Welcome to Soundings! The blogsite of Caitlin Matthews.

Exploring Myth, Divination and the Western Mysteries.

All blogs are copyright Caitlin Matthews. If you wish to quote any portion of it, please ask my permission.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

CARTOMANTIC ENCHANTMENT two reviews by Caitlín Matthews

Marseilles Tarot: Towards the Art of Reading by Camelia Elias (978-87-92633-42-3) Eyecorner Press, 2015

Marseilles Tarot & The Oracle Travels Light by Camelia Elias
Camelia Elias is an expert cartomant whose blog, (www.taroflexions.wordpress.com, has been educating and invigorating our divinatory practice with a variety of cards, methods and spells for many years.  As you might expect from such an experienced practitioner, her two recent books reveal a wealth of knowledge and wisdom seldom found in the run-of-the-mill tarot book.  For me this factor alone makes both books like cartomantic gold. As a writer myself, I understand the dumbing-down factor that enters into most editorial minds when considering a tarot book proposal: this process usually leaches out any originality and restrains any ‘reaching beyond the beginner’s level,’ usually to the detriment of the more experienced reader.  So to find a book written for intelligent adults which has not suffered this customary de-fanging process, and which still engages minds and hearts with enthusiasm, verve and creativity, is absolutely wondrous! These two books have been good companions to me this year.

Marseilles Tarot: Towards the Art of Reading is a must-have addition to the bookshelves of anyone who works with historic decks and unillustrated pips.
The author has given profuse examples of divinatory encounters, giving both question and card response with laconic vigour: Camelia is not a reader from the school of tarot longeur!  The cards speak cartomantically and colloquially, with a ‘take it or leave it’ speed, which is very much to my own taste. These examples clearly illustrate the dynamics of historic card reading: speedy and to the point. Each trump card entry explores the appearance and nature of the figure upon it, picking up on resonances within the deck, as well as giving a three card reading in which the card appears, and the keywords, function, health indicators and the combinatory associations with public figures. 

The Devil. The Emperor with Fool and Moon, Carolus Zoya Marseilles
So, for example, with the Devil, she notes the torch that he is carrying in his right hand is the same that is found on the Wheel of Fortune, that the keywords of the Devil are ‘Passion, Unconscious drives, Materialism, Pride and Obsessions,’ and that, if we drew the Devil with the Moon then we might be looking at Dracula, or if combined with the Emperor, then Nero.

Throughout, the reader is encouraged to find the tarot images and read the random combinations as if there were no Little White Book behind dicatorially directing you. As she writes, ‘I like to play with the way in which the cards appeal to our ludic sense, as we engage in seeing how the cards permute their essential meaning all according to what other cards they happen to enter into equation with…. The Emperor is not likely to perform the Fool, but if he happens to be near the Moon, then he might.’ (p.111)

Most people who approach Marseilles Tarot reading are usually most trepidatious about reading the unillustrated pips, and here the author directs you to examine the colour, suit and number, as well as the frequency of suit and number appearances.  In fact she treats the pips like the black and white notes on a piano. Cards 1-10 are given simple qualities: twos are cooperation or divisions, fives are speaking about health and the body, sevens are challenges etc. Aces and Tens are given stronger entries than the other numbers. Her treatment of the Pages and Knights is more cursory than the Queens and Kings, which may be frustrating to the less experienced user of historic decks.

Apart from the three card reading, her spread of choice is the French Cross, which uses five cards, sometimes with an additional three to confirm or amplify. This, and the thirteen card Council Spread, are fully expounded.

 Camelia’s writing supports the diviner in a way that I find honest, but which some might find challenging.  She never ducks an issue, but looks squarely at it. This method is part and parcel of reading with an historic deck, which is essentially pre-New Age in style and content.  Those who don’t like this kind of thing can give this book a wide berth and stick to more ‘friendly tarots.’ But for those who want to read with Marseilles Tarot and other unillustrated historic decks, please give this book a place and you will make better progress.

Compared with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Way of Tarot, Marseilles Tarot, Towards a Reading, is more feminine and less showy or Freudian (thank goodness!); compared with Yoav Ben-Dov’s Tarot: The Open Reading, it is more ecstatic and much more engaged with what the cards are saying.  While both other books have their merits and wisdoms, Camelia’s book encourages me more, both as a woman and as a reader.

The Oracle Travels Light: Principles of Magic With Cards 
(978-87-92633-28-6) by Camelia Elias, Eyecorner Press, 2015

The Oracle Travels Light deals with the magical use of the cards in reading, ritual and spellcraft.  Here the cards stand up, become hologrammic signposts, pointing the way to action and the implementation of their messages.  Reading the book is like visiting with Camelia: you lay some cards together, an issue is looked at, some solutions are signposted, and then you go out to the lake and do a ritual that brings that solution into total focus: float a paper boat, talk to the winds and hear their song, burn what needs to pass away.

As the late Justine Glass said, ‘Mind is the instrument, the channel and perhaps in some cases the creator of the forces which produce “magical results.”’ (in Witchcraft: The Sixth Sense, 1978.) These effects are really experienced by us all since we all, ‘read cards for the story of ourselves, and not only for the story of others. But as we end of serving the community in ways that are less consecrated by culture at large, we discover the magic in us.’

