Archive for October, 2022

While there will be many festivities today in honor of Halloween, let us also remember that it is the Eve of Samhain and just a couple days away from All Souls Day. It is fine to dress up and have some fun today, but it’s also appropriate to honor the dead and light a candle in their honor.

Every year, we set up a Beloved Dead altar in honor of loved ones who have passed. I find it a beautiful and comforting tradition. And no, if an ancestor-type altar is of interest to you, you do not have to include those who have brought you pain and trauma. Focus on those who were kind or taught you valuable lessons (without also inflicting trauma).



THE LAMP – Remembrance

I light a single candle
Within a lamp for you
A single flame in the darkness
That reflects my heart so true.

While it is a tradition to carve a jack-o-lantern to scare away the spirits, it was an older tradition still to light a candle or a lamp on Halloween night and leave it at the window as a loving guide for those who have passed.

Both as a symbol of remembrance and also as a kind of “leaving the lights on” for those who may wish to come home, the lamp was left on to illuminate the night and perhaps even the sadness that was felt because of the passing.

This card reminds us that it is a positive thing to remember those who have passed by celebrating their life rather than mourning their death. For those with whom we did not have an easy relationship or even those we did not like, leave us with valuable lessons. Sometimes, we learn more from our nemesis than we do from our friends and so the darkness can illuminate our strengths and our true values so that we can live them ore clearly and fully.

The Halloween Oracle by author Stacey Demarco and artist Jimmy Manton

Read Full Post »

Thistle’s Note: This post is quite different (and longer) than normal. I wrote this essay for a creative nonfiction/memoir writing workshop, but it feels fitting for the upcoming Samhain season. The events of this essay were almost eight years ago.

Solo Hike 

“Be Bear Aware,” the yellow sign cheerfully warned me. 

This is new, I thought to myself. The three-and-a-half mile trail was not new to me; I’d hiked it for years, though it had been a few years since I had done so. The Firetower Trail at Roaring River State Park, a small but well-built park snuggled into a cleave in the Ozark hills, had always been a trail where I figured things out or tested my determination. The park itself was a salve to my soul, but this trail was different.

This new addition, screwed into a cedar tree, made me pause as I was heading on the trail alone. It was a crisp November day, past the fishing and camping season everyone flocked to the park for. The lack of cars in the parking areas suggested I may not run into anyone else on the trail. Alone is what I wanted but not alone with a bear. 

The metal sign bore the image of a genial brown bear with different points of caution in yellow type across its heavy body. 

“Never approach or feed a bear.” Well, duh. 

“Keep your dog on a leash. Keep your children close to you. Make noise as you go.” That sounded well and good, but I really wasn’t feeling up to making noise as I hiked. Quite the opposite, I was here to avoid noise. I did have a whistle in my pack, so I took it out and stuffed it in my back pocket. Better be safe than sorry, I heard my Mom’s voice echo from a memory. 

Shrugging, I headed up the slippery incline that introduced people to the trail. The horseshoe-shaped trail started and ended with steep slopes, the latter an ankle twister loaded with rocks. These features kept a lot of insincere hikers off the trail, especially when shorter and more interesting trails lie in wait. 

Another new thing on the trail with me was a camera. In the past, my Border collie Zoe had always accompanied me, or rather, lead me. The first time on this trail, I wouldn’t have made it up the incline on damp earth if she hadn’t pulled me up in some places. I remember her looking back at me as if to say, Come on! Now, Zoe was 14 years old and stiff whenever she arose, and I doubted she could do the trail plus the mile or so back to the car. Before now, it would have been difficult handling a dog and a camera. 

After making it up the steepest part of the incline, I took it out and kept an eye out for a shot. A few images caught my eye, all pretty typical for me: fungi on logs, rock formations, lichen on the base of trees, and so on. Recent drought, however, had drained the landscape of the moisture and color that made photos pop. After a while, the camera mostly hung from my neck, the strap scratching at my skin.

