On Initiation Rites

Presenting “Bell Chimes In” #3. I’ll be talking about initiation rites.

Slowly but surely, I’m making my way through all the fun and provocative topics for conversation that have been swimming around the online metaphysical and psycho-spiritual circuits. We covered deity in episode #1, then the placebo effect and magic in #2, and now initiation rites.

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As I commented on in the video, even if you’re a solitary practitioner–perhaps especially if you are a solitary practitioner–an initiation rite is worth your consideration. See it as leaving behind an old perspective, detaching from something that wasn’t working for you, and vowing to take a particular disciplined path in esoterica guided by particular forces you will be committing to work with, whether that’s a patron deity, a specific modality of craft or a tradition of magic, or just dedication to closer future attunement with your guides or ancestors. However you want to frame it, this is about you accepting for yourself the role of the initiate and committing to something that is going to be a dedicated, regimented way of practice from this point on.

Little needs to be said about initiation to one who is on a traditional path, following a set lineage, or who will become a member of an established mystery tradition. So this is addressing the solitary practitioners. Start by thinking about garments for dress that is going to be out of the ordinary for you. I’d even go so far as to acquire garments just for this occasion, exclusive to this occasion, and then something you’ll tuck away in a memory box, something you won’t wear again or at least not for ordinary occasions, and so this particular garment will become symbolic and sentimental to you.

Consider a local mountain or somewhere near where you live that indigenous folk once upon a time considered sacred. Find someplace where you can be alone, with open land and open sky, and if a lake, river, or brook is nearby all the better, and in that privacy, commune with Spirit, connect to the natural powers of the earth around you, and uttering carefully crafted words you’ve drafted ahead of time, send up a vow or petition in exchange for the sending down of a channel of power, attunement, connection, or access to you.

If you’re into astrology, check dates and times for the initiation rite that is going to be resonant with your own birth chart. If there are particular astrological or planetary references associated with your patron deity, then check those as well and make sure those particular astrological features are empowered at the time of your initiation rite.

Everything else about the initiation rite, all the in between details I didn’t address, is up to you.

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I’ve got a couple more ideas listed out in a brainstorm for the “Bell Chimes In” series, but I’d love to hear your requests. What topics would you like to see my talking head yammer on about in the form of a YouTube video?

This is not an educational series, meaning the topics should be ones where all I’m doing is offering an opinion. There shouldn’t be any instructional value, so don’t be like, “an episode on how to read a birth chart!” or “the history of the I Ching.” This series is about perspectives and points of view. [The “Tinkering Bell” series, in comparison, is going to be more instructional in format.]

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“Bell Chimes In” is about discourse, or at least that is my hope and intentions for the video series. It’s about me chiming in on a topic oft talked about, with my own perspective, opinions, or hypothesis, and with that, continuing the conversation on that topic. So I hope you’ll join in to keep the discourse going.

On Deity

I’m enjoying my new foray into video making on YouTube, but this one I could have taken a bit more time on. I thought of the topic in the morning, shot part of the video at that time as soon as the idea came to me, drew the doodles at work, outlined some notes, then recorded the rest of it after I came home. As a result, I don’t think I explained my thought cogently enough. The guideline I set for myself is it has to be under 15 minutes, so quite a bit of cutting had to be done as well. Sigh.

Anyway, the point of the video is I experienced deity as energy first, not realizing that was deity, and then was first taught personification of deity and monotheism through Christianity when I was nine. For most of my life I’ve been fascinated with religion and mythology, passionately inquisitive of what different people believed about deity.

Continue reading “On Deity”

5 Beginner Tarot Courses for Free

Deck pictured: Giant Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot by AGM Muller

If you go searching for free tarot resources on the interwebs, you’ll go down a deep rabbit hole of content and for the beginner, that itself could be just as daunting as the process of having to learn tarot. Which one do you really start-start with? Isn’t there an easy linked “Lesson 1” and then you can just go from there?

