Self-Care in the Dark & Dangerous Waters of the Virtual World + Prompts

Self-Care in the Dark & Dangerous Waters of the Virtual World + Prompts

Just a random piece by me ©
In April I needed a break from the world, I needed to rest and to forget, and to be forgotten. I'm lucky that my inner compass is strong, always has been, and it informs me when it is time to turn inwards and when it's time to open back up. This can be understood on many levels: introversion vs extraversion, shadow self vs higher self, staying down to earth vs daydreaming, nurturing vs expansion, accepting vs giving. All this applies to the virtual plane of existence just as much as is applies to the immediate reality.

I'm one of those people who feel like shit when they spend too much time on social media and just interacting with people in general. I am not particularly interested in other people's lives, I also believe that it's not always good for me to be interested in other people's ideas and viewpoints, I don't compare myself to others unless it's for a constructive reason. Simultaneously, I find it rather problematic when people consider me to be interesting to them, to be some kind of a specialist or a teacher, or a cool person to compare themselves to or become friends with. It is nice to speak to like-minded people or just any-minded people for that matter, I love it! But beware - you request or give me too much attention and I'm gone - that's just the way I work. No apologies. I know my shit - do you know yours?

The vast waters of the interwebs are certainly not a safe place for those who pay attention to what they put into their heads. There's only so much invaluable free space on the hard drive of our mind that we can manage each day. It is surely good to fill it up with creative ideas, new knowledge, plans and projects, inspiration, experiences. But it seems like we tend to forget that all those juicy things can also come from within. It's easy to forget when we're bombarded with eye-catching stimuli anywhere we look.

Videos, pictures, photographs, gifs - shorter and shorter forms of expression that require less and less focus and attention to swallow. Instant delivery of information makes it impossible for the recipient to decide whether this is something they want to soak up or not. The more you scroll the more trash you're involuntarily absorbing. This causes our attention spans to shrink and makes our ability to focus damaged. Our nervous system becomes fed up and - unless you're taking care of it properly - before you know it, you function like a spoiled kid in a candy store. There's so much candy that you're unable to appreciate any of it. Knowing that you can get any candy you wish makes you place value on the quantity rather than the quality. You want more and more, just for the sake of getting it, and you eventually lose yourself in it.

I refuse to participate in this. I know that I'm not immune to these things, nobody is. I make a conscious choice to pay attention to what I pay attention to. That is why I often retreat from the virtual world and become unavailable. I focus on me, I pay attention, I nurture myself and the bonds with my loved ones, I cherish the senses, I create, I make dreams come true, I do my work, I do my craft.

How can we help ourselves survive in the interwebs jungle? Two of Swords!

Two of Swords happens to be my April card. I spent quite some time meditating on it and learning its lessons this month. It was a primary inspiration for this blog post.

Two of Swords from Thoth and Mary-El

In the Thoth system, Two of Swords (Peace) represents the beginning of analysis. While the Ace is a pure, undifferentiated potential of the suit - actually quite symbolic of what internet could be perceived to be - the Two of Swords separates and differentiates that potential, gives it a form, performs an energetic Google search or chooses which site to visit. Two of Swords chooses what to do with the potential, how to direct this energy.

In Landscapes of the Abyss, Marie White mentions that "Two of Swords is creation through word, and words are the highest art of man, the potential and destiny of mankind." I particularly love Marie's view of this card. The Mary-El Two of Swords portrays it with a bunch of wings, which are a symbol of transformation. Marie cleverly describes how any symbol is transformed if you give it wings.

Words are like wings.

Words have the power to transform the world, both for the good and for the bad. If you trust someone to be a specialist in a field, you'll believe their words and will see the world through the lens they offer you. We don't always realize how big of a deal that is. Heck, when it comes to the internet, we often don't even care to check whether the source of information is legitimate or someone's just toying with our emotions to achieve a specific reaction from us. Now that is some black magic stuff!

A wise practitioner of magic, of spirituality, of mindfulness, of life will always try to be aware of words - be it their own thoughts or the words of strangers. A wise practitioner of life on Earth will always check back in to see how they feel about the streams of information trying to penetrate them against their will from all directions.

