This year I’ve decided to experiment with Questing. Psychic Questing was a pretty popular endeavor in the 1980’s and its rebirth can be attributed to Andrew Collins and Graham Phillips. I’ve experimented with this a bit before but this will be a larger endeavor and I even put out the social feelers in order to get others to participate. We’ll see how that goes…
Anyway, in Hedge Druid fashion I’ve done a reading to give me some helpful signposts along the way. I used Tarot as my waymarker and chose eight cards (coinciding with the Pagan wheel of the Year)in order to better understand the lessons I’ll be touching upon throughout the year. The Tarot is merely used to allow the landscape to better mingle with my conscious mind and to understand associations that I may miss along the way. I chose to use the Sacred Sites deck and my first card drawn for the Imbolc season was The High Priestess.
I selected a local hike for my first step into the questing world. The area is used quite regularly by local hikers, it’s a series of trails nestled in a dry rocky valley. I felt drawn to this place, and being that questing is all about going with the flow and not ignoring intuition I decided I’d give these trails a try. I prepared a few of the normal hiking accouterments, and my dowsing rod in case I felt like pulling out the geomancy feelers.
When I arrived there were several cars parked at the foot of the entrance of the trails. I decided to leave my rod in the car and play it by ear. I opened myself up to the day and the morning air and began my walk on the trail, despite the number of cars, I saw no one on the trail. I didn’t really get any strong push to go in a certain direction or another so I merely followed the trail. I meandered off here and there, but mostly followed where the trail was marked.
I got to a fork and veered up onto a steeper section. At the fork I paused first, however, to look around at two or three cave entrances, some below me some well above, the route I took didn’t seem to have any. I climbed up for a few minutes, and against a steep cliff face, hidden in a tangle of trees I saw a small cave inlet. An overhang of massive rock sheltered a dugout, a flat stone had been placed for sitting and a few graffiti scrawls marked it’s recess. Some of these marks were the usual names but there were two very large directional crosses composed of wavy lines that intrigued me…something to note down I thought, and look up later.
I didn’t go into the shelter of rock, but continued up toward the peak. At the peak I sat down and noticed that the massive rock face at the foundation of which sat the cave inlet was splotched with green moss. This was an odd site and stood out to me, as I live in a desert region with very little moisture. As I scanned the entire area from my perch I could see that the green dotted here and there on other outcroppings. I immediately thought of something that I had read pertaining to the High Priestess/Sybil card the morning of the hike. The sybil would write her prophecies on oak leaves and leave them outside the cave…not caring if anyone was there to gather them. The large green mossy splotches reminded me of this, and I knew that my quest was beginning, and I was on the right trail. On the way home I thought about how I was there to appreciate the site of the moss, and perhaps in another week the weather would heat up and remove them…just in the way that the prophecies would shrivel and disappear on oak leaves not gathered.
Prior to leaving though I did spend a bit of time looking around in the small cave. It would be a good place to sit, however as I was investigating further a family arrived with a dog and noisily made sure the peace of the place was destroyed. I’ll certainly return another day…
Another fabulously mediocre Pagan Pride Day behind me. I’m not sure at this point why people even bother, it’s got to be a lot of work on the part of the coordinators and the vendors – all seven of them – that show up. Even as a lifelong Pagan ( a moniker I don’t especially like, but use for convenience) I’m bored to tears by Pagan Pride Days, even the term makes me cringe. I usually skip them all together, being that in my area it’s an overblown affair that usually ends up being a get together by the same handful of Pagans that attend every local event, but this year I thought I’d do something different and attempt to participate.
