Passion & Gifts (Vision Seeker Day 3)

30 April 2017

The spread featured below is a journal prompt from the Vision Seeker ecourse* by Nicole Piar. I drew four cards from The Good Tarot in response to the prompts. This is my journal entry - hopefully it makes some sense. 

Deck: The Good Tarot by Colette Baron-Reid. Click to enlarge the image. 

Card 1: The 5 of Fire embodies 'the energy that fuels our passions' and is a very interesting card for this position. Fives are challenging, and as the fire element deals with the energy of intention and inspired action, this is a card which calls into question the way we deal with conflict, differences of opinion, and diversity - all things that are responsible for fuelling passions. This is sometimes thought of as the 'spanner in the works' card, but most of the things people are passionate about were initiated, at some point, in response to a conflict or competition. If we consider a few random examples - sport, technology, self-improvement, fitness - they have their raison d'ĂȘtre in diversity, conflict, difficulty or competition. 

Fire is the suit of transformation and in this card we see two symbolic butterflies - both heading in different directions - as well as matching wings on the main character who sits between them, thoughtfully. She is wondering how she can act in the best interest of all, and in a way that will bring future enlightenment (see those lights above her?). The answer surely lies in honouring the various differences by finding creative solutions - when you have an unusual problem, you have to look for inventive ways to deal with them... and so we have arrived at the point of something being created.  

Note: At this point, I wondered if there was a theory about the 'cycle of creation' that might fit with this and googled it. There is a lot online, and some quite pertinent, but that's an entirely different rabbit-hole, and one I don't have the time to fall into! 

Card 2: What blocks or limits our passions? In response to this, I drew 'Love', which is such a loaded word, not immediately helped by the image of a sleeping woman and lion. The alternative (key)word for this card is actually 'oneness', which follows on beautifully from the previous card. Like many other spiritual teachers, Eckhart Tolle talks about oneness being the key to enlightenment: 
The word enlightenment conjures up the idea of some superhuman accomplishment, and the ego likes to keep it that way, but it is simply your natural state of felt oneness with Being. It is a state of connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible, something that, almost paradoxically, is essentially you and and yet is much greater than you. It is finding your true nature beyond name and form.¹  
So what blocks and limits our passions, is actually the feeling of separation and egoic thinking. When we consider ourselves separated into 'us' and 'them', anything that isn't 'us' becomes a threat and the ego takes over - bringing with it a series of concepts that block true relationships and "you forget the essential fact that, underneath the level of physical appearances and separate forms, you are one with all that is"².

In the image on the Love card (above), the woman and lion sleep harmoniously - they are completely at peace together and are not conforming to the fierce / terrified behaviours we might expect. Behind them are two pillars, bearing the signs of Fire and Leo. (Leo is a fire sign. The first and last cards in this spread are also from the fire suit.) 

The pillars remind me of those in the traditional imagery of The High Priestess (right). In both cards, the characters appear to be inside the building. Rachel Pollack³ explains that the pillars behind the High Priestess represent the temple of Isis and also the ancient Hebrew temple in Jerusalem which was the dwelling place of God on earth. To me this card is saying "God"⁴ (which Tolle alternatively calls 'Being') is embodied by the image of the woman and lion - representing 'love' or 'oneness'. It is indeed, all the same thing. 

Card 3: Ace of Water is the helper that allows us to overcome the limitations and blocks from the previous card. Water (cups) cards relate to how we feel and how those feelings influence our behaviour and relationships. As Aces are the driving force of each suit, their purest most intense form, this particular Ace represents overflowing and unconditional love. It is full of hope and promise and light. What a perfect card to help us overcome the limitations and blocks of division and separation! There's not much more to say about that. 

Card 4: When we share our gifts, we are giving... a unicorn! Well, perhaps not an actual unicorn -  7 of Fire represents overcoming challenges and going the distance. The fact that it is represented by a unicorn is a good indication that it may take those unconventional solutions suggested by the first card to achieve it. Nevertheless, he's on the top of the hill - he made it. When we share our gifts and passion, we can overcome obstacles and achieve what we set out to do. 

So, to sum up, it's often the less harmonious aspects of life that fuel our passions and help to develop our gifts. But keeping ourselves separate and divided only limits us. The way to overcome all of this is love - oneness, compassion and appreciating that we are connected. When we are able to do this, we give the ability to overcome all of our differences. That would truly be the ultimate gift to the world. 

*Find details of the Vision Seeker course, and how to enrol (for free), here.
¹ Eckhart Tolle, Practicing the Power of Now, p. 8
² Eckhart Tolle, Practicing the Power of Now, p. 9
³ Rachel Pollack, Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom, p. 38
⁴ For the record, I don't like the word "God". I find it such a divisive word and too attached to formal  / traditional (patriarchal) religions for it to resonate with me. "Being" is much more comfortable. When you read this post, please feel free to substitute or use any word that sits well with you. 

Who am I? (Vision Seeker Day 2)

29 April 2017

Having previously enjoyed Nicole Piar's (free) Vision Seeker ecourse*, I decided to re-do some of the exercises, starting with Day 2 - Tuning in to Yourself. Following Nicole's guided meditation, I asked what aspects of myself want to come forward and what element(s) are seeking expression. The first and last card made me chuckle - they are exactly what I expected to see in response to these questions - but the second was more of a 'surprise', by which I mean something I wasn't quite ready to own up to. Let's take a look at each card in turn.  
Deck: The Good Tarot by Colette Baron-Reid. Click to enlarge the image. 

