Ten inches fell in 24 hours. Ten inches that weigh down the cedar trees, coat the mossy earth, and bury the dead. Even the hemlocks look heavy, more than they used to.
Curiously, in Western culture we celebrate the birth of a new year just ten days into this season of darkness and survival. I wondered about this from a young age dabbling in astrology. My elder sister is a solstice-portal Aries, making her birthday one of welcoming spring and a new, warm world. She, like many other Aries folks, lives her life like each day is a fresh start and an exciting new challenge. That springtime energy is echoed in the depths of winter with December 31st; New Year’s Eve resolutions and diet plans. It’s an energy so out of place with nature that something else – some other energy – must be missing from the equation.
Shortly into my magical studies I read that winter was the power season of the water witches. Winter, too, was the domain of the water zodiac signs (and, to some extent, their mutable companions). Intrigued, I swam in a very Piscean way through this concept and aimed to consciously experience this affinity. Year after year, I’ve found that my most consistent days and weeks of physical confidence, optimum mental health, general self esteem, and desire to be creative reside in the winter months. Of the water zodiac signs or not, anyone with a particular pull towards the water – holy wells, deep oceans, long seashores, river deltas, lotus ponds, thunderous rain – may find a deep sense of comfort and companionship with the waters of winter.
In some ways, the anticipation of spring pulls our hearts too quickly over this cold, dark sea, and our Oneness with winter – and all the opportunities hidden therein – are put aside for next year. And the next.
What are those lessons, anyway? Patience, for one, I’d guess. Winter feels long because it is deeply still. When temperatures are low, there is less energy on the move – less room for mistakes. Stripped bare down to her most basic of energy needs, the earth mother holds us in deep silence and witnesses the cycle of life and death. Water, an element essential to that life, also drowns, erodes, cascades, and evaporates. Water can leave a desert to die, or be present in such abundance as to create the inconceivable biodiversity of the trench.
This leads to the other lesson: presence in what is witnessed. In our case, that simply means presence in the tale of life – and it’s counterpart.
Outside are ten inches of snow and a cold wind of 26 degrees. Trees have fallen, trapping people on the highway, closing off neighborhoods, and leaving others without power. This is the third time in my lifetime of living here that we have had a weather event like this. In the beauty of this snowstorm there is danger, suffering, and material loss. Yet, where there is death there is life.
Washington State in recent years has seen a dramatic increase in wildfires in our forests caused, in major part, by the lack of snowpack from winter, high up in the mountains. In our short but hot summers, that snow from autumn through spring melts. This slow melt is what has nourished our creek beds and forests while dampening the landscape, protecting it from fires. This year, we may see a less wildfire devastation here – that is, less crazed, uncontrollable heat and energy due to the nourishment of a cold, dark winter.
Ice and snow is water in solid form. Like water, it carries the energetics of remembrance, but more like an archive or library rather than the flow of memory. Ice is water’s way of standing still. The elemental spirit of ice simply asks us to do the same.
In winter, the stillness makes us vulnerable. Though we’ve adapted to physical stillness from our evolutionary legacy of migratory hunting and gathering, it would be disingenuous to imply that our mental and spiritual experience is anything but still. This is why working with the seasons in the Wheel of the Year can be such a revitalizing practice pathwalkers, as the seasons offer the most present experience we have in modern life to the natural world. Of course our ancestors venerated this cycle and presence too, but they also regularly faced the other aspects of nature on an intimate plane, like the buffalo hunt, collective grief, large predators, natural birth, poisonous snakes, and sleeping under the stars.
Especially sleeping under the stars on cold winter nights.
Atum, the self-created god of Before-Time, came into my life by reaching out to me in a dream.
This is by no means uncommon; many pagans experience the divine or Spirit communication through dreams, and that often leads us to question and wonder at what we witnessed. Very often, we can sense that the Being in our dream is a deity – but Who?
I’m of the opinion that the gods find us in sleep because dreams are limitless. It is only there that our consciousness is willing to defy the laws of physics or storytelling and visit the familiar and unfamiliar, all in favor of gaining a lucid experience. When we wake, we’re left to interpret symbols; but with Divine dreams comes the challenge of interpreting the Divine.