Many are afraid of putting their minds anywhere near magic because of the influence of religious shibboleths or cultural norms, but when we engage the enchantment, magic happens or, as we say commonly, ‘it is marvellous!’ The very instruments of marvel lie in our hands everyday, as cartomants.  Camelia reveals the heart of this book by her practical examples of marvels that result from her weaving of the cards, which she sees ‘as poetry, not cosmology. I think of the cards as the voice of my magic, uttering the words that invite the stellar power into my sacred space.’ By this means, she works with necromancy (contact with ancestors) and with the magical morals of action and belief, whereby we serve our own integrity and the world’s essential being. By looking wider, we gain a perspective that sees the linkage between the worlds of everyday and otherworld, and so we do not get stuck in the gap.

Between the Worlds by Cilla Conway; painted on vellum
This is a thought-provoking book, full of reading examples, that enable us to cross the threshold in order to engage with the deeper levels of cartomancy and seership, to further our skills and find the guiding voices. Due to a busy summer, I had the opportunity to read it very slowly, in smaller sections than I normally read, and I think this was ultimately a good practice that allowed the enchantment in cartomancy to find its place.   This is not a book that everyone will take to their hearts because it challenges who you are and how you perceive yourself: for those who don’t mind walking into the forest of the mind and striking a match, this fire will keep you warm for your whole life long.

In both books, which are both just under 200 pages, I would have liked an index to help me rediscover parts of the book that I would use again;  I ended up using sticky markers and making my own rough index of themes on the blank back page.  Both books are written in an inspired divinatory style which is at the same time mischievous and down to earth.  Like a good Romanian witch, Camelia eschews any nannying of the reader: she assumes that you are a person with free will and that you will make decisions based on what you know and what has been discovered. What you do with it, that’s for you to chose.

Both books are delightfully illustrated by Camelia’s own distinctive scribal sigils and by the Carolus Zoya cards,  a late 18th century Piedmontese Marseilles deck from the collection of K. Frank Jensen owned by Roskilde University Library in Denmark. As a Marseilles Tarot collector, I would love a full edition of the cards, I must say!

Available from:  www.eyecornerpress.com and other distributors.

Sunday, 2 August 2015


‘In a case in the Natural History Museum lie the sparse remains of shooting stars that have embedded in the earth, solemnly labelled “fragments of former worlds,”’ reported by Jacquetta Hawkes in her moving snd poetic topographical history of Britain, A Land

The Milky Way by CM
A second 'earth-like' planet, older than our own, has been discovered in the galaxy: excitement about colonizing this distant  rocky world is gripping many who have an eye to the main chance, as the human ability to asset-strip another world through our greed hoves into view again. However, there is a draw-back. Scientists are viewing this new planet now as it once looked in 615CE - a mere 1400 years ago. The timeslip involved between cup and lip may be sufficiently wide to prevent any such colonization, we hope.

In every age, fragments of former worlds are alive within the nesting generations alive at one time, from great-grand parent to great-grandchild.  As successive generations grow older and die, some of these fragments are forgotten, while others stick out like markers, leading to who knows where.  There is nothing more poignant than the detritus of those who were alive and have been gone for some time, just as archaeologists find who dig up items whose use has long been forgotten, hazarding a guess as to their purpose, so as to compose a label in a museum. 

What fragments of former worlds are you hosting?  Not just granny’s biscuit barrel or the neolithic hand-axe you dug from your garden while laying the foundations for shed, but the deeply embedded fragments within your consciousness that are the gifts of memories not yours. For  there is a department of our psyche that is a true museum - a word originally meaning ‘a place dedicated to the muses.’  Within that museum of the soul, we carry ancestral memory, the blueprints of knowledge and skill, the atavistic remnants of what once blazed glorious with life but which is now merely dust waiting to be reborn.  These remnants often lie dormant until such time as we add a liquid ingredient that reconstitutes memory in a remarkable way: this happens in infinitesimal moments, triggered by a scent, the line of a poem or the view of a landscape.  Then, hologramically, the memory stirs back into life and you are suddenly living a memory you can never have known in your present form.

The Mound of Wonders from
The Celtic Shaman's Pack by John Matthews
It is almost as if you were part of a set of Matryoshka Russian dolls, nesting one within the other and you are resonant with someone before or behind you.  The fragments of former worlds stir and reconstitute themselves in your soul.  These ancestral memories come in many forms: sometimes as true knowledge, sometimes tinged with apprehension, at other times with a neutrality of vision that doesn’t quite develop into understanding. Yet when we give this fleeting impression the time and space to reveal itself, we find we have a window that opens wider.

We think of ancestors as only being human, yet we have ancestry and kindred that go back through every single living being, right  back to the protean stars whose remains were once so quaintly labelled in the Natural History Museum in London.  When we begin to consider this prospect of our wider ancestry, then the Matryoshka doll effect changes shape.  Embedded and encoded within us is not just the matter from which universes were and will be made, but also the memory of those universes also, past and to come. 

