A student told me today: 'You’re simply so awesome.' He said that last week too. 'Well good,' I was thinking. I was talking about Marxism, my favorite movie, The Life of Brian, the stoning scene in that movie, and being stoned in general. I mean, why don’t we ever vote into public office the ones that don’t wear a black suit? Ideology is a manipulation of rhetoric, some say. I believe that. All we need to do is pay attention to what words are being repeated by our politicians to get a sense of just how poor a state our thoughts and souls are in. In Denmark right now the holy cow is ‘democracy.’ Right. I run to Borges for a second opinion: “Democracy is an abuse of statistics,” he said, and he was right.
I got flowers today and a beautiful birthday card. Tomorrow I turn 45. That’s awesome enough. I look at my little fun table and enumerate the luminous things on it: A Victorian-time crystal ball next to a black tourmaline stone and a leaf skull. An antique Chinese bronze, enamelled censor, all the rage. I swear the incense smells better when it comes out of it. Next to it I have a Brazilian nut. For protection, the Brazilians say. Behind the scrying device there’s a stone filled with natural mountain crystals that my sister dragged all the way down from that witchy place, the top of Brocken in Germany. She was hiking there by night. She stumbled over the stone, picked it up, and decided that my name was written on it. When she realized how beautiful the stone was after she gave it a vigorous wash in the river the day after, she considered keeping it for herself. But then she got cold feet. You never know with those energies, and once a decision is made in that context, you don’t take anything back. The crystal ball looks on to the other crystals. My sister is good at gazing into the beyond. She is what they call ‘a natural’. Then there’s the Japanese bell that my friend with the card gave me. The sound of that can raise not only hell but some 9 heavens too. The pink Thulite stone sits next to some Samhain pumpkins and among cards. Lots and lots of cards. I’m of the opinion that if I didn’t read cards, I’d die from boredom.
The birthday card I received today makes me think of the Lenormand cards. Taken together, the Mouse, the Heart, and the Moon suggest the following: spent passion leads to stoning. My friend is good with weeds, so who knows what she had in mind when she encoded the rune stone Thurisaz in the Moon. First I thought it was Wunjo, the rune of joy, but the more I look at the faint drawing behind the silver, the more I can see it’s the rune of monsters and giants. As they say, when going to the other world by any means, if you expect to see monsters, you’ll see monsters, and if you expect to see fairies, you’ll see fairies. Perhaps that’s what the Book on the birthday card is all about. The primary meaning of the Book in the Lenormand cards is secret, not knowledge. Some kind of smoke comes out of the Book. Before the book my friend drew a spark. First I thought it was a Star, the card of inspiration, but now that I think of it, I can see it’s a spark. Try to hit two stones together and see what you get. There are definitely two red dots in the Star, so, I’d say something is going on here. And I’m not saying this because I’ve just had a huge meal that consisted of entrails – my favorite kind of food steamed to perfection in the French pressure cooker along exotic spices that can indeed induce altered states of consciousness.
Although I don’t celebrate anniversaries, tomorrow my sister and the family circus will be visiting. I think I’m going to leave everything on my magical table as is. After another day of teaching, getting everyone into divining will be a good idea. Unless, of course, another student will tell me how awesome everything is. How awesome Gertrude Stein on the reading list is, and by association, how awesome I am again. At 45, if I can allow myself to say that I can do more than feel the pain of others, then I can also look at the roses and say, everything is as it should be. Just awesome.
Note on the items:
Lenormand Oracle, Dondorf, Francfort (the purple), 1880.
Today it's my nephew's birthday. Paul turned 19. 19 adds to 10. 1+0 for new beginnings and then a jump into the void. I wish Paul all the best with making the best of it, indeed.
He called me. I didn't call him. 'I'm making a cake,' he said. 'Are you coming over?' 'No, I'm not', I said. 'I abhor anniversaries.' 'Yes, my dear auntie,' he said winking.
I sat down and read cards for him. I made a card myself. I fiddled with some filters on my iphone, and ta da, there it was, the message that I wanted to convey. Something with a castle in the sky. The key to it, and then some propulsion through space. But the key is important. It's the link to the earth.
