Category Archives: To divine with cards

The Square of Mercury, Distilled

I haven’t worked much with the Square of Mercury (bad witch … no cookie).  But the other day I got het up about using the Square as a possible vehicle for a deeper contact with Hermes, upon whom I call before any form of divination.  I suspect Hermes and Mercury may be the same god known by two different names (something I don’t assume is the case, when looking at gods of similar attributes from different cultures).

Before I launch into talking about it, I guess I’d better explain that the Square of Mercury looks like this:



A square of 8 lines of 8, with each row (vertical, horizontal and diagonal) adding up to 260.  Agrippa wrote about it in the second of his three volunes, Of Occult Philosophy.   One of the many popular ways to use the Square is to ritually prepare one as a magical tool, and before any work requiring Mercury’s aid, let your eyes rest on each of the numbers in sequential order from 1 to 64.

Inspiration struck, and I thought I’d chalk out a Square of Mercury on the pavement at a crossroads and and try walking the numbers.  (Which would make a great public altar, but that’s a post for another time …)

Sounds mighty powerful, right?

Unfortunately, in practice it’s quite cumbersome.  Standing in the Square of Mercury, time dragged as I tried to locate the next number, and then the next, craning my head and turning about at each attempt.  So I stepped off of the Square, and tried walking the pattern on the unmarked pavement, using the Square in front of me as a guide.  That was better, but still pretty awkward.

Then I had a notion — perhaps I could distill a pattern from the movements, and turn it into a dance.  Back home and armed with pen, paper and a Square of Mercury, I began to unravel the sequence.

I was both surprised and delighted by what I found.

The same figure — perhaps a sigil? — repeats 8 times in the Square of 8 — four times in what I think of as an upright position, and four times facing downwards.  Superimposed over the figures in the course of their being made are three crosses, each formed differently.

I won’t include the shape of the figure here, in case some of you would rather not see the sigil hidden within the Square.  If any of you would like to see it sketched out, email me, and I’ll send it to you.

The crosses intrigue me.  I keep bumping up against the practice of signing three crosses over something to magically seal it.  It always felt like a Christian overlay to me, but I see now how the practice may be much older.

The crosses in the Square of Mercury are formed like this:




The picture includes the numbers used in making the crosses, so you can see that two of the horizontal lines are at slight angles —

For the first cross — up to down, then right to left.
For the second cross — down to up, then left to right.
For the third cross — down to up, then right to left


Knowing that they may have pagan roots, my snobbish self will use the crossings more often.  Especially when calling upon Hermes before reading the cards:

Hermes, Lord of the Crossroads,
In Thy Name I take up these cards.
From a word to a word, let me be led to a word.
From a sign to another sign.*



*Adapted by a friend of mine from Paul Huson’s divination rhyme in Mastering Witchcraft.


©Trothwy 2011
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Tribe of Lights

The other day my son announced  he wants to learn to read tarot cards.  I was – to put it mildly – flabbergasted.

Before now, my son has lumped card reading in with All Things Witchlike (translated: Under No Circumstances To Be Done In Public). But at a recent scout campout he saw another boy using them, so now all bets are off.  Well … at least when it comes to tarot.

You see, my son is every bit as careful as I am to stay closeted. He’s quick to remind me to turn off the pagan music before I open the car door. To confirm my work room is locked before bringing a friend over. And to loudly announce said friend as he ushers him through the front door, so we won’t say anything untoward.

As a matter of fact, the coven now regularly uses the phrase “Montague’s* here” when all talk of Smooching the Devil’s Buttock needs to come to a grinding halt.

Even when Montague is not here.

So you can imagine I was fair suprised to hear of my son’s plans to join the tarot-reading ranks.  He is, however, now the proud owner of a tarot deck of his very own, which he is busy communing with and meditating upon.

I’ve worked out a simple card spread for him to use, based on this witch’s pyramid-inspired one. Actually, I’ve used it myself a few times.  It’s fast and surprisingly helpful:

    Tribe of Lights –Show me what’s hidden,
    The help to be bidden,
    The action to take,
    And the habit forsake.

Basking in the glow of my son’s new-found interest, I have it in me to wonder … what on earth is next?

*Not, of course, his real name.

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How do you know?

I was playing around on Etymonline this morning, and ran across something interesting.

While English uses a single word for the concept “know,” many languages use two or more verbs to cover the same concept.  So when you say “I know” in French or German or Latin, the word you choose says something about *how* you know what you know.

For instance, Old English had two words:  witan (to know something because you’ve seen it, or have personal experience of it), and cnawan (to have a
perception or understanding of something).

In Latin, the words are cognoscere (to become acquainted with) and scire (to know, to see).

All this because I wanted to share with you a simple but powerful divinatory technique I’ve seen my dear friend the amazing Mrs. Drinkwalter uses on occasion.  I’m not sure whether she thought it up herself, or got it from someone else.  Quite possibly lots of folks have thought it up on their own; it’s just the sort of thing that makes you thump your head and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”   Mrs. Drinkwalter works it with runes, but really you could use anything.  Possibly even partially-sucked jello shots …  it’s just that good.

It’s based on the principles “To know, to dare, to will, and to keep silent,” which Eliphas Lévi writes of in The Key of the Mysteries:  “To undertake, one must know; to accomplish, one must will; to will really, one must dare; and in order to gather in peace the fruits of one’s audacity, one must keep silent.”

I use cards (no surprise) or a home-made set of weirden for this spread.   If it’s cards, I shuffle them, and as I separate them into halves, but before I bridge them, I tap each half of the deck, one on top of the other, right side onto the left, and left side onto the right, to form a crossroads.  As I do this,  I say Evn’s adaptation of a piece out of Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft:

Hermes, Lord of the Crossroads
In Thy Name, I take up the Cards.
From a word to a word, let me be led to a word.
From a sign to another sign.

