The Queen of Wands reversed

An advantage of doing this is that, since writing this, I’ve realized I’ve had the Queen of Wands as an omen before, as recorded in this post on trying to communicate with my grandfather.

At the beginning of the week, I took my omen the way I usually do: in a semi-ritual in front of my altar, recapping my plans for the ancestors and asking for their wisdom. My heart always sinks a little when I get a reversed omen, but that’s what I got.

The Queen of Wands reversed

Now, of course, I can’t recall exactly what I said to the ancestors. But I think it was something along the lines of “I have a lot to do this week, and on top of that I want to invest more time with the kids and I’m feeling overwhelmed.”

That said, the omen made sense when I looked it up.

Delight in your strength – avoid bitterness

Looking in Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, the meaning seemed pretty clear to me.

As with the King the upside down Queen shows the reaction of such a person to opposition and sorrow. The basic good nature and positive attitude of the Queen, as well as her energy, make her invaluable in a crisis or disaster. We can see her as the kind of person who will take over the running of someone’s house when they have had a crisis and at the same time offer advice, consultation, emotional support, all these things coming from a natural impulse rather than any sense of duty.

At the same time this good nature demands that life respond in a positive way. Too much disaster or too much opposition from life (and the weakness of such a person can be a tendency to think of life as ‘unfair’), and a nasty streak can emerge. She can become deceitful, jealous, unfaithful, or somewhat bitter.

It seems a pretty clear response to my week: you have the choice to delight in having the strength and character to confront such a week, or you can let it make you bitter.

I’m not going to say that drawing the omen made my week better. Or even that it was an easy week. I was tired on Friday. But, it was nice to have someone say “hey, you can manage this, if you choose to.”

So, I focused on getting the exercise that I’ve prescribed myself, and getting out in the breaks that I have. Even though I laid down on a bench in the woods rather than going on a long hike.

And, I got through the week. This coming week is a pretty difficult one again. Add to that the fact that I’d like to add in a Autumn Equinox ritual sometime, and I know I’ll have to manage the same thing again.

But, I also know I can.


The Autumn Equinox

My conception of the Wheel of the Year is still forming. And yet, the equinox seems easier to reflect on than the cross-quarter days. The equinoxes are obviously about balance, right?


Some thoughts on balance

But the autumn equinox is also about preparation: about balancing our enjoyment of the light we have now, with the preparation to survive the coming darkness. Just balancing those two things. I could go crazy just contemplating what it means to prepare for “the coming darkness” if you’re not living in an agricultural society.

We — in temperate zones, at least — enjoy a balance between summer and winter. But, it’s worth remembering that our balance comes at a cost. I cannot know what a diety thinks or feels, but I strongly suspect that Ceres, Proserpine, and Pluto are genuinely satisfied with the balance we enjoy.

In fact, this seems like a pretty decent time to remember that our balance is the result of Zeus’s wisdom, Ceres strength and willingness to compromise, and Proserpine’s ability to subordinate whatever he wishes were to the common good and to make the best of the situation that was presented to her.

I don’t yet know how I can adequately honor all those things in a ritual.

A time of looking forward

For me, the darkness is a time of turning inward: a time to renew my attempts at meditation (why does it seem easier in the winter?) as we’re still trying to get out on every sunny afternoon, to enjoy every sunny weekend, it’s worth thinking about the time that is coming.

A balance I’d like to have more in my life — in addition to balancing meditation and physical exercise, mental and physical fitness — is between doing “useful things” and art. And now, before the darkness settles upon us, seems like a time to begin investing in those things, so that they’ll be available to me as a comfort when the darkness comes.

A time of looking backward

Just as easily as we can say that we’re entering into a time of preparing for the darkness, it’s worth reflecting on the possibility that our harvest is not one of vegetables and grain, but of growth and memories. But, that they are no less deserving of collection and of “putting up.”

I don’t know what that looks like.

It’s not a hobby of mine — and it won’t be, not in the coming months — but this seems like as good a time as any to catch up on scrapbooking or journaling.

I don’t do either (does this here count as journaling?) but I rely on Google Photos to manage my photos and it automatically generates compilation videos. For a while, I’ve been thinking that it might be a nice Yule tradition to watch a compilation of the compilation videos. Now might be a good time to do that.

