Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ten of Wands

I thought I was ok when I came home from Iraq. Honestly. I really didn't feel tainted. I thought it was perfectly normal to wake up looking for my rifle and check the perimeter of the house every so often. But the first time I drove , I got onto the freeway a block from my home and realized there was a problem.
There was a small dog on the side of the road. Could be a bomb. One time they hide one in a dead dog. But we saw the wires. Grass looks like wires when you haven't seen it in a few years. Never trust a dog lying in the glass, he may have a bomb in his ass. I didn't think when the empty box blew across the road, I just reacted. I almost caused a huge accident. Knuckles white when I finally made it to the grocery store. They always arrange the store so when you first walk in you see the produce. It fills you with the inspiration of a bountiful harvest. There was so much food, I couldn't stop crying.

Post tramaitic stress has a funny way of rearing it's ugly head. *Earl, clean up in produce...*

I can handle a lot of stress. I can carry a lot of wieght. I can handle anything. I can carry it all. But sometimes I can't see where I'm going.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Pink Hierophant

I do have a ritual. I center myself. I shuffle the deck. Three times. Cut it, quickly without thought or time to gauge the deck. Pull the top card, and just deal with it. As long as I follow this routine I deal with what I get, even if I already have.
After the earthquake of the Hierophant a few days ago, I felt some aftershocks. More stray thoughts on the theme. I chewed them back and moved on. My friend, there are no meaningless coincidences.

I am a Wiccan, but when I provide religious services at the prison I function as a "minority faith" chaplain. I run "interfaith" service programs on three separate yards. My congregations on those yards average 16-20 inmates. It is important to mentions that their not all Wiccans!

On one yard alone there are six Eclectic Wiccans, several Druids, an few Norse Pagans, two Sanitarians, a Voodoun, a Tibetan Buddhist, two Thelemites, a Ceremonial Magician, and a partridge in a Pagan pear tree.

But wait there's more! If you call now we'll include another big fat dose of diversity...absolutely free!!! That's rights folks we'll include a virtual rainbow of ethnicity! But that's not all... If you call in the next fifteen minutes we'll also include an assortment of sexual orientations and gang affiliations! That's right, operators are standing now....

I saw something amazing today, three times.

On the outside, eclectic groups fracture over disputes about "candle colors" or the order in which they call there quarters. The Hierophants quibble. Today I saw a group of Pagan men, convicted felons, of every shade of skin tone, join hands. They actively participate in a group ritual that was meaningful, spiritually beneficial and productive. And I got to watch.

They Changed the policy. For better and for worse. They get to use the chapel. But only when I show up. The chaplain must be in the chapel for inmates to be in there, any and all inmates. That's fair. It is a prison. So I bring the candles they can't have. I light it with the Bic lighter they can't have. I am the Pink Hierophant, I just open the circle. They fill it.

Six of Pentacles

Alms to the poor or less fortunate. I was raised to help those who are helping them selves. There are no free rides, I won't do it for you, but I will help you do it. These were the lessons of my youth. Mom would give me gas money to get to work, as long as I was working. They always helped me along the path, as long as I was walking it.

I have carried that with me, deeply ingrained. I see them holding signs at every intersection. Sitting there, waiting for you to just give it to them. I see others going through garbage cans looking for recyclables. I see few, dressed like lady liberty holding the sign during tax season. I would rather give him twenty dollars than the one sitting on his butt at the intersection a dime. I guess thats what the scales are for.

Long ago at, at the end of every month, the fortunate would take food to the crossroads at the outskirts of town. as an offering to Hecate. Her triple form statue in the center. They would pile up food and other offerings to her in appreciation for their bountiful success. Then they would ring her bell, and leave. Hearing the tolls, the poor would then go and take the food as an offering from Hecate.

Twice a year we host Hecates supper, everyone comes with non-perishables. Each person takes their turn leaving their offering at her altar and rings the bell. A shadowy women in a black hooded robe appears and holds out a cauldron. Reach in a receive your token, and small black candle to light your way, tied to it is a small antique key, to open, only you will know.

At Thanksgiving the food goes to a program for low income families, who can't afford a holiday meal. Near Yule, what some people call Christmas, it goes to the battered women shelter. We believe in helping, but only the ones who are trying to change their stars. All six of them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Hirophant

Like many people I have had my share of Nick Names. My middle name really is Merlin and so I was teased A LOT when I was young, fortunately they settled on the quite merciful name "Presto".

