Daydreams and Dryads

On Midsummer I had a rather lousy day at work, but it was a beautiful rainy evening by the time I left the office, and I decided to blow off some steam by biking down to the lakes.  I was sprinkled by a sunshower as I left the house, that dreamy rarity of rain falling from seemingly clear blue skies paired with bright sunshine, and by the time I reached the first lake, the rain had stopped and there was a glorious rainbow right over the water.

Just off the bike trail I spotted a phenomenally radiant tree with broad fan sized leaves of the brightest apple green and bursting with white trumpety flowers.  I think perhaps it was a basswood of some kind.  The bark was soft and carved with tangled grooves, and its branches twisted about in spiraling asymmetry.

I pulled over off the trail, leaned my bike against the trunk, and settled down in the crook of the tree’s meandering roots.  Above me sprawled the whispering canopy of green and white, all dappled and translucent with evening sunlight, and if I looked ahead I had a perfect view of the rainbow over the blue waves.

My limbs were mighty tired, and I cuddled into my niche in the tree with grateful comfort.  I imagined myself stretching roots deep into the earth, sinking my body into the soft damp and warmth, and I realized I felt myself protected and curled up in the trunk just like All-kinds-of-fur.  (Only instead of hiding from the incestuous proposals of a king, I was simply trying to escape a stressful workday.)

Drowsy, I began chatting amiably to the tree, and I found myself saying, on observing the abundance of flowers she had produced, “My, you’ve been a busy girl, haven’t we?”  I chuckled at the diminishing distinction between myself and my bower.  I asked if she had any advice; she said, “Bend with the wind, and don’t be afraid to lose a few leaves even when you’re growing.”

We had a lovely little conversation, and eventually the evening grew cool and dim, and I determined I ought to be returning home.  I rode past the cemetery and the band shell towards the public gardens, stopped briefly to dip a leaf in the fountain to fan myself, and (in a passionate whim) walked backwards among the roses per the old superstition of Midsummer loves.

I soon made my way back home, and settled in late in the evening, having reflected on my little communion with the tree, I felt it would be a perfect time for a bit of bibliomancy.  So I pulled my beloved Orlando down from the shelf, closed my eyes, flipped to a page and placed my finger.  When I looked, I saw one word: Daphne.

My mythology is a bit rusty, but I knew the name had significance, so I looked it up, and you can imagine my delighted surprise when I was reminded that Daphne was a nymph who, to escape the lustful pursuit of Apollo, transformed herself into a tree.

As Ovid described it (translated by A.S. Kline):

“…A heavy numbness seized her limbs, thin bark closed over her breast, her hair turned into leaves, her arms into branches, her feet so swift a moment ago stuck fast in slow-growing roots, her face was lost in the canopy. Only her shining beauty was left.”

May we all run headlong into our moment of transformation this summer.



Honey Rose Moon

Today the swollen Honey Rose Moon drifted in the sign of Sagittarius, exactly halfway through the calendar between my last and approaching birthdays.  I felt like the full moon this month was just dripping love.  A loving moon in Sagittarius — a good time for turquoise, especially if it has black veins in it (best for love, or so I’m told; solid blue for prosperity).

It had been a while since I had any rituals, so I cleared off a space, lit some myrrh and a candle, and did some readings.  A long time ago I developed my own divination card system, and although I have been using it for years through innumerable readings, this was the first time I had ever drawn the card representing the moon during a full spread.  It seemed auspicious.



The theme of the reading was one of taking first steps, giving a voice to your dreams, and overcoming fear and trepidation.  This was incredibly apt given my recent struggles with intimidating work demands and possible life-changing decisions looming in my mind.  The end result, though, was encouraging: a call to invoke the energy of the full moon, and so doing, grow gradually into a fulfillment of self in courage and confidence.

I’m throwing my lucky penny into the wishing well of June and wishing everyone the best.



Cory over at New World Witchery just put up a splendid blog post on bibliomancy, the art of divination by text.  I was especially delighted by the idea of getting a personality profile based on your birth date from Proverbs 21 or 31.  I looked up the ladies’ chapter to find my own lot, and here’s what the Bible tells me about myself:

(15) She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.

