Tarot Review: Ophidia Rosa and Absurd


The Ophidia Rosa Tarot


Wow.  I mean wow.  This deck is a combination of rustic, feminine, botanical, natural, grave and sweet.  It is highly detailed and beautifully printed with golden edges and thin lines, presented in a smooth black illustrated box complete with a leaflet for basic reading (no reversals); I'm floored.  Snakes and moths, spiders and fungi act as spirit guides through this world of floral interpretation and symbolism.  The illustrations are simple, like they were taken from the diary of some wild botanist; a dreamy garden of familiar and magical herbs.  They aren't traditional Raider Waite Smith or Marseilles style, they will have to be interpreted a little differently and really studied before rendering accurate-to-the-deck readings, and I've never been so excited to commit a new style to memory.  Though there is a bit of resistance to the push of the cards during the corner shuffle, they move nicely under simple shuffling techniques and become smoother with use as most decks do.  Everything about this deck is quality so the cost is well worth it.  For a green witch like me, this is a dream-come-true of a deck and will probably join main circulation in the Parlor.  I highly recommend this deck to readers who want quality and substance with simplicity.



The Tarot of the Absurd


I found this deck refreshing, odd (in the best way) and personable.  Not only is the artwork somewhat androgynous, gender bending and queer; it was diverse in sizes and shapes, it expressed femininity and masculinity in fluidity... I was really pleased with the style, and even more so with the detail of the artwork in every single card, no matter how simple it appears at first glance.  The theme borders on hip art-house but ventures into almost cartoonish exaggerations without being cartoonish at all (not that I knock that genre); it's just very contemporary and clean, all rounded lines and stark contrasts.  Absurd is such a well done deck with quality printing, the cards have a cool smoothness to them that I found easy to shuffle.  It quickly became my most popular requested deck from the Collection for the last few weeks, especially among my black and queer clientele as well as art students.  Black and White decks are a popular new phenomenon in tarot, and this is among my favorite decks because it stands out from the others vividly.  This deck tells a story for sure, but also meanders like a dream.  Shipping was swift and the vendor was kind, attentive and charming, definitely the kind of vendor I'll be frequenting in the future (as should you).

The Mirror That Reflects the Moon

My personal mirror, belonged to my great great grandmother and passed along down to me.  It used to be hinged in a huge dresser but the dresser is in storage while the mirror remains with me.  It has seen death.  It has been bloodied and lost and witness to many lives.  It sits across from my bed.  I have no taboos about the mirror regarding its use in my work- it's part of my family and part of our sentiment and superstition, so it watches me... covered behind a curtain. 
Catoptromancy
the art of the reflective diviner, the love fortune-teller, the illuminated healer...
and the unlucky.

As Samhain approaches, mystics, occultists, witches and wanderers start unpacking their arsenal of divination tools, hoping to catch that wisdom in the ether. Some witches only whip out the big guns for the holiday.  Usually, this means oracles, spirit boards and ouji.  For me, this time of year is for the mirror, the Nichols Mirror.  My family mirror is more than just a little spirited.  It's watched so much death and magic, it sits unused and covered by iron chains and necklaces most of the year.  Then Samhain comes and this tool of which I am weary comes out to speak.

A little about mirror folklore...

The magic of mirrors was beheld by our ancient ancestors since time unknown, long before the Roman specularii, even in the hands of the famed and powerful like Pythagoras, Catherine di Medici and John D (who's mirror was a polished slab of black obsidian).  They can become haunted like those of the Myrtles Plantation or St. Mathias Mission House, and they are even inhabited by their own court of legendary demons like Bloody Mary, Doppelganger and the Black Madam.  A black mirror is said to be specifically for skrying; for seeing beyond what we perceive with the eye.  Clear mirrors were believed to be able to act as portals and summon demons.  Hand mirrors were a tool of love while wall mirrors were a source of fearful superstition as they were believed to be able to capture the souls of those passing near it regularly.   The most dangerous kind of mirror according to folklore, is that of water.  The mirror of water was often associated with enchantment and death, leading people to their demise in its depths.  However, wells as a type of mirror were utilized in their own manner by method of one looking at well water through the reflection from a hand mirror.  This double portal was supposed to show the future.  This kind of well-mirror magic survived in American regional folklore. 