I want to walk through this process by exploring how I uncovered my patron, Atum. It began with a lucid dream from a mysterious Egyptian God. I devoted hours to research the details of my dream in order to narrow down who it had come from – and what I did once I had a couple guesses on their identity.
I’m grocery shopping with my partner at our usual market when, at check-out, I’m suddenly convinced that it would be silly of us to go home and cook. There were a few hours left to the evening, I told him. Instead, we should get on the last ferry to Jamaica, or Costa Rica, or wherever it takes us.
We arrive on an island somewhere in the sea. My partner is present but I don’t know where. The island is a large, round, and pure sand with tufts of grass on its borders. We’ve arrived with a dozen other seekers, here to witness the Man wake-up. This happens once every 30 years.
The sun is setting, and I see stars. A bright constellation in the shape of an arrow catches my eye first, followed by one that looks like a cave art drawing of a human being.
As darkness falls, we gather in the sand and begin to spread out. The Man wakes up.
In the dark, he pulls liquid light from beneath the sands and fashions them into the souls of animals. A cheetah spirit, tall and boundless, pounces on me; I felt the weight of her paws on my shoulders. When we touched, she became briefly material; when we broke away, she returned to liquid light form. I laughed at her nuzzle.
I made eye contact with a lion. It was a brief moment steeped in profound, deep love.
There were other animals. In addition to lions and cheetahs, I saw orangutans, gorillas, a bear, crocodiles, and vague beasts I didn’t fixate on. Indeed, these are some of my favorite creatures of the Earth – with the exception of a crocodile.
Then I see the Man.
He appears in front of me, almost floating above the sands. He’s older, dark-skinned, with small patches of white in his hair. His eyes are shut but I can sense that he sees me through the lids. He carries a staff made of wood, but it’s strong like metal, with a hook on its end. It emanated a creative power.
The cloak he wears shifts in color from dark green, deep blue, to brown.
I gaze up at him for a moment, smile, and bow my head. Tears in my eyes, I thank him for this gift of “the most beautiful experience of my life,” and I return to interacting with the light-being animals.
But time is short. The sun begins to rise, and they all collapse back into the sands. The Man disappears with them for another 30 years. Tears finally spill from my eyes, and I call out to him as “Jupiter.” The crocodiles, however, do not disappear. As the sun hits their bodies, material snakes emerge. I run from them back to the boats and realize only then that I am alone.
Who is this God? This mysterious Man wouldn’t leave my mind’s eye, but luckily the dream was extremely lucid and provided a good stack of details to use in research.
Step 1: Isolate the Concrete Details
I knew He must be an older man associated with arrows, wild animals, and perhaps blindness if I’m to guess from his shut eyes. I received a sense from Him that He had a need for darkness in order to create – a very common archetype – and I sensed ethereality in Him too. What stumps me most is the Jupiter calling card, as I’m confident he was not a Greek or Roman deity. The number 30 is also notable.
My first thought was for this to be a call for working with Amen-Ra/Amun-Ra, but some part of my intuition told me it could’ve been a dream from Khnum to begin worship of him. At first, I was hung up on animal associations. What Egyptian God is associated with cheetahs, lions, and apes?
Later, as I sat at my pottery table, it occurred to me that in the dream I specifically thanked him for the “gift” of the experience to connect so deeply with these animals. Indeed, big cats, apes, and bears are all part of my animal totem spiritual work. They’re my favorites since childhood. So, perhaps the animals had more to do with me than him.
Step 2: Divine
I was able to perform a little divination late at night, underneath the Sagittarius Waning Moon and the planet Jupiter shining brightly beside it. The only reason I was up and noticed that the Moon was positioned so perfectly in my living room window was that my cat, Zhu Li, had been running in circles meowing like a fire had started.
I reluctantly got out of bed, half expecting to find a rodent in the garden. Instead, it was quickly obvious that it was the Moon and Jupiter she was meowing at. Both were perfectly positioned in the garden window as if peering in at us. I was beyond giddy at the synchronicity of arrow imagery and Jupiter from my dream earlier in the afternoon and resisted the urge to shake my partner awake. I quickly found and lit a fresh pillar candle, burned frankincense, and sat at the window. I tied a blindfold around my eyes while facing Jupiter.