Here I’ve compiled for you a list of five (5) beginner sources that are essentially free online tarot courses. These courses are self-paced, yet guided by a tarot master, structured, and with substantive content I’ve vetted, reviewed and felt, wow, yeah, okay, this is good stuff. Also, in assembling this list, I tried to look for resources that had some nice polish to them, were well-designed, well-produced, aesthetically-pleasing, and not too smarmy with any efforts to sell you something.

So, to be fair, there were several pretty good sites that I’ve left out from this list because ultimately, it was geared toward selling you something. An important criterion was the site had to be, overall, leaning more toward “educational purposes” than toward “promotional purposes.” Another important criterion was that the tarot lessons were well-organized and easy to follow.

Given those parameters, here are my top five for you. Continue reading “5 Beginner Tarot Courses for Free”

Bonnie’s #WhoAmI Tarot Spread

Tarot OG Bonnie Cehovet and an awesome human being (I know, I met her) shared a really cool tarot spread that I now must re-share. Check out her article here. It’s a ten-card “Who am I” spread where you ask your tarot deck to tell you about you. You’re going to want to try this one out for yourself, too, and when you do, be sure to share it and tag Bonnie Cehovet. (Twitter handle: @bonnie_cehovet).

And you know what? This would be a great spread to try today, during the Total Solar Eclipse. For those of you of a Chinese Taoist bent, Ghost Month also begins today, so you can modify this tarot spread and bring in mediumship. Use tarot to contact someone who has passed on who knew you well. Think of someone you would have gone to for life advice, perhaps a relative you would have had a heart to heart with, who knew you well, and so would have been able to see you more objectively than you see yourself and thus answer these questions for you.

Okay, here are the questions. Set out the cards in any arrangement you like, but with the intention of these ten points:

  1. How do I see myself at this point in time?
  2. What are my passions?
  3. How do my passions sustain me?
  4. What are my fears?
  5. How can I best deal with my fears?
  6. What are my fears here to teach me?
  7. What are my goals?
  8. How can I best support my goals?
  9. What do I fear about my goals?
  10. Where are my goals taking me?

Continue reading “Bonnie’s #WhoAmI Tarot Spread”

A Lawyer’s Perspective on Why Copyright Infringement is So Hard to Fight

Terence Ward over at The Wild Hunt wrote a great piece, “You call it sharing but pagan authors call it stealing,” on copyright infringement in the pagan community and more specifically, pagans thinking it’s okay to upload the entire books of pagan authors and sharing it on Facebook.

A Facebook group called The Wiccan Circle has uploaded the digital files to hundreds maybe thousands of books by pagan authors and are disseminating those copyrighted books for free download. I wanted to get to the bottom of it on my own, so I put in a request to join the group. Unfortunately, I still haven’t been let in, hehe, so truth be told, at this point I don’t actually have any personal knowledge of the allegations. I’m relying entirely on Ward’s reporting of the facts.

For this particular post, I want to address why copyright infringement claims under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) are so difficult to follow through with, from a lawyer’s perspective. I’m a corporate transactions attorney who works in-house at a venture capital firm in the Silicon Valley, so I know my way around intellectual property law. I’ve tried major copyright infringement, trademark, and patent suits in both state and federal court, some of those cases making headlines in the news. I’ve worked in entertainment law and represented independent artists and writers against major production companies in Hollywood, major cosmetics companies, and more. That’s the background context I’m coming from in writing this post.

Continue reading “A Lawyer’s Perspective on Why Copyright Infringement is So Hard to Fight”

On Tarot Reading Ethics, Part II: Third Party Readings and Onerous Clients

Deck Pictured: Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg (US Games)

I started a post series on tarot reading ethics last week and if you missed it, here is Part I on health, legal, and financial readings. I’ll be subdividing the discussion of tarot reading ethics into three parts. These posts will explore some of my personal thoughts and also professional opinions on certain oft-adopted ethical rules.

This is Part II of III, in which I’ll be tackling third party readings and reading for an onerous client.

7/11/17 Update: This is Part II of II only. I’ve decided against publishing Part III. Explanation at the end of the post.

7/18/17 Update: I’ve decided to proceed with sharing Part III, but it is a password-protected post. Please do not ping me with requests for the password. It is made available in closed circuits to those who have access to those circuits.

