Reading Fortune Telling Cards – A Romani Approach –

A ramble rather than a review – It started as a review but then meandered around a lot so bear with me!

It’s fair to say that once you get to a certain stage in your card obsession you will start collecting decks of all shapes and sizes. For example, last year I became totally fixated with the Etteilla cards in all their incarnations, I will do a blog post about them some day soon I promise.  Once you slip down the slippery slope of other cartomantic systems you will without a doubt finally stumble upon the ‘Gypsy’ decks. I know that the name Gypsy is problematic for some, but I am not going to make apologies for using the term in this blog or for the deck. Firstly, the deck is a product of its time and 100+ years ago when these cards first came into being things aren’t as they are now, if we cancel everything because the world was different then, we’ve got a problem in the cartomantic world and should probably just go back to reading playing cards!

Secondly I am acutely aware that the problematic nature of the name is very geographic, in parts of Europe there are those who see the name Gypsy as a racial slur and it’s led a lot of people worldwide to come out in support of that (quite rightly so – racism needs to be quashed), but here in the UK the nouns Gypsy and Traveller are the recognised names specifically requested by the Gyspy/Traveller communities. This is what they have asked to be known by officially, is it not wrong to try and cancel a name when members of that minority group wish it to be used? – just some food for thought (I’ve agonised over this and don’t have an answer I really don’t). Further consideration is that the author of this book clearly states that the “Romani have given it their own unique meaning” to this deck which implies strongly that the Romani have embraced and are using these cards and don’t seem to have a problem with them – just sayin’.

Anyway with all that said, you may remember I had a dalliance with the deck last year, doing my usual thing, trying to track down the origins and even looking for the instructions for the early decks to see if there had been any deviation in meanings during the decks lifetime. A frustrating process as there is so little written about it. You can understand then that I was absolutely beside myself with joy when I discovered a book on the subject was being released. “Reading Fortune Telling Cards – a Romani approach –  featuring the Gypsy Witch deck“, by Fabio Vinago (Published by U.S Games); it is as far as I am aware a first and in a heavily saturated market like cartomancy firsts are something to be celebrated.

I could not find much information on the author other than a website in Dutch, from which I gleaned that he has previously self published a number of books and decks. This is his first book in the English language and it’s a cute little thing just 125 pages long. Due to its brevity it feels like more like a LWB (Little White Book) than a comprehensive guide which is a shame as I think in my heart that is what I was hoping for. I was particularly intrigued by the idea that the book contained a Romani approach to reading the Gypsy Witch deck. The Lenormand derived decks of the early 1900s that came with names like “gypsy witch fortune-telling deck” and the “old gypsy fortune-telling deck” were for the most part created in America and are therefore relatively modern unlike the Romani culture and their use of playing cards which is not. Although some of the forerunners of the early “gypsy” decks were created in Berlin they only predated their cousins by a few years, my cynics head can’t help but wonder if what we’re seeing here in this book is an attempt to blend the unusual meanings in these peculiar, rather ugly and slightly problematic cards with Roma influenced playing card divination to give them a slightly more glamorous face and attaching a provenance to them that I am just not sure they deserve.

Anyway, in fairness to the author, he doesn’t claim that he knows the origins of this particular deck but there are several references within the book to the Romani people giving the cards “their own and unique meanings” but then offers neither research nor anecdotal stories to back this up – which just makes me desperately want to know more. Now, if you read Mary K Greer’s article on 19th-century American Lenormand decks she mentions that some of the early decks were published in both English and Polish which would make the connection back to the “old country” as it were, however I feel like I’m clutching at straws with this angle, I suspect that it’s more likely that the American Romani adopted these cards sometime in the last 100 years rather than having brought them over from Europe. So, currently all I can do is accept the statement that the Romani have given these cards their own unique purpose but in the absence or any further detail I do so with some healthy scepticism. I’d dearly love to know what makes this approach specifically Romani, hopefully the author will write more about this soon.