I asked: What was this dream gift’s deeper message? The answer was short, but hit me to my core: “Show respect for all things that take form. Nature carries many secrets.”
That was the divined answer I needed, the founding philosophy upon which I could figure out who the dream had come from.
Step 3: Gratitude
This mysterious Egyptian God didn’t appear out of nowhere. He arrived through a plea I had put out into the universe, asking for a masculine energy to come into my feminine-dominant life. I requested the Goddesses I work with, Aset/Isis, Bast, and Asherah, for assistance in finding a male patron God, because my own research and worship wasn’t leading anywhere that fit.
Step 4: Interpretation and Research
I was offered some very specific hints at His identity: the number 30, the planet Jupiter, arrows, specific animals, and the short divined message: “Show respect for things that take form. Nature carries many secrets.”
The Planet Jupiter
Modern planetary correspondences to ancient gods is a tricky business. I’ve seen more than a dozen sources relate Osiris to Pluto, for example, when we know that the Ancient Egyptians had no knowledge of Pluto in the first place. I like to make some room for these correspondences, though. Pluto is related to Hades, God of the Underworld. Osiris is an Egyptian counterpart. So, naturally, we would attach the planet to both gods. I don’t see anything too wrong with this.
Which leaves me with this: what does the planet Jupiter symbolize on a spiritual and mythological plane?
In Greek and Roman myth, Jupiter/Zeus is the Father of the Gods, the Sky Father, and a King. In astrology, Jupiter represents expansion, spiritual enlightenment, travel, fortune, and is associated with Sagittarius’ arrow and the fish of Pisces.
From this, I can deduce that I’m probably looking for a King of the Gods type figure. Someone who is likely self-created or, at least, someone transcendentally spiritual in tone. This doesn’t narrow down my list of potential Gods much, but it does cross a few off like Thoth/Djehuty.
The Number 30
In my dream, I was told that the God woke up every 30 years to perform what I saw. In numerology, the number 30 is reduced to 3. This happens to be my personal lucky number, but it’s also associated with creative expression in both numerology and Tarot. In Hebrew Gematria, 30 is associated with 3/Lamed, another personal favorite of mine. Lamed and Qof are the only two Hebrew letters to rise above or below the written line of text, something I’ve always found funky and attractive. The Hebrew term “Father in Goodness” shares a 30 value.
So far, so good. I can assume he’s creative (which, honestly, was pretty obvious from him literally creating souls in the dream).
But what of the 30-year cycles related to Saturn? I’m big on researching Saturn returns, and am anxious for my own. Could this God share characteristics of Saturn as a Lord of Karma, maker of bones, or one who brings order from chaos?
With this idea, I’m tempted to add Set to my list with a little question mark. Perhaps he’s related to the God of this dream somehow.
The most obvious answer to arrows is Neith, the Goddess of war and hunting. Interestingly, her consort is Khnum, one of the Gods on my list. Her son, Tutu, is a curious mix of snake, lion, human, and crocodile with his symbol being arrows.
Speaking of animals, let’s look at those.
As I stated in my previous post, some of the animal symbolism in the dream felt gifted to me as an encounter with my spirit guides rather than an expression of this God. But, I could be wrong. The primarily interesting animals were the crocodiles and snakes, who did not disappear with the sun rising, and the big cats who I interacted with physically.
Cheetahs are associated with Mafdet, a Goddess who protects Ra and is sometimes depicted with a head of snakes rather than that of a cheetah. As Sekhmet and Bast, two lioness goddesses, are also protectors of Ra, I could deduce that the cheetah who pounced on me and the lion who observed me were protecting the God in my dream. In this case, that could be Ra or one of Ra’s many synchronized forms. Maahes, a male lion God of war, doesn’t fit the vibe of the dream, so he’s crossed off the list.
As for crocodiles, Sobek is another protection God. His other qualities of military victory, virility, and safety don’t match the dream, but his relationships to Set and Khnum keep both of them on the list. Set is thought to be his father, while Khnum either his father or son.
