Sunday, 15 October 2017

My Divination Tools -- Part 2

In a previous post, I listed the divination tools I owned as of mid-2016. I've acquired a few more since then. Here they are.

I purchased these mainly because they were reasonably priced and I was curious. (Even though I try not to use the word "gypsy" myself anymore as it can cause offence.) They're a full set of playing cards that can also be used as Lenormand cards. The instruction booklet is small but provides a simple, easy to understand explanation of the Petit tableau and Grand tableau layouts. I think they will serve as a good everyday deck so I can save my Viking Lenormand deck for special occasions.

You've seen at least one reading from me using this deck before. I love the graphics, the gold printing and the unusual square shape. The oracle consists of 32 cards with an urban city-scape theme. As the blurb explains, most people nowadays live in an urban environment and rarely actually encounter the things featured on most oracle cards. Pam decided to create a deck for us urban dwellers, with things we see every day, like The Bin, The Crow and The Unopened Candy. I've used this desk several times, and I tend to reach for it when I'm dealing with something practical or a bit grubby, like a business opportunity or a soured friendship.

This bandana-sized casting mat is printed in gold ink, in the Wishbow signature style. It came with three randomly chosen treasures -- a key, a crystal and some kind of fingerbone (probably resin). The idea is for the caster to add their own tiny treasures, as many as desired. I haven't tried it yet, but as far as I understand, you assign meanings to the "bones" and where they fall on the mat determines their meaning. It looks like a lot of fun and I can't wait to try it.

This is a relatively new oracle that I only bought a few weeks ago, and I've only used it once so far. I was attracted to the concept behind it -- each of the 44 cards represents an animal, but they are also divided up into the four elements. The artwork on them is absolutely exquisite, with a golden frame surrounding an image of each animal in a landscape inspired by relevant legends from around the world. I'm not accustomed to working with animal energies, but I'm definitely open to it. I love working with these cards.

I've only had this deck a couple of days and haven't used it yet. I came across it completely by chance and knew I had to have it straight away. For a start: cats! Nicole's artwork is breathtaking, in a whimsical and slightly retro style. These photos really don't do them justice. The deck consists of 48 cards, with a cat on the front, and an inspirational message on the back.

Nicole is offering a free course working with oracle cards, which I have signed up for. It starts next month.

It's actually a set of colouring cards (complete with pencils), but I'm wondering if it can be used for divination. I could use my copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as the guidebook. My only issue is that the cards aren't labelled, so I'd have to brush up on my beast-identification skills. But how fun would it be?

Saturday, 7 October 2017

My Troubles with Meditation

I've mentioned before on this blog that I have trouble with meditating. I don't want this blog to be all fluffy bunny posts about card readings and sharing my latest crystal. I want it to be an honest sharing of my spiritual path -- both the smooth and the rocky parts. So today I'm going to talk a bit about the trouble I've had with meditating.

I must have first heard about meditation when I was a kid or a teenager. It was in the same category of wierd hippie things as wearing robes and eating yoghurt. I thought only practitioners of mysterious cult-like religions practiced meditation. Thankfully I was open-minded and when I was at University, I decided to try it. After all, I was a budding Taoist and that's what Taoists do. Every morning, I would light an incense stick, read a passage from the Tao Te Ching and meditate for about 10 to 15 minutes, or however long I felt like it.

During these meditation sessions, I would sometimes reflect on the passage I had just read. Other times I would clear my mind and try my hardest to think about nothing. One time I decided to meditate on the whole universe, and for a split-second, my mind encompassed it. It blew my mind, as they say, and from that day on I was confirmed as a Taoist.

Clearing my mind and thinking about nothing was relatively easy in those days. I was a University student, doing an Arts degree so I didn't have that much homework to do. It was work that I enjoyed on subjects that I was interested in. I didn't have a job -- my parents paid for my board. I lived in the student dorms so I didn't have much more to think about than what I was going to have for lunch that day. It was also nice and quiet in the mornings, too.

When I finished University, I lived in a series of share houses, which were noisy and stressful to a quiet-loving introvert with undiagnosed social anxiety like me. I completely forgot about meditation, and wouldn't have had the right circumstances to practice it in anyway. By the time I moved out on my own into a small apartment, I'd replaced meditation with playing computer games and watching TV as ways to relax.

