Working, walking, worrying

The last few months have been a perfect storm of accomplishments and anxiety. But first, here’s a photo I took a couple of weeks ago while out on a walk. I think it’s one of my favorites.

A photograph of white flowers wilting in the morning light of an early autumn day.

One of the things I love about where I live is that my sunrise walks always turn up something beautiful to behold. Whether that’s deer frolicking, bunnies bouncing, or flowers flowering–there’s always something. In this case, it was a cluster of flowers slowly succumbing to the chill which has crept into the air since autumn’s arrival.

And because I’ve been doing an obscene amount of walking lately, I’ve had front-row seat to the seasonal changing of the guard. Birds have begun to migrate, leaves are starting to change, and I’ve had to don my hooded sweatshirt for most of my early walks.

Before, I was surrounded by mostly pine trees, so I’m very excited by the slow recoloring of the deciduous trees that fill the bulk of my new stomping grounds.

As for the walks themselves, I’m doing between five and nine miles day, though not at once. I mostly take short walks of a mile or two at a time, especially when I need a mental break from my work or worries.

And I’ve had plenty of both.

On the work front, I can now talk freely about that Big Thing I’ve been working on. A friend of mine and I have launched what we might as well call an “online magazine,” dedicated to all things “weird and wonderful.” We explore the history, tools, habits, beliefs, and ways of living embraced by others–with a particular focus on those which are outside of today’s “mainstream,” for lack of a better word.

It’s called Adair & Clough, since those are our names and it sounds delightfully professional and pompous. We have weekly horoscopes, an advice column, and articles which serve to introduce people to “strange” ideas like scrying, cartomancy, and thinking critically about how we choose to live. It’s not exactly a “how to magic” site, but it is a “how to think with different thoughts” site.

We also have a podcast, naturally, and the first episode of that will be dropping on Wednesday, October 11th.

I already spent a great deal of time whining to my friends and social media accounts about how much time and energy it took to get this project out the door, so I won’t repeat myself here. Instead, I’ll just say that I’m rather happy with how it’s turned out, and I’m looking forward to what we’ll be doing with it.

There’s worry in there, too, though.

Yes, I mean all the usual worries about investing so much of myself in a project with no guaranteed return, but this time of year gives me many other sources of anxiety.

Last year, I mentioned that autumn didn’t tend to do my family any favors. Now that I’m living an hour and a half away from my family, it’s not just the morning air bringing me chills. Every apparent sign is more or less positive, but there’s always that nagging doubt because our fortunes often change right along with the leaves, and rarely for the better.

I’m trying to stay positive, though.

Despite all of my working and worrying, I woke up the other day in an incredibly-good mood, filled with profound gratitude for the life I’ve managed to carve out for myself. I spend my days studying, writing, and enjoying the outside. I spend my evenings listening to classical music and audiobooks while I relax and knit.

Most days, that’s more than enough.

Still, I think I’ll feel a lot better once winter rolls around.

Digital wizardry

Maybe it’s the Mercury retrograde, or the obscene pile of projects I’ve taken on, but I’ve spent most of the last month fiddling with computers. Fixing them, writing code for them, and just generally immersing myself in them in ways I thought (and hoped) I’d left behind me.

I wrote this on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, when I should have been working…

I was going to write a long, rambling post about all of the various tech and nerd things I've had to work on over the past two weeks, but I can't because...
1. It's all for a Super Secret Thing that I can't talk about yet.
2. I have so much work to do that I shouldn't even *be* on social media writing *this* much.
Suffice it to say, if this new venture ever makes enough money so that I can hire other people, Employee #0001 will be a tech monkey who's job it will be to make it so that I never, *ever* have to look at PHP, hand hack a "requirements.txt" file, or remember to type "sudo ufw status numbered" and not "sudo ufw status" again.

Then a few days later I wrote this, while I was trying to un-hork my father’s computer…

I really love how Windows updates have become a game of Spin-the-Dynamite. I know this behavior goes back to a *least* Windows XP, but wow! Now, it's like every other update has a better-than-even chance of throwing your OS into a wood chipper.

When I tell people I used to be a computer geek for a living, but ran gleefully away from that industry in the early naughties in favor of working in a factory and never looked back, they question my sanity. I, however, question how anyone can stand it.

Years ago, I read some other computer-land expat’s comments about how “fun” it is dealing with malfunctioning technology, which went something like this…

If you made a Venn diagram of my life, there would be two non-overlapping circles, one labeled, “Times when I’m well-and-truly happy” and the other labeled, “Times when I’m logged in as root, holding a cable, or have the case open.”

(Apologies for not remembering the specific person who wrote this, or where I saw it posted.)

I cannot, cannot stress how much I relate to this.

Aside from the tech support I had to toss at my family, nearly everything I’ve been working on lately has been for that Super Secret Project I mentioned the other day. It’s still going to be a few weeks before I can talk about that, but it’s coming along despite all my whining.

Or maybe because of it? They say talking through your pain is a good way to get through it.

Anyway, I’d much rather be doing tarot or astrology consultations for people, so why don’t you hit me up for one? I’ve finally caught up on my email, and while I still have a criminally-insane amount of work ahead of me this week, I’d love to procrastinate on your behalf.

Normally, my go-to method for avoiding work is taking long walks outside, but we’re in the middle of another heat wave, so the outside feels like it’s trying to kill me.

Friends don’t let their wizards get heat stroke.

Voices in my head (or, how I learned that dead bunnies don’t make for good content)

What it’s like in my head when my head isn’t filled with other things that I probably shouldn’t write about. Not that I should be writing about this, but that’s beside the point.

