Good day! Quick question: Do you enjoy the daily oracle card?

If you follow Parting the Mists on Facebook or Twitter, you know that an oracle card is pulled every day. It started as a Samhain season thing, so I picked my beloved Halloween Oracle deck for this. Followers seem to resonate with this deck, but lately I have felt that a change up was needed.

And yes, I had only planned to do the daily card from September through November, but I’ve enjoyed posting the card and would like to continue.

Anyway, here are three decks that feel like good options:

Druid Animal Oracle

Authors Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm with artists Will Worthington

This was my very first deck when, as a solitary Pagan, I was brave enough to go into a New Age/Witchy shop and buy a deck! Being drawn to Druidry at the time (and that’s never gone away though I went in another direction as a tradition) and having a lifelong love of animals, this was the perfect choice for me.

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Though I don’t consider this a “wintry” deck, I tend to think of it as an all-around good deck, particularly for those with strong animal associations.

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Wildwood Tarot

Authors Mark Ryan and John Matthews with artist Will Worthington

You might notice a trend here – I also love decks with artwork by Will Worthington (I have a third and gave a fourth to a friend). However, this is a tarot deck that’s not like traditional tarot, so I think it would still work well for a daily drawing. It draws much on Celtic myths and achetypes.

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Oracle of Oddities, 2nd edition

Author and designer Claire Goodchild of Black and the Moon

OK, this is brave of me to offer because this deck is pretty new to me (I just won it during the Great October Book Giveaway over at Rue & Hyssop – thanks, Jen!). On top of that, it is quite a unique deck and doesn’t have a book. If there was a short write up with the daily card, I would be the one writing it. This would be new for me, but I also think it would be a good push for my intuition.

Take a gander at these dark and lovely cards. Also stay tuned for a review of this deck soon.

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So which is it? Druid Animal Oracle, Wildwood Tarot, or Oracle of Oddities? Or, do you really want to say with The Halloween Oracle? Please let me know in comments!

Blessings,

Thistle

Looking for more Samhain-related posts? Here’s some past posts: Honoring the Ancestors, Embracing the Wise Crone, and Herb or Rembrance, Herb of Samhain.  

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Happy Halloween and Blessed Samhain to all of you! It’s been a while since posting something other than the Halloween Oracle Card of the Day (on Facebook), but this time of the year always makes me want to get back to the keyboard.

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My Beloved Dead altar for 2016

Of course, I’m not alone and I’read many blog posts and articles about this beautiful season and what we learn from it. We see how others deal with loss, and Heron Michelle from Patheos wrote how we as Pagans should do more than honor and celebrate the dead but also prepare for own death even in practical ways. It’s an excellent and honest article.

I lost my Mom a little over two years ago, and I do know that Michelle’s words ring true as my Mom had taken care of everything for her funeral and burial except her head stone, which she always said she would leave for us kids to pick. When an undiagnosed liver disease finally became known, we had precious little time with her and it was a blessing to not also worry about her medical wishes, funeral expenses and so forth. Planning all of that years ago was a gift my mother may not have even realized she was giving.

However, I my biggest Samhain lesson from losing the most important person in my life is this: Don’t wait to live the life you want.

Mom was one of those who worked hard at underpaid and underappreciated jobs all her life. She raised four kids and showed great resourcefulness in keeping us fed, clothed, and sheltered on a tight budget. Even after retirement, she had to work to make due. With undiagnosed illnesses (for him, it was dementia) affecting their personalities, my mom and stepdad divorced when she was in her late 60s. What little savings they had was split. They had to lower the price of their home to sell it, losing money in the process. Her last year was stressful as her tight budget, her medical issues, and mental confusion combined to make life very difficult, even with three daughters hovering over her.

Mom’s “golden years” had become pretty tarnished. All her life she had planned to travel and relax in retirement – that dream mocked her as she struggled to get by.