Finally, the crocodiles turning into snakes. Snakes are infamously associated with Apep, the enemy of Ra. It is curious that I ran from the snakes left behind with the God’s departure from the island, and Set is the God who assists Ra in fighting off Apep.
Step 5: Deduction
Based on these, the most obvious answer could be Ra. He takes the form of a lion or a snake and is the creative force behind all life. But the dream began with dusk, centered on stars, and lacked any blazing sun of inspiration.
The most likely candidates were two: Atum, God of the Evening Sun and an Elder. He is the first father, fathering Shu and Tefnut from the waters of Nun, and all things are said to be made of his Ka. The liquid light of the spirits in the dream would match this. His tears created the first human beings and, though a solar deity, lifts the dead to the starry heavens. When in animal form, Atum appears as a snake, a lion, mongoose, ape, bull, or lizard. Secondly, Khnum, God of the Nile and Pottery. Khnum is an interesting God because he makes the bodies and Ka of human beings on his pottery wheel. The clay he uses comes from the Nile that he himself inundates with water. In the dream, the God I encountered lifted up the liquid light of these animals from the sand. I myself am a ceramicist, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he came to me. The arrow in the sky could be accounted for as his consort, Neith. His animal association is simply a crocodile.
In the writings at Esna, Khnum is said to be the father of Ra with Neith. That’s a fun detail, but I’m going to exclude it since this seems to be a Roman influence.
Step 6: Reaching Out
My process going forward was quite simple. At my altar, I created a candle and offering plate for both Atum and Khnum. Beer, water, and bread are traditional and simple if you’re Kemetic, but there are a plethora of ideas for offerings. For Atum, I included a labradorite crystal because I associate them with the Before-Time; for Khnum, I made a clay figure of Him. From there, I will meditate, pray, and wait patiently for a sign.
Because I focused exclusively on the Egyptian Gods for this search, I included those prayers. What I found through meditation and ritual was not only confirmation that the dream, in fact, came from Atum (woo!) but that Khnum was more than happy to receive worship from me.
Now, they both have a prominent place on my altar.
I hope this write up of my research process is helpful for you in your own search for God or Goddess. If you’d like any pointers on interpreting dream messages from the Divine, leave a comment or shoot me a private email. I’m always happy to help with dreamwork.
I frequent pagan forums and social media circles, and often see the same question repeated again and again – often desperately: Is (x) a sign from (y)?
Opening ourselves up to metaphysical spiritual belief in the age of science is hard. It’s easy to explain to someone that you walked away from organized religion, even praised in mixed company, but to share that you walked into paganism or polytheism renders all kinds of weird questions.
“You don’t really believe in that, do you?”
“I mean, you just see them as archetypes, right?”
Or, my favorite: “Do you have any proof?”
I think our obsession with understanding dream symbols or thirst for a “sign” is an inner battle to reconcile these questions. It’s enough to get them from others, but often we have them within ourselves. Even after years into a pagan practice and countless journal entries detailing sublime experience, once can still fall into doubt. I do.
The important part is that we show up for our spiritual wellbeing and choose practices that enhance our minds, hearts, and health. Choosing to work with a god or goddess can be more religious for some, but psychospiritual for others.
Wherever you are on the spectrum of belief, I want to offer you a list of organic and everyday connections that exist to help us find deity and approach Spirit. Within yourself are already a multitude of organic threads just waiting to be sewn into a spiritual fabric.
If you feel called toward connecting with deity, here’s my advice: write down your responses to this list. Writing forces you to slow your thinking down and truly consider your ideas, thoughts, and desires with depth and care. Writing pieces of yourself down puts them into the universe; out of the mind and into physical reality.
Take these ideas into a journal, ideally one that you’ve chosen to be a place for spiritual work. It can be a Book of Shadows or something else.
If you’re interested in numerology, you can use numbers like your Soul Path number and find deities or spiritual practices connected to those numbers. Lucky numbers work too. My lucky numbers are 3 and 8, and in my case, 3 is incredibly powerful in all aspects of my life. I’ve found Vishnu and Auset to be my focal points and recognize 3 in them. Vishnu has had 9 incarnations (3×3) and Auset recovered Ausar from the dead to become pregnant and give birth to their child, creating a sacred triad.
