Who Knew Two Triangles Could Do So Much?: The Hexagram

By Rebecca

A hexagram, at its most simple, can be described as two interlocked equilateral triangles that form a six-pointed star.  That’s it.  That is all it is.  How the heck do two triangles accomplish so darn much?  By diversifying.

First, we cannot discuss the hexagram without saying the phrase, Star of David.  The hexagram is one of the most recognized symbols of Judaism and is used as a symbol of the modern State of Israel.  It is also referred to as the Magen David, or Shield of David.  It derives this association from the traditional belief that David carried a hexagrammic shield against Goliath.  You know, from the epic feather weight verse heavy weight fight David vs. Goliath.  The fact is that the hexagram, as the Star of David, is so closely associated with the Jewish faith that it is easy to forget that there is so much more that these triangles do!

Let’s talk about the Seal of Solomon.  The symbol is featured prominently in the medieval legends of King Solomon, who bore the symbol on a magical signet ring.  The hexagram, as the Seal of Solomon, is generally surrounded by a circle and can feature 4 gemstones.  It is believed to have protective powers and magical properties by Kabbalists.  However, it’s not just them.  The hexagram has a long history of providing protection from demons and evil spirits.  In some magical practices, it is associated with exorcisms.

Because of all of its balance, the hexagram shows up in alchemy as well.  The hexagram shows the unity of the elements.  The upward triangle signifies fire, while the downward represents water, showing the reconciliation of these two conflicting elements.  It also represents the union of male and female energy, with the upper triangle being man and the lower being woman.  It gets even more mileage from four triangles being derived from it to represent earth, fire, air, and water.  Sometimes the upper triangle is white, while the lower one is black, thus symbolizing the union of opposites.

Thanks to the limitless possibilities of associations, the hexagram can represent even more!  It is sometimes called the Creator’s Star, where each point represents a day of the week and the central hexagram symbolizes the Sabbath (or seventh day for those of you counting).  Is that too ancient for you?  How about this one?  The notorious street gang The Crips even uses this symbol.  You’ll find members with tattoos of it and it’s in their graffiti.  Allegedly, the six points stand for love, unity, money, loyalty, wisdom, and understanding.  Or so I’m told, I am definitely not gangsta!

All of this, and I haven’t mentioned that the hexagram also appears in Mandalas as a meditative image.  It also turns up in cave drawings from primitive South American cultures.

Whew!  That’s a lot of stuff for two triangles!  What should you take away from this?  I guess that basic things are the building blocks of bigger, more complex things.  Two triangles have managed to span time, and merely from interlocking have become a permanent fixture for the ages.

Think this was a lot?  There’s a whole lot more out there to learn about these two feisty triangles.  A good starting point is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hexagram.  But trust me, that really is just the beginning.

THE WILD, WITCHY RIDE: How to Create and Conduct Elaborate, Popular, Public Sabbats

By Lady Passion, High Priestess, Coven Oldenwilde, Asheville, NC

Twelve years ago, in 1995, I resolutely determined to reinstitute the olde, free, sacred Sabbats rites entire towns enjoyed for centuries on end. I took a bold (and, in the South, unprecedented) leap of faith in this regard, as I had no roadmap, no guide, no mentor, and no predecessor, for the trail I intended to blaze.

Since then, though, my annual, free, public Witch ritual has become a cherished tradition for Asheville-area townies, families, and tens of thousands of Pagans and Witches nationwide. Indeed, I’ve become infamous for NEVER doing the same rite twice, and each Sabbat’s unique theme has emboldened Witches to do the same in such far away continents as Australia.I’ve done this in the buckle of "the Bible Belt" — the very town where Billy Graham has his international ‘The Cove’ training center. Most audacious of all, I chose to revivify, to re-sacritize, the scariest and most misunderstood Sabbat of all the Witches’ yearly eight — Samhain (what mundanes call Hallow’een).

Make no mistake — creating and conducting huge, free, public Sabbats takes nerves of steel, spiritual vision, media savvy, and a wicked balance between tenacity and flexibility that few folks seem to ever stretch themselves to achieve. Every year when the going gets rough (money’s tight, or committed volunteers seem too few to properly pull it off), my Coven and I loudly vow to never attempt it again. But they are SO worth it, for every year without fail, we see everyone arrive en mass from far reaches, pitch in with all their might, and make things come together so hauntingly beautiful, everyone leaves the rite revivified — passionately invigorated to stop at nothing to somehow top ourselves yet again the next year!

Over the years I’ve learned many secret keys to ensuring a huge, public Sabbats’ success. While many of my tips and past Samhain Sabbats’ info and pix are posted on my web site (www.oldenwilde.org), I feel most urgently that doing these rites is such a crucial component to Wiccans’ public acceptance, our increasing numbers, and Paganism’s religious longevity, that I want to share some of my secrets with you about how to conduct similar rites wherever you may bide.

