Landscapes of the Abyss

Landscapes of the Abyss

I bet all of us have this experience from time to time when we feel like something was created specifically for us, that it somehow encapsulates the essence of who we are, creates this deep resonance by pulling the right strings of our heart - be it music, poetry, visual art, natural phenomenon or someone's piercing gaze. That's how I feel about the outstanding tarot deck created by Marie White.

It's nihil novi - the Mary-El exists on the market since 2012 and is widely recognized and well-loved by many. It's me being a little late to the party due to various reasons. Serendipitously, with my stupid luck and thanks to the insane generosity of Alaina I'm finally in posession of the Holy Grail. And let me just say - straight from the moment I touched the cards I knew we were going to have a fruitful romance. This is what many tarot enthusiasts aptly describe as having a visceral reaction to the deck. (Although, it's hard to believe some of them if they "have a visceral reaction" to almost every deck they review. I imagine their viscera must be in horrible condition at the rate of one or more decks per week! Pardon my sarcasm.)

Unlike most other tarot decks in my posession, this one crosses the line of being just a psychological tool for me. It comes straight from the primordial soup of collective unconscious, of mythos and ancient mysteries, of forces that elude language and thus elude judgement through the prism of black&white human morality. While I understand that it might seem blasphemous and seditious to some, it feels deep, dark and delicious to me.

Mary-El is a Crone of tarot - she doesn't shy away from strong imagery of Goddesses and Wild Womanhood, of menstrual blood mysteries. She's also not intimidated by phalluses and strong Masculinity, which is rather rare these days. She doesn't feel the need to depreciate Masculinity to strengthen the Feminine. She's definitely not the ethereal, delicate, dreamy type of woman but rather the firm, deeply grounded one, with moist soil under her fingernails, creased forehead and fiery heart.

What initially drew my attention to this deck ages ago was the Knight of Wands. When I saw the Black Panther, I knew I needed this imagery in my life no matter what. I've always felt a strong connection with the Felinae People, especially the Black Panther. She's been my guide, my teacher and my wild Self since I can remember.

And let me just say - I bet Carl Jung would be intrigued to see this imagery. With its Liber Novus-like aesthetics, it seems to be the tool for shadow work. This is precisely the kind of art that works with the shadow - dark, rich in symbolism that's sometimes difficult to stomach, raw and real to the bone. I'm delighted that it appeared in my life at this moment. It is a topic for another story, which I happened to tackle in My Year Ahead post in February.

Anyway, as I already somewhat mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are these stimuli - pieces of art, certain phenomena, smells, places, weather or vibe in the psychosphere - all these things that trigger specific altered states of consciousness, launching us on a journey within. It can be extremely helpful to pinpoint our personal triggers to be able to: a) be aware of the signs that indicate some shadow content is creeping up on us; b) use them to induce a desired state of mind "on demand". For me, Mary-El is certainly one of those triggers.

Since I got Mary-El on February 9th, I haven't touched any other tarot decks. Marie White must be a Soul from my tribe of people - her images are depictions of what I feel when I think of the archetypes of tarot. Her words from Landscapes of the Abyss set my heart on fire, she would probably understand me without words and vice versa. She knows. I doubted I'd ever experience this feeling with tarot, but here I am, in awe and forever grateful for this gift.

Of course, there's no such thing as a tarot deck for everyone and this one is no exception. I've seen people say that the companion book is gibberish, that the images are too edgy, unnecessarily confronting, that it's not a deck for everyday use because the messages that come through are too deep and hard to digest. Well, it all depends on why you do tarot in the first place. If it's for staying in the comfort zone, to feel special or to be enabled, then this deck is definitely not for you. But for me, this deck is exactly what tarot is about. Getting dirty and sweaty from the hard work. Cutting the bullshit and looking at things as they are. Seeing what I might not want to notice otherwise. That's my thing. And Mary-El is precisely designed for that.

To get the most out of it, you need to have some basic knowledge of mythology, kabbalah and western occult traditions, be able to interpret symbols, understand metaphors and - most importantly - have some degree of an understanding of the laws of nature and the world around you. Don't expect things to be handed to you freely, interpreted and explained for you. This deck will pull you through the Abyss and make you decide what kind of human you want to be on the other side. It will make you do the work, if you're willing to commit.

