there are four elements here

Astrological Key Terms

it’s hard to learn more about astrology if you don’t know the basic astrological vocabulary, so here is a list of astrological key terms and definitions. If I am forgetting any important terms, let me know so I can add them! I didn’t add the zodiac signs, for the sake of brevity, but if you’re interested in learning more about the zodiac signs, check here.

  • Air:  The third of the four elements of the zodiac. The air signs are Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. Air signs are defined by their intellect, social character, and idealism.
  • Anaretic degree: The 29th degree of any zodiac sign. If a placement is in this degree, that part of the person’s essence may be awkward or uncomfortable.
  • Angular houses: The 1st, 4th, 7th, and 10th houses, all ruled by the cardinal signs. These are the most important houses, and they show us how we are in contact with the world around us and how we take action. The cusps of the angular houses are the ascendant, imum coeli, descendant, and midheaven.
  • Ascendant: Also known as a person’s rising. Often symbolized by the abbreviation “AC” or “AS.” The cusp of the 1st house. Our ascendant shows us how we express ourselves and how the world around us sees us.
  • Aspect: An aspect is a special angle formed between two planets or points on an astrological chart that show the relationship between those planets or points. The major aspects are conjunction, opposition, square, sextile, and trine.
  • Biquintile: A minor positive aspect of 144º with a possible orb of ±1º.
  • Cadent houses: The 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th houses, all ruled by the mutable signs. These show us how we are think and how we use our resources.
  • Cardinal: The first of the three modalities of the zodiac. The cardinal signs are Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. Cardinal signs are defined by their leadership qualities and dynamic personality.
  • Ceres: A popular asteroid. This asteroid shows us how we nurture others and how people have nurtured us. The asteroid is also strongly linked with motherhood, fertility, and gardening.
  • Chart ruler: A chart’s ruler is the ruling planet of the ascendant. A chart’s ruler shows which planet leads the chart forward.
  • Chiron: A popular asteroidesque planetesque celestial body. Chiron is strongly connected with our health and healing. It shows us how we’ve been wounded and how we’ve healed, and it shows how we strengthen ourselves through our pain and hardship. It is also associated with wisdom.
  • Conjunction: A major neutral aspect of 0º with a possible orb of ±10º. This is considered the most important and powerful aspect. It indicates a focal point in the chart.
  • Critical degrees: Critical degrees within any sign show points of heightened sensitivity.
  • Cusp: A cusp of two signs is the area between the 29th degree of one sign and the 1st degree of the next one. You can be born within a cusp, but you cannot be a cusp sign.
  • Cusp of a house: The cusp of a house is the point where a particular house begins.
  • Decan: Each zodiac sign is separated into three equal subdivisions, called decans. Each decan emphasizes a different part of the sign’s archetype.
  • Descendant: The cusp of the 7th house. Our descendant shows us what traits we are attracted to and what gives us balance.
  • Detriment: A planet is detriment in a sign if the sign it’s in is the sign opposite the sign the planet rules. A detriment planet can feel uncomfortable or awkward in the sign.
  • Dominant: A person’s dominant sign, planet, element, or modality is the one with the strongest influence over a person’s natal chart. Sometimes, it’s the sign/planet the person relates most to.
  • Draconic chart: A person’s draconic chart shows the substance of the person’s soul and of the self beyond their body and this world.
  • Duality: One of the classifications of the zodiac signs. A sign’s duality shows where the sign directs its energy, inwards or outwards.
  • Earth: The second of the four elements of the zodiac. The earth signs are Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. Earth signs are defined by their dependability, patience, and practicality.
  • Element: One of the classifications of the zodiac signs. The four elements simply show us basic personality traits associated with the zodiac signs’ archetypes
  • Empty house: An empty house is one with no luminaries or planets in it. Empty houses indicate a part of your life that isn’t as prominent as other parts, since each house represents and encompasses a different part of your life. 
