De Capitem Draconis

Note: This entry is nearly three thousands words long, and actually pretty difficult to understand. Not so much because the ideas involved are tricky, just that they take a lot of explaining, and some of them I don't understand that well, and some of them I didn't put the work into explaining them clearly, and some of them are just really dull unless you're a divination nerd. So, y'know, be warned, and don't necessarily expect to finish reading the stupid thing. Having finally finished my (fourth or fifth, in the 23 years I’ve been using it) study of the tarot, which I started doing when I renewed a regular practice, as a way to recondition my mind to thinking in certain symbols and patterns, I have embarked on a study of geomancy. Unlike the tarot, it’s something I’ve studying only briefly and superficially, once, years ago. I’m picking it up again now because divination and oracular practices (in the form of tarot) were my first foray into both magic and paganism, and studying or regularly practicing any method will reliably deepen my practice. I have been both a diviner and an oracle (a diviner is one who practices divination, the art of gaining information about the future; and oracle is one through whom a god delivers messages to mortals). First I gave tarot readings for friends, and later spent more than two years setting up weekly in a bookstore coffee shop and offering readings for tips, and occasionally hiring out for parties. (I remember one Halloween party where everybody was having fun and being pretty silly and enjoying the readings a lot… and then there was an older women who simply started silently crying in the middle of the reading, and thanked me profusely when I was done. I have no memory of what I said to her, and never knew what it meant to her at the time, but it really brought home to me how I could touch people with divination, even when I knew nothing about them or their lives, had no knowledge to draw on with which to refine the reading.) I studied runes, pendulum work, the I Ching, geomancy, tasseomancy (and other cup-reading methods, like reading the foam on a beer glass), scrying, and a couple of non-Tarot divination decks (like Morgan’s Tarot, which is not a tarot at all). Cartomancy and rune readings were the only ones I ever studied very deeply, and I’ve long since given up runes (although I still have a set). Divination, of course, is one of the classic witch’s skills. My oracular states have always tended to be at the will of the gods. I can intentionally use trance and ritual techniques to get there, but historically it’s been far more likely that I’ll be in the middle of a reading and suddenly somebody else is using me to get a message to the querent. I’ve dedicated myself to service to my gods, and I have no objection to this being part of it, but it’s not an easy thing when you’re prepared for it, and much less so when you’re not. So, as I said, this connects to both magical practice and religious practice for me, and since I’m working to make the practice of each of them a major part of my life again, I’m trying to keep studying more methods. This includes practicing the methods I’ve been studying, too. I no longer use the Greek litteromancy every day, but do turn to it when I have a question, and write down the answers and the ways they’re demonstrated in my life. Having finally freed up my favorite decks from the study, I’m also reading those for myself with some frequency, and sometimes recording those results, too. (It’s less necessary, since I already have a long history with tarot, and know how the cards reflect life, but not yet much about how the Greek letters do.) As an aside, I love the wide variety of methods of divination and the names for them. I love the ability of humans to take a set of information with some degree of randomness (and nearly every method of divination I’m aware of has some random element), find a pattern in it, and derive meaning and advice from it. The term apophenia was coined by Klaus Conrad, a German psychiatrist and neurologist, in 1958 to describe it, but he specifically intended it to refer to false meaning and delusion as a symptom of schizophrenia. Michael Sherman coined patternicity fifty years later for the human tendency to find pattern in meaningless noise, without any connection to mental illness, but it’s still...

36

It's my birthday. I'm 36 today. It has, in many ways, been an extremely rough year. Both of us have been out of work for all of it, and indeed I've been out of work for much longer. Money's pretty desperate. But we got married this year, and that's been so incredible that I can't help but count it a good year anyway. My wife makes me so happy. I have, in general, found my thirties to be a much more enjoyable decade than my twenties. I spent a lot of time suffering from and learning to deal with my mental illness in my twenties. I dropped out of college three times. I did manage to move across the country and to start culinary school (although I graduated after turning 30), but the bulk of the decade was pretty miserable for me. So I'm never sad to be a year older. As hard as things were after the restaurant closed, it did not match the utter despair of my early twenties. I drew a letter for the upcoming year during morning ritual. Pi. "Completing many contests, you will seize the crown." I have a lot of hope for this year....

