Thursday, 14 December 2017

Vision Seeker Course

Recently I completed Nicole Piar's free Vision Seeker course. Nicole is a visual artist who I stumbled across completely by accident a few months ago. I loved her whimsical, slightly retro watercolours of cats and dreamy girls. When I saw her Spirit Cats oracle deck, I needed it immediately. (I wrote about it in my divination tools post.)

The Vision Seeker course is run once a year and consists of 13 daily oracle readings, sent by email. Some days include a meditation or a creative task as well. While Nicole's Spirit Cats oracle deck is the most suitable, any oracle deck can be used for the readings. Normally I'm not that interested in anything where there are daily exercises in a group format, as I don't have time to work on them every day and I inevitably fall behind. Having an excuse to use my new deck was too tempting, though.

I don't have much experience with this kind of activity, but I really enjoyed it and gained much more than I thought I would. I was put at ease by the tone of the commentary and the wise quote at the head of each day. I can be put off if something is too 'woo-woo' or mystical, but I didn't get that feeling from this course. It was also secular and would appeal to people of many different spiritual or religious backgrounds.

Having said all that, this post isn't really a review -- I want to focus more on sharing my experience. Not all of the lessons had the same effect on me, but some of them were very profound. I was asked to reflect on my strengths, activities that are important to me, energies I would like to bring into my life, my relationships with the people and world around me, and more.

The energies or qualities that really stood out for me in regards to these, and which kept coming up over and over, were Focus, Imagination, Majesty, and Unique. Focus was the card selected for my positivity talisman. Warrior only came up once, but in a very important reading -- the energy to bring to my chosen focus. After narrowing down the aspects of my life I wanted to focus on, I chose movement. For me this means activities that will improve my health, flexibility and energy levels, like yoga, walking, dancing, etc. Warrior was an excellent choice, because it indicates strength, standing up for what I believe in, doing what's right. It also has an element of physicality to it, I think.

While I've been sick on and off for the last few months, the lessons I learned in the course have helped me to keep focussed on my health and acknowledge how important to meet myself where I am, not to expect too much.

The reading in the course with the largest scope was on Day 12, with 11 cards. This reading is designed to make me think about my position in the world, in relation to my family, friends, community, ancestors, etc. The instructions warned that it would take some time for the full meanings of the cards to become clear. I did have some impressions almost immediately on doing the reading, but I will return to my notes sometime soon to see if I have any more insights.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Grey School Summary :: November 2017

I skipped the October summary because, to be honest, I didn't do anything towards my schoolwork that month. I did have time for a few things in November. I'm pleased to say that I completed Wizardry 100 with 100% on the final test. I made progress on Core Energy Practices 101 and enrolled in Core Energy Practices 102. Once I've finished these, I'll be able to start the elective classes, which I'm really looking forward to.

I didn't participate much in the forums or any challenges this month because I've been sick the last few weeks. Hopefully I can start fresh in December. I'll have plenty of time at the end of the month as I have some time off work at Christmas/Yule (or Midsummer/Litha as it is here in the Southern Hemisphere). I might even be able to join in some of the club meetings on the virtual campus on Second Life, if I can get my laptop configured a bit better.

Classes Completed:
✷ Wizardry 100: Becoming an Apprentice

Classes In Progress:
✷ Core Energy Practices 101
✷ Core Energy Practices 102

Assignments Finished:
✷ Exploring your Magickal Senses (Core Energy Practices 101)

✷ This month: 2 Total: 4

Merits Earned:
✷ Academic: 2
✷ Non-Academic: 2

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Uncle Fester's Magick by the Month Parcel : November

This month's Magick by the Month surprise parcel from Uncle Fester's focuses on late Spring. This is when the Air energies of Spring really heat up and convert to Summer's Fire energy.

The items offered reflect air energy, with a feather, incense and a herb pack including the traditional air herbs of Linden and Arnica. According to the accompanying information cards, Spring is a time of romance and happiness. The Cherry Quartz reflects this, as it is a stone of love and passion. There's also a stunning glass window-hanging etched with the symbol of the goddess.

This month's charm is a kookaburra, again picking up the Air theme. The herbs this month are meant for a potpourri or strewing, rather than burning.

I was given one of six differently-coloured feathers at random. It was interesting that the one selected for me was pink, representing the qualities listed below on the packaging. I like the colour pink, and I think it's a good colour to represent Spring.

Next we turn to the fiery energies of Summer, which we've been experiencing already here in Melbourne.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

October Oracle Reading

Here is my oracle reading for the October Divination challenge. I know I'm posting it rather late, but I wanted to wait until after the event it refers to was over, then life got in the way, etc. etc.

1. My question for this reading is: “Please give me advice about my upcoming exhibition at the end of October.” I will be participating in an exhibition at an art gallery for the first time.

