November favourites

I can’t believe November is already ending! I’ve been rather busy and with so much going on I haven’t been very good at self care this month. My 50-ish day meditation streak was broken in early November, my physiotherapy exercises have been more of an exception than a rule, and my body is telling me in no uncertain terms that things aren’t in balance; eczema, IBS, shortness of breath and neck pain. Meditation teachers are fond of saying that when you feel you don’t have time for meditation it’s the most important time to do it, to which I normally respond, ‘Yes, well.’

However, turns out that, as usual, my body is right: I need to take better care of myself and make self care the focus of my intention until I get back into more compassionate habits.

Luminous Tarot App

For that reason, my November favourite is the Luminous Tarot app. This app acts both as a quick-reference guide for readings and as a guide to setting and manifesting intentions using the lunar cycle. It uses imagery from a physical deck that you can buy if you’re so inclined and like things with holographic backs (which I do). The art is simple pencil drawings, a little like A-ha does occultism. They definitely get the modern witchy revival aesthetic, and I’m not mad at it.

But what’s more impressive to me is the card descriptions the app provides. Since I’m early on in learning to Tarot, I tend to compare a few tarot guides for each card, and while I still love my Rider-Waite-Smith deck for actual readings, I’ve basically abandoned using the book that comes with it, usually in favour of using the Luminous Tarot database. Unlike the RWS book’s list of fairly random adjectives, its descriptions are evocative and often ask questions rather than listing attributes. I find they resonate a lot better with my reading of the cards.

Incidentally, its companion, the Golden Thread Tarot app, was the first one I downloaded, and this one gave you a daily card to draw. I deleted this after a few weeks, however, because I felt like the frequency was sort of diminishing how insightful they felt. Pulling a Major Arcana card like The Star on a random Wednesday felt a little overkill.

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I’ve now used the Luminous Tarot app for a full lunar cycle with the intention to have more balanced energy levels. At each different moon phase there was a different spread, representing different phases of bringing about your intention. It takes you through planning and understanding your barriers, laying out the path to get you where you want to go (or making you question why you want to get there) and finally reflecting on your progress. What I particularly like about this app relative to the Golden Thread one is that for each card you have a text box to write your interpretation of the card. These are saved so you can go back and see the cards you drew but also what you thought they meant at the time. It makes it a really useful tool for anyone who reflects in writing.

While I didn’t achieve perfect balance in the first month of using the app, it prompted me to reflect that it’s a moving target that takes constant work. I’m not going to be ‘better’ instantly and constantly striving toward ‘better’ has led to me thinking in absolutes and being really harsh on myself. Case in point was the card in the penultimate reading pointing to the lesson I needed in order to manifest my intention. I pulled the Ten of Swords reversed, a rather… challenging card. I quote from the app’s description below:

‘When we see any version of the ten of swords, the feelings are powerful. Whether reversed or upright, the card signals the finality of defeat. There is no way to avoid this tragedy… With that also comes the release that things can only get better and the cycle can start anew. But like with the eight and nine of swords, this release must be initiated by you.’

I wrote in response, ‘Every dark night of the soul teaches you something. I have the power to release it and not think in absolutes.’ I need to love the difficult parts of my brain chemistry, forgive myself for not being perfect and be patient if that takes me a long time to achieve. Pretty profound stuff for a free app.

The one annoyance I’ve encountered is that in the tarot database if you look up the reversed meaning of a particular card, it defaults to the reversed meaning for all the subsequent cards you look up and I can’t figure out how to reset it other than exiting the app and coming back in. Picture me sat in the gloom in front of my altar, wreathed in incense smoke, swearing and prodding angrily at my phone.

Though I’m pretty sure that’s the stark reality behind the perfectly manicured nails and wide-brimmed felt hats that populate #witchesofinstagram.