Sadly, I see so many people go through this same thing. They focus all their energy on work or professional goals or doing the things they “ought” to do, thinking they can work on their real dreams or just take time for themselves later. So many have their retirement dreams cut short illness. For others, it’s financial surprises that ruin their plans. The fact is that even careful planning can be for naught in some situations. We simply don’t control as much of what happens to us as we think.

It reminds me of a picture I once took where a sign warned about falling rocks, but a log was falling in the background instead. Life is like this: prepare for one thing and something different will happen.

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And as I put up my Beloved Dead altar every year, I’m reminded of this lesson.

This is why I don’t work overtime. Yes, I have what many consider a good job, but the fact is that the company really cares more about its bottom line than it does about me. And while it’s a good job, it’s not exactly a dream job. So I’d rather spend my extra time for me or with the ones I love.

This is also why I saved some of the insurance money leftover from Mom’s final expenses to travel to Ireland next year. We have some Irish heritage, so I know my Mom would have approved – but it’s the place I’ve longed to go to for the longest time.

This is why I allow myself the really good chocolate and time to write.

This is why I took up an old hobby that brings me joy.

It’s why I try to focus on smiling and laughing with friends and family rather than getting too involved with things that bring a lot of unneeded stress.

Many Pagans quote the “live in the moment” philosophy and yet are often as bad as the rest of Westerners about taking time for themselves and honoring their real life goals and dreams. We are not immune to the disease of just getting by or wasting time on things that don’t fulfill us.

No matter who we are, the fact is that life is much shorter than what we imagine. Let’s not waste it.

Blessings!

 

camp fire horzLast fall, I attended the Gaia Goddess Gathering near Kansas City with several friends as I have done for six of the last seven years. It’s a great little women-only festival that is affordable and recharges my spiritual batteries.

One night the small group of us who came together – ranging from 14 to 40-somethings – huddled around a small campfire chatting. Most of us have a connection to a specific women’s group, and one of the ladies around the fire was preparing to be inducted as a member. Mentioning how she needed the structure, another friend was shaking her head.

“All we need,” she said, emphatically gesturing to the ground on which our humble fire and group sat, “is this. Right. Here.”

I got what she meant. I think.

We Pagans/Earth-loving folk often try to find groups of like-minded people. Christians, Jews, Hindus, and other religions have their churches and temples, but most Pagan types don’t have an organized community like that. And though many of us are drawn to the strong individualism and lack of dogma of Pagan and Earthy traditions, it’s always nice to know you’re not alone.

I remember when finding community was so stinking hard! I began my Pagan journey in 1997 and the only connection with others I had was a subscription to Sagewoman magazine. To learn of a practicing group in the area, you might have found one close to you on the Witch Vox website, but you usually had to learn about them by word of mouth. If you were lucky enough to have a Pagan Pride Day or Pagan Picnic in your area, you could meet folks that way.

Now, many groups are created online (or members find each other there), but just because we can find each other easier via the Internet doesn’t mean we’re any better at staying together. There are some reasons for this, some of them come from the core of Paganism and some from the core of being human. In many cases, they can be overcome with self-awareness and thought.

For what it’s worth, I’ve outlined a few issues I’ve noticed over the years in case it helps any groups out there having difficulties.

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I’m Pagan and You’re Pagan, so We’re Good, Right?

Well, maybe and maybe not. It’s really not enough, in most cases, for everyone involved to simply be Pagan or Pagan-friendly. There’s no dogma or religious rulebook for us, so what Pagan means can be different to every single one of us. In other words, just being Pagan isn’t necessarily a unifying concept.

I’ve seen many groups – online and in person – fall apart or flail about because they tried to be too inclusive and had no guidelines of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior (or just very weak guidelines) for the group.

While being all-inclusive sounds like a wonderful thing, the sad fact is that there is always a troll, narcissist, or energy vampire waiting for an opportunity to present itself. Groups like this are chum for those types.

Rising Numbers of those Intolerant of Focus – or a Challenge

With information readily available (either as online content or as books for sale online) about different traditions, more people are doing a smorgasbord approach. And I’m not saying this is bad – I have gone this way somewhat too, as you may remember.