When we begin to think of ourselves as museums of the future, not just of the past, we gain a very different way of considering the world in which we live, and maybe we shape our behaviour in different ways.  While our present fashions and customs will undoubtedly seem out-moded by our descendants, there is that within you that they will find of value in times that we cannot yet imagine.  When you are dust, your prayer for them can still be revolving, waiting for that moment when their need, or their lack of vision, requires something that only ancestry can provide.  Those precious fragments of knowing or understanding that you have hosted, can leap beyond the generations to become living guidance that shapes worlds yet to be.

You too leave your own trace in the universe, especially when you hold in mind all who share it with you:

Recognize your companions and give them honour,
For they stem from the same source as yourself.
Out of every generation we have been called as seekers, as children of wisdom.
It is right to remember how your quest began, the books that you read,
The wise words of the teachers that replied to your simple questions.
But books and teachers are not the only guides. In the silence of your heart,
In the watches of the night, you have closed your eyes and discovered
That your companions, your sisters and brothers, have been praying with you eternally.
Now that you are one in understanding,
You can make the journey and achieve your quest. 

- adapted by Caitlín from the Hermetic Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth, Corpus Hermeticum

Monday, 20 July 2015

The Zone of Sophia: a prayer form for difficult times

Over the last thirty years, I’ve practised a prayer-form that I first received in a dream. I’ve used different forms of it over the years, but the core of it remains the same. Within the dream, I was ushered into an enclosed garden which was surrounded by a high hedge with a central gateway in each of the four sides. It was the numinous hour before dawn and the air shimmered. From each of the gateways came four strong, tall, faery beings who bore the emblems of the elements in their hands. They walked with dignity and beauty as if carrying the most precious things in the world. In turn they spoke a blessing for each element. They then taught me the words and instructed me in what was done and intended, since all ritual and prayer comes with specific intention.

The Four Hallows by Miranda Gray
from The Complete Arthurian Tarot
by Caitlín & John Matthews
They showed me the stars and the *zone or belt of Sophia, the atmosphere which shrouds our earth. The faery women instructed me to tell people to send up our deepest aspirations for the universe nightly to this boundary of the earth's soul that all beings might imbibe, dream and be nourished by the common pool of aspirations gathered there. In daily life, we can bless the elements, and be aware of the messages of our bodies. In addition, we can dance to help keep our sense of connection between the worlds. If we maintained these things then all beings would learn to see these connections. The blessings of the elements were repeated to me in this vision:

Blessed be the precious and preserving air, by which we are given life.
Blessed be the precious and preserving fire, by which we are warmed.
Blessed be the precious and preserving water, by which we are cleansed.
Blessed be the precious and preserving earth, by which we are sustained.
Blessed be the precious and preserving spirit that is within and around me.

These are now the last words I utter before sleep and the first upon waking every day: sometimes the words vary, but the first part of the blessing remains the same. I sometimes add, ‘Blessed be the precious and preserving ancestors, now, then and to come.’ I especially use these blessings when I light the stove, draw water or step out of the house.
The Zone of Sophia - our atmosphere
In the last few weeks, the pressure has been on me to share this prayer form again, as I’ve been reminded that the aspirations we send up to the earth’s atmosphere, which is bounded by the sacred zone of Sophia, can also include those of peace for which our world yearns so much. The simplicity of the elemental blessing has its own effect around us, but the aspirations of the heart and soul that we send to become part of the earth’s atmosphere, have a much wider one: they become part of the zone or belt of Sophia, or the scarf that is woven by Persephone (see below.)

In doing this, we don’t need to specify an end to the aspiration because it is offered without condition from you to your equals. As soon as we try to refine aspiration or prayer to a specific aim, we get in the way of it. It was clear from my original instructions, that this prayerful aspiration was to be freely offered and made available, not sent to some particular person or aim: no-one and no being is excluded from this form.

About six years ago, over the weekend of a conference, I was asked to lead a dawn meditation at a house in the south of England. I went on a recce to check out the terrain, discovering that the designated place wasn’t really suitable for elderly people to get down to in the dark, and so I walked the extensive grounds to find a better place with a more even footing. Imagine my delight when, on turning into the unassuming gate of a wall, I found myself in an enclosed garden with a gate in each wall! Within that blessed place, at the first light of dawn, we recreated my dream in the enclosed garden. May we all contribute to bringing and maintaining the peace!

• The Zone or Belt of Sophia is a concept that is found in two sources: in the myth of Persephone and that of the Gnostic Sophia. According to Thomas Taylor, the Platonist, ‘Jupiter instructs Venus to go to her abode, and betray Proserpina from her retirement, that Pluto may be enabled to carry her away; and to prevent any suspicion in the virgin's mind, he commands Diana and Pallas to go in company. The three Goddesses arriving, find Proserpina at work on a scarf for her mother; in which she had embroidered the primitive chaos and the formation of the world.’

• In 4th century account by Claudian of De Raptu Prosperina, we read how this scarf was worked: ‘Proserpine herself, soothing the house with sweet song, was sewing all in vain a gift against her mother’s return. In this cloth she embroidered with her needle the concourse of atoms and the dwelling of the Father of the gods and pictured how Mother Nature ordered elemental chaos, and how the first principles of things sprang apart, each to his proper place – those that were light being born aloft, the heavier ones falling to the centre. The air grew bright and fire chose the pole as it seat. Here flowed the sea; there hung the earth suspended. Many were the colours she employed tricking the stars with god and flowering the sea with purple. The shore she embossed with precious stones and cunningly employed raised threadwork to imitate the swelling billows.’

