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Aisling the Bard of TarotWitchery tasked us with a seasonal and spiritual theme based on her personal traditions. She asked us to celebrate All Hallows Eve with her by sharing how we see spirit in different ways. She named this theme, “Walking into Life with the Dead.” She followed that up with a request to incorporate tarot to answer or discuss three very detailed and specific questions. I planned to incorporate her questions into the ritual I performed. However, when the time came I chose to go another way. But I am happy to share with you How I Connect to Spirit.

My Tarot Card Astrology Series

If you follow my blog outside of the Tarot Blog Hops, you might have noticed that I’ve started a new series on tarot card astrology. I am discussing the correspondences of the decans (the 36 10-degree portions of the zodiac, each of which represents one-third of one of the twelve astrological signs) and their planetary rulers as applied to the numbered cards of the Minor Arcana. I’m including suggested ritual work that uses planetary magic to deepen your connection to the energies and brings insight into the associated card. I also suggest best times for performing the ritual to most fully align with its energies — it’s like posting office hours so know when the professor is in.

The first of the suggested rituals was for the Four of Cups, the Moon ruling the third decan of Cancer. The best time for it was after the Moon had passed the 20 degree mark of Cancer but before entering Leo, during the day of the Moon, and at the hour of the Moon. This translated to this morning between 4 a.m. and 5:07 a.m.

An Early Start

Last night before going to bed I set the intention of performing my Four of Cups: Moon in Cancer ritual. I knew that I would have to get up early enough to start my ritual at 4 am.

I haven’t done ritual work for almost a year, since Hal moved in. He and I had done ritual work together before he moved in, but afterwards the tiny apartment we share was so overwhelmed with clutter it became impossible. As a result of working with Paul Foster Case’s Tarot Fundamentals, I set an intention to create space for ritual work. As a direct result of that, I purchased four very nice, large, clear, tubs. This was on March 26 of this year. I wanted to use them to organize and store some of my craft supplies and, well, I’d like to say “and other things,” but I filled all the tubs plus a large cardboard box with sewing supplies, knitting supplies, and jewelry making supplies. Then this week, Hal flew into a cleaning frenzy and I was inspired to join him and at long last the area in front of my altar was cleared and I had access to it again. So I was set and ready to go. And apparently after seven months I’m ready to move on to Lesson 2 of Tarot Fundamentals.

Back to setting my intention. Now you might understand why I wanted to leave this up to chance. I hadn’t done anything other than LBRPs, basic breathing meditations, prayers, and such in over a year. I wasn’t sure if I was up to it. Ritual work has always been an important part of my life (regular church attendance since childhood, and a transition in college from church to pagan spiritual practices, maintained up until I switched to ceremonial magic about 2005-6). However, there is an odd stress that I get before performing a ritual. I didn’t want to have to push through that stress, especially after taking such a long break. But admittedly this was an extremely simple ritual, barely more than doing prayers. So I decided to leave it up to chance. I didn’t set an alarm.

I woke up at 5 till 4. Not drowsy. So I got up and got ready.

You Are Protected

I pushed in the button that turns on my computer so it could boot up and I could print the ritual and the hymn. I turned on the printer too. I turned on the monitor. My antivirus software flashed a big box on the screen. It hadn’t loaded yet, so I couldn’t see all that it said (“Buy now!,” I imagine, and that’s an example of my gift for the clair-obvious). But what had loaded was a big green check mark and the words, “You are protected.” Cool. I’ll take it.

“It’s Best to Prepare Ahead of Time”

If you read the blog post from Sunday, you might have noticed that I repeatedly said to gather all your supplies and set up in advance. I did not do this. How long does it really take to grab some incense and a candle and a blue cloth? And print a few things out? And get a tarot deck and a piece of paper and a pen? Well, I can tell you. I went into the kitchen at 4:01 and even though I had everything on hand and knew where it was, I didn’t start the ritual until 4:37. It takes 36 minutes to get everything together, provided you know where it is. Of course, I was also taught to clean everything before a ritual, so that took time, and the long unused silver chalice needed a polish.

