Textual Arachne

A weaver of threads.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Still my strongest tool

Last night I held a "Tarot Night" for several friends. It was meant to be very informal, a situation where we could talk about and think about readings, reading styles, and different ways of interpreting cards of the Major Arcana. And it went very, very well.

We discussed the Empress, Temperance/Alchemy/Art (number 14), and Judgment/Aeon. I especially loved the comparisons between the Cosmic Tribe deck and the Rider-Waite. There was also a Stick Figure Tarot, which made everyone giggle, and a deck entirely drawn by a friend of one of the people there. I wish I'd had a chance to look at that one a little more.

The vagaries of Tarot etiquette came up: do other people get to touch the deck you use? To read with it? To borrow it? Do you wrap it in silk or keep it in the box? Buy a deck or receive it as a gift? I recognize my own restrictions as idiosyncratic: I don't let other people use it, though I do let them look at it; I don't read for myself, and I don't read for someone else if I start getting uneasy during the preparation stage. I also restrict myself from spending time with other decks, anything more than a quick browse. There's no philosophy underlying these restrictions, just a feeling that this deck is My Deck, and needs to be treated as such.

I think the only thing I'd want to improve is the number of people doing the readings--even those who owned and used decks were very shy about reading for others. I wonder if this is one of those skills where you always feel like an amateur, no matter how many years you've been doing it.

Perhaps this summer I'll undertake the full progression--go through the deck, one card per day, meditating and thinking about it and inviting its presence in my life.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


(Phew! Glad I wrote that previous entry...it seems like it always takes a self-referential musing before I can dig back into real topics.)

One of my deepest loves about Pagan practice is the wheel of the year. I love the feeling of constant movement and the conflation of the circular time (Equinox coming up again) with linear time (last Vernal Equinox, I was doing such and such...) . I suppose it must be similar for any religion with a strong liturgical year, but there's also a feeling of being in rhythm with the earth that comes from the wheel.

(Aside: One of the Pagan groups that holds public rituals is nontheistic in their celebrations of the year, and I really appreciate that. It reminds me that there's far more to the world, and consequently more to the divine, than the semianthropomorphic figures I pray to.)

So what does it do to the wheel of the year when the weather's as bizarre as it was this winter?

January was unseasonably warm, in an almost scary way. When snow finally came, it was primarily a coat of ice that lingered in yards and on roofs, heavy and slick. Friday's snowstorm was something of a relief to me, even as I'm craving more crocuses. How do you think about the return of the light in February when you could have been wearing shorts the week before? Or, for that matter, how do you celebrate the Summer Solstice when June has been nothing but chilly rain? If these changes are simply the unpredictability of weather, that's one matter--but if this is the effect of global warming, what then?

Nature doesn't recognize the boundaries we put on it with our holidays and with the ideas we develop about what each holiday means and "ought to be like." The year progresses outside of the conventions of the wheel of the year, and snows and thaws will hit regardless of human plans.

So the answer for me, then, is to take it as a reminder to shrug off my preconceptions about the year, while having faith and trust in the return of light and warmth. The plants will grow and summer will come, even if the process isn't "pretty" or "normal." And what seems like bizarre weather is how the wheel continues turning, integrating the human damage of global warming into its constant movement.

The spring will come, but it may not be the spring we are wanting or expecting--it may include destruction, flooding, caterpillar infestations, hurricanes. All that is guaranteed is that spring will come, over and over, year after year. The rest--what the holiday brings, what it promises, what we can make out of what happens--is up to us.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Again, another long hiatus. "Write on Arachne" has lingered on my to-do list every day for two months now. But as a wise woman says, you're not a failed writer till you stop writing. Or something like that.

This hiatus be connected to a recent feeling that despite years of thinking hard and writing hard about it, despite years of individual practice, I'm still not able to articulate what it means for me to be a Pagan. An authority figure asked me the other day, and I wasn't especially eloquent in my response. There's also the awareness that I'm not the most *literate* of Pagans when it comes to Pagan texts and rites. I'm kind of unschooled, probably as a side effect of being a solitary--and being stupidly busy.

If Heathenism is "Paganism with homework," I've been skipping class entirely.

I'm not a 'bad Pagan,' I think; I worship and pray and cast and suchlike, and as long as I'm studying religion I'll be facing all the questions thrown up by another's faith into my own. It's just sometimes overwhelming how much there is to learn, whether I'm looking at the All or one goddess among many in a pantheon, among many more in a pantheon. There are so many books, ideas, techniques, rituals that I'm unskilled in. (Note to self: Study Hellenism.) My lover's recently taken up a new instrument, and he feels "like a neanderthal" when plucking out melodies that usually simply flow off his fingers. I feel similarly stumped and slow when facing the deep mysteries of Paganism, even as I know it to be my home.

Perhaps the best offering I can give is that learning curve, and the willingness to speak of my own uncertainty and encounters on that path.

I picture a learning curve graph, with a wiggly line swooping all over, showing how hard and easy it will be. I picture myself like Calvin, ready at the top of the curve with my sled and trusty tiger companion, about to go hurtling down it...