• In the Gnostic text, On the Origin of the World, the will of Pistis (Faith) emanated as Sophia who ‘manifested itself as a likeness of heaven, having an unimaginable magnitude;’ and so Sophia ‘functioned as a veil dividing mankind from the things above.’

The Ever Living Lady by Danuta Meyer
from The Celtic Book of the Dead
by Caitlín Matthews

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Mothers of Change - guest blog by Anastacia J. Nutt

THE MOTHERS OF CHANGE   by Anastacia J. Nutt

This year's guest blog by Anastacia J. Nutt examines the nature of the changes which our world is facing and opens a powerful way of undergoing these times with love and discipline, and the guidance of the Mothers of Change - the Goddesses best able to support us at these times. In Anastacia's book, The Mother of Change*, the Goddess Orchil, Sekhmet, Athena, Inanna, Myriam and Ananke reveal pathways by which we can walk with good guidance.

Ananke's Daughters

Without a doubt, we are facing unprecedented change at this time; no one denies this social, spiritual, political and environmental truth. However, those who would make us believe that these forces of change must be “battled,” “conquered” and “commanded” are offering neither wisdom nor truth. Those who fill our minds with the fears of externally-derived tyrannies, be they human, geologic, viral or technological, to which our only response is an embattled one, are offering neither wisdom nor truth.  These two precious gifts can never be found in the throes of separation; they may only be found within the unity consciousness of all living beings. 

To this end, we must strive to become spiritual ambassadors of the human race. Various sources tell us that 21st century was destined to be a time of great change. The discovery that awaits us is how best to live within these times while continuing to offer ourselves to the world.  The Mothers of Change help us adjust to the changing Cosmos, while staying fully engaged in life.

The Mothers of Change are the Divine Feminine forces who, over the course of our lives, guide and direct us with the same balance of love and discipline as our human guardians. When we work them in this unique sacromagical manner, these six Mothers enable us to face and gracefully navigate the forces of change challenging humanity and the planet today.   
Inanna and Sargon
Change is thus created by the reordering of the elements. As the proportion of Earth to Water and Air to Fire fluctuates, old patterns and influences are released and new patterns and influences come into form.  Moreover, these changes occur first in the Divine templates of Cosmic law before they become manifest in the physical world of form.

Ananke and the Spindle of Necessity
Because the temporal Mother Goddesses mediate the power of the elements, in real time (from moment to moment, never ceasing), through their part human/part Divine form, they also mediate the changes of the elements as they occur. Thus, when we work with these Mother Goddesses and the powers they mediate, we receive intimations of the yet-to-manifest whispers of change to come.  The work with The Mothers of Change enables us to work with change as it materializes!

You can join Anastacia and R.J.Stewart for their retreat at Hawkwood College:

9-12 July 2015 THE MOTHERS OF CHANGE & THE FIFTH NAMELESS GODDESS with R.J.Stewart & Anastacia Nutt, introduced by Caitlín Matthews  

Based upon Anastacia's book, this sacromagical series brings us into deep communion with six Mother-Goddesses who have inspired, uplifted, and guided humankind though times of change since antiquity.  Now, when so much profound change occurs, we remember and return to The Mothers of Change. Our retreat includes intensive work with the unique meditational and visionary system of The Fifth Nameless Goddess, created by R J Stewart, taught to small groups from the 1980s to the present. See www.rjstewart.org (calendar) for more information. Single  £415, Shared  £365 Non res £300  Please send your non-returnable deposit of £120 payable to Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Rd., Stroud, Glos GL6 7QW. Book on 01453 759034 or enquire at info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk,quoting course 15-272  

Anastacia J. Nutt and R.J.Stewart are authors, teachers and stewards of the sacromagical systems of the Western Esoteric Tradition.  To learn more about their work, please visit: www.rjstewart.org.

*The Book and CD of The Mothers of Change by Anastacia Nutt are available from 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014



If you have read to the end of this series of posts about the differences that are entailed in reading cartomantically, you may have many questions and impressions.  You may have been appalled at the pragmatic, even prosaic way in which cartomantic reading works, especially after the sophistications of 78 tarot cards.  But really, although Tarot and Lenormand are read differently, it is only by their results that we can judge them.  I don’t want to create any dichotomy between the use of both systems, since I use both systems, but I do want us to honour each system according to its merits.

Although Lenormands come in all shapes and sizes and may sit on the same shelves in the shop as various Tarots, they are not the same thing, nor can we read them the same way.  There are many modern, beautiful and useful Lenormands but, though the artwork makes them as pretty as a tarot, you have to tread carefully. I’ve written in an earlier blog about the pitfalls of choosing a Lenormand deck, so as to avoid unpleasant and irritating surprises: http://caitlin-matthews.blogspot.co.uk/2014_03_01_archive.html
Das Spiel der Hoffnung 1800, above.
Coffee Cards 1796, below. 
Things have come a long way since Etteilla gave his first method of cartomancy.  The tradition of Lenormand reading has been evolving since the late 18th century, from the ‘Coffee Cards’ or coffee ground-based readings of Les Amusements des Allemands of 1796 to Das Spiel der Hoffnung, from the distance or Near and Far method of reading of the mid 19th century through to the modern style of combination reading that has grown up from this method. The cards are still read cartomantically by juxtaposition, known by their core key-words meanings as well as their proximity meanings.

