The Coming of Fall

It’s the late-middle of September as I write this, and still relatively hot in northern California – we’re still having several days per week in the 80’s, but this morning when I looked out the window, everything was fog.

Mabon is the “traditional” Celtic name for the autumnal equinox, which will come in a few short days and move us into the darker half of the year. It’s either the last or the next-to-last holiday of the Pagan Wheel of the Year, depending on whether you like to start your calendar with Samhain or Yule. Or then there are some who start it with Imbolc. Or Bealtinne. It’s a wheel, you know? There’s no actual beginning or end.

In any case, it’s about to be the autumnal equinox. Modern paganism (at least in the western world) owes a lot to Northern European traditions, including what are often called the Cross-Quarters: Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain. In some circles these are the primary holidays, and certainly the axis of Beltane/Samhain looms large in the modern western pagan imagination. But it’s the equinox and solstice cycle that is the more ancient, and the more universal – harvest festivals vary depending on location, but a solstice is a solstice so long as you are on the Earth.

Mabon, whatever you call it, is at its heart the transition from the light half of the year to the dark half (at least in the northern hemisphere). It also, in much of North America, Europe, and Asia, coincides with the peak-to-end of the harvest season. Our pictures are those of bounty: cornucopias, bound sheaves of grain, wine presses. What this disguises is the extensive amount of sun-up to sun-down work that is involved in harvest season. This is a time of hedging your bets against the cold and dark, and the effort required to gather, prepare, and store enough to see you through is tremendous.

In California, it’s also fire season, as has been amply demonstrated this year. In the natural world, fire season would be an important piece of the growing cycle which renews the vegetation and soil. Indigenous peoples understood this, and worked within the cycle to manage and mitigate the destruction while still reaping the benefits of controlled burns. But of course white colonialists, in their infinite wisdom, have disrupted that cycle, as well as the overall climate cycle, leading to hugely destructive and damaging fires year after year.

Other holidays at this time include Michaelmas, or St. Michael and All Angels (Sept 29th) in the Christian tradition and Rosh Hashana/Days of Awe/Yom Kippur (variable) in the Jewish tradition. Michaelmas is a bit of a folk holiday, and is clearly one of the church holidays dated to coincide with a pre-existing feast (in this case, Mabon), but it’s an observance in its own right. Michaelmas is a day for remembering those who have died in the past year, and giving alms in their memory, and for remembering/honoring/cultivating bravery and strength, along with baking the last blackberry pie of the summer. Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of the new year and hopes for coming sweetness, but Yom Kippur, which falls ten days later, and the Days of Awe which fall between the two, are a time of repentance and fasting and personal reflection in an attempt to become a better person and reconnect with one’s spirituality and the divine.

There’s a theme here, I think, if you want one: a combination of looking back at what has brought you to this turning point of the year and of looking forward into the darkness. There’s a level of evaluation, too – how much food will you need for the winter (literally or figuratively); what seeds have you sown which are now coming to fruition; who do you want to be in the coming year and what preparations do you need to make now in order to cultivate that growth?

I’ll be attending virtual services at a local liberal synagogue; I love my church dearly, but it’s good for me to also have a community where I am merely an anonymous attendee, and I’m looking forward to moving through this time with them. On the day of the equinox itself I want to, smoke allowing, spend some time outside experiencing the change of the season and looking forward to winter. It’s hard to remember in Northern California sometimes, where it can stay hot well into November, that we’re moving into the dark, but we are, and I need my body and brain to feel it. I’d like to bake a honey cake, and I’ll light a candle of remembrance. Probably I will put some apples outside for the Wild Hunt as they ride by.

However you choose to observe, I wish you a bountiful harvest, a productive reflection, and a sweet new year.


A Reclamation

I’ve been thinking for a while about what to do with this space.

When I started it, I felt as though I was part of a wider online conversation about modern paganism; ways to live as a pagan in an urban environment; ways to have meaningful stories and rituals and connections. That all fell away as my connection to my coven soured and went south and I stepped back from the online pagan realm.

Then I tried to make it a space for divination and self-exploration, which was nice, and I enjoyed that for a while. But after a bit I discovered my posts were being scraped and re-posted by an aggregator, which was frustrating and disheartening, so I stopped using it for that.

And then, years after I’d left my former coven, I felt compelled by circumstance to share my experiences as part of that organization, in the hopes that it might inform others who would otherwise be taken in by the leaders of that group, or similar groups. But that meant revisiting a lot of trauma and stress which I had largely put behind me, and left me wanting to distance myself from this particular online existence.

I haven’t posted since.

I thought about just deleting the whole thing and having done with it, but while I do think there’s value in sometimes burning everything down, I’m also an archivist at heart, and I didn’t really want to torch all my own writings and experiences, regardless of where I was emotionally or spiritually, or of what had come of those times and choices. It seemed unfair to who I was. But I didn’t know what I wanted this to be instead, so I let it lie fallow, and figured at worst, it would fade into the oblivion of the internet with so much else.

This year, more than a decade after I first started calling my little online corner “Dreams from the West Wind”, I moved to a place which bears the name of that very wind, and it seemed like a sign that I needed to re-open this space and revisit what it wants to be.

