books

Seeing the Signs

November, 2017

Learning the Lenormand

I can’t remember when I became interested in Lenormand cards. In the past thirty years, I have mainly focused on Tarot cards but my search for original and artistic decks lead me to many different kinds of cards – Oracle cards, vintage playing cards, and of course, Lenormand cards. I was immediately attracted to Lenormand cards because of what I saw as the combination of playing card imagery with pictorial symbolism. At the time, I thought that it was the marriage of playing cards and the Tarot.

But that’s not what the Lenormand is. They have absolutely nothing to do with the Tarot, other than being a pictorial divinatory system set upon a deck of cards. And not all Lenormand cards have playing cards imagery on them! My very first deck of Lenormand cards – which I received quite recently – is totally devoid of playing card imagery and I have to admit that I was rather disappointed when I initially saw them.

The cards I have are based on a very old set of cards from Germany – indeed, the book that accompanies the deck is written by a German named Harold Jösten, who has written other books about the Lenormand and the Tarot. As you will see, there are some minor changes between the two decks but they are quite similar. And even though they aren’t what I wanted, they are really good for a beginner – which I most certainly am.

When I received this deck, I had already been reading The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook: Reading the Language and Symbols of the Cards by Caitlín Matthews. This is a fabulous book – really a workbook, complete with exercises and tests – and I am about halfway through it at this point. But I have to say, if you don’t have a Lenormand deck with the playing card images on them – Matthews calls them “pips” – then you are really at a loss when you are using this book. Not that you can’t use it and learn a great deal. It’s a massive book – one that needs to be studied carefully and thoroughly and read more than once. I can definitely say that, not even having read the entire book!

The book that came with my deck is Lenormand Fortune-Telling Cards: The Legendary 18th-Century Oracle by Harold Jösten and translated by Edana Kleinhans. Inside the cover, there’s another title page which reads: The divination Cards of Mademoiselle Marie Anne Lenormand: A New Guide to Love, Happiness and Success, which makes me wonder if this was the title of the book as originally published in Germany. It’s a slender book but it’s a good little handbook to have on hand. Each card has a series of keywords to help you remember the concepts connected to the card, as well as pairings with other cards to create other concepts – such as, 16 The Star + 34 Fish = financial security or 23 Mice + 34 Fish = loss of money. There are spreads in the back, for practice for using the cards – and of course daily practice is the key to learning any new discipline – divinatory or otherwise!

The cards themselves are based on German cards from nineteenth century. I found some images on Pinterest and the similarities were striking:

Here we have 1 The Rider, which is the bringing of news. Depending on the cards surrounding The Rider, it could be good news or bad news or financial news – it all depends on the other cards. But check out how the cards are just about the same. The verse has minor changes and the emblem on the right has been changed into another number 1. But other than that, they are virtually the same.

Here is 2 Clover, meaning luck and happiness.

And 13 Child, which is innocence and happiness.

I know enough German to tell that the verses are not the same on the cards, even with the difficulty of reading the old German script. And I am really curious about the Star Of David on the old German cards.

In researching the old German cards – because I became very curious about them – I found out that there were differences between reading German Lenormand cards and French Lenormand cards. According to the blog “Jase on Cards”, there are two schools of Lenormand – the German Traditional and the French Modern.1 I am not sure where he came up with this but from other sources, it appears that the Lenormand decks first appeared in Germany and then traveled to France. In fact, Madame Lenormand didn’t even use the deck that we now call “Lenormand”! She used a regular set of playing cards! According to Mary K. Greer, it wasn’t until after her death that the cards bearing her name started circulating around Europe. It was a marketing devise to popularize the cards and the form of divination2. Quite naturally, there were more than one set of Lenormand deck being produced, which is why some had pictures of playing cards on them as well as the basic images. Like the Tarot, the Lenormand reflected the culture in which it was planted. And also like the Tarot, the Lenormand adapted itself quite easily to new imagery and ideas.

There are dozens of new Lenormand decks being produced today. While there are thousands of Tarot decks and hundreds of Oracle decks, the creation of new Lenormand cards is way behind. But there are some really fine decks out there. I particularly like The Chelsea Lenormand.

It has an Deco look to it that’s really appealing. I would love to own this deck.

