we can’t make them outright, they’ll work best if we customize them somehow.

However, Tarot is a strange tool when it comes to making something our own. Due to the logistics of deck creation we almost always stick to mass produced decks, and since the cards are already “finished” out of the box customizing them doesn’t readily spring to mind.

That’s disappointingly unimaginative. There are so many possibilities! After all, at the end of the day a Tarot deck is simply a pile of cardstock with pretty pictures on it. And we’ve all been playing with papercrafts since kindergarten. We’ve got the skills. We just need to apply them.

But… but WHY? 

I tend to modify decks as a way of charging and bonding with them. Not necessarily into that? That’s ok. There are practical reasons to consider it, too.

Cards too big to comfortably shuffle or easily carry around? Trimming makes them smaller.

Do the borders distract from the art and make it harder to read the cards? That’s a frequent complaint when there are bright white borders around a deck done in darker hues, but it comes up with overly complicated and/or thick borders too. Trimming takes care of that.

Are there aspects of the card art that need to be altered/corrected, or details not on the card that need to be? That’s doable too.

Are the front and back of each card richly colored while the edges are bright white, making the deck as a whole look unfinished? That too can be corrected.

Has a beloved deck been used so much that the edges are ragged and hindering use of the deck? Trimming it down can give it a new lease on life.

Additionally, every single one of these techniques, used singly or together, will make our decks utterly unique in all the world. That alone might be reason enough to mod our decks!

Cool. So how do I do it?

Some of the most common options include altering the card face, trimming and corner rounding, and edging. I’m going to walk us through the creation of my beautiful pocket Mythic Tarot and show some of the techniques I used, and I’ve included some awesome Youtube videos throughout if you want to see the techniques first hand!

Altering the Card Face

The two most popular decks in the US (the RWS and the Thoth) were both created by ceremonial magicians. It’s not surprising to learn that magickal correspondences are buried in every card! Over time, even readers who aren’t particularly ceremonial themselves have come to rely on and even enjoy those correspondences.

Other decks have since come out that take different and sometimes radical departures from those two sources. As a result, the original correspondences may be lost or deliberately discarded along the way. Some readers are fine with that. They either didn’t use those correspondences anyway or have them memorized. Others, though, really want that symbolism on their cards.

Even beyond esoteric symbolism, there are some decks that don’t even have labels on the cards. Counting the number of pentacles on a pip card before we can even read it gets tiresome! Once deck trimming enters the picture (no pun intended!), whatever labels the card originally had might wind up on the floor in a pile of scraps.

That’s ok, though. It’s dead easy for readers to simply add what’s missing to the cards. The most common things I’ve seen added are labels, numbers, and astrological correspondences, but anything useful can be added too.

Sharpie and paint pens are both go-tos for this. Sharpie gives a more subtle result, but metallic paint pens can add a dash of glam. Choice depends in large part on the design of the card itself, and considering the many options out there can be loads of fun!

While I haven’t found myself personally adding many correspondences to cards, I do have a deck I had to artistically alter to effectively use. The Bright Idea Deck is one of my favorites, but I couldn’t get past the blond guys in suits who reminded me way too much of a current politician. So I took a fine point Sharpie to them. All the blonds are now brunets!

Capability - the Magician - from the Bright Idea Deck. The one of the left is pre-alteration, and the one on the right is after I changed his hair color.

Capability – the Magician – from the Bright Idea Deck. The one of the left is pre-alteration, and the one on the right is after I changed his hair color.

It might be a small and insignificant change to some folks, but it allowed me to keep using this deck without weird associations I didn’t want to taint my readings. This deck is also now 100% unique, because even if other people do the same thing the results won’t be perfectly identical to mine. And it took a whopping 10 minutes to do.

These same techniques can add keywords, change color correspondences, add flowers or herbs, whatever. Get creative!

Trimming and Corner Rounding

This kind of card alteration is a bit more drastic and involves actually cutting the cards.

It’s usually – but not always – done to cards with heavy borders that distract from the art. Simply trimming off the borders and then rounding the edges can make a HUGE difference in a card’s appearance. It also makes the card smaller, which is fantastic for those who have problems handling larger cards and those who want to have a deck stashed in their car or purse.