#TarotThursdayThree: 02/03/2017

#TarotThursdayThree: 02/03/2017

Yet another #TarotThursdayThree, guys! I know I missed most of it in February but hell, this week's questions are juicy and quite serendipitous for me personally, as some of this stuff has been on my mind as of late. Here we go!

1. What was it that initially sparked your interest with Tarot? 
I think I mentioned this a few times but I've never really been a tarot person. I read Elder Futhark since I was 15 years old and considered runes to be the divination tool for a very long time. You know, Futhark 4 life, screw other tools, they're lame and mainstream - not interested!
Something changed after I graduated from uni. Those five years of studying psychology were a time of withdrawal from any kind of spiritual practice, it was time of the Mind, of getting to know and understanding my Self and shedding some unnecessary beliefs, habits, ways of thinking that I picked up on my life path thus far (and gaining a whole new baggage of shit!). I was very much interested in spirituality, liminal experiences, transpersonal and jungian psychology, altered states of consciousnes and the like but it wasn't really the main focus of who I was at that time. If it wasn't for my thesis I've no idea who I'd be today. I was always curious to know how spiritual experiences actually affect our lives and whether or not they influence its quality, so I decided to research it. This research and the whole thesis opened my eyes and made me experience somewhat of a reawakening, coming back to roots, rediscovering my old Self - but this time in completely new ways. I'm not going to describe this shit in detail here because it would probably take (p)ages, but that's basically what sparked my interest with Tarot. I got intrigued and decided to just give it a shot.

2. Is it what you expected it to be and if not, in what ways were your expectations defied?
I didn't have high expectations. All I knew was that it was going to require a lot of studying and that I might not like it as much as runes. I also expected it to work similarly to runes when it comes to divination because I had no idea it could be different. But generally, I craved for something new and complex that I could just dive into and get lost in for months - that part didn't disappoint me! As for the rest, I had to learn that tarot is a completely different tool and I needed to find out what it feels like to me and what it's going to be useful for.

3. How do you primarily use Tarot? I.e. for divination, self-reflection, analysis, shadow work, ritual or something else?
All of the above. Rather than primary use, I'd say for me it's about the primary focus - Self. Growth, reflection, transgression, processing, gaining perspective, inspiration. "Knowing Thyself" is what all this is about for me. Divination (as in gaining insight by interpreting omens and signs, not fortune telling) is a technique used to get to know one's own symbology, which - when practiced and mastered - significantly helps with deciphering the contents of our subconscious (shadow work). As for self-reflection and analysis, it's mostly for solution oriented "operations" - dealing with problematic things that we're conscious of (unlike with the shadow work related stuff) and need a tool to help us come up with an answer, help us find direction or get inspired. Sure, in practice all of these are basically same shit - doing a spread or a single card analysis - but I find this kind of breakdown by function really useful in terms of meeting my (or someone else's) needs without having to spend too much time thinking about what it is that I'm dealing with.
My favorite has to be shadow work, even though it's not what I do most often - once or twice a year in condensed monthly (or shorter) sessions is enough for my personal taste. What I actually use tarot the most for is inspiration - daily or weekly portions of food for thought, something to meditate on. I really don't need much, little goes a long way for me. And I definitely don't use tarot every time I stumble on a hardship - I prefer to solve problems "on my own" to stay sharp. As useful of a tool as it is, it's sad to see people who are dependent on it. After all, it is just a tool and a tool is supposed to be used for something, not become that something in itself.

What's your thoughts on this, people? 

My Year Ahead: The Emperor

My Year Ahead: The Emperor

Shadow work is the path of the Heart Warrior.
- C.G. Jung (attributed) 

Don't we all love these quotes that come out of nowhere and become commonly attributed to someone based on the assumption that it suits the person? Well, the quote above is most likely one of those, but it doesn't stop me from liking it. Seems like my February summary is bound to be quite jungian in its nature. Little did I know at the beginning of this year that this journey through my year ahead will prove to be so helpful and insightful - and this month certainly got me to pay attention.

IV The Emperor, Mary-El Tarot

Remember when I shared my story with smoking in January? I mentioned a course that I'm taking - Schultz's Autogenic Training in conjunction with jungian analysis, and especially that one meeting when we were doing some archetype analysis work. That's when the seeds of change were planted. Not only did I immediately quit smoking after years of struggling with it but a larger, deeper internal process finally got a green light to start unfolding.