"Mirrors train the inner eye to perceive the unseen.  Throughout history, mirror gazing has been used to look into the future, aid in healing, answer questions, solve problems, find lost objects and people, and identify or find thieves and criminals."
- Rosemary Guiley, Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy

The power of the mirror sometimes appears to lie in protecting oneself and home from mirrors, rather than using the mirror actively.  It is a passive tool, one that is gazed upon or manipulated by smoke, light and water in order to distort the world and give us visions of the world in between the realities we accept.  Smoke and mirrors with candle-light is a well known divination aid that alters the way we read palms, cards or spirit-boards; it's more than parlor tricks to trick the eye, when those involved know exactly what's going on, the manipulations become a tool of reflection, a path to distinguishing the eye from the inner eye. 

Themes~

  • fortune and misfortune
  • apples and love
  • water and blood
  • voodoo dolls
  • necromancy
  • healing
  • divination (catoptromancy)
In love charms, the light of the moon becomes the method by which the world of the mirror is altered, the mind becomes transfixed and visions are obtained.  Water used upon the mirror was supposed to open a portal between worlds, allowing spirits or otherworldly things to birth into our world.  Blood, was a message, sent to the spirits as both sacrifice and query. 

"Hold a mirror face downwards over the center of the well and your future husband will appear in the glass,"
- Cora Linn DanielsEncyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World  Vol I-III (p.66)

Primary attributes in folklore are love charms; specifically spells by women to obtain faithful husbands, the prediction of death omens and to speak with the spirits of the dead or demons themselves, to contact the devils directly, or in some cases, to bind spirits from a place or even heal the grief-stricken.  In terms of love magic, the mirror served as a portal by which one could see the image of their future lover, it reflected a possibility which had to be observed in darkness and with an offering of some sensuous food- specifically the apple.  

"In Scotland the lassy slips alone and unperceived to a dark room containing a mirror where a moonbeam falls.  She stands before the mirror eating an apple, and intently regarding the mirror in which soon appears the reflection of the face of her future husband."
- Cora Linn Daniels, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World  Vol I-III (p.66)


"Some of the maidens waited for the pagan feast of Samhain to learn their lovers identities.  To learn whether love lay ahead, young people would cut an apple into nine pieces at midnight on Halloween while standing before a mirror.  The spell required each piece to be speared with a knife of silver and held over the left shoulder, one piece at a time.  Upon stabbing the ninth piece, the intended's reflection appeared."
-Rosemary Guiley, Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy

The apple, its fruit and blossoms, its bark and leaves, each are component to Venusian magic and ever associated with lust, femininity and desire.  Apple blossom saining or holy water is used as fertility baths during the rites of spring and other solar festivals in contemporary pagan traditions.  Mirrors happen to also be one of the image attributes of Glittering Venus (The Picatrix), just as shells and combs are always featured with Venus, so is a hand mirror, and this symbolism carried on through time and across the world, influencing love rituals and glamour magic alike, and most notably, the apple always seems to make an appearance where Venus and Aphrodite's invocation and artistic images are concerned.

"On the last night of October place a mirror and a clock in a room that has not been used for some time, and at a quarter to twelve take a lighted candle and an apple, and finish eating the apple just as the clock strikes twelve and then look in the mirror and you will see your future husband."
- Alabama Folklore, Memoirs of the American Folk-lore Society

The curse of beauty, desire and the pursuit of love/lust is the legacy of Paris and that apple he chose from the most beautiful of the goddesses.  He could have had wisdom, he could have known victory; he made the same choice I'd have made.  I chose the golden apple of Pandemos and never once looked back.  The apple and mirror are a duet in the poetic romance of love magic.