While I was a job corps student I was a passionate follower of a more native path and wore a bone choker, earning the title "Injin Joe" and/or "chief". In the military, you are called by your rank or lack of, and your last name, which becomes your first name. I have one of those names thats not pronounced the way it's spelled, So I became "Nick" and later Sergeant Nick.

After the Army I returned to Job Corps as staff. It didn't take long for students and co-workers alike to cut my name back down to size, Mr Nick. Nick has stuck with me all these years and become my default professional persona, one I have carried to the prison.

I have never been one for titles, however I am preferable to...

Low priest of the temple of dirt has a nice ring to it I think. But at the prison I am "Pastor" Nick, just like all the other chaplains.

Just recently Rubeus told me he had an issue with the title "Paster". He said it just makes him shudder. He wants to call me something else, something that denotes "teacher" or "elder" something, more Pagan. I told him to just call me Joe.

Dagonet Dewr wrote a really cool book about the sacred archetypes of men. I had to buy it, there is a chapter on the Craftsman, The cool thing is I found it after I wrote that post, so like I said, I had to buy it. So in his book he writes about his mission:

"My mission is to free the present from the chains of the past through education, empowerment and example."

The operative word here is example. Today on a local list there was a very good discussion that grazed the subject of example, the example we set as Pagans. I share in this mission, it's part of my motivation, to set a good example. I can goto the prison, show up looking like I raided a renaissance fair with my long flowing robes and staff. Like the Hierophant with my thrown and huge crown.

"I, Master Magus Merlin the Magician, 99th Degree, Supreame Grand High Poobah of the Noble Temple of the Sacred Twinkie, I have come to perform the Sacred Full Moon Ritual for the Blessed Coven of the Sacred Path of Pagans and the Grove of the order Carcer Via... Kiss my hand..." too much?

"Where are you all going? Don't run! What's wrong? Is that Holy water?!? Aaaw my eyes! Is that pepper spray?!? Aaaaaaagh! Come back with that Holy water!!!"

I have found that the words I use have a profound effect on the people in my universe.

"Hi, I'm paster nick, the Minority-faith Chaplain (volunteer). I'm here to conduct inter-faith services in the Chapel... fine thanks... how are you?"

Am I lying? No. Am I misrepresenting myself? No. I am in fact, being INCREDIBLY accurate. I am only using words that don't provoke fear, stress, anger or hate. I am clean cut, with a trimmed goatee, black suit, dress shoes. I look like a Chaplain, I act like a Chaplain and I get treated like one. Lead by example. Learn by example. Teach by example.

I am not the Hierophant, nor do I aspire to be. I'm just a dirt worshiper. The Earth is my Church, not my Throne. No scepter in my hand, I am too busy pointing at the ground.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


When I was taking my first seminary class, Survey of Chaplaincies, my instructor Patrick gave us very speculative assignments. "What do you think this would be like?" I found self analysis a very effective tool in teaching . "How do you think it will work?" asking you to "ink blot" something you don't know or based on what you may only know from movies and television. You've got to love the media. (rhetorical)

One of those questions was "What kinds of people (personality types) do you think you will encounter?" and I felt I had slight advantage to these assignments. I've been in several institutional settings. No, not prison. But jail once, for a short time. Then Job Corps, then the military. And these are as institutional as you can get. Lately I have began to identify these personalities with their Geomantic qualities.

Among my list of personalities was "The Sniper", he's the one always looking to take a shot at you. To make you look stupid, point out your mistake or exploit a contradiction in terms. To ask an unanswerable question whereby coming off smarter than you. As a Sergeant in the Army I made them do push ups, lots of them. *Grin*

Rubeus. There is one in every crowd, every circle, and every yard. Sneaky and patient, they wait for the perfect shot. But their Grinch like grin gives them away, long before they chamber a round. I am proud of myself, I don't flinch or shy away from the bullet. I catch it with my teeth. *Grin*

I am learning that I benefit from their surgical strikes. Like a crash test dummy, putting myself to the test. There is no room for Bull Shit, no tolerance. You talk your talk, you walk your walk, or roll up and go home. I benefit from the reality check, of my faith. There is no room for unrealistic fluffy 101 stuff. I like that. *Grin*


Yes! Finally a card I want to see! I really like this card, I have a jumbo rider deck I use for public things, anywhere I am showing cards to a lot of people. But I use them too, like pictures, like sigils, like little sticky notes to myself. I prop them up on my desk and stare off into them instead of out the window during those little mental breaks we like to take so often.