  • Exalted: A planet is exalted in a sign if the sign’s archetype pairs well with the planet’s archetype without being in the sign it rules. An exalted planet can feel comfortable in the sign. 
  • Fall: A planet is fall in a sign if the sign it’s in is the sign opposite the sign the planet is exalted in. A fall planet can feel uncomfortable in the sign. 
  • Feminine: Also considered the introverted, passive, or yin duality. The second duality. The feminine signs are Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, and Pisces. The signs all direct their energy inwards. They tend to be more introverted and less direct.
  • Fire: The first of the four elements of the zodiac. The fire signs are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. Fire signs are defined by their passion, outgoing character, and courage.
  • Fixed: The second of the three modalities of the zodiac. The fixed signs are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. Fixed signs are defined by their determination and stubbornness. 
  • Generational planets: Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are the transpersonal or generational planets. They move very slowly and affects large generations of people rather than individuals.
  • House: The positions of the houses in a natal chart are calculated using the person’s time of birth and geographical birth location. While the zodiac signs and the planets in the zodiac signs are based on the earth and the other planet’s revolution around the sun, the houses and the planets in the houses are based on the earth’s own rotation about its axis. Each house represents a different part of a human life. Read this post for more information.
  • Imum Coeli: Abbreviated as IC. The cusp of the 4th house. The lowest point of the circular chart. Our Imum Coeli gives us insight into our childhood and roots. 
  • Inconjunct: Also called a quincunx aspect. A minor negative aspect of 150º with a possible orb of ±2º.
  • Juno: The asteroid related to long term partnerships. It is associated with our soulmate, commitment, and true love. Its influence is similar to Venus’s, but the love associated with Juno is more long term, fundamental, and, often times, more subconscious.
  • Jupiter: A social planet. Jupiter in any astrological chart symbolizes expansion, largeness, generosity, and luck. The planet rules the zodiac sign Sagittarius.
  • Lilith: A person’s Lilith, which is based on the moon at the time of their birth, shows their primitive side and how they seek revenge.
  • Luminary: The sun and moon.
  • Mars: A personal planet. Mars in any astrological chart symbolizes the person’s physical attraction, raw energy, drive, and aggression. The planet rules the zodiac sign Aries.
  • Masculine: Also considered the extroverted, active, or yang duality. The first duality. The masculine signs are Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, and Aquarius. The signs all direct their energy outwards. They tend to be more extroverted and more direct.
  • Mercury: A personal planet. Mercury in any astrological chart symbolizes the person’s communication style, mental processes, and superficial intelligence. The planet rules the zodiac signs Gemini and Virgo.
  • Midheaven: Also known as medium coeli and abbreviated as MC. The cusp of the 10th house. The highest point of the circular chart. Our midheaven shows us what we aspire to and what our reputation is like.
  • Midpoint: The point physically equidistant from two planets, which shows how the two planets comes together. The most popular midpoint is the Sun-Moon midpoint.
  • Modality: One of the classifications of the zodiac signs. The three modalities show us how the signs interact with the world around them. 
  • Moon: A luminary and personal planet. The moon in any astrological chart symbolizes the person’s internal stuff, including their emotions, fears, and strongest desires.
  • Mutable: The third of the three modalities of the zodiac. The mutable signs are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces. Mutable signs are defined by their flexibility and adaptability. 
  • Natal chart: Your natal chart shows the positions of the planets, asteroids, and other points at the moment of your birth, relative to the zodiac signs. Each zodiac sign is designated a 30º portion of the celestial dome, and our natal chart shows where the celestial bodies are positioned in the dome. For example, I am a Gemini moon, which means that at the moment of my birth, the moon was present in the portion of the dome assigned to Gemini. Your natal chart as a whole maps out how you express yourself, perceive reality, and interface with the world around you. It does not necessarily determine your fate.