Moving on, let’s have a look at what we can learn from the book. The descriptions of each of the cards are detailed with an image of the card included an explanation about how you would actually read it both as a playing card and using the keywords associated with the image, layering the two together to make a comprehensive reading. Mostly the traditional meanings of the gypsy cards remain intact, so for example, ‘The Sun’ is very much happiness, success, popularity and joy – brilliant it matches, my brain can get behind that. However, when we look at the definition given for ‘The Moon’ what we are given are the meanings: happiness, emotions and work! There is no reference to work at all in the original instructions, so where did it come from? Enquiring minds need to know!

A copy of a 1903 set of instructions from a very very early gypsy witch fortune-telling deck and if you can peer closely you will see the original meanings.

Andy Boroveshengra also uses ‘work’ in the Lenormand interpretation of the moon card in his book 36 Cards, so are we seeing the Roma influence here? Perhaps, and let’s remember that just because it’s not in the original instruction booklet it doesn’t mean that we should ignore these other meanings, this is a different approach after all. Also included in the book are a number of spreads some of them the traditional ones that you will find in both old and new instruction booklets and some of them are very obviously ones that the author has either created himself or has learnt from the person who taught them (Did I mention I would have loved more research and/or anecdotal information?). Alongside this is an overview of the positive and negative cards in the deck and a detailed analysis of the person/court cards and finally a section on the ever popular card combinations that has taken the Lenormand community by storm in recent years.

All things considered, I don’t hate the book, it definitely adds something to the mix, it has everything you need to learn to read these cards and in more detail than the little pamphlet that comes with just the deck alone, so if you’re in the market for a new and obscure divination system it will make a good addition to your library. It’s certainly a saucy little deck that doesn’t pull punches – I’ve been known to use it when I work on the Psychic Lines because it’s definitely a “life” deck. I’m just so saddened that we did not learn a little more of the authors background, where and how they learnt this system, explanations for the deviations in meaning; it just feels like a missed opportunity. I wish I could read Dutch because it does look like the author has penned a slightly longer version entitled “De Complete Gypsy Waarzeg Set” which is available from Amazon in the Netherlands.

If you are interested I would suggest getting the English Book and Deck set can be found here (or at any reputable seller).

The Rite of Hekate Eurippa – A response to the Greek Wildfires

I would be surprised if we hadn’t all read a report something like this in the last few days.

Wildfires north of Athens leapt back to life on Thursday as searing conditions persisted and emergency crews battled blazes across Greece for a third day running. Red flames and sparks glowed in the night on the outskirts of the Greek capital, residents fled suburbs, asylum seekers were evacuated and authorities warned of more blazes on Friday as temperatures hovered around 40 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) and gale force winds were expected. Twelve people were taken to hospital including two volunteer firefighters who were treated for burns in intensive care, health officials said. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said emergency services faced a difficult night with westerly winds set to strengthen and he urged people to comply with evacuation orders and avoid unnecessary travel. “We are dealing with unprecedented conditions as many days of heatwave have turned the whole country into a powder keg,” he said in a special televised address. – Reuters Aug 5

The Message

You’d be forgiven for having read it, and unless it somehow it directly affected you and yours passing on by with a sorry shake of the head. That’s exactly what I did for my sins. After all much of the world is crashing and burning in one way or another. But something happened this morning that made me sit up and take notice.

I went to do my usual weekly shop. There on the sanitation station was an ornamental key. I never ignore a key when it randomly appears in my life, especially one so bizarre as a small brass key in the middle of Aldi. Mere moments later a dear friend and Priestess contacted me asking if we could do anything to help the Ranch-Eros horse sanctuary who are in dire need after the devastating fires in Greece. Horses are sacred to Hekate and she even has her own horse headed aspect “Hekate Eurippa”.

Yes Hekate, well played my dear, well played, the Message was received.

What has happened since then is mindblowing, amazing, and restores my faith the Pagan and Goddess community. We have a facebook page – Horses For Hekate, a just giving page (which is already at 21% of goal in less than 3 hours) also by the same name (click here to donate) and now we have a ritual for all those that are so inclined can use as part of their dark moon rites tomorrow night. I do find it amazing that what we have this weekend is a new moon in leo, one that is part of what some call a “Lionsgate Portal” where the constellation Leo, the Sun and the Dog star Sirius align in a very specific manner and is considered by some to be very cosmologically important. For me the importance is that its Leo and Sirius, the dog and the lion are together at new moon, 3 very sacred symbols for the Goddess Hekate. The Chaldean Oracles actually state that “if you call upon me often you will perceive everything in lion-form.”  C’mon this is starting to get to be a perfect a storm.

