Abacomancy

Abacomancy uses natural resources such as sand, dirt, dust, ashes and other things of similar make to divine prophecies by reading certain patterns. It is a very cheap practice of divination to use, as well as an easier one to begin with. 

The work Abacomancy is derived from the Greek Amathomany, “amathos” meaning sand. It is believed that this is one of the oldest forms of divination due to the ease of access to materials. It can be utilized in most places and situations. There are records suggesting the use in several early civilizations even though the recordings of the exact origins have been lost.

There are many different types and practices of Abacomancy. Some may use the dust gathered on a particular object, some may use the ashes of a deceased person, and some may use a try for all of their readings to enhance the potency of the magic surrounding it. Different occult beliefs ranging from chaos magic to voodoo practice Abacomancy and each variation differs according to beliefs and rituals and culture. Some manipulations are as follows:

Natural Elements: This is when the materials are manipulated naturally; by the wind, rain, etc. The seer will prepare themselves in their culturally appropriate manner and examine what they determine is a special piece of ground, looking for patterns in the medium they choose on the ground.

Dropping: Again, with the preparations of the seer, the medium of choice is dropped or poured onto a prepared surface with a focus on the question needing answers. The patterns formed are then examined.

Magickal Tools:  Tools that may consist of a chosen flat surface, or a tool to create patterns are cleansed and consecrated by the seer. The surface can be anything from a plate to a slab of wood, or anything, really, as long as it is flat.The tool for making patterns is used like a pen in the automatic writing for of divination; in other words, the seer enters a trance and allows their hand to be guided to make the patterns to examine.

Should you wish to practice Abacomancy, you will need to learn the appropriate preparation for your faith. For example, Wiccans may cast a circle before beginning. Find a quiet location where you will not be disturbed, silence your cell phone or anything else that may make noise. Should you use a flat surface like a slab of wood, place it in front of you with your written question on paper and placed on the surface. Dump the soil or material of your choice onto the platter. Meditate over it for a few moments, clearing your mind, centering, and controlling your breathing. Examine the dirt; record the symbols as they appear and in the order they appear. The complexity of the question may require only one or two symbols, while more difficult question may require several.

The Symbols

An important thing to keep in mind about the symbols that form in the medium is that they are mere suggestions. Granted, the symbols that follow are established archetypes through a long history of use, so that could add “power” to them, but symbols you devise could be even more effective because they come from you.

Small circles – Seer might be unable to completely see an answer because of the seers limitations.

Large circles – Can mean a project is to be completed, or an important life change is pending.

Long line – travel in the near future, either physical or mental.

Short line – someone is coming to visit, or your next journey, mental or physical will be short.

Short dashes – person asking question is not focusing on the question

Triangle – successful venture in the future, if all sides are equal then balance will be achieved.

Cross – Meeting someone for an intimate relationship, or negative energies need to be removed from your life.

Square – Danger ahead. Strength of will is required to succeed.

Bird – An important message is coming soon.

Spiral – Someone near you is ready to move on.

Arrow or sword – pointing up – success and happiness. Pointing down – sickness, duress & failure.

The interpretation of the symbols can be challenging in the beginning. And might not seem clear at first, this is why recording in a journal is so important.

For example:

There is someone you’re attracted to and you’re not sure if you should ask them out. If the symbol you recorded was a long line, “travel in the near future” may not make much sense, at least not as much as a cross or a pointing down arrow could.

Divination, I believe, is about learning to trust your instincts. Developing that trust can take time.

There are also many, many more divination symbols throughout the magickal world. If you have the urge to expand your symbol database, do some research, and add the symbols you feel you need to your list you keep in your journal.” https://theparanormalsite.com/what-is-abacomancy-and-how-do-i-use-it/

Journaling in Abacomancy is essential. Not only to record and remember your readings, but to document what actually comes to pass and any abnormal feelings or experiences during sessions. You can use any journal you prefer; it does not have to be expensive or fancy, it could be a walmart clearance journal. 

You may wish to record the following:

  • Date and time of day
  • Moon phase
  • Location of session
  • The question you want to know
  • Tools/materials used
  • Materials used
  • Preparations made for the session/planning
  • Emotions felt

Divination Series – Tarot (repost)

History

Tarot cards were first noticed in Europe around 1375. They are believed to have come from Islamic communities where they had been used for centuries beforehand. At this time they were not considered Tarot cards and did not serve the same purpose they serve today. 

In 1440, the cards were referred to as “Triumph Cards” and were defined as a game, though different from regular playing cards. The original decks consisted of four suits with cards in each numbered one to ten and a king, queen, knight and page card per suit much like normal playing cards. There were also an additional 22 cards with symbolic pictures that were not apart of any of the suits.

The game “Triumph” bore a similarity to the game of bridge. However, all but one of the special picture cards were trump cards. As it spread through Europe, it became known as Tarocchi, an Italian word for Tarot first used in 1530.

Occult followers in 1781 England and France saw the special picture cards and determined that they had more meaning behind them than their classically used purpose. They began using the cards as a divination method and it quickly integrated into occult philosophy. One theory suggests that the cards originated in Egypt as a hieroglyphical key to life. They are thought to be the only book that survived the massive fires that destroyed the libraries of Egypt.

Tarot Today

Today’s tarot deck consists of 2 sections; 56 cards in what is known as the minor arcana and 22 cards in the major arcana. They are widely considered an occult tool now of pagans and mystics. They are not associated with any one religion or practice but are considered to be a major part in the “New Age Movement”.

How they work

Essentially, the cards are a physical manifestation of the power of the reader. There are rules and different methods used by every tarot reader. There are two types of readings:

  1. Question Readings where you address a specific question or concern. Tarot is not a method recommended for simple yes or no questions. This type of reading should never be used to make decisions but rather to help you make a decision. The way the question is stated is very important.
    1. Keep you options open. Try not to narrow the scope of the question before it is asked. For example: If you need guidance on tension in a relationship, rather than asking a straightforward “What’s wrong”, try a general, “What can I do to improve this relationship?”
    2. Measure the level of detail carefully. Focus on the issue at hand but do not focus on every little detail. Focusing on the little things could affect the way the big picture is seen and ultimately affect the outcome.
    3. If the reading is for yourself, focus on yourself. For example, if things at work seem to always be going wrong, rather than asking why, focus on your role at work to see if you may play a role in what the situation is.
    4. Stay Neutral. When asking questions that could come across one-sided (Why wont my employee work harder), try staying neutral and more open-minded (What can I do to assist my employee).
    5. Be positive. Instead of “Why hasn’t this happened yet?”, ask how you can help to make it happen.
  1. Open Readings where are usually performed when entering a new phase of life like getting married, starting a family or graduating from college, etc. There is wiggle room for more specificity such as career or health, But the reading will not get more specific than that.

The Tarot Deck

There are many styles of Tarot decks that vary in illustration only. The cards themselves and the meanings behind them remain constant. The most popular deck in the United States is the Rider-Waite deck created in 1909 by A.E. Waite, a member of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The deck was published by Rider and Company, hence the name Rider-Waite. Pamela Colman Smith was the artist behind the illustrations of the deck which has now become considered as the definitive deck in the U.S. due to it’s ready availability.

The Minor Arcana

There are 78 cards in the Tarot deck, 56 of which belong to the minor arcana. There are four suits in the minor arcana known as wands, swords, cups, and circles/pentacles (the two names are often used interchangeably). Each suit has a card numbering one to ten, and court cards including a king, queen, knight and page. Each suit represents a specific approach to life. 

  • The Pentacle/circle suit- Generosity, Financial reward, success at work and craftsmanship. The reverse is meanness, covetousness, poverty, unemployment, isolation.
    • One/Ace of Pentacles– On an everyday level, the start of a new project which is likely to be successful. A new job, a new business venture all which will seem to continuously grow with each achievement leading to the next step of the journey.
    • Two of Pentacles– Indicates the need for constant change in life to prevent stagnation. A turning point-a new job, a shift of fortune, change of home. Demands a thorough reassessment of position and willingness to take chances.
    • Three of Pentacles- Attainment through effort marks achievement. Keep the pressure on yourself to maintain momentum and better your attention to detail. All energies will be channeled into one project.
    • Four of Pentacles- The time when we reach a stable level of material balance for the moment. Material bounty.
    • Five of Pentacles- Worries; unexpected expenses, job concerns, family life, etc. Whatever the problem is more of a threat than a reality. Worrying may just make it worse.
    • Six of Pentacles- Full promise of bounty. When a degree of inner confidence and self-belief has been achieved, new streams of reality are reached which release new energy. New ideas, new projects are fruitful. We are energized and enthusiastic with the project at hand
    • Seven of Pentacles- Fear of failure. Be patient. Don’t rush, practice self-control. Believing negative things will only create negative things.
    • Eight of Wands- Progress with caution. A card of starting over or starting something new, a period of expansion. A time of learning and mistakes, doubts and hard work.
    • Nine of Pentacles- Profit, gain, lucky windfall, payment for work well done. Enough to buy what you desire.
    • Ten of Pentacles- Abundance, wealth, gain. Pinnacle of prosperity. A business you can pass on, a home bought and paid for, etc.
    • Page of Pentacles- Fresh opportunities. Advocation of tackling the tasks with confidence and not worrying about consequences. Adhering to this will yield a positive outcome.
    • Knight of Pentacles- Firmest and least impetuous of the knights. Do not underestimate, do not take calm exterior for granted. Most trustworthy to get a job done quickly and comprehensively
    • Queen of Pentacles- Nurturer but practical and down to earth. Encourages and promotes creativity. Also serious and introverted.
    • King of Pentacles- Generous but worked hard for money and success. Expects those whom he has helped to help themselves. Grounded and humble.
  • Sword/Staves Suit- Strength, Courage, Hope, peace amid strife, successful journey. Reverse means spiritual suffering, loneliness, sacrifice, loss, defeat.
    • One/Ace of Swords- Ability to see things from a clear perspective. We are able to remove the confusion that clouds our judgement. We can see what is important and worth fighting for. Helps us identify “red herrings” that prevent us from clear thought.
    • Two of Swords- A painful and difficult situation is being reconciled. It is important to incorporate the other cards into the reading for this situation as there is a possibility that the relationship with be different after the conflict is resolved.
    • Three of Swords- Indicates some sort of disruption causing pain and uncertainty; loss of balance and disharmony.
    • Four of Swords- A period of rest and recovery after a difficult time; after a trauma, a breakup, loss of a relationship, financial hardships, operation/illness, etc.
    • Five of Swords- Future loss or disappointment. The reverse would indicate a lesser chance of defeat or an empty victory.
    • Six of Swords- After a stormy time when we have reached a safe harbor to recuperate and consider the difficulties that have risen around us.
    • Seven of Swords- A time in life where we’re feeling too overwhelmed and doubtful to make decisive decisions against problems or sudden situations. Things get worse by lack of action.
    • Eight of Swords- Deliberate or accidental interference with the natural flow of energy. Signals problems with endurance, inability to make decisions, lack of concentration on important details and overall disturbance.
    • Nine of Swords- Indicates hardness, unkindness, lack of consideration or compassion, harsh naturalness to the process of inflicting pain.
    • Ten of Swords- Stands for the power of mind allowing us to achieve dreams, beliefs and aspirations. Positive thinking like this will attract joy, happiness and success into our lives.
    • Page of Swords- The receiving of an important message with crucial information. A test to your reaction against drama and a warning against rash decisions. The subconscious genius leading you to moments of great clarity.
    • Knight of Swords- Insecure, refuses to take another’s feelings into account. Goal-oriented, will take down anyone in their path.
    • Queen of Swords- Cold and emotionally detached way of dealing with the world. Standing up to people, making demands and being clear about one’s needs.
    • King of Swords- An aura of intimidation. Silent, serious. The king of swords is an expert on law, politics, society, or communication. Always exercising his power. Emotionally cold. Happiest with stimulating work and high ideals.
  • Cups Suit- The suit of cups, or chalices, symbolizes romance, creativity, and sociability. The reverse of this suit means Jealousy, pain, rejection, excessive love of luxury, and preoccupation with one’s self. Remember this for any card in the suit that may be pulled.
    • One/Ace of Cups- The beginning of great love, perhaps a pregnancy. Inner attunement and spirituality. Instinctive knowledge that comes from within and trust what your feelings are telling you.
    • Two of Cups- Engagement, marriage. Union of two entities; people, groups, ideas, or talents
    • Three of Cups- Friendship, community, community, network of support, all forms of support including formal aid like counselling and social services
    • Four of Cups- positive period of self-reflection, renewal. By taking time to reflect, you restore emotional balance. Also represents kindness from other people.
    • Five of Cups- Loss, regret, denial. Could be tangible (ex: a breakup) or intangible (ex: loss of an opportunity). Can warn you of future loss and help reduce the toll.
    • Six of Cups- Happy feelings from the past and innocence (innocent meaning several things; legal problems for example). Meanings are endless depending on the situation.
    • Seven of Cups- Illusions, deceptions. A hasty decision could be as bad as no decision. Think carefully about your options in situations.
    •  Eight of Cups- Separation, devorce, a move or trip. Stands for the moments when we realize the past is truly gone.
    • Nine of Cups- The “wish” card. What you have a desire for, you will recieve. Could indicate loving and complete relationships, high creativity and good relationships with friends and emotions.
    • Ten of Cups- Joy, love, friendship, family we can trust and rely on.
    • Page of Cups- Romance and deep feelings, inner life. An opening may appear that stirs emotion, pulls at heart strings or brings great joy. When the chance comes, act on it.
    • Knight of Cups- Balanced objectivity and outlook, sincerity, harmony and equilibrium. 
    • Queen of Cups- Represents someone in touch with their emotions who asks you to think about your own. Represents someone who is like her or an atmosphere of love, acceptance, and respect for feelings.
    • King of Cups- Asks you to take the action of a king; responding calmly in a crisis, diplomacy rather than force, reaching out to help, accepting a different point of view, maintaining an atmosphere of caring and tolerance.
  • Wands- Stand for creative integrity, security, positive relationships and inner development. Reversed means disrupted work, laziness, ignorance and romantic jealousy. 
    • One/Ace of Wands- The beginning of a new life, possibly a pregnancy, new phases in life. To confirm pregnancy other cards will indicate such as the page of cups or ace or three of cups.
    • Two of Wands- We are in charge of the way our life unfolds. Doesnt rule out the occasional obsticle or pleasant surprise but allows us to fulfill our destiny
    • Three of Wands-  “The Lord of Virtue”. Our own trueness to inner needs and inspirations, inner balance, and self-reliance and happiness born from the clarity and confidence.
    • Four of Wands- “The Lord of Completion”. A circle has been completed; a work project is done, personal situations resolved, phases of life completed. A lesser reflection of the world
    • Five of Wands- “The Lord of Strife”. Quarrels, conflict, discord, often indicates argument simply for the sake of argument.
    • Six of Wands- “The Lord of Victory”. Fight, competition, eventual victory
    • Seven of Wands- Advises you to go forward and believe in yourself in a momentous happening in your life. Be true to your own desires, ambitions, and needs.
    • Eight of Wands- Represents the type of cathartic conversation that ends in confusion. Brings a new surge of energy and freshness. Signals entry into new phase or project which has a good chance of success.
    • Nine of Wands-  “Lord of Strength”. Being true to ourselves releases energies we need to deal with inner conflict. Our inner strength will guide us to our goals.
    • Ten of Wands- We are feeling trapped and unhappy in a prolonged situation. We may begin to lose faith in our ability to mold our lives. Advises you not to expend energy on an unwinnable situation. Sometimes we are better off walking away.
    • Page of Wands- Represents a person who seizes every opportunity with childlike innocence. Inspired by but does not initiate challenge in the exchange of intense viewpoints. In love, symbolizes intense faithfulness. 
    • Knight of Wands- A departure from a challenge. Unsure of commitment and cannot confront his own feelings. Also indicates that one has escaped difficulties. 
    • Queen of Wands- A passionate female who wants to rouse people into action with her outspoken and critical nature. A true champion of anyone she supports though it appears she is fighting those who cross her.
    • King of Wands- Supports creative efforts, motivates ambitions, upholds principles of integrity. Beware of reliance though as all efforts cannot go to one cause. The same intense capacity applied to romantic passion is also applied to creative work and can persevere in seeking the highest of unions.

