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Alchemical Tantric Astrology interview with Fredrick “Rico” Hamilton Baker

Alanna: Hello there! Thank you so much for doing this interview for Musing Mystical. After reading Alchemical Tantric Astrology, I feel like I understand myself in a whole new way. I really gained a lot from the book, and believe it’s truly the future of astrology, so it’s a real pleasure to chat with you.

Rico: Thank you Alanna for your interest in ATA.  I feel blessed to have someone with your depth of interest and understanding to read my book.  You are the perfect reader and to hear that it has touched you so deeply personally is especially rewarding.  Since we are all participating in the monumental shift of the Great Ages from Pisces to Aquarius, I would like to think, as you mention, that ATA will play a role in this major shift.  As you know, Aquarius and its rulers, Saturn and Uranus, play a primary part in the first Hermetic house, awakening the Cosmic Serpent at the Root Chakra.

Alanna: Yes! I absolutely love how you reframe the astrological seasons, sharing information about Aquarius as the first Hermetic House. This is something I really resonated with, yet I feel like it’s *hidden* information. What aspects of Aquarius energy make it the point in this system?

Rico: Aquarius contains many hints about awakening, especially in relation to Capricorn.  Aquarius time contains the beginning of Spring and in the language of the seasons puts the emphasis on waking up from Capricorn’s dark winter.  Aquarius is associated with surprising Uranus and its radioactive alchemical metal uranium, which compares to Capricorn’s serious Saturn and alchemical metal lead. Most telling is the fact that when the planetary rulers of the twelve signs of the zodiac are arranged in their natural order, Capricorn and Aquarius relate to Saturn, which becomes the bottom of the ATA chart and relate to the first Root Chakra in the Tantric Chakra system. It does seem rather “hidden” and I often refer to the ATA system as “Hidden in Plain Sight” because when we look at the natural zodiac and its rulers, the dual rulership order seems so obvious.  It seems only natural to put the zodiac in the order of the ATA system with Capricorn and Aquarius on the bottom and Cancer and Leo on the top so that they line up in perfect order with the seven planets, seven alchemical metals, and seven chakras. 

Alanna: Well speaking of beginnings, maybe I should start by asking more about your astrological career. What drew you to astrology and what’s maintained your interest for so long?

Rico: I would have to say that “It’s in the Stars.”  Double Scorpio loves penetrating to the core, and Virgo Rising, ruled by Hermes/Mercury in an air sign and the third house is a definite set-up.  Ha!

In the mid-1960s, transiting Uranus met up with Transiting Pluto in my natal first house of identity and I dropped applying for Dental schools and instead transferred to U.C. Santa Cruz, a new experimental campus of the University of California, and started over taking all the subjects I was now finding most interesting: Psychology, Philosophy, and Religious Studies. I found Carl Jung and his writing about Astrology fascinating  and had my chart done by the local iconic astrologer, who helped me get started by providing basic training wheels, and off I went. 

A chance opportunity to attend a workshop with Dane Rudhyar put me over the edge, by seeing what was Possible. I took quite a few courses in Psychology and thought that I might get into counselling, but fortunately found Astrology much more interesting. I just plain love astrology, but in another sense Astrology found me and has not let go. Humans and cycles are totally enthralling for me.

Alanna: I completely agree! I too transitioned from studying psychology to becoming an astrologer. I saw in your website biography that you studied Archetypal Psychology with James Hillman – a true legend! Do you have any memorable stories of Hillman?

Rico: I have been very blessed with great teachers.  In this case, I was in a Master’s class in psychology that was focusing on Carl Jung because the professor, Gorgen Tappan, was a Jungian therapist. As a class we got fascinated by Hillman’s book Revisioning Psychology and couldn’t stop, which led to reading everything we could find by Hillman.  Word got to Hillman that there was this Master’s class in sunny California that was going crazy over his work and somehow things got arranged so that he became our visiting professor.  I took a really long time writing my master’s thesis so that I could continue participating in his classes for several years. We got to hang out with him in many venues, e.g., I really enjoyed our informal dream groups and other small group meetings.

It is somewhat embarrassing, but I was constellated as the person who asked him the most challenging questions, so he once referred to me as a “bring down.”  At the time I considered this a compliment of sorts, being called a “bring down” by Mr. Depth Psychology himself.  Ha!  I was a smart ass Puer to his serious Senex. I enjoyed watching when his brilliant wife, Patricia Berry, on a few occasions had challenging dialogs with James.

My personal Scorpio response to his Aries persona aside, I was deeply affected by these fortunate years focused on Hillman’s ideas, perhaps most memorably by themes such as Psychology as Soul Making; the dialog of Soul and Spirit; multi-perspective vs. literal interpretation; and his original unique interpretations of myth, alchemy, and current events, etc., etc.

Alanna: Wow! I love these stories. I’m always reading Hillman, and imagining you there with him, challenging him nonetheless, really cracks me up. Then your thesis was titled “Hermes: Logos of Psyche” —  I have quite a few questions in regard to it!  Were you already studying astrology when you wrote it? Did doing research on Hermes impact the way you look at this planet/archetypal energy in an astrology chart? Can you tell us a bit about your thesis?

Rico: I was already involved with astrology when Hillman came on the scene in our Psychology M.A. program at Sonoma State University, and the application of Archetypal Psychology to the mythology of signs and planets was seamless.  At that time I began a rough version of the twelve signs of the zodiac from the perspective of Archetypal Psychology.

Hermes/Mercurius was a natural focus not only due to the influence of Jung and alchemy, but for the accent on Mercury in my natal chart and for the association of Mercury as the ruler of Astrology in general. I look especially closely at Mercury in a person’s chart, since it reflects on their all-important use of language, and I am keen to notice the archetype that Mercury expresses in every chart I encounter.

My master’s thesis, “Hermes: Logos of Psyche” basically takes on the task of showing how the many myths about Hermes/Mercury demonstrate a privileged position in Psychology (as the Logos of Psyche).  So I focused especially on the myths of Psyche and Eros and the philosophical psychology of Logos, along with the extended myths and history of Hermes and the hermetic tradition. Included was a section on Hermes and the hermetic tradition as connected to astrology, where I gave an introduction to the two signs ruled by Mercury, Gemini and Virgo. Two signs, by the way, which are highly accented in my natal chart.

As for the Logos part, I bring in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger and his thought regarding hermeneutical phenomenology, which has a connection to Hermes’ archetype as translator. Hermeneutics is the philosophy of interpretation and translation, especially of biblical texts. Although the thesis was written for the M.A. program, it built upon the exceptional undergraduate program of Humanistic Psychology I was privileged to attend at U.C. Santa Cruz.  Most notable in this regard were classes with Norman O. Brown and his books, Hermes The Thief and Love’s Body.

Alanna: Wow. Mercury is one of my favorite planets, and I’m always digging deeper into the archetype. This work sounds amazing – and I will be checking out those books and ideas you mentioned. Now, I think your reading style, which integrates wisdom from many sources, is very impressive. Your website states, “My form of interpretation relies heavily on humanistic and archetypal astrology, gender-balance, and some references to occult traditions such as numerology, alchemy, and yoga.” What are some things that catch your attention the most when doing a chart reading, how do you determine what aspects to focus on?

Rico: Interpretation is a hermetic art, as briefly touched upon above.  Understanding astrology as a language and the astrologer as a translator offers a wonder-full way into chart interpretation.  Hermes as messenger and translator is on a way to language.  Martin Heidegger has this beautiful thought about the deep Greek meaning of Logos or word or language as a Way or Path through the forest that opens now and again on an opening that reveals.

I like to see the astrologer as an artist who is practicing with all his tools as a painter practices painting over and over until it is no longer an effort.  I do not feel that I need to think about what tools to choose. Translation has similarities with magic as the word and image are creative.

Alanna: How have your unique experiences contributed to your astrological understanding that you put forth in the ATA system?

Rico: Perhaps we can envision two streams coming together in ATA.  One is all the study of astrology and listening to astrology teachers that accumulates knowledge, like the upward inhalation.  The other stream is the downward exhalation that simplifies and eventually completely empties.  This second stream is practiced by yoga and meditation and helps the astrologer to sense the subtle meanings.  Both of these streams are important for all astrologers, but especially in ATA where the ultimate goal is aligning with the cosmic cycles or universal breath. 

Alanna: I know developing the ATA system has been a journey of many years, what inspired you to finally write the book now?

Rico: There are actually no beginnings to the circle but we can look back and see how the various parts of the book were coming together over the years. Specifically the study and practice of astrology on one hand and the study and practice of yoga on the other hand. I was inspired to write articles to send out via email and to make introductory pieces on the signs and planets. I taught a few classes here and there and in my meditation and dreams (a friend calls it “Night School) the questions and answers started to coalesce. 