Words are power. 

Those who practice magick know exactly how powerful words are - they are the sole thread we use to weave our reality. Therefore, it is wise to pay attention and be careful what words we allow into our heads. And not only that! It is equally important to be aware of what kind of influence our words might have on others. Sometimes less is more.

Here's a list of prompts / questions you might want to ask yourself, keep in mind during voyages on the web, and perhaps journal about if you wish to up your self-care game in the virtual reality department:

  • Am I engaging in enabling myself or others to perpetuate unhealthy patterns of behavior, addictions or escape coping?
  • Who do I follow on social media? What kind of value do I find in this person's content? (i.e. learning, motivation, inspiration, friendship, growth) Bonus points if you regularly clean the list of people/media you're subscribed to based on who/what you're genuinely interested in and are in alignment with!
  • Am I more of a lurker or a sharer? What does it say about me?
  • Did I ever find myself being jealous of someone on social media? If so, what was the reason? If not, why?
  • Is there a social platform I wouldn't be able to live without for a longer period of time? Bonus points if you actually challenge yourself not to use your favourite platform for at least a week!
  • Am I guilty of not checking the validity / sources of information? Is it easy for me to believe in something without doing my research?
  • Do I jump on the Hype Train easily? How often do I want things I've seen on the internet? What are the things that I would have never bought if it wasn't for the internet communities I participate in?
  • How do I protect my privacy on the interwebs? Do I pay attention to the amount of information I share? Do I guard my space from toxic people and creeps properly or do I allow them to hang around? Do I keep my boundaries strong and healthy or do I let people use me? 
  • How do I feel when I witness people venting on the internet? Do I use the internet to vent/rant myself? Is venting constructive and helpful in actual problem-solving and improving the quality of my life?
  • Have I experienced abuse on the internet? (i.e. sexism, sexual harassment, offense, exploitation, depreciation, racism, cultural appropriation)
  • How often do I find myself mindlessly scrolling through social media? Is it a coping mechanism, procrastination, addiction, anxiety? How could I utilize this time or help myself more constructively?
  • How much time do I spend practicing my craft vs sharing pictures of it and talking about it on social media? How much of my craft is for me and how much is on show?

The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it. 
― Terry PratchettDiggers

The importance of studying the mythos and history of human kind. My perspective + recommendations.

The importance of studying the mythos and history of human kind. My perspective + recommendations.

The first time I caught a glimpse of how important mythology can potentially be for our understanding of the world was when I watched the Zeitgeist. When it came out in 2007 it instantly became "the shit" amongst my occult/esoteric friends. It is a shitty, tendentious "documentary" but worked well enough for a kid in their late teens. What caught my attention was the comparison of egyptian and christian mythos and pointing out similarities between Jesus and Horus. Back then, I didn't realize how many of these "similarities" were invented for the sake of the theory and thus weren't exactly true but I still feel like I need to give this film credit for sparking my interest to do my own research.

It wasn't until I got into jungian psychology and the narrative model of research and therapy (at some point during uni, a couple years later) that my interest in mythology got seriously reignited. Now that I had more in-depth knowledge of the human psyche, it was easier for me to grasp how storytelling influenced our growth as a species. Mythologies, folklore stories, fairytales were not only meant to help us understand how the world works or learn to distinguish good and evil, but through shaping our perception and morality, and teaching us that sky is (or isn't) the limit, they influenced the evolution of societies and cultures (as well as countercultures) from ancient times until today.

Apart from the collective, each individual also writes their own narration, the story of their life - interestingly, more often than not heavily based on one or more preexisting stories. Working with mythos can be a powerful self-therapeutic tool because it allows us to "see" the contents of our Psyche through these stories. Looking at our mind can be quite difficult on its own - we can't really see it, it's elusive, tricky, unavailable. That's why we use various mirrors to help us look at ourselves, and mythology, storytelling in general, is certainly one of such mirrors - both for an individual and for the collective.

