This post is a response to the blog post “Omens and Tarot“, posted yesterday on Grey Wren’s Flight. I encourage you to read the full post for context, and I’ve provided a brief excerpt below which summarizes what she wrote.
“I’ve been incorporating omens into my devotionals lately, partly because I’ve been wanting to take my spiritual work to the next level, and partly because I have so many beautiful tarot decks that need love. (I’m such a little kid, wanting to play with my toys.)
The short version of this post: how do you take omens during a ritual?
What’s the best way to take omens? It must vary from person to person, but how does one find a method and feel confident that it’s working? Any thoughts?”
I’m delighted to read the you’re incorporating the tarot into your daily work, especially if you already have a relationship with the cards. I also use (as one of 2 or 3 regular decks) the DruidCraft Tarot, and I know exactly the image you’re speaking of.
For me, I’ve chosen to use the cards in a slightly different way. After making my offerings, I ask of the Kindred something like:
“If my offerings are acceptable to you, please provide me a point of focus, a message of guidance, an Omen.”
Then, I work with the cards. I may lay out a single card, or a three card spread. I have an Ogham deck, and I may choose to use that over the more visual, narrative cards. I allow the spread to be guided by my intuition.
I also may change my request of the Kindred to suit my needs at that moment. Today, my request was that they provide me insight into the story, song and poem that I’m preparing for the Bardic Chair competition at Wellspring. When I sat down at my tarot table, I chose to pull one card from 3 different decks – the DruidCraft, the Llewellyn Tarot and the Ogham Deck (something I’d never done before). The message that came forth was amazing!
This may not be strict ADF or PIE orthopraxy, but to me it feels right. I don’t just want to know if my offerings were accepted or acceptable, because I don’t think that all the Kindred want from me are some oats and a bit of oil. This is a relationship, and the offerings, in large part, are symbolic of something much deeper. I make these offerings so that I might initiate contact with forces that are greater and more powerful than myself. The objects I use are – I think – mostly arbitrary. It is the sincerity with which I share these object – these symbols – and the focus and intent with which I hold them up in worship that matters most.
I believe we should make offerings that feel right to us, and make requests of the Kindred as our needs and desires dictate. If, by Their wisdom, they do not see fit to provide us with exactly what we are asking, it seems to me that we need not take that as an immediate sign that our offerings weren’t “good enough”. It could be that our requests were simply not coming from the place of true need or right desire (if I might risk sounding moralistic by using that phrase).
So, use the tarot as feels best to you. Or, seek out their Omen in the clouds…or in the pattern of your coffee grounds! Or, perhaps best of all, still your soul and listen for the sound of their voices in the sanctuary of your heart.
I take a somewhat different approach to the Tarot, and omens in general.
When we see anything in front of us — coffee grounds, tea leaves, clouds, a flight of birds, or a spread of cards — our brains immediately go to work looking for patterns. That’s a major part of what brains are built to do.
The rationalist says we see patterns in randomness that aren’t really there.
I would say that we see the patterns we need to see.
If you look at a given spread of Tarot — I use the Cross and Staff spread — you can play with the idea of “How many different stories could I tell with this spread?” If you play with it, you’ll find that the spread is a Rorschach ink blot of sorts — there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of stories you could tell with that one spread, without changing any of the cards or positions. Some stories are sad, some are happy, some are light, some are dark, some congratulate you, some offer dire warnings.
When you approach the spread with a seeking attitude, typically one of those stories will jump into your mind and stick. This is the story that “wants to be told” — it is the story you most need to hear, today. You may draw exactly the same spread tomorrow, or a year from now, and it will tell you a completely different story. Or, you may shuffle the deck, lay a different spread today, and a surprisingly similar story will jump into your mind and stick (though I’ve found that laying multiple spreads on the same issue seems to evoke a kind of fatigue or boredom or burnout that makes the subsequent spreads mostly useless — as though you were a child who keeps asking the same question, over and over).
The trick for me is to approach the reading without prejudgment and listen for the story that wants to be told. Usually, it’s no surprise to me at all — most omens don’t tell you things you don’t know, they tell you things that you’ve forgotten (perhaps willfully). Sometimes, however, the reading provides a big insight. Those are cool.
What you do with the story that wants to be told is entirely up to you. If you see your own death in the cards, for instance, it could quite literally mean that you are going to die soon: perhaps your lifestyle or habits are potentially deadly, or you have subconsciously picked up on a fatal disease in your body. However, you could choose to accept this reading as inevitable and stop fighting destiny, or you could take it as a warning, see a doctor, make appropriate changes. It could equally mean that hypochondria rules your life, and it is time to work toward a different mental state. It could also have nothing to do with physical death, but instead mean that you are on the cusp of a life-changing breakthrough of some sort, the “end” of one life and the beginning of another, and this could be a moment to cherish and celebrate. It could even mean, “Don’t step outside the door of your house today, or a piano will fall on your head.”
I have sometimes gotten negative stories that have made me very angry. Anger is useful — it is energy suddenly released from stagnation, and the beginning resolving a problem I may not even have been consciously aware of.
I’ve told the cards to piss off more than once — if I don’t like the reading, especially if it makes me angry, it’s a good indication that I needed to hear the story so that I could change things. Especially in these situations, I find it useful to understand that the cards are not telling the story, I am telling the story, and there’s a reason I told myself a nasty story I didn’t want to hear.
With omens, as with all spiritual practices, it is important to remember that the purpose is to serve life: specifically, your life. If the omens make you fearful, or timid, or dependent, they aren’t serving life.
Thank you for your comment. I always welcome your thoughts, and you provide such a well rounded perspective.
Tell me – do you blog? You absolutely should! This comment is worthy of it’s own blog post! Perhaps it’s time for Treehenge to include a blog on its website, allowing members of the grove to post their thoughts and experiences of Druidry. Wouldn’t that be awesome?!
Actually, I’ve just added a blog for myself, and offered to do so for the others, but so far, no one has been interested. See http://www.treehenge.org and click on ‘Themon’s Blog’.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, to see the different ways of working with the tarot and taking omens generally?
I really like your way of looking at it, Teo. The simple yes/no, “is my offering acceptable,” has always struck me as a rather petty question and far too straight forward.
This bit that you said really resonates with me: “I don’t just want to know if my offerings were accepted or acceptable, because I don’t think that all the Kindred want from me are some oats and a bit of oil. This is a relationship, and the offerings, in large part, are symbolic of something much deeper. I make these offerings so that I might initiate contact with forces that are greater and more powerful than myself. The objects I use are – I think – mostly arbitrary. It is the sincerity with which I share these object – these symbols – and the focus and intent with which I hold them up in worship that matters most.”
I like the idea that an omen is a message from the Kindreds. It lifts the omen out of the Magic 8 ball use that troubles me, and offers more flexibility in what the Kindreds can communicate to me.
Thanks for sharing! You never cease to help me.
Thanks for commenting back. I should be thanking you! It seems that your writing always inspires me to write; to get clearer about my perspective. I’m grateful to you for opening me up to my own awareness.
I’m glad my words resonated with you. I really feel like you’re well on your path; you are exactly where you should be in your spiritual journey. And I’m honored to be, in whatever small way I can, a part of that journey.
Blessings to you.