The first few years a Coven or Craft Community holds a public rite are the hardest, as whoever’s organizing it not only has to manage a million details, but must also educate townies about what Witchcraft is and isn’t, in endless TV, radio, and newspaper interviews. This takes great juggling, aplomb, articulateness, perfected "sound bites", makeup, Witchy dress, and the certainty that you can handle instant interviews by phone at the drop of your Witch hat, while answering e-mail from excited attendees wanting more info on the ritual…

I recommend that you stop debunking typical, negative, Hollywood lucidity, Christian propaganda, and general Witch myths after year 2, and from then on, focus your pre-rite public relations and publicity on the upcoming year’s theme meaning related to whatever Sabbat you’re hosting, and whatever particular publicity "hook" you’re using to drum up enthusiasm for it.

Develop a rather "thick skin" when it comes to self-styled posers, braggarts, and local magical rivals, who are sadly, all-too-often needlessly envious of your success, and are wont to pump themselves up at your expense, making catty remarks or spreading outright, vicious lies about you, your Coven, and your rites. This is a measure of your success at reaching people, and has nothing to do with reality or your personality.


* Pick one Sabbat and do it every year on the same date and nighttime. 8 to 10 PM is optimal, for this gives parents time to trick-or-treat with their wee ones, then attend the Sabbat afterwards. You can float your ritual’s venue (where you have the rite) every few years or so, just let folks know the new location.
My daughter-Coven Highlandwilde does Beltane complete with a traditional Maypole dance each year, so folks have at least 2 major Sabbats they can attend every 6 months.

* Visualize your Sabbat from the God/desses’ eye-view. Conceive of your rite in terms of "How will the God/desses see this from above, around, and throughout?” and "How will THEY feel about my plan/design/idea?"
This is why we often feature long processions, intricate mazes, Spiral dances, and light our rites to be pleasing to the eyes and hearts of both human attendees, AND the Gods.

* Think BIG. Don’t drape a cloth or two and call the Sabbat decor "done" — imagine the most elaborate, Witchy rite of your dreams, then work for months to make your vision manifest.
As long as you’re going to do a rite, do it so hundreds and thousands — not a mere handful of folks — can fully participate in it and duly take heart from your magical gathering.
Though the idea of leading thousands in a hand-to-hand dance may seem daunting, doing so touches attendees’ hearts in a very deep way and gives everyone a sense of accomplishment and hope for our religion.

* Save something for the sequel. Don’t put ALL your ideas into one rite — remember that you’re going to be conducting this Sabbat every year for years to come, so save many other aspects and mythos about the Sabbat you’ve chosen to highlight, so you’ll have endless themes to use in following years.
Samhain, for example, has millennia of history to select from, and some themes we’ve used in previous years have been: Bones & Roses, Haunted Woods, Black Masquerade, Gypsy Revel, Dumb Supper, and Creatures of the Night…

* Make land and attendee safety priority one. Don’t make any permanent changes to the land site. Set tiki-torches deeply and shim them at their base with small termite wood stakes to prevent tilt and grass fire. Put tea lights in glass jars purchased cheaply from a local thrift store.
Prominently display a fully stocked med kit on site. Provide water, cups, and candy to help dancers get their sugar level up as needed.  Use hundreds of snapstix and glo-bracelets to help light participants’ way. Fill in potholes and remove briars well in advance of the rite.

* Trust no one, but keep everyone "in the loop". Words are cheap, but deeds are dear, so disregard all volunteers’ promises to help you with this or that, for they often flake out. (Musicians are especially prone to promising they’ll come, and then simply don’t show.)Whenever someone actually delivers on his or her promises, hug them hard and thank them profusely. Send out constant e-mails asking for donations of prop items, money to help defray event costs, equipment needed, prep and setup meeting dates, times, and locations, etc.

* Screw pride — when you need something to make the rite successful, ASK FOR IT. Use all your e-contacts and friends or relatives or whomever. Beg them to donate tables, chairs, whatever you need, just for the night, label them with masking tape, and have them pick up their stuff the week after the Sabbat.
Ask that people play parts or roles during the rite. Tell them what you want, how they should dress, and work with them so they get it right, make the Craft look goodly, and please the God/desses.

* Throw everything at it but the kitchen sink. What often looks a tad "trashy" in daylight looks gorgeous in moonlight or torchlight. If it’s black, silver, red, or blue, it’ll be beautiful. Green and orange are alternative colors, but purple doesn’t fare so well by candlelight.