We cannot put back the clock and live as our ancestors did, of course. It isn’t necessary to only use an historic, facsimile deck in order to read Lenormand, but if we leave off the
Stralsunders c. 1860s, above,
Lenormand Revolution by Carrie Paris
and Roz, below
cartomantic mindset and bring in our Tarot sensibilities when reading, we will miss the main event of this small oracle. 
This older style of cartomantic reading offers a clear and honest way of interpreting for clients. 

Any craft that you pick up is best learned by taking the tools in your hands and using them practically.  When you do this your hands, your cells and your intelligence learn what is involved.  All of us involved in divination want to be more efficient and wise, to read better for our clients.  We all know that people can go onto a computerized internet site and receive an instant reading from a pre-programmed oracle, but that is not what we are after when we use the small oracles. We want to develop the hand, eye and mouth skills by daily practise, so that we can engage closely and helpfully with the issues that our clients bring. For our oracle has to be spoken aloud!

In my new book, The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook, I stress the importance of  speaking the cards aloud, since it is one thing to read quietly for yourself but a wholly different kettle of fish to read for a client.  ( I plan to do a short series of blogs on blending the vocal and interpretative skills necessary for this in the near future. ) When you lay your cards for a well-framed, try reading aloud, as if you were talking to a client: you will be surprised how much more precise you become in your interpretation.  

To step from Tarot into Lenormand is to step away from the era of esoteric mindedness into a pre-esoteric era where the jobbing cards do all the work.  It means imaginatively having to come from another place and not to create connections that are extraneous to what the card’s keywords represent. It means having to stop making pictorial connections.   This isn’t easy to accomplish, nor will it happen in one step. It took me several years.

Caitlín Divining in the Café
A cartomantic mindset in Lenormand reading grows by practice, over many years, so don’t feel that you will come to the end of learning any time soon. These guidelines will keep you on the road.

1. Read the cards according to their keywords only and not by their images or associations with metaphors, symbolism, cultural nuances or any esoteric add-ons.
2. Remember that Lenormand is more of a linguistic than a pictorial way of reading. Of course you see the images, but these are just triggers to keyword meanings.
3. Melding and blending individual cards together provides fresh meanings, when two or more cards come together like two pots of paint, creating a third colour.
4.  The cards that touch the Significator or topic card have an immediate or strong effect upon the client or their issue.
5. By speaking the cards aloud from their keywords, you will express the oracle that the cards are giving.
6. By permutating the cards in different reading processes, you uncover both the hidden meanings as well as the major or hidden dynamics of the issue.
7. The answer is always found in the cards: just listen to what they are saying and speak them out loud – then you too become an oracle.

As a little bonus for you persistent and patient readers, I’ve appended a little cartomantic practice that is borrowed from French playing card cartomancy. This is a quick, useful, little practice before you do your main reading for the client, and acts in the same way as the cut, giving you a few cards by which to see the lie of the land. If nothing else, it gives you a method of practising your pairing skills!
1.Shuffle your cards.
2. Turn them face up two at a time. You are looking for four cards that determine the following:    HOUSE for your home, MOON for your work, CLOUDS for your thoughts, BOUQUET for the surprise.
3. Select the card that comes paired with each of these four cards, discarding the others.
4. Sometimes you get two of the four target cards together, so decide which is speaking about what.
CLOUDS+ Tower = official thoughts
Enchanted Lenormand Oracle by Caitlín Matthews
and Virginia Lee

Snake + HOUSE = difficult at home
Clover + BOUQUET = a lucky surprise
MOON + Sun = confidence at work

In the example here, thoughts are about official matters; there are complex matters at work in the home; work is easy and successful, while the surprise is likely to be of a fleeting nature, such a small windfall. In the original Playing card Chien de Pique, you would select are Jack of Spades for the surprise, Ace of hearts for the home, 7 Clubs for thoughts and 9 Clubs for work.  

Have fun with your cards! 

Learning the older cartomantic ways of reading and understanding the newer ones is something that all good readers of Lenormand are keen to foster. So here is a place on Facebook for the serious student who wants to participate in and learn from this rich heritage, which belongs to the whole world.


This guest blog by bean feasa, Cáit Branigan, explores what it means to maintain and clear the environment where we live and work from a traditional Irish  perspective. How residues, intrusions, trapped ancestors and other factors impact upon our health and well-being is not well understood, but there are ways to bring them to balance that respectful, elegant and effective. 