Thus, going forward, may the west wind blow the dust and cruft off the crannies of this blog; may the sea air cleanse and purify the words written here; may the coming harvest bring forth a crop of new ideas and fresh inspiration. May we all be protected, fed, and blessed.


I first attended a CAYA Coven service in the summer of 2007. I had recently moved to the Bay Area, and was looking for a new pagan group: My partner and friend and I attended a Midsummer ritual, greatly enjoyed it, and quickly became regulars. CAYA was quite new at this point: they had only recently begun offering public circles in a public venue, and had yet to take their first group of initiates. I initiated into CAYA’s Wildflower tradition in 2009, was ordained a Wildflower Priestess in 2010, initiated as an Amazon in 2010, and was ordained a HPS in the Amazon (later Bloodroot Honey) tradition in 2011. I served, planned, organized, trained, and was in every other way a member in good standing with CAYA until I left in August 2015.

When I joined, CAYA was like many other small religious/spiritual groups: a little dysfunctional around the edges, but with a solid core of joy and excitement. I, and the other members of the group, poured our hearts and souls into it, and took our mission of worshiping the gods, providing good ritual and spiritual training, and creating an intentional spiritual community, very seriously.

In retrospect, there were red flags from early on, but it was easy to dismiss them as being misunderstandings, or over-zealousness, or the sort of gossip that just arises in small, active communities. However, as CAYA grew bigger, and as Yeshe Matthews, the main leader (yes, I know she was one of many founders, but she was always treated as the foremost authority, and held the title of “Visionholder” and “Visioning High Priestess” for the coven) went through personal events which contributed to her increasing instability, that sense of well-masked and tolerable dysfunction spiraled into blatant and systematic emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse, along with financial and sexual impropriety, which I will detail below.

Why speak out now? I didn’t speak out sooner because, frankly, I’d spent enough time and energy on CAYA, and I simply wanted to move on with my life. I expected CAYA to implode (as it has- I realize it still technically exists, but it’s lost at least three quarters of its membership over the last five or so years), and Yeshe to drift into obscurity. However, as it has become clear that she is instead still actively seeking students, and is founding a new Temple, I think it is important for the details to come out in the hopes of preventing harm to new people.

Please note that, while there are many more issues of which I was aware than what I detail below, I am limiting myself to experiences which I had myself, which I directly witnessed, or which I was specifically told about by the person to whom they happened. Anything beyond that, however truthful I think it to be, I will leave out.

  • Peer pressure and outside life: CAYA could be insidious. The core of the coven, especially in the beginning, was a close-knit group of friends and colleagues who spent a tremendous amount of time together, and who did great religious work. It was easy to want to join that, and it was easy to consent to the work of initiation, even if it was a lot. Multiple rituals a month, each with their own multiple hours-long planning meetings; mandatory monthly day-long initiate meetings, additional “encouraged” time with your initiate group; online or self-study work with your sub-group within CAYA; your assigned role (social media! newsletter! organization of events!); mentoring new initiates after you’d been ordained; multiple yearly retreats; governance meetings; conflict resolution meetings; etc. If you were a person in CAYA with a full-time job, CAYA would very quickly suck up every ounce of free time you had, and many you didn’t. And, at first, you’d likely give it gladly! After all, this was The Work.

    But, from early on, CAYA began to experience problems with member and clergy burn out. There was too much work, and not enough clergy to go around. This was compounded by the fact that Rabbit was never satisfied, and pushed the coven to grow every year, to add more and more responsibilities, to take more trips and host more workshops and increase our notoriety, and framed it all as a combination of your responsibility to your higher self, your gods, and your community, and also as a moral and spiritual failing if you indicated that you might need a break. The coven did have one year, 2012, in which it did not ordain any new initiates, and in my memory, it was the only year in which we achieved real stability; it was never repeated.

    The problems with this are obvious: cutting people off from their existing social, emotional, and familial networks is textbook abusive behavior, and serves to create untenable group dynamics where everyone is completely dependent on the group’s success. Rabbit in particular would pressure people to commit more, to give more, and would shame them if they didn’t.

    I remember one instance in particular where an Amazon initiate who had a colicky young baby was unable to attend a mandatory meeting, and instead called in by Skype to hear the teachings. This was initially approved, but as the meeting went on, Rabbit pressured her to get off Skype and drive the 40-60 minutes with her baby  to attend the evening meeting, assuring her that all the baby needed was to be held by the circle of women, and when the initiate finally firmly refused, Rabbit castigated the initiate at length as uncommitted, flaky, and a poor mother. The initiate signed off in tears, and continued to be characterized by Rabbit and others as a “concern” and as an inadequate priestess, mother, and member of the coven until she left a year or so later.

  • Sexual behavior and concerns: There was a standing joke which was oft-repeated in the early years about how the Amazon tribe was only ever a hot tub and a bottle of champagne away from an orgy. It was funny, kind of, but also way closer to true than was ever appropriate for the leadership of a public religious organization. Let me be clear: though I am in a monogamous hetero-sexual relationship (and have been for seventeen years), I have zero problem with what other consenting adults do with each other. What I do have a problem with, and what often came up in CAYA, are sexual situations in which there is an unbalanced power dynamic which calls that consent into question.