Many cards seem to be like a stage, a line divides the foreground from the background, they always look like a backdrop to me. I always take into consideration when this is the case, and when it is not. In this case they are not on stage, but a natural setting, truly in the field, in the wild. Nature. Although they are established, on an earthy foundation, stability.

The sky dominates the scene. The speculative aura of consciousness. Water is like the heart, emotions. So Air is like the mind, thoughts. My mind can be a whirlwind. Why does the wind blow? From where does it come? And to where does it go?

We all like to put our best foot forward, I know I do. We all have our not so nice sides. I know I do. I think of the lion as the "beasts of my masculinity". I was never an aggressive person, I didn't like to fight, but don't ever back me into a corner. Because it will always be in there, waiting. The Army found it, fed it, trained it, and set it loose. The military trains you how to do many things, like fight and kill. But it doesn't un-train you, to not react, it doesn't teach you to turn it off.

Be all you can be.

The path leading away from Iraq was one of non-violence. I am the nicest person you will ever meet. But for the first time in my life, not hurting someone was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I have an aggressive side, now. But she helps me. Shes there to calm me with her her soothing words, her gentle touch and her loving way. It takes far greater strength to be kind, gentle, patient, understanding and forgiving. I spend as much time with her as I can every day, learning how to be a better kind of strong.

An Army of one.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Magician

I have learned to be aware of my initial reaction to a new card. I hesitated when I pulled Death, but found that I could not shut up about it. I didn't realize how much I had in there. Who knew.

The seven of wands was a disappointment at first glance, but it gave me a new perspective on all cards and has inspired a new application of the Tarot in my prison program and my personal craft. who knew.

The Magician made me feel a bit of intimidated. Why? Is it a bigger card? No. Am I worried what you will think of my interpretation? No, but if I was, why this card and not the others? Who knows?

Because it's about me and a good, honest, public, self analysis can be intimidating sometimes. Or so I've heard, we'll see. So there I am with a snake for a belt, the ouroboros means so many things. To me the serpent is "earth wisdom" and its use as a belt signifies the practical application of it. The signature on my emails is one of my own quotes, one I am particularly proud of.

Knowledge is Power But Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge and Magic is the result. ~J.Nichter

As my circle of friends are fond of saying magic is a verb. Fr. BH has a blog Doing Magic, I love that title. So there I am Doing magic? No. I am not a magician in any sence of the word. I am a craftsman. The tools of my trade lay on my work bench. But what else is there? How big is my workbench? What else lays there unseen behind the window? Raw materials? or a finished product?

I am a work in progress and so is my craft. This blog is only a small part of it, like the cards, a small window, to see me, like the Tarot card I hold in my hand. I am the card your holding in yours, the craftsman. Who knew.

Friday, August 22, 2008


...Another car bomb exploded in Baghdad killing... *click* ...witnesses say the shooter was a student of the school, but his motive is still unknown... *click* ...body was discovered saturday morning near a playground... *click* ...the Russian invasion of Georgia... *click* ...In other news...

We sat on the bench outside the door. We joked, we teased and giggled, the nervous laughter hid the insecurities we were all afraid to admit. There is a strange sort of reality slap you get while standing out side a courtroom, no matter why your there or who's on trial.

There was a lot of people there, and they all seemed to know each other, all twenty something of them. This doesn't help your nerves but it occupies your mind. Am I in the right place? You check your paper, better check it again. The way you look at your watch out of habit, but don't know what time it is, so you look again. I hate that.

We couldn't find our name on the docket list, check the paper, don't look at your watch. What time is it, crap. Better go check with the clerk. The door rattled and the bolt slapped loadly against the steal, yeah yeah so I flinched, I was in a war.

It's always a good sign when someone who went to check on something, and has been gone way too long, so long that you wish you had been the one to go, comes back.... smiling.

"...names are withheld and not listed on the docket when it's an adoption, thats why there are so many that say confidential..."

There were over thirty-something people there in court this morning for adoption proceeding's, there was the three of us, another very nice couple with a cute baby and ALL the rest were there to celebrate and witness the adoption of one child. When I took my Rites of Passage class at Cherry Hill Seminary I learned that people acknowledge a loss for more than a gain. So much more goes into a funeral than a birth. I've seen more people show up for a funeral than a birth, this morning I saw so many assemble just for an adoption hearing. Just to hear the judges gavel fall. They gave the mother bouquets of flowers.