Sometimes I spend money on ebay buying what others might call 'junk'. So I have a lot of junk in my house. I rummaged through my junk today to find a key for Paul. I did. I got this one from an archeologist working for a museum in Holland. It's from the 1300s. Old enough. A key for the castle in the sky, earthbound.
Happy birthday, Paul. I'll come to kiss you tomorrow, or some other day.
The Queen’s root is divided into five hearts. The sign of the body. Five spots are anointed and the sixth gets an extra push by the indexical finger dipped in mandrake. Opening the heart needs help. The imagination turns black on the eighth count leaving room for all on call to state their names. Chronophagoi. All-y on all-y al-kal-o-id is the mantra of the time eaters. A purple breath is behind the Queen’s back. Her earrings absorb the sense-u-al unknown. All rise for the lawless covenant. The naked and the cloaked play a game of poison.
The sky is still clear and the moon is about to rise. Up here in the North the moon is always special. Even two days after it’s been full. The events around the full moon in Norway smell good to me. And this has to do with my heightened awareness of how the material world is enriched by the spiritual world in such a way that it doesn’t allow me to think anything, but rather just practice being in the world – whatever world. Today someone wanted to know how I reconcile being a Marxist with being a shamanic diviner. As if we can claim any of these labels to ourselves. I will reproduce my answer here, and then give a concrete example.
To keep it simple, perhaps I could say this: there is no reconciliation in the sense we normally think of the word, where we think of making an effort to let two different worlds meet. What enables me to walk between the worlds – let us call these worlds the worlds of logos and mythos – is the fact that I keep the narratives that inform each world apart. I make a strict distinction between them. I do not reconcile the metaphysical with the physical. I practice being in each world as I please. I don't THINK about being in either world. I just am. I follow the rules of what works for me in each world. If anything in my PRACTICE of living approaches the idea of a reconciliation, then it is to be found in bringing things and ideas from one world into the other. This obviously presupposes that I don't THINK that what I bring from the woo-woo world into the rational world is woo. Nor vice versa.
As a Marxist I can still accept the idea that what life is all about is how to maintain being connected to all things, which is the very core of shamanism. It is of no good to me to be disconnected from my material possessions – it is still a truth that money makes the world go round, not love – any more than it is good for me to be disconnected from my sense of being in the world as a spiritual being - here, with a wink to all the atheists I know, and who are very spiritual. I don't know if this answers the question that pertains to asking why I don't offer a critique of the transcendental as I do of ideology.
But the truth of the matter is that if you stand your ground, whichever ground, you do so because you are familiar with the house rules. So, in effect, it is never the thinking that informs my living but living. Sometimes this living involves an appreciation of having a luxury cabin on top of a mountain in Norway, only so that I can get to talk to the spirits of the land. So, indeed, I never speak metaphorically when I speak about the spirit world, but in fact quite literally and without any (Marxist) remorse.
Two days ago my partner and I were roaming the mountain plateau in the Trysil area in Norway. The plateaus are the thing for me. We were going for the top. Not long into our walk, he pointed to a hawk. As it happens, I’m convinced that one of his power spirits is embodied in a hawk. This conviction is simply the result of observation. There is hardly any walk in the woods that we do together – anywhere – when the hawk doesn’t appear. And I know it doesn’t come for me, as I’m never the one who spots it first. So the hawk is his thing. We marvelled at its hovering and then we moved on. At about half the way, I caught myself smiling at the green moss, only, I also realized that it wasn’t my face I was seeing, but rather that of my dead mother. It occurred to me instantly that the full moon in August is not only associated with harvest. It is also associated with death. In traditional folklore we often encounter the idea of honoring the dead by the third full moon in summer.
As we reached the top I suggested to my partner that we place 4 stones on the highest point in honor of our dead parents. This felt good. On our descent a spectacular dance awaited us. 4 hawks were dancing in the air in a fantastic formation, where there was only one spotted earlier. One of them got very low, flying in our direction. But 4 hawks! I told my partner: ‘well, your favorite number is 4, so there you have it.’
But as it happens when one finds oneself walking between worlds almost unawares, a different awareness can set in. He said, ‘well, we did place 4 stones for our parents on the top, so don’t you think that that was enough to call on all of them here so that they can acknowledge our act?’ Indeed, it’s a good thing I live with a Marxist who is also very spiritual and not in the slightest interested in the so-called rational world.