* Use the best ingredients possible. Use real tumbled stones, collected herbs in jars, food coloring, and other Witchy things more than store-bought, plastic Halloween decor.
If you’re super poor, search the Net for easy, cool, Witchy options. For example, we vertically cut black trash bags into one inch strips still connected at the bag’s top, then stretch them out and knot them in places to create fabo fluttery curtains…

* Think outside the box. When we realized during setup this year that we’d have trouble seeing in the dark the double spiral maze 3 football fields long we’d made for adults to trance dance on, we solved the problem by stringing $32.00 worth of metallic red wire garland along the entire route.Years ago we draped bolts of black garden cloth from the ceiling to the floor to create a huge maze in a pavilion. During year one when we wanted to weave a massive dreamcatcher using attendees’ hands, we used undyed cotton clothesline that worked beautifully on site.

* Publicize your Sabbat early and often. Tout your event via every free media outlet or event you can, such as the religion or lifestyle sections in newspapers, radio stations, online events calendars, and annual events like Pagan Pride Day. Include helpful info such as nearby hostels, hotels, or camping sites’ locations and contact info in case attendees want to spend the night before hitting the road home the next day.
Our posting about Samhain 12 this year got 11,000 hits on a rather obscure page on Witchvox.com because we’ve learned how to: link our event to current controversies or news stories; entice attendees with tantalizing promises about what we’re going to provide them at the rite; and all the facts they need to know to travel to it, as well as a map to the site.

* Stay on top of everything, all the time. For us, Samhain starts right after Litha (Summer Solstice). It takes us a full 6 months to gather all components, fix and recycle all materials from previous years, make new stuff, publicize the event widely, do pre-rite interviews, organize volunteers and rite roles, devise the rite itself, burn the music, and a million other details.
The only way we’ve ever seen that works is to make written lists, talk often, share ideas, brain-storm options, locate land venues quickly, and generally, stay on top of all of it from start to frickin’ finish…

* The High Priestess rules. Micro-manage all details yourself. Sabbats like mine are attended by hundreds and thousands and take months of prep to ensure their success.
The High Priestess should consider the merits of all possibilities coming from her High Priest, Initiates, and volunteers, but has the final say in all matters of dispute regarding the ritual.

* Don’t allow vendors, and issue no disclaimers. This keeps the rite spiritually oriented, and won’t be viewed as yet another clever fundraiser in disguise. Allow Pagan businesses to post business cards or pamphlets on a table, but not their products. Insist that diviners charge attendees nothing for reading for them after the main rite.
Don’t be a buzz-kill by posting endless, legalese-type "disclaimers" forbidding drugs, dogs, and such from your rites. No, we don’t allow dogs, but that is the extent of it, and only because they could bite someone. Otherwise, we encourage everything and the free expression of each attendee’s spiritual bliss…

* Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Have backup plans for all rite components. For instance, pray that live musicians DO show up — just know that musicians tend to be a flaky lot, so pre-burn the music you want onto CDs and have a skilled music-spinner play it using amps, etc.
Perform many weather-working spells in advance to ensure the best weather for your outdoor rites (our mantra is "No wind, no rain, no cold, no snow, on Samhain).
Run through the rite often in your mind and ask "What if" this or that happens questions. Think of all conceivable problems and try hard to conceive of things you’d never even consider that could spell the ruin your rite or cause you, the Craft, or your Craft Community any kind of embarrassment. Then, devise contingency plans "just in case", and let everyone know in detail what to do in case such problems arise.

* Insist on your religious rights. Each state’s different, but it’s illegal to disrupt any religious rite in North Carolina, so be prepared to press charges if some fundie makes verbal, "terrorist" threats at attendees.
Oppositely, cops have no right to attend, much less interfere, with Sabbats, but they’re quite adept with spouting excuses for why their presence is "necessary", such as traffic control, etc. Their mere presence often intimidates attendees, so resist them verbally and in Letters to the Editor in newspapers to make your point.

* Have your own internal security armed with walkie-talkies. Deal with trustworthy folks, and have them dressed in costume like every else (not with any obvious "badge" on their breast), roaming from the parking area throughout the rite site acreage, deftly, quietly handling any problems as they arise.Their purpose is to be so goodly, that no one ever knows there was any problem…

* Keep up your strength Witch-wise. Eat early and often, feed your help, take Echinacea before the rite, and slurp up tons of fruit juice throughout preparation time. Take tinctures and such if you’ve a cough or cold.
Wear tons of layers of clothes you can discard as it gets cold or you sweat during the dance. Dress for both comfort AND stunning beauty. Avoid high heels — instead, opt for flat boots with sole traction.