    I never directly experienced what would be legally characterized as sexual abuse, nor did I see any myself, but I have no difficulty believing that it happened. I was definitely aware of sexual pressures, particularly from Rabbit toward various people to either sleep with her, sleep with each other, or to generally “free themselves” from patriarchal sexual mores ie: sleep with people at her behest. She at least twice to my knowledge engaged in sexual relationships with people under her spiritual authority, including initiates, and routinely trivialized others’ sexual and romantic choices, particularly those that did not reflect her own. The Amazons, especially, could create problematic situations as we held our meetings and performed our rituals skyclad. If you were an initiate, you were only allowed to wear underwear if you were bleeding, and if you covered up with a blanket or shawl because you were cold (as I often was), you were lectured at length about your need to overcome your puritanical and patriarchal prudishness. (I was a nude model for years; literally hundreds of people have seen my bare ass. I was just cold.) Sex and sexual behavior was also framed as offerings to the deities (in private or in private groups, not in public ritual), especially to Aphrodite and Oshun, of whom Rabbit was a priestess, and any perceived reluctance on this front, especially from women who also dedicated to those goddesses, was treated as a spiritual failing.

  • Financial issues: As with many pagan communities, CAYA had some members who had full-time jobs and incomes, and many who did not. Those who didn’t were encouraged to become dependent on Rabbit and “her” store, or later on the coven, in the guise of the community supporting itself. However, this then led to the dysfunctional situation of many coven members being chronically under-employed, underpaid, and unable to search for or accept other work because to do so was seen as a “betrayal.” Those who did leave The Sacred Well for better financial offers were shamed, shunned, and subjected to intense emotional scenes. Meanwhile, those who worked “mundane” jobs were alternately scorned and berated for not contributing enough time and energy to the coven and yet also expected to help fund the coven through donations, the purchase of supplies, and subsidizing less fortunate coven members’ “needs” (I don’t mean things like bills or food, I mean things like coven field trips). There was also a lot of pressure to purchase all of your magickal goods through TSW, to take classes there, and to patronize the staff there for magickal work.

    Much of this, on the surface, is innocuous: sure, if I’m able, I’m happy to help out my community member in paying for things, and sure, if a friend of mine owns a store, I’m going to make a point to buy things there. The issues came in the censuring that occurred if you stepped out of line, and the ways in which the organization systematically preyed on its members, both on the time and energy of the under or un-employed and on the financial resources of the financially solvent. Further,  a culture of financial irresponsibility was fostered, up to and including the broad social acceptance of defaulting on loans, declaring personal bankruptcy, and tax evasion. All of these institutional systems and responsibilities were seen as symptoms of the patriarchy*, and while it was never spelled out or dictated that we should do these things, they were presented as normal and reasonable behaviors. Meanwhile, everyone was simultaneously encouraged to line Rabbit’s and TSW’s pockets with whatever they could spare in exchange for a new trinket or a divination.

  • Relationship issues: Rabbit was famous for breaking up relationships, especially monogamous heterosexual relationships. I saw her succeed in dissolving several marriages and partnerships, cause real instability in others, and try to undermine many more. I don’t fully understand why this was a habit of hers, but it was particularly intense in the years before she herself got married. She would target the women of the coven, first making them so busy and over-committed with coven responsibilities that the quality of their relationship was strained, then suggest that their (invariably male) partner didn’t support them, didn’t see them as the goddess and queen they were, and tell them that by continuing to bind themselves in a romantic relationship with a man, they were succumbing to the patriarchy and denying the goddess. The pressure could be intense, and sadly several relationships fell, including several with small children involved. At least one of the couples went on to remarry after the woman left CAYA, and is happy to this day; others were not so fortunate. I suspect it was just another piece of creating dependency on herself and the coven, but that’s speculation. I was fortunate to escape the brunt of this, as my partner was already in CAYA, and was not seen as a “threat” by her.
  • Cult dynamics: The first big red flag for me came in my Amazon initiate year, and in retrospect, I should have left then, but I didn’t. My father , who lives several states away and whom I see maybe every other year at most, let me know that spring that he would be in my area for about 36 hrs on a work trip in the early summer. Unfortunately, his visit coincided with one of the mandatory all-day Amazon meetings. This should have been fine – in our manual, it said that we could miss one of the four mandatory meetings, provided we gave sufficient notice and made arrangements to make-up the work, so I contacted Rabbit and let her know that I would need to miss this meeting, and asked what sort of make-up work I needed to do. Rabbit, however, told me that I would not be allowed to miss it, and when I protested, cited the manual, and pointed out that I would not see my father again likely for years, she called a meeting of me, her, my Amazon “big sister” and two of the other Amazon priestesses (one of whom was another Elderflower).At this meeting, she spent hours explaining to me how in order to be a successful Amazon priestess, I needed to free myself from the patriarchy and repudiate my father. I remember having to leave the room several times so that I could be quietly hysterical in the hallway, completely overwhelmed with shock at what was happening. They were unmoved, and I was informed in no uncertain terms that if I missed even a portion of the meeting to see my father, I would be expelled from the Amazons. To this day, I carry deep regret and shame that I gave in, but I did. I did not see my father, and I attended the meeting. This is just one example of the sort of alienation from existing relationships and support structures that was practiced in the coven, and these grew worse as time went on.