Getting Started: Fourfold Breath and Incense

I was finally situated and ready and had all my supplies. I had already lit the taper candle early on for light to see by. (Note to self: Add “light candle” to ritual instructions.) I also had lit the charcoal when I was setting up because it can take a while to get going. I sat down and performed the fourfold breath for a few minutes. I felt that shift from “doing” the meditation to “meditating,” if you know what I mean. Then I lit the incense. I used a Moon incense that I bought in the early nineties, some myrrh, and some mugwort. I didn’t mix it up ahead of time and charge it and all that, but just tossed each on the burning charcoal, one on top of the other. It ended up being smoky, so I’ll adjust that combination in the future.

Hymn

I read the Orphic Hymn to Selene nine times. I used nine pennies as counters – I had previously set them aside when I practiced this earlier as part of developing the ritual. I definitely felt a very strong connection with the Moon, and felt myself shift into that receptive, spirit-filled, channeling-potential state. I felt the Moon high above me and a little to the east. My logical brain thought it was probably west of midheaven by this time and so I tried to imagine it there. I was highly tempted to stick my head out the door and look, but didn’t want to interrupt the flow of the ritual. I finally looked right now as I’m recording this, and at 6 a.m. it is immediately overhead at Medium Coeli, so the Moon was where I “felt” it, not where I logically posited it to be.

I had such a strong experience of being filled with lunar energy that I decided to focus it by chanting “Shaddai El Chai,” the divine name associated with Yesod (Luna on the Tree of Life). I vibrated it nine times, keeping track with the counters I had used for the hymn.

Statement of Intention

Four of Cups card from my Four of Cups: Moon in Cancer ritual
The Morgan Greer Tarot Four of Cups for my Four of Cups: Moon in Cancer ritual. I love how the light from the candle flame reflects on the cup held aloft by the hand extended from clouds.

I realized that although I had put my tarot deck on the altar, I had not pulled out the Four of Cups. So I now sorted through the deck to find it and place it where I could see it. I meditated on it for a short time. Previously, when working with the card to write the post I had received the insight that the four cups could represent the four phases of the moon, since it’s a lunar-ruled card. So it took very little time to recognize that my intention for the ritual (no, I had not set that ahead of time as I instruct in the blog post) was to ask Selene for her assistance in renewing my practice of honoring the phases of the moon. I wrote the following intention: “I ask Selene to help me renew my practice of honoring her through the phases of the moon using ceremony, meditation, and creation.”

Because I knew I wasn’t using the Statement of Intention suggested in the blog post, I hadn’t printed it out. But now I realized there was a template of words that prefaced the actual Statement of Intention. My phone was in reach, so I looked up my blog post to get those words. It was 5:05 a.m., and the hour of the Moon would be over in two minutes. I quickly found my post and scrolled to the Statement of Intention heading efficiently. I followed the template, inserting my own Statement of Intention. I’m certain that I stated it within the appointed hour. I know from experience it’s ok to run over on these rituals, although they’ll take on the flavor of the subsequent hour as the minute hand moves forward. And sure enough, once I stated my intention, a very brisk, curt, down-to-business mindset came over me as we moved into the hour of Saturn.

Walking into Life with the Dead

Altar set for Four of Cups: Moon in Cancer ritual
My altar set up for my Four of Cups: Moon in Cancer ritual. You can see my Four of Cups tarot card in the front right, next to that the nine pennies I used to count the repetitions of the Orphic Hymn to Selene, and front and center my silver and brass chalice I used to represent lunar energies (I don’t know where my all silver one is). In the back you can see two photos of Fuzzy Kitten, the right hand one one is blocked by other things on the altar. You can also see in the back right the 7-day candle I use for Brighid, with her image on it. It is lit because it is my shift as a Flamekeeper.

I had fully intended to use Aisling’s suggested questions and follow her process in a detailed manner. On my altar, I have photos of my cat who died last year, and I supposed that even though I do not consider myself to honor the dead in any of the practices I have learned throughout a life dedicated to Spirit, I was going to at least try. My thought was that I would focus the questions on Fuzzy Kitten and pull some cards to answer them. Fuzzy Kitten had been a wonderful guide and companion during life, and frequently mentioned in my classes and on this blog (see Fuzzy Kitten posts). Memories of him are still present.