However, I’ve found that the more Pagans there are who have never worked within a specific tradition for any real length of time, the fewer Pagans there are that have learned to have patience or respect for those with different opinions and practices. You present them with something they disagree with and they’re gone. Or they simply balk whenever they are challenged spiritually or mentally, which is often something mentors and teachers do to help us learn. I know my primary mentor in the Avalonian tradition challenged me plenty – and grow I did!

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Can’t We All Just Stop Bickering? (AKA: Group Dynamics)

I’ve been blessed to have many opportunities to work within several group structures – from highly structured and organized groups with a mission statement to small and casual social groups.

The first group I was a part of met weekly but had no unifying identity other than being some type of Pagan. It fell apart in the typical “witch war” situation. Then there was three years coordinating the local Pagan Pride Day and then several more years as a PPD volunteer. There was a very short stint in the Sisterhood of Avalon, and then almost nine years of being highly involved (and I’m still involved but to a far lesser degree) with the structured Daughters of the Sacred Grail.

Then, there’s the online folk magic group that went gang busters for a year or two and then petered out to nothing (actually, there were several online groups like that). There was also a long-lived social group that met in our local bookstore’s café once a month – and it would probably still be going if the bookstore hadn’t shut down.

Currently, the only Pagan/magical group I really meet with is a small group of friends that occasionally gets together to do a study or to celebrate holy days. This is my spiritual family, and I’m a bit bulldoggish in guarding it because of the drama I’ve seen in the past.

From these 19 years of experience, there are things I’ve noticed working against groups of any kind:

• Absolutely no rules or guides – As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been part of a group that really had no direction or guidelines. Most people seem to need a focus or tradition to avoid issues like different camps in the group from going to battle. And if you’ve ever seen the love-and-lighters trying to philosophically battle the left-hand enthusiasts, you know what I’m talking about. Even a few basic rules outlining an expectation of behavior is a good thing.

Then there’s the other extreme.

• Rules gone crazy – Sometimes group leaders dislike the behavior of some members of the group: poor attendance, showboating for attention, etc. So, they create rules. Mind you, I’m not opposed to a few rules myself, but sometimes leaders can get on a kick thinking every problem in the group can be solved with a rule. They want the group to move forward in unison and be productive.

But they forget to listen and to see the deeper issues at hand and to solve them in other ways. Instead, their rules sow more division between the “good” members and the “bad” members. They forget to keep their own egos in check when they believe they are all right and the others are all wrong. Sometimes, these folks start feeding off this power to control others, which is never good. And they also:

• Forget the Pagan individual – Forgetting that many Pagans are drawn to the individualism of our spirituality is a big problem for groups on a mission to grow, develop structure, etc. Much of what makes Pagan group ritual effective and beautiful is the creative energy of those members who know when to throw a scripted ritual to the wind and work with spirit. What makes a Pagan study group so interesting is hearing from those who come from different perspectives and paths.

With us, you cannot sacrifice the individual spirit for the good of the group – you must learn to balance the two. After all, we are not sheep to be herded.

Further, you cannot forget to feed ALL the members spiritually. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of sabbat celebrations, full moon rituals, and studies, but some people need things to be shaken up now and again. Some people need deeper studies to stimulate their spiritual minds while others are perfectly OK going over basic information with new members every time. Again, there must be a balance to make sure everyone is fed. Too many groups (and even churches) have groups splinter off because of this very issue.

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All Bickering Aside, What Do You Really Need?

Now, back to my friend’s statement by the campfire.

When all is said and done, all we really NEED for community is this: a small group of people who have your back and who you can trust to share your experiences. The campfire is optional, but sharing lunch or teatime or an informal ritual is equally satisfying. We may WANT more structure – this is often attractive, especially for those that have trouble with motivation or have been out of practice for a while – but we don’t really need it for spiritual community.