In the case of my Mythic it fixed a problem. I’m only interested in the art on the old, out of print version, and that runs around $100 used on eBay. However, the original art can still be found on the $9 German version. Dealing with German labels saves me $90? SOLD!

Once I got it, though, I found that the German labels bothered me more than I’d anticipated they would. The cards are also proportioned differently from the US version, so the borders that had been tolerable were now a bit much. Together they were ridiculously distracting. So I fixed it.

This High Priestess from the Das Delphische Tarot.

This High Priestess from the Das Delphische Tarot. Isn’t she just crying out for a borderectomy? 🙂

When trimming cards there’s no “right” way to do it. It’s a series of totally personal decisions, from exactly where to place the cuts to what tools to use to do it. For instance, here are the possibilities when it comes to trimming the HPS card.

The Mythic's HPS card cut in various ways.

Here is the Mythic’s HPS card cut in various ways. Watch the card get smaller as we cut more and more away from it!

The first image is the original HPS card. The second removed three borders completely and just a little off the top. That definitely lightens the whole thing up! The third basically created a narrower frame around the card. (I think that’s the worst option of the bunch, but it’s a definite choice that could be made.) The fourth cuts off everything except the bottom border, and then the label is written there instead. Since that’s a more typical label location some readers might prefer it. The fifth and final image shows the card with all borders removed completely.

Since I know the images backwards and forwards, and found myself intrigued by the idea of making a tin-sized deck, I decided to go with option #5.

Then it was time to select the tools. It is absolutely possible to do this with scissors alone, especially since these cards have distinct borders around the images. However, a little investment makes the process much easier!

I’m a fan of this thing. It doesn’t cost much more than a good pair of scissors. I’ve done several decks with it and haven’t yet had to change the blade. It also cuts in both directions, and the wire guide makes sure the cuts go where they’re supposed to. It’s even got built-in measurements! I found I could trim a card in less than a minute even being super careful. That’s not bad! Because of the stop the cuts are straight, too. There’s a fixed blade version available, but I haven’t tried that.

Fiskars 9 Inch SureCut Paper Trimmer.

Fiskars 9 Inch SureCut Paper Trimmer. The blade is mounted to the little orange square on the left side of the track.

The process is really simple. Slide the blade to one end, lift the piece with the blade on it, push the card flat against the stop opposite the blade, and lower the lifted piece. Line up the guide wire with the exact place you want the cut to go, use one hand to steady the card, and with firm pressure slide the blade across the cutline. Done! Repeat for every cut.

The Two of Swords in the cutter.

Like this. The guide wire is the vertical line we can see running up the side of the image all the way across the top of the card.

Once I trimmed it I wound up with this kind of result. Isn’t the difference amazing? I fell in love the second it was done. It looks like a little painting now! The image pops more, the colors look more vivid, and the figure looks significantly more dynamic.

Here we can compare a card before the borderectomy and after.

Here we can compare a card before the borderectomy and after. If you look really closely you can see where I added labels before trimming. Once I rounded the corners they disappeared, and luckily I didn’t see any need to replace them. So keep that in mind when doing yours!

That’s really all there is to basic trimming. Lather, rinse, repeat.

There are more creative trimming options, too. The one in the video below I find particularly fascinating, and I might end up trying this approach with my Commemorative Waite-Smith deck. Here the reader cut her deck into perfect squares. The images of the standard RWS cards are so iconic that it’s easy to tell which card is which just from the focal image, and because of the square shape cards can be read upright, reversed, AND facing left or right! Imagine what that could mean for intuitive card interpretation!

Who knew taking a blade to your deck could open up whole new ways of engaging with Tarot?

Regardless of how the cards are trimmed, the corners are likely to be sharp when we’re done. They’ll need to be rounded off. For one, cards with rounded corners are less likely to catch on things when handled or shuffled. Two, rounding the corner protects it from excess wear and tear. It’s such an essential part of trimming that it’s considered part of the same process.

Luckily that’s even easier than trimming. Again, scissors can be used, but no two corners will match if they’re all done by hand. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am absolutely not ok with that. I use a corner rounder.

There are billion of these on the market, in all different sizes, but I use the clear fan favorite.