The Empress is the embodiment of creation and fertility. With my child-bearing all done, this definitely relates to new ideas and experiences. The affirmation for the Empress (as written in the deck guidebook) starts with the following: 
This is a wonderful time to give birth to new ideas and experiences. Nourishment is assured as I step into a new version of myself. My life is rich and ripe with possibility that I can manifest and create.  
As I said, it's no surprise that this card came up. A couple of my design commissions are due to be published in the next week and as a result, my thoughts have turned to new projects and where I should direct my energy next. I haven't been entirely sure about the direction I want to take, and this has been reflected in almost all of my daily readings for the last week. In fact it's one of the reasons I came back to these exercises. The Empress is a reassuring card - I haven't felt very creative lately, but the seeds of many new ideas are inside my head and my notebook, they just need some attention and nurturing to bring them to life.

The Messenger of Water (the equivalent of the 'emo' Knight of Cups in a traditional deck) is the wild card. This is the card of heightened emotional awareness, romantic feelings, and seeing the best in others. There are a few affirmations to accompany this card but this one speaks to me the most: 
I need to look for the best in others and honour it, even when it seems a challenge to do so. 
It's interesting that the messenger herself is looking at a seahorse. These little creatures have a lot of symbolic meaning, including perseverance / staying anchored (they use their tails to anchor themselves in place when the sea is rough), looking from the perspective of both genders (the male is impregnated by the female) and putting up a protective barrier (they have a tough exoskeleton). There are several pertinent messages for me in this!

The Hermit is the card that perfectly embodies my feelings today - it so happens that I also listened to a short 'Tarot Bytes' podcast about it on my morning walk! This card is about taking time out - it's the need for solitude and peace to get your thoughts in order and to gain a better perspective on the situation. 

It's timely, as I haven't been on my own for MONTHS. My husband and I both work from home, and it's also been the school holidays so the children were recently with us 24/7 for over a fortnight. As much as I love to be with my family, I REALLY need time out to recharge, to be alone and in silence. If you're empathic, you'll understand why this is essential for me - it's why I prefer to walk the dog alone in the mornings, and why I have my own little studio space at home (to escape to).

Today my husband has taken the kids out for a few hours. Aside from a far-off lawnmower, the only noise is the dog's light snoring and the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard. My (lovely) mother asked if I'd like to do something with her today, but I had to decline - I just have to be alone for a few hours. Part of the affirmation for this card sums it up:
When I step back, retreat, regroup, and renew, I have a clear perspective on everything in my life.
So overall, my take-away message about the things that want to come forward in me right now are: nurturing my creativity and bringing my ideas to life, being more tolerant and understanding (my husband will be pleased!), and taking some time out to make sense of everything. As the Hermit shows, the door is right there waiting to be unlocked.  All of the keys are there too - it's just a case of trying them to find out which is needed to open it. 

*If you're interested in taking the Vision Seeker ecourse, you can find all of the details on Nicole Piar's website, there are also lots of photos on Instagram, tagged with #VisionSeeker2017

Book Review: Kitchen Table Tarot

26 April 2017

A while ago I had the opportunity to preview a new book aimed at tarot beginners. Kitchen Table Tarot came at the perfect time for me - after an introduction to tarot via The Wild Unknown, I wanted to get to grips with more 'traditional' decks and the standard meanings. This little 240 page book helped me to do exactly that, and is being released next week. 

Kitchen Table Tarot by Melissa Cynova, published by Llewellyn Worldwide.
Available to pre-order from Amazon (affiliate) in Paperback and Kindle editions.

Aimed at complete beginners with no prior knowledge, Melissa Cynova (of Little Fox Tarot ) goes step-by-step through everything you need to know to get started. The tone is informal, which one might expect from the title, and it does indeed feel like sitting down with a friend who is happy to share the wisdom gained from tarot-reading since 1989. 
I started teaching tarot to my friends at my kitchen table. We would have a few beers and I'd hold up a card and pull out every pertinent detail I could about the card. Where I'd seen it in readings, what was happening next, who it reminded me of. That's why this book is called Kitchen Table Tarot. Because we're about to become friends, you and I. And I have a lot to show you. - Melissa Cynova
With such an engaging style and accessible cultural references, Kitchen Table Tarot contains everything a beginner needs to know and brings the individual card meanings up-to-date. In fact, the meanings are presented in a way that is both humorous and memorable, for example: "Usually, when a fish pops out of my cup, I'm a bit put out, but this guy loves surprises" (the Page of Cups). 

Without being too lengthy, card meanings are very clear and reversals are also included. I found it particularly helpful to have the meanings presented by number, not by suit. So all the aces are together, all the twos together and so on. Some previous books have left me confused between the different court cards, but reading about them as a set helps to distinguish them. It highlights their similarities and differences. 

The Llewelyn classic deck is referenced throughout, including clear (black and white) pictures so you can follow along without having a deck to hand. If you already have a Rider-Waite (or variant) deck, the commentary will work perfectly well too. I was using the Radiant Rider-Waite and the images were close enough to follow the interpretations of all the imagery. The author states that learning the meanings of a basic deck like these is the best way to help understand other diverse decks (a selection of which are listed).

As well as providing meanings and reversals for all cards, there is guidance on picking a deck, getting started with tarot reading for others (a big tip is not to be afraid to work from a book!), and a list of further resources, as well as other miscellaneous advice and tips. 