Another deck that’s really cool is Pixie’s Astounding Lenormand. It borrows from The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck in imagery and use of color. This is another one I would really love to have!

Note that Pixie’s Astounding Lenormand has the playing card status next to the name of the card.

This deck is called Story in Color Lenormand. I’m not sure how you read with these. But they’re very beautiful.

Again, the playing card status is next to the name of the card. So you have the information you need, even if you don’t have an obvious image.

When I researching Lenormand cards, I found so many beautiful cards that I couldn’t even begin to show all the images here. Some that work with the traditional images – some that are very artistic and cutting-edge, like the Story in Color deck, and some that are collage work – just pictures pasted onto traditional playing cards. I’ll probably make myself a collage set using a desk of poker cards.

What I really want are cards that look like this:

Notice how that’s almost exactly like the cards I have now – and the old German cards with the verse written in the old German script – but there’s the playing card motive where the verse is. To make things worse, these cards are called “German Lenormand” as well!

Honestly, it’s all quite confusing!

I am sure that I will be designing and creating my own Lenormand deck, as soon as I get more acquainted with using the one I have now. I know for a fact I’ll be putting playing card imagery on mine – the way I see it, if you don’t have the pips, you only have part of the information you’re supposed to have. But since I’m only a beginner – a mere novice – I do admit that – still only learning the basic grammar of the Lenormand – I will be as patient as I can possibly be! And practice with the deck of cards that I have.

Brightest blessings!

References

Jösten, Harold. Lenormand Fortune-Telling Cards: The Legendary 18th-Century Oracle. NY: Sterling Ethos, 2014.

Matthews, Caitlín. The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook: Reading the Language and Symbols of the Cards. Rochester, VT: Destiny , 2014

https://jaseoncards.wordpress.com/lenormand-card-meanings/

https://globalspiritualstudies.com/the-traditional-method-of-reading-lenormand-with-mary-k-greer/

http://tarotator.com/the-lenormand-cards/

1 https://jaseoncards.wordpress.com/lenormand-card-meanings/

2 https://globalspiritualstudies.com/the-traditional-method-of-reading-lenormand-with-mary-k-greer/

 

For Amazon information, click images below.

 

 

 

 

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About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Seeing the Signs

October, 2017

Samhain and divination

 

When I moved into my new place this summer, I decided to reread all my spiritual books, starting with The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess by Starhawk, which I read for the first time exactly thirty years ago. I cannot stress how much this book changed my life. A good friend loaned me her copy and I literally copied it almost word for word by hand and then later typed up my handwritten notes. This was the basis of my original Book of Shadows.

Written basically as a manual for group instruction, I used The Spiral Dance to teach myself how to be a witch. I rewrote the rituals for a solitary and I practiced the exercises until I could do them at will – visualizing an apple, throwing a stone into a stormy sea, tying a knot – anywhere, anytime. After I gave the book back to my friend, I took books out from the library and read everything I could about the history of modern witchcraft, Wicca, neopaganism, and women’s spirituality. As a feminist, I was most attracted to goddesses and the religious veneration of women and the feminine form. I eventually bought my own copy in July, 1990 – the tenth anniversary edition, published in 1989. A third edition, celebrating the twentieth year of its publication, was published in 1999, and is available (of course) on Amazon.

 

One of the things I noticed this time around is that Starhawk doesn’t always say why this is this or that. For example, during the Samhain ritual, which is quite involved, using blindfolds and apples – the fruit of death – and some kind of “ship”, which is supposed to sailing on a “sunless sea” – after which all the coveners take off their blindfolds and gaze into a crystal and scry. Starhawk writes, “This is the best night for scrying in the year.” (The Spiral Dance, 195) But why? Why is this?

According to Amanda Linette Meder, the veil between the physical world and the spirit world is thinnest between October 8th and November 11th of any given year, so it just stands to reason that October 31st through November 2nd would be the most powerful days within that time frame. This is why this is the best night “for scrying” in the entire year.

However, Barbara G. Walker asserts that pagans believed that all the junctures between the seasons opened cracks that allowed contact between “the ghostworld and the mortal one” (The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 372). Four times a year this happens – at Samhain, at Yule, at Beltane, and at Litha. So using that logic, all the cross points of the Wheel of the Year are times when the veil is going to be thin and you can ask the spirits of your loved ones to help you in your divinatory endeavors.

