A Divination Altar

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Madame Nadia’s Divination Altar

Last week I finally    got to accomplish a spiritual task I was planning for a long while. But due to a busy schedule — conjure clients, a masters degree, a family, and all that jazz — I had to wait for a summer break in order to build a divination altar. It took me about 5 days from the point of starting to clean and prep the area where I was planning to erect it, to actually having a functional sacred space for devotion and inspiration. 

Madame NAdia is reading the Deste at the Hoodoo Heritage Fest, photo courtesy Coastside Conjure

Madame Nadia is reading the Deste at the Hoodoo Heritage Fest, photo courtesy Coastside Conjure

I was taken by surprise when, after posting a picture of my newly constructed fortunetelling shrine, I got many questions about it from folks over social media. After thinking about it I realized that indeed I haven’t seen many images of divination before. 

What I call a divination altar is a space dedicated to the Spirits I work with when I read fortunes. By honoring my Spirits regularly, my connection with them deepens, and my divination skills improve. Not every one works with Spirits, or knows their Spirits, or is aware of a presence of such energies while divining — and it’s perfectly fine. This is just the way I do it, and how my practice had unfolded throughout the years. In fact, now that I think about it, building this shrine in a first place was a mission given to me by my Spirits of Divination. 

Building altars has its own aesthetic. Every one does it their way. And my technique, even if originally my intention was keeping it clean and functional, turns into a sensory overload painted in the colors of a bordello. Really, I shouldn’t even try fighting it anymore. lol

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Carnivalia Sign

The pieces on the altar are images, photographs and statuary that has special meaning to me or to my Spirits. For instance, last May, while teaching at the Hoodoo Heritage Festival, I was presented by the sweet, Coastside Conjure, with a beautiful shingle sign made by Carnivalia. Since I am not reading in person, I knew I wanted this large beauty to be the backdrop for my altar. I also keep a few beautiful containers with graveyard dirt — one of them contains dirt from Mlle. Lenormand’s grave site, another precious gift I received from a talented colleague and friend, Balthazar Conjure.

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Graveyard dirt and other delights

A cool water container, glass

In addition, I keep a few card decks and other, special to me, divination and magickal tools either on display or hidden. One of these is my first Thoth deck that also happens to be the oldest reading deck in my possession (as opposed to the vintage decks in my collection). The only deck I owned prior to the above mentioned cards was a Rider Waite Smith I purchased at the age of 15. However, these cards were left at Ma Kali’s feet as part of my initiation offering some 10 years ago. And of course, there are candle holders and an incense brazier placed securely among bones, furs, shells, magickal goodies, and a central piece — a glass for water. I must boast that this cool container is also a present from a friend and a student, Dean from QuickSilver Conjure. I do have awesome friends! ❤ 

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A playing cards – themed water container between two shells

The purpose of this post was more to share my thought process and approach to altar building and fortunetelling, than giving you an instructional bulletin. I hope that some of you find this information meaningful, and apply it to your own fortunetelling practices. 

If you have questions, please post them in the comments section or on my Facebook page

Warmly,

Madame N. 

Need a reading? No problem! You can book one here

All images and text Copyright Madame Nadia 2014

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My Mornings with Mary-El

Histories

I think that I’ve never waited for anyone, let alone anything, as long as I waited for the Mary-El tarot. 8 years to be precise. And boy, was it worth it!

Mary-El Tarot, back and fromt

I first laid eyes on this wondrous, and then unfinished, pack in 2003, when I stumbled upon it during one of my leisurely strolls along the virtual isles of the Aeclectic Tarot site. It was a usual kind of window-shopping stroll-through — with not much expectation for originality devoid of unicorns and ferries — when I stumbled upon a Marie White’s self-published collection of 26 cards. The images were so stunning it tingled the collector part in me, getting me slightly wet with cartomantic excitement.

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After finally getting a grip on myself I fished out a credit card from a paddle of fresh drool on my glass computer desk. I ordered the deck. Proceeding to sit on the edge of my chair for almost a week and a half, I checked the tracking report like a maniac.

I was consumed with papery lust even before caressing the tenderness of these temptresses of mystery in between my fingers. And then I became completely enslaved by their raw and sensual glamour as I rode a colossal spiritual high, shuffling those laminated beauties for the very first time.