I was thinking to myself one day that perhaps the lameness of our local PPD has to do with the fact that no one (including myself) cares to put themselves out there and actually try and make it great (I did wholeheartedly enjoy our first local PPD in 2006, one that my Grove sponsored). I put my money where my mouth is and volunteered to conduct a discussion this year, a small workshop on the Runes and the wisdom they reveal about Self,Community, and Society. Now before I get to that, for years I’ve been giving workshops on several topics; Tarot Magic(k), Rune lore; Norse Mythology, Sigil Magic(K)…but in the last few years I’ve stopped because the apathetic nature of our community to participate in meaningful practice is just that, very disappointing, and participation continues to go down. I think that, in the last few years, Pagans/Occultists/Magicians have also suffered from the disease of the virtual society/community that in modern culture seeks to keep us all glued to the computer screen instead of making real connections. Also this disease, IMO, has made the idea of knowledge common, in that people think they aren’t missing anything by not going to hear someone speak or to experience something in the real world instead of through text or video. I have news for you my fellow Occultists, the wisdom of experience cannot be expressed through the filter of Facebook – it has to be bestowed, offered, and earned; you may actually need to get off your ass and actually do the work, seek out that knowledge, and put it to use. In the end Magic(K) is a verb, it’s not a thing that exists for you to manipulate, it’s an action that is done, a practice that is practiced, and a skill that is developed.
Anyway so that brings me to the crux of this post. When the time for my discussion came, not a soul showed up; not a single person showed interest. Now this doesn’t upset me, because I’ve come to expect this from our community – more-so I was disappointed in myself for getting the material ready and thinking that somehow my participation and my sacrifice of time would be appreciated. I tend to be liked in our community and don’t create waves among groups, I like to think that I’m considered as someone sincere about his practice, and knowledgeable about certain subjects. And even then I saw this coming, but I hoped it would be different. As a result however, I ended up having a nice day with some old Grove-mates instead that I hadn’t seen in a few years, friends that had come specifically to hear my simple little discussion. Instead of giving my talk to the grass and trees we left the PPD behind and went to have dinner where we discussed many things including a bit of the lore I would have shared with the wider community.
My attempt at this wider participation, when I have purposefully, in the last few years, left group work and much of the local Pagan community behind, maybe on a different level was meant to be a reminder about the importance of smaller connections. Time and time again, the local Pagan community in my city lets me down…and I’m reminded why others who were once very active, myself included, are missing in action.
I was thinking one day about the effects of story upon our lives. In today’s era it’s difficult to find good examples of heroism and honor, humility, and what power really is. As a young man I had some good people in my life that were examples of how people should act…but I was probing why I feel the way I do about deeper issues of faith, community, religion, education, and honor. Being over forty, I was even more curious about why things from my youth are still with me, why interests that I had and why stories I enjoyed way back when still live with me on a daily basis.
One of the ways by which I think about stories is through the lens of Tarot (Runes as well, but modern man is more easily definable via the Tarot). The Tarot path holds many lessons and the archetypes found within it arise from history and fiction, religion and humanism, esotericism and exotericism and therefore Tarot encapsulates the whole of modern western culture. Once one is familiar with the symbolism of the Tarot it can be placed like a transparent layer over any story or experience in order to pull out nuances of subtle wisdom.
This post is about me creating a Tarot deck from the Dragonlance series – Which I did, and which is a physical deck that I currently own and conduct readings with. It was born out of me wanting to personally define the importance of it’s characters in my life and why this fictional world (among others) continues to be one that I think about. It is a world of moral questions, of gods and dragons, knights and wizards…I’ll admit I don’t read much (or any) of it these days, but I believe that like any loved story in ones past it still influences me to this day.
I am refraining from posting images of the deck, simply because I wouldn’t want them to be copied, printed, and sold (I have included a snapshot from an online reading done for a client). But I thought I would share some thoughts on the cards I chose and what changes I made. Unlike my Star Wars Tarot which was constructed from already published playing card decks, the Dragonlance Tarot is a cobbled together deck from well known Dragonlance images. Creating a Tarot deck is an interesting task, it was a process of growth that forced me to examine these stories with a new eye. rather than just being entertained by these stories I was looking below the surface, probing the motivations of characters, wondering why the authors built the world the way they did, why it functions the way it does.
It is a complete set of Tarot, 78 cards. It uses only well known Dragonlance images and novel cover art, but for the Moon and Sun cards. The Minor Arcana, the pips, are not images, but like older decks are merely numbered.