    The systems of the coven also encouraged secrecy and shaming: our only mediation and remediation process, called “Conflict Resolution”, took place in secret meetings between the complainant, the accused, and representatives for each as well as adjudicating Council members. No one besides those involved were allowed to know about it, and those involved were forbidden to speak of it. It was not considered finished until both parties agreed that it was resolved in full.

    This sort of system, of course, is deeply flawed: what of the danger to the coven of someone who is being brought up repeatedly on ethical or behavioral complaints? What of the inherent pressure on the complainant to give in to whatever solution or redress is presented in order to not have to continue indefinitely facing the person who has mistreated them? And, most importantly, what happens when the accused is in fact the highest-ranking person in the coven, from whom all the representatives and adjudicators take their cues?

  • Intracoven social dynamics: CAYA quickly became a series of cliques. The governing body was in its own pocket, quite literally- most of them worked at “Rabbit’s” store; several of them lived in the same building, and those that didn’t lived very nearby. They had exclusive chat groups, took trips together, had regular communal meals, and saw themselves very much as the best of the coven. In addition to creating an insurmountable Us/Them dynamic, this added to the cult-like phenomenon of inability to leave: If your High Priestess is also your employer, also lives in your building, and is also one of your closest and only friends (because remember, you’ve now spent years neglecting the rest of your relationships), how are you reasonably supposed to extricate yourself? This inner circle not only was used to consolidate Rabbit’s control of the coven and validate her own personal needs, it served as a tool by which to alternately exhort (don’t you want to be as good at this as these people are?) and berate (look how much work these people are doing! what have you done for the coven lately?) the rest of the group.
  • Sexism, transphobia, and appropriation: I am a feminist. I believe feminism is crucial to fixing our society, I believe intersectional feminism is absolutely necessary, and I believe transwomen are women. “Feminism” means treating people of all genders equally, providing them with equal access, equal opportunity, and doing away with gender-based power and reward structures.

    This is not what Yeshe Matthews believes. To her, men are an inferior group of people who exist to provide money, service, and children (preferably girls). To her, transfolk are out of touch with their own true self and transwomen are really men. To her, other cultures exist to be borrowed from, “resonated with”, and used as a bludgeon to prove her own superiority over others. Weirdly, she also subscribes to very traditionalist tenants of womanhood, including seeing motherhood as the ultimate expression of goddesshood- this resulted in pressure on the women of the coven to have babies, whether they were able and willing or not, and also in very unhealthy situations in which Rabbit would often publicly berate the mothers in the coven on their child-raising, particularly the ways in which they were doing it wrong.

    I can say all these things because I witnessed all of them over the years I knew her. She can talk a good talk, and I think she convinces herself of whatever she needs to in any given moment so that she can play whatever victim card is called for in any given situation. But her actions – the routine disrespect, disenfranchisement, and dismissal of the men in the coven; her waffling positions and hatespeech toward transfolk (and gay men, too); and her frequent appropriation of non-white cultures to serve her own religious self-aggrandizement – speak for themselves.

  • Emotional abuse: Rabbit was always prone to dramatics; it’s part of what makes her such an effective charismatic leader. She is able to fully feel, fully emote, and fully share a tremendous range of feelings at any given moment. This, though, combined with her ever-growing paranoia, made her increasingly unstable. What started out as peer pressure and lecturing turned into systematic shaming, shunning, gaslighting, and manipulation. The entire coven was under her thumb, and she was especially awful to the Amazons/BRHP. I have seen her scream litanies of abuse at covenmates, including insults, swears, and threats; she was often petty, vicious, and cruel to anyone who showed any resistance to her, only to claim either that it was “tough love” and “for their own good” or else that she had only said it because she was in such a terrible state herself, and if they really loved her, they’d understand and forgive her. She moves instantly between invective and martyrdom, cursing members one moment while seeking their comfort and reassurance the next. As her persecution complex deepened during 2014 and 2015, you just never knew when you were going to put a foot wrong: everything was a loyalty test, and if the meeting didn’t end with multiple people crying and apologizing and professing their undying devotion to her and to the coven, then you’d better believe we’d make up for it at the next one.

    Again, though, this was only ever an escalation of a thread which was always present: very early in my Amazon initiate year I remember her, in the context of discussing my purported reservedness (I’m not a big public display of emotion person) with another priestess, looking me straight in the eye and saying, “Just wait. I’ll break you.” Easy to awkwardly laugh off in the moment as a joke, but it was ultimately her goal- she wanted to break all of us, because if we remained fully ourselves, we didn’t need her the way that she craved.

  • The difficulties of leaving: It is technically true that you could leave, and many did. However, it was very difficult for many because CAYA had become your entire social circle, and often your primary, if not only, emotional and financial support. When I left, people with whom I had been close, intimate friends for years cut me off entirely. You would be blocked on social media, unfriended, emails would go unresponded to, calls ignored. This was demoralizing at best, and shockingly hurtful and depressing to many.