"Look in a mirror at midnight on St. Agnes Eve, stick a pin in your sleeve, and you will dream of the man you will marry."
-Thomas G. Manning & Ambrose N. Burton,  A Collection of Folklore By Undergraduate Students of East Tennessee State University (1966)

Water- including "magnatized water" like that of the Magnetic Mirror, human blood, candles, moonlight, cloth and apples are all tools used in conjunction with mirrors in order to obtain some mystical goal.  In the case of Pythagoras, he is said to have, according to Agrippa, foretell by moonlight and mirror, the exact method is subject to some debate- the legend also says it was witches from the famed Thessaly line who taught him to divine this way, where they themselves used blood to write their oracles.  Water is the elemental association with mirrors, and its rulership falls under Luna.  Its associated stones are obsidian, onyx and hematite, its herbs are mugwort, wormwood and vervain, its time is midnight and dominion is the full moon.

"Magic mirrors, which were used for scrying aid to communicate with spirits; the most ancient of these is the surface of a liquid such as water, oil or ink." 
-Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy

There is a good deal of stigma and fear surrounding mirrors and their powers, much of it derived from the fear of being captured in time or a fear of doorways between the sacred and mundane.  According the funereal folklore of New England and the Midwest:

"Mirrors must be covered or turned to the wall: looking into a mirror while the corpse still lies in the house will bring another death within the year and at the same time and on the same day that the looking occurred."
-Duncan Emrich, Folklore on the American Land (1972)


On the one hand, the mirror can be a portal through which desires are gleaned, on the other, it was regarded as a portal between worlds through which spirits- even demons- may contact or watch over us. 

"Look in a mirror at a glass on a table behind you-- a glass in which a ring has been placed, and you will see your future mate."
-Frank C. Brown, North Carolina Folklore Collection

Like nearly all magics associated with love, the mirror is equally a tool of the necromancer and is part of the fabric of folklore related to haunting.

"Pausanias says, that this method of divination was in use among the Achaians; where those who were sick, and in danger of death, let down a mirror, or looking glass, fastened by a thread, into a fountain before the temple of Ceres; then looking in the glass if they saw a ghastly disfigured face, they took it as a sure sign of death; but. on the contrary, if the face appeared fresh and healthy, it was a token of recovery."
- J. S. Forsyth, Demonologia, Or, Natural Knowledge Revealed: Being an Exposé of Ancient and Modern Superstition (1831)

"He who looks in the mirror at night sees the devil there."
- Cora Linn Daniels, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World  Vol I-III (p.66)

In terms of taboos regarding the mirror and its inherent power, there exists a great deal all over the world,  the most common prohibitions being:

  • Looking at a mirror at night- ill fortune; sometimes this was said to be most dangerous at midnight or in the light of a candle- with the exception of certain love charms which may require it: "When darkness has begun to overspread the earth, go into a vacant room and stick nine pins, one above the other, into a new candle; light it, and wait until, as it burns down, the last one falls.  Probably a form will slowly define itself in the air, or the wished-for face look out from a mirror."- Journal of American Folklore.
  • Making faces in the mirror- was said to conjure the devil and his court.
  • Sleeping across from a mirror- ill omen, however sleeping with a mirror under the pillow was encouraged in love magic,"If you put the mirror under your pillow for three successive nights, you will dream of your future husband."- Cora Linn Daniels, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World  Vol I-III (p.66)
  • Breaking a mirror- bad fortune in general, unless the mirror is clothed and then shattered due to possession.
  • Candle-light before a mirror- ill omen when done at night.
  • Moonlight- shows death or reveals the future, depends on your perspective- it was used in Western European charms to reveal the identities of lovers simply by gazing during the night(Daniels, Cora L.), often while eating or distributing an apple, however it was also said to reveal the faces of those to die in Southern folklore, which is why they were to be covered after someone dies- for fear of spirit possession and entrapment (Brown, Frank C.).   The mirror was also an instrument of the sun, and was also used in the luminous magic of Solar light to cast out doubts, to heal, to reveal, to honor the gods and to reveal hidden things and they were also believed in Afro American folklore to attract lightning, necessitating being covered during storms. 
Reading and references...

