Ancestors, traditions, and relating with the present

I’ve been spending more time with my ancestors lately, hoping to establish more intentional and positive relationships with them. One of the ways in which I’ve been relating with my ancestors is by putting together a family tree, and really trying to understand the flow of my lineages through history.

And that’s gotten me thinking about tradition.

Tradition is kind of a loaded word right now. There are a lot of people leaning on what is “traditional” in order to justify some quite frankly miserable behavior. Some of this comes from a sort of misplaced nostalgia for a half-imagined past which never really existed, but most of it comes from the desire of those in power to stay in power.

I could go into specifics here, but unless you’ve literally been living under a rock for the last six or seven years, you probably already know what I’m talking about.

There’s another way to look at tradition, though. There’s a way to see the past–the real past–not as a perfect blueprint to follow uncritically, but as a source of inspiration when dealing with the present and preparing for the future.

Gardens come to mind.

My father was born in 1946, the youngest of fourteen children. His mother was born in 1904, and his father was born in 1900. These dates may seem incredibly remote to those of you born around the turn of the millennium, but my grandparents are part of my living memory. And when they were getting their family on, everyone had a garden–especially if, like my grandfather, they were trying to support a family of this size on a mill-worker’s salary.

I’m told that pretty much every square inch of my father’s childhood yard was used to grow something. Whatever they didn’t eat fresh, my grandmother canned for the winter. My grandmother also made bread, not just to feed the family, but also to give and sell to neighbors, other family, and friends. Every resource they had at their disposal was used to help themselves, or it was traded with those around them.

We can find a lot of inspiration, here.

The most obvious flash of insight is that, not too long ago, people did much more for themselves than we do. Today, most of us buy our vegetables and bread from the grocery store. This is fine, I suppose, so long as the grocery store continues to have what we need, and we’re able to pay the price they’re asking.

Those are big “ifs” right now.

Unless you’re still living under that rock we talked about earlier, grocery stores have become both less reliable and much more expensive. I have a loaf of white bread sitting on my counter which cost me $4.29. And last week? I had to get a different brand because the store was wiped out of the brand I usually buy.

When I’m able to bake my own bread, it costs me about $1.00 a loaf, and it’s a far better product.

I’ve written about this sort of thing before, in a post I called Home economics, wherein I linked to a video on the Townsends YouTube channel. You could do a lot worse than going back to that post and watching the video again. It talks about looking at your home as a “little factory,” and not just thinking of it (or relating to it) as a place to sleep and store your stuff.

There’s another bit of inspiration we can glean from the way in which my father’s parents related with the world around them, which is touched on by this video, also from Townsends.

In case it’s not glaringly-obvious, I love this channel, and I spend a lot of time not just watching the videos there, but also trying to find ways to re-contextualize the traditions they cover for life in the present day.

My parents, grandparents, and all the generations before them spent a great deal of time establishing and maintaining relationships with their neighbors, and their local community as a whole. The further you go back in time, the more vital these connections become.

Remember: thirty years ago, there was no World Wide Web. Fifty years ago? No Internet at all. A century ago? Barely anyone had a phone.

Not only were the people in your immediate community likely to be your only social outlet apart from family, they were the only help you were going to get should you find yourself in real trouble. The safety and prosperity of your neighbors was, in a very literal sense, your safety and prosperity.

So what does this have to do with today? More the point, what does this have to do with magic (seeing as that’s what this blog is supposed to be about)?

To my way of thinking, these two questions are basically the same: What might this traditional way of living tell us about relating to and in the present?

I see magic as a tool (or set of tools) which allows us to more easily live in right relationship with the world around us. It allows us to better understand our place and function, and gives us ways to restore ourselves to that place and function when we’re off-base.

Proximity is a critical consideration when relating with others. By which I mean, it’s easier and more fruitful to think and act locally, first and foremost.

Something you might not be aware of is that, if you live in the United States, almost every dime you pay in “taxes” goes to your city, county, or state government. Property tax (or your landlord’s taxes, which you pay in the form of rent), sales tax, water bills, parking fees and fines–all of this is obviously collected by city or state officials. But even a good portion of your federal income tax ends up being paid out to states and cities in the form of grants, or federally-funded programs such as Medicaid.

What’s more, most of the laws you’re required to obey are set at the local or state level. Which streets you can park on, where you can open and operate a business, when you can buy alcohol–the buck for all of these ultimately stops at city hall or your state house.

Who decides where your polling place is, and how long it’s open on election day? That would be town clerk. Who decides if your local library is going to get funding next year? Your town council.

Like it or not, more and more political power is being handed off to the states and cities. It isn’t the feds that are going to decide whether or not you can have roommates to help you pay for a home, it’s going to be the people in your local government–and lot of those people are landlords.

I’ve already shared these thoughts privately, with friends and family. And it’s long been my belief that we should be spending most of our time and attention not on what’s happening at the national level, but at the local level.

To be blunt, I think if you can name your U.S. Senators, but can’t name your city councilors, you’re doing it wrong.

But it’s more than that.

Look again at that video I embedded above, and think about not only what it would take to become more deeply-involved in your immediate community, but also how much further any effort to improve upon it is likely to go, compared to your chances of changing anything at the national scale.

It’s a lot easier to live in right relationship with someone when you can shake their hand.

Have a blessed day!

I now offer natal astrology readings

If you’re looking to understand your place in the cosmos, or want a clearer perspective regarding your overall life circumstances, I want you to know that I now provide natal astrology readings.

I try to respond to requests within seventy-two hours, and ask only for a small donation in return, provided that you are completely satisfied with your reading, and you are able to afford it.

If you’d like to read a long, drawn-out version of why I’ve decided to offer natal astrology readings, read on!

Late last year, I began offering tarot readings via email, and the response I’ve received has been incredible. It was my intention to help everyone who chose to reach out to me for a reading, regardless of their ability to pay for my services. To that end, I asked for no money in advance. Instead, after I had answered their question, I would provide a link through which they could send me a donation or gift–provided that they were both 100% satisfied with the reading, and they wouldn’t harm their wallets.

The result is more than I could have ever hoped for. Not only have I been able to help more people than I thought possible, but their generosity has been truly humbling. If you are one of those wonderful souls who have reached out to me for a reading, please accept my sincerest thanks.

It has always been my hope to expand the services I offer through this site, but I’ve been hesitant to do so for fear of not having enough time to answer requests promptly. “Baby steps,” I said to myself. I would only offer those types of consultations which I knew I could handle in a reasonable time-frame, and I would give myself a long time between announcements of new services, so as to avoid biting off more than I could chew.

Now, I’m in a position to offer natal astrology readings, under the same terms and conditions that apply to my tarot consultations. If you’d like a natal consultation, you can request a reading here. If you have any questions, or just want to say “hi,” please email me and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Have a blessed day!

Daily Connections

There’s a common bit of advice floating around the Western esoteric community which goes like this…

You need to establish and maintain a daily magical practice.

The theory here is that if you don’t do magic every day, you’ll never get good at it. Most of the people offering this advice don’t come right out and say this, but it’s obviously implicit given the way they harp on the point.

As for me? The theory doesn’t match my experience.

I’ve gone weeks, or even months, without so much as lighting a candle or meditating, and when I eventually did get around to doing some magic, it worked the same as it always has.

If someone like me can slack off this much and not get rusty, I figure most everyone else can as well.

Once you’ve learned magic, it’s like riding a bike. You never really forget. At most, you’ll wobble for a few rotations of the pedals, then be on your way. Sure, daily discipline helps, especially when you’re first starting out, but is it a hard requirement for “getting good” and staying that way? Nah.

So, no, I don’t need to maintain a daily magical practice. But you know what? I am happier when I do.

My magical practice is very spirit-based, and it involves a lot of prayer, communication, and communion with what we might as well call “unseen forces.” On a typical day, this means I wake up, get some coffee in me, then I sit in prayer and reflection for a while.

What does “a while” mean, for me? Ten or fifteen minutes.

At night, I do much the same. I spend ten to fifteen minutes reflecting on the day’s events, saying a few prayers, then I turn out the lights and go to sleep.

I fit in other practices here and there, as needed or as I’m moved to do so, but mainly what I wrote above is what I do, day in and day out. It’s a simple, simple practice. In fact, I don’t even really think of it as a “practice” so much as it is connecting—either with the spirits, or with the “Otherworld” in a more general way.