So, in addition to what I said earlier, I think that all we need in our practice of living is to be aware of our environment; pay attention to it. That, and the fact that if we expect to see the spirits of dead people around us in the material world, then we can be sure to see them. It’s as simple as that.
Walking between worlds is not a question of what we believe, but rather a question of what we practice. If we practice awareness of our expectations, and of how each world behaves, be it physical or metaphysical, according to our expectations – then we get a lot more out of it than if we merely speculated on the conditions for the existence of each of these worlds. We live what we practice, not what we preach.
Just to get a visual in place, on the question of walking between the worlds as it was prompted by the question of reconciling between the two, I grabbed one of the numerous decks of cards I always travel with, an old fortuneteller’s Dondorf Lenormand, and asked the question: To what extent can we think of the world of logos and the world of mythos in terms of their encounter?
The Stars, The Tree, and The Bear suggest the following: The link between the metaphysical (The Stars) and the physical (The Bear) is found in the World Tree. The shamanic tree that has allowed for many a travel between the worlds in the past. There is a long tradition for such a practice. Let us honor it.
As I often think of what my father would have been like at my age – he died at 39 and I’m very close to 45 – I find myself strange places and feeling his force. Well, he worked for the armed forces, so perhaps therefore. But above all he was a mathematician. And to the surprise of a few in the family, he was also a magician. He saved my life when I was three and suffered from unexpectedly high fever coming from nowhere. When the doctors were giving up, he performed a nice folk magic ritual and vanquished the fever on the spot. I still remember his pose over a glass of water in which he had extinguished three matches. He made me drink that water, and abracadabra, all returned to normal. One of the other few memories I have is our discussion about what to become. He wanted me to become a teacher at the university. His wish came to pass, for, although he died when I was 8, I never forgot what he wanted me to do.
But these days I think of all sorts of teaching that I do outside of the university, and which also brings me most joy. Perhaps the reason why I find this more joyous is because I don’t have to do it for a living. My cartomancy website Taroflexions is an example of such teaching, where I try to say something useful about reading cards - even though, god only knows, I probably exhibit there the same presumptuousness and arrogance as I do in my day job. As they say, a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do. Positions of real power are rarely available to us.
With this in mind, I would have liked to ask my father about power and women in positions of power but without any real access to it. You can ask me. I know all about it.
So yesterday, as I was climbing a little mountain in Norway to see a stone from the ice-age landing in the middle of nowhere, I was thinking of my father. Once I reached the top I saw a circle of stones near the big stone. The historians don’t quite know what to make of it. Some say it’s a burial ground from the stone age, some say it’s a sacrificial place, in which case it can go back some 5000 years. Be that as it may. As I was inhabiting the circle, with the big monolith behind me, I picked up a round pebble from the ground.
This was a most precious gift, as it gave me the idea to search for some other 23 and make a rune set. I had just bought an antique little box from a local shop, and somehow the idea of making it the house of 24 new rune stones, which, however, have lived close to a very old stone, seemed appropriate. I rather enjoyed making this set, and I was keen to see it at work here in the wilderness.
I posed a question about competence. I wanted to know wherein my best competence lies, and what I can use it for. I guess this springs out of the perennial self-check with reality, especially when I, like most, fancy doing something else for a living that’s very little related to what I am also fortunate enough to possess, namely a job that gives me plenty money and plenty to think about. I won’t focus on the hassle aspect as we find that in everything else too.
I cast all the runes on the table – this is what I like to do best, namely use all the stones, and here’s what the stones say.
The strong cluster in the middle formed by Fehu, Kenaz, and Thurisaz, tells me this:
I have financial strength and control over my property (Fehu). So my competence lies within the ability to manage my estate (if I can call it that, as it’s not that grand). What I do for a living is teach (Kenaz) – surprise, surprise. I use the torch to illuminate the path of others. But this torch is also made of a burning fire, for indeed, who wants to hear the truth? Truth is never popular, and as I have a habit or spelling it out (Thurisaz), more often than not what is illuminating is also very discomforting. Thurisaz, the rune of giants and trolls is not one you want to find landing in your lap. Thor’s hammer is sacred to Loki, the trickster, who both covets it and fears its force. So, from this cluster I can conclude that my best competence is to speak loudly a truth that comes out of personal conviction. The horse rune here, Ehwaz, touching the cluster, and especially Fehu, the rune of wealth, enforces the idea that that although my convictions are personal they are also consecrated. You hear a message, or you have a message, you don’t just leave it there, but rather bring it forth in an institutionalized setting.