History obviously plays an important role in understanding who we are as well. If you look at history as a one, big mythological tale, you'll notice that mythos and history are not that different from one another. They complement each other so closely that one would not be complete without the other. If you wish to understand why and how a certain tale shaped your ancestors, you need to know how they lived and what aspect of their everyday life this tale related to. If you worship a deity, you might want to know the history and culture of the people who first worshipped it to have a deeper understanding of it.

If you have trouble finding historical sources about your ancestors, it might mean that they lost a war at one point in history or another - and we know that history is written by the victor. Or perhaps a big war that all the chroniclers were writing about never reached the lands of your ancestors and thus a huge part of their history is missing from the records. You won't know it if you're not interested in folk tales and history. The same folk tales and history that make you who you are.

I know, we're all mortals and there's not enough time in a human's life to read all the books and gain all the knowledge. Getting to know the whole history and mythos of human kind is an impossible task. But it doesn't have to be everything or nothing. Even the slightest glimpse into the vastness of it all makes us understand so much more about ourselves, both existentially and spiritually. It helps us understand what we're capable of, where we come from, how primal and godlike we are at the same time, how the world of our ancestors was surprisingly similar to our own.

Here's a modest, basic list of books and documentaries/movies I recommend to anyone interested in enriching their spiritual practice and understanding of the world through mythology and history of human mind. It doesn't have to be an unpleasant, boring ride and you don't have to be a scholar. We have so many excellent resources to choose from!



What I'm sharing above are books and films that are quite universal and can be helpful to anyone, doesn't matter where you come from and what culture/mythos you're personally interested in. Of course, this list would be much longer if I were to include sources covering each and every one of the world's cultures and mythologies but that is not the point of this post. I might expand the list over time as I tend to forget things.

What are your thoughts? Do you study mythology as part of your spiritual practice? What mythos are you particularly interested in? Got a juicy book/film on this topic to share? Let me know and I'll add it to the list!

Thank you to Alaina from Exploringly Yours for inspiring me to write this blog post. Sorry it took me so long!

Futhark Divination: Skjebne Casting Circle

Futhark Divination: Skjebne Casting Circle

Time to share the Futhark casting method I've been using for years. It's based on the "old ways" of Rune divination techniques, presented by Igor Warneck in one of his books (unavailable in english). Skjebne is a scandinavian word for fate. The Skjebne Circle is meant to be used with Elder Futhark.

My personal Skjebne cloth

Here's what it looks like:

First you'll need to create your own board/cloth (square, around 0.5 m x 0.5 m in width and length). You can use paper, cloth, wood - whatever you prefer and then draw/sew/carve the Casting Circle maintaining the proportions from the picture above. If you're performing divination outside, you can just draw it on the ground.
Note: All the elements and Rune names are written around the circle for demonstration only, they're not part of the actual board/cloth.

1. The small inner circle is called skjebne. It represents soul, spirituality etc. 
2. The next circle is called outer-skjebne. It represents emotional and intellectual level of existence.
3. Finally, the most outer circle divided into four domains is optional.
 These four domains represent the material level of existence. You can either place four elements there (Air, Water, Earth, Fire) or four runes representing those elements (this technique is more advanced) OR you can name them as follows: Family (instead of Air), Abundance (instead of Fire), Success (instead of Water) and Health (instead of Earth) - this is for newbies.

1. Prepare yourself the same way you normally would before divination.
2. Focus your intention on the question/dillema and draw 9 Runes from the sack (or whatever you store your Runes in). Don't put the Runes away, hold them in your hands while drawing. Once you draw 9, close your hands with Runes inside and focus your intention on them.
3. Throw Runes on the Skjebne Circle with a gentle motion. But not too gentle - use just enough power to let the Runes spread around the board. (It requires a bit of practice if you never cast before but you'll get it after a few tries.)

This step can seem a bit complicated at first but it'll get easier once you memorize it.

(An examplary arrangement of runes and guidelines: Explained below)

Once our Runes are cast we will separate them into three spheres (3 Runes each). I'll give you two examples of the spheres you can use but feel free to create your own variations, better suited for your specific needs.