    Though many of us “retired,” and were in good standing at the time we decided to leave, we were welcome to attend rituals, we were purged from email lists, and all trace of us was erased from the CAYA website. If you worked in “Rabbit’s” store, which many coven members did over the years, you needed to be able to provide for yourself financially in other ways before you could even consider getting out. Once you’d made the decision, you had to make a full plunge, with no looking back, because you would not be allowed to recant or negotiate your return.

    Leaving was also seen very much as a punishment or a surrender, as Rabbit over the years systematically targeted individuals for abuse and eventual expulsion from the group. This, of course, served to make the remaining group even more committed, because they didn’t want to be forced out against their will, and didn’t want to undergo the losses and smear campaigns that would result from our departure. (Everyone who left got a narrative of some kind: “the one who was just in it for the attention”; “the one who wanted to steal Rabbit’s position”; “the one who was poisoned by the patriarchy”- we used to speculate while we were still in the coven about what our inevitable narrative would be.)

    So, as with any cult or other abusive relationship, it’s very easy to look at it from the outside and say “why didn’t you just walk away?” The answer, of course, is that it was much harder to do so than it seemed.

There’s more, of course there’s more. Years and years of more. But anyone who’s read this far either is convinced or is not by now, and many of the stories are not mine to tell. I’m sure she will deny all of this, should she become aware of it. I’m sure I will be denounced by her and her followers as resentful, petty, slanderous, and many other things. They will produce stories of my manifold failings, claim that I was never dependable or reliable, and discredit me in every way possible. I don’t care- I know and the gods know that it’s true, and that’s enough for me.

I loved Rabbit, and CAYA, and it grieves me deeply what all of it has become. I feel deep compassion for her, and I hope that she gets the help she needs, and I hope even more that her many targets and former friends find the healing that they need. As for CAYA, it was all hers from the beginning to the end- I can’t imagine how it can continue as is, and I encourage anyone who remains to burn down the remnants and start fresh. There’s nothing salvageable at this point; learn from what was, and make something new.

Please note that while I have left comments on, I will happily delete any vitriol or victim-blaming, and none of this is up for debate. I’m happy to answer what questions I can, but this is not a court of law, and I will not be attempting to “prove” my experiences or otherwise convince skeptics.

May any ill-will directed at me for speaking the truth return to its wisher three-fold.

T. Drakos, 3/2018

*I do think that many of our financial and governmental institutions are part of the toxic patriarchy in our culture, and need to be reformed or overthrown, but I don’t think promoting personal bankruptcy and loan fraud constitutes sound financial advice, regardless of what you think of the morality of the system.

This week for @mnomquah’s Cycles of Self ShadowWorkOctober challenge, we’re asked to do two reflections after having done the True Heart Spread. The second of our reflections is on the topic “What parts of myself do I struggle to integrate, accept, and transform?”

This is an interesting question, and I didn’t have an immediate answer for it. After thinking for a while, I’ve identified a few things.

  1. Need for company- I’m an introvert, a pretty strong one, but at the same time I very much need and like having one or maybe two other people around. I don’t even necessarily want to interact with them all the time, but I like the shared experience of having another person there to bounce ideas and thoughts off of, and to discuss whatever it is we’re doing. It took me a long time to recognize this, because I am so avidly an introvert in other ways: I need my alone time, I find “socializing” (ie: in groups, or at events) to be exhausting, etc. But I get lonely very easily, and I work best in teams. It’s hard, though, to find partners-in-crime or compatriots for everything.
  2. Mutability- I’m a triple earth Grand Trine as my Sun/Moon/Rising- no one craves a plan and stability more than I do. However, four of my outer planets are in Sagittarius, and my sun is in Virgo, so I have a whole lot of mutability going on, and it’s taken me a very long time to discover that I do better when I’m riding the flow rather than fighting it. This is a hard thing for me to internalize, though, because there’s the other part of me that so desperately wants to drive the cart at a steady speed, ticking off the miles to the destination, and marking them down on the topographical grid as we go. I do think the more that I can find the space where my calendars and to-do’s and bullet journal channel the flow, rather than try to dam it, the better I’ll be.
  3. Laziness- Most humans have a certain level of inherent laziness, because it’s evolutionarily beneficial to us; gather all your food, eat it, fuck, and then lay on the couch. Save your energy, and use it to either eat more or produce offspring. However, as someone who wants to Do Things, I often really hate myself for the amount of time I “waste”. Of course, this fails to recognize that most people have a real need for R&R, so I need to learn how to make time for laziness, and then have it be finished when that time is up, instead of being ambushed by it, and it then lingering in my way for a long time.


This week for @mnomquah’s Cycles of Self ShadowWorkOctober challenge, we’re asked to do two reflections after having done the True Heart Spread. The first of our reflections is on the topic “What does maturity and adulthood mean to me?”

The first thing I would say is that those are not necessarily two connected concepts; it is very possible to be an immature adult, and just as possible to be a mature non-adult. Age and experience are no guarantee of physical or emotional responsibility, which I guess is what I associate with “maturity”- the ability to govern one’s self, to think ahead and to recognize potential outcomes and consequences, to evaluate them, to make an informed decision, and then to take action accordingly. I would call maturity a state of mind, and a way of being, where I would think of adulthood more as a set of actions, perhaps?