Cáit Branigan
‘Formerly, great care was taken in Ireland in the choosing of a site for a house, and not merely for its physical attributes. If there was any hint that it might be on a fairy path, or track, it was sensible to avoid that place, and let them have free access to their accustomed route.’

from Meeting the Other Crowd by Eddie Lenihan with Carolyn Eve Green

From the earliest times, humans have sought to ensure the cleanliness of their living space, not only physically but also on an energetic level.  This tending of their space encompassed not only spiritual ‘hygiene’ (a word derived from the name of the Greek Goddess Hygeia, goddess of health, cleanliness and sanitation), but also a deep understanding of their interaction with otherworldly forces and the deep flowing energies within the land.

From those times to these, humanity’s relationship with the land and life has evolved and, in some ways, altered radically.  However, beneath the modern exterior, which presents the picture of our life today, lies still the necessity for harmony with the land and through that, the manifest peace of our home.  The tradition of house-clearing in Ireland and Britain is ancient and still holds a strong place in the spiritual traditions of those lands. To begin with, however, I should address the term “house and land clearing” which is used to describe the practice about which I am to speak.  

Island of the Crystal Keep
by Danuta Meyer, from
The Celtic Book of the Dead
by Caitlín Matthews
The term “clearing’ is somewhat disingenuous as the practice is one of rebalancing, restoration and healing.  Yes, negative energies/entities are removed to give the sense of a ‘clear’ space, yet that removal is based on the grounding principles of shamanic/indigenous healing practices that are balance, respect and communication.  The most important skill of a practitioner involved in house or land clearing is that of listening, of witnessing what it is that the land has to say and, as a follow on from that, the spirits of place.  

As with most healing techniques, first we do nothing other than to listen: we listen and bear witness to the story of the land, its history, its formation, the movement of waterways/leylines through the land and the track-ways of ancestral peoples or otherworldly beings that may traverse the area.  We listen and bear witness to the story of the people currently living there: their health and well-being; their experiences in life; their concerns and hopes; their reason for seeking help.  We take the role of the Weaver, drawing those threads together into a coherent tapestry which portrays the current balance/imbalance of the house or land area.  It is not a weaving of judgement but one of simple awareness through which we come to understand our role in rebalancing that which is out of balance in the arising situation.
Orcadian ruin
As we listen it is vital to be aware that we take in information on many levels and through many senses.  It is not just what is said but what we feel, sense or know that is to be taken into account.  For this is a practice of harmonisation of all elements: land, human and energetic.  Therefore, it is a requirement that we have a deep understanding of our own relationship to energy and our capacity to communicate with it.  It is vital that we listen to our own bodies (among your own senses, which speak with a stronger voice?) so that we learn to clarify and distinguish between the various voices speaking.  We are, through helping to bring healing to one home/family/area of land, helping to heal the soul of the land of which we are but one part.

Many people reading this article may be aware of the phrase “geopathic stress”.  Geopathic stress refers to the effects of underground waterways and ley-lines on human beings living within their home and refers specifically to those that flow beneath the house itself.  Basic symptoms of such stress may include the following:

• Poor sleep: including insomnia; disrupted sleep or not feeling refreshed upon waking.
• Disrupted digestion: including diarrhoea; constipation or irritable bowel.
• Pain in the body.
• Headaches and an unclear mind.
• Depression.

More severe symptoms may include cancers and degenerative illnesses.

However, what is very important to understand is that underground waterways and ley-lines are not negative energetically.  Waterways feed the land and all that live within it.  Ley-lines are the energetic meridians of the Earth – some might say the nervous system - which allows for communication throughout the body of the Earth.  I refer you to the quote at the beginning of the article.  The key to understanding what appears to some to be a modern complaint is our lack of relationship with, and understanding of, the land upon which we live.

In times past, our ancestors did not live on or build their homes close to sacred sites.  Sacred sites are designated as such due to their energetic power.  Such power stems from a conflagration of lines and, what are now referred to as vortexes which are, in effect, the pooling of energy at crossing point where lines intersect.  This power is beautiful, inspiring and allows for deep spiritual contact with the Source/She Who is All That Is/Creator….. Yet, it is a power and by virtue of that fact can affect the balance of the human body when said human lives in a contained structure over such energies.
Svafaradalar, Northern Iceland

Further, until recent times our predecessors ensured that their homes were not built on ancient track-ways much as in Iceland the spirits of land were communicated with by local practitioners before road-building was undertaken.

‘The elders had their own way of testing a dubious site.  One such was to hammer down four hazel branches solidly at the four proposed corners of the house-to-be.  If they were disturbed in the morning, it was unsafe to build there.’ ibid

As a result of the increased reporting of geopathic stress by homeowners, some architects are now engaging with diviners/shamanic practitioners to ascertain the energetic map of a chosen site.

House-clearing deals with those houses that were built without such preparatory awareness by rebalancing and gently diverting such lines and streams around the building.  Some might say that humans do not have the right to interfere in such a manner.  In an ideal world we may be able to remove the problem:

‘Building houses, now, when the foundation of a house was laid out, if the masons came the following morning an’ if there was things knocked, they might remove it. It might be in the path.’ ibid

Sabrina: River Severn
However, for most people this is an untenable solution when, perhaps, their home is completed or purchased in an estate etc., which brings us back to the whole point of communication.  Listening is the first step; working out/negotiating a solution with all involved is the next.  It is never a question to blocking or interrupting the flow of waterways or ley-lines.  It is a simple re-direction which is decided upon by the spirits of the land and mediated through the skill of the practitioner called upon to help.  In Ireland this was traditionally achieved through the use of iron rods which were buried into the ground with the effect of diverting water.  Some modern practitioners are known to use many other techniques including the use of earthing wire.  In my practice I use no physical tools anymore for diverting lines, instead choosing to work only with light energy to the same effect.  Such diversion is done to the benefit of all concerned – not just the household within which you are working – so waterways or lines are not directed into another home even if the house within which you work happens to be a terraced one!