I’m not entirely sure what to take from this, but I do have a tendency to wake up at odd hours and go directly to the kitchen. ^-^

At any rate, while I was cheerfully reading through Cory’s analysis, I found myself suddenly swept up in the memory of old Gabriel Betteredge, the servant in Wilkie Collins’ novel The Moonstone, and his obsessive dependence on omens gleaned from the book Robinson Crusoe.

I loved that this character practiced bibliomancy using such a well-known work of fiction, and I wondered about how one best chooses the vehicle for one’s divination, particularly when it involves text.  I thought about it for a while, and I decided I would most likely use Orlando by Virginia Woolf, which, though it bores many people I know to tears, I have been known to carry it around in a desperate loving clutch, and could spend happy hours rereading every passage.  I think it would work well too, in that its language is poetic, eccentric and esoteric enough that each phrase could present a fascinating exercise in interpretation.

I decided to do a little experiment and performed a trial run by pulling my dense old paperback copy from the dark, ruffling the edges of the pages with my thumb to feel for some sort of magnetic pull, opening to that spot, and without looking, sliding a fingertip slowly down the page until the spirit moved me to stop.

When I moved into the light, the following passage was revealed:

“…if we lie here long enough to ask the moths when they come at evening, stealing among the pale heather bells, they will breathe in our ears such wild nonsense as one hears from telegraph wires in snow storms; tee hee, haw haw, Laughter, Laughter! the moths say.”

I couldn’t help smiling as I read, and I took this to be a good omen — though perhaps a reminder not to take anything too seriously.  (Particularly omens!)

So pleased with this result, I’ve decided to continue consulting Orlando from time to time, and perhaps I will share my occasional bibliomantic “pulls” here on the site.

I’m curious, though…  If you were to select a book for your own bibliomantic practices, what book would you choose?  What qualities do you think make one book better for divination than another, or do they all have equal potential?  If you choose one book, do you have to keep using the same book, or can you consult any book at any time?

I’d love to hear what you think!  Comment on the post, shoot me an email, or even send a message on PaganSpace and tell us your prophetic book of choice.  If I get enough responses, perhaps I’ll compile a list in a new post, and we’ll see if there are any trends!

Until then, though, readers, I wish you happy dreams of twittering little moths, quietly chortling sweet nothings in your ears.


How to tell if he likes you, and other sleepover occult games

When I was a little girl, Ouija boards were only rarely hailed as the harbingers of devil worship that they used to be, and mind-bending was so commonplace that one night when we hypnotized a girl into believing she was a toddler on the Titanic and she spent the rest of the night cry-babbling in a corner, we were barely phased.  But these days, when party guests are busy talking politics and kids, I’m just as likely to get shunned as scoffed at if I suggest a friendly game of “light as a feather, stiff as a board.”

Have we grown out of the thrill of the supernatural in our play time?  Are shared experiences of mystery and magic no longer considered relevant after the legal voting age?  This possibility confuses and saddens me, so I suggest we stand up and answer those questions with a resounding “No!”

In the hopes of garnering your support in the “spooky is still fun” cause, and in honor of the love spell extravaganza that has been hitting the pagan podcast airwaves surrounding St. Valentine’s day, I bring to you:

“How to tell if he likes you after one game of cards*”


Now, some will tell you that to discover the initials of your beau-to-be, you need to stick a key in a Bible and recite the words of Ruth, or peel an apple all in one strip and throw it over your shoulder.  My friends and I weren’t allowed to have knives at school, so instead of peeling the apple, we would turn the stem, reciting the alphabet with each turn, and whatever letter you were on when the stem broke off would be the first initial of your lover’s first name.  Effective as this may be, there are only so many apples, and really… how much fun is a name?  We wanted more answers, and we wanted to be able to at least have a say in our pool of potential suitors.

Enter the card game.

The card game (affectionately called “Four Kings”) allowed us to not only name four boys in whom we might have some interest and guarantee a match with at least one of them, it also gave us the opportunity to find answers to our every question about them, and to get a glimpse of our possible futures together.

