After three years of cryptic references to "Z", I'm proud to introduce our new contributor -- and my husband -- Zach Toman.
Since the inception of The Midheaven, he's probably contributed just as much as I have or more in brainstorm sessions, editing, recording, and around-the-clock emotional support. When the idea of him joining me here came up, it was a natural progression of our previous work. Zach and I have written together as musical collaborators before, and I'm happy to have him as The Midheaven's resident tarot reader and inaugural writer.
Over the last few months, The Midheaven has experienced a surge of new growth for which I am incredibly grateful. Zach is my partner in life, and today I'm bringing him onto The Midheaven team to support the next phase in its evolution.
So that you can get to know him as well as I do, I asked him twenty questions about what it's like being married to an astrologer, growing up in the conservative American South, and the pros and cons of the modern spirituality movement. The result? A pretty accurate depiction of our late night conversations. Enjoy a very intimate look into my Scorpio life.
A: I’m sure everyone is already wondering: what are your sun, moon, and rising signs?
Z: I’m not sure. I don’t pay much, or any attention to my astrology, if I’m being brutally honest. But, I do know that I’m a Libra, and my wife tells me that I “have a lot of Capricorn”, which makes it sound like Capricorn is my ethnicity. But which one is a moon sign? I like the moon, so I mostly want to know about that one.
A: Zach is actually being super modest, as is his custom. He is a Moon in Cancer, so what do you expect? (I know that he knows this because I've pointed out how he looks just like his personal hero, Kurt Cobain, a fellow moon in Cancer. Guitar chops seem to be a Moon in Cancer trait: Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Jack White all have that placement too!)
Aside from that, he's got Sun and Mars in Libra, Capricorn rising, and a devastating combination of things in Scorpio. Watch out, everyone.
A: How would you describe your approach to astrology?
Z: Astrology is not really something I think about. Being married to an astrologer, such a statement is ridiculous, but factual. Amelia tells me that I often plan things for astrologically good days without thinking much about it. I have a theory that there is a certain freedom to being blissfully unaware of cosmic comings and goings.
A: Another one we're dying to know -- what’s it like being married to an astrologer?
Z: One’s life is well-planned. But seriously, it’s great. Amelia is excellent at maintaining a spontaneous life despite the fact that she deal in predictions constantly. That’s a difficult balance to maintain, but she does it.
A: I credit that spontaneity to my Grand Mutable Cross, an alignment in my star chart where several planets in mutable signs connect. At best, it's inspiring, with the ability to stay malleable and act on those ideas at any time. At worst, it's crazy-making. Happy to see that it does manifest as the former from time to time.
A: Let’s talk about tarot. How did you get into reading tarot cards?
Z: I rarely read fiction. I focus on two things: music and history. I don’t have any hobbies per se, and my friends and acquaintances will tell you that I sleep very little and work way too much. I lump tarot in with my love of history. I found that I had an interest in the history of tarot, and it was only natural that I would eventually try it.
A: Were you mentored or self-taught?
Z: I am completely self-taught. In fact, prior to meeting Amelia, I had never told a soul that I practiced any such occult arts. I don’t doubt that this article will cause quite a stir. As a result, I have my own way of doing things, some aspects of which likely seem a bit arcane.
A: How do you think psychic abilities work? Would you call yourself a psychic?
Z: I have seen no evidence of “psychic abilities” in the traditional sense. Rather, I think that someone with a very clear mind, who is paying very close attention to body language, word choice, and one’s own subconscious can more or less produce the same effect. Rarer, there are people who are given information by the Old Gods, which is a sort of divine revelation, rather a sixth sense. In that sense, I would call myself psychic.
A: Is there anything you can’t predict in a reading?
Z: There are lots of things I can’t predict! Tarot readings give us an overall impression, and sometimes a very detailed one, but it is still only an impression. I can’t give you dates. I can’t give you names. But, I can help you figure out how an event might impact you, or how something will feel to you. These more abstract bits of information are just as valuable to us as dates and names.
A: Is there anything you won’t predict in a reading?
Z: I won’t give you information that could hurt another person, and I won’t give you absolute answers about a life-changing event. The first is self-explanatory, but the second requires an example. If you were to ask me, let’s say, whether or not your significant other was cheating on you, I would not read for you. That situation should be handled through discussions with your significant other, rather than through cards with pictures on them.
A: What’s your favorite tarot card, if you had to choose?