I would definitely recommend Kitchen Table Tarot for beginners who want to learn the traditional meanings in a clear and informal way. The book is available from May 1st 2017. In the meantime, you can read more about the author on her website and follow her on Instagram

First Impressions: The Good Tarot by Colette Baron-Reid

24 April 2017

Before learning to read tarot, I was using Colette Baron-Reid's Wisdom of the Oracle, which I find lovely to use and very insightful. When I saw she was bringing out a new deck in collaboration with the same artist I placed a pre-order, but I cancelled it after previewing a few of the cards at Hay House Ignite - The Magician looked too much like Santa, and I wasn't sure this deck was for me.

After being released a couple of weeks ago it has been popping up in my Instagram feed since then, showing lots of imagery which did appeal to me, however the reviews I found were less than consistent. For everyone who loved it, there was another condemning it - one Amazon review headlined 'NOT TAROT' stated "There is fluff and then there is the lint that sits on top of fluff - and that, my friends, is what the 'Good Tarot' by Colette Baron-Reid is, fluff-lint. I never hate decks but I actually hate this deck." Intriguing! 

The extreme reaction of early reviews turned out to be in my favour when I found an opened but unused deck for sale (for a steal!) and decided to make up my own mind. These are my first impressions.

The deck arrived in the same sturdy box as my other Hay House oracle decks and the cards are the same size too - 9 x 10.8 cm - bigger than a standard tarot deck. I say 'other' because, on Colette Baron-Reid's website and in the accompanying book, this is described as an oracle deck. Despite this, it follows the traditional 78-card Major/ Minor Arcana tarot structure with four elemental suits. I suspect this might be the reason it is a 'Marmite' product (people seem to either love it or hate it, with little in between). 

This unusual approach is addressed in some detail at various points in the guidebook, where Colette describes wanting to work with tarot in a non-conformist way so that it can be meaningful psychologically and spiritually, outside the realm of fortune telling (if you read this earlier post, you'll have guessed that this appeals to me). 
This deck was created to find solutions, choose direction, and gain understanding of any situation for the highest good of all, so working with it may be an experience unlike any you have had before in doing a tarot reading..... If you want to use this deck in the way you already know, you can do that too. Traditional tarot spreads and intentions will work with this deck... Even though imagining time differently and being accountable for your thoughts, feelings and beliefs may seem a bit daunting, the truth is it's how you claim your power. And you have lots of it!
I have seen various criticisms of this, and the title, from people who are keen to remind us that life isn't all 'Good', and that typical tarot cards have both light and dark sides. If you are familiar with Colette's other work, you'll know that she often talks about working "for the highest good of all" - this is not only reflected in the deck's moniker, but also some of the trump names (there is no Death, Devil or Judgement, etc), and in the guidebook. Here's why:
As you look at the images and read the words interpreting the message of the card, you will not think about the bad things that might happen to you and dwell on loss, grief, resentment anger or worry. Instead, you will be gently guided to experience the Light aspect of any message.
The meaning of each card is provided in the form of a few keywords and a short paragraph of present tense first-person affirmations*.  This is intended to help the reader "integrate the energy personally and immediately now". It's about being present - you are invited to consider that time is not linear, but that things happen in cycles and there is only ever 'now'. (I like this - it's the subject of my favourite book.) There is power in accepting this - it gives you choice and free will in the present-now, in order to manifest or 'co-create' the future-now. 

The accompanying book includes information on basic numerology and what each number tells us about the energy of the cards. For example, "Ace is the driving, primal, originating force of the element". Then it moves on to describe the trumps which are the described as "Symbolic Life Themes". Each card has its own page, with a small black and white image and affirmation paragraph.

Before each suit, there is an overview of the element it represents and indeed the suits are named after these, rather than the traditional Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. I imagine this will be easier for those completely new to tarot, removing one level of symbolism and making the cards immediately more accessible. 

The artwork is well-suited to each of the elemental suits, using appropriate colour-schemes. The digitally produced images include animals and lots of otherworldly people (and Santa-in-blue-wearing-spectacles). There is some ethnic diversity, with the majority of characters having more of a Caucasian appearance.

I've put together a selection of my favourite images below - do you notice the way the edges have been made to look as though they are well-used and scuffed? I did a double-take on first inspection. 

The deck is intended for one- or three-card draws, for use when you are feeling confused and wondering what's happening / what you're not seeing, and when you want to know about a situation and the flow of energy around that, respectively. It is suggested that a single clarifier card can be used with either of these. The deck isn't designed to be used with reversals (unlike Wisdom of the Oracle).

So who will this deck appeal to? I suspect it will be incredibly popular with Colette's legion of fans, and those who use her other oracle decks. I count myself amongst them, although I can't help thinking that for anyone without prior tarot knowledge, the guidebook may seem somewhat lacking, in comparison with the Wisdom of the Oracle guidebook (which is incredibly detailed), and may disappoint those who have only used that method of reading Colette's cards.

For those who are looking to develop their intuitive reading, there is quite a lot work with from the imagery, and it's helpful not having so much to fall back on in the book. It would be a good deck to use for meditation. Traditionalists who like the artwork might like to try using this as a standard tarot to see how they get along with it, with a background knowledge of the more traditional meanings, this would make a pretty deck to use for a sensitive querent, as there is nothing that looks dark or challenging. 