* Protect your Covenstead while you do the God/desses’ work. Everyone knows where you’re gonna’ be during your annual rite, so wire your Covenstead for security if you can, with motion-detecting, night-vision cameras on each floor, VCR recording capability, and put alarms on every door and window.
Failing that, have someone sit on your front porch passing out candy to trick-or-treaters, with a cordless phone nearby to call 911 in case anyone tries to burn the place down.

* Differentiate between when you should stress for success, and when it’s time to revel in the rite itself. Work hard, well, and fast during setup, then quit fussin’ over minor details, change into your costume, and start fairly levitating as you walk, dance, and cavort in the beauty of what you’ve created.

* Welcome attendees who’ve braved much to come from hither and yon to your rite. It’s nice to be welcomed to the rite from the parking lot to the circling site. Do this with torchlight to light pathways, stick incense, glow-sticks color-coordinated to support and set your rite’s theme mood, and props, etc.
Prior to each rite, we station dozens of costumed attendees to line the "admit path", and give them fairy dust to sprinkle on arrivals, feathers to smudge them with incense, roses to sprinkle scented water on them (splurging), and to pass out glo-bracelets or ritual mementos for them to wear. This reduces their nervousness or travel fatigue, and increases their rite anticipation.

* Set a high tone for the event, and all will follow suit. If you’re in the spiritual zone for all to see, no one will be telling tacky jokes or acting undignified.
Your confidence in your ability to pull off the Sabbat with grace and aplomb will radiate and attendees will feel safe, excited, expectant, and reverent.

* Use a wireless, headset mic. Do sound and equipment checks well in advance.When you’re dealing with thousands, wireless mics help all hear you explain the meaning of the Sabbat, the spell’s purpose, and your planned activities.

* Wear clothing or a costume that makes you — the rite leader — easily visible from far away.Sure, we all favor dress blacks and capes, etc., but when everyone wears one, the HPS can blend in and become invisible, causing needless confusion and preventing rite helpers from finding her if need be.
A polished, sparkling silver crown, glo-bracelets at the wrist, and similar items make you stand out, and all know where they are in line in relation to the High Priestess or rite leader.

* Keep ’em moving and mum’s the word. The biggest magical mistake many gathering organizers too often make when planning rites is to have everyone stay overlong, still and freezing or bored, while someone preaches, reads poetry, or does an elaborate altar rite that attendees can’t see well, hear well, or participate in. This is an automatic buzz-kill, and the origin of many a needless complaint about Craft rites.
We avoid this by circling folks hand-to-hand briefly, called Quarters quickly, taking five minutes or so to explain the meaning of the Sabbat and the upcoming rite’s magical purpose. Then we get right to the dance or other plan that gets everyone moving, smiling, and immediately invested in ensuring the rite’s success.

* Assume nothing. If a parent swears blindly their kid is missing, don’t panic and call 911 — you WILL find them — dancing and having the time of their lives!

* Follow the money. If you put a donation bowl out, take steps, like cementing it down on a table or some such with duct tape, to make sure no one runs off with it.

* Delicate "take down" of props after the rite is AS IMPORTANT as setting up fragile, packed props before the rite. Everyone who helped for months, weeks, or days to make the rite a success will be thoroughly exhausted when the rite’s done.
So do yourself a favor ahead of time by insisting that some people do nothing but show up the next day to help you take down the props you used, or they’ll be hopelessly ruined, and unusable next year.

* Don’t reinvent the wheel next year. Recycle all the props you can in creative ways depending on the theme you set next year.Store Sabbat stuff in large plastic bins, and collect donated items throughout the year to use when the time comes for the next year’s Sabbat.

Lady Passion is a co-author of The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells for Modern Problems, a registered nurse, and gifted psychic. She lives with her mate in a rambling 3-story Covenstead in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She may be contacted at: oldenwilde@aol.com or www.oldenwilde.org.

As the Worm Turns: The Minhocao

by Rebecca

I like Scooby Doo.  I enjoy all the flavors of Scooby Doo except for ones that involve Scrappy Doo.  That little runt bothers me.  Now that you know that you’ll understand how it came to be that late one evening I was snuggled in bed watching an episode of “What’s New Scooby Doo?” the latest “hip” version of the Scooby Doo animated franchise.  This particular episode was entitled “The Fast and the Wormious”.  It was set in the southwest where Scooby and the gang had entered into a big deal off road desert race.  Of course, an episode of Scooby Doo is not complete without it’s monster and in this case, it was a giant earthworm.  Obviously by the end of the episode it’s revealed that worm is in fact a piece of high end technology that one of the geek racers developed in an elaborate plot to impress Velma.  I told you this was the hip version.  Thus, is the land of cartoons.

Now what would you say if I told you that there may in fact BE a giant earthworm?  Real enough to have been in the “American Journal of Science”!  In “Nature” too!  Of course this was in the mid to late 1800s.  To those of you curious seekers I give to you the Minhocao.