A little while after that, meditation started to feature in the media as a way of combatting stress and promoting health. I remembered the times when I used to find it of so much benefit, but found myself unable to return there. I borrowed many books from the library and tried techniques from them, but none of them seemed to work for me. There was just no way I could sit down and think about nothing. My brain was always racing at a hundred miles an hour. I had the stress of work, bills and rent to pay always weighing on my mind. I thought it was impossible for me to meditate anymore. The books never explained that it's a practice. You won't get it straight away. You won't get it in a couple of days or a couple of weeks. You have to keep going, even when it seems impossible.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew it wouldn't be easy, and it wouldn't happen straight away. But I felt like I didn't have the time or patience to keep going. The benefits weren't tangible enough. I stopped borrowing those books from the library, and told myself, "oh well, I just can't meditate." I gave up.

One day a few years after that, I heard about the technique of imagining that your thoughts are clouds, and let them drift away. I really liked that idea. Clouds are so soft and gentle. I started to imagine the clouds inside a sphere. I was standing in a darkened room, looking at a huge glass sphere. The sphere was my brain/mind, and my thoughts were clouds inside it. Occasionally there were vague images, but they were usually clouds. The important part is that they were separate from me. Any time that I realised thoughts were invading my head, I took them out and put them in the sphere. I tried not to focus on what the thoughts/clouds were, but just that they were away from me.

This is a nice meditation and I'm able to focus on it well, but I wonder if it's really meditation. As far as I understand it, meditation is clearing the mind. It's not thinking about ANYthing. Under that definition, thinking about a sphere full of clouds, or anything else for that matter, is not meditation.

One night a few years ago, I was feeling very anxious in bed and not able to get to sleep. Husband suggested that I try thinking about the colour blue. It was relaxing and fun but again, is it really meditation?

Another technique that I've used successfully when I'm feeling social anxiety in public is to repeat over and over, "I have love in my heart." This calms me down a lot and enables me to go about my everyday life. I'm pretty sure it's not meditation, though.

Lately I've been wondering if the word meditation is sometimes misused. Sometimes I will read that someone 'meditated on' a topic. Another example is Marcus Aurelius' book Meditations. In these cases perhaps 'reflect on' or 'contemplate' might be more what is meant. For, how can you think about something and clear your mind at the same time?

Then there are the types of meditation I've read about which can be done while doing things, like walking, painting or repetitive motions like craft. These require some concentration, but not so much that it's distracting. You can enter a mindful state where you are fully in the present: your mind is integrated. You're not "thinking about two things at once." When I've gotten into a state like this, while walking, crafting or even at work, I've found a great deal of peace and happiness. But this isn't meditation. Is it?

By the time I started with the Grey School, my thoughts on meditation were: "too hard, too confusing, not worth bothering with, oh well." But then I saw that I have compulsory classes that involve meditation, and realised I can't have this point of view anymore! My heart sank. I couldn't avoid it any longer. I would have to try again at this thing that I'd told myself for so long I was no good at.

I've gone through a lot of ups and downs in the last few months of being a student at the school, in regards to the meditation classes. Some days I think I get it, and others I collapse into a puddle of confusion and self-doubt. I ask myself: "Can I do it? Am I doing it right? Is what I'm doing even meditation?" Then I berate myself for over-thinking things.

It was a struggle, but I managed to finish the first two assignments. After that, I decided to continue meditating independently of the assignments, because I do know that doing well in future assignments will involve deepening my practice, not just doing the bare minimum to get by. (See, I am a good student!) So I have been using the Insight Timer app to meditate with once or twice a week.

After thinking about it for a while, I think the best course is to just do what the assignments tell me to do. Don't worry about what the words 'meditation', 'visualisation', 'grounding' etc mean, but just do what the instructions say and observe my experiences.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Grey School Summary :: September 2017

Unfortunately I didn't make much progress this month. At the start of the month I finished one assignment for each of the two classes I'm enrolled in, but then my mundane life got in the way. (Or not so mundane, as the case may be!) During the month I applied for and was accepted to exhibit in an art gallery. I am creating 5 new pieces for the exhibition, so much of my focus has been on that. I'll write more about it soon in my official announcement post.

I have to admit, too, that knowing our Lodge is coming dead last in the House Cup stakes was a bit de-motivating when it came to earning extra merits. No matter how many challenges I participated in, we weren't going to win, so I decided to conserve my energies and wait until the new term to re-double my efforts.

I managed to make some progress with meditating this month, however. After I finished the grounding meditation assignment, I decided to continue with the practice, meditating 1 - 2 times a week. It's been difficult to find somewhere quiet to practice, but I'm not letting that discourage me. I've been enjoying using the Insight Timer app.

