Mama's Minstrel | Nancy Vedder-Shults, Ph.D.

Forthcoming Book: The World is Your Oracle

I come from a noisy family. My father was half-deaf, so we learned to speak loudly in order to be heard. All six of us – my father, mother, three sisters and I – sang trios or quartets in the car while traveling, with the youngest kids doubling up on the melody. And at supper the child who jumped fastest with the most volume often took over the conversation. As a result, years went by before I discovered that “the secret power of my song was in its silence.”

As a professional singer, I incorporated this wisdom into my music well before I understood its full implications. In the last decade and a half, I have learned that stillness — whether it’s the silence needed for inhaling or the rests between the notes — not only energizes my music, but in a larger sense, can also open a space for greater understanding. If I still my voice and then my thoughts, I can listen to my intuition.

But in a world where I am bombarded with visual and auditory stimuli, I can’t always stop the noise to access my inner wisdom. Besides I don’t always remember to listen for the insight contained in the stillness within. In order to remind myself to check in on a regular basis, I began to look for ways to tap into the deeper layers of my mind. The result is The World is Your Oracle, a compilation of hundreds of divination methods, from ancient oracles to modern-day techniques. The excerpts published here will describe a few ways to access the deeper layers of our minds and broaden our perceptions.

In North America most of us associate divination with the occult. Traditionally the concept conjures up the image of an old gypsy woman using her deck of playing cards to tell someone’s fortune. From my perspective, this is an archaic (and stereotypical) understanding of oracles, one created during a time when we drew sharper distinctions between the everyday and the mysterious, the natural and the supernatural, between rationality and non-rational ways of knowing, and even between the past and the future. In my life, I’ve often found the mysterious in the midst of the everyday and the supernatural within the natural; I’ve used both rational and intuitive practices to discover my own wisdom; and I’ve noticed that the future is often contained in the present moment, however embryonically. As a result, instead of occult fortunetelling of future events, I define divination as the active use of my intuition, employing a variety of methods for getting in touch with my inner knowing.

Over the years I’ve learned that a good oracle puts me in touch with myself. It lets me discover my motivations, feelings and thoughts about the question I’m exploring. And it connects me with the atmosphere or environment surrounding that question, making me aware of the water I swim in, but usually don’t notice.

To receive inner guidance, all I need is to open myself to what my body/mind tells me, what my emotions display and what my unconscious knows. In this way, I can begin to hear with my inner ears and see with my inner eyes. Using these mystical senses — what you might call the sense organs of the unconscious — I perceive holistically, noticing relationships and patterns rather than isolating, classifying and judging what I see and hear. Once I’ve gathered this wisdom, I can then use my rational mind to interpret what I’ve learned.

We live in an interconnected world, a web of life. Each segment of that web reflects the whole just like fractal designs or holography. That’s why the patterns that we discover through divination give us information. They mimic the relationships of the whole at a particular moment in time.

DIVINATION METHODS – Here are the oracular techniques I published in recent issues of Matrifocus:

Honoring Gaia Through Other Writings

Some people say that our society is poor in stories, that television and movies have replaced the storytelling traditions of our ancestors. When it comes to folk tales or other time-honored stories, these people are probably right. But story will never die as long as there are two people left on earth. Just listen at your next party.

We tell stories, because the meaning of our lives is revealed in the tales we tell. We tell stories to entertain and to forge connections with others. We tell stories to teach, to transmit our culture to others. And we tell stories to mark the significance of events. In our personal stories we each become the protagonist, the main character who navigates the waters of life. We see ourselves acting in the world with a particular sense of self. And the more we act, the more stories we create.

Nowhere can we feel the cultural weight of story as we can in myths and other religious tales. More than any other type of story, myth orients us to the major sources of meaning in our lives. It instructs us in how we are supposed to relate to nature, to ourselves, to others and even to the sacred itself. These are the "great stories" we live by, even if we haven't taken conscious note of them. They create the archetypes or patterns we embrace as blueprints for how to live our lives. The symbols we find in myths can open us to depths of reality that are often closed to us. They can express intuitive insights that relate our lives to something bigger than ourselves, something deeper, something relevant to more than our individual lives. As a result, myth can aid us in living.

Forthcoming Book: Embracing the Dragon

Description and excerpts from my forthcoming book:

Retold Myths

Two retold myths I wrote and enjoy telling:

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Mama's Minstrel
Nancy Vedder-Shults, Ph.D.