However, as I proceeded through the ritual, realized that I truly was not interested in attempting to connect with spirits who have passed. I simply wanted to do the work that is my practice, which currently is a combination of planetary magic and image magic. And so instead of pulling cards on the required questions at this time, I performed a tarot card spread that I developed earlier in the week. I  had originally intended to include it in the published ritual, but I was worried it was too complicated, and decided not to publish it then. But as I did the practice now during my ritual in the hour of Saturn, it seemed quite simple and worth sharing, however diamond-in-the-rough it may be.

This spread works with the ideas of Cornelius Agrippa. (Who is dead by the way. I suppose you could say that I have a way of honoring dead white men. I’m a canonicist!).

How to Infuse Virtue Into Form

Agrippa says that virtue can be infused into form via the hierarchical conduit descending from Ideas, to Intelligences, to the Heavens, to the Elements. I wanted to use this theory to perform image magic, something I’ve been playing with over the past couple of years. In this tarot practice, I’ll pull a card for each of these realms, interpret it, and then allow the card image and my interpretation to inspire a visual image that summarizes the interpretation. Each subsequent card and interpretation adds one more element to the image. The final image is a magical repository of the energies raised during the ritual work and can be used to recall those energies at will. In this case the energies will be those of the invoked planetary power combined with the personal Statement of Intention.

The Agrippa Tarot Spread

Here’s the basic spread. I follow this with an example so you can see how it works.

  1. Realm of Ideas. This is the concept or topic you wish to embody or bring into manifestation. Choose to use either an intentional or intuitive draw (by choice or chance, as Aisling cleverly puts it) for this first card. Interpret. Then decide on a visual image inspired by the card and/or the interpretation.
  2. Realm of the Intelligences. I don’t actually know what Agrippa means by Intelligences (I’m working on it), but he refers to them as “directed powers” at one place, so after some study, meditation, and conversation with a colleague, I came to the conclusion that for me, they are the verbs. They take the Idea and start it moving, so that it can descend through the planes. Draw your second card intuitively or randomly (by chance). Interpret. Then determine what movement you will now give to the image you came up with to represent your idea.
  3. Realm of the Heavens. We’re working with the Moon here, so we are specifically looking for Lunar symbols or influences. This is how Selene is honored and integrated in the magical image we are creating. Pull a card by chance. Interpret. Add to your magical image a lunar symbol inspired by this card or its interpretation. Of course, when working with different planets you’ll be looking for the symbolism of whichever planet you’re connecting to.
  4. Realm of the Elements. This is the final manifestation, the level of completion and of solid tangible things. This will be how you take your understanding of this spread and process and incorporate it into your life via making something or doing something. Draw a card by chance. Interpret. Add to your magical image the symbolism that is inspired by the card and your interpretation. This completes the image, and also is designed to be understood as outlining instructions for a thing to make or an action to perform.

My Spread as an Example

The four cards from my Agrippa Tarot Spread that I performed during my Four of Cups: Moon in Cancer ritual.
The four cards from my Agrippa Tarot Spread that I performed during my Four of Cups: Moon in Cancer ritual. I drew the IX of Cups, V of Cups, II of Cups, and IV of Swords from the Morgan Greer Tarot.

1. Realm of Ideas – The Concept or Topic

Based on my Statement of Intention set during the ritual, I want to renew my practice of performing ceremony to mark the phases of the moon. I briefly cast my mind through the cards and, bored with the images that I usually use for ritual work, I decide not to pull a card by choice. Instead I shuffle and cut and draw one card to represent the Idea or concept of my Statement of Intention. I pull the Nine of Cups. Yesod in Briah. The moon in the world of creation, or the world of water. Before I can even think these thoughts I see an image of a moon reflected in water. I spend a few minutes contemplating the card to ascertain if there’s an image that is not quite so greeting card-esque, but really, it works great. I am familiar with my process due to practicing it repeatedly this week, and I already see the waves that will be the result of the Intelligences, or the movement that causes the Idea to descend. I realize that my ritual work is an imperfect reflection, and somehow that is comforting. That it doesn’t have to be perfect, that it will always be a broken, storm-tossed reflection of the perfect Divine above.