The Major Arcana

The major arcana are all picture cards with individual names with no relation to the suits of the minor arcana. There are 22 cards in the major arcana but only 1-21 are numbered. The 22nd card, The Fool, is numbered as 0. The major arcana is used to represent strong, long-term energy and/or big events in some area of your life. Having a Major arcana and minor arcana in the same reading about the same subject matter indicates that this subject is becoming less important in your life.

0. The Fool

  • Upright– Beginnings, innocence, spontaneity, a free spirit
  • Reversed– Holding back, recklessness, risk-taking
  • The Fool is numbered 0 – the number of unlimited potential – and so does not have a specific place in the sequence of the Tarot cards. The Fool can be placed either at the beginning of the Major Arcana or at the end. The Major Arcana is often considered the Fool’s journey through life and as such, he is ever present and therefore needs no number.
  • On the Fool Tarot card, a young man stands on the edge of a cliff, without a care in the world, as he sets out on a new adventure. He is gazing upwards toward the sky (and the Universe) and is seemingly unaware that he is about to skip off a precipice into the unknown. Over his shoulder rests a modest knapsack containing everything he needs – which isn’t much (let’s say he’s a minimalist). The white rose in his left hand represents his purity and innocence. And at his feet is a small white dog, representing loyalty and protection, that encourages him to charge forward and learn the lessons he came to learn. The mountains behind the Fool symbolise the challenges yet to come. They are forever present, but the Fool doesn’t care about them right now; he’s more focused on starting his expedition.
  1. The Magician
  • UPRIGHT: Manifestation, resourcefulness, power, inspired action
  • REVERSED: Manipulation, poor planning, untapped talents
  • The Magician card is numbered One – the number of new beginnings and opportunities – and associates with the planet of Mercury. He stands with one arm stretched upwards towards the Universe, and the other pointing down to the earth. His positioning represents his connection between the spiritual realms and the material realms. The Magician uses this relationship to create and manifest his goals in the physical realm. He is the conduit that converts energy into matter. The Magician’s robe is white, symbolising purity, and his cloak is red, representing worldly experience and knowledge.
  • On the table in front of him are the four symbols of the Tarot suits – a cup, pentacle, sword and wand – each symbolising one of the four elements – water, earth, air and fire. It is also a sign that he has all the tools (and elements) he needs to manifest his intentions into being. Above his head is the infinity symbol, and around his waist is a snake biting its own tail – both of which signal that he has access to unlimited potential. And in the foreground is an array of foliage and flowers, symbolising the blossoming and fruition of his ideas and aspirations.

2. The High Priestess 

  • UPRIGHT: Intuition, sacred knowledge, divine feminine, the subconscious mind
  • REVERSED: Secrets, disconnected from intuition, withdrawal and silence
  • The High Priestess sits in front of a thin veil decorated with pomegranates. The veil represents the separate conscious and subconscious realms, the seen and the unseen, and serves to keep casual onlookers out. Only the initiated may enter. The pomegranates on the veil are a symbol of abundance, fertility and the divine feminine, and are sacred to Persephone who ate a pomegranate seed in the underworld and was forced to return every year.
  • On either side of the High Priestess stand two pillars, marking the entrance to this sacred, mystical temple (also associated with the Temple of Solomon). One pillar is black with the letter B (Boaz, meaning ‘in his strength’) and the other is white with the letter J (Jachin, meaning ‘he will establish’). The black and white colours of the pillars symbolise duality – masculine and feminine, darkness and light – stating that knowledge and acceptance of duality are required to enter this sacred space.
  • The High Priestess wears a blue robe with a cross on her chest and a horned diadem (or crown), both a symbol of her divine knowledge and her status as a divine ruler. In her lap, she holds a scroll with the letter TORA, signifying the Greater Law (according to A. E. Waite). It is partly covered, signifying that this sacred knowledge is both explicit and implicit, it will only be revealed when the student is ready to look beyond the material realm. The crescent moon at her feet symbolises her connection with the divine feminine, her intuition and subconscious mind, and the natural cycles of the moon.

3. The Empress

  • UPRIGHT: Femininity, beauty, nature, nurturing, abundance
  • REVERSED: Creative block, dependence on others
  • The Empress is a beautiful, full-figured woman with blonde hair and a peaceful aura about her. On her head, she wears a crown of twelve stars, showing her connection with the mystical realm and the cycles of the natural world (the twelve months of the year and the twelve planets). Her robe is patterned with pomegranates, symbolic of fertility, and sits upon a luxurious array of cushions and flowing red velvet. One cushion features the symbol of Venus, the planet of love, creativity, fertility, beauty and grace – the essence of the Empress.
  • A beautiful, lush forest and winding stream surround the Empress, signifying her connection with Mother Earth and life itself. She draws her sense of peace from the trees and the water and is rejuvenated by the energy of nature. In the foreground, golden wheat springs from the soil, reflecting abundance from a recent harvest.

4. The Emperor

  • UPRIGHT: Authority, establishment, structure, a father figure
  • REVERSED: Domination, excessive control, lack of discipline, inflexibility
  • If the Empress is the Mother archetype of the Tarot deck, the Emperor is the Father. He sits upon a large stone throne, adorned with four rams’ heads (symbolic of his connection with Aries and the planet Mars). In his right hand, the Emperor holds an ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life, and in his left is an orb representing the world over which he rules.
  • He wears a red robe, indicative of his power, passion and energy for life. Underneath it, he wears a suit of armour, suggesting that he is protected from any threat (and any emotional response or vulnerability). His long white beard is symbolic of his age-old wisdom and experience, and along with his gold crown, he is an authority figure who demands to be heard.
  • Behind his throne looms a tall, impenetrable mountain range, signifying that he is backed by a solid foundation but resistant to making any changes unless he deems it necessary. Beneath the peaks flows a small river, giving some hope that despite his tough exterior, he is still an emotional being – it will just take a lot of digging and trust to open him up to his softer side.

5. The Hierophant 

  • UPRIGHT: Spiritual wisdom, religious beliefs, conformity, tradition,institutions
  • REVERSED: Personal beliefs, freedom, challenging the status quo
  • The Hierophant is the masculine counterpart to the High Priestess. He is also known as the Pope or the Teacher in other Tarot decks and is ruled by Taurus.
  • The Hierophant is a religious figure sitting between two pillars of a sacred temple – though this temple differs from the one in which the High Priestess sits. He wears three robes – red, blue and white – and a three-tiered crown, both representing the three worlds over which he rules (the conscious, subconscious and superconscious). In his left hand, he holds the Papal Cross, a triple sceptre that signifies his religious status. He raises his right hand in a religious blessing, with two fingers pointing towards Heaven and two towards Earth.
  • Before him kneel two followers. The Hierophant’s task is to pass down his spiritual wisdom and initiate the two into the church so they can take up their appointed roles. This imagery speaks to a shared group identity and a rite of passage to enter the next level. The crossed keys at the Hierophant’s feet represent the balance between the conscious and subconscious minds and the unlocking of mysteries, which only he can teach.

6. The Lovers

  • UPRIGHT: Love, harmony, relationships, values alignment, choices
  • REVERSED: Self-love, disharmony, imbalance, misalignment of values
  • The Lovers card shows a naked man and woman standing beneath the angel, Raphael, whose name means ‘God heals’ and represents both physical and emotional healing. The angel blesses the man and woman and reminds them of their union with the Divine.
  • The couple stands in a beautiful, fertile landscape, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. Behind the woman stands a tall apple tree, with a snake winding its way up the trunk. The serpent and apple tree represent the temptation of sensual pleasures that may take one’s focus away from the Divine. Behind the man is a tree of flames, which represent passion, the primary concern of the man. The twelve flames suggest the twelve zodiac signs, the symbol of time and eternity. The man looks to the woman, who watches the angel, showing the path of the conscious to the subconscious to the super-conscious, or from physical desire to emotional needs to spiritual concerns.
  • The volcanic mountain in the background is rather phallic and represents the eruption of passion that happens when a man and a woman meet in full frontal nudity.

7. The Chariot

  • UPRIGHT: Control, willpower, success, action, determination
  • REVERSED: Self-discipline, opposition, lack of direction
  • The Chariot Tarot card shows a brave warrior standing inside a chariot. He wears armour decorated with crescent moons (representing what is coming into being), a tunic with a square (the strength of will) and other alchemical symbols (spiritual transformation). The laurel and star crown signals victory, success and spiritual evolution. Although he appears to be driving the chariot, the charioteer holds no reins – just a wand like the Magician’s – symbolising that he controls through the strength of his will and mind.
  • The charioteer stands tall – there’s no sitting down for this guy, as he’s all about taking action and moving forward. Above his head is a canopy of six-pointed stars, suggesting his connection to the celestial world and the Divine will. In front of the vehicle sit a black and a white sphinx, representing duality, positive and negative and, at times, opposing forces. Note how the sphinxes are pulling in opposite directions, but the charioteer uses his willpower and sheer resolve to steer the chariot forward in the direction he wants.
  • Behind the chariot flows a wide river, symbolic of the need to be ‘in flow’ with the rhythm of life while also charging ahead toward your goals and intentions.

8. Strength

  • UPRIGHT: Strength, courage, persuasion, influence, compassion
  • REVERSED: Inner strength, self-doubt, low energy, raw emotion
  • In the Strength Tarot card, a woman gently strokes a lion on its forehead and jaw. Even though it is known for its ferociousness, the woman has tamed this wild beast with her calming, loving energy. The lion is a symbol of raw passions and desires, and in taming him, the woman shows that animal instinct and raw passion can be expressed in positive ways when inner strength and resilience are applied. She doesn’t use force or coercion; she channels her inner strength to subdue and subtly control the lion.
  • The woman wears a white robe, showing her purity of spirit, and a belt and crown of flowers that represent the fullest, most beautiful expression of nature. Over her head is the symbol of infinity, representing her infinite potential and wisdom.

9. The Hermit

  • UPRIGHT: Soul-searching, introspection, being alone, inner guidance
  • REVERSED: Isolation, loneliness, withdrawal
  • The Hermit stands alone on the top of a mountain. The snow-capped range symbolises his spiritual mastery, growth and accomplishment. He has chosen this path of self-discovery and, as a result, has reached a heightened state of awareness.
  • In his right hand, he holds a lantern with a six-pointed star inside; it is the Seal of Solomon, a symbol of wisdom. As the Hermit walks his path, the lamp lights his way – but it only illuminates his next few steps rather than the full journey. He must step forward to see where to go next, knowing that not everything will be revealed at once. In his left hand, the side of the subconscious mind, the Hermit holds a long staff (a sign of his power and authority), which he uses to guide and balance him.

10.  Wheel of Fortune

  • UPRIGHT: Good luck, karma, life cycles, destiny, a turning point
  • REVERSED: Bad luck, resistance to change, breaking cycles
  • The Wheel of Fortune card shows a giant wheel, with three figures on the outer edges. Four Hebrew letters – YHVH (Yod Heh Vau Heh), the unpronounceable name of God – are inscribed on the wheel’s face. There are also the letters TORA, thought to be a version of the word Torah, meaning ‘law’, or TAROT, or even ROTA (Latin for ‘wheel’). The middle wheel has the alchemical symbols for mercury, sulphur, water and salt – the building blocks of life and the four elements – and represents formative power.
  • On the outer circle is a snake, the Egyptian god Typhon (the god of evil), descending on the left side. The snake also represents the life force plunging into the material world. On the right side rises Anubis, the Egyptian God of the dead who welcomes souls to the underworld. And on top of the wheel sits the Sphinx, representing knowledge and strength.
  • In the corners of the Wheel of Fortune card are four winged creatures, each associated with the four fixed signs of the Zodiac: the angel is Aquarius, the eagle is Scorpio, the lion is Leo, and the bull is Taurus. Their wings signify stability amidst movement and change, and each holds the Torah, representing wisdom.

