I quite admire Desmond Stern at The Dreaming Bat. He describes himself as a dedicant of the WildWood tradition of witchcraft, meaning that his practice is informed by European Shamanism, ecstatic and animistic witchcraft, and the Faerie faith. He is "a grad-studenting, dog-loving, nerdly transman, who loves writing, arting, and listening to Calexico. Des is also certified as a level II Reiki practitioner, and has been reading the tarot for almost 15 years. He lives with his partner and tiny doglet in the NH White Mountains."
Potential magick in everything
North Star Muse: In "Three Ways to Read Tarot with More than One Deck", you share a lot of creative ideas.
One of your suggestions is how to create an organic spread: "before you even ask your question, shuffle your oracle cards, concentrating on the layout, not the question, asking the cards to give you your spread. Now, lay out three of those cards. Take a look at each. What do they represent, roughly?"
Where did this technique originate? Do you apply it elsewhere in your life?
Desmond: Well, I’m sure I’m not so original as to have come up with a totally new idea, and it’s likely that influences from tarot culture have seeped into my unconscious. That being said, the technique is just one I made up one day while goofing around with the cards.
I like experimenting with spreads, and sometimes I just get tired of using the same ones over and over, so I kinda threw some cards out and went with the flow. I turn to it either when I need to answer a question none of my go-to spreads is helping with, when I can’t decide on which deck to use for a reading, or when my intuition is just poking at me to give it a go.
I like that it allows for an intuitive reading and at the same time, it doesn’t sacrifice structure. You still have set positions for each card once the first ones are laid. I find I really like the way the meanings, images, and messages converse with each other as I’m reading.
I apply it pretty much whenever it seems appropriate. It’s not a spread technique I reserve for just one kind of reading, but it’s also not my go-to. It’s refreshing. Sometimes I use it for readings, sometimes for spellwork amplification (using each base-card setting the spread as seats of power for each top-card’s energetic vibration).
There’s something beautiful in the order-out-of-chaos nature of just throwing some cards out willy-nilly and letting them dictate your structure. If you let loose enough, anything can be part of your magick.
Creating: A Love Note
North Star Muse: Who or what inspires you to create (perhaps blogging, meditations, spellwork, or your academic assignments)?
Desmond: The whole world. Everything is an inspiration. One of the things I struggle with as a graduate student is that everything inspires me and I can only take so many classes.
I’m the kind of person who would be in school forever if I could afford it. I love learning—it’s a never ending process, and I firmly believe that we never reach mastery; we only move towards it infinitely. And that is a way better state of being, honestly.
I draw inspiration from my home in the mountains and hiking trails lined with waterfalls and the tangled roots of old trees. I draw from the arts—I could get lost for hours in a Rothko painting, or disappear into the depths of a piece of music set to repeat until I’ve lost count of the minutes passed. I’m inspired by magick, by the witches with whom I am connected and love-strung, by the allies of my spirit.
I create because I love.
I’m inspired by my partner, by my dog, by my mother and sister and brothers and my late father’s strange echoes. I’m inspired by the LGBTQIA+ community, the process of gender transition, the existence or lack of existence of gender, and by feminism, and activism. A good book, compelling script, beautiful dance, an impassioned actor absorbed in a scene, the feeling of disappearing into a character, the beauty of the human mind.
I’m inspired by the resilience of humans.
This answer kind of turned into a love note, in the end.
Besties: Creative divination with (and without) tarot
North Star Muse: I define creative divination as inspiration via tarot, dreams, tea leaf readings, symbols and such, that ignites one to think, act, or create in a way that promotes contentment. That zen moment may be found in writing a new poem, composing a new song, choreographing a new dance, or the revision of or return to an every day task. What is one way you have found to find creative divination, and how you think others can experience something like it for themselves?
Desmond: My cards and I are besties. In particular, I have this one battered pocket-sized Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck with plain-Jane plaid backs, and it’s my go-to. Not fancy, but utilitarian and strong. And most of all, it speaks to me clear as bells.
If I’m looking for something new to inspire me, I pull some cards. Sometimes when I do this, I spend some time in trance-journey before or after the reading. Trance-journeys are also huge part of finding inspiration and exploration for me, whether or not they’re paired with my tarot cards (though most often they are).
Other times, I just pull some cards while I’m sitting on the couch watching re-runs of The West Wing and thinking, “This is a great show, but I really ought to be doing something more than vegging.”
But ultimately, creative divination could really come from anywhere—all you have to do is open yourself to it. Breathe in, offer a blessing, be humble, be proud, accept the messages that find you. Pick up a pen or paintbrush or let your vocal chords loose. Jump in and let Spirit take you there. It can happen anytime, anywhere.
Want more from Desmond?
If you’re interested in learning some witchcraft of your own, check out the Dreaming Bat’s Pathfinding lessons and take your first step towards crafting your personal pagan practice. Book a tarot reading with Desmond by going to www.dreamingbat.com/shop.
You can find Desmond and The Dreaming Bat on:
& Twitter: https://twitter.com/thedreamingbat
How do you get creative, or trance-like, or what's your love note to the world? Comment below.
I've been working on a creative divination workbook.
It began as a book to practice reading tea leaves. It is only directly inspired by tarot in a few exercises -- but there are 79 different prompts and structures for creative divination.
This book can be used for reading cards, runes, charms, or to help you inspire anything you wish, like poems, objects of art, spells, and other expressions of creativity.
Thanks for the read.
Tabitha Dial strives to help folks like you create your fate with tarot and tea leaf readings.
She has an MFA in Poetry from Colorado State University and lives in Lexington, Kentucky. She is working on a creative divination workbook that encourages practicing tea leaf reading and can be used for any form of divination.
Her poetry has appeared in articles on SpiralNature.com, in "Arcana: The Tarot Poetry Anthology", and in "Tarot in Culture" Volume Two.