The Agony Augury is a regular column here in Two Sides Tarot Land. Think a trusted agony aunt, armed with tarot cards, the Agony Augury is here to take on your most pressing problems and difficult dilemmas! Got a question? Drop me a line, and your quandary might just get answered right here on the blog.
Now, let's dive into our question!
Dear Agony Augury,
Ever since I was a small child, I have had a strong connection to all things "weird". Raised in a pretty strict Christian household, magic, tarot, crystals, New Age, wizards, witches, etc. were all banned and "of the devil." And of course, this made me feel horrible. All the things I naturally was inclined to study and all the things that I felt were "me" were considered by my family to be evil. I am now twenty-four and for the past few years have really tried to get deep into my natural magic being. But I feel like I'm stuck. I feel like I'm only scratching the surface and that something is holding me back from really letting myself go there. What can I do, or what can I shed of my old self, to let myself connect with who I have always felt myself to be?
With much love,
Desperate Witch, thank you so much for writing in! I think everyone struggles with forging an authentic and personally resonant spiritual path at times, and this struggle only deepens when the expectations and structures around us prevent us from engaging with the type of practice that truly resonates. Before we dive into your reading, I have to commend you for seeking out the kind of spiritually that is personally meaningful to you, despite having that forbidden and negated for so long. You may have an obstacle to overcome, but don't overlook the fact that you're already on the path. That, right there, is an act of courage!
*insert appropriate interval of applause for the courage of Desperate Witch*
Ok, shall we get down to business?
Now, isn't this interesting! Your question is almost entirely about spiritual matters, and yet, your cards are almost entirely Pentacles, the suit of the material and earthly. Before we dig into the details of each card, I think this pattern is asking us to hold an overarching theme in mind. That is, consider how your spiritual practice is reflected in your day to day life. Pentacles refer to work, money, routine, the home, the earth. I suspect it is going to be important for you to consider how your spiritual practice fits (or doesn't fit) into your everyday life, and how you might make your work life, your physical space, and the ways you spend your time and energy better reflect your authentic witchy path. Hold that question in mind now, as we get down to the details!
1. In general, what do you need to know about your spiritual path at this time? Knight of Pentacles
The key idea for the Knight of Pentacles is slow and steady progress. Before I drew your cards, I wrote above that you have showed tremendous courage for walking this path, no matter how blocked or frustrated you might be feeling right now. The Knight of Pentacles agrees with me on this one, and wants to remind you that you are on a journey and you are making progress, no matter how gradual that might feel. I think we've all felt the desire for a epiphany at times, or the wish that some aspect of our spiritual work will yield sudden and dramatic results. Certainly, if you've grown up on Bible stories, it can seem like God should be popping up in some form or other and dramatically dispensing wisdom every five minutes! Of course, this is rarely the case. It is more likely that the progress we might be making on our spiritual paths day to day is going to be subtle and unmeasurable, and even if we don't ascend into heaven in bodily form or start levitating during meditation, we still have to keep practicing.
The other Knights in the deck are all speeding about the place, racing into the wind on their fleet-footed steeds, whereas the Knight of Pentacles rides a heavy draught horse. His mount is not known for its speed, but it is bred for its strength, fortitude, and capacity for hard labour. Stamina over speed is the key here! This Knight is showing you the qualities that are needed from you at this time. Patience is a big one, and continued attention to the work at hand (the Five of Pentacles also has something to say about this, and we'll get to that soon enough!). Also, it's important to trust that you're going in the right direction. Although you might be feeling stuck, you said in your letter that the practices you are exploring have always felt resonant to you. After keeping them at arms length during your childhood, you're now starting to integrate them into your life, and to integrate that rejected or suppressed part of yourself. This can't be achieved instantly, but this Knight says that with slow and steady attention, you will create a meaningful spiritual life for yourself. Forget about the finish line right now, and turn your focus to the day to day. Putting one foot in front of the other is the most important thing for you at this time.
2. What part of your upbringing and spiritual journey so far needs to be cast aside right now? Nine of Pentacles
This card has many facets, but in this context, there's just one thing I want to say to you about it. Loneliness. The feeling of being the odd one out, of being misunderstood and judged and alone in your passions and beliefs and views. Ouch! It's a killer, that feeling. I think this card speaks to the experience of isolation that you've been through, growing up in an environment where a big part of who you are was denied.
The perpetuation of loneliness and isolation that you may have experienced in your past needs to be set aside, once and for all. It isn't serving you on your current path. This may seem obvious, because I doubt you would want to hold onto that feeling, but sometimes releasing experiences like this can be more challenging than we might think. After years of keeping your spiritual tendencies secret, it may not come naturally to you to be open about that part of yourself, even in a supportive environment. It might feel safer for you to be a solo practitioner, to keep your magical workings on the down low, as you have probably done for many years.
