Talking to the Spirits, 14-15




pp. 216-8 obligations of neopagan religious groups






"to be clear about its beliefs and values."


"to be clear about how personal gnosis is handled in the group. How is it judged? By what people?"



"to be clear about who is in the group and who[m] it speaks for."


"to make sure that the person who explains the group values and beliefs to newcomers is actually authorized to do so by all members of the group."


"to make it clear how belief during ritual events is handled. For example, ... newcomers ... can take part in participatory rituals, or should they refrain ... . ... Does {theological} belief make any difference at all, or is the only issue polite and appropriate behavior?"


"to be clear about the customs and behavior expected during events ... ."



"to refrain from deciding what is spiritually best for any given newcomer."

pp. 221-4 obligations of human bearers (to neopagan groups) of messages from deities






"cross-check your information. ...



If there's no cohesion ..., ... pray, asking the Gods and spirits to send clarity."


"In order to best carry out the trust that the Gods and spirits have placed in you, you have an obligation to pass the message along in the way that will get it heard most effectively."


"Ask not only whether you got the message clearly, but [also] whether you are the best person to pass it along."


"Be clear on who is your target audience."



"Be sure that you know who is not in your target audience."



"throw yourself down in front of the altar and say, "Holy Powers, I want ... your message ... heard and accepted by the greatest number ...! Please give me some guidance on how I can make this happen."

p. 225 quitting one's religion because commanded to do so by unknown voices

[quoted from Del, U.S. Pagan] "it may be the case that someone, or a group of someones, cannot participate in a ritual or activity because their god tell them {not} to. Yes, I've had to quit organizations that my [spirit-]guides disagreed with, and I never explained ... . I just quietly resigned and went elsewhere."

pp. 229-32 desirable personal qualities of group-leaders






"good track record of keeping their commitments and treating their members well."


"are known for being honest ... and are clear about that."


"accept criticism gracefully ..., apologize and make amends".


"clear and open about their spiritual beliefs, including the values that they extrapolate from those beliefs, and how those values might be put into practice."



"clear on where their authority begins and ends".


"have handled the personal gnosis of members skillfully in the past. ... They have implemented (or inherited and used) a workable system for judging personal gnosis".


"speak courteously about the personal gnosis of others ... . ... They encourage similar courtesy among their members".


"thoroughly investigating the problem before stating an opinion



on it, and they ask group members to similarly reserve judgement until the investigations are finished and a report made."


"remind people over and over that if something is alleged, it should be proven before it is believed."



"the leader owes it to group members to provide trustworthy evidence as to whether to believe something that may affect them".


"react to fears of possible outside negative influences by calmly and objectively investigating the likelihood".


"If, for whatever reason, they are unable to investigate any of these problems ..., they appoint someone whose judgement they trust."


"have good problem-solving skills, and ... attempt to resolve conflict ... . They are good at conflict resolution, and they encourage courtesy and appreciation for each other in all their members."


"appreciative of the strong points of their members and accepting of their personal idiosyncracies."

pp. 233-6 divination as a mode for verification of personal gnosis

p. 233

"Unlike mainstream ... religions, Neo-Paganism's long-standing ... using magical practice as part of spiritual ritual has given us ... a wealth of diviners of all sorts in our communities. ...

p. 234

Illegal in many places ... and relegated to the margins of society, ... Given that there is no certification for diviners and that even proof of effectiveness is ... hard to come by, how is the average Neo-Pagan to figure out which of the spooky-looking people at the psychic fair is trustworthy ...? ...

p. 235

The most respected diviners have reliable and useful results ... word of their accuracy spreads. ...

To be a religious community diviner is a heavy responsibility, as ... you are obliged to tell the truth as you see it, even if it's unpopular. ... What people want most in a diviner, of course, is a reliable track record, which in practical terms usually stems from ... inborn knack ... . ...

p. 236

If a collection of community diviners were to agree to strive for certain standards, and hold each other to them, ... it would give the ... questioner something by which to judge those spooky people with their cards and stones and painted sticks."

pp. 236-8 professional standards for community-diviners



standard : "A community diviner should __ ."