Some non-school-related things have come my way this month as well. I decided to become a Rune Soup premium member. Since I discovered this blog at the start of this year, I've dedicated myself to reading the archive of posts -- which I estimate to be over 750 posts! While the more recent posts are mostly announcements of podcast releases and interviews, many of the older ones are blindingly enlightening. Speaking of the podcast, I've been catching up on that as well -- it consists of almost 100 episodes. I'm at the stage now where I'm more than convinced that I like what this guy has to say, so I decided to give him some money. I've been spending my lunchtimes listening to the podcast while I walk in the park, and reading a blog post or two on the train on the way home. Gordon fills my days.

Classes In Progress:
✷ Core Energy Practices 101
✷ Wizardry 100: Becoming an Apprentice

Assignments Finished:
✷ Grounding Exercises (Core Energy Practices 101)
✷ Magickal Name Essay (Wizardry 100)

✷ This month: 0 Total: 2

Merits Earned:
✷ Non-Academic: 1

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Uncle Fester's Magic by the Month Parcel : September

September seems to have come around so quickly! Is it really a whole month since I received my first Magick by the Month parcel? This month's parcel is all about Spring and the element of Air; let's see what I received:

✧ miniature Witches Besom
✧ white feather
✧ green rainbow fluorite crystal
✧ Potpourri: angelica, cinquefoil, jasmine and lavender
✧ Mother Earth incense
✧ emu charm
✧ mini tarot card reading (8 of Cups)
✧ miniature leather journal on a keychain
✧ two information cards about September magick for my Magick by the Month binder

When I wrote about last month's parcel, I didn't realise that they all had a theme, which is detailed in the information cards. This month's theme, the Air element, is represented by the feather and emu charm (a native Australian bird which represents air). Spring is represented by the fresh green colour of the fluorite crystal, the potpourri and the besom for cleansing.

The parcel smelled divine when I opened it -- floral and uplifting -- and this was due to the potpourri. It really added to my enjoyment while examining my surprises. In general, I was happy with the potpourri, crystal and particularly the besom. The feather was a really lovely touch. I was a little disappointed though, because I received a mini journal last month as well. At least it's something I can use though.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

My Divination Tools

This post was first published on I'm A Table blog in May 2016.

I've always been interested in divination, as long as I can remember. I love reading about different types of divination from all over the world, and have tried several myself, though I wouldn't call myself an expert in any of them. I recently acquired a new treasure, so I thought I'd do an overview of the sets I have and methods I've tried.

I've had this set of Norse runes since I was a teenager. I chose amethyst because it's said to be the crystal most associated with psychic and intuitive activities, but mostly because I love the colour purple. At some later stage, I embroidered the runic alphabet onto the bag. At one point about 6 years ago, I was using them fairly frequently and even did practice 'swap' readings for a couple of other people in online forums. This set was packed away for a long time after I moved house, and I only found them recently. I feel I would need to cleanse the crystals before using them again.

This runeset is made from Ash wood. I purchased it from Green Woman Crafts on Etsy about 6 months ago. They came in a hand-sewn pouch, which made them feel even more special. I daresay I like them even more than the crystal ones. They have a warmth to them, and on a practical level they also sit flat when I lay them out. I've been getting back into practice by drawing a rune most mornings for the past month or so, and I find that I often get insights from them.

These runes work on a system from a book of the same name by P. M. H. Atwater. I won't comment on the claims made in the book today. At the time I bought it (again, when I was a teenager) I didn't know any of that. It just looked like interesting to try, whether the method was an ancient one or not.
I made the runes from stones I found around my parents' garden. The method is to cast all of the runes plus a blank one which represents the querent. They are then interpreted on how close they are to the querent stone, moving outwards in a spiral. I haven't used these runes for a long time, but I can say the casting method appealed to me and seemed more intuitive than drawing them out of a bag.

I recently discovered that Norse runes can be cast as well, and I want to find out more about that and try it.

I Ching (The Book of Changes) is a Chinese book of divination. As I learned it, three coins are tossed. The heads-or-tails outcome is either yin or yang. The coins are tossed again and the second outcome either stays yin/yang, or changes to the polar opposite. (Hence the Book of Changes). Together, the two results form a six-part hexagram which corresponds to one of 64 poems in the book.
It's been years since I've used this method, so forgive me if I remembered some of the details incorrectly! As you can see, I used some ordinary 10c coins, which I marked with texta for clarity. I do keep them in a nice box, though. Dice, sticks, marbles or various other tools can also be used.

I Ching is a little different to other methods, as instead of an individual interpreting the outcome, the book is consulted. The text is a Chinese classic and has remained unchanged for 2,500 years. The intuitive part is not so much in interpreting the results, but applying the advice in the poem to the querent's particular situation.