In one way of looking at the process it was seemingly aiming for the big 2020 era transit of the Chiron/Kundalini portal at the cusp of Capricorn and Aquarius.  My collection of writings was starting to look more like a book and I turned automatically to North Atlantic Books in Berkeley CA since they had published previous books (Prenatal Yoga and Conscious Conception).  When I approached Richard Grossinger personally he liked what he saw and pointed me towards Inner Traditions, and they were also interested so a contract was signed and the publishing process began in earnest.

As an astrological aside, I have found that the transit of Saturn around my natal chart correlates strongly with my social introversion and extroversion.  I have been having Saturn transit the quarter of my natal 4th, 5th, and 6th houses and it appears that I am once again becoming more visible socially.  When Saturn enters Pisces and pops above the horizon, it will likely become easier to present the book to a larger audience.  If I live long enough to see Saturn and Uranus meet my natal Uranus at the midheaven, then the book could be socially successful.

Alanna: Do you ever feel like your ATA sets you at odds with other astrologers? Or do you feel like it is usually well-received by others in the field?

Rico:  The book has not yet had enough exposure to receive much attention from other well-known astrologers with the exception of Barbara Hand Clow, who absolutely raved about how much she loves it.  Other astrologers who are friends have been very positive and supportive.  The book will be in the hands of several other respected astrologers soon, and I am hoping for the best.  The fact is that I do not see ATA in opposition to other forms of astrology.  I see ATA best utilized as an addition to standard astrology.  The natal chart is primary.

Alanna: What were your favorite and least favorite parts of your writing journey? How did you synthesize such wide bodies of knowledge into this applicable, innovative system?

Rico:  I love to read and write.  Remembering my natal Pluto and Mercury emphasis on depth and breadth, it has all come very naturally.

Alanna: Do you have any recommendations for someone wishing to learn more about alchemy? Tantra? Astrology? Perhaps a book suggestion?

Rico: The annotated bibliography in my ATA book should do the job quite nicely.  For a unique treatment of all the above I would recommend my former wife, Jeannine Parvati’s and my book Conscious Conception: Elemental Journey through the Labyrinth of Sexuality.  It is out of print but quite a few are kicking around the net, and I still have a few new ones for sale.

Alanna: A specific question I had about the ATA system is how would you characterize the difference between the upward energy of Aquarius-Leo and the downward energy of Virgo-Capricorn. Now that we’ve entered Virgo season, I am wondering what shifts I might be on the lookout for.

Rico:  This is a very good and potentially far-reaching question.  Basically I view the phenomenal world as dualistic and everything is alive and like the breath, inhaling and exhaling.  As the alchemical dictum goes: “As above, so below.”  The upward accumulating energy is like the in-breath and the downward distributing energy is like the out-breath.  Likewise the transit of every planet, galaxy, and super-galaxy.

The complete process of breathing contains a time of full lungs connected in ATA with the signs Cancer and Leo and of empty lungs related to Capricorn and Aquarius.  These two times of relative calmness have the potential of silent oneness or nonduality, which might be termed enlightenment, symbolized in Tantra as sexual union or in Alchemy as the divine marriage of Silver and Gold. The seven signs and seven chakras lead upward from Aquarius in terms of the Spirit and ascension, whereas the five signs from Virgo downward are related to the Soul (as per James Hillman and Soul/Spirit).  Myths related to ascension might be Jupiter and Juno, or Dionysis and Ariadne, while the downward path might be related to Shiva and Kali or Pluto and Persephone as king and queen of the Underworld.  The present transit of Pluto, king of the underworld, over this Root under-worldly portal at the end of Capricorn is highly charged!

Looking at Mercury as ruler, the upward sign of Gemini is the home of a Mercury/Hermes who is the alchemical minister acting to bring together the Sun and Moon in the divine marriage; whereas Mercury/Hermes as ruler of the downward sign of Virgo acts as psychopomps, carrying the Soul to the Underworld. As the inner planets (including Mars) recently transited the upper Crown portal and celebrated the alchemical marriage, the resulting insights, symbolized by the alchemical amalgam, handed off the fruits of their union to the Virgin of the Harvest in the sign of Virgo.  Each cycle is different, but every year at harvest time we feel the energy shift from the fixed highs of solar Leo to the mutable metal Mercury moving downward with the noticeably less solar energy of Fall/Autumn.

Alanna: Wow! That imagery you provided about planetary energy within the inhale-exhale metaphor really helped me to connect with the concept in a new way. How do you feel an ATA reading differs from a standard Western tropical reading? Can one type of reading provide information the other can’t? What might a client want to consider when deciding which reading to select?

Rico: Ideally I recommend the two being done together, understanding the natal chart and major transits is an excellent precursor to looking at the ATA chart, then the ATA chart is most useful as a supplement.  The whole process ideally refers back to the natal chart.

The ATA chart adds another dimension or several more dimensions but is still expanding on the natal chart which is the essence.  The ATA chart adds the alchemical and tantric metaphors which ultimately can assist with healthful and enlightening resonance with the universal breath.

I am working on a book (very slowly again) about the Five Pillars of Yoga.  All five (Advaita Vedanta, Ashtanga Yoga, Ayurveda, Astrology, and Vastu) help us to attune to the natural order of the cosmos.  So many of the vibrations in the world today are random and arbitrary and therefore out of tune and this is not optimal.  The ATA chart can be very helpful to bring many of our vibrations in tune with the natural cycles, especially of the planets, but also in relation to sounds, colors, geometric forms, etc. 

Alanna: Oh, I certainly feel the out-of-sync vibrations, and find so far ATA has helped me to readjust to natural cycles. This is at the heart of why I practice astrology — to re-attune to the natural cycles of both Earth and the planets. And, Rico, another book on the horizon? What a joy for readers! Please keep us updated about its progress.

Switching subjects a bit, I know that you’ve written extensively on the astrological significance of 2012. Alchemical Tantric Astrology also delves into the current transit of Pluto. What do you foresee  being major trends in the upcoming astrological climate? What advice do you have for the general public about what lies ahead?

Rico:  I suspect that you meant the year 2020, but actually both years, 2012 and 2020, are important in ATA because of the emphasis on the sign Capricorn, which in ATA is pointing to completion.  2020 had such a large number of important transits across this potent portal that I was certain we would see major changes.  And yes, Pluto is the big player still to transit this point.  Since Pluto/Hades is the divinity of the apocalypse and King of the Underworld, I think that we will once again experience monumental changes. Pluto is also completing the American Revolution cycle of 250 years, returning to his place as he was in 1776!  We can certainly expect that the tension we feel presently in this country will continue and likely grow in intensity over the next few years.  A 250 years big cycle still needs to bottom out.

In 2023 and 2024 Pluto will transit direct and retrograde over the cusp between Capricorn and Aquarius that symbolically is associated in ATA with the release of powerful energy for transformation.  This energy, which in some ways can be associated with what is called kundalini in yoga, can be highly positive for evolution, however it affects everyone differently and some who do not understand it  tend to feel it is threatening and disorienting. When Pluto enters Aquarius to stay in 2024, all the major outer planets will be on the upward accumulating side of the ATA chart, suggesting, as mentioned above, energy relating to the in-breath, generally uplifting and refreshing.

This passage is another major one of many indications that the 2160 year Great Age of Pisces is ending and the Age of Aquarius is approaching. There are reasons to believe that this major shift will have accompanying turmoil.  The Age of Pisces has had a large share of powerful teachers and saviors that may be problematic to release.  Meanwhile, although Aquarius has its brilliant and positive frontside, it also has its share of negative aspects in its backside, perhaps most notably, runaway technology. With Aquarius as the first awakening sign of Alchemical Tantric Astrology, I like to think of ATA as an appropriate form of astrology for the approaching Great Age of Aquarius.  I think and feel that the amazing transits we have been experiencing, as the planets have entered Aquarius and begin a new cycle and Cosmic Inhalation, are making important contributions to this larger shift of the new Great Age.

Alanna: This information is a wonderful guide to think about what might lay ahead. Thank you so much for this interview, Rico! It’s been wonderful chatting with you!

Rico:  This has been a totally enjoyable and revealing experience for me too.  Your excellent questions have helped me to explore new realms.  You are welcome and Thank You!

For those who are interested, you can learn more about Rico and his work at his website.