The trail leveled off for the mile and a half that was flat and easy, though sometimes downed trees across the trail offered some scrambling opportunities. Walking along, having long forgotten about bears, I saw a black post amid the trees just off trail. Getting closer, I could see it was the remains of a tree that had burned, with jarring holes through it. Healthy trees ringed around it, as though surrounding a fallen comrade. Was it victim to a lightning strike or perhaps the park’s termite control? 

I touched it, as if I would be able to sense the cause of its demise. It shouldn’t matter; everything must eventually come to an end, and the healthy trees nearby did not suggest an epidemic. Yet there I stood, feeling like the tree deserved some memorial that no one else would give it. I had brought a chunk of calcite with me to leave somewhere on the trail. I dug it out of the bag and placed it on a curve of charred wood.

Near the base of the trunk was an oval hole like a window to the other side of the tree. I crouched down, peering through as if it would act in place of a hag stone, a stone with a naturally formed hole. Local folklore said if you looked through such a stone, you would see the Otherworld and the fairies that reside there. I saw nothing but more dry leaves. 

Sighing, I stood up and left the tree remains to return to the trail. 

Soon the old fire tower began revealing itself through the trees. You can’t see the whole thing until you get right to it – the trees block it from view. The cold, metal structure, weathered a solid rust, stood tall among the trees, taller than some of them. 

It had been years since I climbed to the top and gazed over the hills and trees of the Ozarks. The steps were constructed of narrow metal bars, and Zoe could never navigate them with her slender paws. Once, I left her tied to the bottom of the tower as I climbed up, but she was a dog who must know where her people are and she whined the entire time. As I had climbed, the thought that something could happen at the bottom before I could get back down there halted my steps about halfway up. The next time, I actually carried Zoe up the steps to the flat platform at the top, only to discover she was as nervous there as she was tied up at the bottom. 

But today I was alone, just me and a camera. I climbed, noting the metal support beams crossing in each section, the sacred geometry supporting the park rangers before they used planes and helicopters to spot fires, I suppose. Rising higher, I could feel the structure wasn’t as rigid as it looked. The breeze caught on the metal bars and made a slight swaying. Reaching the top, I was a bit disappointed. Even ten years ago, I remembered seeing the treed hills and rocky outcroppings, but too many trees had grown tall enough to block most of the view. 

Looking around instead, I noticed how strange it was to be looking eye to eye with many trees, and looking down their trunks instead of up. The perspective was interesting but jarring, and I felt a bit queasy. Lying down in the center of the lookout platform, I closed my eyes until the feeling subsided. When I reopened them, several tree branches created a canopy overhead. Their leaves still had some green mixed with the brown against the clear blue sky they framed. They surrounded and supported me much like the trees around the burned out trunk. Tears came forward in spite of their efforts. The weeks after my mother’s death had been filled with tears, but still more came each day. Alone out in the woods I was free to let them loose while in the presence of the nature that always nurtured my soul – not like shedding them in secret down the shower drain or curled up on the couch while watching a marathon of Hallmark Hall of Fame movies that Mom and I used to watch together. 

I closed my eyes and emptied my lungs into the crisp air. The memory of the top of the fire tower seemed better than the current reality, so I gave up trying to make it something it wasn’t and climbed back down. 

At the base, I turned toward the second half of the trail, feeling drained and dry. The rest of the trail was dry too. A new feeling came over me: I didn’t want to finish this trail today.

I knew if I backtracked, there would be a cut-off trail connected to the top of the Deer Leap Trail that arched over the spring that fed the river. A trail that would have misty damp areas and the sound of a waterfall landing into a bright blue pool at the entrance of a cave. Maybe it was just all the shed tears, but my soul needed the essence of water.

Readjusting the slingpack with day hike essentials, I turned back and retraced my path down the trail. Soon I spotted the white blaze for the connecting trail and turned to it. 

While walking through a shaded spot, I noticed a little flower standing tall despite the autumn leaves, its sunny face toward the light. 