Me: “Oh, that’s pretty! I should take a picture of that for the socials.”

My Better Judgement: “Don’t post photos of roadkill on Instagram, Jeff.”

Me: “But it’s a rabbit and it’s beau–“

My Better Judgement: “It’s INSIDE OUT and there’s BLOOD EVERYWHERE! Are you just ALLERGIC to marketing?”

Me: “I mean, it’s kind of on-brand for me.”

My Better Judgement: “No one’s ‘brand’ is loops of bunny intestine splattered on the asphalt. Keep walking.”

Me: “What if I just take a photo for myself and not post–“

My Better Judgement: “Dude, that neighbor is STARING AT YOU! You just moved here. Do you really want to be known as ‘the creepy, bearded hobo who takes pictures of roadkill?'”

Me: “Good morning!”

My Better Judgement: “Did you seriously just wave at them over a bunny corpse?”

Me: “I didn’t want to seem anti-social.”

My Better Judgement: *repeated sound of a head hitting a desk*

…a five-second pause…

Me: “I guess taking it home is out of the question.”

My Better Judgement: *PRIMAL SCREAM*

And that’s the story of how I didn’t take roadkill home with me.

Because I’m neighborly.

Working…sort of

I assure you, I didn’t intend to go two months between posts, here. But then, I can also assure you that I didn’t intend to be surrounded by thunderstorms, tornadoes, and floods for most of July.

I’m fine, though. Thanks for asking.

The bulk of the storms kept their distance, and while we did have our fair share of tornado warnings, we managed to get out or more less unscathed. The yard was a swamp until about the second week in August, but I really can’t complain.

The weather-related distractions were significant enough to disrupt my daily routine, but I’ve also had my fair share of other issues. Most of them were related to the move (which is still in progress, thanks to my hoarding tendencies), others were not, and all of them were annoying so let’s not dwell on that here.

Image of a turtle laying eggs.

Hey, look at this turtle!

One of the things I absolutely love about living where I do is the straight-up crazy amount of wildlife I run into on my daily walks. Deer, rabbits, the occasional loose dog that either wants to say “hi” or rip my face off–it’s a rare day that I don’t make a new friend.

This beautiful lady was spotted by my friend while we were out walking together earlier this summer. We actually saw a couple of turtles laying eggs along the same stretch of road, so that’s awesome. If I had the time, I’d look into when these eggs can be expected to hatch and try to be out there when the babies arrive.

Alas, work has been…involved.

In addition to trying to catch up on all of my usual tasks, I’ve been working on a massive new project with a friend of mine that I can’t really talk about yet.

(Side note: Sorry if you’ve been waiting for me to get back to you for a reading or whatever, but I’m…like…more than a month behind on my email. I’d feel bad about that, but I’m a wizard. And wizards are never late in their correspondence. They reply precisely when they mean to.)

What I can talk about is how utterly dependent I’ve become on email, notes, and tasks lists in order to get literally anything done.

For the one-and-a-half of you that might be interested, I use GNU Emacs as my primary editor. Within that program, I use Gnus for email, BBDB for contact management, and org-mode for my notes, to-do lists, and schedule. And I cannot, cannot stress enough how much this collection of tools has merged with my brain.

As an example, let’s say I get an email message from someone asking me to do something. I hit a keystroke while looking at the message and it opens a new “to-do” item which automatically includes a link to the email message. I can then file the to-do away, and when I eventually complete it, it’s just another keystroke or two for me to reply to the message saying it’s done.

Oh, and org-mode lets me keep my to-do items and appointment or meeting reminders right inside my notes files. And it lets me search, sort, and organize all of the above in pretty much any way I need to.

An image of a newt. Or maybe a salamander.

Most of the time, I borrow heavily from David Allen’s strategies which he wrote in his book Getting Things Done, which is really the only “productivity” book I’d ever recommend. The tools I described above? Nothing else even comes close to supporting that workflow so well.

But I digress. Here’s a newt!

Or, maybe it’s a salamander. I don’t know. I do know that I met this charming little dude on my walk this morning. It’s very refreshing to see a live amphibian on my road, considering how many unfortunately-flat frogs and toads I usually come across.

What’s the point of this post, anyway?

Mostly there’s not one, other than the fact that I feel somewhat bad for neglecting this blog all summer, and figured I ought to write something to let you know that I’m still alive.

Well, that and the fact that the more time I spend rambling here, the more I can avoid the other work I really need to be doing.

It’s time to wrap it up, though. I need to grab breakfast, another cup of coffee, and get back to work.

Maybe I’ll take another walk, first.

Silence and Song

Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Middle Earth. That is, I’ve been watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, and listening to the audiobooks (narrated by Andy Serkis!) when I’m ready to go to sleep. The actual books are back at my old place.

Oh, right. I’ve moved house! But that’s a tale for further down. I was talking about Tolkien.

One of the things you may or may not know, is that the “creation myth” of Tolkien’s universe involves the supreme being (Eru or “The One”)—along with assistance of some “angelic” beings he previously produced—making the world through music and chanting. Song, in other words.

The world was sung into being.

I like that, which might explain why I start my day at least an hour before sunrise.

For over a decade, I have stood on my porch in the dark, cup of coffee or tea in hand, sometimes a cigarette or a pipe, and watched as light gradually filled the world. And as the light came, the birds began to sing.

It’s an amazing experience, in my opinion. So much so that I’ve been a silent witness to well over two thousand sunrises, and still enjoy each and every one of them immeasurably.

Silence is key, though.