The Minhocao had been sighted in South America from the 1840s up to the late 1800s.  Generally, it is described as, well, a giant earthworm.  A giant earthworm about 80 feet long with two stalks coming from its top end covered in black scales.  Put THAT on your fishing hook and see what you catch!  The name Minhocao comes from the Portuguese word minhocar, which means earthworm.

Now some theorized that it was actually a Glyptodont…a now extinct giant armadillo.  That is what the writer for “Nature” thought!  Others suggest that it is a giant Caecilian, a worm like amphibian native to South America.

Writers tell me that it cannot be a giant earthworm.  Earthworms just do not get that big.  Although they can get up to 12 feet long in Australia!  In addition, earthworms are not traditionally described as an aggressive creature, and the Minhocao had been considered the culprit behind attacks on people and property.

Me, I believe in Minhocao on principle.  Out there, alone in the magical depths of the South American rainforest the Minhocao reigns supreme, another example of the wonders and mysteries that can exist in lands still untouched by the modern Western world.  A proud symbol of that which cannot be tamed.  That’s it…a noble giant earthworm.

Magical Buffet Mythology: Kuan Yin

by Rebecca

Who is Kuan Yin?  Simple answer is the Goddess of Compassion.  You may not have heard of her, but I assure you, the people of China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Buddhists, and Goddess worshipers know all about her.  Kuan Yin is She Who Hears the Cries of the World.  She is generally depicted as a beautiful white robed woman who instead of entering heaven, refused to go until the suffering on Earth has ended.

Kuan Yin (who is known by many, many alternate spellings: Quan Yin, Kannon, Kuan-shih Yin, and more) began her existence as a man.  He was (and is) the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara in the Buddhist faith.  The unique sex change occurred when the Bodhisattva came to China.  When this particular Bodhisattva began their incorporation with the Chinese Buddhists, he became a she!  Needless to say, this caused much confusion within the Buddhist community so at this point it has been decided, thanks to the Lotus Sutra, that Kuan Yin can take on any form necessary to help in her missions of compassion and mercy.  That is good because there are stories about Kuan Yin that do not use any of the names previously mentioned in this article.  For instance, the one I chose to use!

This story describes Kuan Yin as the daughter of a cruel king.  (In this particular legend Kuan Yin is referred to as Miao Shan, a princess who is believed to have had a religious following that has since been transferred to Kuan Yin.)

Okay, so Miao Shan’s father, the King, wanted Miao Shan to marry.  You see, the king never had any sons, only daughters, so he was determined to see them all married to wealthy important men.  But despite being a princess Miao Shan was more into the praying and less into the marrying.  She made a fuss that she would not marry unless it could ease three misfortunes.  Unfortunately for the King, marriage, although good, cannot alleviate the suffering people endure as they get older in age, ease the suffering people endure when they fall ill, or ease the suffering caused by death.  This was not your average princess!  Since marriage couldn’t take care of any of those, Miao Shan wanted permission to retire to a religious life at the temple.

The King finally allowed Miao Shan to enter the temple, but he had spoken to the monks and told them to make life there unbearable for her.  You see, he had this military man all lined up for Miao Shan once she gave up at the temple.  The monks tried to make it hard for her.  Miao Shan was forced to work day and night with little food or water and no help.  But that plucky Miao Shan was just such a good person that she didn’t complain and soon the animals there took to helping her.

Now here is where the story branches into a million different variations.  In some versions, the King has the temple burned down.  Miao Shan puts out the fire with her bare hands and suffered no burns.  This totally freaks out the King and he goes from wanting to marry her off, to putting her to death!  Some stories say she was taken away by a supernatural tiger to one of the Hell-like realms of the dead, where she freed many of the souls there.  Other versions say Miao Shan was unable to be killed.  That axe and sword alike broke into thousands of pieces when they tried to take her head!  Another is that she allowed herself to be killed, took on the guilt from her executioner so he would have none, and thusly descended into one of the Hells.  Once there she let loose with all that good karma she had accumulated and freed many souls that were there.  This is just like the movie “Clue”, that’s how it could have ended, but here is my personal favorite ending.

In this ending the King falls ill with a jaundice that no doctor can cure.  A monk arrives and explains that the only way he can be cured is with a special medicine made from the eye and the arm of one without anger.  It just so happens that the monk knows where to find such a person, one lives on Fragrant Mountain.  Miao Shan (of course it’s Miao Shan…it’s her story, right?) when asked gives up her eye and arm willingly.

The King recovers and goes to the Fragrant Mountain to give thanks to the one who helped cure him.  When he arrives he is shocked to discover that his own daughter made those sacrifices for him.  The King begs her for forgiveness.  This version of the story concludes with Miao Shan being transformed into the Thousand Armed Kuan Yin and the King, Queen and her two sisters build a temple on the mountain for her.

