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4. What are some of the ways that you communicate with the divinities?
I’m going to assume this is a two-way question, not just how I send information TO the powers, but also how I recieve information FROM Them. Talking TO the gods is never the hard part. I do believe They hear me just fine, especially if I open my mouth and speak Their name and my message aloud. It’s hearing the reply that’s difficult.
I am a natural dreamworker. My earliest memories are of dreams. I have had vivid, memorable dreams all my conscious life. I used to be a sleepwalker, and sometimes hallucinated while doing so. I mean that in the sense of seeing things that are not reflecting light into my eyes and hearing things that are not generating sound waves, not necessarily in the sense of sensing things that aren’t there at all. Spirits and energy forms may have no physical form when present. But I understand that to perceive them as if through my eyes and ears directly is a hallucination my mind is providing in response to a less concrete stimulus. Dreamwork is the only spiritual skill I have that I was not taught by anyone. My parents both gave me minimal insight into the process of interpreting my own dreams, mostly in teaching me that the language of my dreams is that of my own mind, and thus teaching me to trust myself.
It’s not something I can always unpack clearly, but I have several different kinds of dreams that I have learned to tell apart over the years. Of course there’s the majority of dream material, which is just what I call Day Residue – the mind processing all that input and sorting out what is worth retaining and what can safely be discarded. There’s Stress Processing dreams that show me what’s bothering me or otherwise making a strong emotional impact that I’m not dealing with while awake. There’s Answering Machine dreams where I belatedly interpret messages and other insights I picked up while awake but couldn’t process yet. Those are all pretty common. But there’s also working dreams, where I’m basically doing spirit and/or clergy work in my sleep. There’s Message dreams wherein the dream itself is a direct message dropped on me from something external, not always including caller-ID. There’s Visitation dreams wherein somebody actually drops in as an entity to have a conversation with me directly. There’s Journey dreams where I go wandering somewhere significant to learn or do something that needs learning or doing. There’s a kind of Telepathy dream where I seem to be dropping in on someone else’s dream, and helping them deal with whatever is too overwhelming for them to think clearly about on their own. Visitation and Journey dreams can involve interactions either with powers I know, powers I don’t know, or human teachers who have something to show me. And lastly there’s a kind of Meta dream I have right after one of those working dreams wherein I explain to myself what the heck just happened in terms that are clearer to me than the initial dream often is.
For me, dreaming is the most trustworthy input source for dealing with the gods – my anxiety and hypersensitivity are mostly offline, and I am the most open to whatever They have to tell me without judgement, or however They wish to present Themselves. It may not make much sense, however, and often I have to do divination the next day to determine which aspects of the dream are relevant to the message before proceeding to interpret the weird dream-language puns that come across. I generally err on the side of skepticism and humility when in doubt, but that sometimes actually gets me in trouble when a god doesn’t appreciate my downplaying Their input. If I get to a point of requesting general or public input on a dream, it’s a safe bet I’ve already rejected the “It’s just a cigar” option in this case.
2: Journey Trance
I have mentioned before practicing various forms of trance work. They’re not all equally useful for having conversations with the powers, I’ll admit. For my personal practice, there’s not much functional difference between Journey and Oracular Trance, as the latter is essentially using Journey Trance to perform Divination on behalf of someone else. If my trance state is deep enough, what I get out of Journey trance can be as or more reliable than dream content, but it takes a certain amount of effort to get out of the way when it comes to having a conversation with the powers for my own sake. When it comes to interpretation after the fact, I tend to treat Journey content much the same way I treat Dream content, including the grain of salt for personal quirks and biases.
3: Automatic Writing
This is somewhere in between Journey and Meditation methods in terms of where I am spiritually in the process. It’s basically a limited form of possession trance, where the power uses my hands to talk, and I use my mind or my mouth. I know it’s going well when I can’t make my hands type my half of the conversation.