2. I used the spread from the Oracle Deck’s booklet: Black Swan, White Swan. The meanings are as follows:
1. The Black Swan: what could get in your way.
2. Magic Feather: what to do about this obstacle.
3. The White Swan: what could help you and what to pay attention to.
4. Magic Feather: how to use this solution.
5. Swan Flight: an aerial overview ; a wider perspective.

3. I am using the Sacred World Oracle deck. This is another deck I’m using for the first time. (I cleansed the deck with white sage incense a couple of days beforehand.) The cards I drew are:
1. II – CAT (earth): fertility ; beauty ; magic ; independence.
2. XXXVI – HORSE (fire): speed ; transportation ; focus ; intensity.
3. XL – SCORPION (fire): vengeance ; the unexpected ; harsh enlightenment ; intensity.
4. XVII – DOLPHIN (water): divine guidance ; greater intelligence ; unexpected help.
5. XXXIX – FIREFLY (fire): transitory beauty ; illumination ; inspiration.

4. Interpretation:
1. The Black Swan: what could get in your way.
CAT – As I was shuffling the cards, my cat came into the room and I thought: it seems a cat will literally get in my way while doing the reading. Then I drew the cat card! The cat symbolises beauty, individuality and expression. My fear of showing my true self and my feelings might stifle my art and make it harder for me to do what I need to do. I would then be unable to show the truth and the magic that I’m trying to imbue my art with. The cat card challenges me to express myself authentically.
2. Magic Feather: what to do about this obstacle.
HORSE – The horse represents speed and focus. I should concentrate on the job at hand and don’t let my doubts distract me. In this position, the image on the card spoke to me as well. The horses on the card are breathing fire – I felt it means that I should harness the fiery passion they represent to overcome my fears.
3. The White Swan: what could help you and what to pay attention to.
SCORPION – The scorpion represents the warrior with its weapon the sting. My first instinct is that surely this would be a negative card, but it’s in a position which indicates something of benefit. I believe it means that I should take a warrior’s attitude. I should be strong and don’t let anyone or anything hurt me. I should fight for myself and my art.
4. Magic Feather: how to use this solution.
DOLPHIN – Help is on the way from an unexpected source. I will receive guidance from a greater intelligence outside myself – or perhaps this refers to my intuition. I know that I can conquer any problems that come along. Cultivating the qualities of the scorpion – strength and invulnerability – will make me more knowledgeable and experienced for future exhibitions.
5. Swan Flight: an aerial overview ; a wider perspective.
FIREFLY – The firefly is a symbol of transitory beauty. The exhibition, while it will only last for a few weeks, will be a wonderful experience. Perhaps I will find inspiration from others who are involved. I will learn valuable lessons from it – and perhaps meet people who can help me in the future.

5. Overall, I think the Oracle gave me a reassuring yet realistic answer. While I will come across problems, my biggest obstacle could possibly be myself and my doubts and anxieties. If I take on a strong and determined attitude, I will prevail and have a positive experience. I will learn many valuable things that I can take with me into the future.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Uncle Fester's Magic by the Month Parcel : October

I apologise in advance for the
poor quality of the photos in this post.

October is the middle of Spring in Australia, with very strong Air energy. It's a time of new growth, movement and new ideas.

This month's parcel:

The air theme is reflected in the parrot charm (the native animal for October), and a yellow Jasper, which is a stone of travel. The parcel also featured a large tote bag with a pentacle, which also fits into the travel theme. There's a candle from Buddha Delights with beautiful beading and mirror decoration on the side. Three cards from the new Familiars Tarot deck are included for a mini tarot reading.

The Witches' Brew for this month is a mix of chamomile, calendula, cornflower and catnip. It can be used as a potpourri or drunk as a tea. It has a strong, fresh scent. One of the most intriguing items in the parcel is a beautiful glass rod. It reflects the light in a similar way to Selenite. Unfortunately though, I dropped it and the tip broke off.

As always, there are two cards with information about October Magick for my mini binder.

I quite liked this month's offerings. I was very pleased with the glass rod, and the tote bag would look amazing with a dark Mori or witchy-themed look. (I don't want to wait until next Autumn to use it -- perhaps I'll just be stubborn and use it through Summer!)

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Dias de Muertos 2017

In my last post I wrote about why I don't (can't?) celebrate Halloween. That doesn't mean I don't do anything this time of year, though. I observe a version of Días de Muertos, a tradition that originated in Mexico and is becoming more well-known around the world.

Each year, I set up an altar in my lounge room -- some years it has a specific theme and other times it's more general. This year's has a couple of themes. I suppose I could say that I'm very lucky in that I don't know many people who have died, so my altar doesn't have many photos of relatives. My Opa (grandfather) is always in the centre. In front, there is a space to add items such as a cup of coffee or fruit. The only fruit from my garden that's ripe this time of year is oranges, so they often feature.