As long as this article is, it barely touches on all the wonderful stories, and wonderful aspects, of Kuan Yin.  I encourage you to take a little time to learn more.  Where should you look?  Well, Wikipedia is always a good start, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuan_yin.  Or you can follow in my foot steps and read the book that got me interested in Kuan Yin, “Kuan Yin: Myths and Prophecies of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion” by Martin Palmer, Jay Ramsay, and Man-Ho Kwok.

Ten Questions with a Tarot Reader

1. First off, what is Tarot?
Simple answer?  The tarot is a pack of 78 cards broken up in to three groups.  Major Arcana, Minor Arcana, and court cards.   These cards are basically images that reflect human life and activity.   The most common uses for the tarot varies person to person but includes the, spiritual purposes such as rituals, mediation and spells,  therapeutic purposes, such as spiritual counseling or even in some cases clinical counseling, and divination/fortune telling.  *Note Divination is about predicting what most likely will happen if you don’t change something.  Fortune telling is about predicting what will happen regardless of what you do.  

2. Tarot seems pretty cool, how do I learn more?  
There are many ways to learn more.  There are thousands of websites about the tarot on the net that have nothing to do with the getting a reading.  There is the Tarot School in New York,  learntarot.com and of course my own website Tarot Traditions.   Then there are Yahoo groups.  I run one of those as well, along with thousands of others used to help bring education about the tarot to other people.   For those getting started there are a lot of good beginner books on the tarot out there.  Or if you need someone to hold your hand there are plenty of people who offer courses as well.   But, all you really need is a good deck, a decent understanding of both personal and global symbolism.  For instance, in a general sense all over the world if a bread maker put a loaf of bread on the sign outside their door anyone regardless of their language would know what they sell.   But, a plantation house evokes different thoughts and feelings for say people who live in the southern US than the do for say people who live in the northern part of the US.   

3. With so many Tarot decks available how do I chose a deck to use?  
That’s the hard part.  Most people will tell you just to feel your way through it.  Most books tell you that.  But, you can’t just feel your way through it.  I have found the best test for the right deck is the following.  Go to an occult shop or some place that sells decks but has a deck you can look at.   Look first at the artwork.  Do you like it?  Would you hang a painting done by this artist in your house?  If yes put it on the consider pile, if no give it back to not be considered.    Once you have all of the ones you like by artwork, then look at the little white book that go with them or bring a book you have bought with a good keywords list.   Look at a few of the cards of the deck, compare the image to the meaning.  Can you see the keyword meaning of the card in the card?  Does it need more detail?  Does it need less detail?   If it doesn’t need any changes and you can see that meaning and you consistently see the keyword meanings in the cards, then you have found your deck.  Be prepared that not all cards of any deck will speak to you and the meanings you give cards will change as you become better at reading, but taking the basic keywords you can find in any little white book or text book for the tarot and comparing them to the cards will make it a lot easier on you to learn key words and a lot easier for you to read the deck.   

4. Everyone knows if the Death card shows up in a reading you’re going to die, right?  
Death rarely if ever means death.  In all my 16 years of reading I have had the death card mean death twice.  Once for an older lady who we all knew wasn’t long for this world and the second time it was for a friend of a cousin who was addicted to drugs and she asked specifically if he would die if he didn’t change what he was doing.   Both, of those times, I also pulled the 4 of swords.  To me for it to mean death you need both of those cards but even then it doesn’t necessarily  mean death.  And the four of swords most often means rest and repose.   Truth is death is about change and on occasion that change is physical death.  But, more often than not, it could be the death of a job, the death of a relationship, the death of a project, death of baggage you have been carrying you don’t need anymore.  All Death is be it physical or otherwise, is a change of current circumstances.  When you understand that, it becomes much less scary and starts taking on a separate life of its own away from the ideas of just physical connections.  

5. What Tarot card would you say best suits you and why?  
There are a couple that fit me.  The Knight of wands because I give Knights an astrological connection of Mutable signs and Wands are fire so that makes for Sagitarian which I am.  Another is the High Priestess because I’m always trying to find what’s hidden underneath,  The Empress, I have 6 kids so that one should be obvious as to why.  <smiles>    But, Mostly I’m the Hermit.  I know, people don’t understand that.  I have 6 kids how can I be a hermit?  I believe in living within society while being separate from it.  We do social activities but, I home school the children so that they will grow up to think for themselves.  I live in the middle of no where surrounded by a wild forest allowed to grow naturally how ever it wishes and though I like individuals, I’m not a people person.   People as a whole I believe in avoiding as much as possible.  But, mostly, I believe that my spiritual/life path is my own and I have to walk it myself.   That  means most of the time I’m alone simply because I don’t want others following behind running the risk of stepping in the pot holes I couldn’t avoid and getting hurt because they couldn’t find their own path.   I don’t participate in organized religion of any sort.  I am who I am plain and simple.   Being that way often leaves you alone even if you’re in a crowd.   So ultimately no matter what else I am, I am still the Hermit.  