Something about the flower stopped me. 

It looked out of place; a petite white-petaled bloom with a yellow center. It belonged in a summer meadow as a child’s treasure, but here it was in the autumn woods finding light in the deep shadows. The yellow center called my Mom to mind; that was her favorite color and she’d enjoyed any flower that color. As children, we would bring her armfuls of daffodils from a nearby woods that had rows of naturalizing bulbs. As adults, she loved yellow roses, lilies, or daisies. Yellow was the prominent color of the flowers that draped her casket, but she had received their beauty throughout her adult life. 

But this little bloom made me pause. For those who study the Druids, you learn about augury, or reading things from nature as signs or omens of the future. 

A few weeks before Mom passed in September, I had been lost on a trail at a women’s spiritual festival, on an unsought spirit quest. At one point I stopped and tried to calm myself (it was also a very warm September day). As I stopped trying to find my way out, I noticed things around me. About 10 feet ahead was a thistle, a plant I’d always felt aligned to spiritually. On it was a yellow butterfly. As I watched, the butterfly flew off and was soon lost in the bright sunlight. 

In that moment, I knew I was the thistle and my Mom was the butterfly, and that – though we had been thinking her condition could be helped – she would soon be leaving us. The moment was both sad and peaceful, bound together with acceptance. I turned and immediately saw the opening to the path from which I had came. Lined with trees, some vines had grown over it to create an archway. All around this arch flew dozens of dragonflies, their wings glinting in the sunlight. The primary symbolism of these creatures, transformation and transition, was not lost on me. To go back home was to accept this transition. I stepped through the arch, knowing life would never be the same.

Now in a very different woods, seeing this little flower reminded me that even though she was gone, she was like that little yellow center – always a part of me. Always the grounding center of me. Even though the world was looking dead and dry, she was there reminding me that it truly wasn’t dead. Winter would still be ahead, but spring rains would come and bring back the leaves, the grass, and all the yellow flowers. Learning to live without her wouldn’t be fun or easy, but I would get through that too.

Continuing down the trail, I trekked to the wooden platform that overlooked the spring-fed pond where they kept some of the biggest trout in the hatchery that was also part of the park. Nearby were the holding tanks for the majority of the fish, where they were released into the river to gamble their fate: evade the hooks with bait and continue on their journey downstream or fall for the trap. I leaned over the railing to get a clear photo of the layout of the hatchery. A sense of caution slipped over me, as if my mom’s hand were there to hold me back like when I was a child. I took a photo and then moved on. 

The path turned into a wooden stairway winding down the steep hill. Exiting, I turned the opposite direction of the car and walked alongside the pond toward the hatchery tanks. 

There, I spent a few quarters on fish food. Tossing the stinking feed into the stone-edged holding tanks brought a mass of slick bodies to the water’s surface. Brushing the crumbs on my jeans and glancing at the water, I was tempted to dip my hands in to wash away the remaining smell. As I leaned forward, I noticed the sign by the tanks: Keep Hands Out of Water. It seemed cruel. The water looked so fresh and inviting after the dry trail and leaves. My skin felt parched and dusty. Even though it was only in the mid-40s, it felt almost warm after the hike.

The obedient child my mother raised moved back from the edge. Looking down the row of tanks, I saw the river beyond them, beckoning me over. It was free for the taking. You could sit in it and no one would care. I walked to the river’s edge and dipped my hands in. My fingers felt alive as the frigid current swept over them. As the water seeped into the pores, I swept a handful of water up on my face, shocking myself. 

Gasping for a breath, a laugh bubbled up and I threw sprays of water across the rippling water. Looking around, there were still green mosses growing on rocks at the river’s edge and birds calling back and forth in the woods. Squirrels scolded each other from tree limbs. The earth was alive, and she had reminded me that I was too. 

Read Full Post »

In the busy world we live in, one that encourages division, it is good to remember that love is the most powerful force we have – and that we need to cultivate the loving mindset. Loving doesn’t mean accepting bad behavior, but it does mean forgiveness and not holding on to petty differences.