Interview with Intuitive Author Natalia Clarke

“Natalia Clarke is a transpersonal psychotherapist, writer, poet, nature lover and intuitive practitioner. Her interests lie in human psyche, transformation, nature spirituality, spiritual self-awareness, earth-based spiritual practice, Scotland and UK travel. She is a fiction and non-fiction writer and a poet with a passion for nature, Scotland, emotions and magic. She writes about intuitive living, magical practice, nature spirituality and soul relationship with the land.”1

After reading Natalia’s most recently book, Intuitive Magic Practice, I experienced an huge shift that reconnected me to my intuition. Her gentle guidance and experience-based wisdom brought me right back into center, and since then I’ve been prioritizing maintaining receptivity to my inner voice. As much of the book is written from her perspective as both a psychotherapist and experienced intuitive practitioner, I wanted to find out a bit more of Natalia’s thoughts and insights. I had a few questions on mind about Natalia’s practice and advice, and I was absolutely delighted when she agreed to do an interview for Musing Mystical.

What are some of your earlier memories of feeling connected to your spiritual self?

Ever since I was very young, I felt like I was a part of nature. Whenever I was in the forest, I became a tree; when I was swimming, I was a part of it. When I laid on the ground or walked barefoot, I felt at home. It is that feeling of belonging to the wild and natural that felt like nothing else; expansive and joyous, which we now might call a spiritual experience. 

One of my earliest memories is running through summer rain with my mother, barefoot and soaked through. I still remember the feeling of warm rain on my body and that felt very otherworldly to me and completely natural. Other instances I recollect are fishing on a river in remote places in early hours of the morning with my father. The silence felt incredible with spirit all around. 

How does your intuition speak to you?

Often my experiencing intuition at play would be either auditory, visionary or a feeling/sensation in my energy feel or in the body. Auditory can be a sound, a birdsong, a whoosh of wind. Sounds would be followed by an image or a color, for example. With all of that there will be a feeling that speaks through me and I feel it physically. It is not necessarily an emotion, but a sense, a nudge and then a narrative would unfold through words or a poem would be put together (I write poetry intuitively). It depends what intuition is there to serve. This is how it is with magic or a message coming through that relates either to myself or someone else, or a project of some sort. In life I do check-ins with myself on how things feel whenever I need guidance or help deciding or starting something. 

Do you have a practice for when you start feeling disconnected from your intuition?

Intuition is not something one connects to once you learn to live and function that way naturally through practice. Intuition will always be there whether we are aware of it or not. Sometimes we are aware but ignore it and other times we might not be aware, because we are not used to operating via our emotional/psychic system and use our habitual ‘mind’ modes of living.

What I have learnt is that intuition is always there, it has always been there, and it can be used as a skill, a tool to navigate your world, including practicing magic.  Once allowed it speaks to you rather than you speak to it, if it makes sense, so I cannot say one disconnects from it rather there are periods of silence, rest when you don’t experience a message, a sign, a voice. In those periods I don’t do anything. I wait when it comes. I speak about doing things when I am called in my book. I am what I call a Witch-in-waiting, waiting to serve once I am spoken to, directed, but this is another topic on how traditional witchcraft might work.

What role do you feel creativity has in intuitive magic?

Creativity is a big part of magic generally, but particularly in intuitive form of practice. It is that playful part of you, an artist in you that gets engaged and the whole thing comes alive be it a spell, a ritual, an offering. Creativity can be introduced with incorporating drawings, words (poems, devotionals, incantations, and spells) or making something – an altar set-up or a spell preparation and choosing your objects. Creativity brings intuitive magic to life and makes it colorful and meaningful and individual to you. 

How do you prioritize self-care in your life?

The answer is intuitively. Either my intuition, my body, my emotional or a mental state would always tell me when I need to slow down and by this point in my life it can come with very specific instructions on what I need to do and how to take care of myself in that moment. I never not listen, and I just follow the message.

It can be via my physical body manifesting some symptoms and slowing me down (this one is often when things get bad, which is not often these days). It can be a dream with a clear message or a voice saying, ‘not today’ (auditory). Restlessness often tells me I need to stop too. Generally having your self-awareness switched on (mindfulness is another way of describing it) at all times, which comes naturally over time with practice, will be helpful. 

How does nature support you in your spiritual practice?

Nature is everything to me. Everything in nature makes sense. I make sense, my life does, my relationships do, and it provides deep meaning for me. I was born to witness nature, that’s my reason for being here, I often think. This might be a cliché, but I can not survive without it and often experience feelings of profound grief when I either have to leave wilderness or when I don’t have any nature around me. I become numb, disconnected, and bereft. I am sensitive to the sounds of trees being cut and would spend days in a state of anxiety. 

What advice do you have for those hoping to reconnect to their intuition?

My advice would be to give it a try. Trust that you know the answers you seek, and you have always known. You cannot fail and can only learn and grow. Treat it with curiosity. It wants you to hear yourself and give yourself a chance. Intuition is of you and about you. It is centered in the heart of things and waiting to help. 

How do you feel psychology and magic can support one another?

The main thing is awareness. As it is with psychology of making unconscious conscious it is with magic when we are aware of intuition and let it speak, it helps us know ourselves better, what we do and why, it helps us see the patterns of our defenses and behavior. It is being present with intention. Why do we do what we do? Both psychology and magic provide deep understanding and acceptance of ourselves (strengths and limitations, all of it) and every witch must know her own depth and weaknesses and, therefore, embracing the whole. Psychological work is about ‘making whole’, coming back home to yourself once you learn things and choose not to judge and instead become curious and accepting of all that you are. 

Has your intuition ever guided you to do something that was totally different than what your mind was saying?

This is very often the case due to our conditioning; I believe. It is also the reason why people dismiss intuition so quickly, as the mind can be a powerful master. Our thought patterns can be so ingrained in our psyche that it feels impossible and even fooling to even consider operating in any other way. The mind will always seek to take over, because that is what we are used to, trained into doing.

However, mind is only as powerful as we give it credit and it is in many ways automatic. It doesn’t have the ability to discern like heart/intuition can. The mind only does what it knows to do repeatedly and that is where training yourself into feeling and sensing comes in rather than continuing to use thinking/mind alone. This is a big topic with a lot of psychology behind it and an interesting area to explore for all of us to understand mind vs heart, thinking vs feeling, logical vs spontaneous and creative.

What I did over time when studying and practicing was pay attention, not automatically dismissing ‘other ways’ and potentially changing the course of acting based on something different. It can be useful to learn to use both, they both have value, but when one is in power and control all the time and the other is silenced, it is difficult. A lot of work needs to be done to understand how the mind works and allow the intuitive side to participate too before they can be brought together to serve the same purpose – helping us live a fulfilling life. 

Why do you think creating a spiritual practice based upon intuition, as opposed to set rules or ritual, is so refreshing to one’s spirit? 

It is honoring what you already know, what your soul always knew, and spirit always supported. It is different and refreshing because it promotes giving yourself a chance to play a part and if rituals and rules can support and include it then it is even better. It is inclusive, as I know sometimes, we might feel we must follow, we should do this and that because it is the rule and someone else said this and that. We might not want to be seen differently or daring or ‘out of the circle’, so to speak, which links in with how we learn to behave psychologically as children, for example. It takes practice and experience and enjoying the journey of exploring both – the traditional and unique and making the whole thing your own. 

What is your favorite thing about writing a book?

I love the intuitive element to writing. Sometimes you think you go one way and then it takes you in another. Ideas flash and exploration begins. Characters or concepts take on a life of their own and, as a writer, you follow. I like how alive and immersive the process is. It is an interesting way of expressing yourself and sharing experiences. When I write I have no concept of time and space, nothing else exists and I love that. When writing this book, I felt joy being able to share my ways of practicing and show the element of exploration, curiosity, and play that can go into it.  

What is the most challenging part of being an author?

Writing is hard work and a balancing act of so many things. The challenge is to convey the message you intended and be sure and satisfied that you expressed and said all that was relevant and important and hope the audience would find it inspiring, helpful, and interesting. Writing is challenging, but also a rewarding creative and often spiritual experience like no other. 

Can you tell us a bit more about your next book, Baba Yaga, coming in December 2021?

This book was written completely intuitively, which makes it one of those glorious projects for me as a writer. I wrote it via listening to the deity. She spoke through me, which was challenging, as she speaks in codes and symbols and a different language all together. I enjoyed the challenge of translating the message and putting it across in a way she would approve of. In many ways I had no choice in this, as I was asked to do it by her and hope it comes across as material that you would not find in fairy tales or traditional sources. This book is about what Baba Yaga wanted to say herself rather than what has been told about her since the beginning of time. It is a devotional and personal understanding of the deity in a book that suggests a way of working with her.

A channeled Baba Yaga book? Wowza! This sounds amazing. I look forward to reading this one as well! If you would like to stay in touch with Natalia, you can follow her blog: https://rawnaturespirit.com/. Intuitive Magic Practice will be released on May 1, 2021; you can purchase a copy here.