Additionally, it might be worth thinking about how I’m different, how I’ve grown, since my last autumn equinox and to try to put that in writing. That is about as much as I can think of by way of ‘laying up,’ the growth I’ve experienced.

Preparing a ritual

I’m not going to manage my ritual on time tomorrow. But, the equinox isn’t here yet and I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve been thinking — by my standards — rather deeply about it. Other than words, what can I do in a ritual to acknowledge all those things that I’m beginning to think about the equinox?

My rituals tend to be the same thing, over and over again, with only mild variations. I state a different purpose, maybe I rephrase something when I draw an omen. But, I don’t know how to make the equinox feel different than any other ritual.

So, it probably won’t be.

No past Golden Age

Reading an interview with Sharon Devlin in “Drawing Down the Moon,” I came across this quote that resonated with me:

I do not believe that the past was the Golden Age. Any time in which children are sacrificed or old people are sacrificed, or where slavery exists or where blatant sexism exists, is not a Golden Age.

I completely agree. I’m in love with ancient Rome as a setting for novels in biographies, or as a thing to learn about as I look for things I can include in my own life… But, I certainly don’t want to live in ancient Rome or any other historical period.


I have an unusual relationship with Proserpine. She’s the goddess who first made me feel accepted by the Roman pantheon and, though I don’t have much of a connection to any of the Gods, she is at the center of my spiritual worldview.

Proserpine picking the flower

A goddess I can relate to

To be fair, I know nothing of being a Goddess. I privately chafe at my own mortality, but I’m certainly not ready for the wisdom or the weight of forever, not to mention the outsize egos with which one probably has to contend. I find humans difficult. Gods are probably more challenging.

And yet, I think of her often. Like me, she has to leave her family behind to be with her spouse. Like me, there is reason to think that she’s not living in her first choice of locations. And yet — hopefully also like me — she’s making the best of it.

Even more, despite being a Goddess it seems large parts of her life were decided for her without any consideration of what she wanted. I feel that it makes her easier to understand than, say, a Zeus or Apollo.

A seasonal Goddess

A big part of my pagan worldview is tied up in the seasons. Sometimes, it’s the Sky Father and the Earth Mother, but just as often, it’s Proserpine making her annual pilgrimage that fascinates me. I don’t see why it can’t be both.

In fact, when I think about the Wheel of the Year, she’s integral. For me, Samhain (I need a better name) is about the unique mixture of sorrow she’s leaving behind on Olympus and the joy she’s bringing in Hades. I can relate to Hades rejoicing at seeing his love again. And, now a parent, I can relate to the loss Ceres feels each year.

The Wheel of the Year is a hard thing.

Weirdly, I can relate to her better in the winter. In general, I think I reach out to the kindred more when I don’t have the sun to power me. That could be the reason. It could also be that I can’t imagine her having time for me when she’s enjoying her brief stay on Olympus.

I don’t know.

A liminal being

I love the word liminal. It means ‘between two worlds.’ And, though Janus is the traditional gatekeeper of the Roman pantheon, I can’t think of a being more liminal that Proserpine, who moves between Olympus and Hades, blessing the surface of the Earth Mother with her magical presence.

When I made the move from the Celtic pantheon to the Roman one, Proserpine served as my gatekeeper. It’s been a while since I performed a proper ritual (note to self, the equinox is coming up!), but she’s the spirit I would turn to first. Partly, this is because of a negative omen I got the time I thought about asking Janus to serve in that role. And, partly it’s because I still feel… accepted by her.

My own cornerstone

It’s true that I don’t invest a lot of time or energy into the gods. I’m more of a Magna Mater and the ancestors kind of guy.

Nonetheless, hers was the first story that got me engaged in mythology in general and in the Roman pantheon in general. It was by reflecting on her story — often dramatically in front of students (I give some interesting English lessons) — that I realized what a badass Ceres is. Through her, I’ve learned an affinity for Ceres which falls shy of wanting a very strong relationship with her (I sense she might find me too weak).

Via Proserpine, I’ve found myself interested in Hades, of course, and his own unusual and underestimated role in the whole pantheon. It’s probably not a good idea to enter into a relationship with a god because you’re fascinated by his wife — hardly the foundation of a solid relationship — but it’s made him a more complex figure in how I see the world and I’m always certain to respect what I suspect are his feelings in all of the drama of the Wheel of the Year.