With this in mind, I cast a circle early this morning and sat in silent meditation. I thought about my grandmothers and my grandfather MacDavid, who was always so supportive of my writing. And I thought about my novel, which I have been working on diligently for this past year. I created a blog for it on WordPress and accumulated a bunch of followers. I had originally thought of the novel-in-a-blog like the serial novels of Dickens and Dumas. But in the past few months, I have been unable to write. I haven’t written much of anything other than my personal diary and nothing on the novel at all. The other day, I changed its status on WordPress so that nobody could read it anymore – if I do continue with it, it will be after a major overhaul of the entire thing.

These were my thoughts as I sat in meditation. A red candle smelling of cinnamon burned on the table next to me. My black cat Bobby sat nearby. The fan whirred in the window.

I asked out loud: “What should I do with this novel? Continue with it or set it aside?”

I have numerous divinatory ways of answering my psychic questions but I admit cards are my favorite – tarot, oracle or even just playing cards. Today I used the Motherpeace Tarot Cards. I haven’t used them in a very long time. For some reason, they called to me this morning.

My Motherpeace Tarot cards, wrapped in a cloth I tie-dyed in 1990

The Motherpeace Tarot, created by Vicki Noble and Karen Vogle, was my third deck in what would become an ever-growing collection of tarot and oracle cards. First I got the Rider-Waite deck in 1988, then the Secret Dakini Oracle Cards as a Yule gift in 1990. The Motherpeace Tarot was a Yule gift to myself in 1994 and the book, Motherpeace: A Way to the Goddess through Myth, and Tarot by Vicki Noble, was a New Year’s gift in 1995. I bought the Motherpeace Tarot Guidebook by Karen Vogle in September, 1996. Although Noble’s book was more comprehensive and thorough, Vogel’s book was easier to use in a practical way. I thought it was interesting that they both created such a beautiful tarot deck together and then published such radically different books about that same deck.

I shuffled the cards and cut them three times for the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. I left the cut in three piles.

Placing my right hand over each pile, I asked, “What should I do with this novel?”

Then I turned over the top card from each pile.

First Card – 10 of Cups – happiness

Second Card – X Wheel of Fortune – surrender to the flow

Third Card – Son of Wands – the dancing fool – just do it, stop thinking about it.

SO – if I want to finish the novel and be happy, the surrender to the wheel and just do it – dance with the son of wands – stop thinking about what to do with the novel and just write the damn thing.

I put the cards back into their cloth and thanked my spirit guides. After opening the circle, I decided I would add the two Motherpeace books to my reading list. It’s going to be a long winter, after all.

Blessed Samhain! Brightest Blessings to all!

References:

https://www.amandalinettemeder.com/blog/2015/9/25/halloween-is-the-veil-between-the-worlds-thinner

Vicki Noble. Motherpeace: A Way to the Goddess Through Myth, and Tarot. San Franscisco: HarperCollins, 1994

Starhawk. The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. San Fransisco: Harper & Row, Publishers. 1989.

Karen Vogel. Motherpeace Tarot Guidebook. Stamford, CT: US Games Systems, Inc., 1995.

Barbara G. Walker. The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. San Fransisco: Harper & Row, 1983.

 

 

 

 

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About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

A Year And A Day

July, 2013

 

Wicca 101

I believe it was Scott Cunningham that encouraged new witches to read everything they can get their hands on when first exploring the Craft. I agree with this wholeheartedly! There is a multitude of ‘Wicca 101’ books on the market, and it can seem daunting to sift through them and choose which ones to read. Every Wiccan author has their own style and point of view, so it’s a good exercise to read a variety of books in order to discover what works for you. Keep in mind that not everybody agrees with what makes a good book!

Below is a list of some Wiccan and Pagan books that I have read, I am planning to read, or have been recommended by others. It is by no means an inclusive list, but it might be a helpful reference for those just starting out on their path. Happy reading!

 

Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham (1989)

This was one of the first books I read on Wicca, and it is still one of my favourites.  Cunningham’s friendly style is easy to read, and the topics are basic enough for a beginner to grasp.  Some people criticize Cunningham as being ‘too fluffy’ and overlooking the darker aspects of the Craft, but I think it’s still one of the best Wicca 101 books out there.  I also recommend the companion book, Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.