Adulthood, to me, is more of the physical realm. Having a job, or, if not having a job, having other means by which to support yourself. Paying any bills in a timely manner, or making alternate arrangements for them. Providing for yourself, and any who are dependent on you. Caring for yourself and your dependents, too- eating healthily, staying fit, sleeping enough. There’s certainly an element of age to it – a five year old cannot be an adult – but I think it’s more about independence than about being 18+. I’ve known plenty of 20 and 30 yr olds I would not call “adults”, in spite of their ability to drink and vote, and I’ve certainly known 15, 16, and 17 yr olds who I think would qualify for the label, in spite of their legal minor status.

I’ve never dreaded or resented adulthood in the way that some people do, and which is popular in our culture at times. I had a chaotic childhood, and becoming old enough and independent enough to take care of my own business was a great freedom to me. I didn’t have to worry about whether bills would get paid; I could make my own money, and I trusted myself to pay them. I didn’t have to wait for someone to remember to come and get me and take me somewhere; I could get there under my own power, whether by driving or paying for transit. I didn’t have to deal with emotional and physical abuse by virtue of having no control over who cohabited with me; I could pick my own roommates, or decide to have none. The power that I now have over all of those elements of my life far outweighs the annoyance and inconveniences involved in things like having to pay my bills, having to go to work, etc.

There’s also the element of “maturity” that speaks of older age, or at least late-middle age. I guess I think of that as beginning once one’s children (if one has them) are grown, or when one’s body truly begins to commit itself to no longer being young. I kind of look forward to this phase of my own life, to be honest. There’s so much uncertainty in early life (and I’m mid-thirties, I’m not all that young at this point), and it seems that, as I get older, things just get more and more solid, and I feel more and more myself. I enjoy growing in my own authority and power, and look forward to continuing to do it.

For @mnomquah’s Cycles of the Self Shadow Work October challenge this week, we’re looking at the idea of Individuation. This begins with a True Heart spread, shown below, and then two days of reflection. Per @mnomquah re: Individuation, and the True Heart Spread:

“In jungian psychology, individuation is a process of integrating all parts of ourselves (both conscious and subconscious) to become a fully grown, mature individual.”

1. Truth of the Heart: 4 of Cups – The truth of my heart, apparently, is that I am always striving, always looking to the next thing. That’s neither a good nor a bad thing; having goals and dreams is good, and seeking to grow and change and draw closer to success and enlightenment is fine. However, I will probably always need to be reminded of what is good and worth paying attention to in the Here and Now, or else I’m apt to ignore it all in favor of whatever pipe dream I’m chasing this week.

2. What patterns of behavior should I let go of to let the Truth of the Heart flourish: Five of Pentacles, Queen of Pentacles – In order to let my future visioning and my dreaming really flourish, I need to let go of my poverty mindset. I learned from an early age that most people are not “successful”, so you should never expect that you will be. Which is different than saying don’t try; it just says not to expect things to work out in your favor. But I need to learn to expect things to go well for me, and to act accordingly. And then if they don’t, fine, but if I don’t expect them to, I’m less likely to try hard, and more likely to self-sabotage. The Queen of Pentacles, I think, means I need to let go of the idea of perfection. I’m a triple-earth sign person, and I want my own little fiefdom to be Just Right; I want to have children, and make their Halloween costumes, and raise a garden, and have a glittering career, and the perfect Pinterest/Martha Stewart house in which to host holidays, and and and…. it’s not that those things are impossible, but I need to not let them govern all of my choices, unless it really is the most important thing among my goals. (Probably it’s not.)

3. Deep rooted bullishit / beliefs that are no longer serving me: Temperance, Wheel of Fortune – Well, the Wheel of Fortune kind of ties to the Five of Pentacles in the last question; I have some baggage around feeling like it’s really only luck of the draw that makes some people live their dreams and others not, and while fortune no doubt plays a role, that’s not likely all of it. Temperance, though, I’m not sure about- maybe I’m overly married to the idea that I need balance in all things? Maybe I need to learn to be more okay with living into the flow; if staying up five nights in a row writing is what I need to do (or whatever), maybe I need to just let myself do that, and then deal with the consequences as they come.

4. Shame and regret that I carry: The Sun, Ten of Swords – I’m not sure what to make of this pair, to be honest. They’re nearly as extreme ends of the spectrum as you can get. The Sun is illumination, truth, the light of warmth, but also that which exposes all the dark corners and the things which lurk in them. Ten of Swords is… well, defeat and horrible death. I mean, I know I carry my share of shame (probably more shame than regret), but I don’t really know what these cards have to say about it. Any thoughts?

5. Ways in which I betray my own trust: Four of Swords, The Lovers – This is another I’m not entirely sure how to read. I generally consider the Four of Swords to be a pretty positive card, all about rest and retreat and introspection (things which I like), but maybe in this context it’s saying I do it too much? Maybe I need to just spend more time out in the world doing things? And the Lovers… it’s true that I don’t generally consider myself worthy of love, and I often struggle to believe that people care for me, in spite of evidence to the contrary, but I’m also in a good, stable, long-term relationship, and have several friendships which are also good, stable, and long-lasting. Perhaps the message here is to indulge in more of that? I’m unclear.