Seemed like four generations in the mix. Every woman a proud Grandma or maybe and Aunt. Every man wore that grin we have when we know we're the shit. Seemed to be too many of them to be one family. Maybe a congregation or something. Complete with a squad of camera crazy woman toting some serious hardware. My eyes still hurt from the flashes.

Conjunctio is about meeting, interaction and combining. I was there taking yet another step in the long process of adopting my fourteen year old step daughter. Conjunctio. Why go through all that hassle for four more years?

Freemasonry teaches that a gavel is an operative tool used to break off the rough pieces of stone, to better fit the builders use. But we as Father and Daughter use it for the noble and glorious purpose of divesting our hearts, minds and consciousness of the term "STEP".

Because parenthood doesn't stop at eighteen, ask mine.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sortior Virgae

So, my Coven has been doing assorted "Witch crafts" to sell at this years Pagan Pagan Day. The purpose is to raise money for the Carcer Via Pagan prison program. To pay for gas and expenses to get to the prisons, and I am working on faith kits for three yards.

Today on the lists my dear Frater BH of Doing Magic (magic is a verb) offered to do Tarot readings to earn some money for the program. Then our dear Erinn suggested Geomancy, something that has been haunting me since FrBH and his Gal got me hooked on the stuff.

Later I was fortunate enough to receive a personal lesson from John Micheal Greer when he came to Fresno earlier this year. This sealed the deal. My Gal sent me home with a nice bag of casting pebbles, the gateway drug. This lead to a nice felt bag of bone beads, that was a good high at first, but it got old fast. I needed more, something harder, you know the good stuff. Between my addiction and spit balling ideas for fund raisers I had a brain storm. So I spent a few bucks and set up my own Geomancy meth lab and this is what I came up with...

I am proud to present to you WitchDoctorJoe's Wonder Wands! (I like to call them Tumblers) Eureka! I figured it out, the problem with four wands was placement. If I just throw'em how do I know which goes where? Well JMG's book points out that geomantic figures are divided in four elemental sections.

The top row is fire, second is air, third is water and last is earth....hmmm so which ones which?
I spent most of the evening fixing up my first batch o' sticks. I am hoping to sell them for about ten bucks a set *remember this is going to a good cause, and will come complete with a simple set of instructions, symbols and divinatory meanings.

Anyone interested in a set just drop me a note and I'll send you a set.

Six of Swords, part two

My first marriage lasted almost ten years. The secret to our success, overseas deployments. During my world tour she entertained quite often. She had a gastric bypass, losing several years worth of vice and sloth. I don't know exactly when she stared up again, but while I was in Iraq she hit bottom and took our kids with her. There was a man in my chair when I walked in the door. My heroes welcome.

Strike one.

They sent me home early because she had attempted suicide, twice. And it became a child welfare issue. My first morning at home I was awoke by child Protective services knocking at the door. If I had arrived a few hours later they would have been taken. They thanked me for my service to our country.

Strike two.

There was a tinkle. The lite sound of breaking glass, but small. when I opened the door to the bathroom she was trying to hide the crack cocaine under a towel. I told her to leave, I was calling the police and pressing charges. I would give her a head start. She didn't even put up a fight and went to get some clothes from the bedroom. She was standing near the door asking for money when she started seizing from the overdose. I called 911 and had to started rescue breathing. She had stabilized when they took her away.

Strike three.

I loved the Army. I was good at it. I was discharged early for "family hardship, do to parenthood". The Army won't keep you if your a single parent with soul custody.

It's a high fly ball to left center field.

Now I run a care home for the developmentally disabled. I am home in the morning to see my kids off to school. I am home when they get off the bus. I have chores waiting for them after I check there home work. Their teeth are brushed and their clothes are clean, I think. Like father like step son.

Home run.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Six of Swords, part one

This has been a difficult card for me. My interpretation has evolved through a reoccurring pattern in my life. Divorce. When I was still a toddler my mother left my father. He was a great guy, loved by all. The life of the party and everyones best friend. You would have loved him, so I have been told.

My mother left him because she wanted a better life for me. She had hopes, she had dreams and she had standards. And my father was an Alcoholic and a drug addict. She didn't notice at first, they were young. Dad was only nineteen, and still at prime parting age. But reality and responsibility set in quick and my father could not tow the line. Not even for me. So she divorced him and did the single mom thing for a few years. She has always been so strong. Some time later she met my step dad, he worked two jobs and went to night school. He taught me to tie my shoes and not to be afraid of the ball.