"be well trained. ... know more than one system of divination, because no one system works for every client."


"be able to tell when his {the diviner's} own feelings or opinions are getting in the way of giving a particular client the cleanest reading possible, and be able to humbly refer the client to" a different diviner.


"have no ... pride about the



divination job. ... see herself as a vessel for the spirits or the Gods".


"be constantly working toward better signal clarity, using whatever techniques he can find -- meditation, grounding, ... drumming, or whatever works."


"be actively and constantly working toward being more self-aware and mindful".


"seriously consider concerned comments on ... the quality of his readings by people he trusts ... . He should welcome such scrutiny".


"should have some sort of regular spiritual



path or discipline, and ideally some connection with Gods or spirits who help her interface with Otherworlds."


"take {others'} disbelief in his abilities in stride".


"not push her gifts {divinations, or proffres to perform divination} aggressively on others whether they want them or not."


"make alliances with other diviners. ... make a practice of cross-checking dubious information with other diviners he respects, preferably more than one {diviner} at a time."


"be grateful for the presence of other skilled diviners, seeing them as peers and colleagues".


"hold other community diviners to these standards and aid them in achieving the same."


Community Divination


p. 240 any divination is a group-decision

[quoted from Del, U.S. Pagan] "Divination is every spirit worker's friend. ... Let the group decide what the runes, cards, or tea leaves have to say. Look for any trends, repeated symbols, or clear-cut sets."

pp. 242-3 (quoted from R.A., U.K. Pagan) how policy-decisions are to be made : separate divinations by all group-membres

p. 242

"If there is a hierarchical structure and the group leader gets the final say in all decisions, then presumably this will also apply to decisions about acting on personal gnosis .... . (This could very well lead to ... resignations ...!)

If the group uses a consensus

p. 243

model of decision making, then the majority opinion will carry the day.

A good procedure would be for the group to take some time as individuals asking for personal divine guidance on the matter, incubating dreams, contacting their higher selves, or making their own contact with the Deity concerned, and then reconvene to see if the majority felt there was a clear sense of guidance on the issue. Authority would then ... remain with the Divine".

pp. 243-4 antique dream-divination

p. 243

[quoted from P.S.V.L., Hellenic Pagan] "Like many syncretistic cults in late antiquity (e.g., Serapis, Asklepios-Imouthes, Nodons in Britain), dreams and dream incubation seem to have been a part of ... the individual epiphanies of the Deity ... . ...

p. 244

But the ability to get answers from the Deity on individual matters of concern is an important aspect of a cult, and indicates that ... there were specialists available as well who could get answers for others when called upon to do so."

pp. 245-6 voluntary sacrifice over waterfall to avert danger threatening the people

[cited from Ferguson 2009, p. 109] In order to avert an impending "mass slaughter" (p. 245) of the populace of I`sland by Christian infidel-blasphemers, "Thorgeirr himself ... ceremonially threw the statues of his Gods over a waterfall" (p. 246).

{[Wasco "LMF"] : In order to avert a plague from her tribe, a maiden voluntarily threw herself to her death over a cliff, thereby miraculously producing the waterfall at Multnomah.)} {Just as the statues of Norse deities are hidden in the waterfall from the sight of impious Christian scoffers, so the maiden at Multnomah is ["C&MF"] "hidden from all eyes that might see."}

Ferguson 2009 = Robert Ferguson : The Vikings. NY.

"LMF" = "Legend of Multnomah Falls"

"C&MF" = "Coyote and Multnomah Falls"

p. 246 Roman ornithomancy

"the {ploutokratic political-state-authorized} traditional public divination system of Rome was presided over by a guild of augurs. Priests of this guild would sit on a hill opposite their temple and watch (or, in some cases, be blindfolded and have described to them) the release of sacred birds from the temple roof. The direction of the birds's flight, their behavior,

and their noises

{viz., of ""birds of crying" (aves oscines) in the Roman bird oracle" ("TOH", p. 233)}

would answer the question that had been asked of them, a type of divination known as ornithomancy."