This is also a good reminder at this time of year when many of us are remembering those who have passed. Grief is often described as love that doesn’t know where to go. When we lose someone we care about, we can remember and honor them. One way to do this is to eventually turn that love toward someone or something else. Keep putting that out into the world.



ETERNAL LOVE –– Love is love is love and it transcends physical death

When the body leaves us
And our souls are above
Our possessions no longer 
Nothing remains
but the intertwining of love

All of us are the product of millennia of love. Our parent’s parent’s parents, our ancestors by blood and ritual all have in some way created the DNA that waves throughout our bodies. Love, in fact, powers life and death.

When most of us first encounter death in our lives, we experience grieving and in some ways that feeling could be described as an absence of love and the absence of that person or being. But the kind of love that is often shared between family members, friends, and lovers, separated only by physical death, is the kind that poets wax lyrical about, that is truly eternal and transcends death.

Should you choose this card, you are being reminded that love is the most power force in the universe. It is more powerful than death itself. Love lingers. It leaves its own legacy and we should be aware of this every day that we live. For those that are ready for and desiring of a partner, it also indicates that a significant love is close at hand and to be ready to open up to this new experience.

The Halloween Oracle by author Stacey Demarco and artist Jimmy Manton

Read Full Post »

After posting today’s card where we talked about some Samhain divination traditions, it made me think about these cookies that I used to make for Samhain ritual. Truly, they are just simple sugar cookies with rosemary added in; rosemary is the herb of remembrance, which I’ve written about before.

When cut into the shapes of people or hearts, these rosemary sugar cookies are a symbol of remembrance of those who have gone before us. Some of the cookies could be eaten while telling stories or attributes of ancestors or those who have passed in the previous year. Leave some cookies by a bonfire or outdoors as an offering to the spirits traveling that night. 

While this recipe doesn’t include anything sweet on top of the cookies like frosting or a sanding sugar or glaze, one could add that if desired.

Remembrance Cookies

1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, butter, egg, vanilla and almond extracts, and rosemary until creamy. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture and beat until dough is smooth. Refrigerate for three hours.

Divide dough into halves. Roll out half the dough to 3/16 of an inch on a floured surface. Cut out with gingerbread women and men cookie cutters. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat with other half of dough. Bake for five to seven minutes, remove from oven, and let sit on cookie sheet a couple minutes before transferring to a rack to cool.

Read Full Post »

Alright, this is a very appropriate card as we near Samhain, a time when the Veil is thin and divination techniques may yield stronger results than normal. It is also traditional to do some sort of divination at All Hallows. Apples feature in many of these customs; in fact, bobbing for apples was a marriage divination. The first person to bite an apple would be next to marry. Another old tradition had young women lighting a candle and peeling an apple while sitting before a mirror. While she peeled, her future spouse was said to appear in the mirror. Yet another apple peeling one was that if you could peel an apple in a long peel, you would have a long life. On the flip side, if you peeled in short pieces it did not bode well for your longevity.

Apples or not, I recommend giving a little time today for some intuitive work like divination.



SCRYING – Intuition

Scrying is the divination technique of seeing unconscious images (or images from the divine 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 your 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 scrying outdoors, take the time to setting 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 meditate, you may wish to use those techniques or otherwise you can simply shut your eyes and focus on slowing your breath – this is usually very effective. If you have a specific question for the scrying medium, state it up front. Then, when you feel relaxed, turn your focus inward. Imagine pulling your energy within you and then you 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 form and observe what present itself to you. Do not engage your rational mind – this is about receiving and not thinking!

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

The Halloween Oracle by author Stacey Demarco and artist Jimmy Manton

Read Full Post »

OK, maybe yesterday’s card of setting boundaries and paying attention to your energy was in preparation for today. The luminous Skull of Stars is here to encourage us to think big and not let limiting beliefs stand in your way. More work to do today!