While weekend visits with my real father taught me to watch out for the cops and how to booby trap your apartment so you can tell if someones been in your place while you were out. Every weekend with a different girlfriend, in a different apartment on a different side of town in a different car. But he sure was cool, like Fonzy. I read once that sharks must keep moving constantly or they will sink and die.

My step dad is the only guy I ever called on Fathers day. He was there when I was stranded in another state. He was there in less than 24hrs. He drove straight through. He was there for the good times and the bad. No matter what I put him through. He hung in there. He never hit her or me. He never cheated or drank. He is still the best man I've ever known. The ferryman.

Monday, August 18, 2008


The most amazing thing happened today. For starters I got off my butt and started going back to the gym, but thats a whole other Blog! Anyways I have been providing religious services at a local state prison for a while now. Since their are so few of us (four) who go in prisons in California, inmates often seek correspondence courses to learn and study various Pagan paths.

SEEK being the operative word. I get a lot of requests by inmates to locate Covens, groups and organizations to correspond with them via snail mail. Some are looking for a group in their area after parole and some are just looking for guidance. All have a hard time finding anyone who will respond to them.

So, some of the inmates where I go had found a really nice Wiccan organization that has been sponcering them with correspondence courses. Today I received a very nice letter from the organizer of that group. She wrote about her experiences with the guys I visit and went on about how well they are doing in their courses.

Apparently they have had a lot of pleasant things to say about me and she in turn thanked me for volunteering my time and services. That was amazing enough, just the gesture of a written letter. The professional courtesy of a "hand shake" is nearly unheard of. I have been soured by so many Grand Poobah Witch king cult leaders trying to tear me down and invalidate me. See previous post.

I have been told I am not a true Wiccan, although they have now idea what I am doing, they are sure that what I do is not Wicca. Because their lineage is to the only true Wicca. Please, not another one true religion.

She not only thanked me, she sent a ten dollar cash donation to help with gas!!!

Acquisitio is about gain. I am not talking about ten bucks here. Today I gained back just a bit of faith in others, total strangers! And I can get farther on that bit of faith than I can on a several hundred dollars in gas.

Faith gets more miles per gallon. Thank you Kia, for filling up my tank.

Seven of Wands

So I was exploring this card last night and it occurred to me *again* that what if this card was just a small window, showing only a portion of a larger scene? What would the rest of that scene reveal?

*Remember this is the Ink Plot Tarot, we're outside the box and off the map around here.

So I shared it with my wife... She says "he's spear fishing! Those are fish he's speared and he's about to get another one!" Her second thought was a scene from Gulliver's Travels, "look at the small landscape he standing on." I love that woman.

I see that he stands alone, prepared to defend himself. The lack of background, the clear blue sky seems to imply he may be on an elevated position. Near his foot an edge suggests a cliff and the battery on wands pants a picture of angry villagers, complete with torches and pitchforks.

So why is he defending himself? Why is he being attacked? Has he been backed into a corner with nowhere left to run? I have seen that happen. A group turns on an individual for evolving, ascending or just "aspiring".

"Oh no you don't! Stay down here with us! who do you think you are?" There are those who don't want you to succeed. Specially if your personal growth is a threat to their ego. Flush that social toilet and move on.

Or is he defending his position? King of the mountain? Only enough room at the top for me. A friend told me about a circle she was is once where the "leader" of the circle ranted about her life's hardships and used them to justify and reassert her self imposed authority on the rest of the group. I am in charge, my circle, mine, me. Me.

What am I defending? Myself, my position, my path, my Craft or my ego? Why do I need to defend them? And from who?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Chariot

Holy crap this was a hard card. I've been working on it for a few days and it was... a process. Some cards come quick and easy and best of all, painlessly. We all love those good cards, but growth doesn't come from whats easy or everyone would be doing it.

So I've been studying the card very carefully, very intently. Much of my Magical the last few years has been through focus and intensity. It works, so apply it to everything right? (psst...wrong)

Your know those pictures you gatta stare at and "unfocus" your eyes to see some three dimensional object? autostereogram, I have always been able to see them without any problems. The secret is not to un- focus your eyes, it's to un-focus your mind*

Right around the time the vultures of despotism began circling, I un-focused.