Night and the early dawn are never truly silent. Not in cities, nor in the woods. In the semi-rural area I called home for the last twelve-or-so years, the hours before sunrise were a time of owl hoots, fox calls, and the occasional bark of a bear. (Seriously, bears bark. Look it up.)

No, it’s not the silence of the world that’s necessary for the experience of dawn to be fully felt. It’s the silence of the listener. And this silence goes much, much deeper than sound. It’s a stillness which is difficult to describe. The human being becomes less a human and more a being, if that makes any sense.

Forgive me this rambling. I’m blissed out on meditation at the moment. Meditation, and the fact that I’ve moved to a place even more semi-rural and silence-inducing than my previous abode.

It’s been a stressful, sometimes exhausting transition. Still ongoing, of course. There are several more lengthy car trips to make in order to collect the rest of my things. And there are several more pieces of furniture to acquire so I can proper settle in here, though thankfully not many.

Through all of that, though, I feel overwhelmingly positive about not just where I am now, but where I will be soon.

Thus, in a roundabout fashion, I come at last to the point of this post…

What to make of this little blog of mine?

I’ve decided to focus less on writing “How-To-Magic” content here, and instead write more about my personal thoughts and experience of magic. Travelogue versus tutorial, said another way.

One of the most significant reasons I’ve moved in the first place is that here can devote even more of my time and energy to the study and practice of magic. And when it’s time for me to share what I’ve learned, well, I’m no longer convinced that a blog will suit my particular needs.

What will? I’m still working that out.

Anyway, I’m still open to consultations if you’re looking for a tarot reading or a natal astrology reading. If you’re looking for that sort of thing, I’d be more than happy to help.

But enough rambling and muttering.

The birds are singing, and it’s time for silence.

Have a blessed day.

The Second House in Astrology

In astrology, the second house signifies personal property, assets, and resources. It represents that which directly supports the subject of the chart.

Each of the twelve astrological houses represents something different. In a natal chart, they relate to areas of a person’s life. With electional astrology, they signify different topics and how they relate to the event being planned. In horary astrology, they’re used to determine which planets are relevant to the question being asked.

The second house represents material assets, movable property, and financial resources. In other words, regardless of how we’re applying astrology, the second house is all about money.

Let’s look at each of these applications, and see how the second house is used.

The second house in astrology represents money and material resources.

The second house in natal astrology

Natal or birth charts are all about the person for whom the chart was cast. This means that in a natal chart the second house represents an individual’s assets and resources. It shows us that person’s potential for wealth, as well as how they approach or manage their possessions and money.

The planets found in this house, as well as the sign which rules it, “color” all things related to money. If we have a fire sign ruling this house, it indicates rapid movement or some instability relating to finances. When a planet such as Mars is here, this instability will be exacerbated. If we find Jupiter in this house, it’s usually a good indication of abundant resources–especially if Jupiter is well-dignified.

Planets in the house can also give us a clue as to how the person will make their money. If the planet ruling the tenth is here, it means the individual will make their money from their career or reputation. If the ruler of the seventh house is in the second, this can show that one’s partner is a significant source of resources.

The planet which rules the second house shows us in what manner its significations tend to be expressed. And the house where this planet it found? That tells us to which area of life toward which the person usually puts their money.

Electional astrology

When electing the time for something, the second house has much the same meaning as it does for a birth chart. It represents the financial resources or assets of the subject of the event, or the person initiating the action. Going on a vacation? This house shows the financial conditions surrounding the trip. Starting a new business? Again, it’s all about money and assets–in this case, how well the venture will preform financially.

Many astrological elections have financial implications, so the second house is always worth looking at. This is true even when it isn’t entirely obvious the event has anything to do with money. For example, if you’re electing the time for a medical procedure, a poorly-configured second house could mean the bill is much, much different from what you thought it would be.

Horary astrology

In horary astrology, we’re casting a chart for the moment of a question. In most cases, this means that the second house relates to the money or assets of the person doing the asking. It can also tell us about profits and losses from sales or investments, as well as loans or debts. As the second house “supports” the first house (the person themselves), in legal matters it often represents one’s lawyer.

As with elections, questions in horary astrology often implicitly involve money in some way. If someone asks a relationship question, for example, finding a connection between this house and the seventh (the partner) or eighth (the partner’s resources) might signify that financial matters in the relationship are worth a closer look.

Final thoughts on the second house

When you begin studying astrology, you should always start by looking at your birth chart. If you haven’t, use a website such as Astro-Seek to create one. Look at your second house, and the planets you find there. What does the second house have to say about your financial situation or prospects?

Have a blessed day!

The First House in Astrology

In astrology, the first house is the most important house in a chart. It signifies the subject of the chart, whether this is a person, place, or thing.

The first house begins with the Ascendant.

Every one of the twelve houses in a chart carries its own significations. In a natal or birth chart, they represent areas of a person’s life. Looking at an electional chart, they represent topics and how they relate to the event under consideration. With horary astrology, they are used to determine which planets are relevant to the question at hand.

For each and every one of these applications of astrology, the first house is the most personal. This means that in a natal chart, it signifies the person’s body, appearance, basic personality, and motivations. When putting together an astrological election, it represents the event itself, or the subject initiating the event. In horary astrology, it signifies the person asking the question.

Let’s look at each of these applications, and consider how the first house relates to them.

The first house in natal astrology

In a house system such as Placidus or Regiomontanus, the first house has the Ascendant as its cusp. It’s where the chart begins.

In a birth chart, or “nativity,” the first house is sometimes called the “house of life.” Its cusp, its ruler, and the planets located within it, give us a general idea of the life circumstances surrounding the individual. This includes their motivations, mannerisms, and mentality, but also their physical appearance and overall health.