11. Justice 

  • UPRIGHT: Justice, fairness, truth, cause and effect, law
  • REVERSED: Unfairness, lack of accountability, dishonesty
  • The figure of Justice sits in front of a loosely hung purple veil, signifying compassion, and between two pillars, similar to those framing the High Priestess and the Hierophant, which symbolizes balance, law and structure.
  • She holds a sword in her right hand, showing the logical, well-ordered mindset necessary to dispense fair justice. The sword points upwards – expressing a firm and final decision – and the double-edged blade signifies that our actions always carry consequences. The scales in her left (intuitive) hand, show intuition must balance that logic and are a symbol of her impartiality. Justice wears a crown with a small square on it representing well-ordered thoughts, and a red robe with a green mantle. A little white shoe pops out from beneath her clothing as a reminder of the spiritual consequences of your actions.

12. The Hanged Man

  • UPRIGHT: Pause, surrender, letting go, new perspectives
  • REVERSED: Delays, resistance, stalling, indecision
  • The Hanged Man shows a man suspended from a T-shaped cross made of living wood. He is hanging upside-down, viewing the world from a completely different perspective, and his facial expression is calm and serene, suggesting that he is in this hanging position by his own choice. He has a halo around his head, symbolising new insight, awareness and enlightenment. His right foot is bound to the tree, but his left foot remains free, bent at the knee and tucked in behind his right leg. His arms are bent, with hands held behind his back, forming an inverted triangle. The man is wearing red pants representing human passion and the physical body, and a blue vest for knowledge. The Hanged Man is the card of ultimate surrender, of being suspended in time and of martyrdom and sacrifice to the greater good.

13. Death

  • UPRIGHT: Endings, change, transformation, transition
  • REVERSED: Resistance to change, personal transformation, inner purging
  • The Death card shows the Messenger of Death – a skeleton dressed in black armour, riding a white horse. The skeleton represents the part of the body which survives long after life has left it; the armour symbolises invincibility and that death will come no matter what. Its dark colour is that of mourning and the mysterious, while the horse is the colour of purity and acts as a symbol of strength and power. Death carries a black flag decorated with a white, five-petal rose, reflecting beauty, purification and immortality and the number five represents change. Together, these symbols reveal that death isn’t just about life ending. Death is about endings and beginnings, birth and rebirth, change and transformation. There is beauty in death, and it is an inherent part of being alive.
  • A royal figure appears to be dead on the ground, while a young woman, child and bishop plead with the skeletal figure to spare them. But, as we all know, death spares no one.
  • In the background, a boat floats down the river, akin to the mythological boats escorting the dead to the afterlife. On the horizon, the sun sets between two towers (which also appear in the Moon Tarot card), in a sense dying each night and being reborn every morning.

14. Temperance

  • UPRIGHT: Balance, moderation, patience, purpose
  • REVERSED: Imbalance, excess, self-healing, re-alignment
  • The Temperance card shows a large, winged angel who is both masculine and feminine. She wears a light blue robe with a triangle enclosed in a square on the front, representing that humans (the triangle) are bound by the Earth and natural law (square). The angel balances between one foot on the rocks, expressing the need to stay grounded, and one foot in the water, showing the need to be in flow. She pours water between two cups, symbolic of the flow and alchemy of life.
  • In the background, there is a winding path up to a mountain range, reflecting the journey through life. Above the mountains hovers a golden crown encased in a glowing light, a symbol of taking the Higher path and staying true to one’s life purpose and meaning.

15. The Devil

  • UPRIGHT: Shadow self, attachment, addiction, restriction, sexuality
  • REVERSED: Releasing limiting beliefs, exploring dark thoughts, detachment
  • The Devil card shows Baphomet, or the Horned Goat of Mendes, a creature that is half man, half goat. Baphomet originally represented the balance between good and evil, male and female, and human and animal; however, more recently, this figure has been linked to the occult and has become a scapegoat for all things considered ‘evil’.
  • The Devil has the wings of a vampire bat, an animal that sucks the lifeblood out of its prey, symbolic of what happens when you give in to your raw desires. He has a hypnotic stare which ‘magnetises’ and entrances those who come near him, bringing them under his power. Above him is an inverted pentagram – a sign of the darker side of magic and occultism. He raises his right hand in the Vulcan Salute – a Jewish blessing, later made famous by the film series, Star Trek. In his left hand, he holds a lit torch.
  • At the foot of the Devil stand a man and a woman, both naked and chained to the podium on which the Devil sits. They appear to be held here against their will – but look closer, and you will notice that the chains around their necks are loose and could be easily removed. Each has small horns on their head, like the devil’s, a sign that they are becoming increasingly like him the longer they stay here. Both have tails, a further symbol of their animalistic tendencies and raw instincts, and the grapes and the fire on their respective tails signify pleasure and lust.

16. The Tower

  • UPRIGHT: Sudden change, upheaval, chaos, revelation, awakening
  • REVERSED: Personal transformation, fear of change, averting disaster
  • The Tower shows a tall tower perched on the top of a rocky mountain. Lightning strikes set the building alight, and two people leap from the windows, head first and arms outstretched. It is a scene of chaos and destruction.
  • The Tower itself is a solid structure, but because it has been built on shaky foundations, it only takes one bolt of lightning to bring it down. It represents ambitions and goals made on false premises.
  • The lightning represents a sudden surge of energy and insight that leads to a break-through or revelation. It enters via the top of the building and knocks off the crown, symbolising energy flowing down from the Universe, through the crown chakra. The people are desperate to escape from the burning building, not knowing what awaits them as they fall. Around them are 22 flames, representing the 12 signs of the zodiac and 10 points of the Tree of Life, suggesting that even in times of disaster, there is always a divine intervention.

17. The Star

  • UPRIGHT: Hope, faith, purpose, renewal, spirituality
  • REVERSED: Lack of faith, despair, self-trust, disconnection
  • The Star card shows a naked woman kneeling at the edge of a small pool. She holds two containers of water: one in her left hand (the subconscious) and one in her right (the conscious). She pours the water out to nourish the earth and to continue the cycle of fertility, represented by the lush greenery around her. The other container pours the water onto dry land in five rivulets, representing the five senses.
  • The woman has one foot on the ground, representing her practical abilities and good common sense, and the other foot in the water, representing her intuition and inner resources and listening to her inner voice. She is naked, representing her vulnerability and purity under the vastness of the starry night sky. Behind her shines one large star, representing her core essences, and seven smaller stars, representing the chakras.

18.  The Moon

  • UPRIGHT: Illusion, fear, anxiety, subconscious, intuition
  • REVERSED: Release of fear, repressed emotions, inner confusion
  • The Moon card shows a full moon in the night’s sky, positioned between two large towers. The Moon is a symbol of intuition, dreams, and the unconscious. Its light is dim compared to the sun, and only slightly illuminates the path to higher consciousness winding between the two towers.
  • In the foreground is a small pool, representing the watery, subconscious mind. A small crayfish crawls out of the pool, symbolising the early stages of consciousness unfolding. A dog and a wolf standing in the grassy field, howling at the moon, representing both the tamed and the wild aspects of our minds.

19.  The Sun

  • UPRIGHT: Positivity, fun, warmth, success, vitality
  • REVERSED: Inner child, feeling down, overly optimistic
  • The Sun Tarot card radiates with optimism and positivity. A large, bright sun shines in the sky, representing the source of all life on Earth. Underneath, four sunflowers grow tall above a brick wall, representing the four suits of the Minor Arcana and the four elements.
  • In the foreground, a young, naked child is sitting on top of a calm white horse. The child represents the joy of being connected with your inner spirit, and his nakedness is a sign he has nothing to hide and has all the innocence and purity of childhood. The white horse is also a sign of purity and strength.

20.  Judgement

  • UPRIGHT: Judgement, rebirth, inner calling, absolution
  • REVERSED: Self-doubt, inner critic, ignoring the call
  • The Judgement card shows naked men, women, and children rising from their graves, arms outspread and looking up into the sky. Above, Archangel Gabriel – the Messenger of God – blows his trumpet. The people respond to his call, ready to be judged and to find out if they will be accepted into the heavens or not. In the background is an extensive mountain range, signifying the insurmountable obstacles and the impossibility of avoiding judgement.

21. The World

  • UPRIGHT: Completion, integration, accomplishment, travel
  • REVERSED: Seeking personal closure, short-cuts, delays
  • The World card shows a naked woman wrapped in a purple cloth, dancing inside a large laurel wreath. She looks behind her to the past, while her body moves forward to the future. In her hands are two wands or batons, like the one the Magician holds. It is a symbol that what was manifested with the Magician has now come to completion with the World. The wreath is circular, symbolising a continual cycle of successful completion and new beginnings because, as the woman steps through the wreath, she is completing one phase but beginning another one almost straight away.
  • Around the wreath are four figures (a lion, bull, cherub and eagle), similar to those in the Wheel of Fortune. Both the World and the Wheel of Fortune speak to the cyclical nature of your life and your progression through its cycles. The four figures represent the four fixed signs of the Zodiac—Leo, Taurus, Aquarius, and Scorpio. They are symbolic of the four elements, the four suits of the Tarot, four compass points, four seasons, and the four corners of the Universe. They are here to guide you from one phase to the next, bringing balance and harmony to your journey.

Tarot Card Spreads

Basic Three Card Layout

If you want to brush up on your Tarot skills, do a reading in a hurry, or just get an answer to a very basic issue, try using this simple and basic Three Card Layout for your Tarot cards. It’s the simplest of readings, and allows you to do a basic reading in just three steps. You can use this quick method to do readings for friends and family as you brush up on your skills, or you can use it for any Querent who needs an answer in a hurry. The three cards represent the past, the present and the future.

The Seven Card Horseshoe Spread

As you develop your Tarot reading skills, you may find that you prefer one particular spread over the others. One of the most popular spreads in use today is the Seven Card Horseshoe spread. Although it utilizes seven different cards, it’s actually a fairly basic spread. Each card is positioned in a way that connects to different aspects of the problem or situation at hand. 

In this version of the Seven Card Horseshoe spread, in order, the cards represent the past, the present, hidden influences, the Querent, attitudes of others, what should the querent do about the situation and the likely outcome.

The Pentagram Spread

The pentagram is a five-pointed star sacred to many Pagans and Wiccans, and within this magical symbol you’ll find a number of different meanings. Think about the very concept of a star. It is a source of light, blazing in the darkness. It is something physically very far away from us, and yet how many of us have wished upon one when we saw it up in the sky? The star itself is magical. Within the pentagram, each of the five points has a meaning. They symbolize the four classical elements–Earth, Air, Fire and Water–as well as Spirit, which is sometimes referred to as the fifth element. Each of these aspects is incorporated into this Tarot card layout.

The Romany Spread

The Romany Tarot spread is a simple one, and yet it reveals a surprising amount of information. This is a good spread to use if you are just looking for a general overview of a situation, or if you have several different interconnected issues that you’re trying to resolve. This is a fairly free-form spread, which leaves a lot of room for flexibility in your interpretations. 

Some people interpret the Romany spread as simply past, present, and future, using the cards together in each of the three rows. The more distant past is indicated in Row A; the second row of seven, Row B, indicates issues that are presently going on with the Querent. The bottom row, Row C, uses seven more cards to indicate what is likely to take place in the person’s life, if all continues along the present path. It’s easy to read the Romany spread by looking simply at the past, present and future. However, you can go into more depth and get a more complex understanding of the situation if you break it down into its different aspects. 

The Celtic Cross Layout

The Tarot layout known as the Celtic Cross is one of the most detailed and complex spreads used. It’s a good one to use when you have a specific question that needs to be answered, because it takes you, step by step, through all the different aspects of the situation. Basically, it deals with one issue at a time, and by the end of the reading, when you reach that final card, you should have gotten through all the many facets of the problem at hand.

Helpful Advice

  1. Tarot, like any scrying art, opens a veil. It is crucial that you guard yourself with your circle and bless your space before a reading
  2. Remember that the person you are reading for carries energy. Make sure that their energy does not affect your own. Personally, I do not allow others to touch my cards or to speak during the reading. In fact, I do not allow them to give me anymore than the most basic information such as why they feel they need the reading. I personally prefer that there are no outside influences that may affect my connection with the reading.
  3. Trust your gut. When I do a reading, I always explain the basic meanings of the cards I have pulled. However, I do not always feel that that kind of straightforward answer fits a more convoluted story that the cards are trying to tell. You will feel the answer. Take your time in answering. When the meaning of the card becomes clear, it will physically feel right to you. Alternatively, there is nothing wrong with admitting that you aren’t sure what the cards are trying to convey with that message.
  4. Despite all of my personal advice, do not remember that ANY magical working must be your own. If my way is what you are most comfortable with, please let me know and I will be more than happy to work with you and teach you my methods. But experiment with what feels right to you.

SIDE NOTE: I am creating an email specifically for this blog. As I have several private students that connect with me personally, I would like to extend the invitation to connect with me personally through email as well. We also have a Facebook page under the name Witch School. Please leave your thoughts of expansion of lessons in the comments. I would love to hear them as well as any ideas or suggestions for the future 🙂 

Email: TheCraftOfWitchcraft@gmail.com 

Divination Overview

In this post we will look at the names of various forms of divination and a brief definition. Later, we will take an in depth look at some of them to gain a more thorough understanding. Tarot has already been covered in this blog so that section will simply be reposted.

Please remember to be respectful regarding cultural origins of each method and do NOT practice any without instruction.

Abacomancy – a form of divination based on the interpretation of the patterns in dust, dirt, silt, sand, or the ashes of the recently deceased. Reading the patterns is believed to give some insight into the future.