The cards: Lances = Wands and the courts are represented by Heroes. Orbs = Cups and are represented by wizards and clerics; Swords = Swords and represented by knights; Pentacles = Discs and represented by Dragons.
Court Cards: Lances = King is Tanis, Queen is Laurana, Knight is Gilthas, Page is Gerard; Orbs = King is Dalamar, Queen = Crysania, Knight= Palin, Page= Elistan; Swords = King is Sturm, Queen is Kitiara, Knight is Steele, Page is Mina; Discs = King is Aurican, Queen is Malys, Knight is Skie, Page is Chaos dragon/draconian.
Major Arcana: 0 = Tas, 1= Raistlin, 2= Goldmoon, 3 = Heart/Silvara/Humas Tomb, 4= Huma, 5= Flint, 6=Caramon and Tika, 7= Citadel, 8= Kerianseray, 9=Porthios, 10= Stars of Krynn, 11= Cataclysm, 12= Kerrick, 13= soth, 14= Caramon, 15= Takhisis, 16= High Clerists tower, 17=Lost Citadel, 18=Tower of Moon/Takaluras, 19= Tower of the Sun/Qualinost, 20= Kingpriest, 21= Inn of the Last Home/Solace.
If you’ve read my Star Wars tarot posts you know that I go into some detail about why certain cards were used. Being that this deck is so unique I th0ught I’d do the same.
Highlights of the Major Arcana:
the Fool: Tasslehoff Burrfoot is the Fool. He exemplifies the idea of Wanderlust (as does the Fool), moving before thinking just for the sake of the experience and new adventure. He is also changed by his voyages and perhaps in the end the most wise of all the archetypes. Is the Fool the beginning of wisdom or the end result of life’s adventures?
the Magician: Raistlin. The Magician doesn’t necessarily have to be a good character but merely one who understands power and the elements by which power is attained/accomplished. Raistlin here is depicted in his study within the Tower of High Sorcery in Palanthas, ready to delve deeper into the mysteries of existence and magic.
Strength: This is Kerianseray a Kagonesti elf (wild elf) and rebel. Her nickname is the Lioness. She is a servant when we first meet her in the series, behind the scenes she however is a warrior fighting for her people. Strength is the card that holds the wisdom of subtle power, a power that comes from gentleness rather than physical force, a strength of intellect that is like a yoke for physical prowess – brute force tempered with knowledge and patience.
the Hangman: This card depicts Kerrick, a dark elf (outcast) of Silvanesti. The image shows him floating on a bit of ice following his exile and on his way to Icewall. Along with the unsteady nature of the ice and water, Kerrick much like the Hangman is unsure of where he will start or end his journey.
Temperance: Caramon. Caramon is a man of heart and action. His greatest asset is compassion and the love he has for his friends and brother. Like the lessons of Temperance Caramon tries to balance many things in his life that sometimes cannot be reconciled. In the end he realizes that some things must be left behind in order to find happiness.
the Tower: Probably one of the heaviest scenes in all of Dragonlance. I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t read Dragons of Winter Nights. The tower here is the High Clerists Tower and it’s being tested by the armies of Takhisis. Sometimes destruction and obstacles make us stronger and force us to rebuild or reconfigure our lives.
the Moon: This is the Tower of the Moon found in Dargonesti (I believe), it is the residence of the Speaker of the Moon. These elves are water elves and their cities are undersea. The moon card has a deep relationship with water and its illusory nature.
Judgmenet: The Kingpriest is depicted here. Judgement is not justice and it doesn’t mean a balanced or wise indivisual is dispensing it. Judgement merely tells us that it’s time to choose something- good, indifferent, or bad.
the World: This shows Solace, more specifically the Inn of the Last Home. The home, or at least the base for the heroes. Solace is the example by which right and justice are evaluated in Dragonlance. It’s a place of beauty and ‘home’, the place where the adventure begins, and what the heroes are fighting to maintain as the example of social order.