Those with smaller hands will probably struggle to overhand shuffle these thick cards unless they turn the cards to hold them at the sides, rather than the top and bottom. I had to riffle the corners to mix up the deck. So this is worth bearing in mind if it's likely to bother you.

First impressions then: for a deck in this price range, I think it represents value for money - it's well produced and nice to handle (apart from the size). The art is lovely and as I mainly read for myself it suits my purposes. I realise that it won't suit everyone, and it will very much depend if you're looking for a true tarot deck, or whether you like the idea of a tarot themed Oracle deck.

I'll let you know how we get along after daily use, in the meantime, please do let me know if you've tried The Good Tarot and what you think of it! 

* On the subject of the affirmations, it's worth noting that the deck was very much created to read for one-self, so you'll need to alter the given meanings if reading for someone else.

5 Things I learned about Tarot (so far)

19 April 2017

According to my journal, it's two months since I started using my first tarot deck. I'm not one to do things by halves, and once I was over my initial caution of the deck - and the 'scary' cards - I dived in at the deep end, with daily draws and regular study. During that short time I've started learning different things about tarot cards and their meanings, how to read them individually and as part of a spread, and so on. There are other things that I've learned from trial, error and observation. Here are the top five, which I hope might be useful to other beginners. 

1. It's really important to love your deck - Quite soon after getting The Wild Unknown - a deck with unique imagery and no people - I knew that I wanted to learn more about tarot, and as most of the recommended resources refer to the traditional Rider-Waite (Smith) aka 'RWS' deck, I got that too. Unfortunately, I can't relate to it. I'm a visual person and just don't like the images or the people - to me they feel very old fashioned and unrelatable. Had I started with a traditional deck, I doubt our relationship would have gone far beyond opening the box. (For the record, I can live with the Radiant Rider-Waite as a study deck, but that's about it.) 

On the other hand, I absolutely LOVE the Dreaming Way tarot. Despite the slightly grumpy faces of most people in the deck, I love them because the art resonates with me. So, while I'm now familiar with the RWS images for each of the 78 cards, it's the Dreaming Way that I am working with daily. I do think it's incredibly helpful to know the standard imagery, which has influenced the traditional interpretations of the cards, but I'd encourage anyone who is just starting and doesn't love their cards to also find a deck that you don't want to put down. Aeclectic Tarot is a great resource for looking at cards from many different decks. 

Cards from the Dreaming Way tarot in the Spring Fever Spread from Jessi Huntenburg

2. The importance of being in the right frame of mind - I learned this lesson by trying a spread when I was anxious, and I wrote about it in an earlier post which you can find here. People often advise to ground or 'centre' oneself before attempting to read the tarot (or oracle cards) and it's sage advice. Tarot is like a mirror - it reflects you in your current state - so when your emotions are all over the place, it's not only more difficult to make sense of the cards, but you are more likely to read all sorts of unhelpful things in them. If you've ever looked into an actual mirror while feeling upset or 'down', you'll understand why it's a bad idea - all sorts of self-doubt and unhelpful thoughts creep in. It's better to save the cards for a time when you're relaxed and open-minded. 

There is a lot of helpful advice online, and you'll need to do what works for you. I personally find these things to be the most important:
  • Setting aside a specific time to choose a card and connect with it (more about that here)
  • Having everything I'll need to hand (i.e. the cards and a way to record any immediate thoughts)
  • Being well rested, calm and taking a few deep breaths (or a quick meditation, if necessary)

3. Clear intentions / questions = clear(er) interpretations  - I use my cards for daily reflection and personal development and to get the most insightful readings find it's best to be really clear about my intention when drawing a card. There is a simple reason for this -  a clear question reduces room for doubt ('wriggle room') especially when a card brings up something which is easier to ignore than to face up to. Becoming familiar with 'good' questions, it's much easier to formulate your own effectively - there are some great examples online, like these from Biddy Tarot and these from Llewellyn.

4. Spreads don't have to be complicated - Working with oracle cards for a little while before coming to tarot, I became quite comfortable with small readings of between one and three cards. With three cards you can tell a story which offers enough insight to be useful, without being overwhelming. In the following example from my Instagram feed, I'd been woken up by the kids arguing and slamming doors and these cards reminded me that 'we set out to create a stable, happy and loving family, but the reality is that like anything worth building, it takes effort and endurance. Relationships are complex, especially when you're raising two very different individuals, but I think it will be worth the effort in the long run'. It was only three cards, but it made me smile and for the rest of the day I was able to reflect on the longer term, rather than losing my head in the moment and wondering why we bothered having a family! 

5. YOUR reading probably means what YOU think it means - I'm a member of several tarot learning groups (online) and it's really useful to be able to discuss interpretations of different spreads, especially when cards pop up in positions that make it more tricky to decipher the meaning. I love seeing other people's cards and how they have interpreted them, and what group members are able to add to the discussion. However, I believe that if you have a basic knowledge of tarot, and you've asked an effective question with the right intention (see point 3), the interpretation that you get is probably the right one for you. 

Other people might see something else, or be able to phrase it more eloquently - they might also be able to add layers of additional meaning based on the kabbalah, astrology or numerology - but at its most basic level the meaning is whatever you think it is. I suspect it might be natural to feel more confused about an interpretation when we either don't want to face up to the answer we get, or we wish for a 'better' card, or a 'do-over'. For the same reason, it appears common to keep pulling more and more cards to clarify the initial meaning (even when they keep reiterating it), but that is probably a topic for a separate post. 