Aeromancy – conducted by interpreting atmospheric conditions. Alternate spellings include arologie, aeriology and aërology

Apantomancy – a form of divination using articles at hand or things that present themselves by chance. The diviner works him/herself into a state of trance until an object or event is perceived and a divination worked out. This form of divination was used in ancient Rome by the augurs

Arithmancy – a form of divination based on assigning numerical value to a word or phrase, by means of English Qaballa, or a simplified version of ancient Greek isopsephy, or Hebrew/Aramaic gematria adapted to the Latin alphabet

Astrology – a pseudoscience that claims to discern information about human affairs and terrestrial events by studying the movements and relative positions of celestial objects

Augury – Augury is the practice of divining the future based on the movement of birds. Birds have been given special status by humans throughout history, possibly because many cultures have believed that birds are messengers of the gods. Therefore, because they fly between our world and heaven, they should know things that man does not

Automatic Writing – also called psychography, is a claimed psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing

Belomancy – Belomancy is the correct name for fortune-telling using arrows. Throughout history, Tibetans, Greeks, Arabians, and Chaldeans all used arrows as a tool for fortune-telling.

Bibliomancy – Bibliomancy is divination using books. To practice bibliomancy, all you must do is ask for guidance, open a book, and read whichever page or paragraph you feel drawn to; this is your message.

Bone Reading – Osteomancy – aka bone reading divination – has seen a massive surge of interest in recent years thanks to the internet and an increased interest in traditional African religions.

Brontomancy – Brontomancy means divination using thunder. This natural method of divination is pretty much a cross between divination using signs (apantomancy), divination using the weather (aeromancy), and divination using sound (cledonism). According to diviners, to hear the sound of thunder is a message of approval from the gods.

Capnomancy – Capnomancy is a form of fortune-telling that assigns meaning to the shapes formed in smoke from candles, fire, or burning herbs or incense. Accessible to most, Capnomancy is performed in the same way you would interpret the shapes of clouds. Therefore, if you have a particular talent for making out shapes in clouds, capnomancy should be a breeze.

Ceromancy – Ceromancy is divination using the shapes formed from the melted wax of a candle, and is essentially a type of candle divination. The easiest way to practice ceromancy is to solidify the wax with water.

Charm Casting – Similar to osteomancy (bone reading), charm casting involves throwing charms and interpreting how they land in relation to each other and/or reading how they fall on a divination board. Technically, osteomancy can be called casting, but casting cannot be called osteomancy unless the diviner uses bone.

Chirognomy – Chirognomy is a form of hand divination, and is the practice of reading someone’s personality based on their hand shape, fingers, etc.

Chiromancy – Chiromancy is another form of palm divination – this time, it’s the art of reading the lines in order to divine the future. Fortune-tellers read these palm lines in order to give predictions about the future.

Cledonism – Cledonomancy should not be confused with so-called ‘clear hearing’ or clairaudience. If you’re clairaudient, you have the ability to hear spirit using your psychic senses. By contrast, a cledonomancer will hear things in real life, such as words spoken by people, something on TV, or a significant song that comes on the radio during a crisis.

Conchomancy – Conchomancy is a fortune-telling method using seashells. Placing a seashell on your ear and analyzing the sound counts as conchomancy. You can also use seashells in casting divination.

Crystal Ball Reading – Sometimes called ‘scrying,’ crystal ball reading is a method of fortune-telling that uses crystal balls. Crystal balls come in all shapes and sizes and can be made from actual crystals, such as quartz, or glass.

Dactylomancy – Dactylomancy is a Greek term that translates as ‘finger divination.’ Traditionally, dactylomancy is practiced using a ring. However, technically, any form of divination that uses the finger could count as dactylomancy, but most people know dactylomancy as the type of divination that uses rings.

Dice Divination – Dice divination is a method of divination that uses dice. You can use regular dice or special fortune-telling dice created for the purpose.

Dobutsu Uranai – Dobutsu uranai is a modern type of fortune-telling horoscope that originated (and is popular in) Japan. There are 12 signs in dobutsu uranai, and like in other types of astrology, you’re assigned your sign based on your date of birth. Also like other systems in astrology, your sign is said to tell you a lot about your personality.

Domino Divination – Domino Divination is similar to dice divination, but the system involves using regular dominos. Two domino tiles are pulled and the numbers of each are interpreted. For example, two blank tiles together predict great misfortune, but two sixes together predict happiness, success, and a good family life.

Dowsing – There are two popular types of dowsing. One type uses rods and is usually performed for the purpose of locating areas where there may be water or oil. Sometimes, divination rods are employed to find missing objects.

Etteilla Tarot – Many of the interpretations of Etteilla Tarot are wildly different from regular Tarot. For example, the Five of Coins in Etteilla is a positive card of love, whereas in modern Tarot, the Five of Pentacles is a card of poverty. There are also cards in Etteilla that aren’t found in decks today, such as Chaos and Birds & Fish. In addition to these challenges, Etteilla cards are always read with reversals, which have their own unique meanings. There are 156 interpretations to learn in Etteilla compared to the 78 of modern Tarot.

Favomancy – Favomancy is a type of divination that interprets the way beans, or sometimes peas, fall. Historians believe Favomancy to have Middle Eastern origins. It’s currently practiced in Bosnia and has historically been practiced by Islamic groups who reside in Russia.

Geomancy – Geomancy is a class of divination method that involves interpreting markings on the ground. A geomancer may interpret marks made by animals or lines that have been randomly drawn by themselves or their seeker (the person getting the reading). It was once common to employ geomancy when deciphering the meaning of a dream.

Graphology – If you make judgments of someone based on their handwriting, you’re practicing graphology. Although it still counts as a form of divination (and many consider it a pseudoscience), graphology has now evolved into the science of graph analysis.

Gypsy Fortune-Telling Cards – Gypsy fortune-telling cards are a subset of cartomancy. The cards in a Gypsy fortune-telling deck may or may not depict several things such as:  Items from everyday life, such as a cat or a chair,  Feelings, such as happiness or despair. Events, such as weddings or funerals. Despite using the term “Gypsy”, this is believed to be more of an Eatern European thing, rather than a Romany thing.

Haruspicy – Haruspicy is a very ancient form of divination thought to have originated in ancient Mesopotamia. A compendium of writings from 900-600 BC known as The Bārûtu contains instructions on the practice of haruspicy. The Bārûtu is one of the most significant and earliest known mentions of the method in detail; however, the texts are said to have been based on even earlier writings.

Ifa Divination – Both a religious system and method of divination, Ifá originated in Western Africa. Ifá divination is a component of several traditional African religions and is practiced by priests and priestesses. 

IChing – The I-Ching is the most well-known Chinese form of divination in the West. This method involves throwing coins multiple times, taking note of how they land, and interpreting the pattern created based on the Book of Changes.

Jiaobei/Poe – Poe is a form of divination popular in Taiwan, particularly in Taoist temples. The system involves asking a question and then throwing two ‘moon blocks’ on the ground. The position in which the blocks land will give you your answer, which will typically be a simple yes or no.

Kau Cim – Kau chim is a type of fortune-telling that originated in China and is popular in Buddhist and Taoist temples. Known as Chi Chi Sticks in the West, this method involves asking a question, drawing a kau chim stick from a tube, and interpreting the meaning concerning the issue.

Kipper Cards – Kipper is a 36-card divination system that originated in Germany. Although it’s currently most popular in German-speaking communities, it’s begun to be picked up by English speaking diviners in recent years.

Lenormand – Lenormand is a 36-card reading system that uses Lenormand cards. Like several other forms of cartomancy, Lenormand began as a card game (Game of Hope) and developed into a kind of divination.

Libanomancy – Libanomancy is divination using incense smoke. To practice this method, all you must do is petition a spirit, light incense as an offering, and interpret the movement of the smoke as a message from that spirit. Some diviners would even take the way in which the incense has burned and the patterns in the ash left behind as significant.

Lithomancy – Lithomancy is the correct term for divination using stones. Although the term can apply to any rocks, in modern prophecy, it’s usually reserved for divination using crystal-tumbled stones such as amethyst and tiger’s eye.

Mahjong – Mahjong is a card game that’s popular in China. As with playing cards, dominos, and dice, mahjong cards can be employed for divination. Traditionally, mahjong is played (or read) using mahjong tiles. However, in modern times, it’s possible to buy them in card form, and this adds to its appeal for diviners.

Mi Kayu Ura – Mi kayu ura is a Japanese fortune-telling method that uses rice or beans and is traditionally performed fifteen days after the new moon.

Mirror Scrying – Mirror Scrying, especially using black obsidian mirrors, is mainly associated with Mesoamerican culture. Before mirrors, scryers used bowls of water to divine the future, but the use of water never went out of fashion. Water was still being used as a form of divination by the Mayans and Aztecs when the Spanish invaded in the 1400s. Mirrors and water hold the same symbolic meaning for many people from the region; they act as portals to the spirit world.

Moleosophy – Moleosophy is a system of divination that assigns special significance to moles. The shape or body part on which a mole appears is interpreted as symbolizing good fortune or bad luck in that area. For example, a mole on the face is often called a beauty spot or beauty mark because it’s considered to be a sign of beauty.

Necromancy – Necromancy is a method of divination that uses the spirits of the dead. Because there’s usually some ritual component involved, necromancy is also classed as a type of magic or witchcraft.

Nephomancy – Nephomancy is a method of divination that involves seeing shapes in clouds and interpreting those shapes as being signs of spiritual significance. For example, you may know the form of an anchor and take this as a message that your life is about to get more consistent. 

Nggam – Nggam is a Cameroonian method of divination that interprets the movement of crabs or spiders. While it’s possible to come up with your own system and ‘rules’ using the movement of spiders or crabs, this is not true for Nggam. Unless you’re willing to travel to Cameroon to learn directly from the Mambila people, practicing Nggam is going to be difficult, if not completely impossible. 

Numerology – See Arithmancy

O-Mikuji – A Japanese method of divination, O-mikuji involves randomly selecting a scroll of paper that has a pre-written prophecy on it. O-mikuji scrolls are available to visitors at many Japanese temples and shrines, and you can receive one after donating. The message you receive could be viewed as being fortunate or unfortunate; it just depends on your luck on the day.

Ogham – Ogham is a type of divination that claims ancient British origin (although some historians discredit this), and which uses sticks to predict the future or gain advice. Each rod in ogham is engraved with a letter from the Ogham alphabet (which, unlike our Latin alphabet, actually is ancient in origin). The Ogham alphabet is of Irish origin, leading me, personally, to believe that this practice is of ancient Celtic origin.

Oneiromancy – Because dreaming is natural, Oneiromancy, or dream interpretation, is possibly one of the most ancient methods of divination out there. It’s only human nature to have a dream and then wonder what the significance is behind it.

Oracle Cards – Oracle cards are a form of cartomancy. While most other types of card divination are used for fortune-telling, Oracle cards tend to focus mostly on giving advice. Oracle cards are readily available online and in shops, so this is an accessible method of divination. Here at Divination & Fortune Telling, we have an article that outlines how to read Oracle cards.

Ouija – Despite their short history, ouija boards have many legends and superstitions attributed to them. In popular culture, they’re associated with demon conjuring, possession, and poltergeist activity. Therefore, due to their demon-attracting reputation (however false this idea), they’re often avoided by those who are new to divination or especially superstitious.

 Palmistry – Palmistry is divination by reading someone’s hand. Today, Palmistry is certainly one of the most popular methods of divination.

Phrenology – Phrenology was once classed as a science, and involved reading someone’s health, character, and temperament based on measurements taken of their skull. Originating in Great Britain, the system has fallen out of favor in recent years.  

Plastromancy – Plastromancy is a type of divination that involves burning the shell of a turtle and interpreting the burn makes or cracks made as a result of being exposed to the heat.

Playing Cards – Yes, even an ordinary pack of playing cards can be used for fortune-telling. Many card readers read with playing cards before they move onto other methods of cartomancy (card divination).

Pyromancy – Pyromancy is divination using fire. Technically, candle divination, xylomancy, and any divination involving burning fall under the more general category of pyromancy.

Rhabdomancy – Rhabdomancy is divination using rods or sticks. Belomancy and dowsing rods come under the subdivision of rhabdomancy.

Runes – Rune divination is a prevalent method of divination that uses runes to predict the future or get advice. The system originated in Northern Europe. According to Scandinavian mythology, the god Odin hung himself from a tree for nine days to learn the secrets of the runes.

Scapulimancy – Scapulimancy is a type of osteomancy (bone divination) that uses shoulder blade bones (scapulae). In ancient times, the shoulders of sacrificed animals were examined, and messages from the gods/spirits were deciphered from any shapes or markings found. 

Tarot – Tarot divination is a form of cartomancy (card divination) that uses special Tarot cards. Similar to playing cards, Tarot has four suits (Wands, Cups, Swords, and Coins) plus Court cards (Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages). Unlike playing cards, Tarot cards have 22 extra cards, including Death, The Devil, and The Lovers.

Tasseomancy -Tasseomancy, also known as tea leaf reading, is one of the best-known types of fortune-telling thanks to in part to its popularization due to the Harry Potter franchise.

 Teraphim – Teraphim were small idols used in divination that were popular enough to be mentioned several times in the Bible, although their exact function has been lost to time. It’s possible they were either selected as a form of lots, consulted in mediumship, or both. Probably the closest you can get to teraphim nowadays is fetishism.

Xylomancy – Xylomancy is a type of divination that involves burning wood. There are two main methods of practicing Xylomancy: creating a fire or burning wood. Because of its accessibility, xylomancy can be easily practiced in modern times.

Valentine’s Day and Lupercalia Repost

What we know about Valentine’s Day can be summarized with love, gifts of candy or flowers or other trinkets to show your emotional connection with a loved one. Perhaps a nice dinner and some late night activities *wink, wink*. But where does Valentine’s Day come from? How did these traditions come to be? They can be tracked to the ancient Roman holiday of Lupercalia and the tradition of card giving that originated in Victorian England, and, of course, the legend of St. Valentine.

