To divine, or not to divine?
The germs have been making their rounds through the local human community, and finally caught me this week. It wasn't epic — a hacking cough that hurt my chest, the characteristic taste of phlegm, a wonky body furnace that swung from wearing-two-sweaters cold to hot, a humming head. A cold.
Colds are always a bummer, but they're especially a bummer when you have engagements. I have a monthly engagement reading tarot cards for the masses as part of an art walk here in the Great White North. I earn my keep and have some loyal clients. Missing a month stings me — and the seekers.
But I weighed my options. I shuffle the cards between readings, and give them to the clients to shuffle before theirs. They sit directly across from me, a distance of a few feet. By any shred of healthcare wisdom, I should have bowed out — and did, but for more than the simple desire not to be the Typhoid Mary of the common cold.
Since I've given many readings through the years, I've made a study of the energetics of divination. It is, at its base, a magickal act: I enter into a light trance state, offering prayers to Brighid, my matron goddess. I inscribe symbols on my energy body/aura/chi/whatever-flaky-term-you-want to use: an awen on my tongue and between my eyes, the circling triskelion of Manannan, flames in my three cauldrons. I run a short tree meditation, and see the branches about my head and roots about my feet throughout. And then I maintain this: all the visualizations, the connection with Brighid, the Otherworldly Tree, while I send forth a tendril of my own spirit to touch that of the client. I am a conduit between them and Brighid. As I turn over the cards, I tune in to my heart-cauldron (or chakra, if you prefer that term) for the feeling that answers the question, and then sift through words until I find the words that fit the feeling, a key to a lock.
So if you've ever wondered what I'm actually doing with the cards, there it is. It's why my eyes are half-closed, and I don't seem to be looking at the clients or the cards.
Seership requires a certain amount of energy exchange: between the seer and the spirits, and between the seer and the client. A single reading likely won't affect the seer in any major way, but back-to-back readings during the course of an evening always will. On busy nights, I've crawled into bed a frazzled, weepy mess because of it. Part of the reason is that it's inherently an ungrounding activity, one that takes you outside of your physical being and the psychological boundaries of your self. It also requires a good deal of vital force, whether you call that chi, prana, magick or just plain ol' energy.
In that way, divination is akin to other "magickal" rites, whether trance-journeys to the Otherworld, spell-casting or scrying. All of them require a certain amount of vital force, which connects with the vital force of the Kindreds and of the Land, Sea and Sky. Think of it as a great web of potential, energy and magick; your vital force allows you to give back to the grid, so to speak.
I've had sick, cold-medicated clients, and they usually have poor readings. Simply put, they don't have the vital force to lend to the reading, and thus I can't connect with them. And rightfully so — their bodies need that energy to heal.
So, as a sick reader, I can see the evening panning out one of two ways: 1. my body refuses to allow me full access to the trance state and the connection with clients, leading to poor readings. 2. more likely, due to my journey experience, I use illness to thrust me even more deeply into the trance, the readings go as they should — and my vital force becomes dangerously depleted, making me sicker.
As a teenager, I remember reading Scott Cunningham's "Living Wicca." (Don't laugh; I've always had great respect for Cunningham, who struck me as genuinely devoted to the Gods of his tradition and a gentle human being to boot.) One of the questions in the book was, "Do I do ritual when I'm sick?" As silly as it sounds, it's a decent question. It will come up sooner or later in your practice.
My rule of thumb: Listen to your body and act accordingly. Meditation is usually okay, but journeying is out. A personal divination is fine, but make it short; no marathon sessions of any type. Devotionals to the Gods, ancestors and nature spirits are fine, as long as they're not too intensive; they'll forgive you if you're feeling like human fecal matter. After all, they love you and want you to stick around.
Simple stuff, but it's amazing how easy you forget it when your brains are germ-addled.