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Are you a Gypsy Witch?

World Divination Association Virtual Conference

A fortnight ago I got to attend the very awesome World Divination Association (WDA) 1st Annual Virtual Conference. Yes as a title that is a helluva mouthful, but that jam packed moniker properly represents the jam packed content that was presented over the weekend. 44 speakers in 48 hours, it was the COVID-19 version of a 90’s telethon. Many of us staying up past our normally very sensible bedtimes to listen live to the great and good from all over the world. And ask questions too! Liz Dean, Mary Greer, Alison Cross, Caitlin Matthews, Ciro Marchetti  & Donnaleigh Rose were just a few of the speakers, plus a whole bunch of other folks whom I didn’t know then, but I am surely following now.  If you are interested they’ve made the talks available offline for a very reasonable fee, and you are bound to find something that is your cup of tea. Including a talk on Tasseomancy!

I’ve never been a very active member in the Tarot Readers and Cartomancy community and although over the years I have done endorsement programs for associations like TABI and BiddyTarot I tend not to get massively involved in the day to day chit chat. I never know what’s hot and what not amongst readers. Lenormand for an example pretty much passed me by when everyone was raving about it, I came to it years later in my own sweet time as the culmination of a natural course of study rather than some social influencer or group making it popular. But I do wonder now if I have been missing out. Anyway, one deck got mentioned  A LOT during the course of the weekend (well several did, but we will stick with just this one for the time being). The Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling deck. It’s a quirky little deck, its not Lenormand, its not playing cards, and its not Gypsy cards either. And yet somehow its a little bit of all three.

Published by US Games

A friend who also attended the conference described it as “the wild west of decks” and that couldn’t be more perfect a description. Currently published by US Games, this little deck can be bought for only £7 on Amazon (approx 6 USD). They are a 52 card poker sized deck perfect for a hand-bag or ruck sack. They have been around in some form or another for approximately 120 years, which makes them just a little bit older than the Rider Waite Smith deck. Cool huh!?! They are the result of German Lenormand emigrating to America, emancipating and getting its own identity. As an expanded 52 card deck only 35 of the cards could be considered to match the traditional Lenormand imagery, and then only just. The Garden is the Park, The Tower is “The Tower surrounded by clouds” etc. The Cross doesn’t even exist. Not to mention the fact that the playing card associations have been switched up. In addition I can’t not mention the fact that the cards are seriously ugly, they make Blue Owl Lenormand look pretty and worse still the ubiquitous ‘Little White Book” has no interpretations at all and yet there is a charisma about it you cannot ignore. If it was a boyfriend, your mum would call him “pretty ugly”. It makes for a quirky read.

The Roads turned to Dark Clouds a literal interpretation

Ive been doing my usual obsessing with a new deck, devouring everything I could find on the subject, living with the deck in my hand 24/7 for the last 10 days and the idea of it being Wild West, a Cowboy deck if you will, is really starting to ring true. Nobody really seems to agree on the exact nuances of reading this deck other than its a ‘quite literal’ and a bit ‘directional’ and sometimes ‘situational’.  However its the most direct, shoot from the hip, draw first ask questions later deck I have ever used. In a recent spread the past section of the reading was so scarily accurate I had to ask for a second opinion to make sure I wasn’t just projecting. I’ve never been a big “fortune teller” but I can see me using this this when people desperately want a yes/no reading because this deck is perfect for it. Its short sweet and oh so to the point I thoroughly recommend you give them a try.

I’d also recommend you give the WDA a go, they have courses on everything from Mexican Loteria to Russian Cartomancy. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so fired up and inspired and all because I got reminded that there is more to life than Tarot…..gasp horror!

The Faery Boy of Leith – The F Word!

Carlton Hill at Night

I love Edinburgh; country girl that I am, it’s probably the only city that I have ever visited that I could consider living in and as such it holds a very special place in my heart. It is a city that is still truly old and is steeped in myth and legend. Body snatching, half-men, wicked women selling babies, you name it, Edinburgh has it, and best of all, it has more than its fair share of Fae.  So it was an absolute delight to visit this weekend for my birthday treat. And even more of a delight when I discovered another variation of the tale of “The Faery boy of Leith” thanks to the very welcoming people at the Wyrd Shop on Canongate (which is well worth a visit by the way if you are heading to town).

The version of the story that I have previously heard dates from approximately 1660. And places a young boy  who it is said was gifted with strong second sight centre stage in the tale. Each Thursday night he would walk up Carlton Hill and disappear between two gates that were said to apparate at his approach. Despite numerous attempts to stop him or to follow him the boy could never be caught until he reappeared again at dawn. When questioned as to what he did during this time the boy stated that he was playing the drums for the Fae folk to entertain them during their revels. Further questioning regarding where it was he actually went, he would sometimes claim that he had been taken to France or Holland either through flight or underground tunnels.