The Chariot was the original SUV. It's not about the destination it's about the journey. Linear thought is out the window here, there is no end destination, no finish line. You don't just do college, career, marriage, two car garage, 2.3 kids, retirement and thats it, you've won!

The Chariot is not about the path from point A to point B, but it is about our journey.

Anyone who knows me will grin when I say this, the sphinxes pulling the chariot are the "operative" and "speculative" aspects of motivation. Why do you go this way? What fuels you? Why are you doing what your doing? Why aren't you doing something else? And most importantly... how is that working out for you?

I have been asked "what motivates you to drive hours to get into a state prison, to do circle with convicted felons, without any personal protection, security or body armor... for free?!?!

The running joke is that my wife is tired of listing to me rant on and on about the craft and the inmates are..."a captive audience". the truth is, "operatively" I can. I lived a blessed life. I have the experience, the time, a loving wife who supports me and I get help with the gas money.

"Speculatively" speaking, if I don't it keeps me up at night. It's a calling, and my calling, our calling is no less than theirs. It's no different than Catholic Priests, Nuns or any other clergy. I was just built for it.

The one difference that does come to mind it that many, most, proselytize. My presence is requested. I am answering a call for help. This motivates me.

What does your Chariot look like? How well is it running? Is it getting you where your going? Are both sphinxes running in balance? Cause if their not it can be difficult to stay in course. Watch the bumps and try not to spill your popcorn.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Four More of Swords

In my Four of swords blog entry last week I mentioned negotiating the obstacle course of Chapel use. The first service I participated in took place out on "The Yard". That probably conjures images of inmates working out, mingling in groups, walking a yard surrounded by a high fence and guards. This is accurate, and in the middle of all that there was a small group of men circled around a white clothe laid on the ground topped with several small objects which were carved from soap.

It was already over 97 degrees that morning when I arrived and there is no shade available on the open field. During the ritual participants called quarters and defended the alter from "stray" soccer balls. There were two circles, the inner circle of participants and the outer circle of disruptive observers. Once the temperature shifted into the next heat category inmates on heat sensitive medications or restrictions were recalled and had to leave the sabbath early. Happy holidays.

When I began my program, I was happy to hear they had placed us in the chow hall for Full Moon Services. I was just happy to be out of the yard, until we got in there. It was hotter inside the dining area than it was outside, the guard didn't want us in there and politely disputed my documentation signed and sealed by the powers that be. So they put us up in the library, way too small for twenty-one inmates to do a circle, but we made do, at least it was air conditioned!

All this time the chapel was empty. So I began my slow, subtle, polite campaign to obtain chapel use. After all, it is the most suitable place to conduct religious services. Everyone else goes there to do theirs, we're not asking for much, just the same rights as everyone else...

"well...I had hoped that since you guys are an earth based faith... you would be out side..."

But we will continue to explore other options...

"...Well see the problem is the chapel is scheduled for use during that time..."

But we will continue to explore other options...

"...Well the milti-faith room is being used by the muslems for the next thirty days "in preparation" for Ramadan which will last another month..."

But we will continue to explore other options...

Then there was an incident, a shake down of the chapel resulted in the discovery of contraband. This caused a chain reaction of administrative policy changes. Including a new schedule...

Today I held three separate services, on three separate yards, all three in the chapels. As scheduled. Timing is everything.

The forth sword, my sword, lay with me. The action of inaction. Peaceful and patient. There are no victories to small. It only takes a single grain of rice to tip the scale.

Today was a really great day... to be a grain of rice.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Four of Pentacles

This card reminds me of the two of swords. The horizontal line divides the back ground from the foreground. The figure is seated between them.

I don't normally think of the pentacles as "coins" but I do here, they seem to be material possessions and although he may be crowned king, it is he who seems to be ruled by them, greed?

One dominates his crown, he clutches one for dear life and they are his only contact with the ground. His only means of standing. His foundation.

In the background lies the kingdom, the city, a concrete jungle. He may be
royalty, but without his coins he has no chance in "the wild".

What material possessions do I have a death grip on? and why?
Is it their monetary or intrinsic value? Do they validate a facade?
Is it my "trophy case" of alter tools that make me more Wiccan?
Or is it the thoughtful design and commitment to my craftwork?
Is it my crown that makes me a king? or is it my leadership?
Have I earned my rightful place or inherited it?