Let’s talk about physical appearance first. According to the tradition, this includes a person’s size and shape, their complexion, and the features of their head and face. For example, if Saturn or Mars is located in the first house, one would expect them to have a mole or some other mark on their face. Or, if not on their face, on that part of the body signified by the sign of this house.

The rules for calculating one’s physical appearance from the chart are well beyond the scope of this article, but they’re all rooted in the first house.

Motivations and mannerisms are also found here. The traits associated with the sign of this house, as well as the planets within it, all give us a clues to these characteristics. If we see a fire sign on the cusp, we would expect an individual who is more extroverted than introverted. If Saturn is positioned here, though, that extroversion would be more moderated.

The planet ruling the cusp of this house shows us the area of life toward which the native directs most of their attention, as well as the manner in which they engage with it.

Electional astrology

The first house is the most critical house when it comes to astrological elections. It, and its ruling planet, represent either the event itself or the person or subject which acts to bring the event to pass. If we’re electing a date and time to start a vacation, it would represent the people going on the trip. If we’re electing a new business, it would represent the business. Breaking ground on a new building? You guessed it, it signifies the building.

When looking for an auspicious time to begin something, it’s vital that the first house and its ruler be in a good condition and free of malefic influences. This is usually the first step an astrologer takes when electing a time.

Horary astrology

In horary astrology, where a chart is cast for the moment of a question, the first house represents the person asking the question. In many horary questions, the answer is found by looking for an aspect between the ruler of this house, and the ruler of whichever house represents the thing being asked about.

If someone asks about a job they applied for, we’ might’d look to see if there’s an aspect between the ruler of the first house and the ruler of the tenth, which governs one’s career. If someone asks if they’ll marry their current partner, we’d look for an aspect between the ruler of the first and the ruler of the seventh.

There are many other rules when it comes to answering horary questions, but the first house is almost always involved.

Final thoughts on the first house

When you begin to learn about astrology, it’s always a good idea to start by looking at your own birth chart. If you haven’t seen your chart before, you can use a website such as Astro-Seek to create one. Look at your first house, and the planets within it. What do they have to say about you?

Remember, every house in the chart has something to say. The first house, though, is particularly important, and it must be studied carefully.

The first is always first.

Have a blessed day!

How to practice visualization for magic

Almost every magical text written in the last century describes “visualization” as the key to success. But what if you have trouble forming mental pictures?

Visualization exercises are everywhere in magic. Whether we’re talking about “seeing” yourself in a new car, or “scrying” into the Astral Plane, this idea of mental imagery is a near constant. It’s also something many people struggle with when they’re first getting into magic.


I was one of those people.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had exceptionally vivid dreams. I also read constantly, with horror stories being among my favorite, and could get lost in a book for hours. These worlds I visited, either in dreams or books, all seemed incredibly real to me. And yet, the first time I tried a visualization exercise I saw described in a how-to-magic book, I failed miserably.

The second time was a failure, too. And the tenth. And the hundredth.

I started studying magic when I was twelve years old. It wasn’t until I was sixteen, four years after I started practicing, that I finally got visualization. Now, at the ripe old age of grumble mumble something, it’s second nature to me.

In this post, I’d like to give you an “exercise routine” to help you practice visualization. If you’re struggling, maybe this will save you a few years.

Not everyone can do visualization

Believe it or not, some people are simply incapable of visualization–at least as it’s described in the books. In this section, I’ll discuss some of the reasons why, and try to give you some advice where I can.

Vision impairment

First, let’s talk about people who are vision impaired. When the impairment is the result of an illness or injury experienced after a person was born, they usually have no more trouble visualizing things than people without vision impairment. If this describes you, I’ll say that the first exercise in this post requires sight, but you might be able to adapt it and the rest this post to suit your needs.

If someone has been totally blind since birth, that’s a different story. There is evidence that the brains of such people still experience vision-related electrical activity, but they’re certainly not “seeing” in the “conventional” sense of the word. If this describes you, this post might not be of much help to you.

This post also won’t be of much help to those people who experience aphantasia.


Aphantasia is the inability to voluntarily form mental pictures. It was first noted back in 1880, but no one actually began to study it until 2005! As such, there’s not a whole lot of data on aphantasia. Based on the studies we do have, though, it seems that about four percent of the population experiences some form of it.

Ever since aphantasia gained wider awareness, I’ve seen a lot of people claim to have it. And by “a lot” of people, I mean way more than four percent.

Almost always, these are people who are relatively new to magic.

Now, it’s certainly possible (even probable!) that the prevalence of aphantasia has been wildly understated. It hasn’t been studied for that long, and there’s a lot we don’t know about it. If you think you might have aphantasia, I strongly encourage you to seek out a medical professional in your area and speak with them. You might not only be able to help deepen our knowledge of this condition, there’s evidence that it could be linked to dementia later on in life.

BUT…visualization is also a skill, and it takes time and effort to learn. Remember up top when I said it took me four years to get it right? Don’t expect to be an overnight success with this. I think this post can help speed the process, but it’s not going to do the work for you. Even if you get absolutely no success, try as you might, please give it some time before self-diagnosing a neurological condition.

With that out of the way, let’s get visualizing.

Visualization #1

So, we want to see something in our mind’s eye. That’s the goal, here, right? We want to be able to close our eyes and picture something, anything we want, in detail. How do we start? We start simply.

I’m going to give you a basic shape, you’re going to stare at it for thirty seconds (trying not to blink too much), then you’re going to close your eyes. When you close your eyes, you’ll see an “after image” of the shape. Your mission in this exercise is to hold on to that image. You want to keep that image for as long as you can. If you have a timer you can start without having to look at it, it’ll help you track your progress. You’ll be doing this exercise more than once.

