Thursday, March 6, 2014

Divination as Counseling

by Judy Harrow

Z Budapest is a Dianic Wiccan priestess who reads the Tarot for
clients. Back in 1971, she was also a cause celebré. The local cops
busted her for "fortune telling" in violation of a town ordinance.
Although it would have been cheaper and easier simply to pay the fine,
Z fought the case. Nine years later, the California Supreme Court
struck down the law under which she had been arrested. Z resisted
because she believed Tarot reading and all other forms of divination
are, for Wiccans, forms of spiritual counseling, an intrinsic part of
the work of a priest/ess.

Do you believe that? I do. But what do we mean when we say we believe
it? We mean, I think, that we are doing some thing other than
pandering to querent desires for cheap thrills or easy answers, or to
our own desire for a quick buck. We mean specifically to separate
ourselves from the common stereotype of "fortune tellers." But if we
really mean that, our behavior ought to show it. As users of magic, we
know the need to "act in accordance" with whatever we profess. or. in
plain English, to practice what we preach.

If divination is priestly work, a form of spiritual counseling for
Wiccans, then it has to be both good counseling and good Craft.
Because we read in our role as priest/esses, our working assumptions
should be consistent with the values of our religion. Because we read
for the purpose of spiritual counseling, we should use good general
counseling techniques with our querents.

The secular counseling profession has a professional philosophy of its
own. That could create complications. but it doesn't. The core values
of Wiccan spirituality and the counseling profession are completely
consistent, even though the vocabulary is often quite different.

But I often see or hear of readings being done using both methods and
assumptions completely discordant with both Wiccan values and
counseling methods, It's possible that, for those readers. divination
is simply not a form of Wiccan spiritual counseling. Certainly there
are plenty of non-Wiccan readers. In fact, an entire separate network
of "secular psychics" exists out there. But some of them are Wiccans
who just haven't thought through the behavioral implications of their
professed beliefs, and it is for them that I write this.

Does the contemporary Craft have a sacred scripture, a text that
defines our Path? We like to think we don't, but we really do, It's
drastically shorter, more succinct and far more poetic than anybody
else's Bible, but it's there. We call it the Charge of the Goddess.
Think about how truly trans-Traditional that one text is. Do you know
any Wiccan, anywhere, who is not moved by it?

Although there are no wasted words in the Charge, it does clearly
build to a climax. As I read it, the most important statement comes at
the end, and says, "You who think to seek me, know that your seeking
and yearning will avail you not unless you know the mystery: That if
what you seek you find not within you, you will never find it without
you." So, at the very heart of our religion lies the teaching that
ultimate value and authority rests within each of us. Whatever
detracts from that concept conflicts with our religion. Any behavior
that models an alienation of power is not appropriate behavior for a
priest/ess of the Wicca.

The counseling profession is based on exactly the same assumption:
that the client is fully capable of making and implementing
appropriate decisions about his or her own life. All a counselor does
is provide safe and supportive conditions in which the client can
examine her situation and come to her own conclusions. A counselor who
disempowers a client, narrows her range of choice, tells her what to
do, fails as a counselor.

What does this have to do with divination? To begin with, there are
two ways of understanding exactly what it is we do when we read. Some
diviners of the old school believe that they actually foretell the
future. A future that can be read is a predestined future, one that
cannot be changed. In this pessimistic world view, the querent has no
choices, Fate cannot be avoided. The best we can do is prepare
ourselves to accept what must come with some dignity.

The belief in a fixed future discourages querents from taking
responsibility for decision and effort in their own lives. It provides
an easy, comfortable excuse for the lazy and dependent. How often have
you heard people use their sun sign as an alibi for various kinds of
self- destructive or mean behavior? Wiccan priest/esses reinforce such
attitudes only by closing their eyes to the celebration of personal
freedom that is central to our Path.