Mary-El tarot - AcesThe 22 Major Arcana and the 4 hermaphroditic aces proved to be such an esoteric delight that every other collection of divinatory imagery would be compared, in the years to come, with no real success, to the Mary-El tarot. Like a mythological ex, or a virgin line of cocaine, somehow no other pack deemed as satisfying as the thought of 78 completed fetishes I knew a full Mary-El deck would turn to be. So I waited…

The Devil - Mary-El TarotLike a true addict, I frequently stocked Marie White’s blog, hoping to learn she has finished painting the rest of the cards. I would visit that sacred Mecca every few days, initially. And then every few weeks. And then every few months. Time passed, life happened, and reality changed becoming more complex and demanding. I graduated college, underwent a spiritual initiation, got divorced and then remarried, and got a coveted gig in TV production — while establishing my own spiritual personality and forging my path.

Marie, on the other hand, birthed another child whose pictures occasionally decorated her website; alongside snapshots of her colorful studio, and a snow-covered, farm-looking back yard.

Once in a while I’d be tempted by a new single apparition, or a couple of freshly painted cards, on Marie’s site. Although silence prevailed in between new uploads, Marie would still post updates of her work sometimes.

But then she went completely incommunicado. And my own well dried up too.

To me, Marie’s site seemed like Sleeping Beauty’s tomb, reflecting in ornate and crystal silence the flames of my own crisis. As I went through personal hell, the Mary-El bunch became frozen in time like a flashback of innocent desire. There might have been new cards joining the ranks of her blog, but I was in no emotional capacity to admire them. I was surviving.

More years have passed. Children grew, hearts broke yet continued pumping life juice. And that life juice, made with hope, verve, and selective memory, had led me to Marie again, this time on Facebook. I was sad to learn she’s been paralleling via a shit storm of her own.

And then a miracle happened: There was a light in the end of Schiffer Books’ tunnel. The full Mary-El tarot deck was heading to the press!

The little differences

The little differences

I ordered my cards from Marie’s instead of Amazon because I wanted a signed copy, even though I knew I’ll have to wait longer. What is a week or two of self-inflicted patience, after all those taming years of fortune telling frustration to a triple Gemini like myself?

Let me tell ya: A — fucking — lot!

But I waited nonetheless.

And so, in an early, warm April evening of 2012, I found myself on the front porch of my raised ranch home. There I sat, exercising yogic breathing, while being conscious of the young moon above my head conducting a lively insect orchestra in the grass; and how it jazzed and buzzed with excitement in my own veins to a point I couldn’t bring myself to unwrap the package I knew contained the Hieros Gamos of all tarot decks in my universe. Like a young child with autism, I averted my gaze to not overload myself, while treating Mary-El as if it was a long awaited lover.

I wanted these tight and shiny darlings to feel the intensity of my respect. This deflowering had to be acted out ceremoniously, and undressing was clearly a paramount part of my proof of respect. Pacing myself I gently parted the gates of the packing tape…

In the darkness of that April night, after having my way, stroking over, and over, and over again along those large, magnificently dark, and glossy cards, finally I became somewhat sober enough to observe some detail:

  1. a black border;
  2. extra thick card stock;
  3. a Marseille rather than a Waite pattern;
  4. and 2 Oroboroses, infinitely coiled and linked like a wave. Their skin tattooed with holy “Yods,” cycling tail in tongue, tongue in tail.

Mistakes

My Grandmother's box

I am ashamed to say that after owning this pack for just a short while, I couldn’t resist my cartomantic fiending feats. So I wrapped the deck in a dusty rose-colored, Indian raw silk scarf, and housed them in a carved wooden box — courtesy of a dead grandmother — to proudly display on my nightstand.

The public show of respect and the hierarchical geographic placement was a cheap attempt redirecting my guilt for cheating on both Mary and El with other decks; Lenormands in particular.

From the corner of my left eye I could often feel the burning gaze of 78 pairs of papery eyes, as I shamelessly shuffled and caressed others right then and there, in the intimacy of my own bed.

Though a dysfunctional threesome, we still kept at it… Until the day my house got burglarized.

Nauseated with the holiday spirit being shoved down my throat in the form of obnoxious drivers, pushy sales clerks, and more-than-usually annoying elevator music, I came home one day — right after Hanukah, and just before Christmas — to find out some human waste cleaned out all of my jewelry, stole my laptop, lifted a brand new computer charger, and — yes — abducted my signed copy of the complete Mary-El tarot, still wrapped in its shroud of Indian silk. Thank Muhammad my self-published deck was left unmolested in the altar room.

I ended up contacting Marie White on Facebook to bitch about it, as I was terribly heartbroken.

IMG_8421But not for long! My darling husband — who knows all about my card-doping needs, and my tight connection with the Mary-El bunch in particular — surprised me by ordering a new signed copy from Marie’s Etsy Shop. He also bought a poster of my favorite card — The glorious World!