All we need to do is to find our people and treat them with respect and love. To share when it is helpful. To make your limitations clear and don’t feel bad for having some – if they love you as a brother or sister, they will understand. To support them in whatever ways you can, but to never forget to add to your own spiritual stewpot so you’re not running on empty. To be fucking nice to each other. Yes, I said that, and I mean it. A real community built with love and honor won’t as easily default into gossip and battles.

Until next time, I wish everyone the warmth of community in whatever way you connect with it – and, of course, blessings of Avalon.!

Thistle

Happy September, everyone! I love the fall months, and I enjoyed the daily card readings from the Halloween Oracle last year so much that I decided to start it early.

When I drew this card this morning, I almost giggled – what an appropriate draw for the day of the dark moon! Also, don’t forget most readings will be posted directly to this blog’s Facebook page. Enjoy!

SCRYING

Intuition

HO Scrying

Soften your eyes

Being the trance

Whole worlds are opened

Begin the dance

Scrying is the divination technique of seeing unconscious images (or images from the diving or supernatural) appear upon or within a surface. People scry into a crystal ball, a black mirror, water, even the surface of ice. It is a very ancient technique and one traditionally enacted on Samhain (Halloween).

The keys to effective scrying are being as relaxed as possible, minimizing possible distractions, softening our gaze and allowing.

The enemy of effective scrying is distraction, both from inside and out. Turn off the phone, electric lights anywhere you can see them, any music, and if you are srying out doors, take the time to settle into the environment and listen to all the noises so that your mind will not need to break your focus later It is also vitally important to settle the mind as much as you can.

If you regularly mediate, you may wish to use those techniques or otherwise you can simply shut your eyes and focus on your breath – this is usually very effective. If you have a specific question for the scrying medium, state it up front. Then, once you feel relaxed, turn your focus inward. Imagine pulling your energy within you, and then focus on the third eye point (the chakra point on the center of the forehead, just above the eyebrows) and imagine opening it. Then gaze in a soft, unfocused way at your scrying surface and simply allow images to from and observe what presents itself to you. Do not engage your rational mind – this is about receiving, not thinking!

Should you pull the Scrying card, I suggest you try scrying for starters. It also indicates that you may wish to develop your intuition further and not rely soley on the logical part of your mind for all the answers. True wisdom takes a balance of logic and imagination for true wisdom.

The Halloween Oracle by Stacey Democrat

HO samples 1OK, this is early, but I can’t wait anymore. Normally, I start the daily card pull from the Halloween Oracle in October and go through November. Well, I’ve felt the urge to use these cards much earlier this year, so I’m starting a month early and will go through all three fall months (well, for northern hemisphere folks) with the daily reading.

halloween_oracleAs many of you know from my review post, this deck speaks to me quite a bit. Many of my friends have stated that they felt the veil would thin earlier this year, so perhaps I’m right on target for feeling the need to start earlier. Whatever the reason, I hope you enjoy it. I’ll post about one reading a week here on this blog, but most of them will be posted directly to the blog Facebook page, so please look for them there starting this Thursday, Sept. 1!

Blessings of Avalon!

Thistle

 

PTM sunflowers

Almost four weeks ago was the holy day of Lughnasadh as well as the fifth anniversary of this blog.

I should have been excited and whooping it up, but I’ve just not been feeling it. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I tend to feel more connected to the harvest than many other people do today. But the last couple years have simply not been as productive in that literal way. My volunteer time at the community garden has not been fruitful, due mostly to the changing weather patterns and simply not having enough volunteers to keep up. With these two issues stacking up, we just can’t keep the weeds out, plants watered and maintained, and so forth. The sad part is that we haven’t produced even 10 percent of what we’re used to giving to the local food bank – one year we donated 10,000 pounds of produce. In sharp contrast, this year and last we’ve only turned in a few buckets here and there.

The only things that have actually done well in the community garden have been the herbs, newly planted elderberry, and wildflowers, including the sunflowers that the birds help to resow in the garden every year.