  • Neptune: A generational, trans-personal planet. Neptune in any astrological chart symbolizes deception, illusions, and psychic ability.
  • Nodes: The nodes are points in an astrological chart that shows what parts of a person’s soul or spirit were well-developed or under-developed when entering their life.
  • Opposition: A major negative aspect of 180º with a possible orb of ±8º.
  • Orb: The distance between an aspect’s exact, theoretical position and an aspected planet’s position. For example, if the moon in a chart forms a opposition aspect with the sun, but, instead of being exact 180º apart, they are 178º, the that opposition aspect has an orb of -2º.
  • Pallas Athene: Usually just called Pallas. A popularly used asteroid. Pallas shows us where are talents lie and how we figure out things like patterns. The asteroid is also associated with injustice and equality and father/daughter relationship.
  • Personal planets: The personal planets are the sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars. These planets move the fastest around the sun, which means that they pass through zodiac signs the quickest. The effects of these planets on the person’s psyche are the strongest.
  • Pluto: A generational or trans-personal planet. Pluto in any astrological chart symbolizes secrets and endings.
  • Progressed chart: Your progressed chart defines you at any given day or year and how you’ve evolved throughout your life unlike your natal chart which encompasses your entire life as a whole. The younger you are, the more similar your progressed chart is to your natal chart. Generally (depending also on how late in a placement you were born), as a teenager, your moon sign is the only sign that dramatically progresses.  
  • Quintile: A minor aspect of 72º with a possible orb of ±1º.
  • Ruling planet: A planet rules a certain sign if the planet’s archetype matches the sign’s archetype well.
  • Saturn: A social planet. Saturn in any astrological chart symbolizes a person’s limitation, work ethic, or reaction to authority.
  • Semi-sextile: A minor aspect of 30º with a possible orb of ±2º.
  • Sesquisquare: A minor aspect of 135º with a possible orb of ±2º.
  • Sextile: A major positive aspect of 60º with a possible orb of ±6º.
  • Sister signs: The opposite sets of signs. These signs are both or either repelled by or attracted to each other.
  • Social planets: Jupiter and Saturn are the social planets. They represent the two possible reactions of a person to the people around them and to society, in general.
  • Solar arc: A solar arc is the distance between a person’s natal sun and a person’s progressed sun on a certain day. This distance can be added to all placements in a person’s natal chart to create a solar arc directions chart, which is used in predictive astrology.
  • Solar return chart: A solar return chart is used in annual predictive astrology and is based on the moment during a year where the sun returns to the sign and degree it was in at a person’s birthday.
  • Square: A major negative aspect of 90º with a possible orb of ±7.5º.
  • Stellium: A stellium exists when 3 or 4 planets are positioned in one house or sign. The exact definition of a stellium is debated by astrologers.
  • Succedent houses: The 2nd, 5th, 8th, and 11th houses, all ruled by the fixed signs. These show us how we administer and enjoy what we do.
  • Sun: A luminary and personal planet. The sun in any astrological chart symbolizes the person’s expression, sense of self, or ego. 
  • Synastry: The study of relationships and compatibility using astrology and inter-chart aspects
  • Trine: A major positive aspect of 120º with a possible orb of ±8.3º.
  • Uranus: A generational, trans-personal planet. Uranus in any astrological chart symbolizes discovery, change, progression, and technology.
  • Venus: A personal planet. Venus in any astrological chart symbolizes the person’s “relationship style” and what they look for in a relationship or partner, along with style, beauty, and other classically “feminine” things.
  • Vesta: A popular asteroid. It is associated with how we direct our energy and focus. It also has connections to sexuality, but it’s not like raw Mars or primitive Lilith. It has more to do with focused and pure sexuality along with virginity.
  • Water: The last of the four elements of the zodiac. The water signs are Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. Water signs are defined by their intuition, sensitivity, and emotion.
there are only ghosts here (2017)