In English these are known as moon blocks or kidney blocks. The pair of wooden blocks are flat on one side and curved on the other. They're a quick way to determine the answer to a question. Often people will use them to determine whether it's an auspicious time to consult the I Ching as well. The blocks are held in the hand, then dropped to the floor, and the answer stems from whether they land both curved side up, flat side up, or one of each.
I bought the set from an Asian grocery more out of curiosity than anything else. I haven't used them very much so far. The method is so simple and the outcomes so few and clear, it almost seems like cheating!

These are my newest treasure, and I haven't used them yet. Lenormand Cards are named after Madame Lenormand, a famous French fortune teller of the early 19th century. I only heard about this method a few months ago. There isn't a lot of information about them out there, and I haven't done a lot of research yet, but as I understand it, the method is this: the cards are shuffled and then all 36 cards are laid out in a grid. One card represents the querent, and the rest of the cards are interpreted depending on how close they are to the querent card.

The Lenormand Cards may seem similar to Tarot cards, but they have some important differences. I could never relate to Tarot, I don't know why. I was given a set as a teenager, but never used them very successfully, and ended up giving them away. The Lenormand method seems to use more intuition, almost like a card-based version of rune casting. As I don't know much about them so far, I'd love to hear opinions from anyone more knowledgeable than I am!

I wasn't thinking about purchasing a set, until I saw these Viking Lenormand cards, designed by BC Artworks. I couldn't resist. I also purchased the optional pouch to keep them in. I'm looking forward to giving them a try.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Anime -- Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear

Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear (くまみこ) is a 12-episode anime created in 2016, based on the manga of the same name. Machi is a 14-year-old girl and miko (shrine attendant) of a shrine in a small, remote village. The shrine is no normal one, however -- it is dedicated to kuma (bears) and uniquely, is attended by a talking bear, Natsu. Machi has no immediate family or friends and Natsu acts as her friend, guardian and protector.

Machi is sick of her life of constant ceremonies, dances and the practice for them. Her life is dictated by the structure of tradition and the whims of the villagers that she serves. In one episode the villagers even create a selection of new shrine maiden outfits for her, each more risque than the next. Then there's her cousin Yoshio, who works for the local council and is passionate about increasing tourism to the village. He manipulates Machi into ever more awkward situations in the name of promoting the village.

Machi wants to get away from all this and go to high school in the city. Natsu is understandably worried that she won't cope, and devises a series of challenges for Machi to complete. These include buying clothes from a department store and buying a DVD from Village Vanguard. Other endeavours that she takes on herself, such as using a rice cooker, also end in disaster.

There are lots of cute details and funny moments throughout the series. The people and situations found in a remote town are parodied. Imagery of food and mountain scenery was plentiful enough to satisfy Mori folk and others who like this aesthetic. The depiction of the miko lifestyle and Shinto religion was also interesting. The episodes veer between different genres and defy categorisation as a whole. One episode focuses almost entirely on Machi's creation of a cold rice dish for dinner, turning it into a slice-of-life recipe story. Another has Machi trying on scanty outfits shown from angles reminiscent of a schoolgirl anime (close to being panty shots but still tame enough for younger viewers). The opening and closing songs are cute and catchy.

I loved this series and wished it didn't end so soon. The relationship between Machi the miko and Natsu the talking bear is so unusual and sweet; I found it very memorable. I had the theme song stuck in my head for a long time afterwards. I can see myself watching it again one day.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Grey School Summary :: August 2017

Unfortunately not much happened this month as I've been sick with a virus. I'm pretty sure I also suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). So this month's summary isn't a very eventful one.

My copy of Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard arrived in the mail early in the month. It's overwhelmingly jam-packed with information, as befits a textbook that covers such a wide range of topics. I'm tempted to read the whole book at once, but I've restricted myself to only reading the introduction and the sections relevant to my classes so far.

Class-wise, I've nearly finished the last assignment for Wizardry 100, choosing my magical name. Then there's only the exam to go. For most of the month, I was too sick to work on my Core Energy Practices assignment -- I just couldn't concentrate on the meditation. This week I've been feeling a little better and have made a renewed effort to work on it.

End of semester is coming up soon (the semesters run from equinox to equinox) and the House Cup is awarded at the end of each semester. My house is coming last so I made an effort to participate in as many challenges this month and earn as many merits as I could. Challenges involved divination, a practical activity or creative endeavour. Some of them might appear as blog posts soon.

Classes In Progress:
✷ Core Energy Practices 101: Centring, Grounding and the Senses
✷ Wizardry 100: Becoming an Apprentice

✷ This month: 0 Total: 2

Merits Earned:
✷ Non-Academic: 6