2. Realm of the Intelligences – The Movement that Causes the Idea to Start Its Descent

I pulled the Five of Cups. The spilled cups definitely support my previously chosen waves that disturb the reflection. Maybe I can even modify my magical image to show a hand pouring out water from a cup onto the water that reflects the moon, intentionally disturbing the scene. Does my magic add to or detract from the perfection of the heavens as reflected in the earth? Perhaps both simultaneously. Maybe it is important for me to understand and value the idea that my ritual work interrupts the beauty of the natural world while somehow increasing it. Actually, as I type this, I now see a hand above the scene pouring the liquid from the cup into the sea that reflects the moon, and below the sea I see another hand holding a cup and receiving that liquid. In order to connect with and receive the powers from above I must disturb them. This suddenly explains why I have always felt stress before rituals. It is my subconscious recognizing that I am intentionally interrupting the placidity of Spirit in order to better connect to, open a conduit to, and receive Spirit. And then shimmer back into placidity. Fascinating.

3. Realm of the Heavens – The Expression of the Planetary Influence

6 Love from the Wickwillow Tarot by Hal Weeks, Self Published 2013

I drew the Two of Cups. I have drawn this card several times this week while working with and developing this process. I think part of it is because I want to do these rituals with Hal, but he is not interested in them in the way that I am. Perhaps this is about my developing that personal relationship with each planet, each sephirah, each divinity, each spiritual expression that I choose to work with. In my mind’s eye I get an image of Hal’s Lovers card from his Wickwillow Tarot, with two hands cupped and interlaced. Here is my Lunar symbol to add to my image – a crescent shape of two arms linked, holding hands.

4. Realm of the Elements – The Thing to Make or Action to Perform

The Four of Swords shows up. In an earlier post I discuss how the fours represent ritual work for me, so the action to perform is my ritual! That’s easy enough. But these four swords seem protecting — vigilant to use a Lunar word from the Hymn to Selene. I think it is important to set some kind of physical boundary or demarcation around my altar that says, out of bounds. If the corners of my space are marked clearly, then Hal and I are less likely to nudge our too-much-stuff-in-too-small-an-apartment in front of my altar. Also, I will add to my magical image and mark the four compass point corners with lunar crescent hilted swords.

This card, from the Morgan Greer Tarot, is one of my favorite Four of Swords images (see photo above, under the My Spread as an Example heading). The fourth sword is outside the arch, leading, beckoning the sleeper out into the mist. I see this as dream work, entering into the mystical realms of the subconscious, and engaging in deep, perhaps dangerous work. But the knight is armored, the swords guarding, vigilant. He is safe to proceed.

Hmm. I guess my computer was right. I am protected.

Onward Ho!

Hop either back or forth to read someone’s post who probably followed the directions. Wait, it’s Morgan and Jay, so maybe not. Incidentally, Aisling, you’re probably snickering as you noticed that I repeatedly failed to follow my own instructions as well. 🙂

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TBH: Walking into Life with the Dead

Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.

5 thoughts on “TBH: Walking into Life with the Dead

  • October 31, 2018 at 3:16 pm
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    Just wow Joy, you have such dedication to plan for a ritual, see it through and also have the time to photo it, and write this post! Loved reading about this side of you, such depth and I am so happy that we’re blog buddies too <3

    Reply
    • November 1, 2018 at 3:30 pm
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      Aww, shucks. This is just a teeny-tiny ritual, not at all to the depth that I usually do. 🙂 But I’m glad to be back into it, even if it is just baby steps.

      Reply
  • November 1, 2018 at 1:44 pm
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    I can relate to the lack of organization and clutter. . .as I am still finding my footing after moving 3 months ago. Thank-you for sharing your ritual! Samhain Blessings <3

    Reply
  • November 15, 2018 at 8:14 am
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    Awesome ritual Joy! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

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