SKULL OF STARS – Infinite possibilities

Why think so small
when galaxies spin within?
Realize that you are made
of the stuff of stars
and infinite possibilities begin.

This skull brings us back to the fact that we are all made of the stuff of stars yet many of us think so small! We are each born with a blank canvas to paint upon, and we are indeed an open sky of possibilities.

It is easy to feel small in a world that is so busy, impersonal, and seemingly self-absorbed. We can, at times, feel lost and unclear about our direction and lose sight of our place in the cosmos. The school of stars reminds us that we are only limited by our own imagination and boundaries. If we can dream it, it is possible.

This card indicates that you need to think bigger and more broadly about your future and what you would like to achieve. Perhaps there are false beliefs, often old, that no longer serve you as you grow and change. Sometimes these beliefs may not even be yours – they may have been imparted to you by your parents or the wider community, yet feel rather incongruent to you. You need to endeavor, with all your heart and soul, to live the life you want and honor your own wishes and truth.

The Halloween Oracle by author Stacey Demarco and artist Jimmy Manton

Read Full Post »

The Vampire card is here, which indicates that we may need to pay more attention to we are expending our energy. Is there someone demanding too much of it from you? Are you not doing the things you need to do to recharge? Now is the time to evaluate your energy flow and if you need to make adjustments and set healthy boundaries.



VAMPIRE – Emotional Intelligence

The deepest, the coldest
The evening of the blood
The hole never filled
The longing like a flood

While there are almost uncountable examples of vampires in literature, movies, and games, somehow the archetype of the blood-hunting, night-stalking, and somewhat elegant creature keeps being reinvented to seduce yet another generation.

Although the beautiful and somewhat desirable vampire form doesn’t really begin to enter the public consciousness until the mid-1800s, the idea of a human feeding upon the very stuff of life is much older. The Egyptians, Sumerians, Indians and the Balkan people all have mythos containing vampire-like creatures.

The vampire is an interesting figure because it is both horrifying and desirable. Having someone want us so much that they desire to be that closely linked with us does feel good – until we realize there is nothing much left of us to give.

Most of us have heard of the concept of emotional vampirism – the idea that people feed off our energy and our goodwill and take advantage of us through manipulation and their incessant neediness.

Should the Vampire card appear in your reading, it may indicate that you are being drained in this way and the time has come for stronger boundaries. We need to be very aware of what gives us energy in our lives and what takes it away. We should be aware of needing people to need us and why we invite people like this into our homes, workplaces, and lives, if indeed we have them around us. Developing the emotional intelligence within ourselves helps us defend against this kind of emotional and psychic attack and enables us to foster healthy equal relationships of all kinds.

The Halloween Oracle by author Stacey Demarco and artist Jimmy Manton

Read Full Post »

Joy isn’t just for special occasions – we can find joy in little things like our children and pets’ silly games and antics, the beauty in nature, the laugh of a friend, and more. Today’s card indicates we need to add more joy to our lives right now.



Joy – Rejoicing in the Present

I stand here,
I am where I am,
Fully alive and present
Stress is a sham

Besides the “HOOOOOOO” of a not-so-scary trick-or-treating ghost on Halloween evening, one of the most common sounds you’ll hear is laughter. There is so much joy at Halloween and it can be one of the most fun nights of the year if we allow that into our lives.

We lead busy lives: whether we are studying, running a household, have a demanding job, or all of them at once, it seems there is little time for us to stop, be present, and enjoy exactly where we are at this time. It has been said that the first step of real change is stopping and acknowledging that we actually need change. While sometimes we might feel that there is little to feel happy about and much to change, we can always feel grateful for something right now – and there is power in that position.

It is time to find the joy in this moment and to find that joy more often. Should this card come up in your divination, it heralds arrival of more happiness and profound joy into your life. It is a good omen!

Actively seek pleasure and build in more of the things that give you personal joy and laughter in your life. After all, we build in appointments for the dentist, so why not for our own pleasure? 