And, again via Proserpine, I’ve taken an interest in Jupiter. Conventional mythology doesn’t make him sympathetic (though the The Olympians series of comic books makes him a more relatable figure). And that’s enabled me to see that even he is in a position that I couldn’t have mastered any better.

Proserpine, it seems, is not only my gatekeeper. She’s the gateway I used to apprecaite the Gods as something more than “of the harvest.”


The Queen of Swords

It’s taken me a while to write this post. I drew this omen last week as we were in the depths of dealing with a diabetes diagnosis in our family. I remember first thinking it didn’t apply — what were the ancestors trying to say — and then realizing it.

The Queen of Swords

My present feelings on Tarot and the future

It should be said that I don’t think the ancestors can tell me the future. In fact, I doubt most of the Gods could, and in the lore surrounding Apollo — who probably could — there’s nothing to suggest that it’s a good idea to learn the future.

So, when I opened Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom and saw this, I wasn’t sure what to think:

As the yin aspect of the suit, the Queen of Swords symbolizes experiences of both sorrow and wisdom, and especially the connection between them.

After all, I knew we were dealing with a bit of sorrow in the family (“I’m never going to be like the other kids”) and needed wisdom, but… it wasn’t much help. After all, I’d told the ancestors as much when I drew the card.

Then, too stupid to learn from the ancestors, I found myself stumbling as I talked to my son about diabetes and his road to manhood.

A random digression on my thoughts about manhood / adulthood

“In a way,” I told him, “you’re growing up faster than I did. Probably faster than the other kids are.” I went on to explain to him that a big part of being a man — or, probably an adult — to me was managing my body so that I could do the things my brain wants to do.

Before I can concentrate (for long) on the things I care about, I need to be sure I get enough running in (it lowers my overall stress levels) and that I’m sleeping enough (in my case, important for energy, concentration, and endurance) and that I’m eating regularly and reasonably well (important for focus and energy levels). And, to be fair, those are just the things I’ve been able to learn about living in this body until now. I have a sense that meditation would help, and laughing is a big plus.

It might be hard to make the argument that it’s something connected to managing my body, but I think that my paganism fits in this category as well. I am pagan, because it feels like it gives me the tools to better be me.

But, none of those define who I am. I can converse about running, but I’m shy about saying “I’m a runner.” And, of course, I’ll have a beer and join any conversation about what it means to “eat well,” but I’m not a vegan (though I think plant-based foods are the answer) or a nutritionist. Those are just things I have to manage in order to be the person who I think I am: the guy who likes to laugh and to make others laugh. A guy who tries to confront every feeling of “there ought to be a…” with the question “could I make it?”

I have to manage all those things in order to live in the world I’ve built up in my head the same way I have to plug a lot of cables in and setup wifi before I can live in the internet.

I tried to package all of that for a nine-year-old. I don’t know that I succeeded. “In a way, you’re learning all that before your friends. And, you get to start learning it with blood sugar that has a sensor. I don’t have a sensor that tells me if I have run enough. I have to say ‘Hmm, I’m yelling at the kids and I know they didn’t really do anything wrong… Did I sleep enough? Did I run enough? What could it be?'”

What (I think) the ancestors were saying

It hit me later, as I was reflecting on the wisdom of that statement. It seemed to help him. And it seemed to help me, because it let me go from thinking “there’s this thing about my son that I have to manage because he is somehow less than other people” (which I probably wouldn’t have admitted to thinking and certainly shouldn’t have thought) to thinking “this is an opportunity to help him make an important step towards manhood and to let him share some of my experiences with him to get him thinking about his own.

The Queen of Swords

If — probably when — I draw the Queen of Swords again, I’ll probably be upset. I’m not the kind of person who looks forward to sorrow. But, I’ll also realize that the ancestors are telling me “seeing the wisdom in this situation can make it easier to bear.”

The Queen of Cups, Reversed

This post is one in my on-again-off-again series of me recording omens I have drawn, in an attempt to think more in hindsight about what was being said.

A question answered

As I often do, I started the week drawing an omen, asking the ancestors, specifically, for wisdom. I told them I was not thrilled that my work was starting up again, that I still had plenty of my own stuff that I wanted to do, and that I wasn’t looking forward to the week at all.