8 Tarot Cards To Improve Your Finances

Money and mysticism go hand in hand, although sometimes in a dispirited mindset we forget that. At its core, the flow of money is the flow of energy. What better tool to tap into this current than tarot cards? Not only can you get to the root of money block, you can also manifest sacred abundance by getting acquainted with the energies at play in your financial life. By calling in certain archetypal energies, you begin to align yourself with their unique wisdom and create this resonance into your own life. Here’s a list of 8 (power number in numerology!) tarot cards that you can work with to enhance your financial situation.

Discover your creativity with the Knight of Wands

The number one block to creativity is thinking things need to be done “a certain way” or you must be a professional in order to truly make art. This is a bunch of hocus locus and calling on the energy of the Knight of Wands can bring you the reckless abandonment needed to overcome the blocks of “I’m not enough” to rediscover your passion. When you are humming with the vibrancy of creative possibilities and singing the tune of the ever expansive universe, you naturally draw to you opportunities that are spiritually abundant. The material realm follows the cues of the spiritual realm and awakening your creativity it the quickest way to release stagnant energy and put you back in creative control of the masterpiece that is your life.

Strengthen your financial discipline with the Emperor

The next step your path to money success is to strength your financial discipline, and who better to help out than the regal, rule-regulating emperor to form those boundaries? Calling on the energy of the Emperor makes you think twice about “only spending $20..” to make more frugal choices. The best way to draw on the will power of the Emperor is to keep this card some place where you’ll see it daily. Perhaps on an dress in your room, the coffee table in the living room, or even the background of your phone. His stern gaze will quickly remind you of you task of redirecting your money flow into meaningful savings and investments.

Contemplate savings and investments with the 8 of Pentacles

One you’ve reigned in your spending habits a bit, it’s time to start thinking long-term. The 8 of Pentacles invites in the patience and dedication needed to establish long-term financial security. It’s tough when you’re in the prime of life to be thinking about retirement. You might be wondering if you’re career is even on track enough in this moment to ever see a day where you can enjoy the laurels of your success. And in reality, this is up to you and the work you do now. Connecting with the 8 of Pentacles awakens your ability to see the big picture and begin creating long-term grown and security for yourself. Whether your taking an investment class, researching retirement funds, or planning stock options, keep the 8 of Pentacles nearby to help you develop your financial expertise, avoid get-rich-quick methods, and honor your process of wealth building.

Stop self-sabotaging with the 8 of Swords

Now that you’ve really started to invest in yourself, it’s time do the shadow-work of uncovering those pesky financial habits that keep stagnating your growth. There’s no better card to get an honest awakening about your self-sabotaging behaviors than the 8 of Swords. This card holds the energy of your blindspots that keep you in misery, in which only you can free yourself from by using your wisdom to cut the ropes that bind you. Light a candle, get your paper and pen, have the 8 of Swords in front of you, and do an honesty check with yourself. Remember self-care is always essential when luring in our dark places, so be easy on yourself and know we all have our financial flaws.

Liberate your money beliefs with the Ace of Swords

Once you’ve seen the sticky beliefs you have that might be keep you from standing your full financial power, it’s time to do a money belief make-over with the Ace of Swords. Calling on this sharp energy helps you to develop a fresh perspective as you begin putting your new insights into action. Drawing on the energy of this card assists you in getting your mind right and comprehending the numbers to get your figures straight. This burst of energy connects you to your Higher Self and opens doors to new possibilities. You ARE making the right decisions and your breakthroughs are proof.

Find a new source of income with the 10 of Pentacles

Diverse streams of income is the key to financial security. Whether you have your stable career or already work multiple jobs. the 10 of Pentacles calls in new income sources for you. While it might not be the mega-millions, the energy of the 10 of Pentacles is sure to lead you to a community of people where you will thrive, be seen for what you have to offer, and appreciate the contribution you make. Not being in sync with the people you work with can be a huge energy drain and calling on this card will do the opposite and lead you to an exuberance of energy because you’re mingling with people who uplift and inspire you. Never underestimate the power of networking in finding your dream job – social capital!! Working with the energy of this card also helps you to discover unique ways you can contribute to your community in order to make a bit of side money.

Learn to follow your soul’s path with the High Priestess

The Universe wants you to succeed, and often in ways that are beyond what you can even imagine. At times, you might feel stuck in a position that is crush your spirit but paying the bills. This isn’t how you’re meant to live your life and abundance may allude you until you finally surrender to the intuition of your soul. Signs the way you make money are out of alignment are feeling drained, depressed, frustrated on a daily basis. You may compensate for these feelings through addictive behaviors or over-consumption of food, material goods, and alcohol. The High Priestess card brings you attention back inward to discover the one of a kind path of your spirit. As you begin to take the time to listen to your inner voice and make baby steps towards the intuitive hunches you receive, you’ll notice a chain of synchronistic events lining up to guides you to your next phase of financial evolution. Whenever you’re feeling lost, you can always come back to the gentle guidance of the High Priestess and reconnect to your inner knowing.

Embrace gratitude for your abundant lifestyle with the Queen of Pentacles

You’ve successfully turned your financial situation around now and it’s time to express your gratitude through the Queen of Pentacles. Seeing this archetype as yourself, you are reflected with gratefulness your spirit feels for taking this journey in the material plane. Inviting the energy of the Queen of Pentacles into your life shows that you’re serious about maintaining the financial shifts you’ve made, open to receiving many material blessings, and sharing them with others too. This card is symbolic of having gotten yourself into a position of overflowing abundance that now lets you help others. To bring this cycle full circle, donate to a cause or charity that is meaningful to you. This act of goodwill demonstrates your gratitude for the fortune you’ve created and also the ever-flowing movement of money that wants to go forward and help the next person. You’ve opened your channels and are now in tune with this flow, which grants you the ability to offer security to others, gratitude for the support, and abundance to appreciate.

Reflections on Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage. The word conjures up planned journeys to faraway places. That rare activity you do once in a lifetime. Maybe.

What if we turned the concept of pilgrimage around to embrace those places that nourish our spirit with transformative effects? How can we learn to pay attention to those places that we visit intentionally, and also by happenstance, which upon reflection we come to see how they spoke to us on a deep level?

The traditional concept of pilgrimage involves meticulous planning, a time investment of many weeks or months, and often a substantial investment in walking equipment, travel, and lodging. Things that are out of the reach for most of us – especially the time investment.

In settling into a desire to reinvent the concept of pilgrimage while still being able to have the transformative experience, I’ve come to understand that one of the things those on pilgrimages do is remove themselves from their everyday life to experience something deeper. I’m sure I’m not alone in having experienced getting into a car with a destination in mind only to come to realize that I’m mindlessly driving my normal route by rote (!). The conditioning we experience by maintaining our routines blinds us to new experiences.

The travel to places that I’ve come to define as my pilgrimage places came from me stepping out of my normal routine, which is ruled by schedules and obligations. The wandering, the freedom from routine, heightens our senses to the point that we become aware of how multi-dimensional we are – mind, body, and very importantly, spirit.

I didn’t set out to intentionally to go on these pilgrimages, but upon returning to my “normal” life, I realized that some places to which I traveled had me dialoguing with my soul, with the Divine who resides in all of us. I didn’t hear voices from above or any thunderclaps. I didn’t have to endure the pain of walking many miles with a backpack. What I experienced was a subtle shift in how I viewed myself and, as a result, how I engaged with the world around me, including the natural world. The changes were subtle – like a soft wind shifting something inside of me versus the power of a gale force wind.

My places of pilgrimage have included a church in the Italian-American section of Philadelphia, the River Mersey in Liverpool, England, and Circus Maximus in Rome. I came to these places in different ways: through a vacation to visit my husband’s family in England, a ten-mile drive to the home of my paternal great-grandmother, and a dream trip to Rome. The important thing to remember is that although I planned some of the trips, namely the international ones, the intention wasn’t to have a spiritual experience. The transformative powers of these places was totally unexpected – and this is the power of pilgrimage.

These pilgrimages encouraged me to peel back the many layers of my life, some of which blocked out my true self, my spirit. The subtle changes paved the way for larger changes, opened my eyes to possibilities, encouraged me to move forward, to be open and receptive to the signs and signals I was receiving from the Divine.

What can you do to go on your own pilgrimages?

⭐ Go where you’re directed. If you feel a pull to a certain place, go – maybe not immediately, but before too long. Don’t second guess it.
⭐ Be guided by your intuition. If you’re directed to explore something – do it.
⭐ Lose the grip you have on your life to control situations and circumstances. Throw your routine to the wind, even for a short time.
⭐ Ask for guidance and then listen, notice.
⭐ Notice the lost parts of you that you find along the way as you become a pilgrim.
⭐ Have fun. Be lighthearted. Experience connections with those you encounter along the way.
⭐ See that sometimes the very thing that you are seeking to help in your transformation, is right outside your door.

