Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Book Review: "Clairvoyance for Beginners" by Alexandra Chauran

Clairvoyance for Beginners


Clairvoyance for Beginners
Easy Techniques to Enhance Your Psychic Visions
by Alexandra Chauran (Llewellyn Publications, 2014; 216 pages)

reviewed by Eva Yaa Asantewaahummingwitch

Alexandra Chauran's book comes along at a good moment for me as, in the course of trying to analyse how my work with cards and imagery produces results, I'm looking at my experience with clairvoyance as the Super Glue that keeps it all together.

Card divination can be considered a form of clairvoyance projected into material form, a way in which perception can grapple with elusive, symbolic imagery and extract meaning from it. Also, for me, reading oracles like Tarot, Lenormand, LoterĂ­a and regular playing cards stimulates and opens up space for other imagery to sprout in the mind and contribute to a reading's information and counsel.

No matter how fabulous they are, oracle cards are like training wheels for something even more amazing. Simply stated, concentrated study of visual imagery can bring out the clairvoyant in you.

A lot of card readers probably avoid using terms like "clairvoyant" and "psychic" because of how these terms have been overused in popular culture, exploited by scam artists and ridiculed by the mainstream media. But we should reclaim these identities and functions if they ring true to who we are and what we do. Chauran's well-written guide provides an easy-to-follow and comprehensive program for initiating or enhancing your skills in this area.

Chauran, a doctoral candidate living in Washington State, describes clairvoyance as "the ability to see literal or symbolic truth, either with one's eyes or the mind's eye. The word means 'clear seeing,' thereby defining the perception as being both precise and accurate." In an age where many of us walk around with our eyes locked onto electronic screens, we could benefit from being more observant of what's around us (and within us) at any given moment.

The author's words resonated with me: "When I was a child, I didn't just have an imaginary friend, I was constantly co-creating myself along with entire imaginary worlds." Indeed, this sort of thing is basic training for the future metaphysician, ritualist and psychic. Some of us learn to fear our natural abilities and shut them away for many years or forever. Happily, the young Chauran developed her skills within a family where her experiences and perceptions were welcomed.

In a series of exercises, she passes along her methods for paying attention to information coming from visual sources, discerning meaning and telling the stories encoded in visions. But it's not all about taking in the view. Chauran recommends creating it, too--through constructing vision boards for what we want to manifest, through sketching what we see, through setting the best conditions for dreaming, and through meditative visualization. It's an abundant, ongoing exchange with visual reality. She carefully guides the reader through advanced practices that beginning students can find baffling, such as trance work, psychometry and scrying.

In her section on psychometry--the psychic reading of the energy and history of an object--Chauran encourages the student reader to fully feel the telling emotions that can well up:
It's okay if you inexplicably laugh or cry. Remember, you are in charge of this meditative session and your emotions. Our culture often teaches that extreme emotions mean that we are out of control. However, the clairvoyant needs to be able to experience extreme emotions while remaining in control. As a beginner, you may need to fight against your cultural training or against your coping mechanisms, both of which are geared to repress extreme emotions when faced with life challenges.
Be assured, Chauran offers appropriate grounding practices to help readers stay clear-headed when faced with powerful visions and emotions. She also discusses important questions of ethics in the reader-querent relationship and guides the reader through a survey of the most common concerns that bring querents to the table.

The book includes a wonderful dictionary of common symbols for numbers, colors and a range of items from Alligator and Anchor to Wolf and Wood, but the meanings noted here are just for starters. Chauran wisely advises that symbols can mean different things to different people, a useful lesson for purists who insist that everyone must adhere to one or another codified system.

Indeed, in my experience--as in Chauran's--symbols speak in the moment, to the matter at hand, to the sensibilities of the specific reader and the needs of the specific querent. A guide to standard symbology helps give a beginning reader confidence but, in time, that growing confidence can breed a lovely fluidity in the way symbols are understood and communicated. Symbolic imagery will not remain stuck on a sheet of cardboard, in the pages of a book or in the folds of an arcane tradition. It's alive.

Learn more about Clairvoyance for Beginners here.

Eva Yaa Asantewaa, hummingwitch

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Join us for Northeastern Tarot Conclave 2014, October 25


Once again, Diane Brandt Wilkes has crafted an exciting gathering for Tarot lovers of all levels of experience--the 2014 edition of Northeastern Tarot Conclave on October 25 in Fort Washington, PA. This year's focus is on dreams. I will be teaching a workshop on nightmares, and I want to share this day with you! Click below for details on Early Bird savings and our wonderful events--including workshops with the fabulous Rachel Pollock, Paula Chaffee Scarmadalia and...me! See you there!


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dreaming the porous boundaries

When the anthropologist Eduardo Kohn arrived in a small village deep in the Amazon, people slept largely outdoors in an open thatch house, surrounded by other people. They would wake at night to drink tea, because it was cold, or because of the calls of animals. "Thanks to these continuous disruptions," he writes, "dreams spill into wakefulness and wakefulness into dreams in a way that entangles them both."

To my mind, the intriguing question is whether different sleep cultures encourage different patterns of spiritual and supernatural experience. That half-aware, drowsy state is a time when dreams commingle with awareness. People are more likely to have experiences of the impossible then.
--from "To Dream in Different Cultures" by T. M. Luhrmann, The New York Times

Read more from Luhrmann's essay here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book review: "The Essential Lenormand" by Rana George


The Essential Lenormand: Your Guide to Precise & Practical Fortunetelling
by Rana George (Llewellyn Publications, 2014; 408 pages)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7387-3662-4

reviewed by Eva Yaa Asantewaa, hummingwitch

Years from now, when I recall how I finally took a chance on Lenormand divination after long skirting around this trend, I will give all credit to The Essential Lenormand by Rana George. And just as I've pushed Mary K. Greer's Tarot for Your Self on every single one of my Tarot students over the years, I know I'll happily sing the praises of George's guide to Lenormand. Published this month by Llewellyn, her book is that good.