Ready for the shape? Here it is…

A red, equilateral triangle for visualization.

Simple, right. It’s just a red, equilateral triangle. (There’s a reason I chose this for your first shape. It was the first one that I used back in the day!)

Click on the triangle to make it big, and keep your eyes on it for thirty seconds. Just count one Mississippi, two Mississippi, etc. Then close your eyes and hold onto the triangle you “see” there. Fun fact, the triangle you see behind your eyes will be blue! (Assuming you don’t have certain forms color vision deficiency.)

Go on, try it. I’ll wait.


You’re back? Great! How’d you do? Did you “see” the triangle? Was it blue? How long were you able to keep it there?

If staring at the image above hurt your eyes at all, or you’d like to be able to do this exercise away from a screen, that’s fine. Just get a piece of white paper, and either draw the triangle on it, or use some red construction paper and paste it on with a glue stick. It’ll work the same way.

Do this exercise three times a day for three days, but give yourself a break in between attempts. Your break should be no less than twenty minutes, but an hour is better. Give your eyes and your mind a chance to relax and reset. Once you’ve taken a break, try it again. See if you go a little longer this time.

After three days of practice, take day four off before moving on to the next exercise.

While you’re doing this, though…

Bet you didn’t know this first exercise was a two-parter. Yup. You’re going to do this on the same days you’re staring at the triangle. It’s okay, though. You don’t need a computer screen or a craft project for this. All you need is a towel.

Well, that and a table and chair. And about ten minutes.

Clear a couple of square feet off the table, pull the chair up, and lay the towel down to your right if you’re right-handed, your left if you’re left-handed. You want to be able to comfortably sit, reach out with your dominant hand, and lay it flat on the bare table without touching the towel. You also want to be able to lay it flat on the towel without touching the bare table. Got it? Good.

Towels and tables

Now, sit (if you’re not already), put your hand on the bare table, and close your eyes. You want to sit like this for one minute. While you’re doing that, really try to feel the table under your hand. Don’t massage it or anything, keep your hand still. Just feel it. Is it cold? Warm? Rough? Smooth? Really sink yourself into the feeling.

Once the minute is up, open your eyes, move your hand to the towel, and close your eyes again. You’re going to spend one minute feeling the towel. As before, keep your hand still. Just feel what you feel. Is it fuzzy? Is it rough? Should you maybe switch fabric softeners? Again, try to feel the towel as intensely as you can. And yes, I’m aware of how that sounds. Just go with it.

After you’ve spent a minute feeling the towel, open your eyes, move your hand to the table, and do this whole thing again. One minute of table, one minute of towel. You want to spend a total of six minutes doing this–three minutes for each, one minute at a time. At the end of six minutes, your hand should be on the towel.

Do you know where your towel is?

This is the fun part. Don’t open your eyes, and don’t move your hand. Instead, imagine moving your hand to the table. Keep your “real” hand where it is, but “see” your “imaginary” hand move to the table and “feel” the table under it. Really try to see your hand move, really try to feel the table. Don’t worry if this doesn’t seem to be working, just keep at it.

After one minute, keep your eyes closed, move your “imaginary” hand back to the towel, and “feel” the towel. This should be easier, right? I mean, your “real” hand is actually on the towel.

A minute later, open your eyes, actually move your hand to the table, then close your eyes again. You guessed it, you’re feeling the table for another minute. After that, you’re going to keep your eyes closed and imagine your hand moving to the towel. Feel it under your hand? Try to focus as hard as you can on what the towel feels like for one solid minute.

Then you’re done! See, I told you it would take about ten minutes.

How’d you do? Are you wondering what the point of this was? I’ll tell you in the next exercise! In the meantime, do this towel trick once a day for three days, then take the fourth day off. On the fifth day, move on to the next exercise.

Visualization #2

Visualization is about “seeing” things, sure. But seeing is just one way of perceiving. The visual part of the first exercise is specifically about seeing. The towel part of the exercise was partly about seeing, but it was mainly about feeling. We’re working two senses, sight and touch, at the same time. Why?

Because what we’re really trying to do is to get your mind to perceive something which “isn’t really there.” By working double-duty, you’re going to get to where you want to be a lot faster.

Anyway, it’s day five (if you’ve been following the schedule I suggested) so it’s time for another exercise. And this one you can do pretty much anywhere, so long as you aren’t driving or operating heavy machinery or something.

During day five, and as often as you can during day five, you want to take a minute to close your eyes and see the triangle from the first exercise. That’s right, we’re trying unassisted visualization now. Try to see that blue triangle behind your eyes.

You can do this on the bus, or while sitting in the bathroom, or waiting for your order at the café–wherever and whenever you can give it a shot safely, go for it. Don’t do this for more than about a minute at a time, though, and give yourself at least a five-minute break before trying it again.


Here’s where you might be in for a surprise. Some people start seeing success at this point! Not a lot of people, and certainly not most, but some do. The triangle is usually quite dim and “flickery,” but you’ll know if it’s there or not. It’ll probably go a little lop-sided, or it might stretch or shrink. The triangle–if you see it–will seem to do everything but stand still.

If, by the end of day five, this describes you, then congratulations! You’re visualizing!

However, if you just don’t get any sort of triangle at all during the whole day, it’s back to the first exercise for you. And that’s okay! Most people don’t get this on the first pass. Go back, do three days of triangles and towels, take the fourth day off, and try this exercise again.

Keep at it until you can get the triangle at least somewhat reliably without the visual aid.