Ancestral Inhabitants of a House
There is much now in books, on television and radio about communication with spirits.  Perhaps it is the time within which we live that people seek to affirm that there is a life beyond our own.  Whatever the reason, it is a thing of promise that people are beginning to open once again to what was always a known reality for human beings: that there is more to life than that which we see with our eyes.

It is a common feature of house-clearing, that practitioners often have to engage with spirits.  Some of the spirits, as mentioned above, are spirits of place.  Some are spirits of family who draw close to help/support their loved ones.  However, there are also spirits of those who have stories yet to tell – some of harrowing or unexpected deaths; some of loss or fear.  The role of the practitioner is to witness these stories and to help to guide that spirit to a place of rest.  Other spirits may be found to be malevolent and need to be brought to a place of light.

This brings me to the next vital aspect of healing land/home.  Light is a word much misused in New Age practices as there is much misunderstanding of its significance.  Light is life, love and Source.  Light is the strongest aspect of existence without which we wither.  When we clear a home or a tract of land it means that we infuse it with light.  Light that is directed through the heart – ours and that of the land.  Light that is powerful and cleansing, vast and unknowable in many ways but is ultimately the most sacred energy of all.  It is not our agenda at work, not our idea of what is required but that which is communicated to us through Light from the Source.

Kirbister House, Orkney
Every practitioner comes into this world with their role to play and the variance of those skills is what creates a rich and vibrant community of healers.  The art of house/land clearing is one area where that question is applicable.  There are those diviners whose work solely concentrates upon relationship with water, that being an ancient and noble art.  There are those whose role encompasses communication with spirits.  There are others who work on more than one level and so can facilitate the work in a broader way.  There is no better or worse, no hierarchy.  It is simply a requirement to examine with honesty our gifts and skills and hence our role.

Whatever the outcome, the most important point of reference for practitioners and non-practitioners alike is the remembrance that we are of the land; a part that is of the whole.  As such, it is within us to come into relationship once again with All That Is, to remember who and what we are and so to come into harmony with the land and the body of this sacred Earth.  To tend the hearth of our most sacred Home.

Cáit Branigan is an Ordained Priestess Hierophant of the Western Mystery Tradition, a Bean Feasa (Shamanic Practitioner) and Healer working within the traditions of Ireland.  She works with individuals at her healing centre in Co. Wexford.  She also teaches groups and conducts ceremonies throughout the country and internationally, work which includes Women’s Mysteries, the facilitation of Rites of Passage and sweat lodges within the Irish Tradition.  She is an Ovate with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and a member of the Fellowship of Isis.

Cáit Branigan and Caitlín Matthews will be leading a course teaching these skills:

21-24 August 2014 TENDING THE HEARTH: Traditional Celtic House Clearing  at Hawkwood College, Stroud, Glos, UK.

 We will explore the core elements of house-clearing, focusing on work with ley/dragon lines and underground streams; clearing of negative/blocked energies; communication with spirits and the 'hauntings' and the blessing of the home.  Learn how to apply these skills from an experienced bean feasa who clears houses professionally.  Participants need to bring dowsing rods and a pendulum. 

This course is for those have strong access to inner guidance as experienced through, for example, journeying, spiritualism or deep meditational practice.   

Single £415, Shared  £365, Non Res £300.  Please send your non-returnable deposit of £90 payable to Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Rd., Stroud, Glos GL6 7QW (01453 759034) info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk9

Saturday, 26 July 2014


                                                         Piatnik Lenormand

I stated in the previous blogs of this Cartomantic Mindset series that we read Lenormand by juxtaposition and that positions were something we could forget. Well, let’s modify that now and look at the cards from a cartomantic mindset.  When we begin reading in tableaux, when cards are laid in ranks of 9 or more cards, we are always interested in where the Significator or topic card falls and which cards touch it.  Here is what I mean, using the smallest possible tableau of cards, which is a Portrait or 3 x 3 frame.

Mertz Lenormand 
Taking the central position 3 x3 as the Significator or topic (subject) cards, then the cards above, below, and to either side of it are said to be touching.

                                               Above you
                   Behind you          Significator    Before you
                                               Beneath you

Above your head: shows conscious concerns, motives, plans and thoughts or worries.
Below your feet: shows how you are rooted, grounded or any unconscious motivations.
Left or Behind you: shows the past, trigger, conditioning
Right Before you: shows the future, likely outcome or result

Marie Bento's Antiquarian Lenormand
There are also the four diagonal positions leading from the Significator which, though they don’t touch the central card,  are influential upon it. In the image above, I've moved the four corner cards out for emphasis, but they are representing:

          Top left  a known influence  that is passing away.
          Top right  a planned trajectory that lies before you.  
          Bottom left  an unknown influence that has brought you here . 
          Bottom right an unknown trajectory that is coming.