  • The Frank C. Brown Collection of NC Folklore by Frank C. Brown
  • Encyclopedia of Occult Scienses Vol.VI by Maffeo Poinsot
  • Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World  Vol I-III by Cora Linn Daniels
  • Drawing Down the Sun: Rekindle the Magick of the Solar Goddesses by Stephanie Woodfield
  • Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy by Rosemary Guiley
  • Folklore on the American Land by Duncan Emrich
  • A Collection of Folklore By Undergraduate Students of East Tennessee State University (1966) by Thomas G. Manning & Ambrose N. Burton

Before the Dark of the Moon

I took a personal day recently, just to myself, to do some petitioning for my neighbor in need of help, to see backwards, to see forwards. There are things to be seen, and things to be hidden.  Everything seems clouded to me right now, especially my judgement.  It's reminding me to be careful and heed the three swords on my arm; I'm a creature of conflict and part of my nature is the struggle to confront conflict head on.  If my soul had a form, it would be wind and  leaves; fluttering, fickle and hard to catch.  These are the conflict times, the Hag of Winter has ridden in.   The last great harvest is coming soon.  I plan to spend it with the sorrors; my black girl magic night witches.  I guess I'm in some kind of coven, a sisterhood of black community associated ladies who meet every so often to express our magic selves.  We've decided to do our own samhain.




The Folklore of Mole Medicine

"The mole resembles a dead man in his tomb."-Daniel Ogden, Magic, Witchcraft and Ghosts of the Greek and Roman Worlds

Moles almost seem like an unlikely ally in a witch's work, unfashionable and unmentioned in contemporary magic where she enjoyed relative renown in old-world occultism.  The folklore of the mole in both Europe and North America paint this spirit as lucky, prescient and medicinal in nature; both physical and metaphysical.  When we look to the history of the mole in Western lore, we come to some fascinating and even gruesome approaches to working with moles on a magical level- it is part of the healing magic of mole-lore, this ritual of sacrifice, as distasteful as some may find it in the modern-day.  The mole engenders a great deal more taboos regarding its treatment for its medicinal and otherworldly properties.

scavenged skin from a crow's kill in the orchard
It should be noted that the nature of mole magic appears to largely by sacrificial means, violently at that; the power must be wrestled or smothered or cut from the ally.  However, I have not noticed the same trend or principle in some indigenous Northwest spiritual systems which appear to follow a more purely animistic approach, including taboos regarding the harming of or devouring of mole for those who become touched by mole medicine.  However, throughout the American South and Midwest, the (largely of European and African influence) folk magic of talpids is steeped in blood and flesh and ripping and suffocating and sacrifice.

In it said in Roma lore, "moles never touch the earth that has been stained with blood." Strange lore given the talpid as a carnivore and man's violent relationship with the creature, but then again, the superstitions of lore believed moles to be blind, which typically they are not. I can't imagine anyone would enjoy the flesh of moles, it smells rotten as it cooks.  Most accounts regarding the consumption of mole suggest the devouring of the raw, fresh, bleeding and beating heart of the mole in one swallow, gaining a number of powers in reward for doing so.  The heart, head, liver, flesh, entrails, teeth, paws-- truly the entire creature is believed to have curative, oracular and protective virtues in every sense.  As someone who burrows along the tunnels of the mole spirits, I appreciate the mole as the symbol of introverted diviners, strong healers, and vicious guardians; all my kin.

Remembering. Understanding. Foretelling.
"The supposed blindness of the creature, a view established in classical times and persisting to the present, its sheltered and solitary life, and its acute sense of hearing have invested the mole, in popular fancy at least, with divinatory powers, but particularly with the power to predict death."-Wayland D. Hand, American Folk Medicine: A Symposium

Those who have handled moles and/or been handled by the mole spirit know well the otherworldy prescience of the mole; she seems ever aware through sheer connection to the earth and the roots within of the comings and goings of the world.  The bones of history seep down into the earth, where she labors and moves.  Moles are asocial and reflective creatures, cunning and surprisingly vicious.  I've enjoyed working with the mole in my oracular work, including during cartomancy sessions, it gives me a sense of sight even in the darkest visions.