Ongoing Practice

Once you can see the triangle without using a visual aid, keep doing the towel and table trick every other day or so. You want to aim for three times a week, with a day or two off in between. It really will help speed your progress.

I mentioned that the triangle you first visualize is probably going to be dim, flickering, and it will almost constantly shift around. This is normal when you first begin, but it’s not where we want to end up. This section is going to give you an ongoing program which will help you not only make the triangle behave, it will also lead to you visualizing whatever you want.

This practice should take no more than fifteen to twenty minutes. If you can do it every day, great, but don’t try it more than once a day. I also wouldn’t try it if you’re feeling tired, or just ate a large meal. You want to be at your best, otherwise you’ll just be spinning your wheels and frustrating yourself.


You want to set aside about twenty minutes or so, and find a comfortable place to sit where it’s quiet and you won’t be disturbed. We’re going to be doing some meditation, so make your space as amiable to relaxation and concentration as possible.

Sit and breathe

Sit in your space, take a deep breath, and slowly release it while you let your eyes gently close. Don’t try to visualize anything yet, just breathe. You don’t have to breathe in any particular way, except that you do want to completely fill, then empty your lungs. This is sometimes called “belly breathing.” If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know what I’m talking about.

Take a few minutes to just “check in” with your body. Feel your limbs, let your thoughts do whatever, then slowly bring your attention to your breath. Again, don’t try to time it or control it. Just let yourself breathe naturally and fully, inhaling, then exhaling.

Keep your attention on your breath for a few minutes. If you feel your mind start to wander, bring it gently back to your breath. Inhale. Exhale. Relax.

Triangle time

Once you feel relaxed and focused on your breath, call up the triangle and shift your attention to it. You’re about to begin the hard part. You want to hold the triangle in your mind and keep it still.

The goal is to maintain the triangle at a constant size, and keep it’s shape and orientation the same. If it starts to grow or shrink, gently reset it to its proper size. Do the same if it moves or tries to change its proportions. The keyword here is “gently.” Don’t get angry or frustrated. This is really hard to do, and it takes a lot of practice to do it well.

When you first begin, if you’re able to keep the triangle still for even ten seconds that’s a serious accomplishment.

Simple shapes

After you have reached the point where you can hold the triangle still for at least thirty seconds, you’re ready to try another shape. Getting to this point will likely take you a few weeks of consistent practice. That’s right. Weeks. Again, don’t be discouraged. Be patient.

What shape should you use next? Dealer’s choice. I suggest trying a square, a circle, or a five-pointed star, but it’s really up to you. Just keep it simple, and don’t make a visual aid for it like we did with the triangle. By now, you should be able to call up one of these simple shapes on your own.

As to color? You can stick with the blue you’ve been seeing, but you can try another primary color as you wish. When you can hold any simple shape of any color in your mind for a full minute, without any noticeable movement, you’re golden.

Three-dimensional solids

At that point, try any simple, unmoving, three-dimensional object. It may seem more challenging at first, but if you’ve come this far it shouldn’t take you more than about a week to start seeing some progress. Start with a cube if you can’t think of anything else.

Once you can hold a 3D object for a minute, then you can try making it move. For instance, if you’re using a cube, make it slowly rotate. Have it rotate along one axis at first, in one direction then in the other. When you have the hang of that, make it rotate along two axis. Sooner than you think, you’ll be able to make the cube tumble through space, in any direction at all, exactly according to your desire.

Multiple objects

By now, you’re so far along that you really don’t need any more guidance. I’ll throw this last bit out there just in case, though.

Move on to two simple solids. Hold them still at first, then have them move and rotate. Even have them bump off of each other. Then you can move on to three, four, and even five objects. Make them all the same, or make them all different.

Try complex objects that you’re familiar with, such as your favorite chair, or the lamp on your desk.

If you can manage to do that, congratulations! You should be able to visualize anything you need or want to.

Next steps?

I assume you read this post and went through all of the work above because you had a goal, a reason for wanting to get good at visualization. Well, whatever that goal is, your next step is obviously to go and do it. Most people practice visualization as a prelude to Astral Travel, or what I usually call “Journeying.” If that’s you, then you’ll have no trouble beginning that practice now.

Beyond that, the only thing I can do is remind you that visualization is a skill. Not only does it take time and effort to learn, but it can also get “rusty” if you don’t use it regularly. You can probably stop with the towel and table routine, but you’d do well to keep meditating and building those concentration muscles.

Anyway, I hope this post helped!

If you have any tips or thoughts on visualization, feel free to drop them in the comments below. I’d love to read them and I’m sure other people would too.

Have a blessed day!

How to do a tarot reading for a loved one

A tarot reading is a uniquely helpful, yet deeply personal experience. So, when a loved one asks for a reading, it can sometimes get a little awkward.

I was prompted to write this post after a conversation I had with another reader. They mentioned that their spouse had asked them for a tarot reading about a sensitive subject. They declined, and their spouse got a little upset with them. Everything’s fine now between the couple, but this reader asked me how I would have handled the situation.

And that got me thinking.

A good tarot reading is personal

A good tarot reading is personal.

Whether we’re talking about a reading being done face-to-face or over the Internet, tarot readings are personal experiences. A person asks a question, and a person does the reading. If the question is sincerely asked, and the person asking is truly invested in the answer, there can be a lot of emotions involved.

If you’ve ever had a tarot reading, or read the tarot yourself, think of some of the questions you’ve asked. In my years of reading the cards, I’ve had questions about break ups, financial hardships, dire medical situations, and everything in between. Sometimes I’ve seen very good news in the cards. Other times? Not so much.