When I’m making these daily connections, they absolutely, positively, wonderfully improve my mental and spiritual health.

There have been many, many times in my life where I’ve stepped away from any sort of magical practice—even abandoning this simple routine—and I quickly found myself feeling down. I lost energy, motivation, and focus. I felt unmoved, apathetic, and disconnected—not just from the spirits, but from everyone and everything.

On the flipside, those times where I’m keeping up with these connections, “touching base” with my spiritual path for even just a few minutes each day, I feel great! I’m happier, healthier, and energized. I’m more patient, friendly, and loving. The difference is really striking.

What’s the point of this post? Well, I’ve got two of them to make:

  1. Don’t set your watch by anyone else’s clock but your own. If you’ve only got time for a quick prayer before breakfast, or five-minutes of intentional breathing during your lunch break, let that be good enough. You don’t need to do three hours of ritual each day to be a good magician.
  2. You should try to do something every day to connect with your practice and your path, if for no other reason than you’ll probably feel better if you do.

As a final thought, I’ll share a bit of advice that I like to think about when my day looks like it’s about to run away from me, and I’m worried I won’t have time to make even a quick, simple connection with my magical practice.

In my opinion, every single thing you do, even the most mundane-seeming activity, can be seen as an act of magic. So, why not Do The Thing mindfully and with intention?

For instance, when you make your bed, try saying this…

Let these sheets and blankets clean

Keep me from unhappy dreams

Or, you know, words to that effect. I’m not a very good poet.

Have a blessed day!

Summer

You might have noticed a lack of posts here for, oh, the better part of the last few months. I’d apologize, but it’s really the weather’s fault. It’s been pretty gorgeous outside in my neck of the woods, so…I’ve been in the woods.

Or on the water.

Or in my yard.

The point I’m making here, if you haven’t already figured it out, is that I’ve spent nearly every possible moment I could outside and as far away from computers and the internet as I could get—especially social media.

My approach to all things magical tends to lean pretty heavily in what I might as well call an “animist direction.” I see the world as profoundly haunted. We’re surrounded by spirits—among them trees and stone, rivers and lakes. And a big part of my magical practice these last few years has involved establishing and growing relationships with these spirits.

Doing simple magic like hiking in the woods, fishing, and working in the gardens has taken priority over sitting in front of a screen writing about magic. I’m still open for Tarot readings, of course. And I’m truly, truly grateful for the people who have reached out to me for consultations. But the blog and my Twitter have clearly been filled with crickets.

That’s probably not going to change very much until October or November rolls around, but I’ll try not to go so long without dropping an update here.

No promises, though. My friend owns a boat!

I hope your summer is going at least as well as my own.

Which method of divination should you learn?

I’ve written before about how important I believe divination is to successful magic, but what I haven’t done is to write about which divination method one should use. This is because the answer to that question is: it’s up to you.

In my experience, which system of divination someone uses is a deeply personal choice. Yes, accuracy should be the most important factor in selecting a method of divination, but there’s also the question of feel. When you’re looking for guidance, answers, or knowledge of the future, whichever system or method you’re using should be something you resonate with.

It’s also important to understand that some methods of divination are better suited to certain kinds of questions.

That’s kind of what I want to unpack in this post: which sorts of questions you’re most likely to ask, and which systems of divination might be most suited to answering them.

Asking questions, getting answers

To be clear, regardless of which method of divination we’re looking at, the purpose of them all is more or less the same. You ask questions, you get answers. These questions might be specific, such as: “Should I go to the party tonight?”

Other times, we’re looking for a more “general read” on a situation, such as: “What does the next month hold in store for me?”

The most important thing to remember about any system of divination is that it’s only really useful if it gives you meaningful, actionable answers to the questions you ask. The more well-suited a method of divination is to the question, the better your chances of getting actionable information.

This is why I’ve studied and practiced many different methods of divination over the years. While I do have my favorites, I’m not opposed to reaching for whichever method is best suited for the kind of question I need answered.

With that said, let’s get into it. We’ll look at the kinds of questions we usually want to answer. As you’re experimenting with different systems, consider each of these broad “classes” of questions, and try to sort out which systems are best for answering each.

Yes or no?

One common sort of question we’d like to get an answer to are “yes-or-no” questions. Should I go to the party? Will I get a raise? Should I start looking for a new apartment? These are all questions where we’re looking for a direct “yes” or “no” response.

Unfortunately, many of the more popular methods of divination seem to be almost comically bad at answering direct, yes-or-no questions. For instance, I know relatively few Tarot readers who will even try to get their decks to cut to the chase and answer these questions directly.

In my experience, horary astrology is the best method for getting a yes or no answer to a question.

In horary astrology, you cast a chart for the moment you ask a question, then you follow a set of interpretive rules to determine the answer. You’ll almost always get a definite positive or negative response, along with a fair bit of other, relevant information.

For example, let’s say you were to ask: “Will I get a raise?” You’ll get a “yes” or a “no.” Let’s say it’s a “yes.” You’ll probably get a sense of how large or small the raise will be, as well as a pretty good idea of the time when you’ll get the raise. If it’s a “no” response, you can probably sort out why you won’t get it by looking at other factors in the chart.

The one real drawback to horary astrology (and astrology in general) is that it’s a pretty complicated subject with a lot of nuance. It can take months or even years to get even halfway good at reading a chart.

This might be why the most common divination tool I see used for getting a simple yes-or-no response is the pendulum.

Do a Google search for pendulum divination and you’ll find hundreds of articles and videos on its use, but the main idea is quite simple. Hold the pendulum by its cord and let it hang straight down in front of you. Make sure you start off with the pendulum still, then ask: “Show me yes.” Watch what the pendulum does. After a little while, steady the pendulum again and ask: “Show me no.”

Repeat this a few times until you’ve “calibrated” the pendulum, then ask the questions you want answered.

I don’t do a lot of work with pendulums myself, but according to those who do, it usually only takes a few sessions before you start getting consistently good results.

Either or? Should I?

Another very common kind of question is the “either-or” question. In fact, many “yes-or-no” questions can be re-phrased as an “either-or” one, particularly if you are asking a question that begins with the words: “Should I…”

For example, consider the question: “Should I go to the party tonight?”

That could probably be better expressed as: “Should I go to the party tonight, or should I stay home?”

In a case like this, I find the Tarot to be exceptional. My go-to way of answering such a question is to perform a “three-versus-three” reading.

I throw down six cards. The first three are to answer the question “What if I go to the party tonight?” The second three are for “What if I stay home tonight?” I look carefully at both situations, and choose whether or not to go based on which set of cards looks the best.

Most “either-or” questions tend to be rooted in this idea of “should I.” These are tricky sorts of questions to answer with most of the divination methods I’m familiar with. Horary astrology doesn’t do well with “shoulds,” unless you can honestly re-phrase the question to be a direct yes-or-no.

For example, let’s say you ask: “Should I invest in my friend’s business, or should I hold onto my money?”

Assuming your main interest in asking this question is growing your wealth, the question you’re really asking is: “Will I make a profit if I invest in my friend’s business?”

Horary astrology can answer that question quite easily.

Natal astrology can also help us a bit with “should” questions, although in a more roundabout way. By looking at your birth chart, and taking into account the current and upcoming transits to it, you can get a reasonable picture of which areas of your life are likely to be easier, and which are likely to be more challenging.

For out investment question above, let’s say that you look at your chart and upcoming transits and see what looks like a pretty hairy period of financial difficulties in your near future. You might want to set that “extra” money aside.

When?

Questions involving the timing of events can be among the most frustrating.

“When will I get married?”

“When will I find a job?”

“How long will it take for my business to take off?”

I already mentioned that horary astrology can usually give you a good idea of when events are likely to occur, but using other divination methods to get answers to a “when” question can be tricky.

In my experience, there are two broad approaches to answering these questions, and both come with drawbacks.

The first method involves trying to get a specific time or date, or at least a very narrow range (down to a few days or hours, depending on the nature of the question). This really is a question horary astrology. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never gotten a reliable, specific time with anything else.

Another method you could try is to use Lenormand cards. This is an oracle deck, as opposed to the Tarot, and some people I know have had good success in getting precise timing out of it. Myself? I only use Lenormand on rare occasions, and when I’ve tried to get a time, it just doesn’t pan out. Things might be different if I really took the time to “master” the deck, but I just haven’t.