That evening, we were asked to draw two images representing archetypes - one that's currently blocking us and one that is strenghtening us. For me it happened to be Shadow in the form of cigarettes and Self depicted as a vast ocean touching the sky with the sun illuminating it from above the clouds. After a thorough analysis of each of the participants' archetypes in the circle, it became apparent to me that there's a huge gap in between the archetypes that showed up for me - an element missing between two opposites, a bridge linking one to another. So I was offered to draw one more archetype - something that will help me form that bridge. It was the archetype of Collective Animus, the masculine principle in its strongest form, depicted as a marching army of men. It immediately made me think two things: 1) "Damn, this is the Emperor card from Japaridze!", 2) "Holy fuck, not you again, masculinity."

IV WAR (The Emperor), Japaridze Tarot

Yes, I did struggle with a strong internal conflict with the masculine for quite some time, and I still do. Being a woman who hated and repressed her femininity for many years of her life, when I finally managed to reclaim it a few years ago, I started feeling resentful of masculinity as a result. I didn't want to have anything to do with masculinity, I was tired of it, I simply wanted to wallow in everything feminine, as if I was breathing fresh air for the first time in my life. It was the Balancing Act - hugely nourishing but also bringing the shadows to light. That evening, when the Collective Animus appeared for me, I knew in my bones it was coming but I didn't feel ready for it. I realized that my resentment was a defense mechanism, and what was hiding underneath was actually fear of becoming dominated by the masculine against my will yet again. At that time, I didn't realize it was the feminine that was slowly spinning out of control, precisely because of that fear. And then February came, with the Emperor as its monthly card.

Things started unfolding on their own, without me noticing. I stopped doing Bereginya (gymnastics for women only) which I would normally do around 5 times a week. Instead, I got a gym pass and started working out in a more "manly" manner, got back into snowboarding as well. In general, I started doing things that required me to wear pants more often - literally and symbolically. Might not sound like a big deal exactly, unless you actually wear skirts and dresses exclusively (as in zero pants) for the longest time. (You can read about the importance of clothing in my native folklore and why I only wear skirts/dresses here: click.) Even this slight shift caused noticable changes in my mindset - and with changes came realizations.

If I had to boil it all down to a short note to self, it would probably be something like:

"Girl, without balancing the masculine and feminine,
you're fucked."

It is that basic, yes. And I'm not talking solely about the internal processes here. On the contrary! I need to be very careful and mindful about how I react to the emanations of both masculine and feminine in the outside world around me. Do I treat them equally? Am I siding with one or the other? Due to fear, or to prove something? Why? For me, one of the good indicators of the state of my internal balance is the way I perceive my parents. I've noticed years ago that it fluctuates over time depending on what "side" I'm leaning towards more. If there's too much Anima, I'll have an awesome relationship with my mother but will get irritated by my father, and vice versa. It might or might not work the same for others, depending on their unique family dynamics. Worth thinking through, either way.

Speaking of fathers, the Emperor from Mary-El Tarot was a game changer for me. (I'm actually obsessed with the entirety of this deck, but that's a topic for another post.) I'm infinitely grateful that synchronicity (named Alaina) was so generous to make this deck appear in my life precisely when I needed it. 

He is the earthly father archetype and king of kings, ruler of the four quarters of the earth, the four pillars that hold up the heavens, the four sides of a pyramid stable and square. He imposes order and harmony on the elements. (...) he IS the land, he and the kingdom are one, as if his own body were divided up into mountains and plains, oceans and deserts. The fate of the land is his fate.
/fragment from Landscapes of the Abyss by Marie White/

He IS the land. The fate of the land is his fate. - This pulled the right string somewhere deep within me and created an overwhelming wave of resonance, accompanied by visions of the archetypal figure of mature masculinity in its full glory. It makes me think of a father, working - sometimes beyond exhaustion - to transform the land with his strong and tired hands to provide for his family. It makes me think of that same father protecting the hearth and the land from outside danger at all cost. This tired gentle giant, with coarse hands and warm eyes. This is what I saw in my father as a child and I wish every child could see the same in their father.

Mature masculinity. Heart Warrior. Something to strive for - not to be afraid of. In a world of inequalities I sometimes think that it's the men who became victims of their own making. In a world where they feel that they need to be stronger - stronger than children, stronger than women, stronger than other men - it is a constant fight for survival. Holding onto power requires sacrifice. There's no time for rest, no time to take off the armor, no place for weakness. This huge amount of buried content (repressed emotions, guilt, fears, abandoned parts of Self) creates tremendous pressure over time, eventually leading to breakdown. It builds up for years to finally explode - usually around forties - into the infamous midlife crisis.