To me, it’s vitally important that both the querent and the tarot reader feel at liberty to share their thoughts and feelings without holding back. I don’t mean to imply we’re talking “brutal honesty,” here. There should be nothing “brutal” about a reading. But honesty? That’s a must.

Even reading for a total stranger can sometimes challenge a reader’s ability to speak the truth, kindly but plainly. How much more challenging might this be if the querent is someone you love?

“Do I have cancer again?”

That’s a question a lot of tarot readers won’t touch with a ten-foot pole, even for a stranger. Now imagine it coming from your ten-year-old nephew.

You can always say no

I deliberately chose an extreme example just now, because I wanted to illustrate a point. You can always, always say no when asked for a tarot reading. No one should ever try to force you into throwing the cards for them. If something, anything about the situation is making you uncomfortable, politely decline. If the person tries to insist, stand firm.

This goes for strangers as well as loved ones.

In my own tarot consultations, I’m willing to answer almost any question that’s sincerely asked of me. However, I also make it plain that I reserve the right to not answer a question if I don’t think it would be helpful or appropriate.

What are your tarot reading boundaries?

The last paragraph I wrote up above is worth re-reading. Yes, I’ll answer almost any question, unless I don’t think it would be helpful or appropriate. Those are my boundaries, and I hold to them.

So, how should you do a tarot reading for a loved one? First, you need to know and set your own boundaries for tarot reading in general.

What kinds of questions are you willing to take on? What are you not willing to consider? Are you willing to read for people under the age of eighteen? Will you read for couples or groups, or will you only do a reading one-on-one? Will you do readings in public, such as at a party or at the bar?

Sit with these questions and really, really get to know your answers to them.

What are your personal boundaries?

Now think about the boundaries you have in your day-to-day life. Think about the conversations you’ve had with friends and family. Think about interactions which have made you feel comfortable or uncomfortable.

If you’re a parent, would you be comfortable having a frank conversation about sex with your kid?

Would you feel comfortable having a frank conversation about death with your parents?

What if the people in these conversations were switched?

Every relationship we have is unique, and each comes with its own set of permissible versus non-permissible topics.

With that long preamble out of the way, let’s get to the meat of the post.

Doing a tarot reading for a loved one

Let’s assume a loved one has asked you for a tarot reading, and you’ve decided that you’re willing to do it. The first thing you need to do is think back over the tarot and personal boundaries you’ve set, and state them clearly. Tell the person what you are, and are not, comfortable discussing during the reading.

I can’t stress this enough. Be upfront and firm (but polite!) about how you’re willing to proceed. Make sure the other person understands, and they’re willing to respect your boundaries.

Once you’re both on the same page, go ahead and begin the reading just as you would any other. During the reading, however, there are some tips you should keep in mind.

Don’t hedge

I read somewhere once that live performers experience the most stage fright when someone they know is in the audience. I’ve seen this happen with tarot readers. People who would normally be able to drop stone-cold specifics for a stranger suddenly start rattling off long lists of possible interpretations. Why is this?

My guess is that either they didn’t really want to do the reading in the first place, so they’re “talking around” it, or…they’re worried they’ll get it wrong and look bad in front of their loved one.

Be bold. Get out of your own way and read the cards.

Be wary of your biases

Let’s say your best friend is dating someone you can’t stand. Let’s further say that your best friend asks you for a tarot reading about their relationship. If you decide to go through with this reading, be very, very careful in your interpretation. A reading like this is exactly the sort of thing which can get you in trouble.

If the cards come up, and you think they cast doubt on the future of the relationship, is that because of wishful thinking on your part? If you think they show a more positive message, is that because you’re trying to be “objective,” but really you’re just ignoring the negative?

And what if the cards really do come up showing trouble? Does your friend know how you feel about their significant other? What will you say to assure them you aren’t trying to break them up?

Whenever we’re very close to someone, they’re obviously a significant part of our lives. We’re emotionally invested in them. This makes it very hard to be objective, especially when it comes to something like the tarot. Tarot relies at least as much on intuition and feeling as it does on the “objective” meanings of the cards.

Keep the conversation going

A tarot reading should always be a conversation between the reader and the querent. Even if it’s done online over email, the reader should ask the querent questions, and the reader should answer any questions the querent has. If you’re doing a reading for a loved one, this becomes even more important.

Don’t let the reading become a monologue or sermon. Ask the querent what they think of each card. Ask open ended questions about your interpretations.

Think back to that relationship example I wrote above. Let’s say the cards show a recent fight between your bestie and their partner. Don’t just ask if they’ve been fighting. Rather, say something like this: “The cards are saying there’s been some real tension lately, what’s that about?”

The more the reading feels like a conversation, and less like prognostication, the better you’ll both feel.

Just one more thing

Reading the tarot for other people can be a challenge. Assuming we take it seriously (and I certainly do), it can test our boundaries, our ethics–even our basic assumptions about the world. When we read for someone we love, those challenges don’t go away, they often become harder. I figure I’ve probably made that clear up above, but I mention it here because there’s another point I want to contrast with it.

The tarot, in my opinion, is a beautiful, miraculous gift. Sure, we know its origins, and we can trace its path through history, but I still see it as something not quite of this world. Coming into contact with the tarot, and becoming immediately enraptured by it, was honestly one of the best things which ever happened to me. At the very least, it was one of the most significant turning points of my life.

If you’ve had a similar experience of the tarot, why not pass that along? That loved one who wants you to do a tarot reading for them? Why not buy them a tarot deck?

Remember, you can always say no, but maybe try saying: “No, I can’t read for you. But I can help you read for yourself?”