Ultimately, all pilgrimages end up at home. Notice how effective these pilgrimages are in returning you to your true self.

3 Ways to Use Tarot Cards to Explore Your Psyche

Psychologists are becoming more receptive to alternative therapeutic modalities, especially tarot cards. More and more mental health professionals are discovering how tarot can be a tool for promoting self-awareness, psychological growth, and mental well-being and incorporating this into their practice, especially in the field of depth psychology. The value of depth psychology is that it honors all aspects of your well-being: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. By delving into the unconscious realms of your mind, you can illuminate your psyche and facilitate personal growth. Here are three ways you can achieve psychic integration with Tarot techniques to guide your process.

1.Examine Thought Patterns and Behavior

The tarot is archetypal, a term coined by psychologist Carl Jung to describe universal human energy patterns in the unconscious mind, which make it accessible to everyone. The entire spiritual journey of an individual can be seen by following the successive energy of the major arcana. As unique as you are, there are patterns of energy that generate specific thought and behavior patterns in your life. Discovering the archetypal energy at play in your life helps you to become more conscious of the underlying motivation, triggers, and feelings that prompt you to behave as you do.

The imagery on the cards becomes an access point of visualization into the landscape of one’s psyche. Some decks, like the traditional Rider Waite Smith tarot deck, have very well-known imagery that has been well studied to discover the hidden symbolism and visual meaning contained within the cards. But you don’t have to use the traditional tarot imagery to gendered archetypes to tune into the energy. Working with alternative imagery decks are very effective since they can help you by-pass getting stuck on the meaning of the card “according to the book” by acknowledging the meaning your psyche gives the cared — and what this reflects about your unconscious.

Tarot Technique

As you become more aware of your energy patterns, you may notice you’re drawn to different decks based on your mood. It’s easy to fall into a pattern, as a certain deck may speak to your soul when you’re facing an obstacle compared to a deck that suits your needs when you want a boost of encouragement. Just as an experiment, try using a deck that feels out of sync with your current mood. How does this influence the reading? Next, use the deck you’d normally use and juxtapose the two readings. How can they influence one another? How do they each present a different perspective? Are you able to integrate the messages from both?

The purpose of this exercise is to rouse you out of the unconscious mode of routine. By working with a different energy in place of your usual go-to, you naturally become more aware and conscious of what you’re doing. Practicing this technique helps you awaken you to a more conscious way of interacting with the cards, while also exploring a different method of doing things. Let this technique inform your craft and seek out variety when things become stagnant to spur your awareness into action.

2. Guidance And Comfort During Dark Times

The Tarot is a bridge between your mind, body, and soul, which is often overlooked in modern psychology. In the past, spiritual council was relegated to religion. However, the modern trend of blending spirituality and psychology has immense benefits because it helps to heal the whole person. This spiritual wisdom is a wonderful supplement to one’s mental health journey because it offers guidance in navigating difficult times in a way that nourishes your soul.

The beauty of the Tarot is that it doesn’t sugarcoat things and has advice about how to overcome the challenges we face in life. From despair to betrayal, financial misfortune to loss of a loved one, the Tarot cards span the whole spectrum of human experience and emotion. The vastness of wisdom in the cards explores the depths and heights of human existence, and offers insight about how to navigate these to restore ourselves to wholeness.

By using the Tarot, you will begin to see how universal certain situations and feelings truly are because they are embedded in archetypal wisdom of the tarot cards. Each card has its own potent medicine for the soul, and there’s ample resources to draw on as you work through the lessons of the card best depicting your current situation. Each card opens a channel for you to feel, sense, and experience psychology empowered by spirituality.

Caring for your mental health requires making space and time to delve into your soul. Small hurts, great griefs, fears, and insecurities often bury themselves in this core and don’t come out easily, choosing to fester blockages instead. These are known as complexes and are often specific to the archetypal energy you are enacting in your life. Bringing these wounds to light requires a gentle and soft approach, which coaxes them with ease to reveal themselves to heal.

Tarot Technique

Go through your tarot deck and pick out the High Priestess and Strength card. Set these two cards aside. Shuffle your deck and set the intention in your heart to find what can lead you to your courage and inner knowing. Then put the High Priestess and Strength card back it the deck and shuffle again.

Once you feel the deck is shuffled enough, search the deck until you find the High Priestess. The card behind the High Priestess is the best way for you to access your deep intuitions right now and a representation of what you need for healing. Next, find the Strength card. The card behind the Strength card is what you need for empowerment.

Take all four cards (High Priestess, Strength, and each card that was behind them) and set them in a line. Spend time journaling about the relationship between these cards. Make a plan to give your mind, body, and soul the time to rest and then act on the wisdom you’ve discovered in this reading.

3. Using Imagery and Symbol for Healing

The Tarot offers a visual method of exploring one’s inner terrain. It isn’t always easy to put into words how you’re feeling or what you’re experiencing in life that is making you feel troubled, especially when you are not in a good state of mental health. The use of imagery in Tarot is a powerful tool for accessing a deeper part of your mind: the unconscious.

Your unconscious is the part of your mind that affects your behavior, moods, and emotions without you consciously realizing because it’s deeper than your regular awareness. Words often engage your conscious mind and can quickly get you stuck in a loop. How often do you find yourself repeating the same mantras to yourself with no change? This is because true transformation happens by shifting your unconscious.

Imagery, art, and metaphor are the pathway for speaking with you unconscious. Tarot cards can be useful in facilitating good mental health because it speaks directly to your unconscious, giving you a method to communicate with this more veiled aspect of your psyche. Imagery on the Tarot is crafted to stimulate your mind through artwork, offering a new way to translate what it is you’re going through through symbolism instead of logic. The visuals aid you in delving into your psychic depths, without the blocks from your ego stopping this flow.

Tarot Technique

Pick out a deck that has imagery that “speaks” to you. Go through the cards one by one and spend time looking at the imagery. As you look at each image, put the card into one of three piles: dislike, neutral, or like.

Once you have the piles sorted, review each one and see what the cards have in common. You can also reflect on what it is about the imagery that triggers your reaction. This practice will give you deeper insight into your unconscious perceptions and possibly even reveal something unknown about how your mind works to yourself.

Relaxation For Your Sun Sign

Everyone has their own ways of dealing with stress — you certainly know the habits that come out when it’s running high! Rather than defaulting to your usual patterns of coping, you can find new, constructive ways to navigate stress based on your sun sign. Read on to learn how your sign can relax and get back to a state of flow next time you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Aries

Get physical, take action, and move. Doing something active gets your entire body engaged, releasing the stress churning within you. The worst thing you can do is sit still and let the energy build up – this will only lead to a blow out down the line. Go for a run, put on your favorite music and dance, or hit a class at the gym. Cleaning up the house is another way to distract your mind, while engaging your body. Don’t feel obligated to invite others to tag alone. Some solo time and independence will help you to recharge. Blow off that steam!

Taurus

Spend time in nature. Engaging your senses brings you back to the present moment. By submerging yourself in the beauty of the outdoors, you will feel revived by the fresh air, sunlight, and organic tranquility of the plants and animals around you. Treat yourself to a massage, comforting meal, or small home decor purchase. By refreshing your environment, you are replenishing your well-being and releasing stress. Sticking to your routine also helps you to relieve stress, as the consistency in your daily life brings you stability.

Gemini

Do some research. Letting your mind be idle will only enhance your stress. You will best alleviate this stress by exploring how others have handled your situation, looking up tips and tricks for dealing with what you’re experiencing, gathering resources that makes you more informed about your current situation, and exploring what others have to say. By stimulating your mind, you become proactive in a solution. Having options about how to proceed brings the bit of fresh air you need to clear your head.

Cancer

Ask for support from your soul tribe and family. You are an integral part of many people’s lives, always offering support and reassurance, but often you forget they too want to nourish you. By being vulnerable and sharing your stresses, you create space to be nurtured. You can also tend to yourself emotionally by cooking your favorite meal, taking a bath, and journaling your feelings. The comfort of your home is your sweet spot for rest and relaxation.

Leo

Channel your stress into creative pursuits. When stress flares, it becomes hard for you to not get dragged along on a rollercoaster of emotions. Pour this excess energy into your favorite hobbies and projects. The simple act of creating, will make you feel more in control of how things are manifesting right now. Feel the empowerment when you do what you love most. Your talents will bring you joy that naturally uplifts you out of stress mode. You will also benefit from laughter; putting on your favorite comedy reminds you it’s not that bad.