Besides my very limited social circle, I have yet to meet anyone that played this game as a young’un (or as an adult, for that matter).  If you did, or if you played something similar, please tell me about it!  You can either leave a comment here by clicking up near the top of this entry, or contact me at PaganSpace or email up there on the right.  For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, here are the full rules:

Love Divination with Playing Cards

Begin with one dealer (the card “reader,” if you will), and one player (the “querent”), and one deck of 52 cards.  The dealer removes the four king cards and shuffles the deck.  The kings are arranged facing the querent from left to right as follows:

King of Hearts   –   King of Diamonds   –   King of Clubs   –  King of Spades

The querent then labels each of the kings with the name of a boy she knows, with the most loved on the left (King of Hearts), a boy she likes as the King of Diamonds, a friend that’s a boy as the King of Clubs, and lastly a boy she hates (King of Spades).  [Thank you to commenter Katharine for reminding me of this detail!]  I should say that this game can also be played for ladies, and one can substitute Queens for Kings, if desired.  For simplicity of pronouns only, I am assuming female players and male um… targets.

Before going any further, the querent must choose three cards face down from the remaining deck, and set them aside for later without looking at them.  These cards will answer the three main questions: “Who do I like?” “Who likes me?” and “Who am I going to marry?”  But before we can learn that much, the querent gets to ask 15 other questions of her choice, as long as the answer can be one of the four boys chosen as Kings.

So say for instance you are the querent, and your first question is, “Who [of these four boys] is the teacher’s pet?”  You ask your question, the dealer turns over a card, and the suit of that card matches the suit of the King who is the teacher’s pet.  If the card turned up is a heart, and the King of Hearts was named Johnny, then Johnny is the teacher’s pet.  Make sense?

When we were kids, these questions tended to be completely innocuous and not very interesting things like, “Whose favorite color is blue?” or “Who has the nicest laugh?”  A more adult version might consist of questions more along the lines of, “Who is better at [insert sexual activity]?” or “Who has the hottest [insert body part]?”  The sky’s the limit, but it can be surprisingly hard to come up with evocative questions on the spot, so we recommend brainstorming a list of question ideas to keep handy any time you intend to play.

Once you have determined the answer to a question by turning up one card, you place that card face up under the King with the matching suit, then lay two more cards face down on top of it.  This is key!  Remember not to look at the two additional cards, and keep them with the right King.

Continue to ask questions, laying the answer cards on top of the corresponding King along with two cards face down each time, until you run out of cards.  The number of cards in the deck minus the four Kings is divisible by three, so it should work out evenly, unless you’re doing something crazy or you’re missing cards.

Once all of the cards have been distributed (and all but three of your burning questions answered!) it’s time to discover what your future life with each boy might be like.  Start by turning over all cards that are face down, but keep them with their respective Kings.  In this stage of the game, hearts represent love, clubs represent children, diamonds represent money, and spades represent fights.  By counting the number of cards in each suit under a given King, and weighing the value of the cards, you can sketch out how much love and money, and how many fights and kids, you can expect from your future with that boy.  Higher numbered cards and face cards represent greater passion, high dollar amounts, smarter kids, and bigger fights.  Lower numbered cards represent cooler or gentler feelings, lower funds, dumber kids, and small arguments.  An ace of diamonds indicates that you will be millionaires.  An ace of spades, or seven spades of any value on one King, represent divorce.

The dealer is responsible for interpreting the life represented by each group of cards, and she can embellish as her skill and imagination permit.  :)

Finally, we come to the conclusion.  The querent now takes up the three cards that were set aside face down at the beginning of the game, shuffles them and orders them as desired, then hands them to the dealer.  The dealer explains that the first card determines who the querent really likes, and turns up the first card.  The suit determines which King holds the querent’s heart.  The second card turned up reveals which of the King-boys has feelings for the querent, and at last, the third card determines whom the querent will marry.  In lucky cases, all three cards will fall on the same King.

After exhausting the potential love scenarios of your homeroom class or office, remember the always popular movie star round! This is a particularly good option when the querent is already spoken for, as it eases some of the anxiety brought on by toying with the future of a current relationship.