 So we immediately see that the placement of the cards can also determine time: cards ranged in columns before the Significator can reveal the past, while cards in columns before it can reveal the future.  In a tableau, that means any cards before or after the Significator, in which ever column or position, can do this. 

While calculating timing is a wholly different ball-game, I must say that I personally do not look at past and future very often but treat all the cards as speaking about the issue.  (If you want to check out specific timing, rather than the past, present and future of a spread,  I recommend chapter 12 of my new book The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook.)

Enchanted Lenormand by Caitlín Matthew & Virginia Lee
In this example,  I was asking for more information about a proposal I had received to go and teach abroad for a course centre. All cards were randomly laid. I am not going to break down this 3x3 tableau in the usual way, but look at it from the perspective of the touching cards. Note that in the Enchanted Lenormand above that the Clouds have their light side to right. The cards depicted are:

               Tree, Clouds, Lilies,
               Ship. Letter, Fish,
               Birds, Star, Snake.

At the heart of the reading is Letter, which I read as ‘the terms and conditions’ of this proposal: I was most concerned about this since  the organizer had been very vague in his email about payment and other details. By looking at the touching cards I immediately get the dynamic. Over the Letter’s head is Clouds (confusion), showing that there is uncertainty about the small print of this contract, but below Letter, is Clouds’ opposite number, Stars (clarity,)  which is always the basis for any agreement that I want present before I finally make up my mind. Before Letter is Ship (travel, overseas) and after it is Fish (money, payment.) These are all issues that speak about the immediacy of the issue.  To discover more, I will have to look at what’s going down on the diagonals.

So we notice the positioning of the touching cards AND we also read the combinations of one card with another.  We don’t just pin a card to a position in a tableau and leave it there, we get combining in a variety of ways.

I read the corners which will give me a frame for this story:
top left + bottom right, with top right + bottom left. Tree (health, ancestors, long-term) + Snake (deception, complications, rivalry) and  Lilies (old, patience, protection, peace) + Birds (talk, gossip, phone-call.) This gives me the story in brief: ‘a protracted set of complications,  in which I patiently call and email for more details.’

I read together the cards of the central diamond: (the cards actually touching the central card)  Clouds, Ship, Fish and Stars which surround the central card, which gives me, ‘Uncertainties about going abroad and being paid clearly.’ I can also read the cards in columns in rows across, giving me even more information:

Tree + Clouds + Lilies = Long-term uncertainty in which I have to be patient.
Ship + Letter + Fish = Overseas contract brings payment
Birds  + Stars + Snake = Emailing/phoning to clarify complications

Then I read the cards in columns to see what else is here:
Tree + Ship + Birds = Ancestral course overseas is talked about
Clouds + Letter + Stars = Confusions in terms are clarified
Lilies + Fish + Snake =  Patient about money complications

There are more processes I could have applied to this tableau, but this is enough to see pretty clearly.

You will want to know what happened. Well, since I was going to this same country anyway for a larger event, I tacked this course invitation on at the front on my visit. The conversations by skype between me and the organizer ascertained that payment would be given me at the end of my course, before I Ieft the country.  However, that afternoon, the organizers suddenly found themselves mysteriously without the money to pay me! Some was given me in cash and the rest I had to hassle them for: finally they paid me some 2 months later, having said that they were ‘waiting for me to invoice them’– this had never been discussed or asked for, of course, but I did finally receive my money.  What is so ironic about this reading is that Letter also stands for ‘invoice’ or ‘bill.’ With Fish next to this, I should have noticed, since this would have made Letter + Fish  or ‘payment invoice!!’  Well, we cannot always have our cartomantic heads on!


While in Tarot we would normally read the cards in any spread just the once, and give them just a summarizing look-over at the end, in Lenormand cartomancy, we scrutinize a spread in more details for a lot longer, as you have seen here. Because we’re not reading cards on positions, we sometimes need more processes to extract the information. This will entail reading a card in more than one way. A card that crops up as ‘the past’ might also be read again as part of a different combination or part of a further scrutiny, as you can see here.  You will see above that I read Tree as ‘long-term’ and also ‘ancestral’ – both are legitimate meanings and both were relevant, since this course was about the ancestors. By utilizing the different permutations and processes of cartomantic reading, I get to build up a full picture. 

These processes seem to some folk to be extraneous and indeed, not every Lenormand reader would utilize all of them for every spread, but if you’re having a hard time understanding something or you have an uneasy feeling that all is not what it seems, then you go to the deeper layers and have a look-see.  These processes sometimes reveal the hidden dynamic which you might of missed, but mostly they confirm what you first saw, which is never a bad thing to have. As you’ve seen from my example above, you don’t always need all the processes or layers because the message of the cards is loud and clear.

In the last blog next time, we’ll summarize what we need to make the switch from Tarot into Lenormand reading. Not in order to give up reading Tarot, you understand, but just so you can get your cartomantic mindset in place when you start moving those Lennys into line!