1. "Current Situation" / "The Past" 
Now you want to pick first three Runes. In your mind draw a line from the center of the board up (like 12 o'clock). If there's a Rune on that line - that's your first Rune. If not, going clockwise pick the nearest Rune to the line. Then count the next Runes to three - the 3rd Rune is your next. Repeat the counting once again to get your set of 3 Runes for "Current Situation" or "The Past" interpretation. (So, those are gonna be the 1st, 4th and 7th Rune, going clockwise). Once you interpret them, you can remove them from the board and move on.

2. "Material Sphere" / "The Present"
In this step you want to pick your next three Runes to interpret the "Material Sphere" or "The Present". In your mind draw a line from the center of the board down (like 6 o'clock). Going clockwise, count to two to pick every second Rune. Once you interpret them you can remove them from the board.

3. "Relationships, Emotions, Sex" / "The Future"
Now that you've got only three Runes left on the board you don't need to count and pick anything - you just interpret them concerning "Relationships, Emotions, Sex" or "The Future".

How to interpret the Runes depending on where and how they're placed on the board:
1. If the Rune is placed in the inner skjebne, it has to do with the spiritual level of the situation.
2. If the Rune is placed in the outer skjebne, it has to do with the emotional and/or mental level.
3. If the Rune is placed in one of the four domains, in addition to the Rune's meaning you add the meaning of the element/Rune specific for the domain it's placed in. It represents the material sphere.
4. If the Rune is upside-down, this means that the person whom it concerns is not aware of that aspect of the situation.
5. If 2 or more Runes are touching eachother it means that their meanings are somehow connected.

Hope you found this method of Rune casting interesting. Let me know if you plan to try it out! If anything's unclear or you've got trouble understanding any part of the process, let me know and I'll try to explain it as best as I can.
Exploring Creativity with The Fool and #CreateThisOracleDeck + Free Digital Copy of my Oracle

Exploring Creativity with The Fool and #CreateThisOracleDeck + Free Digital Copy of my Oracle

Oh, March, you beautiful month, you. What better month to jump into creative endeavors than March, when The Wheel of The Year turns towards Spring and my card of the month is The Fool! After a rather heavy February I welcomed March like it was salvation - and it certainly turned out to be the case. This month definitely felt like a new chapter, with its fresh vibe of playfulness and adventure, getting my hands dirty with watercolors and basically not being too anal about what I let out into the world. Feels good, man.

A huge part of why March turned out to be such an awesome month for me was #CreateThisOracleDeck challenge hosted by Kristen from Over The Moon Oracle Cards. I had no idea how much I missed creating stuff on paper. This experience opened something up inside me, it rejuvenated me and reminded me what it felt like to draw and paint regularly - the last time I was doing that was in my teens, *cough cough* well over a decade ago. I definitely recommend trying this stuff out - it has a high therapeutic and anti-stress value, helps to connect with our Inner Child and blasts the gates of creativity wide open. If you would like to do this challenge at your own pace, Kristen prepared a free course which will help you go through the process of creating your first deck. Or you can just follow the list of prompts provided on Kristen's IG.

All this drawing and painting got me thinking. This is precisely why art therapy is so effective, because it brings things up and makes things surface effortlessly. The goal is not to be too concerned about how things turn out, but to let go, to not be afraid of getting dirty, to let the magic happen "on its own" - that's when we open ourselves up to specific parts of our subconscious.

The Inner Child is what comes to mind straight away. Particularly, letting go of control and allowing ourselves to create freely is what helps us heal this part of our psyche. Art is an excellent tool for that because it's extremely gentle - it doesn't require us to name things, to name the wounds, fears, traumas that our Inner Child might bear. Art doesn't ask difficult questions that the Child cannot possibly answer. Art creates safe space for the Child to open up and pour her heart onto paper without judgement.