I very much hope you enjoy playing this little game, and if you have any questions or comments, please do let me know!  Regardless of how many Kings or Queens are in your court, I hope you all had a lovely and happy Valentine’s day, and I wish you all the love in the world.  Aces.


*Rules from the ca. 1989 incarnation, recollected and annotated with much nostalgic giggling by my amazing elementary school friends T and H.  Love you!


Keys to the Hidden Door: Part I

For our final installments in this cycle of posts about keys, let’s consider keys in the misty realm of dreams, knowing, secrecy and spiritism!

Keys in Dreams

Now, depending on who you ask, you will get 10,000 different answers for what it means to dream about any given thing.  The folklore collections, for instance, yielded two interpretations: to dream of a key means success, or dream of a key, and you will discover a secret.  Gustavus Hindman Miller’s 1901 dream guide provides the following interpretations of key dreams for ladies: keys denote unexpected changes; if lost, unpleasant adventures; if found, domestic peace or brisk turns to business.  If broken, the key bodes separation through death or jealousy, and lost options.  If a girl should dream of a lost key to a “personal ornament” means quarrels with a lover and distress; if given away, poor judgment in conversation and a bad reputation.

In addition, this turn-of-the-20th-century guide dictates that to dream of unlocking a door points to a new lover, perhaps one in which you have misplaced confidence, and locking a door indicates successful selection of a husband!  One I found particularly unique, is that a dream of being unable to find a keyhole means that you will unconsciously injure a friend.  I’m kind of proud of Gustavus for not automatically jumping from this dream image to an analogy of a failed sexual encounter!

In general, I shy away from prescriptive dream dictionaries, and instead I find it helpful when deciphering a particular dream image to do some free association on what that image evokes in my mind and memory.  It also sometimes helps to imagine that each element of my dream represents some aspect of my own self.

Another thing to keep in mind with dream interpretation as with anything is context.  Context, context, context.  If in your dream you lose a key, and you wake with feelings of anxiety, perhaps this signifies fears of loss of security, or fears of exposure, for example.  If you throw a key away carelessly in your dream, maybe you are ready to give up your secrets and liberate yourself.  If you find a key, maybe it means just that — you will find the key to a waking puzzle.  I find that there is a lot of crossover between the magical aspects of an object and its dream symbology — once you start looking at one, the other begins to seem much more intuitive.

One last hint from the folklore annals:  “A door key placed upside down near your bed will banish bad dreams and produce peaceful sleep.”  How handy!  A nice little witchy and easily-acquired dream catcher.

Keys, Secrecy and Revelation

Just as keys can be used for both opening and closing locks, they can also represent equally either the binding or loosing of power, people, and even information.  Say you have a feeling that you’re ready to leave behind, but you just can’t seem to let it go.  Ever had the feeling of wanting to lock something away and bury the key?  Try doing just that!  Well, at least you can infuse a key with the power of putting that feeling away and bury the key.  This might also be a good spell against gossip, or for keeping someone quiet.  Be careful, though, because when (not if… when) that key gets un-buried , you’ll have to be prepared for the consequences.

Tied to the power of secrecy, and well-known from our dealings with keys in love, the key is a striking symbol of trust.  But it is also a harbinger of tests and temptation.  Think back to the story of La Barbe Bleue, in which the terrible Bluebeard entrusts his young bride with all the keys of his household, granting her total access to every wondrous room but one.  This room carries the grisly remains of Bluebeard’s former wives who failed this test, and when the key is dropped in their blood by the horrified young bride, no matter how hard she scrubs, the key reveals the truth of her betrayal.

If you are trying to fight temptation, try using a key to overcome your weakness.  Imagine the key like Bluebeard’s key, and practice carrying it without giving in to its seductions.  Over time, start envisioning that same key as an instrument of agency — by the end, you carry the key to your own willpower, and it will remain as an emblem of your strength, having overcome your undesired impulses.

On the other side of the coin, say you’re having trouble obtaining information that you seek, and you want to do some magical work to help you break through the barriers.  (Looking for personal insight?  Wondering if it’s really love?  Combating writer’s block??)  Try making an unlocking candle to light while you visualize a positive outcome.  This couldn’t be easier.  Find a candle that you like, preferably with a smooth surface, and a relatively flat key that strikes your fancy.  Press the key into the side of the candle, either up or down, depending on your intentions and using your instincts.