Moledaughtering includes leaving worms on the mole mounds in the yard, sometimes I just sing out into the night, in the dark.  I'd never think to harm the mole, that's part of the taboos of those animals with which one works on this level; all of my gifts are received through scavenging in the garden and trade.  Their nature is solitary and observant, underestimated and shy, and they are best approached in one's own territory, in the garden and wherever they build their mounds.  Quiet reflection as you watch their slow, quiet work is a good way to acquaint yourself with the introverted nature of the mole.  They aren't interactive teachers; they're a mystery school and I don't interfere, just watch.   I commiserate on that level- preferring my own company and some earth to dig in, and so nothing need be spoken.  Moles know what's up.

Personal experience aside, Pliny the Elder talks of mages using mole's entrails for divination- the heart when eaten warm and pumping gave one the ability to see how immediate business would turn out- Pliny says the mole is particularly powerful because it is "blind, buried in darkness and resembles the ""interred.""- however most moles aren't actually blind.  The association of moles with luck appears in mainstream occult circles in the books of Occult Philosophy by 16th century by scholar Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa and relates to ones' desire to obtain the powers of eloquence, persuasion and legal acumen and also features a bit of occult herbalism in this charm:

"If any man shall have this herb (swallow wort), with the heart of a mole, he shall overcome all his enemies and all matters on suit and shall put away all debate."-Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy

The mole, when her heart is consumed, was believed to grant immediate clarity while squeezing the life from a mole (popular in Eastern European and even French folklore and then revived in German American folk-magic) in sacrifice granted the ability to heal with that hand (a hand of power).  The idea that a hand that takes a mole's life through superior force of strength would be granted healing powers was so pervasive it found its way clear across to the American South among hoodoo practitioners and to the European Pennsylvanian settlers and is attested to in the folklore of those regions (Hand, Wayland).

"When a human being takes hold with his right hand of a live mole and keeps the mole so long with a tight grip until it dies, such a hand obtains by this miraculous proceeding, such marvelous power, that cancer boils, repeatedly rubbed by moving up and down with this hand will burst open, cease to form again and entirely vanish." -Cora Linn Daniels, C. M. Stevans, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World Vol I-111 

But also, English and Scottish folklore tells of mole as a healer; if one is to carry the hand of the mole itself- its paw.  This paw, especially when combined with other healing fetishes was said to guard against or even cure all sorts of ailments including toothaches and arthritis. The paw has a particularly well-known use but Pliny the Younger and Paracelsus also described the liver, head, and body of moles themselves as having a plethora of healing qualities when administered in particular fashion, and indeed they were used extensively in the healing of animals and humans alike using the organs, skin, and flesh of moles. In Southern and Midwestern American folklore, the mole's paw will guard one against the evil eye and was also an amulet to protect children from all manner of well-known childhood ailments like colic and toothaches.  The blood of the mole was said to cure warts (Hatfield, Gabriel).  The mole spirit is helpful to those they connect with it seems, by any cultural standard and here in the Northwest, the mole enjoys a reputation for good medicine.

"Alternatively, North American Quinault shaman Sammy Hoh valued his helping spirit in the form of a mole for its digging abilities, telling anthropologist Ronald Olson that when he was attacked by another shaman, who has sent a spirit to 'block the path' and prevent his (Sammy's) return from a journey into the spirit worlds, he was fortunate in having Mole for a spirit, who was of course able to burrow under any obstruction'." - Emma Wilby, Cunningfolk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanic Visionary traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic

Obtaining mole volts the old way may no longer be tasteful for most pagans and in most places there are laws regarding how one handles pest-status animals, so I strongly suggest working with those materia surrounding moles and their magical/medicinal properties; these include the soil of the mole's hill which is used in ointments for muscle and nerve soothing (Marcellus of Bordeaux) as well as whatever seeds and stones which are pushed up by moles as they are considered gifts or good omens.

"Wearing the bone of a mole under the left armpit is a protection against witchcraft.- The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore

However, if one does come into possession of a mole's body through natural means and scavenging; mole's teeth make fetishes to guard against illness and harm and the tooth of the live mole was said to be utilized in Midwestern folk magic as a form of transference to remove a child's toothache (Hand, Wayland); the dehydrated heart, powdered and kept in a bag is used in matters of persuasive charms.  The liver is said to aid in speech and the dried paw kept in a small bag with the sacred herbs of the mole, her bones and related materia will conjure the aid of the mole spirit when one is lost and needs to foretell the best outcome.

