Quick fact about me: I have no problem describing my aesthetic preferences in terms of literature, music, and even the fiber arts, but I am 100% useless when it comes to articulating what I like in terms of the visual arts. So, when I first saw the Hedgewitch Botanical Oracle by Siolo Thompson, I fell in love immediately. (I was able to pick up a deck over at Amityville Apothecary.) Don’t ask me why — I still can’t put it into words; but I suspect that, being an academic, what appeals to me is that these drawings could have easily been lifted out of a botany textbook. There’s something about the intentional spareness and judicious use of color — that is, the illustrator seems to color and detail only the sketched parts of the plant necessary for identification — and that seems very academic to me. I dig it, for sure.
While I’m spending a nice chunk of time learning Tarot — because, let’s face it, Tarot takes a nice chunk of time to learn — I’m also learning that oracle decks, like this one, are a really great palate cleanser while working with Tarot. For instance, Tarot has certain rules about card meanings and sequencing which you’re absolutely encouraged to diverge from if and when the context warrants it. But, I think for many — for me, certainly — it’s far easier to learn the rules than to develop the confidence to break them. Oracle decks, on the other hand, don’t operate according to the same rules as Tarot. Of course, the creator usually specifies meanings and suggests potential uses, but there’s generally no sequencing rules like there are in Tarot. Also, in my opinion, less is more with oracle cards. That is, you can more easily pull one card and get a meaningful point of reflection whereas the strength to Tarot, because of its emphasis on sequencing, is in the cards’ relationship to one another. All this to say that alternating between Tarot and oracle decks provides a nice break from following the rules, which gives one an opportunity to practice not getting locked into those rule systems.
Also, it’s just a lot of fun. This past Friday, my partner and I used it as a fun date night activity. We drew one card apiece, read the meaning, and had a great conversation about how we saw the themes play out in our own lives.
Yesterday, I decided to be a little more ambitious and do a three-card pull for work, home, and school (pictured above). I ended up with the Golden Poppy (Dream), Sage (Purify), and Salal (Subdue). I had to laugh when I read the card meanings, because it felt so appropriate for where I am now in all of these areas and what I need to do but have been putting off.
Work | Golden Poppy | Dream
Basic meaning: According to Thompson (2018), the golden poppy has been used medicinally as a sedative. This relates to its oracle property of dream which encourages us to take a deep dive into imagination while reminding us that, for practical reasons, we do have to surface every once in a while.
Meaning for me: This makes sense to me in terms of work. A department that I’ve collaborated with extensively is about to undergo a personnel change and that means I need to give myself permission to take some time and think about how this could most productively change my department’s mission, goals, and operations. But, I need to remember not to get lost in the possibilities and stop, at some point, and begin planning for those I have the most agency to manifest.
Acting on this card: I am going to put some time on my calendar this week to brainstorm where my department is, where it could go, and what’s most feasible given the time, resources, and expertise at my disposal.
Home | Sage | Purify
Basic meaning: Thompson (2018) cites sage’s history as both a medicinal herb as well as an herb used for cleansing a space of negative energies, rebalancing spaces, and even welcoming new folks/energies into the space.
Meaning for me: I have been in my first apartment for a little under two years now and boy, does it need purging. Clutter, for me, is my main source of negative energy and imbalance. Actually, no, strike that, it’s not the clutter, it’s something much deeper. It’s a lack of workflow for incorporating new items and purging old items, which stems from a lack of understanding my own aesthetic, which should serve as a heuristic of what can and cannot come into my spaces. It’s also the lack of rules for how to functionally organize these spaces. Part of this comes from the fact that I set up my spaces according to how I thought I would use them; then, I ended up operating in these spaces much differently.
My kitchen is a great example of this. How I thought I would meal prep and what I thought I would need for meal prep is so different from how I actually go about meal prepping on a weekly and monthly basis.
But, there’s also a ton of stuff that I simply need to give myself permission to remove. I was so very blessed and so very grateful to receive a number of gently used items — pots, pans, utensils, bedding, curtains, etc. — from family and friends to get me through the first years of having my own place. To be honest, I’m finding it very difficult to part with these items due to an overwhelming sense of guilt at the idea of disposing of them.
I also need to make room for new (well, not new) folks. My long-time partner spends a lot of time at my place, and my accumulation of stuff prevents him from having dedicated, uncluttered space in my apartment. I know that this drives him absolutely bonkers, which, honestly, makes me love and appreciate him all the more for not allowing it to become a point of contention, but it’s really time for him to have his own area without my stuff encroaching on it.
Acting on this card: This week, I’m going to spend some time reevaluating each of my apartment’s zones, and how I can bring the organization of these zones into alignment with their use. I’m going to make note of what can go and how to find it a home where it will serve others, be loved, and be functional (I have a feeling there will be a garage sale in my future). I will have a discussion with my partner about what he wants to bring into the apartment, what spaces require clearing to accommodate these additions, and how he can help me make progress in making this space for him.
School | Salal | Subdue
Basic meaning: Salal has traditional uses as natural sweetener, appetite suppressant, and as an ingredient to soothe big bites and stings (Thompson, 2018). Again, we have an emphasis on balance: “Subdue those things that are not helpful but remember to be kind to yourself and your community” (p. 143).
Meaning for me: When I read this entry in the guide, I immediately thought about the saying, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.” As I wind down my PhD coursework, striving for perfection is not serving me well and I know it. I need to recognize that I am a student, I am learning, I will make mistakes, and those mistakes do not reflect any failing on the part of my intellect or character, rather they simply reflect my current — but not permanently fixed — position as a novice.
Acting on this card: Perfectionism can become a block to beginning and a block to finishing. When I feel intimidated by starting an assignment, I will challenge myself to start just by opening a word document or reading the first sentence of an article. When I feel like an assignment isn’t good enough, I will ask myself “Does it check all the boxes?” and then let it go if it does without any additional agonizing.
Thompson, S. (2018). Hedgewitch’s field guide. Llewellyn Worldwide.