6. I’m (insert any religious denomination here).  Can I be a Tarot reader?  
Anyone can read the tarot.  But, you have to follow your own personal belief system.  What I mean and this is just my personal opinion, if your faith says that divination is wrong, then you will either have to find a way to reconcile that with yourself before taking up the tarot or you will have to change your religion.   I am a complete believer that you cannot profess to be of a faith if you do not live by its laws.  There is nothing wrong with the tarot.  Most fear of it comes out of a lack of understanding but that is where reconciling with yourself comes in.   I was raised a member of the Church of Christ.   I let go of that religion because I couldn’t reconcile my talent with the tarot with the spiritual beliefs of the church.   To this day it still surprises me to see Christians who read the tarot.  But, that doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t.  They just have to deal with the issues that come from it, decide what to do and then live by their own conscious.  But, to me the tarot is about Psychology and spiritual health not about predicting the future.  If you use it to improve who you are on a spiritual level then it does not contradict religious teachings of any sect.  It is only when you start trying to predict the future or figure out what someone else thinks, and feels thus invading their personal space do you run into religious issues with Christianity.    There are just as many Christian readers as there are Pagan ones.   So if you can reconcile that with yourself then go for it.  If not, then you will have to decide for yourself which is right for you and live with it.  

7. You’re a Tarot card reader so help me out.  Can you tell me how much longer we have to put up with Kevin Federline before Britney Spears ditches him?  
LOL  I wish I could.  I could even try.  But truth is it wouldn’t be too accurate because it isn’t Britney asking.  

8. What is the most important attribute for a Tarot card reader to possess?   
ewww hard question.  There are two that are equally important.  Compassion and self confidence.  Meaning if you let yourself worry that you can’t do a good job you won’t.  I taught myself the tarot by jumping in doing the readings and never believing it wasn’t real or couldn’t be real.  By the time anyone told me that the tarot was a fraud, I already had proven to myself it wasn’t.  It takes that kind of confidence in yourself and the tool to make it work.   But, compassion is equally important. People come to tarot readers for two reasons, there is something in their life they need to fix or they are curious. Even the curious often prove to have a problem that needs to be fixed.  You’re tampering with people’s self worth, and capacity to grow spiritually.  If you don’t do it compassionately or you let your own issues get in the way of the reading, you will cause more harm than good.  So you have to be able to set self aside and focus on the needs of the client compassionately and with kindness while telling them the honest truth as you have interpreted it.   The temptation to tell them what they want to hear is always strong especially when there is a lot of pain connected to the situation.  But, that does no one any favors so even in that you must realize the most compassionate thing is to simply tell the truth.  

9. Have you heard the one about the guy who played Poker with a Tarot deck?  
I haven’t heard that one no.  But, I have played poker with the minor arcana making the Pages basically be jokers and a game called Tarot with the whole deck that works a lot like Spades.  

10. Parting shot!  Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?    
If you could go back in time and spend one day with someone from the past on an important day in their lives who would it be and what day?  

For me it would be Freida Harris on the day she was painting the last of the Sword cards for the Thoth deck and as she finished it the announcement came over the radio that Russia had just joined in on the war.  I can’t remember if it was WWI or WWII but still, It must have been a very potent moment in her life to finish that particular suite only to hear that announcement be played.  This was a really hard question!  But after a lot of changing my mind I finally decided to commit.  I’m going to say that I would have LOVED to have been at the side of the stage when Johnny Cash performed at Folsom Prison.  It was such a definitive moment for him and the landscape of music.  I’m a big Cash fan, if you haven’t guessed!

  • J. Rebecca Cougill is a Certified Tarot Instructor working on her Grand Master Certificate.  She has been reading Tarot for 16 years.  Cougill also runs an online magazine and Yahoo group both called Tarot Traditions.  She was recently named Executive Director of the Tarot Certification Board of America.  Besides her work with Tarot, Cougill is also a Certified Level III Reiki Master and a Solitary Eclectic Pagan.  She has been following a Shamanistic/Kitchen Witch/Natural Witch path officially for the last 10 years, being a second generation Pagan.  Besides all of that, she also has 6 children and a husband of 15 years.  Much of her time is devoted to the home schooling of her children and doing Tarot readings on Kasamba under the name Lady Becca.  Cougill currently lives in Arkansas on 11 acres of woodlands.   
    You can learn more about Rebecca and what she does at:
  • Profile: Reiki Blessings

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    On Saturday October 28th Jim and I hopped in the car and took the much shorter trip to visit The Holistic Studies Institute in Albany, NY. We were visiting them to attend their Halloween Psychic Fair. Avid readers should note that this drive took us 15 minutes (even in the pouring rain) as opposed to the 3-4 hour drive we took on our last adventure!