PTM elderberry

My personal small garden hasn’t done well this year either – again only herbs are taking off. Tincture making and home crafting (except making jelly, of course) have all but come to a halt. Holy day observances, save for Samhain and Yule, have pretty much been been reduced to a mental acknowledgement on my part.

Even this blog has been neglected a bit though I should have been excited at the fifth anniversary.

As Lughnasadh approached and I started to let all this sink in, I was feeling a bit disappointed in myself for letting things slip. Then I ran across this blog post about how Lughnasadh/Lammas isn’t just about the harvest – it’s also about sacrifice. Well, duh, I thought to myself. In mythology, of course, we’re referring to the sacrifices like that of Tailtiu, the Celtic god Lugh’s step mother who died of exhaustion while trying to clear the land for agriculture.

PTM herbsEven though it wasn’t a direct correlation, something in this blog are me realize that my harvest wasn’t less than in the past, it just wasn’t the same kind of harvest. In the past couple years, I’ve dealt with a lot of personal loss – my mother and three dear dog family members are gone. If loss doesn’t turn you bitter or sad, it makes you realize that you have to take every opportunity to enjoy life: kiss the dog on the nose every morning, take time to have tea with friends, learn to be silly, and chat up the cute guy at the art club – which is exactly what I did.

The result of that is I’m now living with that cute artist and his beautiful daughter – the first time in more than a decade that I’ve lived with anyone else. These relationships are precious and need to be cultivated through time and attention. Sometimes when we want to move forward in a new direction, we have to sacrifice some old activities and habits to do this. Time in the garden has become time with them. The rewards of this is a harvest of its own kind: nourishment for the heart and soul instead of the body.

Given all this, next year instead of me trucking off to the community garden across town, we plan to add a couple raised beds to our backyard so we can still have a harvest that we can work on and enjoy together. It may not produce 10,000 pounds for the food bank, but we can still make some small donations and that’s OK. Letting yourself change and do something different is a part of sacrifice. It might seem a small one, but for some people letting go of what they expect of themselves is a big accomplishment. It’s letting go of who you were in order to be who you want to be now.

So next time you’re beating yourself up for not doing as much as you used to, think about what you might be doing now that you didn’t think of – or perhaps you are giving yourself some needed time for self-care. It’s all good. Really.

I'm always finding "gnome home" holes when walking in the woods.

I’m always finding “gnome home” holes when walking in the woods.

On Earth Day, people celebrate what should be celebrated every single day: the Earth’s  beauty and bounty – and trying not to ruin it. As someone following an Earth-based path, the idea of Earth Day being 365 days a year is important to me both environmentally and spiritually.  I cannot imagine not being able to touch the trees and fresh dirt, nibble wild greens, listen to the birds, smell fresh rain or honeysuckle, and more – these are more important to my soul than any spiritual text or building.

From my perspective, the biggest challenge we face is a society that thinks of nature as dangerous and uncomfortable rather than beautiful and full of discoveries. This, along with the idea that we should be able to take and dispose of whatever we want creates a dangerous future if we do not address it. One joy I’ve recently rediscovered is nature photography, which I think is one art that helps remind people of Earth’s beauty and resilience.

Here are some photos I took recently at a former mined area that was set aside to be reclaimed by nature and wildlife. I hope it inspires you to go outside and enjoy nature yourself – and to remember to stay connected to and save our big, beautiful Mama Gaea.

Blessings!

Thistle

Along the trail, little blue wildflowers brighten the way.

Along the trail, little blue wildflowers brighten the way.

Originally a mined area, a creek has filled in many mining holes to form pretty ponds.

Originally a mined area, a creek has filled in many mining holes to form pretty ponds.

I adore redbud trees, which grow well in our area (but even more so a little farther south in the Ozarks)

I adore redbud trees, which grow well in our area (but even more so a little farther south in the Ozarks)

An almost magical glow comes from morning sun hitting redbuds.

An almost magical glow comes from morning sun hitting redbuds.

Even rocks have their own beauty in spite of a manmade hole.

Even rocks have their own beauty in spite of a manmade hole.

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