Isn't it funny that we usually equate a "mature man" with a guy that's 40+ years old? Seriously though, go to Google Images and search for "mature man" and see what pops up! Yeah, you guessed right - a lot of men with graying hair + mandatory beard. So it's socially (quietly) acceptable to be immature until we hit 40? To be, basically, immature until we can no longer pull it off without breaking down? Cause once we break down there's no going back, so we come out mature on the other side of the crisis. Involuntarily. Worth pondering on. 

The way I see it, to put it simply, is that every possible archetype can be perceived on a spectrum from Shadow to Self, where Shadow would be the least developed form and Self - the most developed, individuated. We could also equate Shadow to lack of consciousness and Self to consciousness. With all of the archetypes that we manifest, we usually start somewhere around the middle of the spectrum. The goal, ideally, would be to strive for individuation, to eventually reach the Self. Even though it is a life long quest, we begin maturing the moment we make a conscious decision to do the work. That is the path of the Heart Warrior - the path of the Emperor.

Slavic Way: Rodnovery and slavic Wheel of the Year.

Slavic Way: Rodnovery and slavic Wheel of the Year.

Rodnovery means "native faith" and is a term used to describe Slavic paganism. Just like any other pagan faith, Rodnovery also has its own Wheel of the Year - a calendar of celebrations based on the seasons. When we hear "Wheel of the Year" we usually think of the Celtic Wheel, which is the most popular year-round calendar of pagan practice today - but not the only one. Slavic Wheel shares some similarities with other pagan calendars. All natural religions stem from the same core, after all - the core being observation of the natural world, the seasons, and basing our way of life and beliefs on it.

Slavic Wheel of the Year - Major Celebrations
Source of the original image: click

Major Celebrations on the Slavic Wheel of the Year

  • Jare Gody / Spring Equinox
Jare or Jare Gody is a cycle of celebrations happening accross a few days, starting with the first day of Spring (Spring Equinox) when we conduct a ritual of burning and drowning Marzanna to banish Winter. Once we banished Winter, we want to welcome Spring by cleansing our space from residual old energies by doing a complete house cleaning + burning herb bundles, washing all the clothes and home textiles - beddings, drapery, cloth. Other than cleansing our homes, we celebrate Spring by lighting bonfires on top of hills, searching for willow/hazel/birch twigs to construct wisps or brooms. One of the most popular traditions to this day is decorating eggs (named "Pisanki" or "Kroszonki") - a symbol of new life, fertility and new energy - as well as celebrating Konopielka (nowadays known as Śmigus Dyngus)- a fun festivity where men visit women to sprinkle their heads with perfumes (older men usually prefer this method) or drench them in water (water being a symbol of fertility and youth), sometimes in exchange for sweets or decorated eggs. In some parts of Poland there's also a tradition called "Zajączek" (literally meaning Bunny) - children look for presents hidden in their gardens by said bunny, usually sweets or decorated eggs. Hares are mostly associated with abundance and fertility which is why it's Zajączek who hides the presents.

Traditional "Kroszonki" - scraping floral patterns
on dyed eggs

  • Dziady Wiosenne / Spring Forefathers
Slavs used to celebrate "Halloween" from three to six times a year! Ancestry veneration is one of the most important parts of Slavic paganism. Dziady Wiosenne is one of the two major celebrations dedicated to our ancestors and is usually celebrated around May 2. (depending on the phase of the moon). During Dziady, we commune with our Ancestors who come back from beyond the veil to visit their loved ones. We dine with our families, making sure to prepare additional food for the Dead. We light candles in our windows and on crossroads to ensure all of the Dead find their way to us and back to where they came from. It's believed that by respecting our Ancestors we gain their protection and providence.

Dziady Dinner

  • Noc Kupały / Summer Solstice
Kopała Night is celebrated on the shortest night of the year. It's the Slavic "Valentine's Day", a celebration of Fire and Water, the Moon and the Sun, fertility, joy and love. On this short night, everybody's "single" and free to wander around the forests in search of the mythical Fern Flower, jump through bonfires, drink, dance. Maidens weave wreaths of fresh flowers and herbs to release them into the rivers or lakes in hopes of finding a suitable partner. Noc Kupały is traditionally the most popular time of the year for weddings, finding new partners, procreation, love spells and everything love related.