 

Wicca For Beginners: Fundamentals of Philosophy and Practice by Thea Sabin (2006)

This has to be one of my favourite Wicca 101 books.  I find her friendly writing style easy to read and enjoyable.  Written in 2006, it contains a modern view of the history of the Craft, acknowledging Wicca as both a ‘new’ and ‘old’ religion.  It includes some very useful lessons right up front – Grounding, Centering, Visualization, and Meditation – complete with instructions and exercises.

 

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft (3rd Ed) by Denise Zimmermann and Katherine Gleason (2006)

I was skeptical when I picked up this book, but I’m glad I did because it is packed full of useful information.  Following the concept of the other ‘Idiots’ and ‘Dummies’ books, this guide is well laid out with concise chapters with notes, summaries, and definitions.  It will take you a long time to go through it all, but I feel its well worth it in the end.

 

Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft by Raymond Buckland (2002)

 

Buckland’s ‘big blue book’ contains a lot of useful information for the beginner Wiccan. The workbook is organized in a series of lessons with review questions at the end of each.  Although most of what he writes is geared towards coven work, there is a chapter at the end for the solitary practitioner.

True Magick: A Beginner’s Guide by Amber K (1990)

Many positive reviews have been made about Amber K’s ‘little green book’, and although I’m not quite finished it yet, it is quite enjoyable.  It contains information about the history of magic, magic and science, rituals and spellcraft, as well as exercises and recommended reading after each chapter.

To Ride A Silver Broomstick: New Generation Witchcraft by Silver RavenWolf (2002)

Love her or hate her, Silver RavenWolf is here to stay.  Very popular with the teen set, her books are filled with information, however sometimes you have to sift through her varied opinions on things to get to the facts.  This is the first book in a series of beginner Wicca books, followed by To Stir A Magick Cauldron and To Light A Sacred Flame. 

The Inner Temple of Witchcraft: Magick, Meditation and Psychic Development by Christopher Penczak (2002)

This is the first in the Temple series of books Christopher Penczak, a pupil of Laurie Cabot, which also includes The Outer Temple of Witchcraft, The Living Temple of Witchcraft, and The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft.  This book discusses the basics of Witchcraft, as well as magic, meditation, and energy work, complete with exercises and review questions.

Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America by Margot Adler (2006)

First published in 1979, this book was one of the first glimpses of Neopaganism in America.  Adler provides an interesting viewpoint on the history and formation of Neopaganism.


 

Additional recommended books include:

A Witches’ Bible: The Complete Witches’ Handbook by Stewart Farrar and Janet Farrar (1996)

The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess by Starhawk (1999)

Witchcraft for Tomorrow by Doreen Valiente (1993)

The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft by Ronald Hutton (2001)

Green Witchcraft: Folk Magic, Fairy Lore & Herb Craft by Ann Moura (2002)

Positive Magic: Occult Self-Help by Marion Weinstein (2008)

The Spirit of the Witch: Religion & Spirituality in Contemporary Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi (2003)

How to Become a Witch: The Path of Nature, Spirit & Magick by Amber K (2010)

The Real Witches’ Handbook: A Complete Introduction to the Craft by Kate West (2008)

The Wicca Bible: The Definitive Guide To Magic And The Craft by Ann-Marie Gallagher (2005)

Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions by River Higginbotham and Joyce Higginbotham (2002)

 

Bare Feet on an Earth Path

June, 2013

I came to paganism, like many of us, by way of books. They intrigued me, and once I got my nose into them, one led to another, which led to another. Many of these books were written by brave, public pagan figures who had recorded their knowledge so that I, an inheritor of that knowledge, could follow their bread crumb trail on a journey of my own.

 

The very first books I plucked off of the bookstore shelves and brought home with me were introductory Wiccan books. They did their best to describe just what Wiccans are and what they do, saying that “Wiccans believe this” and “Pagans do that.”

 

Not knowing much about Wiccans or pagans, I assumed the things I read must be true. This was a stumbling block for me, as doubts like the ones I’d experienced in my conservative Christian days began to eat at me.  I don’t know if I can be Wiccan, I thought, because I don’t know how I feel about this thing that this book says you have to believe to be Wiccan.