This deck being based off of Rider-Waite symbolism I thought some direct comparisons would be interesting:
The pic I used for the High Priestess depicting Goldmoon in this role is from the cover of Dragons of Autumn Twilight:
Goldmoon mirrors the original RW example very well. She is the holder of ancient wisdom and the medium between which the old worlds and the new communicate, the gateway through which the old gods return to a world that has forgotten them, the balance between opposites. Both cards depict the HP holding the important occult vessels, important artifacts of hidden lore. Some quotes from Waite’s The Pictorial Key to the Tarot illustrate how closely these versions relate to one another:
“The scroll in her hands is inscribed with the word Tora, signifying the Greater Law, the Secret Law and the second sense of the Word.”(1)…According to Kabalism, there is a Shekinah both above and below. In the superior world it is called Binah, the Supernal Understanding which reflects to the emanations that are beneath. In the lower world it is MaIkuth–that world being, for this purpose, understood as a blessed Kingdom that with which it is made blessed being the Indwelling Glory.”(2)
This passage directly discusses the power of the HP to unit heaven and earth which can be seen signified by the Blue Crystal Staff held by Goldmoon in the picture touching the earth and the sky. Further… “Mystically speaking, the Shekinah is the Spiritual Bride of the just man, and when he reads the Law she gives the Divine meaning.”(3)
Elistan (portrayed as the Page of Orbs in the DL Tarot) who is healed by Goldmoon via the Staff and the power of the old gods, eventually is able to read the Discs of Mishakal which relate the laws of the old gods.
The previous example is exactly how a seeker after the mystery of the Tarot delves into symbolism. It begins with a concrete image and begins to flower into a mosaic of pieces that fit together in odd correspondences.
Perhaps I will post a second DL Tarot article that compares other cards shortly.
1,2,3.Arthur Edward Waite (2014-06-15). The Pictorial Key To The Tarot (Illustrated) (p. 39). . Kindle Edition.
One of the challenges facing the new Tarot student is coming to a personal understanding of what Tarot is or is not. Does it hold the answer for everything past and present, or is it just a collection of paper with pretty pictures? That’s a large spectrum to begin with, but I think the extremity of those positions is fairly honest in how both skeptics and enthusiasts see Tarot.
I’ve studied copious amounts of Tarot material, and the one thing I’ve taken away from it is this; Tarot, as modern readers and users know it, has very little in common with the card game (s) it was meant to be used for when it (or its very similar predecessor) was created in the 15th century. All the thousands of books on the Tarot are merely guides on how everyone else perceives Tarot, and if you’re using Tarot in any way as a spiritual/mystical/life informing-affirming tool you’re relying on a very kabbalistic/hermetic creation of the 19th century. Yes, you can read the Golden Dawn material and derive all the meanings that modern practitioners use (most without even knowing themselves where much of that symbolism derives from), you can read the how-to books, and those on Tarosophy…But if you honestly look at and question the Tarot what will be your personal stance on the cards?
My stance has mostly always been that Tarot is nothing special. I don’t charge my cards with crystals, I don’t assume they hold the keys to universal knowledge, and I don’t expect them to answer all the problems plaguing my sub-conscious. More than not I lean toward the Tarot being a bunch of paper with pretty pictures. Yet, I read Tarot and I work with Tarot nearly on a daily basis. Odd you say. Not really, I respond. Things in my opinion don’t hold power – people do.
Tarot is a repository of wisdom, yes. It is not wisdom in and of itself. Tarot bares (or can bare) in it’s images generations of knowledge, a heritage of what it means to live in a Western society. It conveys the psychological and sociological truths that we as modern individuals have been adapted to live within for hundreds of years at this point. The multi-layered fabric of the Tarot is woven from the threads of that which we all share, it’s a mirror reflecting the great ‘Dreaming’ of Western culture – the truths of work, relationships, life challenges, our emotional well being, religion, etc.