The second method of getting a time involves choosing a reasonable one as a starting point, and then asking whether the event will happen before the chosen time, or after it. You can then try for a yes-or-no answer, or try to ask a more general question with an eye toward that time.

For example, let’s say you’re unemployed and running out of money. You’ve put in for a number of jobs, have some good prospects. You want to know when to expect a job offer. Let’s pick a time—say, two weeks.

You could simply ask “Will I get a job within two weeks?” Assuming you have a good system for answering yes-or-no questions, you should get the information you’re looking for.

Taking the more general approach, you could ask “Show me what my work situation will be like in two weeks.” This tends to be the approach I take when using the Tarot.

One more thing I should point out is that, when using a system other than horary astrology for “when” questions, I usually get better results when I use “natural” events for timing. What I mean by this is, instead of asking if something will happen before “next Thursday,” I’ll ask if it will happen before “the next full Moon,” or “in the summer.”

Try it both ways and see what happens.

Where?

Sometimes you’ll want to know either where something will happen or where something is. These questions both involve the word “where,” but they’re very different, and they usually benefit from different approaches.

To be clear, “where should I move to,” is one kind of question. “Where are my car keys,” is another one entirely.

For the first kind of “where” question, you can usually sort out the answer doing variations on “either-or.” There are also some specific forms of divination which are tailored toward finding places, such as locational astrology.

When you’re trying to find a lost object (or a person, or a pet), again, horary astrology is a pretty decent choice. It can sometimes be a little tricky to find things using horary, because the methods involved usually give you a list of possibilities which don’t always narrow things down satisfactorily. For instance, if you’re looking for your missing cat, you might get an answer that it’s “a short distance to the north of your house, inside or under something.”

Well, that’s certainly a start, but it’s not exactly “sleeping under your neighbor’s car.”

Despite not using it very often, I’ve actually had a surprising amount of success with the Lenormand deck for “where” questions.

For example, maybe I’ve misplaced my keys. Well, there’s a “Key” card in the Lendormand deck. I’ll take out my Lenormand cards, shuffle them, and then look through the deck for the “Key.” If I find it between the “Book” and the “Letter” cards, I’ll go search my desk. If I find it between “Garden” and “Lillies,” I’ll go outside and check my flower beds.

It doesn’t always work, but sometimes the answers you get from Lenormand really can be that literal.

Getting a general “read” on a situation

We’ve covered several different types of “specific” questions, but in my mind, it’s the “general” sort of question or reading that’s the most useful. I find getting my head around a situation as a whole to be more helpful (and easier) than attempting a “surgical strike” for only the specific answer I might be interested in right then.

The answer to “will I get the promotion,” is less valuable to me than “show me my work situation for the spring.”

Astrology is an excellent tool for this, particularly natal astrology. I can pull up a birth chart, check the current and upcoming transits, and get a good sense of how things are going to go. This is especially true when I want to see which areas of a person’s life are likely to go well in the near future, which areas might be more challenging, and how these areas will affect and influence each other.

And, yes, the Tarot is my very next choice. I usually stick with a five-card spread when doing this sort of reading, but for particularly complex or confusing situations, I’ll use a full Celtic Cross.

Another method of divination which can be used similarly (and which I haven’t touched on yet) is geomancy. Put very simply, geomancy involves creating a series of figures using lines or points either drawn on paper or in sand, then arranging those figures into a kind of “astrologically-themed” chart. You then read this chart according to a set of fairly simple rules.

This is far from an adequate description of geomancy, and I encourage you to look into it yourself, especially if you don’t find yourself drawn to the Tarot. Geomancy was one of the most common forms of divination during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, prior to the rise of the Tarot and cartomancy in general.

Finding what works for you

In case it isn’t obvious, even in this long post I haven’t covered all of the types of questions you’re likely to encounter. For instance, I didn’t even touch upon “who” or “how” or “why.” Whenever you’re experimenting with a system, you’ll want to throw all of these kinds of questions (and more) against the wall and see what “sticks.”

As I wrote way back at the beginning of this overly-long post, don’t go looking for one system which will fit every situation. In my opinion, such a system just doesn’t exist.

Instead, you should study and experiment with several different methods of divination, and learn not only how each of them works, but also which kinds of questions or situations they’re best suited to. You should also consider whether or not you personally resonate with a system.

Some people just don’t like the Tarot. Other people find astrology too complex and confusing. These methods work very well for me, but they’re not for everyone.

Good luck on your search!

The three biggest mistakes people make when learning the Tarot

Over the years, I’ve seen the Tarot attract many people. The images on the cards, the history of the deck, the mystery of it—no matter how they are drawn to study the Tarot, I’ve watched dozens of would-be readers buy their first decks, and dive head-long into their studies.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen nearly as many people slowly lose their interest and enthusiasm over the days and weeks following. The decks come out of their boxes on fewer and fewer occasions, until they end up just sitting on a shelf.

Sometimes this is for the best. As much as I love the Tarot, it’s not for everyone. Some people never develop an affinity for the cards, or find that they don’t have a meaningful connection to them. This is perfectly fine, but a lack of connection is neither the only reason I see people get frustrated and give up the Tarot, it’s not even the most common one.

The most common reason people abandon their Tarot studies is, I think, because they don’t approach the cards in the best way. And, to be quite honest, many of the books written about the Tarot tend to encourage these less-than-ideal approaches.

So, if you’re new to the Tarot, or otherwise find yourself struggling to wrap your head around it, let me highlight some of the most common “mistakes” I see new students make.

People don’t look at the cards

One of the most common mistakes I see beginning Tarot students make is that they get their first deck, open it up, and go straight to the Little White Book without even looking at the cars themselves.

Don’t do this.

When you acquire your first Tarot deck, set aside some quiet time to open the box. Ideally, you’ll want about one hour, in a room to yourself, where you won’t be disturbed.

Once you’re in that quiet place, look over the box. Turn it over in your hands. Really get a sense of the weight of it, and allow yourself to feel at least a little anxious about opening it. Not fearful, mind you. What I mean is that you should come to your first deck with a sense of excitement and anticipation.

If you can open the box with the same thrill as you might have done when opening a present as a child, you’re in the perfect frame of mind.

After you’ve opened the box, set that Little White Book aside, along with any other promotional materials or add-in cards. The only thing you want in your hands are the seventy-eight cards of the Tarot deck itself. Turn them over and over in your hands. Feel the size of the cards, the stock they’re printed on—just run your hands all over them.

Also? Give them a smell.

Seriously. Try to engage all of your senses during this first encounter. Really attempt to absorb and remember everything you can about this experience. They say first impressions are everything when it comes to human relationships. Why should your relationship with the Tarot be any different?

Now—and this is the most important part of this initial meeting—look at the cards. Examine their backs, then turn over each one and really, really study it.

What do you notice first? How does the card make you feel? What do you think of the art style? Do you notice any symbols, animals, or people on the cards? Do any of these stick out? Do you notice any objects or themes repeating from card to card?

Take your time, study the images, and think about what they might mean. What questions might they answer? What questions might they be asking?

If doing all of this touching, feeling, and “impression gathering” seems strange to you, remember: this is what the first Tarot reader had to do.

The Tarot was originally conceived as a deck of cards to be used for playing games. Divination came later. And the first people to use the Tarot for divination didn’t have a Little White Book to tell them what the cards “really meant.”

Instead, they looked at the cards and used their intuition.

For your first encounter with the Tarot, why not approach the deck in the same way as those earliest of readers?

After you’ve taken this quiet time, then you can go ahead and read the Little White Book that comes with it. Check out the meanings given for each card, look at the card in your hand, and try to see where the author or deck designer is coming from.

Just give the deck a chance to speak for itself, first.

People think of the Tarot as work

A lot of the Tarot readers and students I know explain their practice as “working with the Tarot.” I use this phrase myself, from time to time.

Why is that?

Why is the first word which comes to our minds a word associated with labor? Even if you are (or wish to be) a professional Tarot reader, why use the word “work” when you could use words like “play,” or “talk to,” or even “hang out with?”

To borrow a quote, why so serious?

Yes, the Tarot is a wonderful ally which can provide wisdom and guidance to help you, and those you read for, even at the most serious and desperate of times. And yes, when you’re preforming a reading, you should treat the questions you’re asked, and your answers, seriously.