Sure, this won’t work for everyone who comes knocking on your door. But you know what? If it does work, you’ll have one more thing to share with each other.

Have a blessed day!

How to understand sect and hayz in astrology

Sect and hayz in astrology are deeply intertwined concepts. In this post, I’ll explain what they are, how they’re connected, and how to apply them to a chart.

The best way to understand sect and hayz is to go over each of them in turn, because hayz is essentially an evolution of sect. So, let’s get started.

What is sect?

In astrology, charts and planets have a sect, which can be either nocturnal or diurnal. A chart’s sect is diurnal if the Sun is located above the horizon, meaning it’s a day chart. If the Sun is located below the horizon, it’s nocturnal and thus a night chart.

In order to understand sect and hayz, you first need to understand sect.

A planet’s sect, however, is an intrinsic part of that planet and doesn’t change–with one exception.

The Saturn, Jupiter, and the Sun are all diurnal planets. Mars, Venus, and the Moon are all nocturnal planets. The planet Mercury is a special case. Its sect depends on its position relative to the Sun. If Mercury rises before the Sun, it’s diurnal. If it rises after the Sun, it’s nocturnal.

The sect of Mercury illustrated.

A planet is considered to be “in sect” or “of the sect” when it is located in a chart which matches its own sect. So, a diurnal planet in a day chart would be considered in sect. A planet is “out of sect” or “contrary to sect” when it’s in a chart which doesn’t match. A diurnal planet in a night chart would be out of sect.

Is that all there is to sect?

There’s one more wrinkle about sect we need to address before we move on to hayz. Up until now, we’ve only considered charts as being either day charts or night charts. If the Sun is above the horizon, we’ve treated the whole chart as a diurnal or day chart. This isn’t the whole story.

In a day chart, only the top half of the chart (the half above the horizon) is diurnal. That should make sense because the Sun is in the top half of the chart in a day char. It’s what makes it a day chart to begin with. The bottom half of the chart (the half below the horizon) is nocturnal.

What does this mean? It means that a diurnal planet can be perfectly at ease, and in sect, in a “night chart” so long as it’s located below the horizon. If a nocturnal planet is above the horizon in that same chart, it’s also in sect.

Mercury and sect illustrated.

Now, some astrologers disagree on this point. In particular, people who study and practice ancient astrology think of this as only a mitigating factor. That is to say, being in the nocturnal half of a day chart doesn’t make a nocturnal planet fully in sect, it just eases it somewhat.

In later forms of traditional astrology, such as that practiced during the Renaissance, this “mitigating factor” became much more important. Indeed, by this time, many astrologers weren’t considering sect very much at all. Instead, they used the concept of hayz.

What is hayz?

In order for a planet to be considered in hayz, it must first be in sect according to rules of the later tradition. That’s why we needed to talk about sect, first. Sect and hayz are deeply related because hayz includes the concept of sect.

What else is needed for a planet to be in hayz? The gender of the planet must match the sign of the zodiac in which it’s placed in the chart.

Now, I know, the whole “masculine” versus “feminine” thing in astrology is frequently debated. I’m not going to wade into that debate and try to convince anyone of anything. The simple fact is, these are the words we have, and these are the words you’re going to find in traditional texts. That’s the only reason I’m using them here.

The signs of Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, and Aquarius are considered masculine. The signs of Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, and Pisces are considered feminine.

The planets Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and the Sun are considered masculine. The planet Venus and the Moon are considered feminine. Once again, the planet Mercury is a special case. For the purposes of hayz, Mercury is considered masculine if it’s diurnal, and feminine if it’s nocturnal.

If a planet is both in sect, and it’s located in a sign which matches its gender, the planet is in hayz. If a planet is missing either of these qualities (it’s out of sect or not in a sign of its gender), it’s considered contrary to hayz. That’s all there is to it.

How do you apply sect and hayz to a chart?

According to ancient astrology, when a planet is in sect, it’s more likely to manifest its more positive or constructive significations. If a planet is out of sect, it tends to manifest in a more negative way. It works rather like (and in cooperation with) the idea of essential dignity. A well-dignified planet will still tend to manifest in more positive ways even if it’s out of sect, it just won’t be as positive.

Once astrologers shifted to using the concept of hayz, it was interpreted largely the same way. A dignified planet will be even more likely to act in positive ways, while a debilitated planet will tend to act in less negative ways. Hayz won’t make a debilitated planet awesome, but it won’t be as bad.

Conversely, if a dignified planet is contrary to hayz, it won’t be quite so positive. It won’t act as though it’s actually debilitated, it just won’t be as constructive as it could be.

This is the approach I use in my own astrological practice and consultations. Partly, this is because I tend to stick to Renaissance astrology in general. Mostly, though, it’s because my experience seems to indicate that hayz yields more accurate results.

Not everyone agrees about sect and hayz!

As I mentioned above, different astrologers have different takes on sect and hayz. What I’ve written above is the way that I’ve come to think of these concepts. There are some very good astrologers out there with entirely different views and I respect them greatly.

In fact, the astrologer Chris Brennan has written an excellent book titled Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune. In pages 190 through 197, he writes a detailed (and well-cited) description of sect, as it was actually used in the Hellenistic period. He then describes how it relates to hayz in the later tradition. If you happen to have that book on your shelf, it’s worth reading over his explanation and seeing how it compares with what I’ve written here. If you don’t have a copy of his book, you should get one. I can’t possibly recommend it more highly.

I’ll also add that if you happen to have a different approach or take on sect and hayz, please drop it in the comments down below! I’d love to hear from you.

Have a blessed day!