If you can please share this ritual it is free for all to use, the prayer is by the wonderful Mabh Savage and all I ask is if you use it you credit her, I also ask that you consider donating either your cash or maybe an item or service to the Silent Auction which will be announced properly in the coming days – we’ve already got some amazing donations so please come and look. And finally if all you can do is give your energy that is as important, please consider taking part in this rite both this weekend and every new moon until we reach our goal.

So without further ado here it is The Rite of Hekate Eurippa (ps if you like the FB page you can download it as PDF to work from at your altar).


HEKATE EURIPPA DARK MOON RITUAL

Set your sacred space in your normal way, this isn’t about fancy and fan-fair this is about raising energy and heartfelt devotion to the Goddess. Simple is good all that is needed for this rite is yourself, a singing bowl and a candle but you of course can make your preparations as you like. You may like to add flowers, incense, grain, wine, garlic, eggs or honey as offerings, these are all traditional to the Goddess and will be well received.

Opening Invocation:

Observe the fire burns without form, hear the voice that whispers from it.

Behold the soul, Dark Hekate, Numeric, Harmonic, Chaotic, Chthonic

I strike the Bell, I/we light the flame, we call you by your sacred names.

Ring bell/strike bowl 3x3x3

Light Candle

The Summoning

Hear our call, she who is our chosen accomplice, to whose presence this rite is dedicated.

Three times three we call as is your right, three times, for earth and sea and sky.

Hearken to your dread hounds calling, turn your magic wheel Hekate, Eurippa hear our prayers.

Hekate of the Many Names – Polyonumos, Come forth from the sea, Stand at our head with your ravening hosts.

Hearken to your dread hounds calling, turn your magic wheel Hekate, Eurippa hear our prayers.

Hekate of the Many Ways – Polytropos, Come forth from the earth, Stand at our head with your ravening hosts.

Hearken to your dread hounds calling, turn your magic wheel Hekate, Eurippa hear our prayers.

Hekate of the Many Ways – Polymorphikos, Come forth from the sky, Stand at our head with your ravening hosts.

Hearken to your dread hounds calling, turn your magic wheel Hekate, Eurippa hear our prayers.

 

The Prayer to Eurippa by Mabh Savage

Hail Hekate Eurippa

Horse headed

A horse leaping from her shoulder

Creature of fire

A fiery soul

So no flames need come near

As twin torches light

The night instead.

Speed away from danger

Solid and safe

Swift and sure

Hekate Eurippa

Horse finder

She of the animals

And of the land

Guide your charges

Away from harm

The fire without form,

Form barriers of protection

Let your fire breathing head

Protect its kin

Let the horses leap away

As you raise your hydra head

Towards the sphere of water

Cooling and drenching the land

We call to you Great Lady

From our land to theirs

Eyes upward to the skies

Minds joined across seas

Liminally poised

We pray for protection

Hekate Eurippa

With offerings and libations

We pray for safety

For horses and people

And the other inhabitants

Of Kria Vrisi (Κρύα Βρύση)

Rancheros Farm

And the surrounding areas

Affected by wildfires

Hands on heart

Mouth and brow

We send our prayer to you now

Hail Hekate Eurippa

Hail Hekate Kleidouchos

Hail Hekate.

HERE IS WHERE YOU MAY LIKE TO DANCE, SING, MEDITATE, SPEAK DEEPLY FROM THE HEART OR EVEN JUST SIT QUIETLY AND SEND YOUR ENERGY OUT ACROSS THE SEAS TO THE GODDESS AND THE HORSES ON HER LAND.

The Closing

I strike the Bell, I/we put out the flame, we thank you with your sacred names.