Virgo

Perform an act of service for someone. Under stress, you often become a bit obsessive-compulsive, trying to keep everything in line, orderly, clean, and up to high standards. The quickest way to get your mind out of overdrive is to offer to lend a hand or do a favor for someone. Being helpful shifts your focus outward to others and distracts you from the stress you are feeling, clearing your head. You enjoy feeling productive and this act will make you feel more calm and settled as you put your energy towards something practical that makes a positive difference in the world.

Libra

Talk it through and get feedback. Vocalizing and sharing your stressors with another helps you to get a better handle on what’s going on. You’re a very communicative person and having someone to bounce ideas back and forth with gives you affirmation and reassurance. You appreciate hearing perspectives about what you’re going through and in return offer heartfelt advice that motivates and soothes your conversation partner – benefiting both of you! Sharing your thoughts with someone whose opinion you value diffuses the situation and brings levity back into your life.

Scorpio

Embrace solitude. Being in a crowd will only make you feel you need to mask all the turmoil you’re experiencing, which can lead to self-destructive behaviors as you try to conceal what’s going on beneath the surface. Go within yourself and examine the root of the stress in your life. You, unlike most signs, are not scared to face your fears and acknowledge the tension causing you stress. Take the space you need to do this deep dig and make the internal changes that will facilitate your personal transformation.

Sagittarius

Explore someplace new. Fresh scenery and the adventure of going someplace you haven’t gone before helps to alleviate your stress. You may want to take a drive to a nearby town, check out a new restaurant, or find a different hiking trail. Stimulating your need for variety is key. Your mood will change as soon as you’re on the road towards your next journey, and it improves the further you travel from your comfort zone. Looking up travel destinations or reading about another culture are a good way to armchair travel too to broaden your horizons and release stress.

Capricorn

Make a plan. When you feel out of control, your stress becomes more overwhelming. By focusing on the long-term goal, you are better able to navigate immediate stressors. Keeping your eye on the prize helps you to remain cool, calm, and collected in the present moment. Make sure you avoid overworking and take time for yourself, otherwise you will burn out. Lessen the load you’re carrying by delegating some responsibilities to others and try to scale down on your commitments to make space for resting. Always remember, slow and steady wins the race.

Aquarius

Spend time with your friends. When you get stressed, you tend to dwell in your own thoughts and isolate yourself from others. By reaching out to your friends, you shake off the stress ruminating within you. Hearing what’s going on with others is enough to stimulate your mind and broaden your perspective again so that you’re not hyper focused on what’s bothering you. Fresh ideas and communication liberate you by providing some detachment from your stress. Text, call, or Skype your buds: keep them in the loop about what’s going on with you and listen to how they’ve been. Before you know it, you’ll be laughing and at ease.

Pisces

Take a healthy escape to diminish your stress. Exploring unknown, imaginary realms is part of your journey in life. Choose to immerse yourself in the relaxing aesthetic of a museum, the fantasy setting of your favorite movie, or spiritual dimension of meditation. Sink into a deep relaxation and just let your mind wander. Allowing your stress and worries to dissolve in the background for a bit helps you to rejuvenate and find your equilibrium. As an intuitive, sensitive soul you will be replenished by a mellow atmosphere.

Living a Hygge Lifestyle This Winter

Hygge. You might have seen the word. You might even be familiar with some of its concepts. You probably have a hard time pronouncing it! (It’s pronounced “hoo-guh” by the way.)

The concept of hygge is that of creating a feeling of coziness in the winter months. But really, it’s more than the accoutrements of coziness such as blankets and candles, although they are important parts. Hygge is a way of life in which one not only copes with living in the winter months but thrives.

Hygge is most associated with Denmark, where the Danes experience dark, cold winter months. Despite the weather, Denmark consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world, if not the happiest. The country even has a Happiness Research Institute, a think tank that focuses on wellbeing.

It’s known that embracing the concept of hygge increases feelings of wellness and contentment. This is because hygge encourages you to embrace the winter season instead of curse it. It’s a shifting of mindset from thinking that winter is an isolating, depressing time to one in which you gain the opportunity to engage in self-care, warmth, quiet, and introspection. Seeing the benefits of each wheel of the year is the supreme act of living seasonally.

How can you embrace hygge and incorporate it into your winter lifestyle?

Comfort is key

Embrace comfort. Pile up the blankets. Wear comfy clothing and thick warm socks. Layer extra throw pillows on the bed or sofa. Create an environment where you feel warm and safe. Instead of wide open spaces, aim for creating a cocoon in a part of a room. Maybe it’s a chair in a corner that transforms into a reading nook.

Flame your fires

Cozy up to a fireplace. If you have one, light it. If you don’t have a fireplace you can improvise. Buy a space heater that simulates a fireplace, flame and all. Or, upload an image of a fireplace on your computer or television and sit for a spell.

Seasonal eating

Cook and eat comfort foods. Stews, soups, bread, warm drinks. Fill your belly with warmth. These winter foods tend to take longer to prepare, so slow down and enjoy the time chopping, kneading, baking, and simmering.

Decrease the electricity

Fill your space with candlelight. As daylight tends to be shorter, bring light in with candles. Allow the soft glow of real candles or even flameless candles to create ambience. Remember, don’t curse the darkness, light a candle! Turn off electronic devices and decrease the use of artificial lighting.

Fill up on fresh air

Get outdoors even if it’s in short spurts! Look at the different perspectives available to you in the winter months, when the bones of nature are exposed. Breathe in fresh air. Embrace a star-filled winter night sky.

Dress the part

Dress appropriately for the weather. Bundle up. Wearing the proper clothing will make it an enjoyable experience. Meik Wiking, Chief Executive of the Happiness Institute, is a proponent of what she calls the benefit of “outdoorphins.” The Danes have a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Gather with loved ones

This year, with the world experience of pandemic, one of the most important components of hygge can’t be easily or safely experienced: communing with friends and family. Normally, sitting around a table sharing food, conversation, and laughter with friends and family is a big part of the hygge lifestyle. Just because socializing needs to look different this year doesn’t mean you should forgot about it as part of your hygge winter plans. If possible, have a bonfire party with social distancing. Ask everyone to bring a basket of food and drinks for themselves, and sit around the fire socializing, eating, and covered in blankets. However, if outdoor socializing isn’t possible (or permitted), embrace the moment and let 2020 be the year that you focus on communing with yourself.

Living a hygge lifestyle turns the concept of “coping” with winter into embracing it. Look at it as an opportunity to engage in self-care. Winter is all about turning inward. Use this time to rest and relax. The concept of hygge is meant to be lived and experienced as it provides real physical and emotional benefits. Remember to focus on the present, live in the moment, wrap yourself in warmth.

Celebrating the Yuletide with Downhome Mystic

🌲 The season of Yule is upon us! 🌲

Quick History Lesson

This yearly celebration has roots in the Germanic Paganism culture and is usually celebrated for 12 days beginning on the winter solstice. This year Yule begins on Monday, December 21st and ends on Friday, January 1st, 2021. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, but it simultaneously marks the return of daylight. Often associated with honoring a variety of God and Goddesses, this was a time to be joyful, dance, sing, and connect with nature.

This Pagan celebration was natural for our ancestors, as they were so deeply connected to the Great Mother. They felt sense of connection to the natural world; the direct reciprocity people felt with the Earth was ingrained in daily life. Unfortunately, many of us have become disconnected from nature, from the Great Mother, and finding our way back has been an integral part of our spiritual path. Creating celebration and honoring nature’s cycles helps connect us to our past, deepen our connection to the Earth, and ultimately connect back to ourselves. 

How Do I Celebrate Yule?

This is the fun part! Now is the time to get creative, consider what is meaningful to you (and your family), and create a celebration that best fits your needs and wants. A Yuletide celebration can range from an elaborate gathering to a bath time ritual to a simple altar created at the foot of a pine tree. Here are some of my suggestions:

Connect or Reconnect with Nature

When was the last time you stood barefoot on the earth? If you live in an area that is not too cold or snow-covered, find an area to stand soul (of your foot) to soul on the earth. Feel the soil on your feet, feel the connection of the earth move up your body. If you are unable to be barefoot in your area, take a walk out in nature. Look for signs of winter and reflect on the changes in your life that have taken place over the course of the year.

Build an Altar

This can be done either outside during your nature walk or in your home. If you choose to build an altar at home, gather a few items from outside and bring them home with you, placing each item on your altar while giving thanks and honoring each beautiful item. You could gather evergreen branches, berries, sticks, pinecones, a vile of snow or natural water (ocean, stream, river, rain), brown leaves, feathers, any items that call to you. You might be surprised by what you find! If you choose to create an altar outside, find a special location such as the foot of a tree, in a meadow, or alongside a stream. Lovingly place a few natural items with intent onto the altar while speaking what you are thankful for. 