Continue reading “On Tarot Reading Ethics, Part II: Third Party Readings and Onerous Clients”

On Tarot Reading Ethics, Part I: Health, Legal, and Financial Readings

Deck Pictured: The Awakened Soul Oracle by Ethony

Not one to miss a tarot bandwagon, I figured I’d work in my own thoughts, or at least a few of them, on tarot reading ethics. If you’ve been out of it all month and would now like to catch up on what the heck I’m talking about, check out this recording of a live episode of Spread This, Witches (STW), “The Ethical Tarot Reader,” featuring Allorah Rayne, Chase from Two of Owls, Nico of Scarlet Moon, Ethony, and hosted by Avalon. Ethony then put out this educational video, “Is Your Tarot Reader Scamming You?” to continue the conversation on tarot ethics. Chase also talked independently about the topic, starting a discussion vlog here, “Discussion: Tarot Ethics.” Allorah Rayne added more from her perspective here, on “Red Flags of Unethical Spiritual Practitioners.”

Here’s a Model Code of Ethical Conduct you can download and use in any way you like. A text version for you to edit and revise, and yes you are free to use, copy, or modify in any way whatsoever for your own personal or commercial uses is here, on my Holistic Tarot Study Guides page, under “Advanced.”

I’ll be subdividing this topic into three parts. These posts will explore some of my personal thoughts and also professional opinions on certain oft-adopted ethical rules.

This is Part I of III, in which I’ll be tackling the question of reading for medical, legal, and financial concerns.

7/11/2017 Update: This is Part I of II only. I’ve decided against publishing Part III. Explained at the close of Part II.

7/18/17 Update: I’ve decided to proceed with sharing Part III, but it is a password-protected post. Please do not ping me with requests for the password. It is made available in closed circuits to those who have access to those circuits.

You often hear readers say that it’s against tarot ethics to do readings on health or legal questions. But why? Why are tarot readers discouraged from reading on health and legal issues?

It’s for legal reasons and, as far as I understand it, that’s pretty much the only reason. In most jurisdictions, there are codified laws against the “Unauthorized Practice of Medicine” and the “Unauthorized Practice of Law.” At best, it’s a misdemeanor and a fine of thousands of dollars. At worst, either one could be charged as a felony and carry several years of jail time. To get charged with such an offense would be the worst day of your tarot reading life.

Continue reading “On Tarot Reading Ethics, Part I: Health, Legal, and Financial Readings”

General Readings and Specific Readings

Deck Pictured: The Dark Tarot

The issue of general readings versus specific readings is pertinent to most divinatory forms, whether we’re talking tarot, astrology, the I Ching, or even in terms of configurations for feng shui analysis. Rather than frame this post as general commentary, I want to talk about my personal approach, and since most of the divinatory work I do for people are in the modes of tarot and astrology, that’s what I’ll focus on.

Let’s start with my definitions.

A general reading is when a seeker doesn’t have a cogent, cohesive question to present for divination, but just wants insight for moving forward at the particular juncture point the seeker is at. For example, a seeker sits down in front of a tarot reader and the reader simply begins casting cards and reporting back what the reader interprets from the cards. Another example is a solar returns or birthday chart reading in astrology. A reading service such as a twelve-month forecast is also considered a general reading. In theory for a general reading, any subject matter that comes up in the reading is game.

A specific reading is when a seeker has a question in mind that is narrowly tailored and will require a direct, responsive answer. For example, the seeker wants to know about romantic prospects up ahead, or which career path to take, or which of three possible office site locations would be optimal for setting up a business. Here, even a broadly-cast inquiry such as “just whatever comes up that’s money related in my life” is an inquiry I’ll tuck under the category of a specific reading.

One more point before we proceed. To debate which is better, general reading or specific reading methods, is absurd. Readers also come with different strengths. No reader is all-powerful. Some excel at the general reading. Others excel at the specific reading. Play to your own strengths. That’s all there is to it.

Continue reading “General Readings and Specific Readings”