"To Drive Away and Vanquish all Foes: Whoever carries the hemlock herb, with the heart of a mole, on his person, vanquishes all his enemies, so that they will not be able to trouble him. Such a man will obtain much. When this herb is laid under the head of a sick person, the sick one, when he sings, will get well; if he cries, he will die."- Cora Linn Daniels, C. M. Stevans, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World Vol I-111- CL Daniels,

We speak a lot on the subject of guides and spirits and allies, but we don't always address how the humblest creatures, closest to the earth and quiet in nature offer so much spiritual wisdom, we can forget that our ancestors whom we honor revered even the strangest beasts.  It's trendy; wolves, snakes, owls- they're the cool kids of the pagan worlds, they're all too popular and many are convinced they are allied to these beasts.  Maybe they are.  What I suspect is there are a lot more animists and shamans out there who's closest allies and familiars are the quiet and shy beasts of the world who aren't so glamorized in mythology; beetle witches and snail sorceresses, squirrel spiritists and mole magi...

"If any man shall have calendine with the heart of a Mole, he shall overcome all his enemies and all matters in suit and shall pull away all debate."- Albertus Magnus,  The Booke of Secretes, London, c. 1560

Sometimes those allies to which we owe a great deal of passion are the unassuming kind.  It's okay.  Those kindred, like the mole, they teach us that nature's introverts and solitude-seekers, independent and vicious, knowing and listening are all around us, even beneath us at this moment, following their own way and fearing no darkness.  Me and the mole know the score.

Correspondences of  Mother Mole
Rulership~ Saturn
Element~ Earth
Herbs~ hemlock, milkweed, swallowworts
Invoke~ worms, larvae from within the seam in a fruit-bearing tree
Offerings~ songs of the earth, worms 
Time~ night, Saturn's day, hour of earth
Banes~ castor, dog's teeth amulets, lightning
Gifts~ divination, understanding, foretelling, healing, luck, overcoming and getting through
Sacred Volts~ all parts and all places in which it dwells; the soil it stirs and stones it upturns
Sacred Parts~ all parts especially the warm heart, paws, teeth, and liver
Colors~ black and grey
Numeral~ 1 
Stone~ pyrite, jasper, onyx
Realm~ subterranean, hell
Tools~ dusts of art, sacred soils, the plow of the sacred furrow


references and reading...

  • Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World Vol I-111 by Cora Linn Daniels, C. M. Stevans
  • Encyclopedia of Folk Medicine: Old World and New World Traditions by Gabrielle Hatfield
  • Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Agrippa
  • Marcellus of Bordeaux and the Beginning of Medieval Materia Medica by Jerry Stannard
  • The Frank C. Brown Collection of NC Folklore by Frank C. Brown, Wayland D. Hand
  • American Folk Medicine: A Symposium & Magical Medicine: The Folkloric Component of Medicine in the Folk Belief, Custom, and Ritual of the Peoples of Europe and America: Selected Essays by Wayland D. Hand
  • Cunningfolk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanic Visionary traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic by Emma Wilby

Absurd Moon

Waxing Moon. Moon's Day. Hour of the Moon (last Monday)

I chose two tarot and a lenormand, all of them with vintage and rare feels to begin this journey.  I had a lot of questions, and a lot of answers came. 

The Chelsea Red is a limited lenormand, she tends to read for life more than the heart.  It's my favorite buy from a few years back.  The Tarot of the Absurd is a new addiction to the collection; It's a beauty and moves in the hands like water, I'm fond of the stark artsy style and it is easily one of the highest quality monochrome decks I've ever seen.   I'm very fond of this deck and it's very cool and professional creator Barefoot Fool.  She's the noise, give her a gander.

Tarot of the Absurd.
Vintage 1970 hand-me-down Aquarian Tarot.  Doesn't get used too often because of it's delicate nature, much like my vintage Hoi Polloi, but occasionally it's exactly what I need.



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