Mostly this happens either when I experience a god “jumping up and down on my head” (which is a sensory thing I’m not sure how else to describe that feels like mild vertigo combined with a slightly abstract sense of someone actually tapping on the top of my head, or maybe a bunch of fluttering wings flying around my head, and getting in my face), or else I have a question I need answered, and I sit down to willfully engage in a trance state that allows Them access to my hands.
Like all methods, this isn’t guaranteed to work, because, of course, you can’t have a conversation with someone who isn’t actually talking to you. But it’s more obvious to me when this one isn’t working, because I have yet to find automatic writing at all useful to me for internal work. If I’m the only one there, either my side of the conversation with my subconscious does get written (and I know I’m not as deeply entranced as I should be) or it all comes out gobbledygook. Either way, this tool is used pretty well exclusively for talking with entities outside myself.
That’s good because it means what I get when I do it is more likely to be reliable. That’s bad if what I’m trying to do is solve a problem by getting good advice when I don’t entirely care about who is giving it. So when what I really need is the answer to a particular question, but not necessarily from a particular source, I go with…
4: Divinatory Readings
By which I mean token-based divination like cards, runes, or bones, although ultimately all such methods seem to require the same light divination trance that can, if you go much deeper, render the method itself moot, taking you out of Reading territory and into Oracle territory. Divination isn’t really a linear progression of methods so much as a wibbly-wobbly ball of fortune-telling… stuff. For me a reading usually means cartomancy. I’ve been reading the Tarot for about half my life now. But sometimes I’ll use bibliomancy on an Alice in Wonderland book, or something by Neil Gaiman (his mind seems to work right for me *shrug*).
Also a form of trance work, this is a lighter, more communal kind of state. I’m not trying to leave the here-now I live in, I’m just trying to make a spiritual phone call to my Lady, ya know? I may sit in front of an applicable altar or shrine, sing or recite an invocation, or verbally pray out loud to get some attention before settling in. Or I may just center, ground, crown, and focus on the power I’d like to get in touch with.
If I’m not trying to get ahold of anyone in particular so much as make myself open and available to whoever wants to say something to me, that’s somewhat different, and closer to one of the Buddhist forms of meditation, either focus meditation or no-mind (although it’s hard to get to a place where the monkey-mind ever really shuts up). A state of light open trance is very comfortable, if not always equally easy to maintain. It’s restful, and frankly I should do it a lot more often.
6: Divine Inspiration
I’m a compulsively creative person, and a lot of my creative work is devotional on some level. I do believe that at its heart, all inspiration has a spiritual element to it. However, when I say “Divine Inspiration”, I don’t mean “I had an idea for a picture of Dionysos” so much as “sixteen stanzas of epic poetry with perfect rhyme and meter came tumbling out of my mouth.”
The thing is, I can’t choose this kind. This is a communication that happens TO me, not WITH me. Even dreams I basically choose to engage in on some level, although it’s not like I have much choice about sleeping every day, really. If I know They want a particular song or poem to exist and I ask really nicely They might send me a tiny fraction of that kind of inspirational kick to get the ball rolling, but nothing I can invoke comes anywhere near what They send of Their own will, without warning.
The other thing is that it comes with an obligation to share. Poetry in particular is the strongest form, and when it comes down, it’s completely unacceptable to keep it to myself. When the messages come tumbling out of my mouth, if they’re not in verse or song, I might get to edit them for tact if I try really hard, but otherwise, that’s it.
(I notice that this is also the topic for Question 6, so I’ll elaborate more on this later.)
7: Ambient Chatter
Yep, it’s the infamous Voices In My Head! To be clear, this is almost never in the form of audio hallucination levels of voice. I don’t hear the gods in any kind of literal sense the vast majority of the time. Rather, when doing a reading, meditating, crafting, driving, walking down the street, having lunch, stopping to smell the roses, and otherwise generally going about with my every day life, I’ll “hear” a narrative voice say something mostly-linguistic with a strong side of emote, and sometimes a not-word that unpacks to whole paragraphs like the smudge in the Mrin codex (but without the whole interdiction against unpacking it thing).