I added a pair of cat figurines and an image of a ladybug to represent animals, and a small pewter dragon to represent the spirit world. I purchased a pair of skeletal musicians to decorate the altar. They don't represent anyone or anything specific, but I've become interested in learning to play music lately, so perhaps that influenced my purchase. Another new feature is the two skeleton candles which are just too cute to burn. Husband and I are both allergic to flowers, so I substituted with some yellow candy cane poles to decorate instead of the yellow marigolds that are common on Dias de Muertos altars. Then there are the standards like candles and a pinecone and a shell because I like to have things from nature.

In the Southern Hemisphere it's Spring at the moment. It's a time of expansion and joy, of energy moving faster as we anticipate Summer. It might seem like a strange time to commemorate the dead, but it feels natural to me. Días de Muertos in Mexico is a time of joy and celebration. The dead are invited back to spend time with the living, so it's a time of happiness and parties. Spring seems like the perfect time for that. According to the information I've read, the holiday was originally celebrated by the indigenous peoples of Mexico in August and was moved to the end of October by European missionaries to co-incide with All Soul's Day in the Catholic calendar. August is high Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, certainly a much warmer time of year than October, and so I wonder if my intuition fits in with the original intention behind the festival.

Last years' altar.

In Mexico as well as many other cultures, it's tradition to visit the graves of the deceased. I try to visit a cemetery if I can, but I haven't been able to in the last few years. Spring is always a busy time for me with lots of events happening, and I don't have any relatives buried in a cemetery. (My Opa was cremated.) I do enjoy going to feel the general energy, but I'm only visiting strangers, so I don't feel so bad about skipping it.
I also used to make Pan de Muertos (bread of the dead), but haven't attempted it since I became gluten-intolerant. Unfortunately I won't have time to do any baking this year.

The festival officially goes for 3 days (31st October to 2nd November) but I will probably leave my altar in place for at least a week. It's more convenient to set up and dismantle when I have time on the weekend. Also, I've been known to leave Christmas decorations up for the whole year before because I thought it was a shame not to be able to look at them. I tend to go with whatever takes my fancy at the time, even if it doesn't adhere strictly to what's in season.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Why I'm not into Halloween

When I was a kid, we didn't have much to do with Halloween in Australia. It was an American thing. On the 31st of October, there'd be a piece at the end of the news with people in weird costumes standing around piles of pumpkins and that was just about all I'd hear about Halloween. It was an exotic custom that belonged to a different culture.

But not only that. Some years, kids would come around our house dressed up in white sheets and witches hats. (Never with their parents of course. It was a simpler time.) My Mum would give them a lecture on the Americanisation of Australian culture and then send them away. Any time Halloween was mentioned on TV or we saw a display of Halloween-themed merchandise at the supermarket, she'd embark on a rant about how everything American was over-running everything Australian.

With an upbringing like that, I'm sure you can imagine what I thought of Halloween. To me, it was just another overblown commercialised holiday designed to make money, like Valentine's Day. Plus, I don't like anything scary -- scary movies, practical jokes, haunted house rides, etc. Even mock-scary things make me feel uncomfortable.

It wasn't until I was older and did my own research that I found out about the older tradition of Samhain and how it's tied in to Pagan practices. I also learned more about the traditions of Halloween from a psychological perspective and how exposing yourself to mildly scary things can relieve greater fears. It was very interesting and explained a great deal, but I still wasn't into Halloween. These days, I would say I'm not into it the same way that the Wheel of the Year isn't part of my practice.

I mean -- I live in the Southern Hemisphere. Why would I celebrate a harvest holiday in Spring?

Spooky Cheese.

The dissonance between my experience of living in the Southern Hemisphere and the Northern Hemisphere experience becomes particularly acute at this time of year. I've felt it especially in the last 5 years or so. I think it's due to social media. Whenever I log onto Facebook or Instagram, my feed is literally filled with photos of Happy Halloween graphics, pumpkins, Autumn leaves, carved pumpkins, people in Halloween costumes, pumpkin pies, Samhain spell suggestions, pumpkin spice lattes. (Seriously, people are obsessed with pumpkins at this time of year!)

We can't even buy pumpkins at the moment because they're not in season. And there's no canned pumpkin in Australia. It might not seem like a big thing, but it does have a tendency to make me feel isolated and out of step. (Not just the pumpkin thing, but the whole cultural phenomenon.)

So when I see the Australians around me wholeheartedly embracing Halloween, it's a bit disconcerting. I'm sure that Pagans who follow the local seasonal cycle will be celebrating Spring right now, so I can't help but think some of the people here who celebrate Halloween aren't doing it with the depth that would show a true respect for Samhain. I can't really begrudge them though and I don't want to sound like I'm complaining -- it does look like a whole lot of fun!

Having said that, I'm really into Dias de Muertos. I know it seems strange, having just written a whole post about my aversion to Halloween. There are some key differences though -- Dias de Muertos isn't necessarily tied to the seasons, and it's a joyous time focusing on ancestors. I'll write about my practice at this time of year in my next post.