However, I think you’ll have much better results in your readings if you treat the Tarot as a friend, first and foremost. It’s not your co-worker who you never see outside of the job.

It’s also not your priest or your therapist.

Some readers treat their Tarot decks like holy objects—sacred things which must only ever be approached with reverence and timidity. Or, perhaps even worse, they treat their decks in the same way that they treat a medical professional—thinking of the cards as cold, objective, and secretly disappointed in you.

I’ve never understood this attitude.

Try grabbing your Tarot deck, sitting on the couch, and binge watching your favorite show while shuffling the cards.

This is one of my favorite things to do, especially when I’ve just acquired a new deck. I’ll keep the Little White Book next to me, shuffle for a while, then flip a card out. I’ll look at, maybe check to see what the book has to say, then shuffle it back in.

This is a great way to learn the “traditional” meanings of the cards if you’re not already familiar with them.

Another fun thing I frequently do is ask the deck what it thinks of the show or movie we’re watching together. Or I’ll ask it questions about what’s going to happen next.

What!?!” You might be shouting. “You ask the Tarot ‘whodunnit’ while watching some police procedural on Netflix?”

Yes! And why not?

What’s wrong with hanging out with a friend, watching television, and getting to know each other?

People try to read way too many cards

In many Tarot books, the first spread you’ll encounter is almost certain to be some version of the “Celtic Cross.” This is a spread of ten (or eleven) cards which you lay out on a table and interpret.

To be perfectly frank, this is way, way too many cards for someone just starting out with the Tarot. In fact, I think it’s too many cards for most readers in most situations. I can count on one hand the number of times in the last month that I’ve felt this spread was necessary. It’s a good spread, to be sure, but only for certain situations.

Most of the time, I use either a three cards or five cards. Sometimes, I’ll use only two.

A two-card spread is good as a kind of “daily check-in.” If I’m looking at a busy day, or otherwise feel a bit overwhelmed by what I need to do, I’ll throw two cards. For the first card, I’ll ask “What should I focus most of my attention on?” For the second card, I’ll ask “What should I not worry about too much?”

I’ve used slight variations of this two-card spread at various times, and even wrote about it here. It works really well to help me navigate those challenging days where I feel like I’m being pulled in too many different directions.

My go-to three-card spread is pretty close to your basic “Past, Present, Future” reading. This is great when I have a clear picture of a situation, but I’m just not sure of what specific action I should take.

The first card in this spread represents the situation up until the point I asked the question. The middle card represents either the best action I can take right then, or else it shows me a hidden factor which is influencing the present. The last card shows me either the most probable outcome of the situation, or a further action I can take.

Knowing which cards mean what in which position is a bit of an art, and is something I was only able to become better at through practice.

As for the five-card readings I do, they’re what I use when someone has asked a question (usually a client, sometimes me) but I feel like I don’t know enough of the context in which the question is asked. I lay out five cards from left to right, with those on the left usually indicating the past, and those on the right usually indicating the future. In these cases, the card in the middle is related to present.

I say “usually,” because sometimes the question or situation involves a choice between two alternatives. In these cases, the card in the middle will often depict or suggest a choice, and the cards on each side will carry a definite theme.

Again, practice and time will help you sort things out.

So when do I actually use the Celtic Cross?

When I absolutely, positively need to know everything I can about a confusing or complicated situation. And I have a solid hour to spend in ceremony pulling on all of the threads. Mostly, these situations involve either myself or a client being in a tough spot, and I’m contemplating doing a whole lot of magic to get things moving in the right direction.

I wrote before about the importance of using divination before performing magic, and my opinion hasn’t changed. I rarely dive into “big enchantments” without getting a good read on the situation first, and the Celtic Cross is my preferred spread when it comes to such reads.

The bottom line? If you’re just starting out, begin by reading with as few cards as possible. Start with a daily two-card reading as I described above. Once you’re comfortable with that, bump yourself up to three cards, then try your hand at five.

Remember, Tarot cards are meant to be read in relationship to one another. We don’t typically read cards in isolation (unless for a daily meditation, or perhaps to get a sense of the overall “theme of the day”). Rather, we either compare and contrast them, or else we are attempting to weave them together into a story which answers our question.

That’s a lot to ask of someone just coming into relationship with the Tarot, so start small.

Less really is more.

Good luck on your journey!

The astrological meanings of the planets

When people begin to learn about astrology, they often start by studying the signs of the zodiac. There’s nothing particularly wrong about this approach, but I think there’s a better way. Specifically, I think it’s better to begin by looking at the planets.

When an astrologer looks at a chart, they almost always begin by taking note of the rising sign, but from then on it’s pretty much the planets’ show. Which planets rule which houses, where those planets are in the chart, and which aspects they make to each other are all of crucial importance. In fact, these three basic relationships (what a planet rules, where it is, and which aspects it forms) constitute about ninety percent of the information an astrologer needs to make their interpretations.

Because the planets sometimes get short shrift, let’s take a look at them now. I’ll cover each of their basic significations, where they tend to be stronger or weaker in influence, and how we usually experience their effects in our daily lives.

This won’t be a comprehensive guide to absolutely everything you can know about the planets, but I will try to cover enough ground help you find your feet.

One caveat, though: I generally stick to the seven traditional planets. I don’t exactly ignore the “modern” ones, but I don’t assign them signs to rule, nor do I put especial emphasis on them in an individual’s chart. I’ll cover some of their significations and meanings in their proper place, but you might want to follow up this post with some additional reading if you’re really into learning about them in detail.

The Moon

In astrology, the Moon primarily signifies change, inconstancy, and variability. This is due partly to the speed at which it moves in the heavens, but it’s also because of the Moon’s changing phases. The phases of the Moon are often tied to ideas of birth, life, death, and rebirth. As such, in traditional astrology it is usually connected with ideas about the physical body.

You’ll also find the Moon linked to ideas about emotions, because we tend to experience our feelings as ebbing and flowing rather like the tides of the ocean. And because of its obvious connection with water, the Moon is said to govern those who fish, as well as those who sail.

There’s an unavoidable “gendered” component to the Moon found in most of the traditional literature, which connects to the Moon to midwives, nurses, and “all manner of Women.” Take this or leave this as you will.

People with a strong affinity for the Moon are often perceived as being “soft” or “tender.” They enjoy newness, sometimes to the point of seeming to flit from one thing or interest to another. They usually focus on either the here and now, or else seek comfort and peace in the present, perhaps at the expense of planning for the future.

In magic, the Moon often serves as one of the major “timing devices” for rituals or enchantments It’s phase, the sign it is in, and its overall condition are very important considerations for astrologers and magicians when it comes to choosing dates and times at which to work. For instance, it is commonly thought that the waxing Moon is good for bringing new things into existence, while the waning Moon is good for letting things go or sending them away.

The Moon rules the sign of Cancer, and is exalted in the sign of Taurus. It has its detriment in the sign of Capricorn, and its fall in the sign of Scorpio.

Mercury

If you observe Mercury closely throughout the year, you’ll notice that this planet not only moves very quickly, but it also changes direction more often than any other planet. Because of this, the astrological meanings of Mercury are bound up in the ideas of speed, athleticism, and the mental equivalent of these: cleverness and wit.

Communication, education, language, and debate are all significations of Mercury. Teachers, scientists, and even astrologers are all counted among the professions which Mercury governs. You’ll also find trade, commerce, and money connected to the planet Mercury (hence the words mercantile and merchant). Of Mercury’s “less savory” significations, you’ll find tricksters, con artists, and thieves.

In our modern age, Mercury is often seen as intricately woven into our electronics, particularly those electronic devices we use for communication. This is why few astrologers are surprised when their computers go on the fritz as Mercury turns retrograde. In a similar vein, Mercury is connected to transportation, especially that sort used for short-distance or daily travel, such as the car you drive to work.

Mercury rules the signs of Gemini and Virgo, and it is also said to be exalted in the sign of Virgo. It has its detriment in the sign of Sagittarius, and its detriment and fall in Pisces.

Venus

“She is of a bright shining colour, and is well known amongst the vulgar by the name of the evening Star of Hesperus; and that is when she appears after the Sun is set: common people call her the morning Star, and the learned Lucifer, when she is seen long before the rising of the Sun.”

