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.
8 thoughts on “Some more on my monthly divination approach”
I could have written so much of this, thank you for sharing it. For me, it’s a whole host of things – coming from a line of family black sheep, though loved, will make you feel like a perpetual outsider. Also being trans, and working class in an upper-middle-class neighborhood. And your accurate assessment of feeling “useful” rather than convivial. I’ve recently had the realization that lot of my problems with community, whether pagan or familial or job-related or what have you, comes down to feeling needed rather than wanted. (Interestingly enough, this is burden that a lot of men in the west bear and it informs a huge part of their alienation.) I struggle a lot with boundaries along these lines, gauging what emotional labor I should do for others, what I should commit to. I also know that when I feel lonely, I start projects and communities. Fortunately, a few of these endeavors have panned out and resulted in some lasting friendships, but it’s a well-worn problem of making yourself too useful to get close to. If you figure it out, let me know. 😛
I’m also so excited to see Dver’s deck at work in the wild like this! I can’t wit to get my copy, your results are chillingly useful. I hope it’s helping you.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Yes, I haven’t often seen anyone else use it, so it does occasionally feel weird to be That One Person using someone’s oracle deck. 😎
WRT chillingly useful, I was using it this morning to ask a quick question about how to get back on track because I’ve been emotionally under the weather for the past two days, and the card I received was the exact one that I figured that I would receive (and also the perfect one for the moment). Apollon is such a wonderful God.
The upper middle class thing can be so weird. I grew up middle-middle class in another part of the country and work at a place where most of my colleagues have upper middle class backgrounds, which can sometimes lead to awkward situations. I’m happy that your projects are resulting in friendships! It’s hard to make friends in the Internet era because we’re all so disconnected from one another, and I’m always really happy when friendships work out.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for sharing this!
When you ask, “how much does reading an outcome impact our future ‘measurement’ of the outcome?”, I’m reminded of Philip K. Dick’s short story, “The Minority Report.” (Spoiler alert.) They completely mess up the main premise in the film, but in the original written story, we discover that there are three psychics looking at the future… but one at a time, so that the first predicts what will happen if no one has seen any predictions, the second predicts what will happen if certain people are aware of the first prediction, and the third predicts what will happen if people are aware of the first and the second.
Also, I love the vivid imagery in the line “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…” I totally agree! I was not always as meticulous about this as I am now, but these days, I always make sure to place myself in Apollon’s presence and invoke his help in prayer before divination. I can’t understate what a difference this makes!
LikeLiked by 2 people
That’s very interesting! I haven’t read that story and like that divination system that you describe in the work — it sounds like PKD out a lot of care into this.
Same here about divination. While I do divination directed at asking Hermes questions (like the weekly things where I ask both him and Apollon or occasionally some chance-related things), I usually now either do something separate with sacrifices to Apollon or ask him questions after giving him offerings in the morning when he’s already the focal point of my mind. Occasionally I’ve lost the focus required, and it can make me feel uncertain about whether or not the results will be from him or if, like focusing a telescope incorrectly, everything will be blurry.
Apollon is such a wonderful God, like a perfect coach or chorus-leader who really cares about his team. I love being a devotee.
LikeLiked by 1 person
i like your process of approaching divination as insight into what’s happening now or on an ongoing basis, less about fortune telling. i always tell tarot clients that it won’t be ‘you will get your dream job next week’ but the pressure is very very prevalent to predict the future that i’m always re-setting myself, even for my own readings.
it seems to me as if you’re pretty good at opening doors and creating connections. more importantly, you’re good at closing them quietly and without drama when they no longer serve.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes, it’s exactly that kind of divination undercurrent that I was reacting to as a young adult — I didn’t want to ask those kinds of questions. I wonder how much of the prevalence of these questions is human nature and how much of it is that we have fewer cultural models of the “hey, this thing?” check-ins, so people just aren’t thinking of it.
Thank you for the compliments! I probably feel way more awkward internally than I tend to show, and I do like avoiding drama because I’ve witnessed a lot of it and don’t like how it hurts people.
LikeLiked by 1 person
A lot I can relate to here, especially regarding that bugbear of “belonging.” Thank you for honestly sharing. I very much resonate with that combination of bullying and family problems… some of which I now attribute to being a female with undiagnosed Asperger’s back in the day, but there is always more to acknowledge as well. Energetically, it feels like these themes have recently resurfaced since the New Moon in rather jarring ways. I must guess that this is necessary now? Some sort of clearing? Yet again, it feels like, but perhaps also all anew….
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes, I think that many people have things that we’re unaware of that can make our feelings of estrangement harder, and it’s important to identify what the root causes are as much as possible. For me, these struggles tend to resurface when I’m feeling a lot of stress, not necessarily lunar cycles. I think the pandemic is also a time when many of us are subjecting ourselves to a lot of self-examination, and we keep realizing just how long this new social situation will last before we’re able to hug someone outside of our pods or safely go to the movies.
LikeLiked by 1 person