Polyonumos, Polytropos, Polymorphikos, Eurippa,

By Air, and Land and Sea Farewell this night Blessed Be!


En Erobos Phos!

Tara xXx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairies and Eggshells

An infestation of uninvited fae can be a nuisance and whilst I absolutely do not think you should go round wantonly banishing the good folk there are times when posting up a magickal “Trespassers will be prosecuted” sign is really handy. The problem is, once you start working with them, they do like to invite their friends. A great and very cheap way of popping up that sign is with Cascarilla, a.k.a ground eggshells. Although I have been using it for some years and was taught it as hoodoo/folk magic skill, I’ve not seen it in mainstream western practises until quite recently, which surprises me because there is a considerable amount of lore surrounding it – especially with the Fae, so let’s have a look.

In German, French, Polish, Irish, Welsh and English folklore stories can be found where a wily human gets rid of a faery problem using eggshells. Brewing with eggshells to confuse a changeling enough to trick it into revealing its true nature is very common as is cooking in eggshells, the poet W.B Yeats recants the woeful tale of Mrs Sullivan who upon suspecting that her child was in fact a Faerie goes through the motion of cooking a meal for all the reapers in the field in just a single egg shell.

The Welsh folklorist John Rhys, tells two distinct tales of mothers who believing that their children have been whisked away by the Benith y Mamau (the mothers blessings) attempt to bake using only eggshells again to trick the changeling into revealing themselves and the prolific folklorist Evan Wentz retells a number of Breton tales where water is boiled in shells roasting before the fire thus causing a faery to cry out, ‘I have seen the acorn before the oak; I have seen the egg before the chicken: I have never seen the equal to this.’*

There are literally dozens of tales with variations on this same egg theme, and the words the faery speaks are so similar that when I discovered it I felt it necessary to do some digging to try and find the source. I’ve found all sort of suggestions to the origins of the eggshell theory, some think that the original source is the 16th century writer Reginald Scot who explained that this connection to the Fae is because both Faeries and Witches can, “saile in an egge shell, a cockle or muscle shell, through and under the tempestuous seas.”

Wirt Sykes* another welsh folklorist claimed that he could trace the origins of the egg shell story back to 7th Century Gaul, however the general use of eggshells in magic can be traced even further still. In the 1st century C.E. the Roman historian Pliny waxed lyrical about the medicinal and magical properties of eggs stating that people would immediately break or pierce the shells of eggs with a spoon after eating them to ward off evil spells. Eggshells were also part of “demon traps” found in middle eastern countries to disarm unwanted spirits, and sometimes, whole eggs were placed at the threshold to appease the threshold guardians specifically Hekate, who unsurprisingly is linked very closely with the Fae. 

This practise is old, old, old and whichever way you look at it eggshells are faery kryptonite. 

So why wouldn’t we use this resource in our regular ritual practises? It’s very simple, wash your shells out and peel out the membrane whilst they are still ‘moist’ and then either bake them and grind them to create brown cascarillia or just let them dry and grind them to make white. I’ve yet to find a definite answer as to why you would use one type over another but as so many of the traditional tales involve cooking with, roasting or heating eggshells as part of the banishing ritual I tend to make the brown kind. The uses are endless bathe in it to cleanse yourself of any unwanted influences from the spirit realm (including rude Fae), place it along your doors and window sills to keep the grobblies out of your home and even place it around your boundaries on your property to aid in your magical shielding. It doesn’t hurt to carry a little sachet of it in your witchy napsack when your out hunting fae either.

Finally I am always up for a good chant when I do this kind of work, and Wirt Sykes very cleverly worked out that the Welsh and the Breton of the words that the Fae speak when they are outed makes a very pleasing rhyme.

‘I have seen the acorn before I saw the oak: I have seen the egg before I saw the white hen: I have never seen the like of this.’

‘Gweliz mez ken gwelet derven,

Gweliz vi ken gwelet iar wenn,

Erioez ne wiliz evelhenn’

Let’s face it the Welsh is way cooler and sounds nice and arcane, really adds to the ambience.


*Evans-Wentz, W. Y. (Walter Yeeling), 1878-1965. The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries (pp. 127-128). HardPress Publishing. Kindle Edition.