This quote from the astrologer William Lilly best describes the dual nature of Venus, as the planet is considered in traditional astrology. Venus is usually seen as the planet most closely associated with love, merriment, and all things beautiful. That said, Venus is also associated with the excesses of these. Love gives way to lust, merriment is replaced by disrepute and lewdness, and beauty becomes vanity and pride—this latter being the cause of Lucifer’s fall.

In terms of activities and professions, Venus is associated with artists, jewelers, actors, and makers of all fine and high-quality things with aesthetic value. It rules over love matters, but also friendly relationships in a more general sense. Marriage is another obvious connection, which is why most astrologers like to see Venus well-situated in a chart when they’re using electional astrology to plan the time of a wedding.

Venus rules the signs of Taurus and Libra, has its detriment in the signs of Aries and Scorpio, and has its fall in Virgo.

The Sun

Because “Sun Sign Astrology” became so popular during the last century, people tend to put a bit more emphasis on the Sun than they should. This isn’t to say that the Sun isn’t important—quite the opposite—but rather it shouldn’t be seen as so important that we ignore the other planets.

In traditional astrology, the Sun is in the middle of the planetary scheme, and it is identified with many Solar gods such as Apollo and Osiris. It is associated with kings, emperors, and other nobles. Officers of the court are also under the Sun’s rulership.

The Sun is associated with honor, distinction, and magnificence. It’s also associated with arrogance, pride, and domineering behavior. It’s where we “shine brightest,” but it can also cause a desire in us to outshine everyone else.

In practical terms, many of today’s astrologers think of the Sun as being connected to the “ego,” or otherwise indicative of someone’s basically personality or attitude. More broadly, where the Sun is located in your chart can indicate the approach to life which you tend to “lean into.”

The Sun rules the sign of Leo, is exalted in Aries, and has its detriment in the sign of Aquarius. Its fall is in Libra.

Mars

The planet Mars is most commonly associated with war, violence, separation, and conflict. In more “polite” terms, Mars is the planet of energy and action, especially action taken in haste. As a result, it’s usually viewed as one of the more challenging planets in a chart. This is fair, to an extent, but Mars has its constructive side, too.

Mars may rule over conflict and separation, but sometimes conflict is necessary. When there are things in your life which you know you should let go of, Mars is there to cut the ties that bind you to it. Speaking of cutting, Mars also rules over surgery, barbers, and even chefs. Wherever you see fire and knives, Mars is there.

Courage, passion, and the willingness to fight no matter the odds are all very Martial traits. Sometimes these are good things to embrace, and sometimes not.

Mars rules the signs of Aries and Scorpio, and it’s exalted in Capricorn. It has its detriment in the signs of Libra and Taurus, and its fall in Cancer.

Jupiter

In astrology, the planet Jupiter is often called the “Greater Benefic,” and most people tend to experience it in a very positive way. Jupiter represents those things and people which are faithful, ambitious (in an honorable way), and of benefit to all persons. Charity and goodwill, abundance as well as prudence are also common significations.

Jupiter is the planet of good fortune, justice, and it is sometime considered the planet most likely to bring one luck.

That said, Jupiter does have its downsides. As with all good things, too much of them can cause trouble. Charity can become overspending or overextending oneself. Ideas of “justice” can become tyrannical, or lead to someone adopting standards which are impossible to meet. Have you ever seen someone utterly condemn an otherwise “good person” because they held one, single, “wrong” opinion? That’s Jupiter as its worst.

Judges, lawyers, politicians, priests, and scholars of higher learning are all associated with Jupiter.

The planet Jupiter rules the signs of Sagittarius and Pisces, and is exalted in the sign of Cancer. Jupiter has its detriment in the signs of Gemini and Virgo, and its fall in Capricorn.

Saturn

The planet Saturn is sometimes called the “Greater Malefic,” and while it can be constructive, it is usually experienced in challenging or inconvenient ways.

Of the seven traditional planets, Saturn moves the slowest, and so it’s associated with all things sluggish and difficult to move or move past. In a nutshell, Saturn is the planet which says “No.” It’s the planet of limitations and barriers.

It is associated with death, austerity, suspicion, and old age. Typical professions linked with Saturn include miners, grave diggers, and plumbers. If it’s dark and underground, chances are good that Saturn is involved.

On the positive side, Saturn’s limits aren’t always a bad thing. Structure and boundaries can be very important, both for individuals and for society as a whole. We might not be delighted when we run up against such obstacles, but life would be very hard to manage without at least some organization or structure.

Saturn rules the signs of Capricorn and Aquarius, and it has its exaltation in the sign of Libra. It has its detriment in the signs of Leo and Cancer, and its fall in Aries.

Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto

As someone who leans pretty heavily on traditional astrology, I don’t spend a lot of time with the so-called “modern” planets: Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. I definitely see a role for them in the context of mundane astrology (the branch of astrology concerned with predicting world events), but I rarely have a need to look them when looking at an individual person’s natal chart, or doing an election.

In particular, I don’t consider these planets to have any rulership over the signs, nor do I see them as being in exaltation, detriment, or fall anywhere in the zodiac. This is my own opinion, though, and it’s not one which is shared by every astrologer.

Still, it’s worth considering their accepted significations, if for no other reason than it will help you to better understand how some other astrologers (particularly modern astrologers) incorporate them into their practice.

Uranus is usually thought to signify large shifts in thinking. New scientific and social breakthroughs—usually experienced with a sudden or even “violent” energy—are the norm for this planet. The word “iconoclast,” meaning “one who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or institutions” is a very fitting word for Uranus.

Neptune is the planet of illusions, glamours, and dreams. “Abstract thinking” is sometimes attributed to this planet, along with the products of that thought: unconventional art forms, trances, and certain kinds of meditation. Planets making tight aspects to Neptune sometimes see their energy not exactly dissipated, but rather directed toward ends or situations which aren’t quite “real” in the sense that we usually mean that word.

In most of the modern astrological literature about Pluto, the planet is seen as something of a “cosmic wrecking ball.” Like Uranus, it’s broadly disruptive, but whereas Uranus disrupts things by replacing them with something new, Pluto simply ends them. It is frequently said to rule over destruction in general, as well as death. Less hostile takes on Pluto tend to connect it with ideas about transformation, rebirth, or regeneration.

Going forward

As I wrote way back at the beginning, this post isn’t meant to cover absolutely everything there is to know about each of the planets. Instead, think of these descriptions as starting points, or as a simple “life line” to help you pull yourself along as you continue learning, or start to become overwhelmed by their myriad significations.

There’s a lot to learn about astrology, and keeping the planets first and foremost in your mind will help you greatly in your studies.

Magical house clearing steps and tips

One question I’m often asked is how someone might go about cleansing or clearing their home of “uninvited guests” or “unpleasant energies.” Sometimes people ask me how to clear a home they’ve just purchased or rented. At other times, the person is asking because they feel that their home has suddenly become unwelcoming or even outright haunted.

Since winter is on its way out in my neck of the woods, and many folks are starting to think about spring cleaning, I figured it was a good time to write a post about this.

How do you clean and prepare a new home when you move in? How do you maintain that home while you live there? How do you “evict” unwanted entities or energies?

Step right up, and I’ll try to answer these questions!

Don’t clear a house unless you have to

Right off the bat, I should share with you that my first rule for house clearing is…don’t.

In almost every home cleansing situation I’ve been asked about, I advise a gentle, nice approach to the spirits and energy of the home. I don’t recommend aggressive, “nuke the site from orbit” methods of home clearing unless there is a real and present danger of harm to the people living there.

This is because a large part of my magical and spiritual practice is working with spirits, and seeing them as persons not much different from myself or other living humans. I treat them with respect, understanding, and patience whenever possible.

Because I approach spirits with this attitude, I usually see unruly entities for what they typically are: confused and frustrated. If I can connect with the spirit, and “settle them down,” there’s no reason to evict them. And let’s face it, evicting someone from their home without good cause is just plain rude.

Shopping for a new home

I’m going to start from the very beginning of your home-owning/apartment-renting journey. What things should you look for (and look out for) when shopping for a new home, and what should you bring along for the walk-through?

Keep the rain off your head

First, let’s talk preparation. I never leave my house without wearing a hat. In many, many magical and spiritual traditions, the act of covering one’s head is a protective one. It’s like wearing a hard hat to a construction site. It’s just good practice overall, in my opinion, and it’s a fairly good way to keep “stuff” off of you when going through a strange house or apartment.