The Sunstar Kadomaru Pro Corner Cutter.

The Sunstar Kadomaru Pro Corner Cutter. As you can see from the picture, this one cutter does three different sizes.

It’s easy to do. Pick the desired size, slide the corner of the card in until it’s square, and then press the top of the rounder down. Once we hear a “click” we can move on to the next corner. I got as fast as 2 cards a minute while punching my Mythic (although that felt silly, so I deliberately slowed down a bit).

I recommend doing some experimenting with the rounder before going to town on actual cards, to make sure the right/most aesthetically pleasing size is chosen. I went with the medium size for my Mythic project as I felt they best matched the overall proportions of the card. See how much more finished the cards look after rounding than before?

The trimmed cards before and after corner rounding.

The trimmed cards before and after corner rounding. One thing to note is that parts of the bottom border were still visible on the trimmed deck. That could have been a problem. Rounding the corners fixed the issue, though.

Want to take trimming to the next level? Change the card back as you trim! It’s super easy, and is especially useful for cards on poor cardstock or getting a lot of use. Check it out!

Burnishing

This is a step that I do after trimming and rounding. I’ve never seen anyone talk about it with cards, though, so I thought I’d cover it here in a separate section.

Basically, when I finish trimming and rounding the whole deck I take a spoon and slide the curved part of the bowl along all the edges of the cards, pressing firmly inwards and kind of rocking it. Once that’s done I use the spoon to press along the edges straight down before flipping it over and repeating on the other side. I’m trying to mimic the mechanical action that happens when a deck is originally cut, and I find that it really does make a difference.

Two stacks of cards. The ones on the left are not burnished, which the ones on the right are.

I took this picture when I was exactly at the halfway point of the burnishing process. See how much smoother and more finished the burnished cards on the right are than the unburnished ones on the left? Also note that the burnished stack on the right is noticeably shorter, even though it contains the exact same number of cards.

Do every card and, unless you’re edging, you’re done! Huzzah!

A random selection of cards from my trimmed and rounded Mythic Tarot!

A random selection of cards from my trimmed and rounded Mythic Tarot! Isn’t it gorgeous??? I’m madly, madly in love with everything about it.

For those wanting some more examples of trimmed and rounded decks, check out the video below. Particularly pay attention to the Thoth section – trimming completely changes the whole feel of that deck and makes it much more approachable! The Druidcraft might be one of the most trimmed decks out there right now – it’s freaking huge, more like an oracle deck – and he covers that one too.

Edging

Cards are printed on the front and back on cardstock. The sides of the card aren’t printed, though, and that can be an aesthetic problem. It’s particularly obvious when the deck is stacked for use during a reading. The uncolored side of the card can scream out, especially on darker decks.

Edging fixes that. It colors the edges of the card so that they match (or artistically contrast with) the printed parts of the deck. Black is by far the most common color, but navy, red, and even purple are used quite a bit too. I’ve even seen white used to brighten up light decks, and browns used to make a deck look aged. The process makes a world of difference in how a deck looks.

I don’t get too fancy when I edge my decks. I use a chisel-tipped permanent marker or paint pen, carefully put the card edge on the flat part of the chisel, and hold the card steady as I move the marker around. Other people have different techniques, though, and Youtube is a great place to find some options if you’re curious.

Remember those edges in the burnishing section above? Here’s my Mythic after edging with a black Sharpie.

The trimmed Mythic Tarot after one pass of edging.

This is the deck after one pass. I usually do two or three to make sure I hit all the angles. It’s easy to miss a spot!

Doesn’t that just make the whole thing look super special?

Keep in mind, though, that cards are paper. Water-based inks and paints, including both Sharpies and acrylics, will likely bleed through the paper. How much it bleeds is largely determined by the grade of cardstock on which the deck is printed and the type of finish added after printing. (I find that burnishing helps minimize bleed too.)

A super closeup of the Mythic Tarot's World card after edging.

A super closeup of the Mythic Tarot’s World card after edging.

See that faint black line along the edge? That’s where the Sharpie bled through. I thoroughly enjoy the effect on this deck – it looks like char lines around the cards. IMO it gives each one an incredibly subtle black frame that makes each image look complete.