* Wirt Sikes. British Goblins: Welsh Folk-Lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions (p. 54). Organization. Kindle Edition.

Hammer of the Witches – honouring the past

I cannot remember the first time I became enchanted with the idea of the “other” being real. I often tell the story of the fairies at the play park when I talk about my connection with the Fae but when I take time to examine it (as I have done very recently), there is a sense that my relationship began as a combination of factors rather than one pivotal moment. I grew up in a home filled with fantasy and science fiction in a time when fantasy and fiction weren’t really mainstream reading material. The Sci Fi section in both WH Smiths and the local library rarely extended beyond one or two shelves on a bookcase, but my dad and I could spend hours together choosing our books, it was our special time, sacred. I blame my dear old dad for my love of books and my reading tastes because of it; in my teens when my friends were completely hooked on Sweet Valley High, I was memorising the “Litany Against Fear”.*

I suspect I read hundreds of books growing up, although I never counted. There was one summer break where a friend’s mother handed me several carrier bags with about 40 books contained inside, mostly historical romances. I took to my bed to read, only rising to eat, relieve myself, and occasionally shower. I was a teenager and a filthy mutt, please don’t judge. There I stayed for the entire 6 weeks, the unread stack on one side of the bed slowly shrinking and read side growing. My parents despaired, but at least I wasn’t out getting into trouble somewhere, so they mostly suffered my withdrawal from the world. 

Despite my voracious appetite some books stuck rather than fading into the morass, one book from my childhood stood out for me over and above all others, so clearly that even decades later as I was writing Urban Faery Magick it became a bit of an obsession. I purchased a copy and it sat on my desk throughout the entire process. It was often the book I reached for if I wanted to relax, to tune out and escape the world. Guess what? its a fairy story and a really jolly good one too. It’s the story of two Cornish children and their family and what happens when they find and take a Changeling into their home. Its filled with little snippets of lore wrapped up in a children’s tale, its funny, its heart warming and its so sad that it’s haunting. I am convinced that had I not read that book as an impressionable young child I would not be interested in the subjects I study and write about today. A work of fiction is responsible for and has informed my practise, gasp horror! Never again will I roll my eyes at the “Mists of Avalon” brigade.

BTW – If you’re interested the book is called “A Year and a Day” by William Mayne, it’s a little dated, but an enchanting read so if you happen upon a copy somewhere grab it, it won’t take you more than a hour, two tops.

Why am I writing about this today? Well today I was accused of being evil because I have read (and recommended that someone else read) the Malleus Maleficarum. In fairness it is a document written by a religious zealot who was so vile that he was in essence single handedly responsible for the majority of deaths during what we now call the “Burning Times”. This was a time in history when somewhere between 60 and 90 thousand women, and more than a few men across Europe and the Americas were accused of witchcraft and/or heresy and then put to death. In some countries this was by burning, but it was just as common to be strangled or hung or both! Some excitable folks have suggested that it was 100’s of thousands or even millions but the academic evidence does not support this, the numbers however are horrific enough without the exaggeration so I don’t want to detract from what happened. That is not the purpose of this post.

Despite its awful history, the Malleus Maleficarum and subsequent documents such as James I’s Daemonologie give us a unique insight into the world during that period and like it or not, in books like these we can see little snippets of magical practises used even today.  Sorry folks, I know it’s uncomfortable, but forget Crowley, there’s demons and witch hunters in your Wicca! and you know what, that’s absolutely OK, because if we stop examining our history, if we stop taking what works from it and refining it, then we are bound to make the same mistakes in our future – we become stagnant.

If we declare a book or a set of teachings wholly fictional or worse still wholly evil then that is the path we are destined to tread, one of wilful ignorance doomed to repeat history time and time again. Instead if we read, and learn about history from all angles in an objective manner we can see how to move forward. From there we can innovate, improve and help others do the same. No book is evil, regardless of how distasteful it is. A book does not have a morality in and of itself, after all they just contain words, the morality comes from those who read it and how they act upon the words inside. Books aren’t evil, people are, and sticking your fingers in your ears and pretending that they never existed it foolish at best, and at worst downright disrespectful to those who suffered as a result. You want to be a “witch”, then learn what it meant to be accused of being a witch, learn what you were supposed to be able to do (you might be surprised) and honour the poor souls who passed by ensuring you are informed enough to never let it happen again!