Unfortunately, some people (particular among the older generations) consider wearing a hat or other head covering indoors to be rude. If that’s the case, you can forgo the headgear in favor of cleaning yourself off after you leave.

Dust yourself off

I use Florida water in my practice quite a bit. It’s a kind of universal solvent or cleaner which is excellent for clearing away unwanted energy and getting “hitchhikers” off of you. It’s employed by many people in many different traditions for just this purpose. Also? I like the smell.

You can either use a little bit straight from the bottle, or you can mix it with water and put it in a small spritzer or old hand sanitizer bottle. Either way, when you leave an unfamiliar home or apartment, rub a little on your hands, a bit on the back of your neck, and wave your hands about your head (or “through your aura”) to clear away anything that might have stuck to you.

Your first walk-through

Now that you’re equipped, and you’ve shown up to view your prospective home, what should you look for?

Mainly, just trust your instincts. Look through the place just as anyone would. Does it have enough room? Does it get enough light? Is it clean? Is it within your budget.

If the house or apartment seems like a good fit from a purely mundane perspective, odds are pretty good that you won’t get much in the way of paranormal problems. Just be sure to use all of your five, “natural” senses when exploring the place, especially your senses of smell and touch.

If the house has an odd “funk” to it, or smells “off,” that’s usually a sign to be a little more cautious. Similarly, if certain rooms or walls feel especially cold, or seem to have a “clamminess,” that should be another red flag. Neither of these are deal breakers, per se, but they are things to keep in mind.

Overall, though, what you’re looking for is how does the house feel to you? Does it seem welcoming? Can you easily see yourself living there a long time? If you’re planning to move into this place with others, such as your family, do they all feel the same way?

Now, if you’re reading this post, it’s probably fair to assume that you have an interest in magic, and may have done some work on cultivating clairvoyance or other, similar senses. In general, I recommend doing your best to subdue such senses when you’re first checking out a possible new home. Give your “mundane” senses some time to work, and only open yourself up once they seem to give the “all clear.”

The bottom line is this: if a house or apartment doesn’t seem right to you, trust your intuition, and keep shopping.

Do your homework

This should probably go without saying, but always, always do your homework when looking for a new place to live. Ask the realtor (or building manager, or previous owner) about the place’s history. Do web searches for the address. If it’s an older building, take a trip to the town’s historical society and see if someone can’t fill you in on the location’s past.

Depending on where you live, certain information must be disclosed to you as a matter of law. For instance, in most places, if someone was murdered in a house, the real estate agent and/or previous owner are required to tell you this.

That said, not every “bad thing” which can happen in a home falls under such laws. As with almost any purchase, follow the advice of “buyer beware” and get all of the facts you can before committing to a sale or rental agreement.

Moving day

Okay, assuming your house-hunting/apartment-hunting experience went well, and you’re about to move into a new place, what now?

Your right to bear arms

I’m going to let you in on what seems to be a “big secret.” I’m not sure why it’s a secret, but here goes. When you close on a house sale, or you’re accepted and cleared to move into an apartment, you receive two phenomenally powerful magical items.

You receive a deed or lease, and you receive a key.

The deed or lease is a written document which details your rights and responsibilities regarding the property, and it should include one or more signatures. In magical terms, this is a contract or pact. It provides you with not only legal proof that you belong there, and have possession of the place, but also metaphysical or magical proof of the same.

As for the key, it is literally an object which permits you to pass through the place’s “defenses” (the locked door), but also gives you the ability to setup or activate said defenses.

You can look at these two items like the crown and scepter of a king or queen, the tools or regalia of someone who is the rightful regent of the land that is your new home. No amount of incense, chanting, or “positive vibes” will come even close to equaling the power held in these two objects. Walk softly, but carry these big sticks.

And by carry them, I mean walk through your new home with these in hand and introduce yourself.

Explain yourself

I mentioned above that my magical practice is spirit-focused. This means that I spend most of my day interacting with entities which are either formerly-living humans or other-than-human. Take that as you will, but for our purposes here I want to stress to you a fact that most people either aren’t aware of, or don’t give enough credit to: your house is a spirit.

Let me share a personal story with you.

Many years ago, my daughter and I moved back into my parents’ house. This was partly because the economics made sense, but also because my parents were growing older and I wanted to be close to them and support them.

One morning, in October of 2018, I was using the bathroom when my daughter started banging on the door. “Nana fell down!” she shouted.

As it turned out, my mother had suffered a massive stroke.

Paramedics arrived, a helicopter got involved, and after three weeks in the hospital my mother passed on. It was hard for all of us, but we pulled through.

Two years ago, I was sitting in meditation and “journeying” about the house. That is to say, I was exploring my home with what some might call my “astral” or “ethereal” form. Everything seemed more or less fine until I got to my parents’ bedroom, where I perceived an odd shadow lingering by my mother’s side of the bed.

This shadow didn’t seem particularly hostile or dangerous, but I’m not exactly keen on unexplained entities loitering about my home. So, I reached out to it.

A brief conversation ensued, and I realized that this “shadow” was actually the spirit of the house. Why was it concentrated there, looking so dark and negative?

It missed “the nice old lady” who took “such good care” of it, and it didn’t know why she hadn’t been back.

Very few spirit contacts have floored me as much as this one.

My mother was a fastidious housekeeper, and always made sure our home was both spotless and in good repair. She loved this house, took pride in making it our home, and as it turned out, the house noticed and appreciated this, too.

No one, not even me, had taken the time to explain to the house what had happened when my mother was called away.

I sat with the spirit of my house for quite some time after this. I explained what had happened, how my mother would not be returning, and both of us grieved for her loss.

This is what I mean by “explain yourself.” The house or apartment you are moving into might not have any idea what is happening to it. People were living there, those people went away, and now you’re there. Take some time to sit with the spirit of the house and tell it your story. Why are you there? What happened to the people who were there before? What do you intend to do with the place?

If you can connect with and befriend the spirit of the house or building or apartment, you’ll have a much easier time not only living there, but dealing with any “unwelcome guests.”

I spoke above about the power of the deed and the key. These are symbols of responsibility and obligation. Show them to the house, make your introductions, then commit yourself to looking after your new home in exchange for it looking after you.

Deep cleaning

Before your move anything into a new house or apartment, give it a proper cleaning.

The usual rule with such cleanings is that you start from the highest point of the house, then clean from top to bottom and back to front. Break out the broom and really go to town. Maybe the house is spotless when you move in, but even if so, give it a once-over yourself.

Top floor to ground floor, basement to ground floor, back to front. Get all of the debris, dust, and detritus out of the place and outside. You might make a “floor wash” using some water with a dash of Florida water mixed in, but I usually reserve this for when things are becoming “challenging” (see below). Regardless, clean the place and while you’re doing so keep speaking to the house spirit.

“Oh, I’m cleaning you out. Doesn’t that smell nice? Let’s get all of this dust out of you. You’re such a beautiful home!”

It might seem silly to speak out loud to your house this way, but trust me—it works. Do everything you can to show the house (or apartment) that you mean to take good care of it, and to love it, and it will return the favor.

Once you have cleaned the whole place, it’s time to break out the incense.

Good vibes only

I could write an entire blog post (or even a full magical course) on the use of incense. Suffice it to say, after you’ve swept and mopped your new home, you’d do well to burn a little frankincense. This is a good, non-offensive, “elevating” incense.

When you burn Frankincense, the goal isn’t to dispel or drive anything away. Rather, the goal is to “raise the vibrations” of the place you’re in, so to speak. That is to say, you’re making the environment around you exceptionally positive, and in doing so, most anything negative is going to want to leave, and to leave quickly.

Whether you’re using a stick, cone, or a bit of resin on a charcoal disk, it doesn’t matter. Light up some frankincense and walk it from room to room, expressing (out loud) a desire to elevate the space and make everyone and everything within happy, positive, and vibrant if they mean no harm.

And here, with that caveat “if they mean no harm,” we get to our first bit of “filtration.” We’re wishing “good vibes” upon everything in the space, so long as they wish good vibes upon us.

Embrace the mellow

For the first week or two, and ideally the first full Lunar cycle, do your best to give off “good vibes only” in your new home. Do what you can to limit yelling, arguing, or fighting within your new place’s walls.