Maidens releasing the wreaths

  • Plony or Dożynki / Autumn Equinox
Dożynki is a celebration of the year's harvest. We bake breads and traditional cakes, feast, drink and give thanks to Mokosh or Mother Earth. Dożynki is pompously celebrated in rural areas to this day. The most popular tradition is a contest for the most beautiful
and biggest wreath, usually made of wheat. Nowadays, in a more christianized form,  it's sometimes huge crowns or chalices instead of wreaths. This tradition has its roots in an older custom - gathering the "Last Bunch" (of wheat) and leaving it on the fields for some time after the harvest to ensure the continuity of Earth's abundance. This "Last Bunch" was later taken home and used during Jare Gody (Winter Solstice) celebrations.

Dożynki bread and wreath

  • Dziady Jesienne / Autumn Forefathers
Similarly to Dziady Wiosenne, this Slavic equivalent to Samhain was a celebration dedicated to the Ancestors. The night of Oct 31. - Nov 1. we celebrate "Zaduszki" or "Noc Zaduszkowa" (literal translation being: "for souls" or "the night for souls") which is a preparation for the actual Dziady (Forefathers) celebrated on November 2. (depending on the moon phase). Similarly to Spring Forefathers, we prepare a feast for our Ancestors (nowadays mostly at homes but in the past also directly on the graves) to gain their providence and help them reach the otherworlds. It is important to offer food and drink to every Soul (honey, groats, eggs, mead, vodka), usually by spilling or dropping small amounts of our food and drink on the ground. Sometimes the Dead were also offered baths (sauna) and the opportunity to warm themselves up by the bonfire. But bonfires' primary function is to guide the Souls to us and back to where they came from, as well as preventing demons and the souls of people who died horrible deaths (suicide, drowning etc) from crosing through the veil to our world and doing us harm.
Dziady was a good time of the year for all the outcasts and homeless - it was believed that at this time of the year the Souls of our Ancestors and loved ones "borrowed" their bodies to visit us in flesh and bone, so it was important to offer them food and drink in exchange for a prayer for the Ancestors.

Karaboszka masks - Slavic equivalent of Samhain pumpkins,
masks carved out of wood used to protect the place
of celebration

  • Szczodre Gody / Winter Solstice
Szodre Gody literally means Generous Festivities. Winter Solstice is the moment when the Old Sun (equated with Swaróg - a Sun God) retires to make place for the New, Reborn Sun (equated with Dadźbóg, Swaróg's Son) for the year ahead. At this time of the year we feast, visit our loved ones, sing traditional songs and avoid working. Celebrations last for 12 days - each day representing one month of the year and foretelling what that month is going to bring for us. On the night before/of Winter Solstice called Szczodry Wieczór (Generous Evening) we have a feast of 12 dishes, making sure to prepare an additional place at the table for our Ancestors. The "Last Bunch" that we saved from Autumn Equinox is now decorated with dried fruit and placed near our front door to invite the Ancestors to dine with us. Some of the straw from our "Last Bunch" is also placed under the tablecloth. Instead of decorating a tree, we hang a decorated pine, fir or spruce branch called "Podłaźniczka" from the ceiling. A huge part of Szczodre Gody celebrations was also "kolęda" - groups of  people dressed up as various archetypal figures (i.e. Death, the Devil, Dziadek Mróz = Granfather Frost, Baba and Dziad, Turoń = horned beast, the Sun etc.) wandered through the village singing kolęda songs (cheerful songs about the resurrection of the Sun) and visiting all the houses to wish all the best to their inhabitants, usually in exchange for some food and drink.