the ghosts of us
spread on the wind
to the furthest shores
calling lost souls in
forgotten lamentations
lap up against our feet
the tide recedes
along with our chance to see
words unspoken
like whispers in our minds
leave us unfulfilled
ignoring all the signs
earth moves round
push and pull
tearing us apart
leaving us un-whole
flames ignite
charring the land
our ghosts left to sunder
the curse of man

Roleplay Ramblings: Cosmology part 1

Inner Planes

For as long as there have been words, mortals have been trying to understand and explain the world around them, even the parts that they cannot directly see. Even now we learn more and more about our cosmos, revealing how much we still don’t understand.

This week, we’re going to talk a little bit about the multiverse is arranged in both pathfinder and older editions of the world’s oldest roleplaying game, not to mention certain mythological beliefs on the matter, the contents of these multiverses, and how to create a wholly new cosmology that fits your setting.

Today in particular, we’ll be looking at the “Inner” planes, and what those typically include.

One of the most common planes in fantasy cosmology is an ethereal plane, or a “spirit world”. Typically this is the realm of ghosts and other incorporeal spirits and haunts, not to mention many living ethereal beings, such as phase spiders, xill, and the like. The ethereal plane often completely overlaps the material world, allowing one to view material objects through the mists of the ether. Some versions may even have equivalents of said objects.

That last detail, however, is more the defining detail of the Plane of Shadow, that dark reflection of the material. There in the dark un-light strange creatures dwell in twisted reflections of material plane structures, either sinister versions of the real thing, or even more bizarre versions, such as pits where towers stand, and so on. Space is also distorted there, allowing the daring to travel long distances through it, albeit at the risk of inaccuracy when reentering the material plane.

Extending beyond such overlapping planes, one can see the elemental planes, made up of each of the four elements, Air, Fire, Earth, and Water, with more complex features here and there, each being the home of elementals, genies, and other exotic beings adapted and made primarily from their surrounding elements. Each one of these elemental planes supposedly serves as the fuel source for the creation of all worlds on the material plane, and even possibly other planes.

The positive and negative energy planes function somewhat like the elemental planes as well, serving as infinite wellsprings of constant genesis and constant entropy respectively, both being lethal in their own right. The former is home to all sorts of abundant and strange beings, including the Jyoti, who jealously guard the wellspring of all life against nearly all beings, especially deities and their servants. Similarly, the negative energy plane is a mostly empty, all-consuming place, home to the bizarre sceanduinar, as well as undead that are drawn to, or could not resist the pull of, the sucking, consuming power of the un-energy that animates them.

Of course, there is also the Astral Plane, the space between spaces, between all other planes. One can get to all other planes from here, in theory, but the vast emptiness is hard to navigate, and the denizens are quite bizarre.

While those listed above form the core inner planes seen in most settings, there are also others, such as the First World, home of the Fey and the template for all material worlds, The demiplane of dreams, Leng, and more. Each one has its own qualities, and some may simply be extensions of other planes. Regardless, they add a bit more flavor to the inner planes.

And that covers inner planes. I could go on for ages, and indeed Paizo has gone at length on the Elemental planes at the very least, in their Planes of Power supplement. I heartily recommend it. Tune in tomorrow for a look at the Outer Planes!

Diner magic

A few years ago, I get a call from a former student. She’s figured out that I’m pagan, or into magic, or whatever, and she wants to meet me to talk about some of this stuff. We meet at a Friendly’s — a New England chain restaurant ‘famous’ for ice cream, more upscale than McDonald’s but not as nice as an Applebee’s. We talk about magic, and Tarot for a while.

Young miss finally asks if I’ll teach her some magic, and I say sure.  I grab my dirty knife, and I put it on the east side of my place mat. “This is the Air Dagger,” I say. “It’s the Sword of the Tarot deck, and it’s the intellectual powers that the universe has placed at your disposal. Language and symbol, grammar and rhetoric, the powers of mind and logic and rational thought.”

We had an extra straw, so I put that on the south side of my placemat. “Here is the Wand of Fire,” I said. “It’s the Wands of the Tarot deck, and it represents your passion and your drive, your willpower, and your energy levels.  You can’t throw your energy into everything, or you’ll burn yourself out; even if you throw your energy into only a couple of things, you’ll eventually burn out and die anyway. You can use your energy to draw things to you –” and here I slurped some water from my glass using the straw already in it – “Or to project force at the things that you need to project power at.” And here I used the paper sleeve of the unused straw to project a little paper ball at her.  "Your passion and your drive are limited, but also incredibly powerful.“

I put my coffee cup on the west side of my placemat. "And here’s the chalice. The Cups of the Tarot deck. It’s your emotional life — your desires, your fears, your jealousies. You’re the container for all of the watery energies of your life.  Shake the cup, and you become turbulent.” I shook the cup, and then we waited. “Or learn to find inner peace, and wait for the inner waters to become still.”