So tell me, how long have you been reading tarot? What are the most important things you've learned so far?
UPDATE: There are lots of great responses on Instagram - find them using the following tag: #5thingsIlearnedabouttarot

Page by Page

14 April 2017

As we have already seen in overviews of the Kings, Queens and Knights, each of the court cards embodies an aspect of their elemental suit. The Pages are no different, except that they are younger - more naive and immature. They represent foundational learning and experiences, growth and change. Any 'mistakes' they make are due to lack of experience rather than ill will - just put it down to them learning the ropes. 

As with the other court cards, I've found the easiest way to understand each of these cards has been to think about a person I know who embodies the same qualities. This not only brings them to life, but also helps to understand the archetypes, beyond what is shown in the cards themselves. Once again, this post is based on the Dreaming Way tarot and my interpretations, and may not represent other 'by the book' descriptions you have read. Although they are all depicted as female in this deck, Pages can refer to youthful people of either (any) sex. 

The Page of Pentacles has achieved high levels of academic learning and is a perennial student - hungry for knowledge and understanding. Kind, quiet and sensible, this Page is reliable and grounded with strong morals, all of which can lead to activist tendencies. (In my case, this is my sister who has a PhD in animal behaviour - a suitable 'earthy' topic for this suit - and works for an animal welfare charity). This is a thoughtful and introspective person who thrives in nature. She is a very genuine person, and happy to muck in (and get her hands dirty) despite her academic prowess. If you get close enough, you might get to see her fun goofy side, which often combines her excellent observational skills and a startling knack for impersonation!

The Page of Wands is far less practical. She is a visionary - passionate and artistic. She is idealistic and optimistic. Her confidence and charisma go beyond her (current) ability but she can't see that, because she's too busy starting all the new projects she's excited about - and her enthusiasm will probably drag you along for the ride. Wands represent the element of fire and you can see that in her temper, which is as quick to alight as her imagination - she is ready to take bold action when either is kindled. This Page is honest to a fault, but also quite impatient. In order to manage her expectations, you would be well advised to get yourself some flame-retardant gloves! 

Ah, the Page of Cups. Just look at her with her teapot on her head and her flying fish. Isn't she lovely? This is one very dreamy soul. She is another artistic character, but much more of a dreamer than the Page of Wands, and she often struggles to stay grounded. Sometimes you'll meet a young person and when you look into their eyes it's as if they know everything about you - they are often referred to as an 'old soul' - and that's the Page of Cups for you. She's  passionate and intuitive and also sentimental due to her 'watery' nature. She'll probably cry at sad films and be incredibly moved by art and poetry. 

The Page of Swords is curious, intelligent and insightful. Unlike the earthy Page of Pentacles this airy Page is also very frank - she can be cutting in her honesty and will you will have to live with her disappointment for a long time as she isn't quick to forgive or forget. In fact, she has such a highly developed sense of what is right and fair that, combined with her integrity and superb communication skills, you will know exactly where you stand with her. However, once she's on your side you can count on unwavering devotion. Being a keen observer and mentally acute, the energetic Page of Swords is likely to come up with plenty of ideas, and might spot opportunities that others miss.

So that's how I think of these cards. Does it resound with your own interpretation? Let me know! 

On Symbols, and Prediction v Fortune-telling

11 April 2017

Throughout history, humans have used symbols and prediction to some degree or other. Without written instruction, early farmers could predict the weather and seasons from signs in nature. These days, our lives are filled with signs and symbols which predict likely outcomes, depending on whether we choose to follow or ignore them.
We are surrounded with symbols in our daily life, and every small icon gets associated with a product, an act, a feeling, a person, etc. [...] Humans instinctively read pictures and symbols; we cannot look at a picture or a symbol without complex associations. Unconscious thoughts and feelings get triggered by a picture or a symbol. Symbols surround us in our daily life; opening our eyes to those signs triggers our intuition and exercises our ability to read them and use these connections and synchronicities to affect and change our daily decision making.  - Rana George, The Essential Lenormand
We rely on signs every time we drive - they tell us the safe upper speed limit, warn us of hazards ahead, and when we should give way to other drivers. You don't need to be a "fortune-teller" to know that driving at 90 mph on a narrow winding road with a speed limit of 30, close to the cliff-edge, is highly likely to end in disaster. We can predict the likely outcome of that scenario without needing special skill. It's the same with our health - eating too much cake and never exercising has a fairly predictable series of outcomes ranging from tight jeans to diabetes. We all know this. Whether or not we choose to act on it is another matter.

There are other symbols that require more specialist knowledge. I'm a knitter, and we use our own symbolic language to determine the outcome of a complicated project. Visual symbols on knitting charts are the way that one knitter (a designer) communicates with another (who is following the pattern/chart) in order to predict the outcome of that item. If you follow the chart, without deviation through choice or error, you know exactly how your finished piece will turn out. It is predictable to these knitters but someone else without knowledge of the symbols or the rules would not understand it at all. In the same way that I'm oblivious when looking at rows of computer code. 

Tarot is much like knitting (or coding). The symbols are all there, but if you don't understand them, they won't mean anything to you. Depending on the deck, you might be able to take a guess - for example The Wild Unknown imagery is quite visceral and you can get a feel for individual cards based on the art - but generally speaking, you need to have a certain level of knowledge before it starts to make sense. I seem to have reached the point of 'conscious incompetence' - the more I learn, the more I realise there is to learn.