 

Time passed, and my interest in paganism fluctuated, with more books coming and going.

 

More books meant more opinions, and I began to sneak a glimpse into the true plurality of paganism.  I ventured out to a local pagan pride event, not yet sure if I was pagan or proud, and talked to real pagans. But I had no idea of the magnitude of the pagan community until my discovery of the pagan blogosphere. I found that pagan bloggers discussed issues, both theological and societal, and in the process, constantly bounced ideas back and forth, referring to one another’s posts.

 

Did you see this post of Harry’s? I totally agree with Harry, and here’s why! Or, rather, Did you see that poppycock dribble Harry posted the other day? That Harry is batshit insane!  (Maybe without so much name-calling, but it adds color, I think.)  When an issue came up in the pagan blogosphere, it whirled through a multitude of blogs, being critiqued up, down, and back again, with everyone seeming to throw in their two cents.

 

Some of the bloggers I read seemed to be important, respected people in the pagan community. Credentialed pagans. You know, the “I’ve been a contributing member of the pagan community for 35 years, and have 4 published books and three third degree titles to prove it” pagans. Those things are great and all, but I was most definitely not credentialed.  I wasn’t even experienced.  Hell, I ‘d just decided I was pagan!  But the armchair theologian in me wanted to get involved, and so I did.  As I spent more time in this community of sorts, reading and beginning to find my voice, I realized what a great plurality of beliefs and practices are present within paganism.  More importantly, I learned that there was a lot of disagreement.  This was amazingly freeing. If all these people disagreed with each other, then I could disagree with them, too, and still be pagan.

 

Paganism has been called a “big tent” by some, meaning that it encompasses a broad variety of paths and contains a diversity of ways of seeing and doing things. The size of that umbrella is what made room for me. In paganism, I have found a freedom I never knew before: a freedom that allows me to grow and change without fear of growing out of my religion. I can lie on the soft earth with the wind ruffling my hair and look up at the trees, knowing that however my perceptions shift and change, the earth and the wind and the trees will still be here. This peace and spark of life will still be here. Paganism will still be here. And I will still be pagan.

WiseWoman’s Books

January, 2011

Vibrant, passionate, and involved, Susun Weed has garnered an international reputation for her groundbreaking lectures, teachings, and writings on health and nutrition. She challenges conventional medical approaches with humor, insight, and her vast encyclopedic knowledge of herbal medicine. Unabashedly pro-woman, her animated and enthusiastic lectures are engaging and often profoundly provocative.
Susun is one of America’s best-known authorities on herbal medicine and natural approaches to women’s health. Her four best-selling books are recommended by expert herbalists and well-known physicians and are used and cherished by millions of women around the world. Learn more at www.susunweed.com

Susun Weed’s books include:

Wise Woman herbal for the Childbearing Year

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Author: Susun S. Weed. Simple, safe remedies for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and newborns. Includes herbs for fertility and birth control. Foreword by Jeannine Parvati Baker. 196 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $11.95 Order at: www.ashtreepublishing.com

Healing Wise

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Author: Susun S. Weed. Superb herbal in the feminine-intuitive mode. Complete instructions for using common plants for food, beauty, medicine, and longevity. Introduction by Jean Houston. 312 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $17.95 Order at: www.ashtreepublishing.com

NEW Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way

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Author: Susun S. Weed. The best book on menopause is now better. Completely revised with 100 new pages. All the remedies women know and trust plus hundreds of new ones. New sections on thyroid health, fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, and herbs for women taking hormones. Recommended by Susan Love MD and Christiane Northrup MD. Foreword by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. 304 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $16.95. Order at: www.ashtreepublishing.com

For more info on menopause, visit: www.menopause-metamorphosis.com

Visit Susun Weed at: www.susunweed.com and www.ashtreepublishing.com

Breast Cancer? Breast Health!

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Author: Susun S. Weed. Foods, exercises, and attitudes to keep your breasts healthy. Supportive complimentary medicines to ease side-effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or tamoxifen. Foreword by Christiane Northrup, M.D. 380 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $14.95 Order at: www.ashtreepublishing.com