What about you? Are there numbers you’ve felt drawn to? Do you have any lucky numbers? Do things always work out the first time you try them, or does it seem to always take three – or seven? Do your relationships with others come in twos or fives? Does your birthday mean anything to you? What about your birth time, or place? If there’s a number you feel at home with, explore it! What deities are related to it? What direction?
Not long ago, I had a profound dream from Atum. In it, he rose spirit bodies from the soil – bright blue energy beings – and they were all the animals that I loved and connected to the most. In the dream, he guided me to them and when I reach out to touch them, they became material. There were gorillas, lions and tigers, crocodiles and elephants.
Everyone has some sort of animal connection within them. My personal belief is that these can be representative of past lives before we incarnated as humans, but perhaps you have a more shamanic perspective that animals are guides and offer us spiritual medicine.
Were you obsessed with wolves as a child? Do you find yourself watching spiders closely rather than jumping away? Does seeing a falcon take your breath away?
Maybe you found yourself getting a dragonfly tattoo out of nowhere, or there’s something about the octopus that gets your heart swelling with intrigue. Write these down. Check the World Wildlife Foundations adoptable endangered species. Which would you choose? What element or directions do you associate these animals with? Which ones do you want to experiment calling upon? And, finally, what deities hold the same animals sacred that you do?
My partner swears by music. That’s the number one way he feels that Spirit communicates with him, and he will stop everything to honor those moments. Sometimes it’s a song that comes on in the grocery store, other times it’s the both of us having a tune stuck in our heads.
Of course, it doesn’t have to just be the radio.
Think about the music you go to when you’re emotionally well; not full of happiness, not in a valley of sadness or pain. What do you like to study to, meditate to? What songs come on when you’re out at restaurants? Is there a song that just pops up at the strangest or most needed of times? Look at the words, the genre, the meaning of these songs or these types of music. If you’re into soundscapes, seek out elemental or nature deities. If you like hip-hop, seek out deities who are playful or assertive. Classical could lead you to deities of balance or justice. Try making music, just with your hands on the table. What rhythms do you find yourself producing? What’s your vibration?
4. Joyous Moments
What makes you happy? I know, loaded question; but it’s true. If you find joy in painting or the arts, you might want a deity who can spend time with you while you pursue that. If you’re really into bath bombs and other luxurious self care routines, that sounds a lot like a good offering to Aphrodite!
Maybe bath bombs aren’t your thing, but tea in the morning is. Do you like being surrounded by friends, family, or strangers? Write down the moments of your life where you felt the most blissful. Write down what moments you want to collect before this life has ended. What deities reflect similar habits or goals? If you want to backpack along the Ganges or in Europe, think about the deities of travel and movement. If you’re passionate about building a family, ask yourself why you want one and look at the many Mother Goddesses you might have something in common with.
This might be the most important and will require slowly opening your inner eye. Look! For! Weirdness!
These are not coincidences, these are communications. Track your moods, your feelings, your interactions. Did a friend mention a film or historical figure that’s been in the back of your mind lately? Did that license plate you read have the initials of someone you care about? What imagery or feelings keep appearing in your dreams? Do you keep finding pennies everywhere you go?
If you’re not experiencing weirdnesses in your life, throw yourself into a new situation, new people, hobby, or activity. Breaking routine is an excellent way to invite the universe to have a hand in authoring your day.
Patience is True Magic
These are simple journaling activities to help you place yourself in the greater world we occupy. Spiritual journeys are deep, personal, and a long-term commitment. Don’t choose a deity just because they’re popular, or you feel like you need one.
Your own divinity and power to manifest does not reduce because you’re not throwing food at your altar for a “patron deity” every week. In fact, patron deities are a lot rarer than social media might have you believe. Allow this process to be what it is – a process. Allow time to discover your spiritual home. There’s no rush. You’ve lived lifetimes and you will live more.
Spirit guides are already here, waiting for you to listen. The more you reflect on the inner workings of your mind and heart, the more you’re saying YES to magic and saying YES to ascension.