Dance in the Sunlight or Moonlight

Dancing is a lovely way to reconnect to our bodies and spirit, and it can be especially satisfying if you are outdoors and with others. When we dance, we seem to come alive! We feel the blood move through our bodies, we feel our hearts pump, and our breath deepens; we become embodied. Try dancing with a scarf, moving it through the air and across the ground, further connecting you to the earth.

Build a Fire

You may have heard the term Yule-log. The tradition of a Yule-log varies among different regions and religions, but the basics are burning a log to entice the sun to return to longer days. Often a portion of the log is kept and used to start the fire for the next year’s Yule-log. The ashes were also believed to be good luck and could be used in the garden or kept in an area of the house for protection.  As the Yule-log burns, you can watch the flames, dance, and feel the warmth on your face. This is also a good time to tell stories or hold hands with a loved one basking in the fire’s glow.

Sing Songs

Many of our favorite holiday songs are versions of Yule songs, such as Deck the Halls and the Holly and the Ivy. Singing opens our throat chakra and clears away energetic debris. Singing with others can be an uplifting experience, as a single voice becomes a choir. 

Get Witchy in the Kitchen

Whip up a batch of holiday cookies, bake some rosemary bread, or craft a warm seasonal soup. Try adding an herb that you have never worked with or check out the seasonal farmers market for some wholesome root vegetables. Depending on what you make, you can always place an offering on your altar or out in nature, thanking the Great Mother or God or Goddess of your choice. 

There are many beautiful ways to celebrate the season of Yule; these are a few of my favorites. I would love to hear which one you like best or if you have anything to add. Comment below if you decide to try any of these suggestions.

7 Ways to Prepare for a Mediumship Reading

I had the most incredible reading with psychic medium Nikki Steward last week. Well, it wasn’t exactly my mediumship reading – I had gotten it for my grandmother as a birthday present and she asked me to be on the call with her. Since my grandmother is well-past 80 years old, many of the people she has loved in her life are on the other side now. I was hoping to give her the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones who have passed on. Most especially, I was hoping she’d hear from my grandfather who passed away 5 years ago, just shy of their 60th wedding anniversary. So, we set the time and date for my grandmother’s birthday.

Believe it or not, the reading happened with me in California doing a three-way call with Nikki and my grandmother, who were both in their own homes in New Jersey. Still, my grandmother’s loved ones were able to come through, eager to chat. The interconnection between our world and the spiritual realm amazes me, and I’m fascinated at how technology was used to facilitate a wonderful reading.

My grandfather didn’t end up coming through, but rather hilariously, my grandmother’s mother dominated the entire hour and hardly let anyone else speak! I guess it makes sense since it was my grandmother’s birthday and she had been the one to bring her into the world. It was a really heartfelt experience because even in the afterlife, my great-grandmother wanted to remind my grandmother how loved and protected she was by our family, both here and in the spirit realm.

The days following this mediumship reading with Nikki (who truly is phenomenal if you want a genuine mediumship experience) got me thinking about what one should do to prepare for a session. I’ve had many over the years and know there are a lot of questions that come up about what goes on during the reading, especially before someone’s first time. As I am often encouraging others to embrace the spiritual side of life, I felt maybe I could write a bit of guidance to help others prepare for their reading.

Every medium has their own style, so their processes will vary, but always remember there’s way you can enhance your time with spirit. Here’s a list of things you can do before your mediumship reading to prepare yourself and make the most of the session.

Begin speaking with your passed-on loved ones a few days before

Mediums have the ability to communicate with the spirit realm, which is a true gift and blessing. Loved ones who have passed are often with us in our daily lives, and they do their best to leave us messages. Some of the most common are pennies on the sidewalk, feathers, and angel numbers. You can speak with your loved ones on the other side any time and they will certainly hear you! This is especially good to do a few days before your reading.

Share your prayers with them, talk to them about your day, invite them into your space. You can let your departed loved ones know soon you’ll be opening a space to commune with them. As you facilitate this connection, you are also awakening your own spirit to be more open and receptive for the time of your reading. 

Make peace with knowing a certain loved one may not come through

Many people seek out a medium hoping to connect with a particular deceased loved one, but mediums cannot guarantee a spirit can come through. There are some mediums who will push for that connection to happen, but most mediums don’t tend to impose their will like that and let clients know ahead of time. In fact, most mediums have a disclaimer that they can’t guarantee they will even be able to make a connection on your behalf.

Don’t worry – this hardly happens! Most of the time, the medium will have spirits lining up to talk with you. Be open to who comes through and you will be pleasantly surprised. For instance, in this past reading, my grandmother’s neighbor had just passed a few weeks before and stopped by to simply say hello and she was doing well, while my grandfather never came through at all. Trust that who comes through during your reading is who you’re meant to talk to that day, so make the most of it.

Do a brush-up on your family history

During your session, the medium is translating images, sensations, and phrases imparted to them by the deceased. The medium will share what they’re receiving but you need to piece it together to help figure it out. Many mediums will describe the way your loved ones passed, things they cherished, or prominent physical features in order to inform you about who is speaking. Remember these spirits are all strangers to the medium describing them to you. You need to be ready to play this game of guess-who.

Speak with your family and friends about your deceased loved ones and recall all their life stories. Yes, your uncle Johnny twice-removed on your father’s side may want to swing by and speak with you. You’ll feel empowered when you can remember he loved the Yankees and died of a heart attack, hence the medium’s pain in her chest as she’s seeing a baseball, to identify him as who you’re communing with. Do your research and you’ll find your reading has a lot less head scratching and “I don’t know.”

Cleanse your home for the spirits to join you

Your medium will be trained in keeping negativity at bay, so this is not something you need to worry about. But you can still create a relaxing, inviting atmosphere for your deceased loved ones in your home. It’s good to take a cleansing bath or shower before your reading, and then follow-up with burning incense, sage, or palo santo to clear any lingering energy. Light candles and respect the sacred connection you’re about to make with your loved ones.

Try to be in a state of openness and receptivity when you begin. You may even want to bake a family favorite as an offering or create a small altar with photographs and relics of the loved ones who have passed on. These objects can help to anchor the spirit in the physical world and enhance the connection for the medium.

Make sure you have a pen and paper handy — and some tissues

You will be feeling all sorts of emotions once the medium begins the reading. Memories of loved ones come rushing back, and you may become very sentimental. It’s common to cry during your reading, as well as laugh at the good times you’ve had. Amidst all the emotions, it’s easy to forget all that was said. Having a pen and paper nearby to jot down things you want to remember is something you’ll be grateful for when you’re reflecting on the reading. Make yourself comfy, have a refreshing drink nearby, and tissues for when the tears start to flow.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that time isn’t the same in the spiritual realm, and sometimes the messages can come through a bit jumbled. It’s worth detailing everything the medium shares, even the bits that don’t make sense at the time, because something may jog your memory in the days that follow, or speaking with another family member can help you connect what was said. For instance, the medium told my grandmother one man was saying, “Get him some rye on the rocks.” My grandmother had never heard that phrase before, but when she spoke with her sister, she recalled their dad saying the words vividly as a child, which helped my grandmother realize it was her dad speaking then.

Have a list of questions you’d like to ask

Most mediums will ask if you have questions you’d like to ask the spirits toward the end of your reading. Often those who don’t realize they’ll have the ability to ask questions, and not just receive information, don’t make use of this wonderful opportunity. Your departed loved ones can be a source of great wisdom, as they are part of the spiritual world, and can be of huge assistance in guiding you on your path.

Making a list of questions beforehand helps you to not feel put on the spot, which is when your mind often blanks. It’s better to avoid questions related to time such as, “When am I going to get married?” because time moves differently there than in the material realm, though I’m sure you’d get an answer! Some good questions to ask are: how you can strengthen your connection to them, what are signs they are around, and whether they have any spiritual guidance for you. They are more than happy to offer their love and assistance to you.

Create space in your schedule the rest of the day for reflection and integration

After your session, you may still be feeling a bit psychically open and emotional. It’s best to create space in your schedule to be able to reflect on the special time you shared with your deceased loved ones to integrate the experience. If you can make it so you don’t need to immediately tend to practical matters, you’ll be able to rest in the liminal a bit longer and relish the connection you shared with spirit.

You may feel called to offer your gratitude, or go digging for the box of photographs one of your loved ones reminded you of in the attic. Make time to cherish your bond with family and friends who have passed, honoring all the special moments you’ve shared with them while alive and still get to relish together in their afterlife. You will always be connected to the ones you love.