But here's the good news, even with very little knowledge, it's possible to read the symbols in a way that is meaningful and helpful in day-to-day life. For me, tarot (and oracle) cards are not about 'fortune telling' but helping me to discern likely possible outcomes, if different choices are made. I suppose this is a kind of prediction.

When journaling about my daily draws,  I ask myself various questions which help to make sense of a particular situation in light of the card for that day. The answers help to 'predict' the likely outcomes of whichever choices I might make.
Card from the Dreaming Way Tarot, as posted on Instagram
In the above sample (card and questions taken from my Instagram account), it's clear that once we've identified the area(s) we are avoiding or would like to run away from, it's not a huge leap to think about the possible outcomes. What might be likely to happen if you continue to procrastinate or ignore the issue? If it's eating too much cake and not exercising, as in the earlier scenario, then the possible outcomes are indeed easy to predict. The same goes for ignoring problems in your relationships, being in the wrong job, overspending,  or any other area that's troubling you.

The way I see it, 'fortune-telling' presumes that things are set in stone, that you are a passive observer in your own life and you can't change things. Prediction, on the other hand, is about looking at the way things are going, seeing the choices that you have available to you, and then deciding which is going to lead you in the direction you want to go. I'm all for that!
You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of. - Jim Rohn

The Horses, and their Knights

9 April 2017

The Knights of the Dreaming Way Tarot are 'active, dynamic, and fearless' according to the accompanying little white book. I've also heard Knights being generically described as the 'frat boys' of the tarot. So how can a learner distinguish between these four young men, and learn to identify with their individual characteristics? 

After spending some time studying this deck, I've come to believe that it's their horses, and the way they handle them, which give us the biggest clues about the Knights' personalities. As with the other posts in this series (about the Kings and the Queens), these are my own opinions and may not align with 'text book' interpretations of these cards. 

Look at the Knight of Pentacles' horse. It's a big and solid, a dependable workhorse. If we could see his hooves, they might well identify him as a Shire horse. Like his strong and practical steed, this Knight is a quiet and reliable, a diligent and determined person (read 'stubborn') who gets the job done in his own way - slow and steady. If you're looking for stability and practicality, this is the young man for you. He'll happily plod along in a job many others would find boring and dull, and will bring home a regular pay check, but he'd rather put it in the bank than use it for anything spontaneous or fun. 

In contrast, the Knight of Wands is all about movement and action. His horse is moving quickly through the frame of the card so you can't see it's head or hind. The rider isn't even looking where he's going. He's uber-confident, energetic and hardworking - probably the star of the football team, popular with the other boys as well as the girls. While he wouldn't make such good husband material, this Knight is the one you'd have fun dating - he'd sweep you off your feet with his charm and passion but the romance might not last long with this one - he isn't the type of person to stick around for long. 

The Knight of Cups is another type altogether - just look at his beautiful white horse, it could be straight out of a fairy tale. He is (Prince) charming indeed - romantic, kind, and in touch with his emotions. If anything, you might find him a bit too emo(tional). I think of him as the 'first love' kind of guy - you'd spend glorious teenage hours in each other's arms, thinking about the future, what you'd name your children and the ideal world you'll create together for them. Then, while you're both at separate colleges, you'd grow apart. Eventually, when you could no longer live up to his unrealistic ideals of love and commitment, you'd break his heart, at which point he'd turn to writing poetry or sad songs. You'd be forever haunted by the look of betrayal in his eyes when you said your goodbyes. 

The Knight of Swords couldn't be more different. See the way his horse is rearing? His head being yanked back by the bit between his teeth and the Knight couldn't care less about hurting him. He's charging ahead with his sharp sword drawn, all action and swift movement. He doesn't care if his horse tramples anyone he might come across in his haste, his single-minded focus is on his mission - he's a real go-getter! Like his mother the Queen, this Knight is opinionated, arrogant, and knows it all. He might seem attractive at first, but he's not interested in the opinions of others, and lacks empathy or compassion. He's the bully who is cruel because of his own background, but is hard to sympathise with because he's just not very nice.

How do you see these Knights? Feel free to comment and let me know! 

The Easiest Way to Learn the Tarot Ever

7 April 2017

With a title like that, I couldn't resist ordering a second-hand (but very good condition) copy of the acclaimed book by Dusty White (from Amazon). It arrived a few days ago, and although I'd planned to keep it for our imminent holiday, I couldn't wait to dive in. The book promises to get you immediately practicing unique, easy and fun exercises. So far, it delivers.

The Page of Pentacles encourages us to learn, explore and take action to reach our potential. Card from Dreaming Way Tarot.

Unlike most other books aimed at beginners, this doesn't provide a formal list of "Tarot card meanings". Instead it encourages you to come up with your own intuitive meanings for the cards, and by the second exercise will have you looking at them in relation to one another. For me, this is one of the trickiest things to learn to do - it's easy to work out what one card might mean, but when it has to interact with another, things get more complicated. 

The book is split into six sections, the first being a brief introduction to the methods used throughout as well as some general guidance for beginners. The rest has a workbook layout with explanatory text, exercises, space to record your findings and worked examples. I'm working through it alone, and imagine it would also be a fun thing to do with a friend (or group) using the same book. Online support is available at, but I haven't ventured there yet. 

With the first 30 days mapped out (you are advised to read through the entire book at least once during this period, plus spend time practicing and bonding with your cards) the exercises are to be worked through in order. They are designed to incrementally build skills and confidence during that time and provide visual charts to record daily achievements and how you feel you're progressing - from "You want me to do what?" to "I sooo got this!"