Z: The Hermit. I am the Hermit.
A: Am I the only one making the Jimmy Page connection here?
A: What do you think is the most underrated tarot card?
Z: The Two of Wands. This is an extraordinary card to see in reading. We usually see it before a grand journey, epic in scope.
A: We both grew up in South Carolina, which is falls on the conservative end of the religious spectrum. Has that influenced your approach to magical work, and if so, how?
Z: That conservative culture made me a what I am. I am disgusted by religious extremism, and there’s an awful lot of that in the South. I was born without that need for religion that people talk about, that God-shaped hole. That was difficult for my religious family. I’ve always been an outspoken opponent of that certain brand of white Southern Christianity, and that’s not slowing down any time soon. I didn’t keep my occult practices to myself out of fear -- instead, I felt that belief was something private. I was especially disturbed by missionary work, and I worried that I would be part of the problem if I discussed my own beliefs about my place in the universe. It’s all too easy to become what we rail against.
A: What do you think modern spirituality as a movement is doing really well right now?
Z: I think that ties in with my last answer. I think more and more people find that they don’t have a God-shaped hole, and are free to explore other ways to view their existence. I was born whole, and so were you. Let’s figure out what makes the universe tick.
A: In what ways would you like to see this movement evolve over the next year?
Z: I would like to see more depth. Right now, the movement is very trendy. When something is being discussed in nearly every magazine you see on the newsstand, some substance must be sacrificed for the sake of readability. I would also like to see movement include more people of color. It’s all a bit too white at the moment.
A: I couldn't agree more. I'd love to see the spiritual community become more inclusive to groups beyond the white cisgender female!
A: What’s your definition of a witch?
Z: A witch is a practitioner of one or more occult arts, who practices or studies either alone or in a group. Yes, I know that’s vague, but in the digital age, so many practices that were once separate, or even wildly unrelated have been merged.
A: Do you identify as a witch? If not, what name do you prefer?
Z: I do not identify as a witch. As someone who studied in solitude until this very moment, I don’t identify with the modern occult movement, and I have trouble adopting its monikers. I suppose I’d call myself a wizard if ever asked.
A: In an industry that’s largely dominated by women and feminine archetypes, what do you hope to bring to the table as a male magical practitioner?
Z: I’m not sure that anything on Earth needs more white male voices. But, maybe I can bring a more historical perspective. I care a great deal about carrying on ancient practices, as unaltered as is possible, and I’ve been told that isn’t a primary focus for most modern practitioners. Also, I’m not so sure that I believe in the Wiccan idea of masculine and feminine energy and archetypes, while we’re talking about it. It seems to me that many ancient myths don’t follow clear gender delineations. I’d imagine that “energy,” whatever that is, would be on a spectrum as wide and varied as human gender identities.
A: Do you practice solitary or in a coven?
Z: I am highly solitary, both as a wizard, and as a human. I don’t care for human contact, and I’d rather read than speak with another person.
A: Do you identify with a religion?
Z: I’m not sure how to answer this question. In the sense of most modern religions, no, I have no religion. But, I consider myself a follower of the Roman religion. That ancient belief focused most on ideals and glory, whereas most religions focus heavily on attaining fake rewards in a fake afterlife at the total expense of the present.
A: How did you start your journey with the occult?’
Z: If I read about something long enough, I eventually decide to give it a try. Hell, that’s how I found my current profession. I read enough about the ancient art of making records that I decided to produce records. Also, I’ve always known that I was a bit different from other folks, and that let me feel safe exploring non-Christian ideas.
A: I’m so excited to share your pop culture and history insights with The Midheaven. How have these outside avenues altered your magical worldview?
Z: History puts occult practices into perspective. We see where each originated, and this helps us decide if something is legitimate or not. We can analyze primary sources, which is always preferable to reading about spirit animals on a Geocities page with candle sprites and red text. For me, it is very, very important to practice the occult arts in the same manner as our ancestors. Pop culture is important because we see that we’re not alone. We see how the occult arts have shaped our present and recent past. That sort of analysis lets us note that Led Zeppelin’s occult influence is legitimate, while Ghost BC’s is a Halloween mask -- offensive and cheap with little substance.
A: One last thing: what tarot decks do you prefer?
Z: The Universal Tarot is my favorite because I like gold foil. It makes every tarot reading fancy. Lately I’ve grown fond of the Fountain Tarot, as it evokes a shocking amount of emotional honesty.