For the final spread in Week Two of @mnomquah’s Cycles of Self challenge, we’re looking at our inner child. The spread below is thus called the Inner Child spread, and mnomquah has the following to say about it:

“Our Inner Child is an internal sub-personality that often carries and takes upon itself the feelings of hurt, abandonment, humiliation, inferiority and much more deeply disheartening experiences. With this spread we can take a closer look at our Inner Child’s feelings.”


Inner Child Spread


Looking at these questions and cards, I think that the reading is actually not answering the questions directly; instead, I think it’s saying what does my Inner Child do in these situations, rather than what triggers them.

1. Fear: What is my Inner Child afraid of? The Fferyllt – This card takes the place of Temperance in this deck, but there are still elements of that card present. It’s possible that my Inner Child is afraid of, like the Lady of Shalott, being (metaphorically) locked in a tower and wasting my life in solitude. However, I think this makes more sense as, when my Inner Child is afraid, she retreats into a world of her own making, where her skills and talents are useful and comforting.

2. Neglect: When does my Inner Child feel neglected? The Star – When my Inner Child feels neglected, she focuses on hopes and dreams, and often on creative inspiration. As a kid, I spent a lot of time on my own, and living in and creating my own fantasy worlds is both entertainment and solace.

3. Hurt: When does my Inner Child feel hurt? The Hermit – I’m an introvert, and when my Inner Child is feeling hurt, my instinct is to go isolationist. My Inner Child would rather be alone than be with people or situations that cause pain.

4. Anger: What makes my Inner Child angry? The Lord – When angered, my Inner Child can become a bit of a tyrant. I never got in trouble much as a kid, but when I did, it was because I was trying to make someone do something they’d agreed to, and then reneged on, or else I was trying to institute “justice”. My Inner Child wants things to be fair, and clear, and dictated, and if those conditions aren’t met, she will put her foot (or fist) down.

@mnomquah’s second week of the Cycles of Self Shadow Work October challenge is focused on Childhood, and today’s spread is the Monster Spread.

mnomquah says:

“When we were kids, we all had at least one scary monster that left us terrified and unable to sleep unless we were covered and tucked under our blanket from toes to nose. We have seen them in movies, heard a scary legend or met them in person. Now it’s time to take a closer look at these scary beings and hopefully learn a lesson about our fears and ourselves thanks to it. Think of the monster that used to scare you the most when you were a child. Then try to think of a motto, a keynote that represents the core of your monster’s being.”

For me, the thing that freaked me out the most was from those books, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. There was one story about a creature that would crawl from its grave and come in to… eat you? kill you? I don’t remember. In any case, there was a girl who was terrified of it, and to stay safe, she hid in her room and locked the door, but then of course the monster came to her window, and got her, because she was locked in. I had a bedroom with two windows and I lived in the country, so it was Dark, and there were Critters Out There, so this definitely kept me awake nights. The word that came to mind with this story was “trapped”, and it’s definitely a thing I still fear.

1. Core desire: The things that drive the monster: Seven of Pentacles – Stagnation. Sometimes this can be patience, or waiting for fruition, but in light of the idea of being trapped, I think this is about not progressing, not changing. Getting stuck in a place that maybe you put yourself, but which is not where you want to stay, or which is not safe for you in the long term.

2. Strategy: My monster’s ways of achieving goals: Seven of Cups – Distraction, or illusion. If you take your eyes off the prize, off the immediate goals, you can get yourself trapped in an unsustainable present while you are focused on other things.

3. Greatest fear of my monster: Five of Wands – Cooperation and competition. Striving together with peers or friends can bust you out of a rut, and can protect you from the things that prey on you when you have no escape.

4. Weakness: The Lovers/Cernunnos – This deck I have came with two lovers cards, and no “devil” card, which in this deck is called Cernunnos. When I got it, I arbitrarily marked one of the Lovers cards with horns, and read it as a hybrid of the two. In this case, I think it’s speaking to the ability of passion to both make unbearable situations more bearable, and/or to help you out of them. The weakness of the monster “Trapped” is that if you find something that drives you or your passions, you’re more likely to break down the door.

5. Strength / Talent: The Lady – This is super interesting. The strength of the monster is fertility, fecundity. I suppose there’s truth in that; you can be very productive when trying to distract yourself from how you can’t leave, or the danger you’re in. But you may tie yourself so closely to your situation that you can’t be uprooted, as it were, even if getting out would be the better option.

6. Me as a result: Summary of how my monster influenced who I am today: Queen of Pentacles – I think of the Queen of Pentacles as grounded, but cautious. Not necessarily as wary or mistrustful as the Queen of Blades can be, but certainly someone who looks before she leaps. I think this is definitely true of me; I always need to know my escape route, both literally and figuratively. I always have to know that I can quit, pack, and leave tomorrow if I need to.

@mnomquah’s second week of the Cycles of Self Shadow Work October challenge is focused on Childhood: we’ll be doing an Idol Spread, a Monster Spread, and an Inner Child Spread.