Deck: Radiant Rider-Waite (in a tin)

It's highly recommended that a Rider-Waite deck, or one that follows them faithfully, is used for the exercises, and I suppose that's my only gripe. I don't feel very connected to the traditional art - I find the images cold and uninspiring. With other decks, even if I don't know the meanings of the cards I turn over, I can immediately get a feel for the spread. I don't with these. Maybe that's a good thing for the purposes of the course - using the Radiant Rider-Waite as my study deck might help me to connect with it. 

After the initial card exercises (which I'm working through), there is a whole section of different Spreads, and then in-depth sections on each of the suits and finally the Majors. Interestingly, it's necessary to work with only the Minor Arcana for the first run-through of the initial exercises. When you're happy with them, the Majors are added back in - the premise is that they are easier to work with once you have understood the Minors. 

I've only been working with the exercises for a few days, but am really enjoying the book so far and unlike the others I'm learning from, I love that this is so hands-on. I read a lot and enjoy it, but handling the cards and learning directly from them certainly feels like an effective method. I'll let you know how it goes.

All the Queens

4 April 2017

Following on from my recent contemplation of the Kings, I've been hanging out with the Queens. These particular women are from the Dreaming Way Tarot which I'm enjoying tremendously, the more I get to know it. I will admit to having thoughts of knitting up some of the garments, also the Three of Pentacles really looks like Helen Mirren, but I digress. As previously, this post was written to serve as my own interpretation of these cards and may not match 'by the book' references.
As a group, tarot Queens typically embody what have been traditionally considered 'feminine' nurturing qualities, they are the carers and 'mothers' of the deck. As all mothers know, this doesn't mean they are always soft. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind, but their focus is, generally, on others. Looking at their expressions, I'm not sure this is necessarily a good thing - frankly, they all look like they could do with a good night out - where's the Three of Cups when you need it?

I don't actually think the Queen of Pentacles would go out, if invited. She is the epitome of selfless mother-love and would stay home to watch her baby sleep, instead. Pentacles represents the earth element and she is the embodiment of an 'Earth Mother'. Putting her children's needs above her own, she's kind, practical and loving. The truth is that she's so in touch with everyone else's needs, her own are often neglected. In fact, she runs the risk of losing herself and her own sense of identity. This woman's children adore her, and as they grow, they'll appreciate just how much she did for them, and how much love she gave them. I just hope she'll have something of- and for- herself when her family have grown and left the (very comfortable and cosy) family home.

The Queen of Wands is actually much more warm and sunny than she looks here - the clues are the radiant sunflowers and the sprouting wand, rather than her face. This image shows her determined side, she's one of those competitive mums who trains for the sack-race in advance of sports day, and whose kids always have their homework in early. She's assertive when she needs to be, and heaven help anyone who gets in her way when she's on a mission. Her informal posture - including the hitched up skirt - makes me think that when she takes off her crown she really knows how to party. She'll be the first on the dance floor and the last one to go home. She's great fun - when she's not in 'competitive mama' mode - and has the ability to make you laugh until your stomach aches and there's mascara running down your face. However, when you're being an idiot, she'll call you on it. For this reason she's a great confidante, and she'll be gentle as she puts you straight on a few things. You'll enjoy your relationship with the Queen of Wands.... just don't get on the wrong side of her!

Do you see the contented smile on the face of the Queen of Cups' daughter? That's because she has a calm, supportive and compassionate mother who is able to anticipate her needs and can make everything feel so much better. The Queen of Cups is kind and gentle - whether you call it empathy, psychic ability or being deeply intuitive, she just understands people and what makes them tick. Although she feels her emotions deeply and in her own way, she will rarely let them show - she just doesn't do that. I have a friend who is much like this Queen and I describe her as an onion - she has many layers and about once a decade you might get to see beneath one of them, but there aren't enough decades in a lifetime to ever see beneath them all. It doesn't matter though, what you see is more than enough to make you feel nurtured and understood.

The Queen of Swords sits side-on, with her sword held firmly to attention in front of her. As a 'mother-figure' that probably tells you everything you need to know. There is little-to-no-chance of sitting on her lap for a cuddle, and even if you did the sharp bones of her legs and her corset would make it really uncomfortable. She doesn't ever need a cuddle anyway, in fact she doesn't need anything from anyone. She's self-sufficient and proud of it. She loves nothing better than being in control and even if she doesn't have any authority over you, she'll try to control you regardless - one way or another. She is loyal (to her cronies), and courageous (which she'll tell you herself, and often). She's also eloquent, intelligent and has a wit as sharp as the sword in her lap. But that's as far as the compliments about the Queen of Swords can go. Her tongue is just as sharp, and she's quick to lash out with it, not caring who she hurts with her harsh criticisms and the opinions she sees as hard facts. At the start of the post, I talked about mothers sometimes needing to be cruel to be kind, and that's probably how this Queen justifies her own behaviour. Me, I just think she's cruel.

I'm not like her, so don't worry about expressing your own opinion of these Queens in the comments. Or feel free to say hello on Instagram - I'd love to hear your feedback. 