What you have doesn't make you who you are.
So loosen your grip and relax.
I am who I am.
With coins or without.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Five of Cups

We recognize a loss more than we do a gain. Ours eyes always fixed on what we want, what we can't have or what we've lost. We dwell on these deficiencies much longer than we appreciate the harvest of success. The figure morns the loss of three cups more than the possession of the two. This loss represents the life of excess. Our eyes are bigger than our stomach. As a country and as individuals we live and consume in excess. How many cups do we need?

For a moment think of the cups as oil, now electricity, food, water...Air.

The world is changing. We are running out oil, we're running out of room, compassion and patience. We need to start changing the way we live. But first we must change the way we think. Get over the three cups, appreciate that you still have two left. Take better care of them and use them wisely, or all we will have left behind for our children is split milk.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Death, Part three

My most recent dance with death was a bit closer to the edge of mortality. While serving in the U.S. Army I got and extended tour of Iraq. While I was there I survived a suicide bomber, mortar attacks, and multiple IED's (roadside bombs) and I saw first hand that my friends did not.

Some how I managed to wander my way through yet another sequences of unfortunate events. The helicopter I was supposed to be on got shot down while landing in Baghdad. Someone put a land mine in the pothole I drove my vehicle through during our daily patrol. Missed me, and the RPG that didn't miss my vehicle was a dud. Thank you Gramma!

I saw first hand how fragile life is, how easily it can be taken or lost. This kind of death raises your appreciation for life to a whole new level. Every day is a blessed gift of procreation from the God and Goddess. Every heart beat, every breath, every breeze, every leaf. Try to live like that every once in a while. And if I die tomorrow... I bet you can't catch me...

Death really changes your life.

Death, Part two

The second time I experienced death I was a teenager and the death was mine. Like every normal American white family we have a native root in the family tree. I felt drawn to that path, which lead straight into "the Trap".

The trap is or was a twelve step program out on an Indian reservation. Although I did not arrive there for *treatment* I did receive it. I was taken their by my first mentor, "Doc". He was a recovering alcoholic with several years of sobriety. The Trap is where the sweat lodge ceremony was held.

The cold bare ground of the lodge felt good, like the cool side of the pillow on a warm night. It was a small lodge barely enough room for seven people to sit in a circle. Take away personal space and we fit eleven. The rocks are brought in, they glow brightly like molten lava and the heat is felt immediately.

The door is closed. For a few moments you can see red figures outlined by the faint glow, but that light goes out quickly as the water hits the rocks. The hiss is loud and startling at first but the sound stirs something primitive inside you, then you feel the steam...

You sweat in places you didn't realize you had skin. You don't want to breath it in and you try to turn away from it, but like Death and the Borg... resistance is futile you will be assimilated. I am a fighter, I will fight to the death and I did. Too proud to cry out for the door, I laid there quietly screaming inside and fighting every basic overwhelming instinct. I couldn't breath, I couldn't move, I couldn't stay in and I couldn't get out. I scratched and clawed, I can still feel the dirt under my finger nails.

Out of the darkness I heard her telling me to let go... I had a vision of a tree swaying in the breeze. A hiss of steam and the leaf falls from the tree. Floating in slow motion to the ground. I landed gently on the ground and died peacefully. Laying there I looked up at the tree, I could see the branch where I grew up. everything looks so different from here. My body limp, relaxed, peaceful and free. Pure awareness.

The sweat lodge symbolizes the womb of mother earth. When they opened the door I could *sense* the outside world. I crawled out on all fours, caked with mud and leaves. I drew my first breath of fresh air and opened my eyes again, for the first time.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Carcer Via

So how many people do you know that are trying to get into prison?
Counting myself there are four of us in working within the California Department of Correction & Rehabilitation, *CDCR.

I am a Volunteer Wiccan Chaplain for some of the local state prisons here in Central California. Originally I got started working with Rev. Patrick McClollum because I was interested in a military chaplaincy.

Patrick said enroll in the Seminary and come work with him at the prisons. At the start I didn't think this was a good idea. My experiences with the military was that you go whine the chaplain when your chain of command doesn't give you want you want. It seemed that the most popular way to get out of doing work in the Army and still get paid was through Medical of Religious issues.

Much of my time as a Sergeant was spent thwarting fraudulent attempts to skip out on the mission at hand, so I didn't think I was going to be the most compassionate person when it came to inmate complaints. But I wanted the training and personally hold a higher value on practical experience.

What happened was incredible. The first Wiccan service I participated in was a life changing experience. It was a Samhain holiday service conducted by Patrick. The way he acknowledged the sabbath and applied the lore of the season into a spiritual activity that everyone participated in was to become and remain my standard.