Kolęda in Belarus, 1903

Minor Celebrations on the Slavic Wheel of the Year
- Subjective selection of some of the most widely recognized celebrations - 

  • Gromnica or Bear Day (February 2.)
Gromnica is a Slavic equivalent to Imbolc. Today, in christianized Poland "gromnica" is a huge candle that people use during the most important catholic celebrations like christening or praying for the deceased before the funeral (literal translation - "thunder candle"). The word "gromnica" comes from "grom" which means thunder. On February 2nd we light candles as a symbol of the light visibly starting to conquer darkness. From this day on we can start expecting the first thunders - a sign of Spring approaching, meaning that Perun conquered the Snake that bound the waters for winter. The first thunderclap is a sign that Mokosh (Earth) is ready to be fertilized - it'd be ideal for the thunder to happen between February 2. and the Spring Equinox. The special thunder candle, being dedicated to Perun (the god of thunder), was traditionally used to cleanse the house and to inscribe a solar cross with its flame on the ceiling of the household for protection.
Bear Day is another name of the same celebration. Bear, being a symbol of strength, is quite an important totem for Slavs. Bears hybernate for the Winter season for 40 days - from December 25th to February 2nd. That is why we know that Spring is inevitably approaching when the Bear finally wakes up from hybernation. It is believed that if the Bear wakes up on February 2nd and sees his own shadow (and therefore a sunny weather), he knows that this means more frost still on its way and goes back to sleep. But if the Bear doesn't see his own shadow, which means there's cloudy weather, he knows that this means Spring (and thunders) inevitably approaching in no time.

Our Lady of Thunder Candle, by Michelle Andriolli

  • Tydzień Rusalny / Nymph Week (May 2. - May 11.)
Also known as Rusalia, Nymph Week is a celebration of herbs, flowers and feminine fertility. During this week women give offerings of bread, cloth stripes and wreaths to the Nymphs (Rusałki), Wiły and goddess Mokosh. Nymph Week ends with a celebration known as Zielnik (May 11.) - gathering medicinal herbs, having ritual meals in the forests and on the fields, weaving wreaths and decorating our homes with plants and flowers.

Rusałki, Konstanty Makowski

  • Stado (celebrated 50 days after Easter)
Nowadays mostly known as Zielone Świątki (Green week), Stado is the oldest known Slavic pagan festival. Stado literally means Herd and is a joyful celebration fertility and community, as well as Ancestors. In 2016 Polish rodnovers and pagans organized the first Stado in over 500 years, hoping to continue the tradition for years to come. According to the chronicles, the central part of the festival are tournaments where people can test their physical strength and endurance in various competitions. Other than tournaments, one of the major parts of Stado is also the tradition of decorating a Maik which is a long pole with ribbons attached to the top. Everyone grabs one of the ribbons and by dancing around the pole the ribbons get gradually more and more entwined around it - and so do the people. There's also the usual celebration - feasting, dancing, drinking. 

Stado, XIX century Russian print

  • Perunowe (July 20.)
Perunowe is a celebration of Perun, the God of thunder. It's a rather masculine celebration, with men gathering for various tournaments and competitions to test their strength and endurance - similarly to Stado. It's also a good time to take oaths of brotherhood and pray to Perun in Oak groves for strength.

  • Mokosza (August 15.)
It is widely accepted today that August 15. is the day of Mokosha - a major Mother Goddess. We celebrate harvest and abundance of the second half of Summer. In catholic Poland, people celebrate Mother Mary of Herbs which - as I mentioned in this post - might hint that this day was originally a celebration dedicated to Marzanna rather than Mokosh.

  • Domowy / Domowik ( September 24.)
Domowy or Domowik is a protective spirit of every household. September 24. is the day when we give offerings of oatmeal or small fruits and nuts to our Domowik to thank him for his protection over our hearth and home. It is quite popular amongst Slavic pagans to keep a small idol of Domowik on their altars or in central parts of their homes to give offerings to.

Typical wooden Domowik statue

  • Jesienne Święto Matki Ziemi / Autumnal Mother Earth Celebration (October 1.)
Beginning of the wedding (Swaćba) season. Young girls praying to Mother Earth for happy marriage.

  • Dola / Święto Złotej Baby (November 24.)
Slavic personification of fate and destiny named Dola is a personal protective spirit that attaches to humans the day they're born and stays with them until the day of their death. Even though she might not always be favorable, she is a gift from the gods - a force given to humans to help them overcome hardships. On November 24. we celebrate Dola, also known as Święto Złotej Baby (literal translation: Celebrations of the Golden Hag). It is an evening of divination and fortunetelling - trying to find out what our Dola has in store for us. If the prognosis wasn't exactly positive one could always try to bribe their Dola by offering supper. During christianization the church tried to get rid of this celebration by replacing it with St. Andrew's Day - it didn't go too well, as nowadays everyone (be it christians, pagans or agnostics) equates St. Andrew's with partying, divination and fortunetelling.