The 5 ‘C’s (of Working with a Daily Card)

3 April 2017

So far, the most fundamental part of my relationship with tarot/oracle cards is working with a 'card of the day'. As I throw myself into the study of tarot (and oracle) cards in general, and get to know specific decks, it's an easy, fun and insightful method of practice. From reading other blogs, watching youtube videos and my regular Instagram 'habit',  it's clear that people have various different ways of using a daily card. This is my current method, which I think of as The 5 'C's.

Although it looks like a laborious process when listed in steps, it only takes a few minutes at different points throughout the day and is a good way to use small pockets of time - for example when I'm waiting around for the kids, or boiling the kettle! 

Eight of Swords from the Sun and Moon tarot, as posted on Instagram

1. Choice - I usually choose a card before I get out of bed in the morning and, unless I'm trying to get to know a particular deck, I like to mix it up throughout the week. I typically choose a card at random from a freshly shuffled deck, with the intention of gaining insight for the day ahead. Occasionally, I will connect with a card by looking at the images - if something really catches my eye, I go with that. 

2. Connection - What was my gut reaction when I turned the card over - was I happy/indifferent/gutted to see it? Noticing the imagery, is there anything that stands out? Is there something that immediately seems to relate to the day ahead or a current situation? How does the card make me feel overall? If there are people on the card, who do I think they represent? Is there anything notable about the card - eg has it been popping up regularly in readings? In answer to these questions, I will often jot some very rough notes or keywords into a notebook. 

3. Carry the card  - Carrying the actual card, or putting it in a place where it can be seen regularly would be great, but I don't like separating individual cards in case they get lost or damaged, and that's quite likely in my house where there are sticky fingers and a girl with a penchant for pretty things. So, to keep the card in mind throughout the day, I take a photo with my phone and save it as the background on the lock screen. My phone is always with me and the card is visible every time I use it which helps to keep it in mind throughout the day.

4. Contemplate - I find it most useful to devise a few questions or pointers to help me understand the relevance of the card and how it relates to me/my situation. At this point, I'll often post the card and the question/prompt to my Instagram account - it's good practice for summarising the key points and using the card as a starting point for personal inquiry and development. If the card and prompt are useful to someone who sees it too, then I'll be very happy. 

Here and Now from Wisdom of the Oracle, as posted on Instagram

5. Check-in (& Journal) - At the end of the day I'll look back over any original scribblings, my thoughts from the day and at this point will check any reference books for additional meanings and things I missed. I'll also ask myself whether I discovered anything new, or acknowledged something I've been avoiding. Did anything else come up that related to the theme? Did the card lead to anything else of note? These are all added to my personal journal so I can refer back to them later. It's really interesting to look back over the earlier entries, and definitely something I plan to continue.

As a result of this daily activity, I'm not only starting to feel more confident with the card meanings, but I'm also starting to approach the cards more intuitively. At the start I was reaching for 'the book' to check meanings, but I'm already much more relaxed about it. 

Does this look like your method of working with a daily card? Do you have any further suggestions for me? If so, leave a comment. 

Oracle Card for April 2017

2 April 2017

When the 2017 Shining Year workbook instructed me to "Give Yourself an Oracle Reading for the Year", I didn't even know what an oracle was. I suppose you could say that this was the beginning of my tarot journey because a few weeks later (mid-January) I used Wisdom of the Oracle to pull cards for the year and my fascination with oracle cards and tarot began. 

April's card was 'Building Blocks' and I've been revisiting it as the month begins.

The image depicts a woman standing on the top of a multi-story structure. From this, I can't quite decide whether it's a work in progress or the shell of a building - although on first impressions the title might seem to suggest the former. To me it seems ambiguous, like the woman herself. I feel she has a holographic quality as if she isn't quite present in full physical form. 

Deck: Wisdom of the Oracle by Colette Baron-Reid, illustrated by Jena DellaGrottaglia

From her vantage point on top of the structure, she is facing left which, in the tarot court cards at least, also suggests she may not be a reference to the physical realm:
Noting the direction a court character faces.... is indispensable in helping a seeker gain insight into his or her subconscious proclivities... left indicating the inner realm of intuition, the unconscious mind and the astral body, and right indicating the external realm of rational thought, the consciousness, and the physical body. - Benebell Wen, Holistic Tarot p. 275
Left-facing is also related to feminine yin energy, emotion, the unorthodox, and the occult.

There are coloured blocks in the air and falling onto the same structure as the woman. Some are teetering close to the edge. They don't especially look like they are preparing to build anything. So what does this card mean?

In the accompanying book, Colette Baron-Reid uses the keywords 'strong foundations; a beautiful work in progress'. From the image it seems it's the woman (rather than the building or blocks) that is the 'beautiful' WIP. The book goes on to explain that the foundations are "values, ethics, moral, and core beliefs".

This is a time to focus attention on these areas and whether they are still true for you, whether they will stand the test of time. It's an interesting prompt and something I've already been pondering. In the last few months of personal inquiry I've begun to rethink some of my long-standing beliefs - about myself and beyond. For example, listening to my intuition has made me reconsider some of my ideas about consciousness. It's rekindled some of the things that I first encountered reading Eckhart Tolle's work almost a decade ago, before life got in the way and I went back to (unconscious) sleep.

Some of the things I have been attached to are no longer important - I can see that they were valued out of ego (fear) and do not necessarily serve me. My views and attention are shifting. The book goes on to say: "You are making changes that will affect everything in a positive way." At the moment it certainly feels this way.

I'll be checking in with this card throughout the month to see what else it brings up. Do you pull a card or cards for the month? What's your focus for April? 

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