Instead of using water-based inks, some folks prefer going the oil-based route. The paint doesn’t get absorbed by the cardstock so bleed is avoided. Other people like using stamp pads instead of markers, but I find the technique messy and don’t use it.

While I went with black for my Mythic, don’t feel compelled to do the same with whatever deck you’re using! There are as many options out there as there are colors.

This is an example of what we get with a silver acrylic paint pen. I like the softer tone, but a more metallic finish is possible by using pens made for quick fixes of metallic scratches. Rustoleum makes one, and there are other brands too. I’ve seen silver and gold, and think there might be a copper too.

The Clair de Lune Lenormand, edged with acrylic silver paint.

The Clair de Lune Lenormand edged with acrylic silver paint.

We don’t have to use the same color all the way through, either! Multiple colors can work beautifully with a deck. For the below example, I divided the Bonefire Tarot into three piles – Majors in one, half the Minors in the second, and the second half of the Minors in the third. Then I edged each pile with a different color (red, orange, or yellow). Here’s a pic of the deck after shuffling.

My edged Bonefire Tarot.

My edged Bonefire Tarot.

Edging can completely change the character of your decks!

Storage After Mods

If we stick to altering the front of the card, edging, and maybe even rounding the corners then the box a deck came in is fine for storage. The second we trim it, though, the box it came in is too big. Letting the cards bang around inside their container can lead to increased wear on the card edges and damage the corners, causing the cards as a whole to break down faster. It’s also excessively noisy during travel.

For decks that are small enough (like my German Mythic), mini Tarot tins are available online. I chose that for my Mythic and enjoy the extra sturdiness of it. I’m still dithering over what to do with the lid though!

Two options for the Mythic Tarot's tin.

Two options for the Mythic Tarot’s tin.

On the left is a panel from the front of the box the deck came in. I trimmed it to fit and rounded the corners. While it includes the author and title, and the card makes it very obvious what deck this is, I find it a bit garish. The deck also came with an extra blank card, and I’ve trimmed that as a possibility too. I think it looks much classier, personally, but it doesn’t include any identifying info in case I maybe possibly one day need it.

Decisions, decisions. Have some input? Tell me in the comments.

Bags, wooden boxes, and even cloths tied furoshiki style are all handy too. Go with what you like!

And that’s it on Tarot mods! Has this post inspired you to do your own? I’d love to see your results in the comments!

Note for those looking at doing this with the Mythic Tarot! The German version is smaller than the US version. While the OOP US version COULD fit into a tin if trimmed this way, it would be tight. Besides, it’s OOP! Sacrilege! The German version fits in the tin with some room to spare.

Size variation between the German and US versions.

Size variation between the German and US versions. The trimmed German version – with borders removed but image untouched – is on top of a card from the US version. The difference is definitely noticeable!

Voyager Tarot – Tarot Review

A spread of five Major Arcana cards from the Voyager Tarot.

The Voyager Tarot was one of my very first decks, given to me as a gift when I was just learning by someone who wasn’t familiar with Tarot at all. That’s unfortunate because this is not a beginner deck. Attempting to use it just confused me when I was getting my bearings.

Since those early days the Voyager has become a fantastic tool. I just needed to know what to do with it first.

The Deck

One of the first things anyone notices about this deck is the sheer size. It is significantly larger than most other decks. That’s bad news for shuffling but great news for image clarity. And image clarity is an important factor with the Voyager Tarot.

Comparing the size of the Voyager Tarot to the Gilded Tarot. The first picture has the Voyager underneath the Gilded, while the second shows the two decks stacked side by side.

Comparing the Voyager Tarot with the Gilded Tarot. The individual cards AND the stacked decks are larger for the Voyager.

This is a modern Tarot deck created entirely with photo collage, giving it a very unique feel. The images come from cultures and practices around the world – making it workable regardless of personal religious affiliation – and figuring out the nuance each image represents in a given card’s meaning is part of the fun with this deck.

However, it does mean that this deck is a one-off. While the cards loosely correlate to standard meanings they are by no means exact, and some of the names have been changed too.

A spread of five Major Arcana cards from the Voyager Tarot.