Notes Are Going to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

I've been having one of those periodic health problems that randomly crops up and bites me. Between that and no internet at home (still), writing and posting have been difficult. Spinning: Almost none. Mornings have been rough. And then I made a labyrinth in my ritual room that takes up most of it, and figuring out how to spin around it has been interesting. I think I have a comfortable setup now. I mentioned in Watering the Wine something about the taste of watered wine not being to many people's tastes. Part of that is simply that we mostly drink much dryer wines than the Greeks and Romans did. Theirs were thick and sweet. Indeed, Greek reds today are often sweeter than their counterparts from the US or other parts of Europe. They also taste much better when watered than a California red blend or an old vine Zinfandel does. Normally, I'd prefer to use Greek wines for ritual, both because I like them and because they taste better watered. (My favorite is the Makedonikos Red from Tsantalis, which is both delicious and affordable, if you can find it.) But my cellar is looking rather bare of Greek wines (and increasingly of any wines), and I don't have money to just run out and buy a bottle, I have to drink up what I have. But another thing I have is a bottle of grape must syrup, made from juice and skins left over from pressing, and boiled down until thick and sweet. A little of that in the cup goes a long way to making watered wine taste much better, and is still a fitting beverage to drink with Dionysos. I have an Italian version, called Saba, which I picked up from ChefShop.Com. I got it to use on desserts, but it works very nicely for this, too. It's a bit pricey, but it goes a very long way. Another option might be to make your own grape syrup, boiling down pure grape juice (not the Welch's or whatever, they put stuff in it) and crushed whole grapes into a sticky syrup, with roughly the viscosity of the stuff for pancakes. Careful, though, to do it slowly, over a low flame, and keep a close eye on it. Expect it to take hours. Strain it well afterwards, to get the skins and stuff out, then add just a drizzle to watered wine for flavor. Or use it in any of the many many Greek desserts that call for it. I finally managed to make the pieces for the Greek alphabet oracle I've been meaning to do. I actually wrote out the whole thing, with the letters, the Greek lines, the translations, notes on the translations, and notes on possible interpretations of the oracle (all taken from here, in a blank book. And then let it sit there and did nothing with it for weeks. But last night, I got out the air-dry red Mexican clay I keep around for these purposes, and made twenty-four flat roundish shapes, and carved letters into them. I rather enjoyed having clay all over my hands. I always do. I'll never be a potter and ceramicist, not like my friend Sherry, but I do like mucking about with clay occasionally. I'll give them a day or two to dry, and then give it a try. I've started work on the devotional hanging I promised to Hermes a while ago. I found a stack of woad-dyed silk hankies I did years ago, very "cloudy" ones, not solidly colored. So I snagged one and painted this verse to Hermes on it in gold. I'll cut it into strips and weave it into the hanging in much the way I did for Athene. I've got some blue yarns in mind from my stash. Good to have a project again. I really need to find some pleasing yarn and start practicing more Zati masks. I like them a lot, but really need to learn how to shape them and plan them. Oh, and there was another connection I missed in the web of the Purple Thread: Pasiphae, who was the mother of Ariadne, is the sister of Circe and Aeetes, all of whom are the children of Helios and the Oceanid Perseis, and Aeetes is the father of Medea, making a firmer connection between Circe and Ariadne, and Medea and Ariadne. Ariadne and Arachne is hosted on dememe.info. The main domain is the site for a search engine specifically for the Fail-Fandom Anon community. (If you're an FFA member, you already have access to sign-in info; if not, it's useless to you.) The creator and maintainer of the search engine is known on FFA as Dememe Nonny. She knows about the many many problems with WordPress,...

The Golden Mean

This post is a couple weeks old, one of the things I saved while I was trying to find a new home for the blog. The project I was knotting warps on was the straps I gave up on. I'm tying knots in warps again. Why do I have so much trouble with keeping even tension? I never used to. Why has this become a theme in my weaving? What does it reflect from my life? I mentioned before that the small synchronicities had started. The phrase "Golden Mean" keeps turning up, as one of them. It means two things, of course. One is the mathematical ratio achieved when you have two segments of a line, a and b, such that the sum a+b has the same relationship to a that a does to b: That little loopy thing is the Greek letter phi, by the way, the symbol for the Golden Ratio, the way that pi is the symbol for the ratio between the diameter and circumference of a circle. Now, it just happens that in addition to my current tarot study, I'm also beginning to study the Limyran Oracle, a form of litteromancy similar to the runic system (although, I was fascinated to learn, there's not much evidence that the runes were used as a divinatory system in the past; that may be an entirely modern tradition). Each letter has an oracular line associated with it, the letters are inscribed on bits of pottery and drawn or shaken out of a box, or dice are used to generate a number that corresponds to a letter, and the line of poetry is interpreted as a response. The line for the letter phi is, "Having done something carelessly, you will thereafter blame the gods." Hm. Perhaps I am not taking enough responsibility for my own life. Noted. The Golden Ratio is also used to construct the Golden Spiral: And phi is key in the construction of regular pentagons… and pentagrams: Spirals and pentagrams are, of course, both important symbols to me. The second meaning is philosophical, aiming for a middle course between extremes. Neither too much nor too little. Moderation. It's found all over the world, of course, and is prominent in Buddhism, if I recall correctly. But it has a long tradition in Greece. It's the moral of the story of Daedalos and Icaros: Daedalos flew neither too close to the sea nor too close to the sun, and so escaped Crete, but his son Icaros did not practice this moderation, climbed too high, and the sun melted the wax that held his wings together, and so he fell into the sea and died. Theano, wife of Pythagoras, propounded moderation. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle all recommended it. "Nothing to Excess" was carved on the temple at Delphi, along with "Know Thyself" -- a phrase I'm also working with. And all of that means that the Golden Mean, in both meanings, have been appearing even more often than I thought. I'm just going to hang on to this idea, and let it sink in, I think. (All those picture related to phi up there are from Wikipedia.) Three weeks later, I'm still chewing it over....