St. Valentine

The Catholic church has long honored three martyred St. Valentines/Valentinus. One legend tells the tale of the tyrannical Emperor Claudius II who decreed that he needed single men for his vast armies and forbade marriage to ensure that his ranks would be filled to his desire. Valentine married men in secret to protest the injustice of the decree. Claudius discovered Valentine’s disobedience and immediately put him to death. However, it is argued that St. Valentine of Terni was the true bishop behind the holiday. He was also beheaded by Emperor Claudius ll. The date of these supposed beheadings was on February the 14th.

Valentine is also speculated to have been executed for attempting to free Christian prisoners from Roman prisons where they were tortured and beaten ruthlessly. In the story, Valentine himself was imprisoned and fell in love with the daughter of one of his jailers. Before his execution, he wrote her a love letter signed “From your Valentine”. This began the tradition of the saying and the card giving we observe today. And, because of these romanticized legends, Valentine became one of the most recognized saints in England and France.

However, several scholars hold that there is precious little evidence to support these legends. They believe that the romanticism that developed around valentines was due to Geoffrey Chaucer, a legendary poet of the middle ages. They maintain that the stories told by Chaucer bear such a strong resemblance to the legends of St. Valentine that it is enough to raise substantial suspicion. One theory states that Chaucer’s romance was based off of the betrothal between King Richard II and Anne of Bohemia rather than the alleged St. Valentine. However, most of his romantic writing were associated with February 14th, explaining the date for the holiday.

Lupercalia

The Roman festival of Lupercalia is also thought to be an origin of the holiday. This fertility festival was held in honor of the God Faus, a god of agriculture. It was also held in honor of the founders of Rome, Remus and Romulus. Priests would gather at the cave where it is believed the Remus and Romulus were cared for by a she-wolf, also called a Lupa, when they were infants. A goat would be sacrificed for fertility and a dog for purification. Strips of the goats hide would be dipped in the blood before gently slapping fields and women in town with the bloody strips. This was believed to encourage fertility in women and crops.

On the final day of the festival, single women would place their names in an urn that bachelors would choose one of the names out of. The name chosen would be that man’s match for the next year, often ending in marriage. 

Like many pagan practices, after the rise of Christianity, the practices and traditions were outlawed out of existence at the end of the 5th century. The last remaining idea of Lupercalia was immortalized in Geoffrey Chaucer’s writings in the 13th century. 

Today

Written Valentines began to appear in the 1400’s. The oldest in existence was written in 1415; a love poem written by CHales, Duke of Orleans to his wife during his imprisonment in the TOwer of London following the Battle of Agincourt. 

Valentine’s day is currently celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the UK, France, and Australia. The holiday became popular in the United Kingdom around the 17th century, and by the 18th century, it was common practice to exchange tokens of affection between friends and lovers. In the 1900s, printed cards began to replace written letters and quips. Pre-made cards were encouraged as the time period discouraged the expression of true, deep feelings between people. The 1700’s saw the rise of handmade valentines in the United States. Today it is estimated that approximately 145 million valentines are sent in the United States, 85 percent of which are bought by women. 

Imbolic Repost

Symbolism of Imbolc:

Purity, Growth and Renewal, The Re-Union of the Goddess and the God, Fertility, and dispensing of the old and making way for the new.

Symbols of Imbolc:

Brideo’gas, Besoms, White Flowers, Candle Wheels, Brighid’s Crosses, Priapic Wands (acorn-tipped), and Ploughs.

Herbs of Imbolc:

Angelica, Basil, Bay Laurel, Blackberry, Celandine, Coltsfoot, Heather, Iris, Myrrh, Tansy, Violets, and all white or yellow flowers.

Foods of Imbolc:

Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, Poppyseed Cakes, muffins, scones, and breads, all dairy products, Peppers, Onions, Garlic, Raisins, Spiced Wines and Herbal Teas.

Incense of Imbolc:

Basil, Bay, Wisteria, Cinnamon, Violet, Vanilla, Myrrh.

Colors of Imbolc:

White, Pink, Red, Yellow, lt. Green, Brown.

Stones of Imbolc:

Amethyst, Bloodstone, Garnet, Ruby, Onyx, Turquoise.

Depending on your particular tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate Imbolc. Some people focus on the Celtic goddess Brighid, in her many aspects as a deity of fire and fertility. Others aim their rituals more towards the cycles of the seasons, and agricultural markers. Here are a few rituals you may want to think about trying — and remember, any of them can be adapted for either a solitary practitioner or a small group, with just a little planning ahead.

  • Setting Up Your Imbolc Altar
    • Imbolc sabbat season is often associated with the colors red, green, and white.
    • Because Imbolc is a harbinger of spring, any plants that symbolize the new growth are appropriate.
    • You can decorate your altar with items that represent the goddess Brighid, such as candles, a corn doll, chalices and cauldrons, or healing herbs.
    • Cauldrons or chalices: she’s often connected to sacred wells and springs, due to her association with healing waters
    • A small anvil or hammer: Brighid is the goddess of smithcraft
    • A Brighid corn doll and Priapic wand
    • Sacred animals such as cows, sheep or swans
    • A goddess statue: you can find some beautiful statuary of Brighid, or of other spring deities in your tradition
    • A book of poetry, or a poem you’ve written: Brighid is the patroness of poets
    • Faeries: in some traditions, Brighid is the sister of the Fae
    • Healing herbs: she’s often connected to healing rites
    • Baked goods, especially those made with eggs and dairy products
    • Lots of candles, or a cauldron with a small fire in it; as the goddess of domesticity and the hearth, she is associated with fire and braziers
  • Imbolc Candle Ritual
    • First, set up your altar in a way that makes you happy, and brings to mind the themes of Imbolc – rebirth and renewal, purification and cleansing.
    • Prior to beginning your ritual, take a warm, cleansing bath. While soaking, meditate on the concept of purification. Once you’re done, dress in your ritual attire, if you normally wear it, and begin the rite. You’ll need:
      • Seven candles, in red and white (tealights are perfect for this)
      • Something to light your candles with
      • A large bowl or cauldron big enough to hold the candles
      • Sand or salt to fill the bottom of the bowl/cauldron
    • If your tradition requires you to cast a circle, do so now. Pour the sand or salt into the bowl or cauldron. Place the seven candles into the sand so they won’t slide around. Light the first candle. As you do so, say:

Although it is now dark, I come seeking light.

In the chill of winter, I come seeking life.

  • Light the second candle, saying:

I call upon fire, that melts the snow and warms the hearth.

I call upon fire, that brings the light and makes new life.

I call upon fire to purify me with your flames.

  • Light the third candle. Say:

This light is a boundary, between positive and negative.

That which is outside, shall stay without.

That which is inside, shall stay within.

  • Light the fourth candle. Say:

I call upon fire, that melts the snow and warms the hearth.

I call upon fire, that brings the light and makes new life.

I call upon fire to purify me with your flames.

  • Light the fifth candle, saying:

Like fire, light and love will always grow.

Like fire, wisdom and inspiration will always grow.

  • Light the sixth candle, and say:

I call upon fire, that melts the snow and warms the hearth.

I call upon fire, that brings the light and makes new life.

I call upon fire to purify me with your flames.

  • Finally, light the last candle. As you do so, visualize the seven flames coming together as one. As the light builds, see the energy growing in a purifying glow.

Fire of the hearth, blaze of the sun,

cover me in your shining light.

I am awash in your glow, and tonight I am

made pure.

  • Take a few moments and meditate on the light of your candles. Think about this Sabbat, a time of healing and inspiration and purification. Do you have something damaged that needs to be healed? Are you feeling stagnant, for lack of inspiration? Is there some part of your life that feels toxic or tainted? Visualize the light as a warm, enveloping energy that wraps itself around you, healing your ailments, igniting the spark of creativity, and purifying that which is damaged.
  • When you are ready, end the ritual. You may choose to follow up with healing magic, or with a Cakes and Ale ceremony.
  • Initiation Ceremony for a New Seeker
    • Discussed in January’s lessons
  • Imbolc Prayers
    • The goddess Brighid is well known as a keeper of the hearth fires in the home. As such, she is often associated with matters of domesticity, including cooking and kitchen magic. If you’ve prepped a meal and you’re getting ready to dig in, take a moment to bless your food in Brighid’s name.

Brighid is the lady of flame,

the fire that cooks our food!

Hail to her and to the hearth,

and may our meal be good!

  • In some modern Pagan traditions, it is customary to offer a blessing before a meal, particularly if it’s being held in a ritual context. At Imbolc, it’s a season to honor Brighid, the goddess of hearth, home and domesticity. Celebrate her role as a goddess of the homefires, and offer this simple blessing of gratitude before your Imbolc feast.

This is the season of Brighid,

She who protects our hearth and home.

We honor her and thank her,

for keeping us warm as we eat this meal.

Great Lady, bless us and this food,

and protect us in your name.

  • Although Imbolc isn’t truly the end of winter–and depending on where you live, you might be right smack in the middle of the worst weather of the season–in many traditions, it is a time to look forward towards the spring. It’s a good time to honor the idea that the days are starting to grow a little bit longer and that soon, the harsh cold winter will be coming to an end. Feel free to hold off on this prayer until it’s a little more seasonally appropriate for your area.

The winter is coming to an end

The stores of food are dwindling,

And yet we eat, and stay warm

In the chilled winter months.

We are grateful for our good fortune,

And for the food before us.

  • The goddess Brighid was known by many names. In parts of northern Britain, she was called Brigantia, and was seen as a keeper of the forge. In this aspect, she is associated with smithcraft and cauldrons. She was connected to the Roman goddess Victoria, a deity who was the personification of victory in battle, as well as loyalty. In some legends she is invoked as Minerva, the warrior goddess. Although as Brigantia she is not nearly as famous as her Brighid aspect, she is seen as the goddess who bestowed the title of Brigantes upon a pan-Celtic tribe in England’s border region

Hail, Brigantia! Keeper of the forge,

she who shapes the world itself with fire,

she who ignites the spark of passion in the poets,

she who leads the clans with a warrior’s cry,

she who is the bride of the islands,

and who leads the fight of freedom.

Hail, Brigantia! Defender of kin and hearth,

she who inspires the bards to sing,

she who drives the smith to raise his hammer,

she who is a fire sweeping across the land.

  • Among her many other aspects, Brighid is the keeper of the flame, and this simple prayer honors her in that role.

Mighty Brighid, keeper of the flame,

blazing in the darkness of winter.

O goddess, we honor you, bringer of light,

healer, exalted one.

Bless us now, hearth mother,

that we may be as fruitful as the soil itself,

and our lives abundant and fertile.

  • In many modern Pagan traditions, Imbolc sabbat is a time to celebrate Brighid, the Celtic hearth goddess. Among her many other aspects, she is known as the Bride of Earth, and is the patroness of domesticity and home. This simple prayer honors her in that role.

Bride of the earth,

sister of the faeries,

daughter of the Tuatha de Danaan,

keeper of the eternal flame.

In autumn, the nights began to lengthen,

and the days grew shorter,

as the earth went to sleep.

Now, Brighid stokes her fire,

burning flames in the hearth,

bringing light back to us once more.

Winter is brief, but life is forever.

Brighid makes it so.

  • Alexander Carmichael was a folklorist and author who spent nearly five decades traveling around the highlands of Scotland collecting stories, prayers and songs. His most noteworthy work, the Carmina Gadelica, is an interesting blend of early Pagan tradition mixed with the influences of Christianity. Smooring the Fire is from Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica, published 1900, and is a Gaelic hymn to Brighid, honoring the tradition of smooring, or dampening, the hearth fire at night, and particularly on the night before Imbolc.

An Tri numh (The sacred Three)

A chumhnadh, (To save,)

A chomhnadh, (To shield,)

A chomraig (To surround)

An tula, (the hearth)

An taighe, (The house,)

An teaghlaich, (The household,)

An oidhche, (This eve,)

An nochd, (This night,)

O! an oidhche, (Oh! this eve,)

An nochd, (This night,)

Agus gach oidhche, (And every night,)

Gach aon oidhche. (Each single night.)

Amen.

  • Imbolc Cleansing Ritual Bath
    • As you run the bath, you’ll want to incorporate herbs that are associated with cleansing. The best way to do this is to tie herbs into a muslin cloth or bag, and hang it on the faucet so that the warm bathwater runs through it into the tub. Herbs associated with cleansing and purification include but are not limited to:
      • Sage
      • Chamomile
      • Cinnamon
      • Lemon Balm
      • Sandalwood
      • Lavender
      • Rosemary
      • Hyssop
      • Sweetgrass
      • Peppermint
    • Once you’ve filled the bath with warm water, running through the herbal mix, immerse yourself in the tub. Make sure you’re completely relaxed–for some people, this may take a few minutes, but that’s okay. Try to clear your mind completely. Focus on the warmth enveloping your body. Breathe deeply, taking in the scents of the herbal oils in the water. If you’ve got music playing, allow your mind to wander wherever the music may take you–a sandy beach, a forest glade, wherever. Close your eyes, and become attuned to the rhythms of your own body.
    • Visualize, for a moment, all the negative energy in your body. As you focus on this, imagine it being swept out of your body, bit by bit, one particle at a time, through the pores of your skin. See it being released from your body, and diluted into the water. While the negative energy is leaving your body, think about how rejuvenating the bath is. See your body, your spirit, your soul being cleansed and purified by the herbs and the water.
    • When you feel ready, stand up and get out of the tub. After you’ve gotten out of the water, release the plug so that all the negativity absorbed by the water can be drained away.
    • Important note: if you only have a shower stall, and not a bathtub–or if you just don’t have time for a long bath–you can do this cleansing rite as a shower. Hang the cloth bag of herbs over the showerhead, so the herbal water runs over your body while you shower.
  • Imbolc House Cleansing Ceremony
    • First, do a complete physical cleaning of your house. Put on some music and thoroughly clean every room, top to bottom. Strip sheets off the beds, turn the mattresses, dust every surface, and vacuum every floor. Sort through those piles of paper on your desk, and get rid of things you don’t need to keep; file everything else. Gather up the kids’ toys and put them in baskets for easy storage. If you need to get rid of things, do it now–set aside a box for charity and put gently used items in it. Set aside another box for trash, and see if you can fill it up!
    • Once your house is clean–and this assumes you did the kitchen as well–it’s time to have some fun. Call up some friends and invite them over for a potluck. Cook up some Imbolc-themed comfort foods, such as Braided Bread or Beer Battered Fish & Chips, and have a small potluck celebration. Ask each guest to bring a small token to bless your house — pebbles, shells, interesting bits of wood, beads, etc.
    • You’ll also need the following:
      • A bowl of water
      • Some sea salt
      • A smudging bundle of sage or sweetgrass
      • A blue candle
      • Some Blessing Oil
      • A bowl or bag
    • Begin at the front door–it is, after all, where you welcome guests into your home–and go through the house in a sunwise direction (clockwise). Ask your guests to help you by smudging the perimeter of each room with the salt, sage, candle flame and water. You may wish to say some sort of incantation as they do this, something like:

With the purifying power of water,

with the clean breath of air,

with the passionate heat of fire,

with the grounding energy of earth

we cleanse this space.