Major Arcana cards from the Voyager Tarot. Notice the cards for “Fool-Child” (Fool), “Art” (Temperance) and “Time-Space” (Judgment).

The images are crisp and sharp, as you’d expect from a photo-based deck, but unlike the Golden Tarot by Kat Black no attempt was made to smooth the pieces into one united image. They’re all jumbled together, which forces the eye to jump around to make any sense of what you’re seeing. That’s kinda the point.

The four Aces of the Voyager Tarot.

The Aces of the Voyager Tarot. Here we can see the Suits. Cups and Wands are standard, but the Voyager switches out Swords for Crystals and Pentacles for Worlds.

The deck comes with a fairly informative little booklet, better than the standard LWB, but for $20 a specific Voyager guide is available. It’s even free for KU subscribers! I’d suggest it if you really want to dive into these. There are so many layers here that details can be missed if they’re not specifically pointed out.

Using the Deck

I’ll state straight-up that I do not use these cards for readings except in the very rarest of cases. That’s because these cards feel, for me, more like targeted scrying than cartomancy.

That’s not to say that others don’t read these all the time with fab results. They do. I, however, read the Voyager Tarot almost exclusively with free association. Sure I use basic Tarot keywords as I go, but nine times out of ten the meaning I draw from the card has less to do with those keywords and more to do with where my mind goes when my eyes catch on a certain image, or even a pattern of images across numerous cards.

That being said, these are excellent for meditations and creative visualization prompts. Their size is a bonus here as there’s more card to fall into. I don’t like them for Tarot-based spell work, because their scope makes that feel messy to me, but they rock for Card-a-Day pulls too. Anything more introspective or intuitively-based could easily benefit from adding these in.

I would absolutely not recommend these for a beginning cartomancer. However, if you’re strictly looking for a tool to help with self-development or meditation work it’s hard to go wrong with these, even if you’ve never touched another Tarot deck before. I’d also recommend these for scryers to are stepping into the world of Tarot for the first time, or for Tarot people who want to start scrying. They’re a fantastic bridge for that.

Available here, for less than $10 new if you go through a third party seller.

Easy DIY Incense Stove

I adore incense. It smells good, usually, but it’s also a potent magickal tool of its own. Thing is, the ways we burn it tend to distort the scent, add undesireable elements to the mix, or both.

Using sticks is convenient, but when the wooden sticks in the center of the incense burns we can smell that too. That distorts the scent of the incense. Sticks are also usually doused in unknown chemicals.

Loose incense is great, and if we make it ourselves we know exactly what’s in it. However, the charcoal used to burn it almost always has saltpeter and other chemicals in it to make it burn. (Unsure if your incense has saltpeter in it? Light a block. If it crackles it contains saltpeter.)

Either way, the very act of burning adds an acrid, smoky undertone to the scent of our incenses. Burning also creates smoke that can aggravate sensitive lungs. (And, while smoke is sometimes necessary, it isn’t always.)

But what alternative do we have? An incense stove!

What’s an incense stove?

Have you seen the oil burners so common these days? They consist of a small dish on top with space for a tealight underneath. Put a bit of oil in the dish, put a lit tealight underneath, and voila.

oil-burner

Like this one.

The controlled indirect heat releases the scent without burning the oil. What a great idea, huh?

An incense stove does the same thing with incense.

Why not just use an oil burner for incense then?

Since oil burners and incense stoves function the same you might think you can use an oil burner for incense too. And technically you can. That technique comes with a pretty significant limitation, though.

The fragrance oils made for these burners all release their scents at about the same temperature. It’s done that way on purpose. However, loose incenses include everything from hard woods to delicate florals to wine and honey. Each of those require a different heat level to release their scents without burning, and combos have their own requirements.

To work with the wide variety of blends available we really require some way to adjust the temperature. I’m sure the fancy electric models out there are wonderful, but my budget doesn’t exactly run to fancy.

Time to DIY!

Make Your Own Incense Stove

As many of you know, DIY altar supplies are kinda my thing. My favorite projects all tend to be thrifty, simple, and effective. This one is now on the list. It cost me a whopping ZERO DOLLARS, because I already had everything necessary.  Even if you don’t have ANY of it, though, you should be able to make it for less than $5.