  

* “I must not fear, fear is the mind-killer, fear is the little death that brings total obliteration, I will face my fear, I will permit it to pass over me and through me, and when it has gone past, I will turn my inner eye to see its path, where the fear has gone there will be nothing, only I shall remain” – The Litany Against Fear, Frank Herbert Dune. That is some deep shizzle right there, but I  might talk about that on another day.

When the Wheel falls off your year!

I laid in bed this morning sometime after dawn, the birds were singing, the dog was quietly snoring and for the second year in a row I realised that I hadn’t crawled out of bed at some ungodly hour to greet the sun. Not that it’s really that sunny here at the moment, the weather quite predictably for mid June is warm, muggy, plenty of thunderstorms and overnight rain, but often quite overcast.

I’ve been contemplating my apparent ritual apathy for a while, last year I wrote at length as to how you can use Solstice to connect to the Fae and it struck me this morning that I had shared a very personal solitary rite, not a group affair, and I realised how it was indicative of my current personal mindset. It’s really easy to blame Covid and three lockdowns, but the reality is though that the wheel has fallen off my year, I think I’ve been missing a wheel on my wagon for sometime now and surprisingly I feel ok with that. I don’t think it’s heresy to not celebrate the wheel of the year (all or part) and I do think you can still call yourself Pagan (if that is what floats your boat) if you don’t adhere to an agrarian based ritual construct.

Ritual is really important, it is what gives us meaning and comfort and the ability to cope when life throws us a curve-ball. Patterns and certainties sustain us, as humans we look for them all the time to explain how we think, how we feel, what we believe. Group ritual based upon those patterns, something that I normally deeply crave, is a way for community to draw together to celebrate life’s cycles, births, deaths and marriages, successes and failures. It bonds us in shared experience, shared tears, shared laughter. In short, ritual IS magic. That is the biggest mystery of all and unless you experience it, you will never know it.

So how do I reconcile this? I work within two traditions that have a heavy ritual focus that hangs quite literally upon the wheel of the year, Druidry and Initiatory Wicca.

Its OK to use another pattern!
Image by Avi Chomotovski from Pixabay

Until now I haven’t. I’ve skipped sleep or dragged myself out of my bed to drive to a cold dark field to “do ritual” more often than not for other people. I’ve opened my home time and time again, cooking and cleaning, preparing space for people to celebrate, and clearing up after, because “community right?”. I’ve waxed lyrical for years saying this is what it means to be “priesthood” and I still believe that to be true, don’t call yourself a priest or priestess unless you are willing to serve. If you want to do it like the ancestors then you need to accept that the Shaman was as hobbled as the Blacksmith, tied to a community they had no choice but to serve. 

So how am I ok with not celebrating the wheel if I believe this? Because at the end of the day the Wheel is just a pattern, one that most people can get behind, they can see the changing season, they can experience the biting cold of the longest night, the may blossom scented joy of that first warm night outdoors with a bonfire, the sensation of the wild hunt chasing at their heels as the nights draw in and the leaves scurry around their ankles. They make sense, until they don’t. Because the wheel of the year isn’t the only pattern and if you or your community find a pattern that works better for you then you would be foolish not to use it. Don’t tie yourself to a man made construct just because.

My own practise for now seems to be moving closer and closer to a pattern that loosely follows the lesser Sabbats and for some time the irony of Solar and very masculine worship somehow taking the forefront in Pagan practise hasn’t escaped me. Everything in its balance though and there is the ‘gotcha’ I’ve still lit a candle, I’ve still chosen a solar incense for my altar this morning. I have still acknowledged the pattern and both given and drawn energy from it. Maybe because I’m not quite ready to go full on heretic and divorce myself completely from what is now quite a powerful egregore. Or am I? Maybe now is the time? Do I have a better pattern? Do you?