The question then, of course, is how do I know it’s not just me talking to myself? Well, sometimes I don’t know that for sure. Sometimes I have to discern based largely on the content, rather than the quality of the voice. That’s where my Mom’s favorite biblical admonishment of “By their works shall ye know them!” comes in handy. Yeah, I can figure out pretty easily for gods I’m very experienced with whether it’s at all likely that, say Freyja, would say such a thing, but even then, the gods are bigger and more complicated than I can truly encompass, so I might still be wrong if I handle it that way. So my first thought is simply “Is this good advice?” because if it is, it may not matter whether it’s my own advice or someone else’s.
But I also seem to have a particular knack most folks don’t have. To me, identity is A Thing, almost a concrete trait, more consistent than hair color, certainly. Identity Has A Flavor, and names are, at most, handles for getting ahold of that more essential truth, pointers to the permanent spiritual address of any given entity. I can see where the concept of True Names might have come from, but I’m not convinced that any word would ever really tap it directly.
I can’t easily describe with words how I experience identity, much less teach anyone else how to pick up on what I sense, but I am, due to this particular knack, talent, blessing, whatever-you-want-to-label-it, able to pick up very quickly on whether a spirit is who they say they are – or who They are if we’ve ever met before even if They don’t say who. Now, this doesn’t always help if we’ve never met AND They don’t say, but I seem to be rather difficult to lie to, so if I can confirm that the visit and the message were themselves real experiences, I don’t usually need to worry too much about correctly identifying the visitor. I may identify Them or not, but I can’t remember ever falsely identifying anyone.
I have no idea where this ability comes from, or why I have it. It seems to be innate to how my mind works, and I’ve been told many times in many ways by many different kinds of people that the way my mind works is distinctive, if not unique. If I knew how, I would help others learn it, since it seems to be extremely useful, and also strangely rare. Alas, I can’t just give other people my thought patterns. Sorry.
8: Synchronicity Omens
This one is also partially a function of how my mind works, seeking and identifying patterns, but this one is less personal to me, in that humans in general are good at this kind of pattern seeking, and a lot of the more spiritual people I know move through the world this way.
When my anxiety isn’t in my way, moving through the world is like a perpetual conversation with the Universe. There’s no such thing as coincidence. Everything has content, everything is a message. It’s just a lot of that content is “This is what is”, and a lot of those messages are “cause begets effect”. But I can, if I pay attention, pick up on messages more specific to me, messages that include things like patterns in which birds visit my house in a day telling me which gods have something to say to me, and the coins I come across randomly in public places giving me greetings from Papa. Prices on certain colored items I might buy could tell me which Orixa would like an offering.
Probably the top of this list is Cantomancy. It’s another form of divination, but not a deliberate method. Music playing in my environment, randomly chosen, at least relative to me, may contain messages for me. Sometimes it’s really heavy-handed, like the day I heard songs with the phrase “S.O.S.” repeatedly, from multiple sources, two or three different versions of just the Sting song alone, plus at least one round, I think, of the ABBA song, for good measure. That was really obvious, but unfortunately, it was unsigned, so I never did find out who the heck was screaming for help. In retrospect, though, I have an educated guess.
Synchronicity Omen reading IS teachable, but it’s such an ambient and culturally dependent thing that I don’t know how to teach it succinctly or directly. I think it’s the kind of thing somebody picks up by hanging out with other people who do it, or just by being that kind of person. It IS a lot like dream interpretation, but even less literally.
When I really need help communicating with a deity, I’ll ask a fellow clergyperson for help. I know several trance mediums whose work I can trust with at least a specific deity they can carry, and a few I can trust with more general spirit work needs, that I can sit with in person. I can get readings from fellow diviners if my own readings are too garbled. This is also something I provide to others, obviously, and as such, ultimately, Possession Trance and Oracular Trance go on the list of how I communicate with the gods, not so much on my own behalf, but as an intercessor on behalf of others.
Lon’s answer: Listening To Them Is Harder Than Talking To Them