Ehwaz here is also the link to the next cluster that almost forms a circle. These stones are not as close to each other, but they definitely have something to say that’s very coherent. Algiz, the Elk rune of protection aspires to create a link to the spiritual in its manifest form. This rune is opposite Ansuz, the shaman’s rune, or the rune of the spiritual leader. Sacred to Odin, the god of wind and spirit, Ansuz is the rune of language. The symbol must be translated into coherent speech, so it can properly mediate between the uncontrolled forces of Hagalaz, the rune of hail and destruction, and Jera, the rune of harvest, accomplishment and generosity.
Together they tell me that the disturbing teachings I’m doing prepare the ones who bother to listen, not so much for how to avoid destruction and accept the cycle of tides, but more for how to honor the destructive powers in nature insofar as they always lead to light.
An almost hidden rune, but still facing up in alignment with Hagalaz and Jera is Sowilo at the end of the tunnel, the sun rune, suggesting the idea that there is life force, hope and attainment outside of all that necessitates the call for protection and the investment of energy in conflicting forces.
On the far axis to Wunjo, the rune of joy, we find Uruz, the rune of the wild ox, standing for all the wild, raw, and creative power. Uruz is also in alignment with Thurizaz, which enforces the untamed and frightful nature of Uruz as a stuborn, undomesticated force. Leaving from Wunjo, the only far off rune in this cast, and acting here more as a satellite for everything else, we can see how Uruz is also aligned with Kenaz, Fehu and Ehwaz. So there’s a direct line from pure joy to pure wildness that resists being contained within the culture world.
The bottom line would be to say that while my best competence lies within giving off passionately from what I have, and however violently (Kenaz, Fehu, Thurisaz), what backs me up in my endeavor is the wisdom of knowing (Ansuz to Kenaz) when to back off (Ansuz to Hagalaz), and when to act from a defended space with view to restoring peace and balance (Algiz to Jera). See here how the central runes form a boat.
I have no idea what my father would make of all this, but I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t regret my not teaching mathematics in favor of talking about stones, and wind, and ice-age old divination.
Note on the rune stones: Self-made from stones surrounding the ice-age stone at Lundkvassberget in Norway in an antique Norwegian box from 1880. I make magical things like this for friends and others on special request.
Note on the post: This was first published on Taroflexions, my cartomantic and divination website, but as it has a bit of a memoir in it, written in the same style as other texts on Fragments, I reproduced it here as well in its entirety. For more readings of the sort described here - especially cards - you are welcome to visit the appropriate website.
Love in symmetry is a mysterious dance. A dance of stars. The crossing hearts are marking the spot, fetching the X. The coup de grâce on behalf of the cross blows the breath saying: let there be light and love and a strong body.
The spell be impaled.
IMAGE: Camelia Elias, Spell on black tourmaline with bones, ink on paper, 2013
Frigg: Oh, you also walk barefoot like me?' Camelia: You bet. Frigg: Cool. What are we playing then? Camelia: The barefoot dance. Frigg: Who's singing? Camelia: You are. Frigg: wooooow, wow, wow, wow, wooooow, wow, wow.
The sorceress can file a claim for herself. She
is this and she is that. With the grace of a Wudang warrior she gazes into the
cauldron: All appearance. In reality she is nothingness hiding in someone’s
The sequoia angel is tough and soft. Reddish and warm like a
Viking’s beard. The sequoia angel has a head full of mantras. The sequoia angel
has roots in the thermal source. The one Hercules blessed. We meet in the
underground, the angel and I. But first we have to pass through the guardian of
the woods. The one with a strong chin and a sulking face. The maidens that
never grow old serve him. ‘The gift of nature,’ he says, ‘is the greatest gift.