  • As you pass from room to room, anoint each door and windowsill with the Blessing Oil by tracing the shape of a pentagram or other symbol of your tradition. This prevents anything negative from crossing into the home. If you like, you can offer a small incantation as you do this, something like:

May the goddess bless this home,

making it sacred and pure,

so that nothing but love and joy

shall enter through this door.

  • Finally, once you’ve gone through the house, ask each of your guests to deposit their blessing token in your bowl or bag. Keep it in a place of honor in your home — on the mantel or in your kitchen is a good idea. Gather around the dinner table, break out the goodies, and enjoy a feast with your friends and family!
  • Fire Scrying Ritual
    • Light your fire (or candle, if that’s what you’re using) and take some time to watch it. Let the flames grow taller and bolder and brighter, as each bit of kindling catches fire. Breathe deeply and evenly, allowing yourself to relax and become comfortable as the fire blazes. When you have a good strong fire going, focus your vision on the center of the dancing flames. Don’t worry about staring too hard, just rest your eyesight wherever is the most comfortable.
    • Draw the energy of the flames toward you, allowing yourself to feel their power. It can heal or harm, create or destroy. Fire is associated with strong will and power.
    • Watch as the fire flickers and flashes. Do you see images in the flames? Some people see clear images, while others see shapes in the shadows, mere hints of what is within. Look for images that seem familiar or for those that may repeat in a pattern.
    • Do you hear sounds as you watch the fire? You may hear the crackling of wood, the roar of larger flames, the snapping of embers. Some people report hearing faint voices singing or speaking in the fire.
    • Thoughts and ideas may pop into your head, seemingly unrelated to anything you see or hear. Be sure to use your notepad or journal so you can write these things down for future exploration. Spend as much time as you like watching the fire — once you start to get uncomfortable or fidgety, it’s time to wrap things up.
    • Messages often come to us from other realms and yet we frequently don’t recognize them. If a bit of information doesn’t make sense, don’t worry — sit on it for a few days and let your unconscious mind process it. Chances are, it will make sense eventually. It’s also possible that you could receive a message that’s meant for someone else — if something doesn’t seem to apply to you, think about your circle of friends, and who it might be meant for.
    • When you’re ready to end your scrying session, take a few moments to just relax, looking away from the fire. You may feel a high sense of energy, or an unusual sensation of clarity — if you do, don’t worry, that’s not uncommon.
    • You can either leave the fire burning, if it will be safe to do so, or you can extinguish it yourself.
    • Be sure to review your notes later, so you can reflect on the things you’ve seen. If you scry regularly, get in the habit of comparing notes from one session to the next, to see if there are messages or images that appear often.
  • Love Magic
    • In some traditions of hoodoo and rootwork, those in love are advised to obtain a piece of their intended’s hair. Wrap it in a piece of cloth and then carry the cloth in your shoe, and you will attract the person’s love.
    • Many magical traditions encourage the use of bodily fluids to attract a person you’re in love with. Like many magical customs, if this goes against your personal code of ethics, then you may want to skip it.
    • In many European countries, apples are considered a great form of love divination. By using the peels, the seeds, and even a few chunks, you can tell a lot about the identity of a potential lover!
    • Animal parts were popular in love potions of days gone by. During England’s medieval period, girls were encouraged to make a liquid including–among other things–hare’s kidney, a swallow’s womb, and a dove’s heart. Blood and wine was added to make it drinkable 
    • Make a love magic bag. Create a small drawstring pouch out of fabric–preferably a piece of your lover’s clothing. Fill it with cinnamon, rosemary, and a piece of rose quartz. Add a magical link of some sort to the person you’re in love with. Wear the bag around your neck or carry it in your pocket, and it will attract the person to you.
    • Some folk magic traditions call for a woman to grind up a piece of her own hair or fingernail clippings into a fine powder, and then brew it into the tea or coffee of the man she is in love with. This will draw him to her.
    • REMEMBER TO NEVER INTERFERE WITH A PERSON’S FREE WILL
  • Lithomancy–Divination by Stones
    • By creating a set of stones with symbols that are significant to you, you can make your own divinatory tool to use for guidance and inspiration. The instructions below are for a simple set using a group of thirteen stones. You can change any of them you like to make the set more readable for you, or you can add to or subtract any of the symbols you wish–it’s your set, so make it as personal as you like.
    • You’ll need the following:
      • Thirteen stones of similar shapes and sizes
      • Paint
      • A square of cloth about a foot square
    • We’re going to designate each stone as being representative of the following:
      • 1. The Sun, to represent power, energy, and life.
      • 2. The Moon, symbolizing inspiration, psychic ability, and intuition.
      • 3. Saturn, associated with longevity, protection, and purification.
      • 4. Venus, which is connected to love, fidelity, and happiness.
      • 5. Mercury, which is often associated to intelligence, self-improvement, and the overcoming of bad habits.
      • 6. Mars, to represent courage, defensive magic, battle, and conflict.
      • 7. Jupiter, symbolizing money, justice, and prosperity.
      • 8. Earth, representative of security of home, family, and friends.
      • 9. Air, to show your wishes, hopes, dreams, and inspiration.
      • 10. Fire, which is associated with passion, willpower, and outside influences.
      • 11. Water, a symbol of compassion, reconciliation, healing, and cleansing.
      • 12. Spirit, tied to the needs of the self, as well as communication with the Divine.
      • 13. The Universe, which shows us our place in the grand scheme of things, on a cosmic level.
    • Mark each stone with a symbol that indicates to you what the stone will represent. You can use astrological symbols for the planetary stones, and other symbols to signify the four elements. You may want to consecrate your stones, once you’ve created them, as you would any other important magical tool. 
    • Place the stones within the cloth and tie it shut, forming a bag. To interpret messages from the stones, the simplest way is to draw three stones at random. Place them in front of you, and see what messages they send. Some people prefer to use a pre-marked board, such as a spirit board or even a Ouija board. The stones are then cast onto the board, and their meanings are determined not only by where they land, but their proximity to other stones. For beginners, it may be easier to simply draw your stones from a bag.
    • Like reading Tarot cards, and other forms of divination, much of lithomancy is intuitive, rather than specific. Use the stones as a meditation tool, and focus on them as a guide. As you become more familiar with your stones, and their meanings, you’ll find yourself better able to interpret their messages.

Crafts for Imbolic

  • DIY Fire Starter
    • Brighid is a goddess of fire, but let’s face it–sometimes getting a fire lit on a chilly, windy winter evening can be tricky. Put together a batch of simple fire starters to keep on hand, and you’ll be able to get a blaze going at any time!
      • A cardboard egg carton
      • Drier lint
      • Paraffin wax
    • Heat the paraffin wax in a double boiler. While it is melting, roll the drier lint into balls and stuff it into the cups of the cardboard egg carton. Squash it down so that you still have cardboard above the top of the lint ball. Pour the melted paraffin wax over the top of the lint-filled cardboard pockets. Allow to cool and harden. Cut the egg carton into separate cups, giving you twelve fire starters. When it’s time to start your fire, simply light one corner of a cardboard cup. The paraffin and lint will catch fire, and burn long enough to get your kindling going.
    • For another popular method–one that will seem familiar if you’ve had a kid involved in scouting–use a flat, short can, like a tuna can. Take a long strip of cardboard about an inch wide, and roll it into a spiral and then place it inside the can. Pour melted paraffin over it, and once it cools and hardens, you’ve got an easy-to-transport fire starter that you can take with you anywhere.
  • Ice Candles and Lanterns
    • Ice candles are a lot of fun and easy to make during the winter months. Since February is traditionally a snow-filled time, at least in the northern hemisphere, why not make some ice candles to celebrate Imbolc, which is a day of candles and light?
    • You’ll need the following:
      • Ice
      • Paraffin wax
      • Color and scent (optional)
      • A taper candle
      • A cardboard container, like a milk carton
      • A double boiler, or two pans
    • Melt the paraffin wax in the double boiler. Make sure that the wax is never placed directly over the heat, or you could end up with a fire. While the wax is melting, you can prepare your candle mold. If you want to add color or scent to your candle, this is the time to add it to the melted wax. Place the taper candle into the center of the cardboard carton. Fill the carton with ice, packing them loosely around the taper candle. Use small chunks of ice—if they’re too large, your candle will be nothing but big holes.
    • Once the wax has melted completely, pour it into the container carefully, making sure that it goes around the ice evenly. As the hot wax pours in, it will melt the ice, leaving small holes in the candle. Allow the candle to cool, and then poke a hole in the bottom of the cardboard carton so the melted water can drain out (it’s a good idea to do this over a sink). Let the candle sit overnight so the wax can harden completely, and in the morning, peel back all of the cardboard container. You’ll have a complete ice candle, which you can use in ritual or for decoration.
    • Don’t have any wax lying around? Pour some water into a container, place a candle inside it so that the top of the candle and wick are above the surface, and let it freeze. Then peel away the container to give yourself a lantern of ice with a candle right in the center!
  • Brighid Corn Doll
    • In one of her many aspects, Brighid is known as the bride. She is a symbol of fertility and good fortune, and is seen as yet one more step in the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Traditionally, the Brighid doll is made of woven grain such as oats or wheat. This version, however, uses corn husks.
    • If you make a doll at Lughnasadh, you can re-use it in six months, dressing it up in spring colors for Imbolc. This way, the Harvest Mother becomes the Spring Bride. Some traditions, however, prefer not to re-use their harvest doll, and instead choose to start fresh and new in the spring. Either way is fine.
    • To make this simple doll, you’ll need some corn husks—and clearly, in January or February, you probably won’t be able to find a lot of those growing outside. Check your grocery store’s produce section to get husks. If you’re using dried-out husks, soak them for a couple of hours to soften them up (fresh husks need no special preparation). You’ll also need some yarn or ribbon, and a few cotton balls.
    • Take a strip of the husk, and fold it in half. Place two or three cotton balls in the middle, and then twist the husk, tying it with string to make a head. Leave a bit of husk in the front and back, below the head, to create a torso. Make a pair of arms for your doll by folding a couple of husks in half, and then tying it at the ends to make hands. Slip the arms between the husks that form the torso, and tie off at the waist. If you like your dolls plump, slide an extra cotton ball or two in there to give your Brighid a bit of shape.
    • Arrange a few more husks, upside down, around the doll’s waist. Overlap them slightly, and then tie them in place with yarn—it should look like she has her skirt up over her face. After you’ve tied the waist, carefully fold the husks down, so now her skirt comes downwards, towards where her feet would be. Trim the hem of the skirt so it’s even, and let your doll completely dry.
    • Once your doll has dried, you can leave her plain or give her a face and some hair (use soft yarn). Some people go all out decorating their bride doll—you can add clothing, an apron, beadwork, whatever your imagination can create.
    • Place your Brighid in a place of honor in your home for Imbolc, near your hearth or in the kitchen if possible. By inviting her into your home, you are welcoming Brighid and all the fertility and abundance she may bring with her.
  • Brighid Bed
    • One of the things many people find most appealing about modern Paganism is that the deities are not distant entities who never interact with those who honor them. Instead, they drop in on us regularly, and Brighid is no exception. To show hospitality to her on Imbolc, her day of honor, you can make a bed for Brighid to lie in. Place it in a position of comfort, as you would for any visitor. Near your hearthfire is a good spot—if you don’t have a fire burning, in the kitchen near the stove is equally welcoming.
    • The Brighid’s bed is simple to make—you’ll need a small box or basket. If you want to keep things basic, just line it with a towel or a folded blanket (receiving blankets are perfect for this). If you want to put a little more effort in, stitch up a “mattress” by sewing two rectangles of fabric together, and stuffing them with down or fiberfill. Place this in the basket, and make a pillow in the same manner. Finally, place a warm blanket over the top, and put the bed near your hearth fire.
    • If you’ve made a Brighid doll, even better! Place her in the bed before you go to sleep at night. If you don’t have a Brighid doll and don’t wish to make one, you can use a broom or besom to represent Brighid instead. After all, the broom is an old symbol of female power and the fertility that Brighid represents.
    • If you want to bring fertility and abundance into your home this year, make sure Brighid doesn’t get lonely in her bed. Place a Priapic wand in there with her to represent the god of your tradition. Remember, fertility doesn’t just mean sexuality. It also applies for financial gain and other abundance.
    • Once Brighid is in her bed, you can gather around the hearth fire with your family, and welcome your guest with the traditional greeting, spoken three times:

Brighid is come, Brighid is welcome!