Crowley, in his popular book The Book of Thoth expounded that the Tarot is a representation of the Cosmos, that each card is also a being, and that the deck is literally the composition and culmination of the Wisdom of Thoth. I don’t think the Cosmos is written in the Tarot, I feel it’s wisdom is much more terrestrial and immediate to our lives – I don’t feel that each card is a unique entity but a mirror of our own existence – and Thoth had very little to do with the creation of a 15th century card game. And to be blunt true/historical Tarot should have nothing to do with Kabbalistic wisdom. Can it? Sure. The beauty of Tarot is that, again, it’s a reflection of what the Reader brings to it…I tend to be pretty rational (in my opinion) when using tools like Tarot. Some would say though that Tarot is a tool of the irrational..so there you go.
My tendency is toward seeing Tarot as a Reality Simulation device. It’s a technology that functions as a Simulation of events and life situations based in reality. Jean Baudrillard, a French sociologist is a great place to start with such thinking. He goes a bit further to say that perhaps most of our icons and the symbols of our society (which Tarot of course uses and probably IS) are mostly historical and even fictitious to the modern westerner, but I digress…There is a Tarot book by Emily Auger which discusses briefly these concepts, and even postulates that Tarot is a kind of Cyber Reality Simulation, which is an absolutely inspired way of looking at the Tarot. Cyber here means artificial or a Technology that has been manufactured or created, just as the Tarot is a technology; an artificial representation of reality. This concept really influenced my image of the Tarot and what it means to be a Reader – and the mental image of a Cyberpunk Astralnaut jacked into a fanned out Tarot spread while he co-mingles fiction, fact, and history into a hazy surreal blend of human potential is an awesome ideal.
Tarot, to end it all, is about what makes sense to you in your world. Just as the final Major is The World (or perhaps the Fool), it’s up to the journeyer to discover just what it will be. Use the books, use the websites, and the tutorials but remember that the mirror of the tarot is for you to understand and should not be used as just another technology meant to box you in.
I’ve been doing tons of soul searching these days about this Druish (Druid) thing – Is it important to have in my life? And why? And what does that mean?
I’ve come to the conclusion that it is important in my life and not in the way that it has been previously. What does that mean? Well, it means that for me Druidry is not a Religion in and of itself, at least not to someone like myself who practices a very Heathen/Norse Religion. For me Druid/Druish goes beyond any kind of specific tenet or dogma or even mythology. It carries with it a history of Nature, Truth, and Mysticism that has a definition hundreds of years long through many varied changes, organizations, and minds. It’s difficult to say for me that any particular era in that long history is any more relevant than another…
I’ve been trying on the operations and rituals of a few different Druid groups. Most have very Wiccan-esque, Golden Dawn inspired aspects that just don’t sit well with me. I mainly stick with a Fire, Well, Tree composition as the basis for much of my religious work, which stems from studies of Indo-european mytho constructs. I’m just not well suited to a Hermetically inspired religious framework I’m finding, so most of the revival era Druidisms are not cutting it. More than anything I’m personally finding that Druidry is not a central focus of my practice but an addition. My practice is not going to change drastically and if you’ve read my Morning Devotional posts you’re more or less familiar with it. I am very happy with my Religious practice as it is and I’m not going to pepper it with components that don’t jive with it such as directional honorings or elemental correspondences or cabalistic craziness. I’m still working on a personal definition of Druid – but Nature, Truth, Mysticism (a definition that sat well with me some 10-15years ago) pretty much sums it up, though one of Peace, Knowledge, and Power sounds good too. Those definitions don’t contain a ‘this is how Druids do ritual’ or this is what they believe slogan, it merely holds a philosophical outlook.
So where does that leave me. I think it leaves me with RDNA, or it’s like; A non-hierarchical, non-dogmatic, and a very non-specific form of Druishishness that is not Revival based, but is Reformed and open. The one thing I didn’t like about ADF is that it calls itself a Religion ” ADF will be a Neopagan religion..,” in the words of it’s founder, Isaac Bonewits. I can respect that vision, but it’s not what Druid means to me.
I’m left wondering still if I need to belong to or support a Druid organization or if my current practice is enough. Druidry does not modify my practice but energizes it, it is not a practice in and of itself but a mindset…in the end perhaps it really doesn’t matter one way or another.