Bonus fave: WTF is Tarot? by Bakara Wintner

Bakara Wintner is the proprietor of the American pagan/witchcraft shop Everyday Magic, a tarot reader and a writer. I’m only two chapters in to this excellent guidebook, but I’ve already found it equal parts funny, helpful and blow-the-damn-roof-off insightful. She starts from the radical premise that everyone already instinctively knows how to read tarot and all you need to do is hold up the centuries-old symbolism as a mirror for what’s going on in your life and it will tell you what you need to hear. ‘The tarot does not shy away from the jagged edges of existence,’ she writes. ‘This is not some fluffy angel deck where every card is a positive affirmation, because that ain’t life, fam.’ The cards do, however, bring as much honesty and care to you as you bring to yourself.

You could use the book as a reference for the cards, but the explanations are a little long-form for that. I’m preferring to just read it cover to cover to get a sense of the flow of the deck – the cards are numbered for a reason as they do have a sequence and they tell a story. I’m especially looking forward to the author’s take on what she calls the ‘shitty cards’.

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I hope you’ve had a good November and that you’re looking after yourself. Let’s all be self care bosses together moving into December!

October favourites

For the first of my monthly features I want to do a monthly favourites post. This is part blogger/vlogger standard fare – what products, books, music etc. did I most enjoy this month – and part gratitude practice, so hopefully there’s a nice mixture of tangible and intangible things to enjoy.

October was not what I would call a spendthrift month, in that there was considerably more spending than thrift. I had spent the previous two months culling a large number of our possessions, hoping to have a more intentional relationship with my belongings, then promptly fell for the allure of the Halloween season and came out the other side looking like I’d rolled around in Wendy Beauchamp’s closet.

Guilt aside, I really love the things I chose to bring into my life this month. They jive with who I feel I am at my best. I could (and likely will at some point) go on about the real and positive influence that the prevalence of ‘girl power’ and strong female characters in the media in the 90s and early 2000s had on people my age, but something about the circa-millennial TV witch aesthetic makes me feel really, uncomplicatedly good about myself. So, without further ado, here are some of my October favourites:

Tiny witch hat pendant from Girl Burke Studios on Etsy.

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This tiny silver witch hat necklace is so sweet! It has lovely details: the inside is hollow so it looks like a real hat, there are stars engraved on the crown and the brim has a slightly rumpled look to it, which is amazing for such a tiny pendant. I’ve actually switched the chain out for a 30″ one so it hangs lower than any of my other necklaces for layering and it hits me around the solar plexus. I got it for Halloween in lieu of a full size witch hat, but I’ll definitely wear it year round!

Soy wax melt in pumpkin spice from White Witch Box (and wax burner from Etsy).

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I subscribed to the White Witch Box in September, just in time for my first box to be the Samhain/October box. It arrived full of lovely treats, including a protection spell, an obsidian chip bracelet (which I’ve been wearing most days since it arrived) and some incense. But one of my favourites is this soy wax melt. It smells of autumn and has lasted for a few hours so far, even when I broke the original disk in half. I didn’t have a wax burner so I bought this cute one from Etsy that casts little stars and a sun onto nearby surfaces.

Bonfire scented candle by Sand + Fog.

I am really enjoying this candle! It comes in a velvety black glass holder with a copper lid and on the side it reads ‘Traditionally crafted – Tastefully fragrant’. That’s a pretty apt description. I sniffed a LOT of candles on this particular shopping trip and the majority smacked you on the nose with scent. I tend to live in fear of scented candles that when lit seem to replace all the oxygen in the room with lily of the valley, but this is not one of them. The scent is unmistakably smoky; all of the delightful smells of a bonfire without any of the eye-stinging, throat-searing, stay-in-your-hair-for-days traits. I smell it less when it’s burning than when it’s not, strangely, but that’s no bad thing. Near the candle you just get the subtle smell of wood smoke without it taking over the room, with another hit of scent when you blow the candle out. I’ve been burning it every evening and I’ll definitely seek out other scents by this brand.

Sidgwick Avenue filled with autumn leaves.

In the first week of October I found myself cycling down Sidgwick Avenue in the sunshine, feeling positive. The golden and orange leaves were drifting down and collecting on the sidewalks and new arrivals to Cambridge were exploring the colleges and faculties. It was a glorious day and it made me feel so lucky to live in Cambridge.