{Middle-American-themed Hellenic ornithomancies include the snake's resistance to the attacking eagle (Iliad 12:200-7 -- "PBFW", p. 52); and the "invisible heron" sent by Athene (Iliad 10:274-5 -- "PBFW", p. 52, fn. 5), the name /Az-tec/ meaning 'Heron Tribe' (and possibly alluding to the Maori Heron-god Matuku-tangotango).}

"TOH" = Yasuhiko Sakuma : "Terms of Ornithomancy in Hittite". TOKYO U LINGUISTIC PAPERS 33 (2013):219-38.

"PBFW" = Duane E. Smith : "Portentous Birds Flying West". J OF ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN RELIGIONS 13 (2013):49–85.

p. 247 Chinese plastromancy

"a divination system named Kuei-pu ... involved preparing tortoise shells so that they would break along carefully chiseled lines, and then placing then on a fire so that they would shatter (referred to ... as plastromancy)."

{Plastromancy is closely related to ornithomancy : because "the place Skiron is mentioned as a location where omen birds were observed" (BI, p. 33), and because Skiron used to kick travelers "into the sea, where a giant turtle swam about" (GM 96.f), there is therefore a relation to the Talamanca myth that from macaws' falling in the sea, sea-turtles originated (TTCR).}

BI = Karin Johansson : The Birds in the Iliad. GOTHENBURG STUDIES IN HISTORY, 2. 2012.

TTCR = Doris Stone : The Talamancan Tribes of Costa Rica. PAPERS OF THE PEABODY MUS OF ARCHAEOLOGY & ETHNOLOGY, 43.2. Harvard U Pr, 1962.

p. 247 English cleromancy

[cited from Opie & Tatum 1992, p. 88] "Queen Elizabeth I of England saw a comet ... in 1583 ... . She called her councilors and resorted to cleromancy -- divination by casting dice".

Opie & Tatum 1992 = Iona Opie & Moira Tatum : A Dictionary of Superstition. Oxford U Pr.

p. 248 Hellenic evaluation of prophecy

"Plato called prophecy "the noblest of the arts." Socrates differentiated it from ordinary madness by calling it "a madness which is the special gift of heaven, and the source of the chiefest blessings among men.""

p. 249 intentional ambiguity in politically-sensitive oracular pronouncements

"The most famous oracular pronouncements, of course, were the ones that were so ambiguous that they could be interpreted several ways ...; these ... are used to prove that such things are nonsense".

{Because oracle-priestesses were exposing themselves to the real danger of being immediately murdered if their pronouncements were not agreeable to both parties of a political controversy, most oracles diplomatically opted to keep such of their assertions sufficiently ambiguous as to please both parties. It would have been absurd ("nonsense") for oracles to be so definite as to have suffred being immediately murdered on account of such definiteness; forasmuch as the author citeth [loc. cit., from Forman 1936, p. 38] that "One group of Boetian [sic : read "Boiotian"] envoys disliked theirs enough to attack the oracular priestess and throw her in cauldron of boiling water."}

Forman 1936 = Henry James Forman : The Story of Prophecy. NY : Farrar & Rinehart.

p. 250 deliberately false oracles

"Plato himself complained that oracles and prophecy were a help ... only as long as the diviners stood fast ..., even in the face of threats; ... that it was when they began to tell powerful men {ploutokrats} what they wanted to hear that public divination became useless and false."

p. 251 ought the validity of religious doctrines to be decided upon, on the arbitary basis of divination?

"If the majority of members don't feel that it [divination] can be made reliable enough to base doctrinal policy decisions on, ... the process [of divination] ... will not settle their differences,

{The majority may accept that divination may obtain (through some underlying praeternaturality) accurate information about the secret personal doings of individual persons, while the same majority may simultaneously deny that the same sort of minor praeternaturality would have any access to the far more critical details of high-level divine government upon which "doctrinal policy decisions" ought proprely to be based.}

no matter how good the diviner is."

{The typical "good" diviner is good only at finding relatively trivial personal information.}

Kenaz Filan & Raven Kaldera : Talking to the Spirits : personal gnosis in pagan religion. Destiny Bks, Rochester (VT), 2013.