  • Leave candles burning beside Brighid throughout the night—place them in a dish of sand or dirt for safety considerations. If you need inspiration in a matter, or wish to work some divinatory magic, stay up throughout the night and meditate, asking Brighid for guidance.
  • If you’re trying to conceive a child, place the wand across Brighid in an X shape. This forms the rune “gifu,” which means “gift.” Another option is to place nuts and seeds in the Brighid’s bed as well.
  • Brighid Cross
  • The cross has long been a symbol of Brighid, the Irish goddess who presides over hearth and home. In some legends, the girl who became St. Bridget wove the first of these crosses as she explained Christianity to her father, a Pictish chieftain. In other stories, the cross is not a cross at all, but a wheel of fire, which explains why it’s a bit off-center in appearance. In parts of Ireland, Brighid is known as a goddess of the crossroads, and this symbol represents the place where two worlds meet, and the year is at a crossroads between light and dark.
  • In Ireland, homes traditionally had a hearth in the center of the house. This was where much of the household activity took place—cooking, washing, socializing—because it was a source of both light and warmth. A Brighid’s Cross was hung over the hearth as a way of honoring Brighid at Imbolc. Most people today have multiple sources of heat and light, but because Brighid is a domestic sort of goddess, you may want to hang your Brighid’s Cross over the stove in your kitchen. A Brighid’s Cross hung over a hearth traditionally protected a home from disasters such as lightning, storms, or floods, as well as keeping family members safe from illness.
  • While these can be purchased in many Irish craft shops or at festivals, it’s actually pretty easy to make your own. You can incorporate the creation of your Brighid’s Cross into your Imbolc rituals, use it as a meditative exercise, or just put one together with your kids as a fun craft activity.
  • To make your Brighid’s Cross, you’ll need straw, reeds, or construction paper—if you’re using plant material like straw or reeds, you’ll want to soak it overnight so it’s pliable when you go to make your Cross. Your end result will be about the length of one piece of your material—in other words, a bundle of 12″ reeds will yield a Brighid’s Cross just slightly longer than 12″. For a super-easy, kid-friendly edition of this project, use pipe cleaners.
  • Once you’ve completed your cross, it’s ready to hang up anywhere in your home, to welcome Brighid into your life.
  • Brighid Floral Crown
    • Brighid is the goddess who reminds us that spring is around the corner. She watches over hearth and home, and this craft project combines her position as firekeeper with that of fertility goddess. Make this crown as an altar decoration, or leave off the candles and hang it on your door for Imbolc. You’ll need the following supplies:
      • A circular wreath frame, either of straw or grapevine
      • Winter evergreens, such as pine, fir or holly
      • Spring flowers, such as forsythia, dandelions, crocus, snowbulbs
      • Red, silver and white ribbons
      • Optional: Candles at least 4″ long—tapers are perfect for this – or battery operated lights
      • A hot glue gun
    • Place the wreath form on a flat surface. Using the hot glue gun, attach the candles around the circle. Next, attach a mixture of winter greenery and spring flowers to the wreath. Blend them together to represent the transition between winter and spring. Make it as thick and lush as you can, weaving in and around the candles.
    • Wrap the ribbons around the wreath, weaving between the candles. Leave some excess ribbons hanging off, if you plan to hang this on your door or a wall, and then braid it or tie in a bow. If you’re using it on an altar, light the candles during rituals to honor Brighid.
  • Priapic Wand
    • Priapus was a god of fertility, and was always depicted with an erect phallus. In some traditions of Paganism and Wicca, a Priapic wand—phallus-like in appearance—is made, and used in ritual to bring forth the new growth of spring. You can easily make one out of a few outside supplies and some bells. This is a simple project for children as well, and they can go outside at Imbolc and shake the bells at the ground and the trees, calling for spring’s return.
    • First, you’ll need the following items:
      • A stick
      • An acorn
      • Craft glue (hot glue works fine as well)
      • Ribbons or yarn in brown, green, yellow, and gold
      • Small bells (get little jingle bells at your local craft store)
    • Strip the bark from the stick, and create a small notch on one end. Glue the acorn to the end of the stick. When the glue is dry, wrap the stick in the ribbons or yarn beginning at the acorn—leave extra ribbon at the end to hang down like streamers. Tie the bells on to the end of the streamers. 
    • Use the wand by going outside around the time of Imbolc. Explain to children that the wand symbolizes the god of the forest, or whatever fertility god exists in your tradition. Show them how to shake the bells, pointing the wand at the ground and trees, in order to wake the sleeping plants within the earth. If you like, they can say an incantation as they do so, like:

Wake, wake, plants in the earth,

spring is a time of light and rebirth.

Hear, hear this magical sound,

and grow, grow, out of the ground.

  • Imbolic Oil
    • Use 1/8 Cup base oil of your choice. Add the following:
      • 3 drops Ginger
      • 2 drops Clove
      • 1 drop Rosemary (you can, alternatively, use a sprig of fresh rosemary instead)
      • 1 drop Cypress
    • As you blend the oils, visualize what the Imbolc season means to you, and take in the aroma of the oils. Know that this oil is sacred and magical. Label, date, and store in a cool, dark place.

Imbolic Recipes

Brighid’s seeded Hummus

  • Ingredients
    • 2 tbs sesame seeds
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 2 tbs olive oil
    • 2 tbs plain, nonfat yogurt
    • ½ tsp ground cumin
    • ¼ ground cayenne pepper
    • 1 (15oz.) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
    • Dash of salt
  • In a 6-8 in. Skillet over medium heat, stir the sesame seeds until golden, about 5 minutes.
  • In a blender or food processor, combine sesame seeds, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, yogurt, cumin, ground cayenne pepper, and garbanzo beans. Whirl until smooth, scraping the sides often.
  • Season with salt.
  • Transfer to a bowl that saves food well. Hummus can be stored in the fridge for up to a month

Cupid’s Cold Slaw

  • Ingredients
    • Dressing
      • 2 tbs granulated sugar
      • 2 tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
      • 1 tbs fish sauce
      • 1 tsp sesame oil
      • ½ tsp fresh grated ginger
      • ¼ tsp red or black pepper
    • Slaw
      • 4 cups chinese cabbage, sliced
      • ½ cup snow peas, trimmed and cut lengthwise into strips
      • ½ cup fresh bean sprouts
      • ½ cup jicama, peeled and julienned
      • 2 tbs green onions, thinly sliced
      • 2 tbs fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • To make the Dressing:
    • In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, sesame oil, ginger and pepper.
  • In a large bowl, combine cabbage and remaining ingredients.
  • Add dressing to large bowl and mix well.
  • Chill for 30 minutes.

Brighid’s Magical Bread

  • Makes 1 loaf; 6 servings
  • Ingredients:
    • 1 (¼ oz) package active dry yeast
    • 1 ¼ cup plus 2 tbs water
    • ⅓ cup honey
    • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
    • ⅓ cup chopped red rose petals
    • 2 tbs poppy seeds
    • ½ cup vegetable oil (Optional)
  • Preheat oven to 375°
  • Blend yeast, water, and honey. Let stand 5-10 minutes until foaming.
  • Mix in flour, rose petals, poppy seeds, and oil or other ingredients and knead. Add additional flour if dough sticks to the sides of the bowl
  • Mould the dough into a ball. Cover with cloth for 1 hour. Punch down dough in center and knead for approximately 5 minutes.
  • Place dough in greased loaf pan for about an hour until doubled. Bake 35-40 minutes.

Blood Orange Mahi Mahi

  • Serves 2
  • Ingredients:
    • 1 blood orange
    • ½ cup avocado, cubed
    • ⅓ cup chopped red onion
    • 1 tsp cilantro, chopped
    • 2 tsps red jalapeno, minced
    • 2 tsps freshly squeezed lime juice
    • Salt and pepper
    • 2 tsps olive oil
    • 2 (6oz) fresh mahi mahi fillets
    • 2 tbs Cotija cheese, crumbled
  • Peel orange, separate fruit into segments and place in a bowl. Add avocade, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice. Season with salt and stir gently. 
  • Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. 
  • Add fish to skillet and saute until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes each side. 
  • Plate the mahi mahi, spoon the salsa over the fish, sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Imbolic Moon Cookies

  • Makes about 5 dozen
  • Icing
    • 2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 ½ tbsp water
  • Cookie Dough
    • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla or peppermint extract
    • 2 tsps grated lemon peel
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 ½ cups ground walnuts
    • 1 cup butter
  • To make Icing, combine confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and water, mixing well until blended. Thin the icing with additional drops of water if glaze is too thick.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°.
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract until fluffy and light. Mix the lemon peel, salt, flour, and walnuts in a bowl. 
  • In increments, add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar. Mix until well blended. Cover and chill thoroughly for at least 2 hours.
  • When dough is chilled, roll it to the thickness of ⅛ inch and cut with crescent moon cookie cutter. *If you don’t have a crescent moon, you can use a circular cutter, make a curve, roll the excess dough and repeat*
  • Place cookies ½ in apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes.
  • After baking, allow cookies to stand for 5 minutes. Spread icing over tops of cookies while they are still warm.

Valentine’s Chocolate

  • Serves 4-6
  • Ingredients:
    • 4 ½ cups milk
    • 4 oz semi sweet chocolate
    • 5 tbsps granulated sugar
    • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
    • ½ tsp vanilla extract
    • ⅛ tsp allspice
    • 1 oz peppermint schnapps or whiskey
    • 4-6 sticks of cinnamon, for garnish
  • In a large saucepan, combine milk, chocolate, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, allspice, and alcohol.
  • Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  • Beat the mixture until it stops boiling and become slightly frothy.
  • Serve in mugs and garnish with cinnamon sticks
  • *This drink can be made without alcohol. Use 1 tsp of peppermint flavoring instead of schnapps or whiskey*

Divinely Spiced WIne

  • Serves 10-12
  • Ingredients:
    • 4 cups red grape juice
    • 6 cups red wine
    • 2-3 sticks cinnamon
    • ½ tbsp whole cloves
    • ½ tsp allspice
    • 1 tsp ground cardamom
    • ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • In a large saucepan, combine juice and wine. Add the spices and brown sugar and bring to a boil.
  • Decrease hat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Adjust the sweetness according to your own personal taste by adding more sugar.

Around the World – Part 5: Krampus

Every year in early December, children in Austria get ready for St. Nicholas to visit them. If they’ve been good, he’ll reward them with presents and treats. But if they’ve been bad, they’ll get a lot more than a lump of coal—they’ll have to face Krampus.

Who’s Krampus, you ask? He’s the half-man, half-goat who comes around every year to chase naughty children and maybe even drag them to hell. European versions of St. Nicholas have long had scary counterparts like Belsnickle and Knecht Ruprecht who dole out punishment. Krampus is one such character who comes from folklore in Austria’s Alpine region, where he’s been frightening children and amusing adults for hundreds of years.

Krampus and St. Nick’s other bad boys have their origins in pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Later, they became part of Christian traditions in which St. Nicholas visited children to reward them on December 5 or 6. Around that time, his menacing partner would also visit kids to punish them. In Alpine Austria and some parts of Germany, this day was known as Krampusnacht, or “Krampus night,” when adults might dress up as Krampus to frighten children at their homes.

Children might have also seen Krampus running through the street during a Krampuslauf—literally, a “Krampus run.” If Krampusnacht was a way to scare kids into behaving themselves, the Krampuslauf, which isn’t tied to a specific day, was a way for grown men to blow off steam while probably still scaring kids. Austrian men would get drunk and run through the streets dressed as the fearsome creature. Like Krampusnacht, the Krampuslauf tradition continues to the present day.

The introduction of mass visual media couldn’t help but sweep the charismatic Krampus up in its wave. When the postcard industry experienced a boom in Germany and Austria in the 1890s, it opened the way for Krampuskarten.

These holiday cards weren’t mean to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Ones marked “Gruss vom Krampus” (“Greetings from Krampus”) showed Krampus stuffing a distressed child into his satchel or preparing to hit one with his bundle of birch sticks. Many of these postcards depicted Krampus going after children with his sticks, leading them away in chains, or carrying them off in his bag.

There were also cards that were a little more…adult. Krampus cards in the early 20th century show him punishing children, yes, but also proposing to women. In some cards, Krampus is portrayed as a large woman whipping tiny men with her birch sticks and carrying them off in her satchel. In another, a smiling woman dangles a defeated-looking Krampus in the air, holding his bundle of birch sticks behind her back. You can draw your own conclusions about the gender politics in these.

For over a century, most Americans probably never saw a Krampus card or even knew who Krampus was. That changed in 2004, when art director and graphic designer Monte Beauchamp published a book of Krampus cards and helped organize an art show inspired by the cards.

Around the World – Part 4: La Befana

In Italian folklore, La Befana is a witch who brings good children treats on the morning of the Epiphany, January 6. But if you were bad, look out – you may wake up to a lump of coal.

We know. Familiar, right? Does she say, “Ho ho ho,” and associate with red-nosed reindeer, too?

Think again: La Befana has been flying around the world on her tattered broomstick to swoop down chimneys and deliver sweet or sooty judgment on girls and boys long before Kris Kringle could so much as grow a goatee. The witch has been in the Italian tradition at least since the eighth century, as part of the Epiphany.

In Italy, the Epiphany marks the official end of the Christmas season, commemorating the day when the three Wise Men arrived at the manger bearing gifts. Every year, the occasion is celebrated with living nativity scenes, a great procession through the city center, and — most exciting for the sweet tooths among us — the arrival of La Befana.

According to the story, the four figures’ fates were intertwined when the Magi happened upon La Befana early on during their quest. She charitably hosted them for an evening in her humble but cozy cottage; the next morning, they invited her to accompany them to Bethlehem. Busy cleaning her home, La Befana declined at first – but then, after they carried on their way – she had second thoughts. She quickly filled a basket with gifts for the baby Jesus and set off alone. Although she followed the same star, she was unable to find the manger before the Wise Men did on January 6, the Epiphany.