The knowledge of the heart is in no book and is not to be found in the mouth of any teacher, but grows out of you like the green seed from the dark earth.
- C. G. Jung, Liber Novus (The Red Book)

Another thing that caught my attention are colors - the ones that we reach for in our art most often, the color of clothes we prefer to wear, the color of our favorite mug or home decor. These colors feel familiar, safe, they are somewhat representative of what kind of vibe we want to upkeep in our lives. Then there are these colors that we might not mind but we wouldn't wear them or won't use in our art too much, sometimes without really giving it much thought or perhaps without even realizing that we're avoiding said colors. This topic caught my attention during the creation of my deck - at some point I've noticed that there are certain colors that I used very often and some are completely or almost completely missing from the deck. It's not that my goal was to create a rainbow but I didn't have a set palette of colors that I wanted to use exclusively either.

I started digging to find out why I avoided some of the colors. As I mentioned above, the colors we choose to surround ourselves with correlate with how we feel and what we identify with. Accordingly, the colors we avoid are things we don't want to align ourselves with, sometimes for a good and healthy reason, but other times it might be representative of the aspects that need some internal work - fears, insecurities, prejudice, self-esteem or self-image issues. Now that I think about it, it reminded me of The Color Mage Oracle which would probably be perfect for delving into color symbolism and magick. But I also think it's priceless to form our personal understanding of symbology of colors to make sure we're not looking at the finger but at the actual thing it's pointing at. And the best way to do that is probably through art.

Is color work the new shadow work? Certainly not - but it might be very useful in the process. Since I'm in The Fool vibe this month, I've decided to experiment with colors and see what happens. Because I want results to be tangible and visible in the outside world, I went for experimenting with the colors of my clothing - got myself some yellow, green, orange dresses and skirts. These three colors are probably avoided by me most often. It is funny how that creates this huge gap between earthy colors (black, all kinds of browns, reds) and "airy" colors (blues, purples, white) - and the gap happens to consist of all the colors of passion, openness and love, which should be quite fucking important, am I right?

So far, as soon as it got really sunny (we're finally entering into a real Spring weather-wise), I put my yellow skirt on. She's the kind of really bright yellow that's in your face, so that happened to draw a lot of attention which I found to be quite amusing. Yellow is the color of openness. I definitely felt more open and confident (I'm usually confident anyway!) and acted much more assertively where I would sometimes lack assertiveness - towards people who are "above me", like my boss etc. I felt like a lioness and like I finally got enough balls to change some thing that needed my attention for some time. Screw "what if's" - if the current situation is far from ideal then I shouldn't stick to it at all cost purely because it's a safe substitute for what I actually want. This experimenting with colors is bringing some good stuff into my life so far, looking forward to what's going to happen next.

Now, let's talk a little bit about the art itself. Every card was created using Koi Water Colors Pocket Field Sketch Box (36 colors), a set of Micron Pens and a medium-sized waterbrush. Thanks to this challenge, I know that I want to continue painting, so I invested in actual, more professional watercolor brushes - wish I had them earlier, the art would look so much better! Being consistent with creating a card each morning gave me a sense of much needed structure and reassurance that I can commit and finish a project - I just need to be really into it. Also, being able to compare my cards and my understanding of certain concepts with others was quite refreshing, I could feel the creative juices flowing and some of the cards turned out to be thought-provoking.

I also have to mention that I wasn't this much involved in a community in a while. I got to know some amazing human beings, I got to talk to people a lot, exchange thoughts and visions. It's been great but also challenging at times. I'm certainly not used to getting so much attention, so many comments and all that social media jazz. When there's two people to reply to and talk to, it feels good but when I woke up to 30 new comments I wouldn't reply to any because it felt like way too much. I am introverted and seeing so much attention makes me feel drained instantly - that's just the way it is.

Post udostępniony przez @mnomquah

All in all, I've got nothing but awesome things to say about this whole experience! I'm thankful for being able to be a part of it and - as my "thank you" to everyone - I am sharing my deck in a digital form with everyone for free. It might not be the best quality on Earth as I do not own a professional grade scanner, but I did all I possibly could to make it look as good as possible. You can print it at home or through one of the sites where you can order a custom deck with the images you upload. The only thing I ask for is not to use my images for anything other than personal use - do not use it commercially, do not claim it as your own, do not make money out of it in any way, shape or form, do not use it as stock images for your art projects (be it digital or traditional art).

Download the deck for free HERE. 
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<.

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