Dress or cleanse the candle, or take any other steps that you feel will lend power to your goal.  Then 1, 2, 3, LIGHT!

…et voilà!  Fiat lux!

Think of it as turning on the light as practice while you work to turn on the bulb above your head.



Keys, Understanding and Prophecy

As a symbol of opening the ways to knowledge, keys can also unlock the way to enlightenment, initiation, and even shamanic death/rebirth.  (For inspiration, read MacDonald’s “The Golden Key” or Hodgson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden”!)  There is so much more to be said about this, but that is perhaps too deep a topic for this series.

Not surprisingly, keys turn up in many folkloric bits of prophecy and methods of divination.  Let’s highlight a few, shall we?

  1. If a wife’s keys persist in getting rusty, it is a sign that some friend is saving money for her.  [Arrow’s note: hmm… I really don’t know what to make of this one.  Leave a comment if you have some insight!]
  2. If you hand a pregnant woman a key and she picks it up by the hook end, she will have a boy.  If she picks it up by the end that goes in the door, the child will be a girl.
  3. Or: Tie a rusty key on a string and suspend it over the abdomen of the mother while she is lying down.  When the key stops swinging, if it’s parallel to the length of the mother’s body, the baby is a boy.  If the key stops crosswise, the baby is a girl.  [What is it about rusty keys?]

This last bit makes me think a key might make a delightful pendulum, if you’re into pendulum divination.

And finally, a series of practices with keys and Bibles:

If a key is placed on an open Bible, and a certain verse repeated, the key will turn.

If you want a wish granted, open the Bible to Ruth 1:16-18.  Place a key there, with the top end sticking out.  Tie the Bible firmly closed. Hold it, and repeat over and over the above passages.  If your wish will be granted, the key will turn slowly, even though you try to hold it.

[These passages read: “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die, I will be buried.”]

Insert a key in a prayer book.  The key should stick out about an inch or so.  Place two fingers from each hand on each side of the key and say, “Ruth, Ruth, your people will be my people and your God will be my God.  Give me the name (or initials) of the one I’ll marry.”  Then start the alphabet and when the key starts to turn, use that letter for the initial or the name.

As I recall, this practice figures somehow in the novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.  (Not the most trenchant of works, but a time-passer.)  I have never tried it, though, and I am unsure of the relevance of Ruth in these practices.  Why that chapter?  If you have tried this, or if you have any additional information, I’d sure love to hear from you.  Maybe I will try contacting Cory from New World Witchery to see if he has any ideas; he seems like he’d be the one to know!**

The last key and Bible trick for learning the name of your future spouse reminds me a lot of some divinatory games we used to play as kids.  I might have to have a post later on of my favorite slumber party occult games. :)

The next post will be my last installment on keys (at least as part of this cycle), but I will try to end on a spooky note in honor of the crispy creepiness of autumn.




**Update! Cory gave us a lovely shout out on the Divination and Destiny episode of New World Witchery (you can find a link in the Comments).  Thank you, Cory!  I also had a chance to chat about the bible & key method described above with some friends, and we came up with some proposed answers as to why Ruth would be a choice passage for this practice.

One possibility is that the chosen  passage sounds like it might have some oral-formulaic components, which would make it better known and easier to remember and recite.  Another perspective was that the cited statement is one of complete devotion, so it might be used kind of like saying, “If you grant my wish/answer my question, I will devote my life to you,” and a confirmation of utter trust in the outcome.

An idea I had about it being Ruth in particular is that, as far as I’m aware, the book of Ruth is the only book named for a woman besides the book of Esther.  Because the marriage divination games seem to have been practiced more often by young ladies than young men, Ruth would have made a very strong choice of a female figure with biblical power to call upon that was still approachable, where one might feel slightly awkward about beseeching Mary or Queen Esther, for instance, for a direct response in such small matters.

Readers, if you have any other suggestions or insights, please feel free to leave a comment or email me. :)