Today, La Befana continues to travel the world on Epiphany Eve, searching every house for the child and leaving candies and chocolates for the good children – just coal for the bad – in her wake. At Eataly, we are celebrating her arrival with panettone and pandoro, the traditional Italian holiday cakes, and other sweet treats.

https://www.eataly.com/us_en/magazine/culture/legend-la-befana/

Around the World – Part 3: Mari Lwyd

Mari Lwyd is a tradition that appears around December to mid January – Welsh old new year – surrounding an ancient horse ritual. As this tradition evolves into the 21st century, the importance of keeping the original message of old true has become an important part of Welsh education. With generational storytelling and many potential origins, the story continues to be a mystery but brings joy and optimism for the future every year. 

What is Mari Lwyd? 

Mari Lwyd is a tradition in which a horse skull is draped in bells, ruins and coloured ribbons. Each year the Mari Lwyd would be taken from house to house asking for entry via song. The Mari Lwyd would be accompanied by it’s merrymen who would join in song and play fiddles, this was normally accompanied by a Punch and Judy show. 

Similarities can be drawn between the styling of the travelling Mari Lwyd and a hobby horse. The old tradition uses real horse skulls which communities find from their local farmers. More modern approaches with the inclusion of children have now resulted in depictions of the Mari Lwyd made from cardboard and paper. A simple white sheet is used for the body, whilst the decorations vary from community to village to individual approaches. No two Mari Lwyd’s are the same and they’re added to each year with more decorative embellishments. 

What does Mari Lwyd do? 

The Mari Lwyd would try and gain entry to houses via song. The merrymen would explain why they needed to enter and the occupant of the house would sing why they can’t be let in. This would go back and forth until the occupant didn’t have any more reasons to not let them in. When inside, Mari Lwyd and the Merrymen would eat food and drink ale. When leaving the Mari Lwyd would wish everyone a happy new year. 

To see the Mari Lwyd approaching a home, Inn or pub is to be seen already as good luck. Many owners still welcome the tradition, even though they initially have to deny her entry. It’s seen as a blessing to witness the movement and to be a part of the songs. She brings an air of optimism for a positive and fortuitous new year. 

What does Mari Lwyd mean and where did it originate from? 

The name Mari Lwyd translates to Grey Mare, Grey Mane or Grey Mary. Thought to have originated from Celtic Mythology, the pale horse is thought to be able to pass to the underworld.

The underlying thoughts for if Mari Lwyd was Grey Mary, is pre-Christian or Pagan. Supposedly, the horse was in foal and moved out of the stables to allow Mary and Joseph to have shelter. This horse then spent days trying to find somewhere safe to give birth. Potentially this is where the looming fear emanates from, a mother trying to protect her foal. 

It’s more literal interpretation of Grey Mare or Grey Mane both are directly associated to it’s colouring. Often horses of pale, white coats are referred to as ‘greys’. Most commonly born with brown or black coats, some horses colouring changes over time and gradually turns white. Not only a colour that appears ethereal in a ghostly shape, but also one that shows a sign of age. Seen as a sign of hope through the darkest Welsh months, the colouring is also a visual portrayal of Mari Lwyd’s wisdom. 

What is the symbolism of Mari Lwyd? 

The symbolism of Mari Lwyd remains of great importance. When reinventing the tradition, intriguing variations occur, but the symbolism remains the same. Horse’s skulls are painted with ancient runic symbols from Celtic past. Sometimes the horse’s eyes are filled with baubles and the mane is plaited with ribbons or made from evergreen plants. A white cloth covers the actor who animates the elaborate and often mischievous character. 

The first known written documentation of Mari Lwyd was in 1800 by J’ Evans, in his book ‘A Tour Through Part of North Wales’. The origin of the tradition remains a mystery. Links have been made to other British customs in which the poor were using hooded animal characters to make entertainment to try and raise money. Between the 1930’s and 1960’s the tradition started to disappear, however it was revived by Llantrisant Folk Club later in the century and a family in Llangwynyd have reached their third generation of hosting the Mari Lwyd at their Inn. 

Why is it important for the story to remain in the 21st Century and how is it depicted in the modern day? 

The historic tale with its various potential origins remains a mystery, but nevertheless, the intriguing nature brings a sense of joy. The concept of having such rich heritage makes these types of stories even more essential that they stay current and relevant. Mari Lwyd still appears visiting homes and pubs to bring luck to its occupants into the new year. Although perceived initially as a troubling tale, the metaphors of love, protection and optimism remain stronger. 

As the tradition passes through into the 21st century, to keep the story alive it’s still commonly depicted by a horse’s skull on a stick followed by a group of people playing music. Many groups and communities exist amongst different villages continuing the story and the Mari Lwyd is met with delight, raising spirits on it’s way. 

The organisation of these communities is still diminishing, however the troops who continue to keep the story alive do so in a positive community building way. In more recent years Trac,

Wales’ Folk Development Organisation, worked to gain funding to continue educating younger generations in schools. With funding gained from the Heritage National Lottery and Arts Council Wales, David Pitt was commissioned to create a flat pack horse’s skull that could be taken around the county to teach and develop activities. Historian Rhiannon Ifans was also commissioned to write the accompanying booklet to educate the children on the story. With music being an important part of the tradition, children are also encouraged to follow their creation whilst playing musical instruments, just as they would see in their local villages. 

As the tradition continues to stay alive, children begin seeing Mari Lwyd as part of their history that they don’t need to be afraid of. More events have started to include this character, like midwinter events, lantern festivals and wassails. The Mari Lwyd continues to bring joy and luck to villages all across the county. The story is brought to life by actors and musicians. The more education brought to younger generations, the longer the tradition will remain as part of Wales’ heritage.

https://rhinwedd.cymru/blogs/news/the-story-of-mari-lwyd

Around the World Part 2 – Spiders in the Ukraine

There once was a widow who lived in a cramped old hut. She lived with her children. Outside their home was a tall pine tree. From the tree dropped a pine cone that soon started to grow from the soil.

The children were excited about the prospect of having a Christmas tree, and so they tended to it, ensuring that it would continue to grow and be strong until it became tall enough to be a Christmas tree to take inside their home.

Unfortunately, the family was poor and even though they had a Christmas tree, they couldn’t afford to decorate it with ornaments for Christmas. And so on Christmas eve, the widow and her children went to bed knowing that they would have a bare Christmas tree on Christmas morning.

The spiders in the hut heard the sobs of the children and sad cries, and decided they would not leave the Christmas tree bare.

So the spiders created beautiful webs on the Christmas tree, decorating it with elegant and beautiful silky patterns.

When the children woke up early on Christmas morning they were jumping for excitement. They went to their mother and woke her up. “Mother, you have to come see the Christmas tree. It’s so beautiful!”

As the mother woke and stood in front of the tree, she was truly amazed at the sight that lay before her eyes.

One of the children opened up the window as the sun was shining. The sun would slide along the floor and slowly glide up the Christmas tree and onto the webs. As the rays of the sun shone on the tree, the webs turned into glittering silver and gold colour; making the Christmas tree dazzle and sparkle with a magical twinkle.

From that day forward the widow never felt poor, instead she was always grateful for all the wonderful gifts she already had in life.

Spider Webs Can Bring Good Fortune for the New Year

This is why you will see Ukrainians decorate their Christmas tree with a spider web. It’s believed that the webs will bring good fortune and luck for the upcoming year.

Around the World Part 1 – The Yule Lads of Iceland

Icelandic children get to enjoy the favors on not one but 13 Father Christmases. Called the Yule Lads, these merry but mischievous fellows take turns visiting kids on the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. On each of those nights, children place one of their shoes on the windowsill. For good boys and girls, the Yule Lad will leave candy. If not, the Yule Lads are not subtle in expressing their disapproval: they fill the shoe with rotting potatoes.

Don’t think well-behaved Icelandic kids have a sweet deal all around, however. They may enjoy 13 Santa Claus-like visits, but they also have to contend with a creature called Grýla who comes down from the mountains on Christmas and boils naughty children alive, and a giant, blood-thirsty black kitty called the Christmas Cat that prowls around the country on Christmas Eve and eats anyone who’s not wearing at least one new piece of clothing.

Apparently, the Yule Lads used to be a lot more creepy then they are today, too, but in 1746 parents were officially banned from tormenting their kids with monster stories about those particular creatures. Today, they’re mostly benign–save for the harmless tricks they like to play.

Like Snow White’s seven dwarves, each of the Yule Lads has his own distinct personality. Their names, however, remained a point of much interpretation and debate until recently.

Today, as the Museum describes, the Yule lads are: 

Sheep-Cote Clod: He tries to suckle yews in farmer’s sheep sheds

Gully Gawk: He steals foam from buckets of cow milk

Stubby: He’s short and steals food from frying pans

Spoon Licker: He licks spoons

Pot Scraper, aka Pot Licker: He steals unwashed pots and licks them clean 

Bowl Licker: He steals bowls of food from under the bed (back in the old days, Icelanders used to sometimes store bowls of food there – convenient for midnight snacking?)

Door Slammer: He stomps around and slams doors, keeping everyone awake 

Skyr Gobbler: He eats up all the Icelandic yogurt (skyr)

Sausage Swiper: He loves stolen sausages 

Window Peeper: He likes to creep outside windows and sometimes steal the stuff he sees inside

Door Sniffer: He has a huge nose and an insatiable appetite for stolen baked goods

Meat Hook: He snatches up any meat left out, especially smoked lamb 

Candle Beggar: He steals candles, which used to be sought-after items in Iceland<

More from Smithsonian.com:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/meet-the-thirteen-yule-lads-icelands-own-mischievous-santa-clauses-180948162/

One of the things that makes Christmas in Iceland very different from most other Western countries is the absence of a Santa Claus: In his place we have 13 Yule lads.

The Yule lads appear in old stories and folk tales. Historically the Yule lads and the other Christmas spirits were far meaner and more evil, but beginning in the 18th century and then especially during the 19th century they become more gentle. A 18th century royal decree about religious practice and domestic discipline parents were banned from disciplining their children by scaring them with horror stories of monsters like the Yule lads.

Made more gentle by the radio and urban life

The Yule lads maintained their old habits of mischief and petty theft, but their appearance changed. Old stories describe monsters with little resemblance to humans, but by the 19th century they had assumed a human form. When wealthy merchants began hosting public Christmas tree balls at the end of the 19th century the Yule lads had become friendly old men who brought treats.

The kinder Yule lads first appeared in towns and villages, while their evil characteristics survived longer in the countryside. However, their transformation had been completed by the 1930s when the Yule lads begin making regular visits to schools and making appearances in the radio to tell children stories and sing Christmas songs.

From 82 evil spirits to 13 friendly lads

Originally the number of Yule lads varied, there are as many as 82 different lads and trolls. In the 1860s, as the stories of the lads are being collected their numbers, names and characteristics are being standardized. At the same time their numbers shrink to 13, corresponding to the 13 days of Christmas.

Today the Yule lads dress in traditional Icelandic peasant wear, but for most of the 20th century the lads all wore red, like the American Santa Claus. The re-introduction of traditional dress was made by the Icelandic National Museum in the 1980s. In 1988 the Museum began inviting children from Reykjavík schools and preschools to the museum in December to learn about history and meet the Yule lads. And of course the museum lads wore traditional clothing, rather than imported Santa Claus costumes!

The Yule lads are examples of the dark spirits of nature which take over during the winter as people retreat indoor. Outlying mountain and heath cabins, used during the summer are abandoned in the fall and as the darkness of winter descends people would retreat closed to the core of the farm.

One by one the Yule lads then come down from the mountains, until the entire crowd of trolls has descended upon the farms and towns on Christmas Eve: Nature and its uncontrollable spirits have reclaimed the land. Then one by one they retreat back to the mountains just as darkness retreats and the days get longer.

The characteristics of the Yule lads, which appear in names like Sausage Swiper, Meat Hook, Skyr Gobbler, offer another hint to their origin as reminders that people must take care of scarce foods during winter. Sausages, smoked legs of lamb, skyr and milk can disappear mysteriously if they aren’t kept under close surveillance!

Meet the mother: A child-eating, husband-murdering ogress

The Yule lads‘ mother is the ogress Grýla. Grýla is one of the oldest mythical characters in Icelandic folklore. She is mentioned in 13th century manuscripts, and we can also find Grýla‘s in the Faroe Islands and a closely related ogre in Ireland. She is closely related to the fear of hunger: She is always hungry, and she threatens to snatch away children, usually the naughty ones.

As the Yule lads became gentler, Grýla remained evil, keeping the old tradition of evil Christmas spirits alive. In old stories she has many heads, eyes in the back of her head, bearded, fangs, a tail and hoofs: An actual monster.

Grýla is accompanied by two other evil creatures. The lesser known is her husband, the troll Leppalúði. Grýla is a domineering woman, she is often shown beating and berating her husband. According to the legend Leppalúði is the third of Grýla’s husbands. She killed and ate her first husband Gustur. Her second husband Boli, whom she also murdered, after the two had a large number of troll children. The Yule lads are the children of Leppalúði and Grýla.

Christmas Cat

Grýla’s other companion is much better known: Jólakötturinn or the Christmas Cat. The origins of the Christmas cat are more mysterious than those of Grýla or the Yule lads, all of whom are clearly traditional trolls or mythical spirits living in mountains and uninhabited areas.

The earliest written records of the Christmas cat date back to the 19th century, but he seems to be closely related to Scandinavian beliefs in the Christmas goat. According to the story the Christmas cat will snatch and eat children who don’t get new clothing for Christmas. This belief is probably connected to the tradition of everyone getting new pieces of clothing for the holidays, and the custom of farmers giving their farmhands new clothes each year. The Christmas cat might also be connected to the pressure to finish all weaving and knitting before the holidays.

https://icelandmag.is/article/mystery-origins-and-history-strange-icelandic-yule-lads