Don’t waste your time looking for presents. Give earth to the earth, and ashes
to ashes. Make symmetry flow and smell the green path. And listen. Wherever you
go I go.’
La Multi Ani, Bent, from Herculane, the source
of many things.
The brown spot in the middle of the white block below is where I live. What makes the brown spot is the blinds. All solid wood and custom made. When I moved in and said, 'I need my house in the woods', the neighbours were all looking with suspicion. It helps that I come from Romania where everyone is crazy, so I'm allowed to be crazy. The neighbours all went for the black and white aesthetics. People are so civilized in Denmark. No trace of gypsyhood or some other dubious ethnicity is welcome. The interior must be white and black in a Danish home - more often than not anyhow - or some white and some black, or some black lines framing some personally taken black and white photography. The black and white is an individual expression. If you have books, it's better that they are in the basement, or else they ruin the black and white fashion. Black plastic is popular too. Mainly because it can be mistaken for wood. 'Only rich asholes can afford real wood,' some Danes conjecture, 'or the gypsies who have no sense of culture and color.' 'Look at that circus,' the Danes go, when spotting shades of black approaching some occult manifestation when red and purple is also in the vicinity. Most of my neighbours in my block sport white, flimsy ribbon-like shredding over their windows. I've started noticing all this from the distance especially since I've started walking the dog. It's amazing how much culture you get to see while another creature is taking a pee. I can see how my brown concoction for the big windows rather ruins the uniformity of the Danish landscape. I feel guilty for bringing my house in the woods in an apartment, and in such a clandestine way. I can feel how the black and white individuality and sign of good taste envelops me, and when my neighbour across from my apartment flings her door open just as I turn the key into my keyhole, I realize fully how mistaken I am about my ways. An army of children come out of her place and with her door swung wide open a sea of black and white lines is about to swallow me. But the dog saves me: Ah, the sweet sound of redemption. 'Giddy, giddy, doggy, doggy. Such lovely black and white wolfie.' Yes. I knew I could get it right. Yes. 23 years in Denmark have not gone in vain. Thank you thank you. I now know everything. Thank you black and white culture. How very exciting to be here.
Good Friday begins with the dog, first jumping on the bed for the ritual morning kiss and then with stepping outside on the porch. It snows and it freezes. But we are both naked on the porch. The tall trees salute us and we salute them. The sun approves of these salutations. The snowflakes envelop our bodies. They melt on my nakedness while the dog’s fur retains them in their full glory; for a moment. We get dressed and have coffee. I get dressed and I have coffee. The dog watches me. She makes a sign towards the woods. ‘Come now, what do you need all these clothes for?’ I tell her that since it’s Good Friday, I have to be decent for church. We step into it. Nature greets us, and we go searching for special branches. We find some with mushrooms on them. Frigg helps me break them into sizable pieces. I find an altar and start preaching: ‘The thing itself…’ Frigg wags her tail and nods. At the sounds of the church bells nearby we decide to pose for a photo shoot. The camera clicks on automatic setting, and we forget what we came here for. Is it a wedding? The thing itself. Not the idea of the thing. The thing itself. Anthony Johnson instructed his people and me on the significance of the thing itself exactly a year ago in Turku. I did the same 3 days ago. I teach, that’s what I do, though not everyone gets it. Anthony said: The alchemical marriage tells us something about the thing itself. But the thing itself is without significance. It’s a portrait of nature with white hair.
The full moon after the equinox promises to solve the staff problem. The morning in the fountain lays the tracks for searching. The trees must be down already. Their spirit must await me. The dog leads the way and I feel my hands becoming those of a carpenter’s. Two staffs are found, one migrant one vibrant. The peel comes off easily. The tools are perfect for this, even though this is not a place where I expect to find such things. The job is done after hours of hand-work outside in the winter sun. Time to test the staffs. The Tuva singers Huun-Huur-Tu already spot the staffs’ powers while I finish their smooth surface off with olive oil. The winds gather. The spirit of 40 gathers. The underground answers the shaman’s call after the beat. This is when I notice that the short and thinner staff is heavier than the tall and thicker staff. Spirit work has a different type of gravitas than we normally know of. The staffs are milky and pure, and my thoughts go out to the one who gets it.