The goal is for you and the other occupants of the home to continue “raising the vibrations” of the place through your actions. Moving to a new place can be stressful, so this part of the process might be a little challenging, so just do your best.

One thing you can do to help ease the strain on your relationships, and cultivate a peaceful atmosphere, is to sprinkle a small amount of dried basil in the corners of each room. Basil is a remarkable plant ally which works at the level of relationships: it helps to create and maintain peaceful and warm interactions.

Another thing you could add to the mix is a bit of lavender. Lavender is used in many traditions as a way to mellow out an environment, to the point where the scent of lavender is known to be a wonderful and natural sleep aid. Small bouquets of the fresh herb are best, but lavender essential oil also works well.

Some people use essential oil diffusers, but I find that one or two drops of the oil on a folded washcloth placed on a shelf in the bedroom to be just as effective. Start with just one drop, though, and see how potent the scent is. The first time I used lavender oil in this way, I used five or six drops and the smell was rather overpowering.

Regular maintenance

Now that you’re all settled into your new home, what’s next? Assuming everything seems fine, the vibe is good, and you’re not experiencing any disturbing or unwanted activity, things are pretty easy.

Keep the house clean

There’s a rather bad habit among magically-inclined folks in the “West” to consciously (or even unconsciously) separate the “magical” from the “mundane.” That is to say, magical rituals are things which only happen in special circles or rooms, or at special times, or require special tools.

If you look at all of the various magical and spiritual practices found throughout the world, you’ll find that this is not the most common view. Rather, most people and cultures see very little if any separation between magic and the mundane tasks they undertake throughout their daily lives.

This is the view that I take myself, and it’s why I see the “simple” act of cleaning one’s house to be an important magical ritual. You are literally cleansing and clearing your home of unwanted detritus! Ritualize the act if you must, but every time you clean your home, understand that you are cleaning it magically just as you are cleaning it physically.

More importantly, though, if you aren’t keeping your house clean, debris and dirt of all kinds could start to creep in.

Fix things when or before they break

Household maintenance also includes putting oil on that squeaky door, or fixing the faucet when it starts to leak. Remember, your house has (or is) a spirit, and you can think of the walls, floors, and fixtures as its body. You shouldn’t let these little “injuries” pile up, any more than you should let your own body fall into disrepair.

Not attending to these problems in a timely manner puts you and your home at risk of infection.

Protective objects

Up until this point, everything I’ve suggested is in line with the idea that you have moved into a new place, are trying to build a good relationship with the spirit of the house, and are doing your best to peacefully co-exist with any other spirits which might happen to be there.

In my opinion, this is the best way to inhabit a place. It acknowledges that these other spirits are also persons deserving of love and respect just as you are.

Now we come to the first bit of “potentially-disruptive” magic: the use of protective objects.

Any magically-protective object or amulet has the potential to be viewed as a “challenge.” Whether we are talking about horseshoes over the front door, hands of Fatima, Evil Eye amulets, God’s Eyes, or labyrinths hung by the entryway, sometimes spirits can see these items as “lines in the sand.” And, very rarely, you’ll encounter spirits that try to step over these lines just to see if they can.

I say very rarely, because I have almost never encountered such spirits directly. In fact, there’s only one account that I’m personally aware of where someone hung an item in their home for protection (in this case, a labyrinth painted on a mirror that they’d purchased at a garage sale) and began to suffer some ill effects—and these effects were quite minor. They started misplacing small items, like their car keys or pens, and everyone in the house began to experience a bit of “brain fog,” where they hadn’t had any before.

Even in this case, though, I don’t think the act of putting up a protective object caused the issue. Rather, I think it’s more likely that the labyrinth itself came with an uninvited guest or unwanted energy. Once they got rid of it, everything went back to normal.

That said, just be aware of the extremely outside possibility that decorating your home with protective items could stir things up.

If you do decide to go this route, which sorts of items can you use? I listed several above you could look into, although some of them have cultural connections you may want to investigate before trying them on for size. If none of the ones I wrote of seem a good fit, a Google search or two will almost certainly give you a dozen more ideas.

Use what you feel is best, and what seems to be most in line with your own magical practice.

The house as protective object

I should also point out here that, of all the spirits in the house, the spirit of the house can be seen as sort of “king of the hill.” In other words, if you have a good relationship with the house spirit, and you keep the house clean and in good order, it is itself a powerful protective “object.”

You can think of it a bit like a fortress, guarded by a very formidable ally.

Just be sure to keep talking with it, especially if you’re planning on making any big changes to it. I can’t even count the number of people who have began a remodeling project and suddenly started experiencing disturbing paranormal phenomena.

“Oh, you decided to take out two walls and tear out the old fireplace? Did you ask the house how it felt about that?”

I’m not saying that you have to get the house spirit’s permission for every little change you make, but I mean come on! If someone started randomly cutting your hair without warning, and without your permission, I’m pretty sure you’d consider that rude.

Before you embark on a remodeling project, or hanging up wallpaper, or painting, or whatever, talk to the house. Let the house know what you’re planning on doing, why you’re planning to do it, and at least get an idea of what it thinks about it.

And you know what? Involving the house in such decisions is really, really rewarding. Not sure what color to paint the dining room? Grab your swatches, sit on the floor of that room, and ask the house for its help. Treat the swatches like an oracle deck, or use a pendulum to ask the house yes or no.

Maybe you and the house have a favorite color in common.

In case of emergency

Apart from the slim chance that something might take offense at the amulet above your door, everything we’ve discussed up until now has almost no possibility of causing problems where there weren’t any.

Here, we start to cross that line.

Spooky phenomena

Let’s get something straight: unexpected spirit contact is almost always disturbing for people who aren’t used to it. You’re home alone and hear footsteps walking down the hall? Odds are pretty good that’s going to freak you out. Ditto goes for waking up in the middle of the night because you feel something watching you from the corner of your bedroom.

In the immortal words taken from the front cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: don’t panic.

If things start to feel a little “spooky” in your home, unless it’s immediately violent or obviously malevolent, don’t automatically assume that it means a hostile spirit or destructive energy has moved in. Spirits come and go for all sorts of reasons. Remember, they are persons. They could just be passing through. Or they could be curious. Or maybe they sense someone in the house is “magically-operant” and either want to say “hello” or are looking to establish a relationship.

The best emotion you can embrace when you sense things getting “weird” is curiosity.

Make contact

Try talking with whatever it is that’s decided to show up. Maybe this means literally speaking out loud to it and trying to hear or feel out its response. Maybe this means throwing some Tarot cards and asking who it is and why it’s there. Or maybe you prefer to work with a pendulum.

Whatever your chosen form of divination or spirit communication, use it to try to engage with whatever is making its presence known.

As part of this process, it’s a good idea to establish and communicate some healthy boundaries. What kind of communication are you open to? What sort of behavior will you permit? What do you not want to see or experience?

A good rule or guideline to follow here is to be polite but also firm. Again, this is your home, they are a guest, and like any guest they should be expected to observe some reasonable etiquette. Keep in mind what I wrote above, though: all spirit contact can feel “spooky.”

There’s not much a discorporate entity can do about that sort of thing.

In my experience, it’s relatively rare to get a clear and unambiguous conversation out of a spirit on your first, second, or even fifth try. However, after a session or two, you should have a pretty good idea of the spirit’s intentions and, more importantly, whether or not you are okay with it hanging around.

If you’re more or less fine with it staying, clearly set the same expectations you did when you first moved into the place. They can remain if they “cause no harm,” etc., etc.

Also? Don’t forget to consult with the spirit of the house, too. Remember, the house itself has a significant say over what happens and who (or what) gets to be within its walls. See what it has to say, and ask it look after (and keep an eye on) your new guest.

Mellowing them out

If the activity in your house starts to become a bit more intense than you’d like, or becomes too disturbing for your taste, the next thing I suggest is trying to mellow it out. Again, I’m a fan of “live and let live” whenever possible. So unless things are getting violent or overtly malevolent, start gently.

Burn frankincense in each of the rooms, and follow this up with lavender. Play some peaceful, uplifting, and happy music. Bring in some fresh flowers. Speak with your housemates and institute another temporary “good vibes only” policy for a few days.

The idea here, once again, is to create an extremely positive and peaceful environment.