Coming out of the broom closet is tough, Desperate Witch, there's no doubt about that! Trust, though, that you need to seek out your people. You need to be true to yourself, and build relationships that support, not deny, who you are. No doubt you will feel vulnerable and exposed, but the support you will receive on your journey will be so worth the risk! Your time of being alone in the gardens of mystery, Nine of Pentacles style, is over. It's time to get out and mingle!
3. What part of your upbringing and spiritual journey so far needs to be honoured right now? Three of Pentacles
The Three of Pentacles and the Nine of Pentacles actually form a nice pair, even though one is to be cast aside and the other to be honoured. Just as the Nine of Pentacles was about leaving behind loneliness and isolation, a big part of the Three of Pentacles is about finding community. Of course, I can't say what your Christian upbringing was like, but in my experience, church is just a fancy word for tribe. I was raised Catholic, and lord knows, those folks know how to throw an afternoon tea! Just because that particular tribe isn't resonant with your practices and beliefs, doesn't mean you can't borrow a little of their community spirit for your own purposes!
You'll see in the image on this card, an artisan shows her work to two curious and encouraging onlookers. Right now, you are being urged to practice your craft in company, to share your gifts and interests and experiments with a supportive audience. The internet is, of course, a wonderful place to meet fellow travellers - the spiritual and occult community on Instagram is vast and very encouraging! If you have an interest in tarot practice, and you aren't already a member of Little Red Tarot's Alternative Tarot Network, I urge you to rectify that immediately! That community is a ready-made collective of your people, just waiting to invite you in. If virtual connections aren't doing it for you (or even if they are), you might also want to reach out to fellow witches in your area. You might not be able to find someone practicing in exactly the same way, but practically all sizeable towns and cities will have opportunities for you to learn about or practice meditation, yoga, kirtan, reiki, observance of solar or lunar days, and so on. Put yourself in the path of other spiritual seekers. Talking to other people and hearing what they have to say will be so stimulating and encouraging for your practice. Trust me!
One more thing I want to say about the Three of Pentacles is that, coming from a Christian background, I dare say you have some notion of what it means to practice your spiritual beliefs with consistency and discipline. Church every Sunday, grace over every meal, rituals and prayers and devotion engaged with as a matter of day to day life. Those specific rituals and practices are no longer yours, but you can still take the consistency and discipline of your upbringing and apply it to your own witchy work. This card is about honing your craft, and you can only do that if you are prepared to be turn up and work at it consistently.
Coming from a very structured religious system into a more exploratory mode of spiritual practice (which is not to say that all forms of witchcraft or occult practice are unstructured, of course!) might have you feeling a bit untethered. There's no one to say you have to observe the cycles of the moon, or meditate every day, or fill your house with crystals, or read tarot in the Thoth system, or read tarot in the Rider Waite system, or channel your spirit guides, or what have you. Of course, you can try all of these things or none of them, but if you're dedicated to your spiritual path, you have to make time for practice, in whatever form that takes. It's up to you what you do and when you do it, but remember the consistency with which your former Christian community observed their beliefs. Real, tangible, observable practice - this is the suit of Pentacles, after all! You don't have to have your beliefs or rituals totally figured out, but you do need to turn up for yourself consistently, even if it is just a few minutes of quiet reflection on the bus each morning. Let a commitment to practicing your spirituality be your anchor.
4. What mindset, course of action, area of study, or pursuit might you explore to help yourself get unstuck in your current practice? Five of Pentacles
I must admit, I'm torn about which direction to take this card! My instinct is telling me that angle we should be taking here might actually make you want to go screaming in to the distance, but please hear me out, I think there could be something in this. The Five of Pentacles depicts two lowly figures, cold and dejected, struggling through a snow storm, and passing by a church, lit warmly from within. Often this card is about being so absorbed in suffering that we miss salvation when it's right within reach, and I think maybe there's a little something to that for you, Desperate Witch.
I think you could hit upon a modest spiritual breakthrough by engaging with some aspects of the religious tradition you've come from. Before you say, "Oh fuck no, I'm not going back there!" let me say that I'm not at all suggesting that you need to go back to Christianity in the form that you previously experienced it, or indeed, in any structured or traditional form. I think it could be of interest to you, though, to do some more digging into the Western mystical tradition, because so much of that is informed by Judeo-Christian religion. Hell, you only need to look at the very tarot deck I've used for your reading to see myriad biblical influences! I'm no occult historian, but as I understand it, all of the progenitors of the modern Western mystical tradition - the Golden Dawn, Crowley, Blavatsky, the Rosicrucians, and so on - were influenced to some degree by Christian ideas, archetypes, or symbols. Perhaps learning more about these connections might prove to be an opening for you.