Born in Beirut, Rana George hails from a family noted for its lineage of psychics and mediums. In 1988, during the turmoil of Lebanon's civil war, after suffering devastating losses, George and her family fled to safety in the US. She now resides in Texas. Over a career of thirty years, she has become respected and cherished leader in an international community devoted to Tarot and other oracles of divination. But while most of us have come to Lenormand late in the day, it has always been home for her. She started her extensive practice in cartomancy as a gifted teen with these 36 iconic images named for France's famed fortuneteller, Mlle Marie Adelaide Lenormand.

Unlike the complex, sometimes esoteric Tarot, Lenormand presents simplified, straightforward images that anyone can grasp--a cross, a dog, a ship, a book, a key--associated with a handful of direct, often literal meanings. This accessibility accounts for much of the welcoming charm of Lenormand; many readers and querents find this a non-intimidating tool that cuts to the chase, especially for practical issues around money, relationships and the like.

George quips that Lenormand will help you "to find out if X is sleeping with Y and if the sex is good." That's a funny line, but what I'm learning from reading her guide and checking out Lenormand groups on Facebook, is that Lenormand's reach can be pretty far and wide--tackling everything from "Should I take that job offer?" to--yes, inevitably--"What really happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?"

Lenormand-ers are not afraid to go there. And, yes, they go predictive. No shame in their game.

Comprehensive in scope, The Essential Lenormand will take you through a detailed, systematic exploration of each of the 36 images. Three features are, for me, the most impressive and effective of George's teaching methods.

  1. For each card, she lists specific meanings as they relate to a slate of topics such as love, health and money and questions of timing.
  2. For each card, she relates an illustrative anecdote from her history of reading with the Lenormand.
  3. In addition, she demonstrates how this specific card works within a Grand Tableau ("the big picture"), the massive layout that employs all 36 cards and offers a powerful 360° perspective on the querent's situation.
George is a past master of the Grand Tableau, and a healthy chunk of the book is given over to its presentation and analysis. For Tarot folks who relish the puzzle-like complexity, sublime flexibility and potential surprise in any Tarot reading--and I'm certainly one of those--the Grand Tableau beckons. But any eager reader will find, here, a range of manageable layouts upon which to practice--like the modest but still tasty nine-card layout.

You will learn how to select a Lenormand deck that's right for you from the many varieties and styles; develop a daily practice with the cards; work with significators; integrate Lenormand with astrological patterns or with Tarot, if that is your wish; and understand the connection between Lenormand imagery and the suits and figures of regular playing cards. Readers with classic clairvoyance training should take to Lenormand quite easily, as the images--The Heart, The Ring, The Bouquet and others--have a similar function to those conjured by the inner eye in clairvoyance. It is as if those psychic visions, which bring messages, have been captured and preserved on card stock.

As for me, I have fallen in love, and I now await delivery of a Lenormand deck of my very own--the Mystical Lenormand

Thank you, Rana George!

Learn more about The Essential Lenormand here.

Eva Yaa Asantewaa, hummingwitch

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Book review: "The Indie Spiritualist" by Chris Grosso

Indie Spiritualist Cover

The Indie Spiritualist: a no bullshit exploration of spirituality
by Chris Grosso (Atria Books/Beyond Words, 2014; 272 pages)
ISBN-13: 978-1582704623

reviewed by Eva Yaa Asantewaa, hummingwitch

Chris Grosso says he is more than a little turned off by the lightweight, reality-skimming, and commercial nature of what passes for spirituality these days. That and anything smacking of religious dogma. A punk/heavy metal musician by trade, he'll readily tell you that an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo can transport him to samadhi (consciousness of utter oneness with the object of devotion) where yoga postures leave him wondering what all the fuss is about.

Grosso's book relates his personal story of drug addiction, cutting, suicide attempts and eventual spiritual healing. He aims to inspire individuality of mind and non-comformity in his readers--to thine own self be true, y'all--while, with no sign of irony, teaching the doctrine of non-duality, that unity of all beings underlies all appearances to the contrary. About that last bit, I chose to ignore his remarks about Adolf Hitler and Justin Bieber--yes, in the same breath and more than once--and simply move on. Some abstract metaphysical concepts just go over better without being fleshed out.

Grosso, with the admirable honesty of an addict working his recovery, makes frequent mention of insecurity about his abilities as a writer. Each reader will likely respond to his presentation in different and personal ways. The upside: a straightforward, conversational tone that some readers will identify with and find accessible and convincing. The book, as its subtitle warns you, is also spiced with profanity for which Grosso makes no apology. His writing reflects his milieu; younger readers, in particular, can relate to that and to his unorthodox cultural references. The downside: a lack of any distinctive style to the writing and--again, ironically--a reliance on familiar ideas and the counsel of well-known guides and gurus. The Indie Spiritualist too often reads like an earnest, extended 12 Step share with a few promising but ultimately "you-had-to-be-there" anecdotes.

The Buddhist Noah Levine's Dharma Punx, published in 2004, related a nearly identical, gritty arc of life and unconventional awakening as well as similar musical preference, piercings and tattoos. This no longer seems jarring. Levine--who contributed the foreword to The Indie Spiritualist--got there first and with flair.

After a half-century of similar Eastern-inspired teachings in the West, we surely know the drill: The spiritual journey leads through mindful, if painful, experience to compassion and kindness towards self and others. As part of this influential lineage, Grosso claims the right to have his say, and perhaps this manual will prove to be right for you or someone you know.

The Indie Spiritualist: a no bullshit exploration of spirituality goes on sale on March 4. Get more information about it here.