In nine out of ten situations, this is enough to either make the spirit calm down and behave, or else make it decide to move on of its own volition.

Polite house clearing

If you can’t calm the spirit down, and it doesn’t seem to want to leave on its own, it might be time to send it on its way.

Clean your house just as you did when you first moved in, and this time add a “floor wash” to the mix. You’ll find a ton of recipes online for this, but honestly all you need is a little Florida water in a bucket of water. Wipe down your woodwork and baseboards with this mixture after dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming.

While you’re cleaning, speak directly to the spirit almost like you would a person you’re breaking up with. “Sorry, it’s just not working out. It’s time for you to go. Depart in peace.” Whatever words seem right. Also, talk to the spirit of the house and make sure it understands that your guest needs to be checking out.

As the very last step of the cleaning, take the trash (including whatever’s in your vacuum cleaner) outside through the front door. When you do this, politely but firmly say goodbye to the unwelcome guest and bid it farewell.

Then, follow the process I wrote above for “mellowing them out.” Reset the space with as much positive energy as you can.

The “nuclear” option

I have only ever recommended this approach to house clearing once, and even then I wasn’t convinced that it was strictly necessary. If you follow all of the advice I wrote above, you should almost never have a need to do even the “polite house clearing.” And in almost every case, that polite approach is more than enough to get whatever is causing trouble out the door.

However, if you’re experiencing violent or clearly malevolent activity and need it to be done with once and for all, this method is what I recommend to others.

You will need: a stoneware or other heavy-duty ceramic bowl which can handle heat (and you are willing to throw away); self-lighting charcoal you can burn incense on; sea salt; rosemary; asafoetida; dragon’s blood; and a bottle of water. You’ll also want to be carrying your house key and your deed or lease.

You’ll be using the bowl, filled with sea salt, as a safe way to hold and burn the charcoal and incense as you carry it around with you. You’ll be throwing it away after using it for this ritual. Do not keep it around.

Rosemary is a common herb which can be burned to drive away malevolent spirits, particularly the dead. It’s perfectly fine to grab this from your cupboard, or the baking aisle of your grocery market.

Asafoetida is another herb which is also traditionally burned to drive away malevolent spirits, particularly those of a demonic nature. You might be able to find it in the “Asian” food aisle of your grocery store, but it can be found online if needed.

Dragon’s blood is a type of plant resin which is one of the most powerful incenses for exorcising or cleansing a space. Most “new age” or “metaphysical” stores carry it, but online ordering is also a possibility.

Mix these three substances together in roughly equal parts. You won’t need a ton of this mixture, but you will need enough to burn some in every room.

Now, for the ritual.

First, if you live with other people (or pets), have them leave the house for the duration of this process.

Next, go through the “polite house clearing” as described above, though hold off on doing the “mellowing them out” bit. You’ll do that after the process below. Not only does this help set the stage for the “big show” to follow, but it gives the unruly spirit one last chance to leave before things get serious.

Next, open all of the windows and doors in your home. There are two reasons for this. First, the incense is very pungent (it really, really stinks). Second, you’re giving anything stuck or trapped in the house a chance to flee.

Tell the spirit of the house that you are about to drive away the entity causing all the trouble, and ask the house for its help. If you’ve been cultivating a strong, positive relationship with the house, it should be more the willing to help you evict the troublemaker.

Fill the bowl with the sea salt, which will help to insulate your hands from the heat of the charcoal. Light the charcoal, then burn some of the incense in each of the rooms. Make sure to fill the house with the smoke, but not to do it so much that you’re setting off fire alarms or making yourself or others sick.

While fumigating the house, firmly and loudly tell the unwanted spirit to get out, using as much “colorful” and “vulgar” language as you like.

Seriously. At this stage, you are past the point of politeness. If you’ve followed my advice so far, you gave the entity multiple chances to behave, or to leave on good terms. Now it’s time to throw the thing out on its ass.

Once you’ve gone through the whole house with the incense, and your best “I’m tired of your crap” attitude, bring the bowl outside, douse it well with the water, and throw the whole mess in the trash, preferably well away from your property.

After this, return to your house and do all of the “mellowing out” steps again. Good vibes only, etc. etc.

It’s also a good idea to do whatever personal cleansing ritual you have, such as taking a spiritual bath or even just using a bit of Florida water on yourself like I wrote about above.

Final thoughts

If I have only one rule to share when it comes to relating with the spirits in your home, it’s this: “Be nice, until it’s time to not be nice.” And yes, that’s a quote from the movie Roadhouse.

I work and play with spirits all the time. Some I get along with, some I don’t, and all of them are persons. I do my absolute best to treat them all with love, respect, and a desire to mutually co-exist and flourish.

In my experience, this is the best way to not only handle “troublesome” spirits, it’s also the best way to prevent spirits from becoming “troublesome” in the first place.

Winter silence

It’s almost spring, and I’m more than ready for it.

You might have noticed that I took more or less the whole of winter off from writing and posting on the blog. I also did my best to post very little on social media, apart from silly memes on Facebook, or comments on friends’ posts.

Winters, to be blunt, really suck for me. I don’t enjoy them at all.

I live in New Hampshire, so winters are full of freezing temperatures, ice, and snow. This means I frequently go days without venturing outside unless it’s straight into a freezing car. No walks in the woods or about town, no hanging out on my porch or working in my yard.

This lack of sunlight and fresh air is truly horrible for a number of reasons, but the most pertinent one here is that I have very little energy once the weather turns cold.

Getting anything done from December to April requires a massive effort on my part, and usually leaves me utterly drained by the end of the day. So, for this winter, I decided to pull back from work and quietly, peacefully spend the days sitting with friends, family, and myself.

That worked out pretty well! So well, in fact, that I think taking winters off is probably something I’ll do in the future.

At least until I move to a nicer climate.

Tarot readings are open

If there’s a question on your mind, or a specific situation you would like some guidance with, I want you to know that I provide tarot readings via email. I try to respond to requests within twenty-four hours, and ask only for a small donation in return, provided that you are completely satisfied with your reading, and you are able to afford it.

That’s the short version. Here’s the longer one…

I’ve been offering tarot readings and other types of consultations for quite some time, but earlier this year I had to close my services to the public. While I still provided assistance to family, friends, and friends-of-friends, my life had become hectic enough that I didn’t feel comfortable with an ongoing commitment to provide readings to others.

Fortunately, things have since settled down, and I’m now in a position to offer consultations to anyone who wants one.

During the time when my consultations were closed, though, I came to some conclusions about how I wanted structure my services, as well as how to best meet both my need to help people as well as my need to pay rent. It was after a lot of meditation and soul-searching that I came up with what I think is the best solution, at least for now.

At this time, I am only providing tarot readings via email, rather than over the phone or through a service like Zoom. This not only affords me the flexibility that scheduling “face-to-face” consults lacks, it also means that I can get back to clients much sooner. I do my absolute best to respond to clients within twenty-four hours, and am usually able to respond more quickly than that.

I also decided that I did not want to request any payment in advance of the services I preform. Rather, I wanted to experiment with a donation-based approach. That is, I ask clients to consider making a donation after I have handled their request. I have a provided a “suggested donation,” which is a dollar amount that I feel fairly compensates me for the time and effort I put into my work.

I prefer this arrangement for two reasons which are both very important to me.

First, I don’t want anyone to be reluctant to reach out for assistance because they aren’t in a good financial position. A person’s ability to pay will have no bearing on the quality of service I provide.

Second, I want every client to be 100% satisfied with their consultation, and to not worry that they’re simply “out the money” if they don’t feel that they received a good value. I think the best way for this to happen is to leave money “off the table” until our work is done. And if you are dissatisfied with your consultation for any reason, please let me know so that I can try to address your concerns.

At the end of our exchange, I will provide a link which you can use to send a donation. Please use it if, and only if, you are thoroughly satisfied with my work, and you are able to afford it.

With that said, and with the understanding that I will try my best to help everyone, I do reserve the right to revise this policy in the future, or to politely decline to provide a consultation if I feel as though I am being unfairly taken advantage of. I truly do not think this will be necessary, though.

If you would like to know more, please read my updated terms and conditions page. If you would like a tarot reading, you can request one here. If you have any questions, or just want to say “hello,” please email me and I’ll get back to you soon.

Have a great week!