Disclaimer: There are, of course, many more traditions and celebrations around the Slavic Wheel of the Year. I chose to present and organize some of those celebrations into major and minor ones for the sake of readability, in accordance with my personal understanding and belief. I decided not to include all of the celebrations we know of - mostly because not all of them are native to Poland (where I live).
It is important to understand that Slavic pagan traditions may vary depending on the region. While most of the traditions are very similar to each other they are sometimes celebrated at different times of the year depending on the region - it wouldn't make sense for me to include, for example, four different dates dedicated to the same deity/festivity.
Some Rodnovers might argue that the only major celebrations are the Equinoxes and Solstices, other would probably consider some of the minor celebrations to be more significant than I portrayed them. In the end, it all boils down to personal (or group) preference.

I wrote this article to aid people with Slavic roots, born and living away from these lands, as well as Slavic culture and tradition enthusiasts who find it hard to come by legit, first-hand information about contemporary Slavic paganism. It is sometimes challenging even for a Slav living on Slavic lands to gather legitimate knowledge about our own roots and ancestry - not to mention how hard it must be for english speaking enthusiasts.
If you've got any questions, would like me to talk more in-depth about any of the celebrations or anything else concerning Slavic paganism, mythos or tradition, feel free to contact me - I'd be delighted to help!

While we're at it, I'd like to grasp this opportunity to raise awareness. Watra - a Foundation for Slavic Culture - is currently raising money to build the first pagan temple in Poland, to serve not only as a sacred space for all pagans but also as a Cultural Centre to promote Slavic culture through education and miscellaneous workshops. You can read a bit more about the initiative here: >click<. If you would like to support the cause by donating money, you can do it here: >click<.

#TarotThursdayThree: 02/02/2017

#TarotThursdayThree: 02/02/2017

This week I'm just going to jump straight into the answers. Love this week's questions by Alaina

1. What is your favorite tarot card and why?

Depends. The first card that came to my mind was Strength - I have a weird relationship with this card. It's always very important to me to check what Strength card looks like in a deck - if I don't like it I might dislike the whole thing. Oh, and of course it has to be number VIII! Eight has always been my favorite number and that's probably why Strength quickly became my fave when I started working with tarot. My first tarot decks all had Strength as number VIII and Justice as XI, and that resonates with me the most. I make very synesthetic connotations - correspondences need to "feel right" on many levels. And if Justice is not XI it feels like the card is an impostor, trying to fit into a role. I've no idea about numerology (and not interested!) but number 11 or XI visually represents order and justice to me. While number 8 feels like a free-flowing, perfectly balanced strong will and lifeforce. I know, it's impossible to explain what exactly happens in my head when it comes to these things, so I'm just going to leave it at that. Oh, and you know how Major Arcana are associated with zodiac signs, right? So the Major for Sagittarians is Temperance. I don't dislike it but I'm not a fan of this card, it feels a bit boring and rarely relatable. I prefer Strength which is associated with Leo - my Rising Sign (which at times feels very dominant).

Strength from Bohemian Gothic Tarot
My Year Ahead: Eight of Swords

My Year Ahead: Eight of Swords

2017 is the first year that I actually did the year-ahead reading for myself and I intend to analyze each card of the month as a summary of said month. This is more of an experiment than anything else for me - I do not treat this kind of readings (or any tarot readings for that matter) as a means of predicting one's future or dictating how one should live one's life.

As some of you know, I mostly use tarot as a tool for self-discovery and self-exploration, in conjunction with self-analysis, reflection, based on one's intuition as well as the backbone of jungian psychology. In the particular case of year-ahead readings, I treat each card of the month more as a parable or a kōan to try and "solve" / draw wisdom from in relation to my present situation and state of mind, rather than a determinant of what's to come. Of course, I do not exclude the possibility of things serendipitously aligning, for it is not only Self that influences one's existence but a number of outside, collective notions, both conscious and unconscious, that should be taken into the equation as well.

Eight of Winter - Victorian Fairy Tarot
#TarotThursdayThree: 26/01/2017

#TarotThursdayThree: 26/01/2017

Damn, weeks just seem to fly by, especially when I get sick. I'm much better than I was this time last week, thank you very much. But! I promised myself that I'm going to write at least one blog post in between each of these #TarotThursdayThrees and so far it doesn't seem like it's happening - there's always something preventing me from having quality free time.
To be fair, I currently have a few work-in-progress articles, but my problem is that instead of working on and finishing one, I've got around four somewhere in the middle. Ah well, at least one will be published before the end of January - and it's going to be a new series, tied to the Year Ahead reading.