Today’s spread is the Idol Spread, and mnomquah says:

“As kids, we all had our idols who inspired us and were our super heroes – it might have been a person you knew, a historical figure, a mythological hero, a god or goddess, a figure from legends, stories or movies etc. Before you start with this spread, think of your idol – it has to be specific. Then try to think of a motto, a keynote, something that represents the core of your idol’s being.”

For my idol, I picked Captain Janeway, from Star Trek: Voyager, which I’ve just recently finished watching. I didn’t actually see much Voyager as a kid, but I remember being absolutely fascinated by the idea of a woman starship captain. I had a Janeway bookmark I carried around everywhere, and I can only imagine how much more huge an influence she would have been on me if I’d been able to actually watch the show more often.

For those unfamiliar with the premise of Voyager, Captain Janeway is the captain of a ship that gets stranded 70,000 light years from space, and must make their way home. It’s projected to take upward of 70 years, so they’re motivated to find shortcuts, and of course they have many adventures along the way; natural phenomena, hostile aliens, friendly aliens, time travel, mutinies, etc.

1. Core desire: The things that drive my idol: Queen of Cups – Janeway’s core desire is to get her ship and her crew home, having lost as few people as possible. I think Queen of Cups makes a great deal of sense for her, because even though this is somewhat of a pragmatic goal, it becomes her religion, and she is a symbol of tremendous hope and faith and solace to her crew because of her dogged pursuance and insistence that they WILL get home.

2. Strategy: My idol’s ways of achieving goals: Queen of Wands – Janeway is a clever leader, and you cross her at your own risk. She’s very smart, very capable, and throws herself at things whole-heartedly. There is nothing she won’t do or try, and she very much leads by example. She’s a font of energy, and pushes every boundary, explores every possibility, and leads every charge.

3. Greatest fear of my idol: Three of Pentacles – This is an interesting one. I think this speaks to her fear of being not enough; she’s a relatively new captain, and it was supposed to be a short mission, but then they ended up in this terrible situation, at least in part because of a decision she makes. Three of Pentacles is a card I think of as the “apprentice” card, and I think she fears being too inexperienced, in spite of her incredible confidence in her decisions most of the time. She’s not generally one for self-doubt; she’s quick off the mark, and once she makes a decision, she sticks with it, but I think in the rare cases where she second-guesses, it’s along these lines.

4. Weakness: Page of Pentacles – Janeway is a scientist, and they could arguably get home faster if she didn’t want to stop and survey everything along the way. I’m not sure if that’s a weakness, per se, but there might also be something here about her willingness to put herself (and sometimes her crew) at risk in order to pursue The Journey. I think she’s also a little overly isolationist, feeling that she has to keep herself separate from the crew in order for them to continue to respect her. That’s hard on a trip like this that could feasibly take an entire lifetime.

5. Strength / Talent: The High Priest – Also known as The Hierophant, this is the card of organizational authority. And yes, it is Janeway’s strength- she is an incredible captain. She manages well in low times and in emergencies and in good times and in tough decisions. She respects and values her crew, and they revere and respect her. She is indominitable, and her word is law. She’s not just personally compelling, she excells at her job.

6. Me as a result: Summary of how my idol influenced who I am today: Two of Cups – I am more willing to form partnerships, to see teamwork as an important part of my life. I see beginnings, and like to undertake my work with others. I think this might actually be more about the effect Star Trek in general had on me (a crew! all living and working together! doing science! fighting aliens!) than Janeway herself, but yeah, there’s something here.


Captain Kathryn Janeway

The last spread of the week, like the previous one, uses five cards: top, bottom, left, right, and the middle card last. This spread tells us about my male family line; my father, his father, my brother, and on back.

Wisdom: Ace of Wands – My father’s paternal line has been in the US since the early 1600s, and I think, like many old American families, one thing they’ve always clung to is the idea of potential. The American Dream, Manifest Destiny, etc. The flipside of this view, of course, is that if you’re not doing well, it’s probably because you’re not trying hard enough, but still, that sense of always having the power and ability to be/see/do the Ace of Wands is a good one.

Shadows: Eight of Cups – That said, they can be a restless bunch, at least in recent generations. And even before- moving from England, to the Netherlands, to the Colonies, then to New York, to the Midwest, to the West. There’s also a lot of emotional baggage that people don’t really like to talk about, naturally, and I think both of those we can see here. They like to move on; if something didn’t work out, if you’re having a rough time, even if you’ve just outgrown your current life or space, pack it up and move on. This is not a bad tactic in of itself, but it can strain relationships, and obviously doesn’t always solve the underlying problems.

Curses: Knight of Wands – I think this could tie into both of the previous cards- if something is not going well for you, if you don’t like it, then get up and change it or move on. But you can’t usually truly outrun your problems, and the emotional repression involved in just packing up and moving to the next town, the next spouse, the next life, is not insignificant.

Blessings: Knight of Blades – My father’s people are smart, clever, learned, and musical. We haven’t been a well-to-do family in at least 150 years, and I think it was pretty hit and miss before then, really; one generation might do well, but the folks after them then did not, etc. But learning has always been important, as has creativity. I know I find this a blessing in my life, anyway.

Life Lessons: The Chariot – The only constant is change. The only way is forward, the only way is through. Are you going to hide in the back and let the horses go where they will, or are you going to take the reins and try to steer?