    Upon arrival we were greeted by Cathy, one of the people that helped organize the event. For those of you that have never attended a psychic fair, like myself, I have to tell you that it was not what I was expecting. I imagined booths of psychics lined up hawking their wares, cajoling you to try them. Instead I found an inviting and much more professional atmosphere. What happens at an H.S.I. fair is that you sign up on a list for a reading, which is only $25, and you’re given a time and a psychic on a little chit of paper. Then you wait, but it’s not a dull wait. They offer you refreshments like coffee and cookies, and they have various types of healers that give complimentary healings (more fun with that later). Also, when their office space is isn’t being renovated, which it is currently undergoing, they have a book store that sells new and used books. So there is plenty to do and see before you are within 10 feet of one of the psychics!

    I had a reading set up with Lorrie De Marco for 1pm. I was told that she not only does readings, but she teaches the first year course in Psychic Development at H.S.I. At 1pm I was taken to a room that was reserved for readings. So not the psychic free for all I was imagining! Lorrie was very friendly. She asked me to give her a personal item, one that has only belonged to me. Lorrie asked me my first name and my date of birth and away we went. Obviously I’m not going to tell you what occurred during my reading, it was my reading…go get your own! I do want to tell you that Lorrie was a warm, comforting woman and I had a wonderful time speaking with her.

    After the reading, I went around the corner to visit the healers. There were three vivacious women waiting for me. I was offered the option of Reiki Healing or Therapeutic Touch. I opted for Therapeutic Touch, which meant that I got worked over by Susan Ikenhoffer. She told me that most people after receiving Therapeutic Touch tend to be very relaxed, that was my experience too. Once Jim was done taking pictures of us that is!

    The people at the Holistic Studies Institute were incredibly friendly and a lot of fun. They hold weekly séances (Fridays at 8:30 pm and Sundays at 6:00 pm) and I have every intention of visiting them for one of those sooner rather than later.

    To learn more about the Holistic Studies Institute visit them at: www.holisticstudies.com
    While you’re there you can sign up for their free newsletter that will give you a complete list of their numerous events and courses that they offer.

    Since I had never had a reading before I was given a leaflet entitled, “How to Get the Most Out of Your Psychic Reading.” I figured I would share it with you, in case you visit H.S.I. for a reading.

    *Seek a Psychic’s assistance when there is a sincere need.
    *Be open-minded. Do not try to “test” a psychic or come with a “prove it to me attitude.” Judge the reading as it is being given to you. Listen calmly.
    *Don’t make a psychic guess what you want from your reading. This only wastes valuable time in which your psychic could be answering your questions.
    *Be prepared with a list of meaningful questions whether in writing or in your mind. This will help stimulate psychic impressions.
    *Don’t expect a psychic to read your mind. It is your responsibility to ASK specific questions.
    *Topics your psychic can tune into may include: travel, employment/career, family, friends, spirit family, spirituality, finances, health, relationships/romance, and education.
    *Give your psychic an object that you own. This object should not be previously owned or any part of it previously owned by any other person. A watch, jewelry, keys, etc. work the best. This personal object will help the psychic get closer to your energy and use it as fuel for the reading.
    *You may want to bring in photos. Psychics can draw a lot of information from a photo. Photos may be of living or deceased persons.
    *Psychics do not see everything. However, they should tell you everything they see. If they see something negative, they will tell you, but they will also tell you how you can change or avoid the negative event. A code of ethics for a truly professional psychic should embody the saying “ to be forewarned is to be forearmed.” This is one of the great values in going to a psychic. They can help prevent possible problems.
    *Most psychics are also mediums. This means that they will receive information from your deceased loved ones. Your psychic may refer to these important people as “spirits”. You may want to give your psychic the name of your loved one in spirit, enabling them to tune in to the name and possibly give you a message from that person.
    *Keep in mind, psychics are human beings like everyone else. Psychics are not always correct. However, most of our clients at H.S.I. return for more readings because they are pleased with our 80%-100% accuracy rate. By most standards this accuracy is exceedingly high.
    *Psychics at H.S.I. do not use Tarot cards. Our experience tells us that Tarot cards and other such props are less accurate and tend to be very general.
    Enjoy yourself and have a great reading!

    I did enjoy myself and I had a great reading!