However another version places the boy just a mile or so away in the caves in Arthurs Seat. This impressive peak can be seen clearly from Carlton Hill in the old town, and has long been associated with supernatural happening including a visit from the half fae/demon wizard Merlin and (like Alderley Edge and several other locations in the British Isles) said to be the final resting place of the once and future king himself, along with his knights of the round table.  That there are are tunnels below the old city is true without a shadow of a doubt, some have other folk lore of their own including the tale of the “demon hand”. The caves below Arthurs seat are also undisputed, and neither is the fact that they have been associated with unusual phenomena including housing the coffins of 17 poppets, which may have been meant to represent the victims of Edinburgh’s most notorious serial killers Burke and Hare. In this new rendition the Fair folk speak to the boy and ask that people no-longer call them “Fairies” within direct sight of Arthurs Seat, for to do so makes them “less”.

Although this request to avoid the F word is not surprising as the Scottish Fair folk have an established history clearly showing their dislike of the word Fairy, it’s the claim that to use the word makes them somehow less that is intriguing. Less what? Less powerful? Less present in this world? Less tolerant of us and our behaviour? Less in numbers?

Naming is very important of course we all know that; its Fairy lore 101 and I would never assume to use the F word directly to any entities face when out and about on my adventures, but I have never shied away from using the F word when talking to other people, but my twisted brain is now wondering; is the request by J.M Barrie’s Tinkerbell for us to declaim loudly that we “do believe in fairies” actually perversely the thing that is killing them off? Do we need to be avoiding the word altogether?

Whilst I am blogging and writing, probably not, mostly because its a powerful word within human consciousness, and when I am writing, its humans I am interacting with; but I’m going to put some thought into this conundrum and in the meantime at the very least I will be avoiding using the F word whilst out and about just incase I am overheard.

It’s all about Lucy

This time of year, we tend to focus on a lot of male-centric mythologies. It’s not surprising really, the Solstice is nearly upon us and the return of the dying sun is forefront in our minds, and thanks to our still predominantly patriarchal society the boys tend to get the plum jobs. In the next few weeks it is likely you will hear of Odin whose eyes were said to be the Sun and the Moon, of Llew Llaw Gyffes grandson of Beli Mawr (the sun himself), Mithras and the Holly King. All of them either literally or figuratively light bringers, but it doesn’t take too much digging before you start coming across something that is mostly ignored in modern Paganism, the female light bringers. This is a subject for which I have a great fondness and love. Deities, holy women and honored ancestors, such as Hekate Phosphorus, Diana Lucifera, and most apt for this time of year the Disir and St Lucia (or St Lucy) all rocking the light and influencing humanity as only women know how.

St Lucy (Niccolo de Segna – Walters Art Museum)

The Feast of St Lucy is on the 13th of December, which prior to the change from the old Julian to the Gregorian calendar would have fallen approximately on the Winter Solstice. In Scandinavian countries St Lucy is still venerated on Jol/Jul with young girls dressing in pure white, their dresses adorned by a red sash and a crown of candles upon their heads. She is quite an interesting Saint in that she is both a very devout woman of Christ and potentially also a Witch. There are numerous folkloric tales about her, and these are region specific, but the essence of her story is that she was the only female child of a rich merchant family in Syracuse Italy. As a young child she travelled with her ailing mother to a shrine dedicated to St Agatha to pray for healing. St Agatha it is said performed a great miracle of healing which led to the instant conversion of the young Lucy to Christianity. But there was a slight problem, as was common in that time Lucy had been betrothed to a young man whose family was Pagan.

During the intervening years between Lucy’s conversion and her final Martyrdom it is said that Lucy persuaded her parents to give her the money reserved for her dowry so that she could spend it on alms for the poor, particularly those persecuted Christians who were at the time living as outcasts in the catacombs of the city. She traversed the dark tunnels with food and blankets loaded in her arms, her way lit by a crown of candles which she placed upon her head. Eventually her suitor came a calling and Lucy rejected him, claiming a life of virginal chastity dedicated to God. Outraged (and also probably miffed at the loss of the dowry more than anything else) the young man appealed to the city governor claiming the girl to be a Witch, something it seems that the Governor chose to believe. What followed is a sorry tale of abuse. Lucy is first taken to a Brothel to be defiled, but the soldiers tasked with escorting her cannot move her, even when they tie her to oxen and try and drag her. Next her eyes were gouged from her head, although in some tales these either regrew in their sockets or more alarmingly on the palms of her hands and finally they tried to burn her at the stake but no fire could be kindled. Eventually she was stabbed and died.

St Lucy has now become the Patron Saint of the Blind and is often prayed to or included in folk magic to heal afflictions related to the eyes including the effects of the ‘evil eye’. But there are some other magickal connections, Judika Illes[1] claims that in Austria the term “Lucy’s light” is another name for having psychic abilities and that in Hungary St Lucy’s eve is considered the time most propitious for performing acts of divination. As a cartomancer St Lucy is to me someone who can bring me clarity in my psychic works, allowing my deep vision to grow and develop, and it is for this that I venerate her at this time of year. A simple candle is all it takes, which I anoint with Star Anise and burn for a short while every night between the 13th and Christmas Eve saying a short spell as I light the candle.

Dear St Lucy, bringer of light,

protect me through the darkest nights,

Bring forth my powers of second sight,”

[1] Encyclopaedia of Mystics, Saints and Sages (2011) Harper Collins