Practicum

I guess something must be effin true if it becomes a cliché, because just like with old boyfriends I mistreated and dumped prematurely, the realization of loosing the Mary-El resonated with: “You never know what you have until you lose it.”

African tarot caseAnyhow, after reuniting with my beloved deck I became determined giving it more sugar consistently. So I got a cool-looking, African, leather carrying case (how could I not get one, I am a card fanatic…), to have on me daily. I carry the pack in my purse, adding a daily tarot draw to my ongoing Lenormand practice.

As I mentioned numerous times before, my daily ritual is to pull cards for hubby and myself on our drive to work. With Mary-El being part of my arsenal, I re-adjusted the way I frame my draws.

Allowing the Lenormand shine in its practicality, I let the tarot perform on a more philosophical level. When drawing a card from the Mary-El deck, I focus on questions such as “What will help / inspire me today?” I follow each daily draw by reading passages from the phenomenal book that came with the cards. I find Marie’s writing poetic. It is refreshing and authentic, without being patronizing or dogmatic.

2 of Swords, Mary-El tarot  The black snake of the tongue comes between the two trees, spreading them, moving serpentine between them, circling the trunks and exposing their inner sanctum of blackness. The snake encircles a portion, containing it, making it individual, defining it, limiting it, naming it loving it, eating it, consuming it. Snake and fruit become one.

  Lilith and Logos unite. Knowledge of good and evil.

(from The 2 of Swords, p. 78)

I also appreciate this deck being more Marseille-oriented, than Waite-based, as I am trying to add this lens to my fortune telling world-view.

The Fool, Mary-El tarotAnd how can I disregard the fact that it’s pretty much the only deck in my massive collection that doesn’t shy away from parading male genitalia. Just look at the Fool card, captured lke a Dervish, twirling in motion with his glorious penis caught mid in flight. This makes me happy!

Following a tarot draw I then ask the Lenormand: “What should I know about today?” And sometimes I also zone on questions like “What is the single event that will influence my workday the most today?”

Often I find the tarot card offering a strategy dealing with issues and concerns described by the Lenormand. Diligently I record my predictions in a notepad kept in the passenger’s door of the Cooper. This way it is convenient to revisit the reading on the way back from work. By discussing the events of the day, and decoding these in the language of the cards my relationship and understanding of cartomancy expands in a personal and a potent way.

In conclusion, it is fair to say that all three of us — Mary, El, and yours truly — currently enjoy a superbly intimate and quite successful symbiosis. Don’t dismiss shock therapy, dearies — sometimes it’s quite a turn on!

Affectionately,

Madame Nadia 

Brothers in Arms — a weekly, multi-oracle, global forecast

If you want a revolution, you better spend some time planning the event!

This week’s Global Forecast consists of 3 cards from various decks, and a rune. Initially I pulled card number 20 Communication / Negotiation from the King Solomon Oracle Cards deck, followed by the Revolution card from the Dirty Tarot oracle. Tension!

While the King Solomon oracle suggest taking time to plan, think through, deliberate and only then approach the target patiently, Revolution thrusts forward with ideological immediacy. I foresee a dance of anxiety — wanting to produce, change, and evolve, but understanding that time isn’t right. Logic is possible, but not enjoyable. And this week ain’t going to be about joy, or about logic per-se. It’s about personal spiritual space. And indecision. And being OK with it.

The third card I pulled is 7 of Disks from the exquisite Mary-El tarot. Indeed, this card is a blessing. A possibility to achieve something wonderful and tangible. However, along with the inverted Teiwaz rune , the meaning of the first two cards is being reinforced: In order to make magic without, we must descend into the depths of ourselves to dwell in the magic within.

In less poetic and artsy terms, I think fusion is the right approach. If you feel like the tension in the atmosphere is becoming somewhat violent, instead of going from 0 — Bitch in a nanosecond, take a break — you are allowed! Fuse that anger, that irritation. Wrap it around itself, sit with it, attempt a spiritual macrame project. And remember, you are not alone. I think we all will need to fight the heady agitated spaces, allowing some quiet time of indecision.

I remember, as a teenager in a country where English is only a second language, listening to the good ol’ Dire Straits, and pondering the meaning of the title “Brothers” in “Arms,” not knowing that the word arms meant not only an embrace, but also weapons. Thinking about this week’s prediction brings a new light to my concept of “Brothers in Arms” — learning to project an embrace onto personal weapons — layering meanings of two impossibles, forces me to take time negotiating my own truth.

 

Affectionately,

Madame Nadia