Temporal Experience of Flow

Introduction – Different Experiences of Time

We are all familiar with phrases like “Time flies when you’re having fun,” or the feeling that some activity (e.g. a boring class or meeting) seems like it’s taking forever to finish. These are examples of our subjective perspective of time and how it seems to speed up or slow down under different circumstances. Although these experiences sound odd when compared to the “everyday” perception of time as a uniform succession of events, the feeling that time is sped up or slowed down is undoubtedly common and relatable.

While I do not intend to set down a complete explanation of this phenomenon, I propose that we might be able to understand such experiences by applying a metaphor. Specifically, we could consider our experience of time – especially, the perceived rate at which it “flows” – to be like the effects of time dilation. Perhaps this description is not merely metaphorical, but I leave that judgement up to the reader.

Time Dilation – Just the Basics

I am no expert in physics, and don’t purport to have mastery over the concepts involved, which is why I choose to present this as a metaphorical explanation rather than a straight-forward application of scientific principles. For those who are less familiar with time dilation, the basic idea is there is a difference in the time measured by two observers as a result of a difference in velocity (or gravitational potential) relative to one another. So, if person A is moving at a higher speed compared to person B, it will seem to person A that more time elapsed for person B than the time that elapsed for person A themselves.

Put another way, person A’s watch will record that less time has passed than the time recorded by person B’s watch. However, this effect is miniscule in the context of relative velocities that we are familiar with in everyday life. For this effect to be noticeable in the hard scientific sense, person A would need to be moving at incredible speeds – near or equal to the speed of light.1

The Symbolic Nature of Time

For our purposes here, we’ll not be concerned with what two clocks tell us about the passage of time. Clocks measure time only in the sense that human society has established a certain metric (a system of measurement) and we compare what our personal clocks say (our phone, watch, grandfather clock) to that “objective” metric. That is to say, clocks only measure other clocks. Naturally, through scientific discoveries, we’ve come up with more and more precise ways to calibrate our clocks to one another (e.g. using the rate of decay of atoms).

Yet, achieving higher degrees of precision does not avoid the fundamental point that time – as something that can be measured – is not a feature of the Universe. It is, instead, a symbolic, representational system imposed by humans to effectively coordinate our activities. We can, of course, choose natural phenomena to serve as the basis of that metric (e.g. the decay of atoms, the speed of light, the rotation of the earth, etc.), but the chosen metric is only a reference point for clocks. In no case have we established anything about the flow of time as something we experience.

The Flow State

Let’s return to the opening idea that our experience of the passage of time varies in different contexts. One of the most demonstrative examples of this idea is the “flow experience,” a particular state of consciousness described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.2 Again, I will not dig deeply into this intriguing phenomena, but only provide a brief overview of the idea (though I encourage readers to pursue the topic on their own!). In its simplest form, the flow state is characterized by being completely engrossed in your current activity – to the extent that you lose conscious awareness of pretty much everything else: other people, bodily needs, and time.

The person in flow (unintentionally) merges their awareness with their actions to such an extent that self-reflective consciousness is no longer present. Put another way, your attention becomes so focused on the activity that none of your attention is available to put toward other activities, thoughts, or concerns. The do-er and the activity being done become one and the same, with the action-reaction interplay becoming nearly simultaneous and indistinguishable. What’s more, the experience of flow is also described as being intrinsically rewarding – the subjective value of engaging in the activity is potentially limitless.

This analysis of the flow state comes from a psychological lens: what’s going on in the individual’s conscious experience. However, what does this psychological state tell us about the relationship between the person in flow and the world around them? Csíkszentmihályi describes the state of flow as an “optimal” experience. True or not, I’m interested to see what this psychological state indicates about one’s state of being. As an aside, we should not overlook that the experience of flow can’t be reported while it is occurring, as reporting on the state of consciousness would be a self-reflective activity (and thus, the person would no longer be in the flow state). The experience of flow can only be described after the fact, which always comes with complications: memory can be a fickle thing.

Vibration

Returning to the main thread, what is the link between time dilation and flow, or any other instance in which our sense of time doesn’t conform to the “typical” experience of time? My suggestion is that it all has to do with vibration. There are several senses to this word, whether we want to talk about physical phenomena – the vibration of particles and energy – or the more “New-Agey” way we might talk about a person, event, or experience having a higher/lower vibration. I intend to use ‘vibration’ in both senses – after all, words don’t always have to be used with a single, explicit meaning (something we tend to forget as modern English speakers)3. What’s more, the latter sense of the word is at least partially derived from the scientific usage, so the two meanings already have a linguistic connection.

However, the non-scientific meaning of ‘vibration’ also comes from ideas in Indian philosophy and spirituality; Om from Hindu/Vedic and Buddhist traditions is the symbol of cosmic vibration, signifying the fundamental essence of reality. That the entire Universe (and therefore persons, events, etc.) is a confluence of vibrations is a notion that was around long before any scientific ideas about particles and energy. All that to say, let’s not get ourselves stuck by clinging to one, explicit meaning of ‘vibration.’ The core idea that I want to draw on is that our individual experience is in some way constituted by vibrations: our physical bodies could be described as vibrating “wavicles” of energy that are embedded in the larger field of wavicles that is the Cosmos.

Conscious Experience as a Frame of Reference

So, let’s start putting all the pieces together. To reiterate: time dilation occurs when the measurement of time from one frame of reference (or, perspective) does not correspond to the measurement of time in a second frame of reference – this is due to the difference in velocity between the two frames of reference. The difference in velocity usually has to be quite large for this effect to be noticeable when we are measuring time with clocks. But perhaps this does not have to be the case if we consider our frames of reference to be a person’s experience of time: i.e. their individual perspective as a locus of experience.

Thus, if my immediate/direct experience establishes a particular frame of reference, then time dilation could occur when comparing my experience to that of another person.  Either experience could include awareness of time as it is being measured by a clock. Whether this description is strictly metaphorical, or we wish to expand our concept of time dilation to include differing experiences of time, this idea seems to have some fascinating implications. 

Flow: Psychological and Metaphysical

In particular, let’s consider what this could indicate about the state of flow. Earlier I noted that the flow state describes a particular mode of conscious experience. But I suggest that we can expand on that idea. This state of consciousness could be a reflection of the individual’s overall state of being – a metaphysical state – a general idea which is not uncommon to many spiritual, mystical, or philosophical traditions, especially those originating in Asia. The Vedic and Buddhist traditions originating from India, Taoism from China, and many of their offshoots such as Zen all make use of the idea that, in some sense, reality is a manifestation of consciousness.

This metaphysical state is where vibration comes in. When in flow, the person experiences a unity between their actions and the responses from their environment. Put in terms of vibration, the individual as a pattern of vibration has completely merged with the vibration of the Cosmos. The “two” patterns of vibration have merged so seamlessly that the distinction between “the person” and “the environment/Universe” disappears. This description probably sounds familiar to those who’ve studied Taoism, Zen, and other mystic traditions. This is no accident, as the flow state seems to be a (western) psychological perspective of the kind of pure awareness often ascribed to mystical states of consciousness: satori, nirvana, and the like. As such, I cannot claim to be saying anything new or revelatory with regard to flow as a state of consciousness. But I do hope to offer an insight on the shift in temporal experience which seems to occur in such states.

Conclusion – In the Flow State, We See Time Dilate

The final move I wish to make is the suggestion that we can combine the idea of a perspectival frame of reference and this metaphysical state of flow. If we accept the suggestion that a person’s experiential perspective can serve as a frame of reference, we can then ask: what happens when that frame of reference merges with the frame of reference of the (local) Universe?

If the individual’s vibration is in complete harmony with the surrounding vibration of the Cosmos, I suggest that there would be little (or no) experience of time as we would normally describe it: a linear sequence of changes, or something to that effect. In a typical state of consciousness, we are aware of the changes that occur around us – changes considered separate from the consciousness that is aware of them. But when one’s vibration is in tune with the vibration of the Cosmos, consciousness is no longer tracking changes as something happening apart from, or Other than, itself. With this harmony of vibration, there is no resistance to change: no restriction to the flow of the Universe.

Meanwhile, for someone outside the state of flow, consciousness keeps itself involved with tracking the changes in case something “goes wrong” and must be altered, fixed, or corrected. This sort of thinking creates resistance, and so, from that frame of reference, an experience of sequential/linear time.


Thus, the person in the flow state experiences no resistance – their “actions” are indistinguishable from the ever-flowing changes of the Universe. Their experience of time (if it can be called an experience of time at all!) is of the ever-manifesting present, the NOW, the Tao. 4