Apart from the community-oriented divination that I’ve started to do every three months, I ask other kinds of questions during my divination routine every month. Here’s a bit more about my approach (namely, the types of questions and some rationale), followed by a concrete example.
One of my blocks with doing divination when I was younger is that, with things constantly in flux due to choices and the uncertainty of the details of our actions, it didn’t seem that productive to ask about concrete events in the future.
From another perspective (and this is a thought problem I decided to work through, consciously or not, in fiction-writing), how much does reading an outcome impact our future “measurement” of the outcome? How much of the push towards the result is driven by us, and how much is driven by Fate and the onward motion of time? Finally, having grown up in the pagan community at the time when Neopagan books were shelved near the 2012 apocalypse stuff in bookstores, I am just a tad skeptical about the pie-in-the-sky divination tendencies that I have seen here and there.
Types of Questions
What I typically ask about are personal things — the types of questions that do not easily segment into discrete past, present, or future and/or questions that focus more on resilience and responsiveness to future events than to whatever is coming. For the most part, I’ve used the Girls Underground Oracle Deck in cases when I can phrase questions in terms of narrative/next steps, and I’m growing more comfortable with that tool. For yes/no questions, I often use a pendulum. For perspective checks, I may use the Greek Alphabet Oracle or a single card from the Girls Underground deck. Here are some examples:
- What are some concrete steps I can take to be happier at work?
- Is hanging out with [x group] okay and are they good people or is it all just going to go to shit again?
- If I do [x], how is this likely to impact me going forward?
- Over the next month, what is the most important thing for me to do in my religious community?
Of course, there’s also the question I ask at the beginning of each week, which is “what do I need to keep in mind so I can grow and strive for arete even amidst challenges this week,” a question that receives a Greek Alphabet Oracle and random.org-generated set of three Delphic Maxims. I contemplate what is given over the week, and the Greek Alphabet Oracle has been very helpful at predicting things like feeling mentally/emotionally under the weather or when community strife will cause me a lot of interpersonal stress/angst. And I do pull out the Pythagorean Tarot every January 1 for an annual spread.
Asking Apollon personal questions always feels deeply vulnerable, especially when my anxiety is high and my negative self-talk repeats scientific materialist stuff about divination or when I worry that I will ask something and be told that I have screwed something up in a hopeless way. Such things have not happened, and especially when I ask emotionally-charged questions, the advice tends to be exactly what I need, even when the answer is not easy. One example is when I ask things that I know are related to bouncing back from childhood trauma, or at least managing it — chronic childhood circumstances like bullying and family problems permanently change the brain in ways that have lifelong impacts even when someone becomes relatively okay; the latent saṁskāra-s are still there and vulnerable to aggravation during times of elevated stress and challenge (e.g., a pandemic).
A Detailed Example
I asked last week about belonging. This is something that I have struggled with for a long time, and my general coping mechanism is to deny that belonging is real and to instead focus on how useful I am being to other people. My general experience of ingroups is that I am expendable and at the periphery. I don’t view other people rosily because I pay attention to how they treat people when they are angry and/or have power, and most people fail that test. I do view people leniently, paradoxically, because people are fundamentally good, and unless someone has done something awful or there is a serious personality clash, mistakes and misunderstandings are often fixable. The best way to get on my nope list is to be hypocritical and inconsistent, like police officers who run red lights by turning on their sirens without any pressing policing need or group leaders who do not obey the civility standards that they have set for members (e.g., a moderator who disallows ableist language, bans people for using stupid/dumb and synonyms, and yet yells at people on the same forum using that language).
At the root of this is a complex intertwining of attachment problems to social groups due to school bullying and a bad home environment where my siblings and I were expected to inform on each other, but also the far more benign common sense and online situational awareness. The end result is that I do not, and have never, felt like I belonged anywhere. I told a friend in college that since social ties often fade with distance, most of our college friendships were transient and would dissipate after graduation while trying to offer comfort about some social thing that was going on, and I only learned years later from that friend that it actually sounded offputting. Whenever people bring up belonging, I instantly bristle because it sounds too much like relaxing (which I do not know how to do outside of structured settings like yin or slow hatha yoga, meditation, or that still space after praying when light is dancing behind one’s eyes and everything feels calm and wonderful) or a warning that icebreakers are about to happen. However, humans are driven by a desire to belong and to have a social ingroup because we evolved as social animals no matter what any of us would like to believe, so when I process that reaction, I also feel like I’ve failed at being a human being. I think about the defense mechanisms I have set up — how much of my exuberance is actually me and how much is just trying to be charming so people won’t think of me as someone to socially knife, 30/70? 60/40? 80/20?
So, I asked, my heart racing and my belly filled with that squirming feeling whenever one is trying to run from something uncomfortable. I decided to do the Girls Underground Past-Present-Future spread because it seemed like the best way to confirm the root cause, the current conditions, and what needs to happen next. What we know about ourselves, after all, begins with who we were and the things we absorbed from our environment when we were younger. This is also the kind of divination that is highly likely to go wrong if Apollon is not opening the way like a blazing arrow shooting into darkness, to tie in some of this anxiety to what I had mentioned earlier about materialism.
And you know what? The results were exact:
- She goes back to the beginning. Past. My early childhood and the way I was raised are definitely factors here. Also, during yoga yesterday, I was thinking about reincarnation and the choice of lives and decided that I must have either thought that what happened when I was younger was no grave barrier (lol famous last words) or I picked it because something about this life was beautiful and good despite the adversity early on. It made me feel a lot better.
- She confronts the adversary alone. Present. Isolation and belonging definitely have a social context, but in the case of things that are wholly an internal battle within a specific person, nobody else can win this wrestling match for us. They’re on the other side of the barrier no matter how much they cheer or heckle. Also, COVID-19 is physically isolating, and a lot of people are dealing with cracks in their mental wellness strategies, myself included.
- She opens a door. Future. This literally made me laugh. (Also: I realized that I never made my Zotero library private at the end of last week and joked to myself that that certainly qualifies as opening a door. However, I don’t think that’s what the God is getting at.) One of the first steps to belonging is to not wall oneself off with no openings, and one cannot lock people out if one wants to actually experience belonging. Conversely, doors are generally in walls, and they still preserve the distinction between inside/outside. I need to think about how to open doors without being afraid of vulnerability — strategically, where I judge them to be best — and figure out how to stop freaking out about whether or not other people are terrible. My first step may be to say that the actual exact phrasing of the question was, Why do I always feel like I don’t belong and like others will cast me out if I make any mistakes?
I am grateful to Apollon for all of the reality checks that he provides. 🏹
Maybe this post itself is a kind of door where I am showing just enough vulnerability, hopefully not too much or too little. Beyond that, I hope that this is useful for discussing process and that the example makes sense.