Bonus? It only takes about 10 minutes.

Supplies

supplies

The salt I used is not pictured here. Otherwise, this is everything!

* One empty and rinsed-out soda can. Obviously use whatever brand you have on hand. For those living overseas, US soda cans hold 12 ounces.
* A utility knife
* A pair of scissors (I used kitchen shears)
* A random bowl at least as big around as the can. Make sure it won’t melt! This one’s from my kitchen.
* Sand, salt, kitty litter, etc. Anything to put in the bowl to disperse the heat.
* An unscented tealight
* Loose incense of your choice. Don’t have any? Check online for recipes you can make from your spice cabinet, or hit your local magick shop for a variety of yummy blends.
* A lighter

That’s it!

(Note: I did not wear gloves, or eye protection, or anything else safety-wise in the creation of this stove. And hey, there’s fire involved. Please take whatever precautions you feel necessary when attempting this craft. Not for children.)

We’re going to use the bottom of the can. It’s already concave and everything! The top part with the tab has to go, though. So first, use your utility knife to puncture a few holes along the edge where the body of the can starts constricting towards the top. Like so:

utility-knife-punctures

That line there? That’s where you want to start punching holes. A utility knife will go through a can with the slightest pressure, so no need to be forceful about it!

Now take your scissors, slide one blade into one of your holes, and cut all the way around. You could just use the knife, but scissors are safer. Your call. *shrug*

You’ll likely have some bits come flying off, and your cutline will be a little jagged, but that’s ok. When you’re done you’ll have something that looks like this.

cut-with-burrs

Pretty, huh? Careful – the aluminum is so thin that you’ll get something like a paper cut if you slip.

Take your scissors and do your best to even out that jagged edge. Scissors will cut through pretty easily, so have at. I ended up sitting the can upright, holding the scissors in one place, and turning the can to get a straight line. When you’re done you’ll have something like this.

trimmed

Smooth like buttah. Relatively straight, even! WOOT!

Now for some “precision work”. Heh. Pick up your tealight and look at the cut edge of your can. You need to cut a hole big enough to slip the candle into. It both makes a nice glow and provides some ventilation for your tealight. I found that the nutrition label and the ingredients list together was the right size, so I cut a bit up each side until I had a little flap. Then I simply folded the flap up inside the can and pressed it along the side. Like so:

flap

The outside and inside view.

Set the can aside. It’s done! Not too traumatic, was it? Give your handyman self a pat on the back and bask in your accomplishment!

Now take your sand/salt/whatever and pour it into your bowl. Make sure it’s at least 2″ deep. Nestle your tealight in the center of it, all cozy-like.

bowl-with-unlit-candle

The trifecta of incense goodness!

Light the candle. Pick up your incense stove, curved side up, and position it over the candle. Settle it into the bowl so it doesn’t tip over. Move fast – aluminum transfers heat REALLY well, and it’ll get too hot to touch in like 15 seconds.

Sprinkle some loose incense into the curved cup on the top of your new stove and wait a few minutes.

Can you smell the incense yet? If not, push the can lower into the sand/salt/etc (with a utensil – it’ll be hot like burning!). That will have the effect of raising the candle and upping the temperature. Smell burned? It’s too hot. Use a utensil to raise the can. If you can’t raise the can anymore without it tipping, push the candle into a divot in the sand/salt/whatever to move the candle further away from the top and lower the temp. It’s that easy!

final-result

Amber resin is my fave. Smells awesome in (on?) my incense stove!

It is absolutely, positively functional at this stage. If, however, you want to cover the soda label and make it pretty you have tons of options. Metal paints work, of course. A sleeve out of some spare scrapbooking paper to cover the soda label could look nice, too, and add a little insulation to boot. Or maybe try wrapping it with silver foil from the kitchen for a shiny finish!

You can also carefully cut some small shapes into the sides of the can. They’ll look pretty all aglow and add ventilation points, which is handy if you have to sink the can so low into the salt that it cuts off air through the flap. They’ll also reduce heat, though, so take that into account with the sizing.

Congrats! You’re the proud owner of a brand new functional incense stove!