As it happens, my family tradition has a very personal connection with Autumn and Samhain. I shared our story, our tradition and myself. I listened as everyone took their turn to say a few words and making their offering to the spirit Cauldron. I saw the effect the ceremony had on them, spiritual therapy. I saw the need, and I never looked back.

Now I have my own prison ministry program *Carcer Via and I found a permanent home at a local prison where I provide regularly scheduled services for minority faith inmates.

I had previously written "The path of a Wiccan Prison Chaplain is a mine field of social politics..." and it rings true inside the walls and out. With the staff just as much if not more than the inmates. I will *Journal* the highlights of these experiences as we go. Changing the names to protect the innocent and the guilty. Go make more popcorn. I'll wait for you.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Four of Swords

Sanctuary. The stained glass window just screams Sanctuary. The man wears armor, a knight. A warrior and defender of the faith. In peaceful repose he contemplates the three folds of his conflict. The Three swords hang over him. One threatens his mind, one his heart and another to his soul.

This scene resonates within me, even now. The path of a Wiccan Prison Chaplain is a mine field of social politics and I am currently negotiating the obstacle course of Chapel use. Sanctuary.

I know the laws and the regulations. I know the rules of engagement and I know when their being broken. So shall I cry havoc and charge into battle? A hero and a fool. (see card #0) The kicking and screaming tantrum is only socially acceptable if your being tazered. And is never a suitable substitute for the dogs of wars.

He is bathed in the golden light of Holy Solace. The forth sword, my sword, lay with me. The action of inaction. Peaceful and patient. Know you self and seek self improvement, even in the heat of battle. The arena of daily life. Stay centered. Remember your place and now your limits, with brutal honesty. And you will know theirs.

Even those long broad swords have a limits, its difficult to cut off my head with it one when I am hugging you. You don't stand a chance against my prayers. The battle has already been won.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Seven of Pentacles

Hmmm... the pentacles are the fruits of his labor. His harvest. He looks like
he is troubled, unfocused, unhappy or just too lazy to do the work. But there it is, ripe on the vine....waiting....waiting.....wait too long and it will rot away.

Our path, my path as a Wiccan is about harmony. Harmony with Nature, Myself and others. To be successful in our workings, we work in tune. We plant *in season*, we work our fields and we harvest *in season* or we fail, the crops fail, and we starve.

We talk about Magic. We read about magic. We scan the shelves of "our isle" at the bookstore, still looking for that one book. (You all know the book I'm talking about, we'll get to that another time.) But what do you DO? And how often do you actually do it? Are you the farmer in the Seven of Pentacles? I know I am from time to time.

Pick your fruit while it's ripe. Do the work when it needs to be done, or while it's available. Everything has it's season, and all seasons to shall pass. Stay in tune. Stay alive.

The Birth of a Notion...

Peer pressure...thats why I am blogging. why not? All my friends are doing it. All the cool kids are hip to it, I want to be cool too. And plus I am Lazy. I hate to write, you remember that? How to write with a real pen or pencil? They were neat, they came in different colors, makes and models. And just like cars you get tired and cramped after driving them for extended periods of time.

Well I must warn you before you proceed any further, I hate to write but I can type all night.

Ever since my Birthday in January of this year I have been "Journaling". (I am a guy and we don't keep a diary, we keep a *Journal* there IS a difference.) So I have been journaling my experiences with Tarot cards, but I have approached them from my own angle. Get used to this.

The INK BLOT TAROT. I only recently really started to take the Tarot a teeny weeny bit seriously, and in my browsing of decks and books I realized...there are a lot. So many. Too many. Why? How can one set of cards have sooooooooo many different and conflicting meanings and symbolism?

So....who is right? or best? Better? Good? Halfway decent? Or justb ok? Ask around and if you know half as many people as I do, you will get lots of different answers. Putting you right back here with me. Get in line. So who is to say? And who is to say, who is to say? See what I'm saying?

So, I figured I will develop my own *personal* understanding and interpretations of the Tarot and then compare it with the textbook divinatory meaning. So I selected the Waite-Rider deck and "The Pictorial Key to the Tarot" by Waite.

I call it the *Ink Blot Tarot* because that's how I approach them, as inkblots. And I have learned more than I ever expected...about myself. So, I will seemingly randomly blog my gut spilling analysis of the cards as they come. Go make some popcorn.