As magic users, we know that magic is the art of changing
consciousness in accordance with will. That knowledge makes us
especially responsible for the messages we give to others, especially
querents who come to us for help. If a reader uses the props of
special insight and spiritual authority to tell a querent the future
is inevitable, that reader has changed the querent's consciousness in
the direction of ignoring options, denying choices. To drain our
querent's power that way is evil magic indeed -- for who can act on
choices they do not believe they have? Thus the prophecies of a fixed
future become self-fulfilling.

To see a range of possible futures
But there is a very different way of understanding divination, one
that is no less traditional. For example. the I Ching says:

* "King Wen and his son then added the interpretations; from these
it could be ascertained whether the course of action indicated by the
images augured good or ill. This marked the beginning of freedom of
choice. From that time on, one could see, in the representation of
events, not only what might be expected to happen, but also where it
might lead. With the complex of events immediately before one in image
form, one could follow the courses that promised good fortune and
avoid those that promised misfortune, before the train of events had
actually begun....

* "If a trend has been wrong, and we feel sorrow in time, we can
avoid misfortune: if we turn back we can still achieve good fortune." *

The phrase "freedom of choice" sounds completely modern. But this
quotation does not come from any rationalistic modern translator or
commentator. It comes from a section of the I Ching called the Great
Commentary, which some believe may contain the words of Confucius or
one of his immediate students. It reveals an optimistic, empowering
view of divination, in which we can understand reading as a way to
look very deeply into the present, where the seeds of all possible
futures can be seen.

By using traditional symbols and practices to reach into the most
intuitive and insightful parts of ourselves. we can identify trends
and make extrapolations, bring to light both ignored perceptions and
gut-level integrations of information. We read to increase our
querents freedom of choice, and to allow them to make the best
possible choices. We help them see where present trends will probably
lead and experience how they will probably feel about the outcomes. If
they are unhappy, they can make changes in time. We do not see the
future, but a range of possible futures. Power, authority, choice and
responsibility lie within each of us, exactly where our religion says
they belong.

How we do our readings
Our belief that divinatory work is for us the practice of spiritual
counseling manifests not just in the attitude from which we read. but
in the nitty-gritty ways of how we do our readings.

If it's counseling, and not some form of fraud or entertainment. we
will insist on a dignified and private setting. Our self-respect as
priestesses means far more to us than attractive marketing. We won't
get ourselves up in hokey costumes for dramatic effect. We won't
consider reading a party gig, won't do it for tips in bars.

We'll keep it out of the tourist traps and the carney atmospheres
created to attract the bored to the shopping malls. We'll give each
reading the same sort of time as any other kind of counseling session.
and we'll do no more in a day than we can do with full attention and

Some readers prefer the querent to be as silent as possible during a
reading, so that it's clear they are not "cuing" the psychic. This
makes it obvious that whatever is learned came from the reader's
"special powers". Great for fattening the reader's ego. and for
fostering dependency in the querent to ensure return business. But
those who believe that power over is against this religion won't work
that way -- at least not for long.

Because we understand that clarifying the question is the most
important part of finding the answer, even before laying out a single
card we will work with the querent to express the question at hand as
clearly as possible. Often a major life problem has many interrelated
aspects. We'll work to identify as many of these as possible, then use
a spread that takes them into account. As specialists, we will be
familiar with many spreads and understand how they can apply to
different kinds of questions. We may even custom design a spread on
the spot, but we won't try to force all human situations into a Celtic
Cross pattern.

If we believe our job is to help our querents make their own best
choices about their own lives, our behavior will show it. We won't
expect the querent to sit in silence while we show off our "powers".
The perceptions, integrations and feelings that will help lie in the
querent's deep mind. We will filter them as little as possible through
our own. Instead, the querent will do most of the talking in a
session, while we supply some information about traditional
interpretations, or use normal counseling techniques to help the
querent hear what s/he is saying and understand how s/he is feeling
about the situation at hand. We will know that the ultimate choices
rest with the querent. and we will act on that knowledge. Our pleasure
will be in their freedom.

If we are Wiccan priest/esses and counselors, how can we do any less?

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