Alright, let's get rolling!

1. What was your first time like giving an in-person reading? Where were you? How did you feel? Spill the deets!
To be fair, I can't recall giving my first in-person reading. If we're talking specifically about tarot here then it must've been either for my mom or for a close friend - they're usually the two most open-minded and curious people when it comes to my experiments with the Spirit, plus they already received many rune readings from me in the past. What I do remember is that at the beginning of my tarot adventure I found it hard to find the right words to describe what I was seeing with satisfactory precision, so my first readings for others must've reflected that. While runes always gave me very clear and straigh-forward messages that couldn't be mistaken for anything else, I found that for me tarot is very much a word game, where semantics is everything. It's not enough to know what a certain concept means to you - you need to steer wisely to investigate what it means to someone else to be able to give adequate advice. Of course, this depends on how one views tarot. As I mention here, for me tarot is very much a tool based on human psychology and is treated by me as such.

2. Have you ever had a negative client response to one of your readings? How did they react and why? How did you respond back?
I never had a negative response to a reading I gave. I do know what it's like to get one, though! There was a rather short period of time when me and my friend offered tarot readings together - we functioned under one business name and chose which one of us was going to give a reading based on who felt more drawn to a specific query, unless the client had a preference. In some of the tougher cases we did our readings together, which was great. We also supervised each other to ensure that 1) the readings we gave were always top quality, 2) we stayed balanced, healthy and not overwhelmed or drained by it.

Either way, there was this one lady who my friend did a reading for. It was a really tough one - a lot of shadows surfaced, and where the lady tried to blame outside sources for her misfortunes, it turned out it was her behaviors that kept her miserable. The reading turned out to be very profound but probably the harder to digest because of it. Sadly, our client was not exactly ready to hear what she heard and her response was very negative. Just as she blamed her misfortunes on the outside, this time she blamed the reader for projecting things onto her that were not at all her traits. I don't remember how it all ended but I do remember feeling sorry for my friend, and for the lady in a way.

It's important to mention that in Poland people are not used to getting high quality readings or counselling sessions with tarot. The stereotype of a gypsy fortune teller prevails. People get tarot readings either for fun or to hear some reassuring things about their future. Nobody takes it seriously because nobody knows what exactly tarot can be used for. In a country where most people are Catholic (at least on paper) and any alternative approach to spirituality is a spawn of Satan (or taken to the opposite, wowoo-channeling-angelkin-reptilian extreme), not many serious conversations can be had about these things. This is directly reflective of the kinds of queries we received from our clients as well as the responses to our readings, especially if it didn't turn out to be all fluff and bright future ahead. So yeah, we stopped offering readings after a few months, mostly because the clientele was not exactly up our alley.

3. Have you ever been challenged by a skeptic regarding tarot? What was your experience like?
Well. I do challenge myself on a regular basis, to make sure I don't float off somewhere strange. And my partner also challenges me quite regularly - he's not a fan of tarot. He's more of a Futhark guy. We often have the most productive, challenging conversations about tarot vs Futhark which always bring something new to my understanding of both of the systems. We're both pagan and we share a similar understanding of the runes, though he's much better at naming what it is that makes this system so special for us, and what makes him dislike tarot. He once said that if wild nature could come up with a language / alphabet it would be Futhark. It's just simple staves and yet there's something so profound and ancient behind them, a language describing all of the natural, human and divine experience, doing so in a way that could not possibly be more simple and yet could not be more complex. 
Tarot, at the other hand, is a set of archetypes that relate specifically to the human condition, hence it's a tool for deepening one's understanding of the psyche - both conscious and unconscious, personal and collective - but always human. My partner dislikes tarot (and I love it) precisely because it's so psychological and analytical - and he hates that shit!
It would probably be harder for me to have a conversation with a skeptic if I viewed tarot differently. With my approach to tarot, the worst thing that can possibly come up in a conversation with a skeptic is that tarot is not a tool for everyone. Which is true! I don't expect everyone to understand why I find tarot useful, which is why I don't talk about it with those that won't want to understand.

Hope you enjoyed my answers to this week's #TarotThursdayThree! Anything caught your attention? Let's discuss it!
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