Here’s the answer I got.


Queen of Cups, Reversed

After looking it up, and wasn’t thrilled with what I read. The bit specifically dealing with the Queen of Cups reversed is short:

Reversing the Queen of Cups breaks that unity of vision and action. We see someone ambitious and powerful, yet dangerous, because she cannot be trusted. The love has become lost, and with it the commitment to values greater than her own success. If she slieds further from her balance, she can become dishonourable, even depraved, as her creative force lurches out of control.

I wasn’t sure how to apply that to my week, so I went back and re-read the bit about ‘unity of vision and action:’

The unity of water, land and the Queen implies that we do not feed the imagination by giving it complete freedom to wander where it will, but rather by directing it into valuable activity, an idea that most artists would endorse.

And then, thinking about it, I realized that there were things I used to love about my job, which I’ve sort of abandoned in my pursuit of “improvement.”

There are a lot of ways that I could be a better teacher — and I plan to be one — but in focusing on improvement as I return to work, I realized that I’d overlooked some of the things that had me looking forward to going to work: the chance to make adults play silly games, the opportunity to learn from other people, and the rare chance to feel like I was an actual help to someone.

Deciding to focus on those — in addition to and not rather than improvement — made the week go better than I thought it would.

Thanks to the ancestors.

Hofgaard revisited

Hofgaard, my anchor tree

It’s been a while, since I wrote about Hofgaard, my anchor tree. So, I thought I’d post a little update.

Our Relationship

It would probably be more accurate to describe ‘my relationship,’ because I’m not convinced that it isn’t unimaginable hubris to imagine that Hofgaard is aware of me. Nonetheless, I still have a relationship to him.

I continue to greet — and say goodbye to — him when I see him in the park, and he’s still ‘my’ tree in the sense that he’s the tree my kids think of as mine. There was a time when I was going to rotate trees, sticking with one tree for a year and a day before continuing on to the next tree.

The fact of the matter, though, is that I don’t think I know enough about trees, whether I’m speaking scientifically or in some more spiritual sense, to really have gained the wisdom that Hofgaard could offer me.

It seems ridiculous to move on to the next tree because of some arbitrarily imposed deadline.

Relationships with trees

That said, I think we have the foundation of a relationship: which is me knowing who he is. I don’t know enough about trees to know if he can even perceive humans, much less differentiate between them. That doesn’t matter.

Think about it: you have a relationship to your city, which is fundamentally nothing but a legal document signed by the state legislature (or however your city is incorporated). Various parts of the city — individuals, but now also tech ‘owned’ by the city — can perceive and interact with you. But, even without that, you’d have a relationship with the city.

A relationship, then, can be one-sided. Or, put another way, not all parties of a relationship have to be aware of it.

Named trees

That said, it seems a good first step to having a relationship with a tree (as opposed to with a forest, or with all trees) is to know which tree you have a relationship with. To that end, I’ve started naming trees that stick out to me. If the kids are with me when I decide to name the trees, I ask the kids for a name, which gave us ‘Climbius‘ (Pronounced like a Latin name that begins with ‘climb’) and ‘Green Levi‘ (they said ‘leafy,’ I made it into a bit more of a name).

And, to be honest, aside from caring a bit more about the trees we’ve named, that seems to be where my relationship with them has ended.

That’s not to say that there isn’t more relationship to be had, or that I haven’t learned anything from the trees, only that I need to figure out the next steps.

What should I give?

A very welcome ADF artifact in my paganism is “Do ut possus dare,” the idea that “I give that you may be able to give.” Which is to say, paganism doesn’t allow for parasitism. If you want to receive, you must first give.

(I could — and probably should — do an entire post on this)

What it comes down to is this: I don’t know how to give to a tree.

Water seems reasonable (especially this summer), but I’m not able to carry the amount of water that would be needed to even be assured that it gets past the roots of the thirsty grass covering the ground.

Nonetheless, writing this and reflecting, I realize there was a time when I felt responsible for keeping the ground around Hofgaard free of litter. And that my relationship felt stronger then.

Writing this — and reflecting — it seems that my next steps might be a bit clearer. What would you give a tree? How do you build relationships to them?