Then I fan the cards out and pick four — one for each of To Know, To Dare, To Will and To Keep Silent.  Here’s how I interpret them:

To Know:  an important aspect; sometimes one that’s hidden from me, and sometimes an aspect that I’m not giving enough attention to.

To Dare: something that I need to do in a mundane, roll-up-my-sleeves kind of way.

To Will:  something that I need to act upon magically.

To Keep Silent:  something that I need to avoid doing.

This is my preferred method of divination before any magical working, because it’s quick and thorough.  Just the thing!


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A passel of cards

I’ve been trying to adapt of a segment of Robin Artisson’s Opening the Devil’s Eye, replacing the witch tools he sets around the compass to travel over with playing cards.  Fine in theory, but in practical application the cards blew around when I leapt over them.

Now, thanks to my beloved husband, I have a set of card tiles which should do the trick nicely:

I can’t wait to give them a try!

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An eye-byte

Finally, a picture of the Coven of Cards.  Fuzzy, but hopefully still helpful!

 Coven of Cards

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The Coven of Cards


There’s something quite extraordinary about an ordinary pack of playing cards. 

For a while now, I’ve been working an adaptation of the Coven of Cards which was set forth on Dawn Jackson’s site, The site is currently down, but you can find archives of it here.   I’ve gotten very good results with it, and as an added bonus, a surprising strengthening of the current between me and the cards.  Where before the cards were responsive, now they seem to work in concert with me.

Here’s my adaptation of this piece of Work.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

I establish a space that can remain up for at least a lunar month, and dress it with a red cloth upon which I place a votive candle on the South side, a small incense dish on the East side, and a dish of water with a sprig of rue on the West side.  I remove all the courts from a deck of playing cards, and lay them out on the cloth in a ring, in the following order:

1 – K ♠, The Magister, in the North

2 – Q , The May Queen, in the South

3 – K ♣, The Harvest King, in the West

4 – Q , The Seeress, in the East

5 – K , the Devouring Sun, in the Southwest

6 – Q ♠, Dame Fate, in the Northeast

7 – K, the Red Lord, in the Southeast

8 – Q ♣, The Reaping Wife, in the Northwest

9 – J , The Dancer, between Dame Fate and The Seeress

10 – J ♠, The Man in Black, between The Devouring Sun and The Harvest King

11 – J , The Merry Men, between The Red Lord and The May Queen

12 – J ♣, The Kern Baby, between The Reaping Wife and the Magister

Then, I choose three cards to represent what I Will to Be, and set them under the Joker, in the center.  Doing this represents the mastery of witchcraft over circumstance.

I light the candle in its holder and the incense in its dish.  I take three pinches of salt, cast them into the dish of water, and proceed to conjure a small circle around the coven of cards with my right hand, asperging the circle with the sprig of rue and censing it with the incense.  After the circle is made, I sprinkle and cense each of the Coven cards.

Then I take up the Joker and the cards beneath it and lay all but the Joker out in a line in the center, naming each of the three cards as I set it down.    I point to each of the three cards with my right forefinger, touching the card as I state my intention. 

So if I were working to conceive a baby, it might be:  (lay card down) “2 of Hearts,” (lay card down) “9 of Hearts,” (lay card down) “3 of Hearts, it is my Will that”  (touch 2 of Hearts) “my husband and I” (touch 9 of Hearts) “have our wish” (touch 3 of Hearts) “to conceive a healthy baby.  And,” (scoop up the cards with the 2 of Hearts at the bottom, then the 9 of Hearts, then the 3 of Hearts and Joker on top of all) “by the power of witchery” (kiss the Joker) “it is mine, here and now.”  (Knock three times with my knuckles of my right hand  to the north of my stack) “So mote it be.”

Then I set the stack of cards in the center of the circle, set my Athame in the North, pointing at the stack of cards, and leave the assembly to keep going on its own. 

Knocking three times draws the attention of the spirits I work with, so that They take note of what I’m saying and do Their part.  The Athame pointing to the stack reinforces my will working on the intention in the stack of cards.

The Coven of Cards will continue to work on the spell, keeping a current of energy going just like a battery, with the red and black acting as positive and negative poles.

I restate the spell every morning when I first wake, and every evening right before I retire.  I don’t repeat the circle casting, or the censing and asperging again, but in the mornings I do light a candle and some incense.  I leave the spell going until I see definite results or until a lunar cycle has completed, whichever comes first.

I keep a couple of decks of playing cards set aside for this kind of work.  One deck to take the Coven from, and a second deck because I often need a court card to represent the person I’m working for.

When I dismantle the spell, I put the three cards back in the deck they came from, then give offerings and thanks to the Coven of Cards before dispersing them back in their deck.

A picture being worth a thousand words, I’ll post one as soon as I’m able.

©2009 Trothwy


Filed under Crooks and Straights, To divine with cards

Oh Shit, This is Real.

This morning, I laid the cards in my favorite spread to answer a pressing question I had about Our Little Group.  Our Merry Band.  Our coven.  It’s a spread of only seven cards, which is really called The Horns, but which I think of as The Stang.

What a well-packed seven cards!  Very specific.  The King of Hearts, the King of Spades and the 8 of Spades all showed up.  In the Old Craft, these represent the Red Lord or witch bloodline, the Horned Man/Magister and the Coven.

You’d think after all these years I’d be used to how responsive the Powers That Be are. 

But still it gives me goosebumps.

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