If you are interested in working with the divine feminine or goddess archetypes, you might find it resonant to do some work with the Madonna, in one of her forms. As a lapsed Catholic, that's something that has proven useful and intriguing to me over the past couple of years. I also recently learned more about the Ignatian spiritual exercises and tradition of imaginative prayer. I'm not about to become Jesuit (I doubt women are invited!), but that way of storytelling and visualisation actually really resonates with the way I read tarot cards, and so it's a piece of intel that I'm hanging onto and considering in my own work. These are just a couple of examples that might pique your interest, but I'm sure there are many more ways in which Christian traditions might intersect with or inform the expansion of your current work. Just pull on that thread a little bit, and see where it leads you.
5. How can you support and nurture yourself as you work through this challenge? VI The Lovers
This last card is taking no prisoners! I almost always include a card that advises on self care, and I always hope it is going to say something nice and fluffy like, "Have more long bubble baths!" Desperate Witch, you have my blessing to have as many long bubble baths as your soul requires, but there is also some deeper work being asked of you here. The Lovers is about the choices we make, the things and people and circumstances we decide to invite into our lives, and it is almost always a lesson about values-based decision making. Not as relaxing as a bubble bath, but I think it will prove to be even more self-supportive and -loving for you.
This card is asking you to look at the components that make up your life, and to ask yourself if each one reflects who you are and how you want to live your life. Chances are, if your religious upbringing imposed a strict set of expectations upon you, some of those things are still lurking around even though you're now walking a different path. This might mean you still feel like you need to observe certain family or social traditions, even though they make you uncomfortable, or perhaps in your work or education you are trying to tick someone else's boxes as opposed to your own. You may even be committing some quiet microaggressions against yourself by mentally judging or criticising your thoughts or actions in a way that an authority figure may have in the past. The Lovers asks you to look at all these subtle and unsubtle external pressures that are still having a negative influence upon you, and to do what you can to mitigate that influence. If you find some of that persuasive influence creeping in, ask yourself, "what do I value, and how can I enact that value in this situation?" You won't be able to spring clean your life and mind in a single sweep, but just being mindful of your power to choose your own way of living - that great and terrible gift of The Lovers! - is a good place to start.
I think the most obvious place you will be called to apply this is in your relationships - it is people who create and perpetuate social norms, after all! Are there people in your life from your past who aren't willing to accept you for who you are? Perhaps some old friends, or even family members, aren't prepared to love and support you on your new spiritual path? In order to create a supportive and loving environment for yourself, you need to think about managing these potential conflicts and upsets.
The Lovers reminds you that you don't need to give your time and love and respect and attention to people who don't respond in kind. Of course, relationships are nuanced, and while there are probably some judgy, closed-minded people in your life whom it might serve you never to see again, you probably don't want to cut ties with all your loved ones, even if your relationships with them are a little trying at times! In this case, boundaries are your friend. If you can't have a conversation with your high school bestie about your spiritual explorations without her calling you the devil, but you still enjoy going out to coffee with her, set up a firm boundary. Make that topic off limits, if you have to. If she starts to get all "you're the spawn of Satan!" on you, it's ok to speak up and tell her she's crossed your boundary. End your coffee date if necessary, and ask her to behave herself better next time! Same goes for your parents, family members, whoever. The Lovers says you get to choose. It isn't always easy to make your own rules and get other people to stick to them, but being firm with yourself about what you value in your relationships and in your life at large will give you a strong foundation from which to ask for the love and support you deserve. This card says exercising your power to choose, in your relationships and in all aspects of your life, is the most self-loving thing you can do right now!
Before I sign off, there's one final thing I want to share with you - I was walking down the street just now, heading home to finish this reading and listening to Elizabeth Gilbert chatting to Rob Bell on her Magic Lessons podcast, and a little light bulb went off in my head. They were discussing the challenge of working a repetitive, mundane job when all you really want to do is be creative, and Rob Bell said, "if you can pay attention in the valley, then you're going to have no problem paying attention on the mountain." That is, we want to be on the mountain having a transcendent experience in the middle of a lightning storm, but if we can stoop to find holiness in the every day, we can find it anywhere. All of these Pentacles say that you're in the valley right now, and perhaps a wish to be on the mountain having an epiphany is part of the reason you feel stuck. Don't lose sight of the fact that the valley is a holy place, too. If you can find the sacred in the mundane and material, you don't even need to go to the mountain. Let that be your point of departure as you set out to get unstuck!
Phew! Desperate Witch, I feel like there is a LOT going on in this reading, so don't be alarmed if you can't take it all in at once. After you've had a read through, go get some fresh air or make yourself a cup of tea. Take that bubble bath, if it feels right! As the Knight of Pentacles says, you're already walking this path, and slowly, I think all of these stray pieces are going to fall into place for you. Good luck Desperate Witch, and thank you for writing in!
The Agony Augury