I had a dirty plate that I put on the north side of the placemat. “And here’s your pentacle.  Look, it’s where your bread is buttered. You need to be fed, because you’ve got a physical body.  You need coin to buy your bread, or you need to recognize that you’re in a world that needs you to work. Traditionally, the pentacle is painted in five colors — white, for spirit, and dirty yellow, dirty red, dirty blue and dirty green or black for the elements in the world. Your life is going to require all your intellectual gifts, all your passion, all your emotion, and all your physical capacities.  Your work in the world is going to involve combinations of those powers.  And spirit, too.  Don’t forget that you’re a part of all that is.”

She accepted this lesson with a startling degree of equanimity and good humor — as though I’d just given her the keys to the universe, which in a sense, I had.  Even then, though, she had one question.  "So what about spirit, or the aether, or whatever you call it? The astral plane?“

I gestured around us. "It’s the diner. Everyone in here’s got a placemat, in front of them, right? Everyone in here has a knife and a glass, and a plate, and a straw. They’ll give you new ones if you lose yours, even. And everyone’s got to pay, one way or another, to leave.  But just because there’s a menu, doesn’t mean you know what the meal is going to be like.  You could have sat down with anyone in the place, tonight, and learned something new about the world, and the tools of their power would be carelessly strewn on the table.”

I pulled a lighter from my pocket, somewhere, and flicked it once (so as not to alarm the waitress); then put it down amidst the circle.  "And here is the lantern, the eternal flame which is the Light of God. All the powers are present.“  I gestured at the Four Tools of the Diner on the table in front of us, again. "So here we are, with the four elemental tools on the altar, in a lawfully-constituted if somewhat-irregular circle. We stand in a place of power, in a time not of earth. What is your will?”

(photo at Ms. Florence Diner, Florence, MA, today.  I was reminded of this lesson, today, and I figured it was time to write it up.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if you never make the Four Tools of the magician, you’ll likely never be a magician in truth. But if you can’t improvise with whatever is at hand, then you’ll also never be a magician, either.)

The 16 Obstruent Sounds and The Four Elements for Witchcraft

Here is a list of correspondences between the obstruent (sounds that are formed by obstructing airflow) consonants and the Four Elements, followed by a list of sample words for each elements.  This a great way to incorporate the elements when writing spells or writing out chants. 

Feel free to add your own!

Lips: Fire

  • b- burn, bright, bonfire, begin, break, bust, but, abrupt
  • p- prye, point, prick, palyful
  • v- very, vivid, vital, vibrant, violent, devour, revolt
  • f- fire, fiery, flame, fist

Tongue: Air

  • d- drive, discuss, dissipate, deliberate, delude
  • t- talk, travel, transport, transitory, article
  • dh- these, those, thither, breathe
  • th- think, throw, through, breath

Palate: Water

  • z- sizzle, misery
  • s- stream, slurry, steam, slake, sorrow, glisten
  • zh- pleasure, leisure
  • sh- shush, hush, slush, wash, fresh, fish

Throat: Earth

  • g- get, good, glob, gunk, gourd, grave, grove, goddess
  • k- keep, contain, cauldron, close, claim, crunch, crush, rock, block, cash, cattle, kin, kill
  • h- hunk, hack, hold, hard, heft

*Also, there are 2 additional obstruent consonants that are combinations of others.  These sounds combine Air (t and d) and Water (sh and zh) consonants:

  • dzh (spelled j as in jade or g as in Gypsy)
  • tsh (spelled ch as in change)

When it comes to spellwork, these sounds can be used to signify neutrality, centrality, or impartiality

The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells for Modern Problems by Dixie Deerman and Steven Rasmussen