Read Full Post »

This is always a good card to me, reminding us that we do have more control over our lives than what we sometimes believe. Neither magic nor mundane efforts work overnight (well, they rarely do), so building your power with consistency and maintaining a belief in yourself is necessary. And don’t forget that much happiness and power in life starts with a practice of gratitude.



THE WITCH – The earthly weaver of the worlds

Earth, Air, Fire, Water
A woman lovely, a woman strange
Weaver of the worlds, moon’s daughter
Witch: The catalyst for change

Witches have had bad PR for a couple of millennia now. Originally the healers or cunning women of the village, the very word “witch” is believed to come from the Celtic word “wicce” meaning weaver or wise.** When the new religion of Christianity spread through the land, the custodians of the old Pagan ways, in part witches, were labeled as evil and – as we know from history – persecuted. They were driven underground (or under the night sky) into the shadows of misunderstanding and darkness.

However, for the purpose of Halloween, let’s look at witches as the weavers of magic and change. Through spells and rituals and even through herbal recipes (yes, often brewed in a cauldron), they weave the powers of this world and the next in synergy to solve problems and heal.

Holding the Witch card means that you can weave your own change throughout life and that magic indeed is afoot! You must understand that you have power and it is real. It may also indicate that others may be threatened by your developing personal power and that they may not appreciate or like the changes in you as you grow. Be prepared for this and do not be discouraged. New friends and better opportunities will be attracted instead.

The Halloween Oracle by author Stacey Demarco and artist Jimmy Manton

** This is the oracle author’s view. The etymology of the word “witch” is actually much more complicated than this, and debate goes on about it. I suggest looking it up in the Online Etymology Dictionary and historical sources.

Read Full Post »

Trick or treating used to be a bit different for me and my siblings as we grew up in the country and only had a few homes to go to, but we still had fun and often had bonfire parties. When I was six, we lived in town and I still remember the awesome night of trick or treating and a house that had people dressed up as a werewolf, vampire, and mummy! The fun we adults are not “allowed” to enjoy for Halloween is truly something we can bring into our lives anytime we need it – play is a good thing for our mental health, creativity, and community building.



TRICK-OR-TREAT – Mischief and play

Stalking and stomping
Eyes shining and begging baskets
Faces and bodies
that are no longer ours
Laughing, skeletons and candy caskets

Trick-or-treating is such a fun thing to do, is it not? Yet, why do we trick-or-treat?

Ancient peoples understood that there were both mischievous and perhaps nasty spirits wandering around at nightfall at Halloween as well as happier, more benevolent spirits. They thought that if they dressed as spirits themselves (or other frightening creatures) then they would not be recognized as human and attacked. The idea of causing a little chaos as one of these “spirits” was part of the imitation (and the enjoyment) of thenight. The practice in medieval Britain was aptly called “souling.”

Today, trick-or-treating is a huge event. We spend much time, money, and effort dressing up as our scariest creatures and this has even extended to dressing up as our favorite celebrities and other pop culture idols. Instead of traditional candy apples and barmbrack, we give out a mind-boggling variety of candy. It matters not – the idea of frightening away death and darkness still stands.

I believe that the modern trick-or-treating also unites communities by introducing our families and friends to those around us in a non-threatening and joyful way. Many of us do not know our neighbors – even those who live next door – and Halloween gives us an excuse not to be so reserved and extend our boundaries.

Should you receive the Trick-or-Treat card in your divination, it may well be a time to examine your own life. You don’t have to be a child to let go and have some playtime and you can extend the fun to others. Sometimes we are afraid to make mistakes and play is one way to alleviate the pressure that we sometimes place on ourselves to get everything perfect every time. Alternatively, it is worth knowing that there is a balance between manipulation and mischief – the former is not pleasant and the other has at its core a sense of irreverent fun.

The Halloween Oracle by Stacey Demarco, art by Jimmy Manton

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: