Saturday, December 31, 2011


Many people mark the transition from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day with different celebrational customs.  For many Americans, singing “Auld Lang Syne” and watching the Big Apple Ball drop are traditions that evoke nostalgia and sentiment, but in different regions of the country, and of the old world, other customs aim at inviting New Year’s luck.  So, some Irish people leave a silver coin on the windowsill, bringing it in at the stroke of midnight, with the wish that the household never lack for money.  Many other customs center on lucky foods, such as eating cabbage on New Year’s Eve or Day because the green symbolizes wealth.

When I spent New Year’s with friends from Texas, we dined on black-eyed peas with bacon, because black-eyed peas is the traditional New Years dish for luck in the South, (the peas symbolizing coinage), and many add bacon, (as pigs have long denoted prosperity, plus we can think of the modern term, “bringing home the bacon”).  Reflecting on this, it occurs to me that as a new musical tradition one could play a recording of the Black-Eyed Peas’ hit song, “I Gotta Feeling.”  With its catchy line, “I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night,” this is an auspicious “spell song.”  While many/most of the songs we listen to nowadays are blues or ballads with sad tales to tell, when we look at the roots of song—in the ethnopoetics of shamanic societies--so many of their songs were simply repeated lines, intended to produce magic results, such as love, protection, success in hunting, healing, and general well being.

Someone aught to compile a list of songs that generate luck, because it would be neat if some popular performers could put together some albums of music for effecting magic.  The Black-Eyed Peas would be ideal for the job.  They could even invite Kevin Bacon to sing with them, so they could entitle the album, “Black-Eyed Peas and Bacon.”  Bacon is actually musical (performing with his brother Michael as part of “The Bacon Brothers”), and he did appear in’s “It’s A New Day” video.

Incidentally, members of the Black Eyed Peas will be performing at different New Years’ events tonight, but because the individuals will be at different venues, it’s not as auspicious as if they performed as a group.  However, if they did all work together on New Years, they could scatter black eyed peas over the crowds the way Shinto priests and Japanese celebrities scatter soy beans over the crowds on Setsubun, (the Spring Festival linked to the lunar New Year), to drive off the devils, [i.e. to disjar negative energies—I believe that I have elsewhere written about how such customs utilize principles of energy medicine in realigning the energy body, much like pressing the “refresh” button on your browser].  Japanese festival-goers scramble to catch these beans, and carry them home for luck.  This is similar to the New Orleans custom of carrying a fava bean from the St. Joseph’s Day altar in your coin purse to ensure that you will always have money, or the wider southern custom of carrying a black eyed pea, for the same reason.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thoughts on “The Wheel” and “The Fool”

I always have a selection of books on hand for night-time reading, so one of the books I’m currently working my way through is “The History of Court Fools” by Dr. Doran (no first name given).  It was published in 1966, but the Victorian writing style makes me suspect it’s a reprint.  Naturally, I am always looking out for tarot symbolism.  On page 91, the author cites an old saying that “if a man would rise in the world, it were better for him to let go a descending wheel, and to hang to one going up-hill.”  This is good advice when The Wheel of Fortune appears in your readings, but it requires discernment, because you need to be attentive to what is going on in your world in order to identify all of the ascending and descending wheels, and to be frank with yourself as to which wheel you are riding.  It is proactive advice, reminding us that we don’t need to be bound to one particular wheel.

The author brings up the court fool’s ability to speak frankly—it’s really true, the traditional jesters were given that privilege.  They also had free access to the king or lord at any time of day—a privilege accorded to none of the other ministers.  There are many cases where the Fool used his [or her] privilege to dissuade a ruler of some disastrous course of action, sometimes speaking out against social injustices.  (This kind of brings to mind the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and the old Quaker injunction, “Speak truth to Power.”)  Different writers have commented on how The Fool in the tarot, as an unnumbered card, has the ability to barge into the card sequence or reading anywhere he likes.  So, when the Fool appears in your reading, you might think about how he may be interrupting the flow of the reading with a warning.  Also, in the interest of bold speech, are you being frank with yourself or others?  Is this a situation where there is the proverbial 500-pound gorilla in the room that no one is willing to talk about?

Something that surprised me in reading this book is that the practice of keeping a jester was very extensive, almost universal, rather than some quaint, obscure custom practiced only by a few.  The custom extends back into ancient times, and not just monarchs, but the lesser nobility and even church officials kept fools.  This custom was also practiced in the Orient, and in the New World, where, for example, the Aztec ruler Montezuma also had jesters.  In order to generate a constant stream of witticisms, many fools were very learned, being fluent in different and ancient languages, and educated in the classics as well as other fields of learning.  They also had to be good psychologists, attentive and intuitive enough to read their audiences.  Jesters were generally very well paid, and many were rewarded with lands and titles.

Another thing that surprised me is that women could serve as fools, and some of them were quite the celebrities.  There are some tarot decks which feature female fools, though I can’t, offhand, recall which.  Although I think it’s a good thing to tweak tarot symbolism in order to tease out new insights, I had found female Fool cards to be a little discordant with what I previously knew of historical tradition.  However, now that I have read about lady jesters, I have revised my opinion.  One of the earlier-known female fools officiated in the household of the Roman philosopher Seneca.  Other notables were Artaude du Puy (in the service of Charles I and Jeanne of France, circa 1373), Madame d’Or (called a moult gracieuse folle by St. Remy in 1429), a woman called La Jardiniere as well as a certain Jacquette both served Catherine de Medicis, the dwarf Mathurine entertained the court of the French king Henry IV, and a Spanish folle named Capiton traveled with the Hapsburg Don Juan of Austria.  The last female fool on record was Kathrin Lise, who served the Duchess of Sachsen-Weissenfels-Dahme as late as 1720.  For anyone aspiring to write a historical fiction novella [or nonfiction, too], a story based on a lady jester would offer the reading public some novelty.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Last Workshop for 2011:

Hey folks, for those who are interested in coming out to my workshops, I will be at the Triple Goddess from 1 to 3 this Sunday for the last workshop of the year.  Tapping into the Samhain season’s still-high-flying energies, we will explore Faery World encounters with the “Fairy Ring” and “Faeries” oracle decks.  This includes finding ways that faery energies may be active or activated in our lives, as well as some amuletic uses of the Faeries cards.  As described in the previous post, another of our themes will be “things that scare you,” using the Halloween Tarot.  Everyone will also get a chance to be the focus of the “Holographic Card Projection” technique, which is where we direct multiple images of a given card (that each individual selects for him or herself), to help each individual achieve a more holistic manifestation of its qualities in his or her life.  In the interest of toggling our amygdalae to access synchronicities and altered states of consciousness through T.D. Lingo’s “frontal lobes supercharge,” we will also bring back the dark chocolate induction.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Scary Tarot Treats for the Halloween Season

Normally, after my first-Sunday-of-the-month workshops, I like to discuss some of the ideas and tarot symbols we engaged.  Unfortunately, I had to turn my attention to completing another project, and now we’re more than half way through the month, so I don’t remember much.  However, I am looking forward to the November 6th session.  Even though we’ll be 6 days away from the 31st of October, the high energies of Halloween will still be crackling in the atmosphere.  We can stretch those energies, because astrological Halloween isn’t until November 8th, (15 degrees Scorpio).

A big part of the American Halloween is its emphasis on the spooky stuff, related to our childhood—and atavistic human—delight in experiencing the shivers, (even if some of the decorations and other props can get a bit hokey).  Although Neopagans celebrate Samhain as the Celtic New Year, and therefore also a time for celebrating the cycles of life and meditating upon the past, the future, and our connection to the Ancestor World, the Faery World, and the World of Nature, we can’t ignore the tricks and treats and fun and games that make up the greater festivities of our American Halloween.  So, in honor of this aspect of the Halloween season, I’m thinking about having “Things that Scare You,” as one of our themes.  When we can “tame” our fears, (the way Mexicans do by celebrating the Dia de los Muertos with sugar skulls and other amusements that treat death playfully), we assert power over them.

I’ve been wanting to do something special with the colorful, whimsical “The Halloween Tarot” by Kipling West and Karin Lee, so here is an exercise that we may try on the 6th, in the vein of “Things that Scare You.”  Shuffle the Halloween deck (or any deck) while posing a request like, “Please show me five things that scare me.”  Then, place your deck face up, (so you are looking at the pictures), and go through it until you find one of each: a Pumpkins card (Pentacles), Imps (Wands), Bats (Swords), Ghosts (Cups), and a Major Arcana card.  It doesn’t matter what order you find them in, just pull out the first of each type that you find.

To interpret these cards then, we are looking at them in terms of how the things these cards represent—both in terms of their traditional tarot associations and in terms of the unique imagery of the Halloween deck—may in some way denote some issue that is “scary” for you.  This could be some area of avoidance or resistance, if nothing else.  In this context, even cards that people normally regard and respond to as highly positive are to be scrutinized for what kind of anxieties they may arouse.  For example, “The Sun” card could denote a fear of “shining,” of showing off your talents or stepping into some public position, while the Ten of Cups/Ghosts, the happy family card, could denote some discomfort with family commitment, and the claims that “family ghosts” may have on you.  If you happen to draw a card that would normally be your significator, it could indicate a fear of “being yourself.” 

To apply the extra layer of the Halloween Tarot symbolism, you could view the Ghosts as representing things that haunt you emotionally, the Imps as things that get in your face or try to trip you up, and the Bats as the anxieties and obsessing over problems that are flitting around in your brain.  The pumpkins are a little harder to interpret in terms of a scare factor, because, they’re so colorful and cheerful.  Perhaps in the Pumpkins’/Pentacles’ material world associations, we can see them as symbols of the futility of clinging and craving in this ephemeral mortal life.  Jack-o-lanterns give off light for a few festive evenings at a time of year when the nights are getting longer and darker, but then they’re thrown on the trash heap to rot.  (This echoes the “gardens of Adonis” of ancient times, and gets into the Buddhist idea of “dukkha” = suffering / unsatisfactoriness, that all existence is change and separation.)  However, I don’t want to close this exercise on a downer note, because it is also in creating those little festive touches that we get to exercise some creativity, and also to exercise some caring, because we thereby offer a little cheer to our fellow beings.

By the way, the little manual that comes in the box with the Halloween Tarot cards is well written up by Karin Lee.  Though the lwb’s (little white booklets) that accompany tarot cards are necessarily brief, this one is pithy in its card interpretations and philosophical content.

Although the above exercise was created with the Halloween Tarot in mind, it will probably work well enough with other types of decks.  There are also some gothic and vampire decks out there, but I haven’t gotten around to obtaining any of these.  I imagine that the tone of the readings would certainly be darker, requiring a more emotionally mature group of querents.

Once you have had some time to contemplate what sort of fears your cards may point to, think about how to take action to mitigate them, and even ways that you can confront those fears as you align yourself with the powerful energy currents of Halloween.  (Refer to some of my past years’ blogposts on the “feng shui of Halloween.”)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Plans for this Sunday, October 2nd

Hi all!  Because I’ve been trying to get out some other projects, I haven’t come up with anything new and special to demonstrate at this Sunday’s workshop.  So, we will start with the Round Robin Tarot—as there really is more to explore with this technique.  Then, I will demonstrate the Spinning Basket Fortune Teller.  Also, for those who are planning to come: if you have any questions on your mind that you would like to put to the tarot and other oracle decks, and you don’t mind bringing them up in this public format, we can do different types of readings to address your questions.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Finding Your Teacher, continued

So, we have been considering how to approach major tarot figures as teachers, based on a reading exercise utilizing the Wizards Tarot, and in the previous post, I cited a reading that got The Hierophant as master teacher.  (The other flanking cards in this reading were the Four of Pentacles and The Magician, and the Hidden Teacher card was The Wheel of Fortune—I will get around to these in a bit.)

To continue with the example, in the Wizards Tarot, the Hierophant is represented as the centaur Chiron as master teacher, and he functions as professor of mythology in the “Mandrake Academy,” the magical school around which this deck is structured.  Because Corinne Kenner designed this deck with Golden Dawn correspondences in mind, the Hierophant is conceptually paired with Taurus.  I believe the person who got this as her teacher card is a Taurus, but I wasn’t focused in on the astrological aspects when this card was drawn, and so failed to mention that.  Otherwise, this would have been one of those “Aché!” moments.  (As mentioned in my posts of last September, Puerto Rican practitioners of Espiritismo, Santeria, and brujeria bang on tables, ring bells, and shout “Aché!” whenever an interesting synchronicity manifests, as a way of thanking the Spirit World for the confirmaciones.  (I think that the Aché may come from the Yoruba Ashé, which is an expression of spiritual force.)

If you happen to get a teacher card which corresponds to one of your special signs or planets, (such as your sun sign, moon sign, ascendant, and their planetary rulers), that says something about a teacher who can also help you learn to be yourself, by exemplifying traits that you may have suppressed in the process of trying to accommodate the rest of the world.  If you can identify people who exemplify the qualities of your planet or sign, notice what sort of knowledge they have to share, as well as their teaching styles.

Also, if you are into astrology, you could take a look at what’s going on with the planet or sign in question.  In the case of The Hierophant as portrayed in the Wizards Tarot, in addition to seeing if anything interesting is transiting through or aspecting your Taurus house, you could also look at the activities of the planetoid Chiron.  Since the discovery of Chiron, some astrologers have come to see Chiron as ruler or co-ruler of Virgo because of his detail-oriented approach to healing and problem solving, though some argue in favor of Sagittarius, as it is the sign of the Centaur.  Because expansive tarot archetypes like The Hierophant cannot be confined to one planet or sign as delimited by any single imposed system such as the G.D., you might think of what other astrological qualities this card suggests.  For example, we can see that the Hierophant has Jupiter/Sagittarius/9th House qualities in his concern with the cultivation of the Higher Mind, as well as his dedication to transmitting a Grand Vision of cosmic harmony, achieved through religious and philosophical systems and institutions that uphold an idealized social structure.

Getting back to the other cards in the example reading, the Magician was the flanking card to the right, which suggests this person’s learning experience is likely to involve finding practical ways to apply the lessons of the Hierophant, because the Magician is concerned with manifesting change in the material world—especially in ways that actively and consciously engage the elemental qualities of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water.  The left flanking card was the Four of Pentacles, which is the most materially oriented of all the cards in the deck, what with the Pentacles representing the Earth element and the Fours representing solid structures and foundations.  Taken together, all of these cards point to a year of learning experiences in which she gets to work with a variety of materials and see practical results, which also jives with a Taurean concern for the material quality of daily life.

Because these cards add up to Ten, (4 + 5 + 1 = 10), her Hidden Teacher card is The Wheel of Fortune, which, in the Wizards Deck, is personified as the school counselor.  This would suggest that the lessons she gets out of this semester in The School of Life will put her in a position to counsel others, which also suggests that people who have need of the sort of knowledge that she has to share will be attracted into her life, and may especially need help in taking their lives in new directions.  When the student is ready, the teacher comes; when the teacher is ready, the student comes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Finding Your Teacher, continued

I continue to think about the work we were doing with the Wizards Tarot and what the Major Arcana cards in their personas as teachers at a magical academy can teach us about the school of life, so I have been reviewing the cards drawn at the workshop last Sunday. (The special techniques we were applying to these cards are outlined in the previous post). Although I have occasionally touched on how the cards can be viewed as personal teachers with teaching personalities, I have not had a chance to give this concept a great deal of thought, so the group practice sessions are learning experiences for me, too. Seeing how different cards come up for people with different situations provides opportunities to make new discoveries about the cards. Then, when I sit down to work on this blog, the writing process also becomes a process of “writing for discovery.”

One participant got the Hierophant as her master teacher, who, in this deck, is personified as Chiron, and serves as the professor of mythology. In classical lore, Chiron was the centaur who was teacher to Aesculapius, (who, under Chiron’s tutelage, became a physician, and then the god of healing), as well as to Heracles, Achilles, Perseus, Theseus, and a number of other heroes. Indeed, Chiron as the Hierophant is a teacher’s teacher. In the “Mandrake Academy,” Chiron serves as professor of mythology, and we can relate this to the Hierophant’s concern with the transmission of lore and tradition.

If you happen to draw this card, you might want to delve into how the subject of mythology can be relevant to modern life by consulting Jean Shinoda Bolen’s books, “Gods in Everyman” and “Goddesses in Everywoman,” because she explains how the archetypal qualities of different Greek gods and goddesses are active in different areas of our lives. Also, Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book, “Women Who Run with the Wolves” draws on archetypal themes in folk and fairy tales to find meaning in different experiences. These are genuine healing stories, which Estes relates and explains in her wonderfully incantatory style.

The centaur Chiron is sometimes also discussed in line with the archetype of “the wounded healer,” because he was accidentally wounded by Heracles, and, despite all his healing arts, he was not able to cure himself. When I think of a great teaching personality who fits this archetype, I think of Milton H. Erickson, sometimes known as the father of medical hypnosis. Erickson often used story-telling as one of his healing techniques, as do many traditional healers. (In fact, one of my ongoing sideline research projects involves cross referencing the works and techniques of Erickson with those of shamanic and other folk-magic healers from societies throughout the world.) Erickson himself was crippled and in terrible pain from polio and post-polio syndrome, so he had to use all kinds of hypnotic techniques on himself, just to be able to function. Some of the books I have read on this subject include “Uncommon Therapy: The Psychiatric Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D.” by Jay Haley, “My Voice Will Go with You: The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson,” as edited by Sidney Rosen, and “Milton H. Erickson, M.D.: An American Healer,” by Bradford Keeney and Betty Alice Erickson. Many people—not just Erickson’s patients, but his friends, students, and even chance acquaintances—have stories of how Erickson would casually tell them some little anecdote or adage, or make some other passing comment, and it was just what their Unconscious minds needed to hear, because their attitudes would be forever altered (reframed), or in some cases, they were able to shed bad habits on the spot. Unfortunately, Erickson did not believe in psychism or supernatural anything, despite the fact it seems no one has been able to reproduce his successes.

In one of Erickson’s notable cases, he created a character known as “The February Man” to help recast an individual’s memories and reactions to negative experiences; this was as part of a more comprehensive program of therapy to help a patient whose anxieties about parenthood were stemming from a cold and loveless childhood. Erickson hypnotically regressed this woman to different ages of childhood, and introduced himself into her memories as a (fictitious) family friend, who showed up at different times over the years and came to be known as the February Man. In this persona, Erickson sort of walked her through different memories and life events, while helping her to reframe them in a new and more positive light, and derive insights that would enable her to respond more positively to new situations.

I have often thought about how, through creative visualization, one could introduce different tarot figures with the ability to offer different types of guidance into one’s fantasies, and as a way of reframing one’s memories. (In line with this, the King of Cups would make a particularly good February Man.) You could do this using any tarot deck for images to concentrate upon, though the Wizards Tarot lends itself exceptionally well, because of the engaging portrayal of some of these different “professors.” Tarot artists do differ a lot in this respect, as there are some decks where the characters look out of the picture space to meet your gaze, and/or also project distinct personalities. In other decks, the human figures may seem preoccupied and distant. Of course, the portrayals can also differ within any given deck.

OK, now that I’ve written this, I find it necessary to take another look at my Wizards deck--that’s part of that “writing for discovery,” I discover things that come out of the writing as I go along. So, I find that most of the teachers don’t meet the viewer’s gaze, as they are focused on their different subjects of study. (Perhaps it’s an indication of my level of engagement that I imagined it to be otherwise.) All the same, with the idea of a tarot figure as a personal teacher, you can use your imagination as to how that teacher could take you in hand as his or her student. In the case of the Hierophant, in his historical role as the instructor of initiates in the Eleusinian mysteries, he explained and revealed what they needed to know through “things said, things done, and things shown.” So, when imaginatively engaging with tarot figures, whether the Hierophant or any other, think about what teachings they might convey to you through “things said, things done, and things shown.”

To be continued … I will pick up on more of this reading in the next post.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Finding Your Teacher

Part of the fun of working with tarot theme decks that use unconventional imagery is the possibility of engaging those decks in ways that might not work so well with any other tarot deck. So, at this past Sunday’s informal, drop-in workshop, we were working with the Wizards Tarot, which is patterned after a magical academy, to see how we can relate different teaching personalities and learning situations to the magic of living.

To try out one of the exercises we experimented with:

Shuffle the cards while posing the question, “Please show me how to get the most out of this semester’s learning experience in the school of life,” or, more simply, you can recite the old Taoist adage, “When the student is ready, the teacher comes.” When you feel you have shuffled enough, set the deck of cards face up before you and go through it until you come to the first Major Arcana card, which will represent a member of the Mandrake Academy’s teaching staff. This represents a major teaching influence that you can call upon and gain from, and may denote a person or experiential situation. If a person, he or she may be someone you already know, or who is soon to enter your life to bring a valuable lesson. Of course, you can take a proactive approach and seek out persons with strong teaching personalities and knowledge to share.

Also, take note of whichever cards come before and after your teacher card, and treat them as flanking cards in a three-card spread. If your teacher happens to be the first card, treat the card on the bottom of the deck as the one which goes before it. The flanking cards are likely to be Minor Arcana cards featuring scenes of Academy students, and will provide clues as to areas of life significant to your learning experience, or ideas on how to actualize that experience. Sometimes the card on the right may also be a Major Arcana/teacher card, which suggests team teaching, or one teaching influence affecting another.

Because each of the Major Arcana card teachers serve as a professor of some magical subject of study, consider how delving into that subject (or approaching that subject in some new way if it is already something you have been studying), might help you find new meaning in your experiences, (including in relation to the archetypal experiences this card represents in more conventional tarot symbolism). Also, look at material images in the flanking cares to consider whether they represent certain “school supplies” or “learning materials” to utilize. The flanking cards’ elemental associations also say something about the nature of your learning experience: Swords emphasize intellectual energies, Wands creative ideas, Pentacles are for practical hands-on learning, and Cups show the affect on your inner life.

After looking over your three-card spread, you can now turn your attention to your “Hidden Teacher” card. There is a hidden teacher in every learning experience, and that is the teacher that you become by virtue of being able to pass on what you gained out of that experience. In fact, in learning and, in turn, teaching, you become part of a “lineage.” To discover the teaching personality that you are likely to express as a result of this semester in the Magical Academy, add the numbers of the three cards in your reading, and then (if necessary) use magical numerology to reduce that number to a number between one and twenty-one, which will correspond to another Major Arcana card and professor in the Mandrake Academy.

Note that you could also apply these techniques to other tarot decks, and then consider how you would perceive the Major Arcana cards as teachers, and the Minors as learning situations.

With the next post, I will elaborate on some of the tarot teaching personalities.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I’m looking forward to this Sunday, September 4th, when I will be back at the Triple Goddess. I will show up even though it’s the Labor Day weekend, because some people find that a convenient time to stop by. Having recently introduced the Round Robin Tarot technique, I’d like to start out with that again, because it would be good to get some more practice with this—especially with looking for connecting themes and images among the different cards that are drawn for each individual. (See the previous post for a description of the round robin technique.) Even if you are a regular visitor, there’s always something new to get out of it, as there is always a different mix of participants and card decks being used. I’m planning to use the Osho Zen Tarot deck, which uses some strikingly different imagery. (This deck, which is published by the Osho Zen Institute in Switzerland, is illustrated by Deva Padma, and edited by Sarito Carol Neiman.)

Then, because it’s back-to-school for a lot of young people and others, this is a good time to try out “The Wizards Tarot” (by Corrine Kenner and John J. Blumen), which is set up using the theme of a school for aspiring magicians—The Mandrake Academy—where the teachers of the different magical arts are portrayed in the Major Arcana cards, while the Minor Arcana represent four different groups of students, much like the different student households in Harry Potter. Normally, I tend to avoid anything which seems like an obvious imitation of anything else, so I had misgivings about a card deck that appears to be modeled after Harry Potter. However, because the artwork is so splendid, and the whole idea of belonging to a magical academy is such an intriguing concept to get into and work inside of, I believe there is great potential for exploring and trying new things with this deck. By the way, a group of my old friends had a shared sense of having belonged to a special academy in a past lifetime, though the memories were different depending on the person’s orientation—for some it was more of a military institution, for some the emphasis was on the arts, for others magic, etc. It all taps into certain archetypes of a grand educational institution and experience, which I believe also contributes to the popularity of Harry Potter.

I have long maintained that we can experience the different tarot cards as teaching personalities, each with its own teaching style, so this is an opportunity to better get to know the cards as mentors. One little quibble I have with the minor cards in the Wizard’s deck, is, although they do represent the students, shown in their school uniforms and everything, they otherwise reproduce the standard Rider-Waite-Smith imagery, but I would like to see how different Minor Arcana situations could be rendered as learning challenges or “teachable moments.” (Nevertheless, I do appreciate the massive effort it took to bring out this deck, and realize that reworking the Minors would have taken a lot longer.) As a group, perhaps we can contribute some new ideas on interpreting these cards in the context of lessons in the magic of living. Also, the group setting provides an opportunity to enter a collective fantasy.

School time is also a time to “get back to basics,” so if we have some extra time left over, I will trot out some of the more basic tarot techniques that I haven’t demonstrated in a good while.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


The “Round Robin Tarot” technique that we demonstrated at the Triple Goddess earlier this month seems to have worked well, because it kept everyone engaged for a good while. Because it enables everybody to participate and provides a lot to discuss, this would be an ideal technique for any tarot study group.

How this technique works, is, each person brings or chooses a pack of tarot cards or oracle cards, then all sit in a circle, with the intention to focus on one person at a time, each in turn. So, the first person introduces him-or-herself, and then we invoke the interconnectedness of all people and all things to help bring forth information that would be good for that person to know. Next, the participants shuffle their cards, with each person pulling one card. Going around the circle, each person shows his/her card, (and also mentions which deck is being used), while we discuss potential meanings. After that, we shift focus to the next person and go through the same process.

I provide a place in the hand-outs to write down the cards and decks used, so people can afterward reconstruct (or at least try to approximate) the cards that were drawn for them when they get home. Even if you don’t have the same tarot decks, if you can set out some of the corresponding cards from your home deck, you can get the big picture and pull out new meanings by contemplating the cards as a group.

By the way, I did not invent this particular technique. The credit goes to a classmate in a weekend Photoshop seminar, but I unfortunately do not recall her name. (On that occasion, a group of us went out to lunch, and we had just one tarot deck among us, so we passed it around with each person taking a card from the deck as we read for different persons in turn.)

Back to the idea of interconnectedness: because a lot of us have an interest in the spirit world, group participation tarot exercises allow us to appreciate how spirit connections are part of the interconnectedness of all people and all things that we are invoking. I have touched on this in some previous posts, such as how spirit helpers converge in a high-vibration place like the Triple Goddess. So, as a number of psychics say that were are always surrounded by various spirit presences who are interested in our well-being, when you and I or anyone else get together, my spirit helpers are hobnobbing with your spirit helpers and those of everyone else present. (I don’t see it as being like we drag our spirits mentors around with us wherever we go, but rather, they are “present for us” in an extra-dimensional sort of way, and when two or more people come together, more extra-dimensional channels of exchange are open.) Now, it is possible that my spirit friends are aware of some things that it would be useful for you to know, and your spirit friends might have some special knowledge of concern to me. On such occasions, our spirit friends can exchange information with each other, and the Round Robin Tarot also provides them another means of connection.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


This Sunday I will be back at the Triple Goddess for a free and casual session of tarot and other oracle card deck exploration. Anyone is welcome to drop in as I demonstrate different card reading techniques. If you don’t want to participate by reading and having your cards read, it’s OK to just come and watch. My theme for August is “The Magic of Interconnectedness,” which I also relate to “the mysteries of the grain” for the old celebration of Lammas. Activities will include a “Tarot Round Robin” where each person gets a chance to be the focal person while the rest of us draw cards for him or her from different decks. We will also do some exercises involving different oracle decks to look for themes across many decks, probing into Animal World and Ancestor World connections, too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Shining on the Cards

Before I turn to the next theme, I want to say a little more about the Magic of Shining, which is always a sparkling topic, even though we are now closer to Lammas (Aug. 1) than Midsummer (June 21), and we in this latitude of the north are beginning to notice the length of evening light receding.

At the last workshop session, I handed out glass runestones with the rune “Dagaz/Daeg,” i.e. the “Day” rune painted on them in gold, because it relates both to the theme of shining illumination, and runelorists associate it with Midsummer. (This rune figure is like an “x” with the two ends closed with vertical lines, its outline somewhat reminiscent of a stylized axe or a butterfly; some Native Americans used the same figure to denote butterflies in design motifs.) I briefly discussed how you can use that rune magically, when you want to flood some matter or issue with light, (opening things up to full daylight), and also how you can use the runestone itself to amplify positive images in a tarot card layout, (effectively turning it into a tarot spell) by placing the runestone on top of cards where the combined symbolism would be meaningful.

So, to elaborate on the technique: when you get a tarot spread whose good energies you want to stretch, or when you are doing a tarot spell by laying specific cards out to make a visual statement about things you want to manifest in your life, you can enhance your arrangement with things like flowers, crystals, and gemstones, and also with runestones.

On that July 3rd session, one of the questions we put to the cards was, “Where, in my life, can I activate the Magic of Shining?” We did this in combination with mixing the Botticelli and Mantegna decks, because they are embossed with gold and silver, and because the Mantegna features a special assortment of cards not included in the standard tarot. A little while afterward, I tried to reconstruct some of the readings, though because time had passed, my memory may not be a 100 percent. However, yesterday I pulled those cards again to experiment for this blog write-up, and one gentleman’s reading, if I recall correctly, consisted of the Botticelli 3 of Swords, Mantegna’s Grammatica (XXI, Grammar), and the Botticelli High Priestess. Grammatica is in the “Arts and Sciences” class, and the pamphlet that comes with the Mantegna deck explains it as “Memory. Writings remain like an indelible memory.” I would interpret it as meaning that he can extend himself magically be using “shining words,” and I believe he did afterwards mention an interest in composing poetry. Grammar also has to do with the underlying structure of language (as well as other systems), so that is something that can be probed, in line with the High Priestess’s role as one who explores the mysteries below surfaces and appearances. How the first card, the 3 of Swords applies to all that, may suggest creative ways to express human pain and conflict. In the Botticelli 3 of Swords, a beautiful lady holding a lily drags a man, (who is in a prayerful trance), forward by his hair. This may suggest entering a meditative state and then allowing the muse to pull you where she will.

After I lay these cards out, I set the Dagaz runestone on the book the High Priestess is holding. I got an interesting visual effect, because the late afternoon sun was blasting through my glass door at such an angle, and also because the frosted glass runestone is slightly lens-shaped, the intense sunlight caused it to glow, which further illuminated that part of the High Priestess card. This provides a good image for visualization: one can easily imagine the High Priestess opening her book as the light of knowledge shoots forth. Then I set the runestone on the golden vase which the figure of Grammatica carries, considering how one could imagine a consciousness-altering elixir shining through. Then I played around with Loica (XXII, Logic), which another one of our friends got as her focal card, featuring a lady holding a small veiled dragon. The Mantegna brochure’s advice for this card is “think over problems,” so the Dagaz rune placed over the dragon could assist a visualization of the dragon as a messenger whose veil parts as it breathes mentally illuminating light instead of flame. Another lady got Cosmico (XXXIII, labeled as “Vital Functions”) as her key to shining magic, and as this angelic figure holds up the orb of the cosmos, it was easy to set the round, glowing runestone on top of that. (By the way, the Renaissance magician Marsilio Ficino said that an image of the cosmos makes the most powerful talisman.)

I similarly experimented with the other cards that I could recall coming up on the 3rd, and looking over the Mantegna cards in general, the images lend themselves very well to this kind of enhancement. I was somewhat stumped, however, with what to do with card XXXXVII, “Saturno,” which another participant had drawn, because it shows the god Saturn swallowing one of his children. However, it makes for an interesting play on Saturn’s myth if you place the runestone on top of the naked child who is being hefted up to Saturn’s mouth. In the original story, Saturn swallowed his children because he feared one would dethrone him; however, when Jupiter/Zeus was born, the Goddess Rhea, tired of seeing her children devoured, substituted a stone wrapped in swaddling, which Saturn swallowed whole; Rhea then had Zeus reared in secret. So, placing the runestone there can alter the reading, being symbolic of consuming the light of knowledge. This is something you could do if a Saturnine disposition is causing melancholy, or if Saturn in your horoscope is giving you a hardship transit.

Similar principles of decorating card layouts with symbolic objects apply for other runes, magical sigils, gemstones, and small talismans. When I try to think of which tarot cards might be effectively paired with which magical symbols and objects—well I can’t even begin to think about it, it’s too much. The best way to approach this is to let your own readings and personal situations suggest the best enhancements.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


I am in the process of drafting my handouts for next Sunday, which include tarot exercises involving “the magic of shining,” so I am trying to articulate what this means, and will try to explain a little more about it here.

In spiritual and magical systems throughout the world, we often find a high value placed on bright and shining things, as well as shining qualities of character and spirit. So, shiny, sparkling objects or substances (such as gold, silver, crystal, glass, etc.), are used in spells, charms, and sacred medicines to attract the attention and affect the potency of the Spirit World. For example, among the Ki-Kongo, one puts oneself in alignment with the powers of the Spirit World by invoking “the flash of spirit.” (Here I reference Robert Farris Thomson’s “Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy.”) Some of this relates to the qualities of “like attracts like,” because of the shining nature of spirits and the Spirit World. In Asia, certain nature spirits and elevated types of spirits are called “dewas” or “devas,” meaning “the shining ones,” with roots related to our own word “deity.”

In a book I recently read on the Salish People of the Pacific Northwest, [“What I’ve Always Known: Living in Full Awareness of the Earth” by Tom Harmer], people who seek relationship with the elder nature spirits are referred to as the “come-alive people,” and, as a shaman explains, undertake a training which includes “cry[ing] to the powers of this world for soemthin’ to make the world shine for ‘em again” [38]. This terminology is used throughout the book, as when Harmer wonders, “… who are they, the ones who wait for a person, out in the mountains? Who show themselves, give instruction, do things for a person?” the shaman replies, “They’re the ones who make the world shine when we sing their songs!” [30].

Shining qualities are not just attributed to the spirit, but also to the mind, as when the Buddha says, “This mind is luminous,” with the idea that as you purify your thinking through meditation and mindfulness, the light of wisdom shines through.

In mythology, a quality of shining is especially associated with gods and goddesses who are friendly to humans, as in the case of golden Aphrodite, who bestows “golden gifts.” In “Goddesses in Every Woman,” Jean Shinoda Bolen relates this to “Aphrodite consciousness,” which “is present in all creative work,” and “Whenever Aphrodite consciousness is present, energy is generated: lovers glow with well-being and heightened energy; conversation sparkles, stimulating thoughts and feelings” [228, 229].

In folklore and ethnopoetics, we see that shining qualities of appearance and personality are especially characteristic of kings and queens, wonder children, virtuous maidens, fay-like women, and heroes, (e.g. the knight in shining armor). Robert Bly explores this concept in “Iron John,” describing the archetype of “The King [who] in his upper room comes toward us with a shining face—he blesses, he encourages creativity, he establishes alone an ordered universe” [113], or the archetype of “The Woman who Loves Gold,” (and her trace, “The Track of the Moon on the Water”), which recognizes, nourishes, and inspires talent and other glittering qualities in people. Describing how this latter archetype can shine through individual females, Bly says, “The Gold Woman in the other world sends her radiance down through the atmosphere, and the radiance appears on the girl’s face” [135]. For those of us older folks, Bly sees the experience or memory of the experience of these archetypes as helping us to recover our core creativity. Citing what William Stafford describes as “taking in our fingers the golden thread,” we can ask, “What were the delights we felt in childhood before we gave our life over to pleasing other people … or doing what they wanted done? Mythologically, catching hold of the end of the golden thread is described as picking up a single feather from the burning breast of the Firebird” [ Bly 112]. I relate this to the process of re-discovering the creative qualities in one’s Sun sign (among many other things). We may be intrigued when we are young and first learn of the different sun signs, but after a while we take them for granted, and some of their related personality traits get suppressed as we get older and have to conform to the world’s expectations. Going back to rediscover you sign can give you an unexpected source of new energy and vitality.

Related to the management of daily life, the concept of shining is a desirable personality trait. So, different peoples, including the Japanese, Balinese, and Thai, have social injunctions to cultivate a “bright face” or a “bright heart,” because that helps to promote social harmony and uplift everyone around you. Contrast this with certain aspects of American individualism, where you “let it all hang out” and indulge your every passing mood, without regard to the effect on other people. Note that these observations of our effect on other people may seem to contradict what I said in the previous paragraph about rediscovering our core personalities and the things that bring us pleasure, but they’re really not paradoxical when you explore their nuances. When we are able to cultivate a shining spirit, heart, face, and mind, we put ourselves in greater alignment with Deity.

Well, I could go on and on, but those are a few of the thoughts I am laying out. You can see that the concept of shining has many applications, and can be appreciated on many levels, both mundane and sublime. Next Sunday, we will explore these different meanings through the tarot, with the nature of the cards determining whether the most mundane or sublime aspects are present for us.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Hey all—I’m back from my California hiatus, and I’m preparing for the next MAGICAL CHAT, which is Sunday a week, July 3rd. Even though it’s a holiday weekend, people still like to drop by the Triple Goddess, whether for something fun to do on their staycation, or something novel for out-of-towners. (If you have 4th-of-July houseguests who are open-minded, consider bringing them down.)

I will bring my seashell oracle, and also have a number of deck-mixing techniques to demonstrate along the themes of “mysteries of the deep” (which I always like to do for the July workshop) and “the magic of shining,” which ties in with the heightened powers of the recent Summer Solstice, and is also a widespread theme in world magic.

So, the agenda is roughly that we’ll start out by mixing bibliomancy with tarot to see if we can provoke any “shining images” to shoot forth. Then, we will do the seashell oracle, which involves reaching into my basket of shells with your left hand to grasp a shell that represents your unconscious motivations, and with your right hand for one that represents conscious aims. All the shells have different divinatory meanings, and as always, can holographically convey many levels of meaning. Next, we’ll do a three deck combination reading involving the Mermaids deck, the Pirates Deck, and the Shapeshifter Deck. Your Mermaid card will represent something meaningful from your fantasy life; the Pirate card some area of life where you are forced to deal with some gritty reality, and the Shapeshifter a suggestion of what sort of hybrid being you can emulate to harmonize fantasy with reality. Because both the Pirates and Mermaids decks also feature multiple images of treasure chests, we will also do a little treasure hunt to find the buried treasure in your life.

We’ll continue the deck mixing experiment by mixing the Boticelli deck with the Mantegna deck to discover where you can activate the “magic of shining” in your life. Both the Botticelli and the Mantegna are lavishly embossed with gold and silver detailing that really makes them sparkle. They are from the same company and the same size, so it is easy to shuffle them together. While the Botticelli is a modern deck that uses Botticelli imagery to illustrate standard tarot meanings, the Mantegna goes back to the 1400s, but it is not a conventional tarot. Although a few of its cards overlap with conventional tarot, others bring in the muses, as well as the planets, the human conditions, the geniuses and virtues, and the arts and sciences as different allegorical figures.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Reminder--I'm on Hiatus, No June Session

Hi all! This is just to remind everyone that I shall be out of state, so I won't be holding my usual first-Sunday-of-the-month workshop. Until July, then, best wishes for a pleasant summer!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Faeries and Flowering on May 1st

This Sunday is May 1st, popularly known as May Day or Beltane. Because it is the first Sunday of the month, I will be back at the Triple Goddess from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Because Beltane is a big day for the powers of Faerie, I will be demonstrating techniques using various faery oracle cards, and ways that we can relate to our faery friends. As with all of my “magical chats,” even if you came out for previous sessions, feel free to come back, because the cards are always leading us to new discoveries.

The other theme for the day is “the magic of flowering,” as May is a month when the woodland wildflowers, as well as many of our favorite garden flowers, are at their prime, plus the time around May 1st is the Floralia celebration honoring the goddess of flowers. Some people may think that a goddess of flowers would be kind of frivolous, and something of an afterthought in pagan religion, but this is not the case, as this was one of the Romans’ most ancient festivals, and they took this six-day festival quite seriously. According to E. O. James, “there is every indication that it began as a rustic feast connected perhaps with Aphrodite as the goddess of flowering plants (Antheia), held at the appropriate season at the end of April” [170].

Floral imagery is used extensively in the RWS versions of the tarot. In psychological symbolism, flowers can represent processes of growth within the psyche. For example, in discussing the fairy tale “Jorinda and Joringel,” Jungian analyst Sibylle Birkhauser-Oeri discusses how the hero dreams of a blood-red flower which provides a solution to his problem, explaining, “The flower thus represents a natural process of growth which takes place somewhere in the psyche without the conscious mind initially being aware of it” [“The Mother” 54]. In folk magic, (particularly in Mexican and South American shamanism), the idea of flowering relates to manifesting good luck. So, we shall also do tarot readings to discover areas of life where we can experience the magic of flowering.

By the way, I was going through Arthur Edward Waite’s book, “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot,” to see what he says about floral symbolism, when I glanced at his write-up on The Empress card, and saw something related to the magic of opening as discussed in the previous post, but also ties in with the current topic: “In another order of ideas, the card of the Empress signifies the door or gate by which an entrance is obtained into this life, as into the Garden of Venus … ” [83].

Now, I’m sorry to have to announce that there will be no Triple Goddess session for the month of June, because I am going to have to make a trip to California to attend to some family concerns. However, if the plan should change, I will announce that here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Opening the Tarot, Part III

In the previous post, we were looking at the significance of body language in tarot graphic illustration, in relation to ideas of openness. Taking another look at the Queen of Wands in comparison to the Empress in body language, both have open laps and sit with legs apart, (rather than in a crossed or demure drawn-together position), though their long gowns do drape decorously over their knees, (and the Empress’s lower body is angled to the right, with legs drawn closer together than those of the Queen of Wands). These hints at sexual openness suggests some Aphrodite energy, which ties in with our theme of opening as it relates to the month of April. April is both the month of opening and the month dedicated to Aphrodite and her divine powers of opening, as previously mentioned. In the RWS deck, the Empress is explicitly associated with Venus/Aphrodite, (as shown by her heart-shaped shield with the glyph of Venus on it), while the fiery energies associated with the Queen of Wands suggests that she can be the most passionate and sensual of the queens. Despite this, the Queen of Wands is less ready to engage the viewer than the Empress, for she gazes off to the right, and both of her hands are occupied.

When we look at the body language of the four kings, we notice that the King of Swords looks us square in the face, so he is definitely aware of us, but that sword he is wielding blocks any impulse on our part to go right up to him. In these respects, and in the military accessories, the King of Swords’ symbolism resonates with that of The Emperor, (who often has a militaristic orientation). On the other hand, The King of Cups’ open body language makes him more approachable, in keeping with his traditional “Mr. Nice Guy” personality. However, although the King of Cups is facing forward, he is slightly angled to the right (which is his left), while gazing at us slantwise. This may indicate that, though kindly disposed, he may regard us the Querents as something of a distraction.

The only other RWS Minor Arcana cards where the figures look us full in the face are the Four of Pentacles and Nine of Cups. In the former card, the man is greedily clutching a pentacle in a way that erects a material barrier between us and him. The latter shows a jolly man in front of an open (half-circle) arrangement of cups that suggests hospitality, yet our host’s crossed arms indicates that he is selective about who he invites in. There are other cards that show celebration and conviviality, but have a more closed-off quality. For example, the Three of Cups is a festive card that depicts three women dancing, yet theirs is a closed circle, as if to tell the viewer, “Three’s company, four’s a crowd.”

Although the RWS deck’s use of body language and other imagery makes some philosophical statements about concepts of open and closed, there is no reason that other designers couldn’t deal with these issues differently. This gives would-be designers something to think about, and is a reason for users to experiment with different decks on different occasions.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Opening the Tarot, Part II

Picking up on the discussion about “the magic of opening” and images of openness in the tarot:

A certain degree of openness can also be seen in the postures and other body language of the human figures portrayed in the cards. This is particularly noticeable with some of the characters in the Major Arcana. For example, the figures in The Magician, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, and Justice are all viewed frontally, they meet the gaze of the viewer, and their arms are outspread, (i.e., not crossed or in other closed-off positions). In card interpretation, this can indicate that if they represent different people in your life, they are likely to be approachable, and also aware of your concerns. If these cards stand for general principles rather than individuals, the knowledge and experience they pertain to is more accessible.

Those of us who are into tarot often like to engage the cards as personal teachers, (and the idea of the Major Arcana as teachers [at a magical academy] has been elegantly developed in Corrine Kenner’s “Wizards’ Tarot”), so we might experience these more open figures as the kind of teachers with whom we might enjoy more of a rapport, (just as, when you look back on your student days, you can probably recall some teachers who you could relate to more than others). Of course, if you are using card decks other than the classic RWS, the artists may have changed some of these details, so that then becomes meaningful when you are pondering the cards you have drawn. (Synchronicity factors are at work in the particular deck of cards you choose to work with on a given occasion.)

Some figures in the tarot are viewed frontally and have an open gaze, but in other ways, their posture or other imagery is closed off. A classic example is the High Priestess, who sits wrapped in an enfolding cloak and holds a closed book, showing that she has knowledge to offer, but you won’t penetrate her secrets easily. Even The Magician card, which I have just cited as an example of openness, has a slightly equivocal quality, because he stands behind an altar table as well as a bed of flowers which form something of a barrier. So, one might interpret this to mean that you may have a better chance of establishing a rapport with him by focusing on a common interest, perhaps by asking him about the lessons of elemental Fire, Earth, Air, or Water, as symbolized by his magical tools. Another card whose figure has a frontal stance and gaze, but where there is a barrier between the character and the viewer, is The Chariot. Likewise, although Justice has an open gaze and posture, her raised sword can keep the viewer at a distance. In fact, in cases like Justice and the Emperor, where both of the character’s hands are occupied, there is the suggestion that their duties keep them somewhat at remove. Contrast Justice and The Emperor with The Magician, The Empress, and The Hierophant, who, although they hold different wands or staffs in one of their hands, have the other hand free, which suggests a greater ability to reach out to you, the Querent.

To better appreciate different figures’ qualities of openness, accessibility, and awareness of the Querent, we can compare certain Major Arcana figures to Minor Arcana figures with which they have an affiliation. So, the Emperor is a “High King” to whom the kings of the Minor Arcana owe fealty, and likewise, the Empress has a certain relationship with the Queens. So, we see that while the Empress is one of the most open figures in the deck, (because of her position, gaze, and other body language), none of the queens meet the viewer’s gaze, and only one, the Queen of Wands, has a full frontal posture, (though her head is turned to the side). The fact that the four queens are either looking off in different directions, or looking down at the symbols of their elements, shows them as being more concerned with the duties, contingencies, and worries of their respective suits. Also, it is interesting to note that the Queens of Swords and Wands, representing the more ethereal elements, gaze off to the right, (the direction of the future), while the Queens of Cups and Pentacles, representing the heavier elements, gaze downward, with their bodies oriented to the left, (the direction of the past).

By the way, if oftentimes happens that with these little graphic nuances that I write about, I only first become aware of them because I am writing about them. This is an example of “writing for discovery.” Also, the more I explore these details in the cards, the more I appreciate the level of thought and intuition that Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith put into these cards, (even though some purists have accused them of junking up the tarot by adding superfluous symbolism).

Well, I still have more to say about the body language of tarot characters, but I will have to pick that up in the next post. TO BE CONTINUED.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Magic of Opening and Tarot

Last Sunday’s workshop theme was “the magic of opening,” in keeping with the month of April’s association with the word, aperio, “I open,” (because at one point, it used to open the year, and because spring equinox opens Nature’s year), as well as the month of April’s being dedicated to Aphrodite and her divine powers of opening. Our tarot exercise therefore involved posing questions and doing a card search to find areas in your life where you can find a magical opening. This was more involved and subjective than other April card searches we have done, (such as searching for the Fool card to identify some area of life where you may feel that the Universe is playing a cosmic joke on you, but where you might also encounter rewarding synchronicities), because people had to go through their decks until they found a card whose imagery conveyed the idea of opening for them. So, here are a few thoughts and observations on images of opening in the tarot, (using the RWS as the standard).

Because the Judgment card shows people who have risen from their graves, it can denote a change in status or a new phase in life that result in things opening up for you. It is also apropos of Easter/Springtime’s theme of emergence.

Another card that hints at emergence is The Moon, which portrays a crayfish, (which can represent impulses that come from some very deep, primitive part of the Self), partially emerging from the water (of the Unconscious). In her book, “Tarot as a way of Life: A Jungian Approach to the Tarot,” Karen Hamaker-Zondag discusses the rising of symbolic images from the unconscious, when, “In The Moon stage we open up to these inner images” [168]. Notice, also, that the road shown leading off into the distance is an “open road.”

A card that conveys a very reassuring sense of openness is The Sun. The Sun’s face is gazing straight outward with its extended rays like the open arms of the joyful child. The “idea” of the Sun can also suggest being out in the open, in open country, the freedom of nature, etc. Yet, there is that wall there, though it suggests not so much a barrier as a protective enclosure, and although the sunflowers echo the sun-face, they are a cultivated plant.

Some of The Sun’s imagery is echoed in The Lovers, where a sun image is the background for the angel, whose arms are spread in blessing, and the man and woman, whose arms are also outspread. The man and woman in this card are nude, suggesting their openness and honesty with each other, as well as their essential humanity. We see similar body imagery in Judgment, The World, and The Star.

Some cards can have images of openness, yet remain somewhat equivocal. In the Star card just mentioned, the woman is out in open nature under an open sky, but her preoccupation with her task makes her slightly closed off to the viewer, and although there is openness in The World’s joyful dance, she is enclosed in a sacred circle. When cards have mixed imagery, you have to think about how the themes of open and closed play off of each other in your particular situation.

The Fool is another tarot figure who is out in open nature under and open sky and a radiant sun, with arms spread in an opening gesture, but the chasm he’s about to step off into represents a more dangerous open. Unlike the figures whose nudity suggests a lack of social pretensions, he is fully clothed.

Some Minor Arcana cards may hint at the idea of openness, though overall, they have a more closed-off quality, with their human figures confined within their own little worlds, (or elemental spheres). An interesting example is the 8 of Cups. The Number Eight has a very organized character, which can contribute to a sense of comfort and security, but which can also convey the feeling of being locked in. This can conflict with the very fluid, emotionally expressive nature of the Cups, which can then lead to the desire to leave an emotionally confining situation. The RWS card illustrates this with a person who has turned his back on the cups, and is wandering off into the wild, following the path of the river. That he may have found some emotional opening to pursue this adventure or make this escape is suggested by the arrangement of three cups on top of five cups, with a gap in the top row. The symbology might have been different if the cups had been in two tight rows of four, as that would have suggested more of an emotional holding pattern. This shows how the little graphic decisions made by the artists/designers can bring in quite different nuances.

Well, I have more to say about themes of openness in the tarot, so I will carry this into my next post. TO BE CONTINUED …

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Looking forward to April 1st and the first Sunday, April 3rd

Looking forward to April Fools Day, it is believed to have originated in France, which was the first country to adopt the Gregorian calendar. The games and jokery came to fill the celebrational void that was left when the calendar change resulted in the date of New Years being moved from April 1st to January 1st, (which used to be the winter solstice). Imagine how disoriented you would feel on the eve and day of January 1st if, for some reason, they made another calendar change and moved New Year to some other day! Back then, the April Fools jokes also poked fun at backward people who insisted on celebrating New Year the old way on April 1st. In France and Italy, the fish is the symbol of April Fools Day, and a popular April Fools joke is tacking a fish to other peoples’ clothes without their knowing it. Shops feature baked goods and candies in the shape of fish, and fish are also featured on greeting cards. The idea was that in April, young fish are naïve and easily caught. Coincidentally however, the fish is also sacred to Aphrodite (who rules April), as well as the symbol of Pisces. (Although the precession of the equinoxes has put the calendar days out of sync, April 1st used to be both the Spring Equinox and the day the sun entered Aries, leaving Pisces, the sign of the fishes and of the old year.)

In some previous years, for the first Sunday in April, I demonstrated tarot readings focused on the Fool card. Also in line with the theme of April fishes, we sometimes also did a card search for the Page of Cups. (Because, in the RWS deck, the Page is gaping with surprise at a fish that emerges from his cup, the idea is, where in your life does it seem like the Universe is playing some cosmic joke on you, yet where, at the same time, can you find unexpected rewards?) Last year, we did a card search for Judgment, phrasing the request, “Please show me where I can find new life,” with the idea that the card to the left of Judgment denotes a potential source of renewal, and the card to the right shows where or how you can express energies that reinvigorate you. All of the afore-mentioned cards are harmonious with April’s theme of awakening, opening, and emergence, because the Fool is going forth on a new adventure, the Page of Cups is opening to new emotional experience and growth, and Judgment graphically portrays emergence as rebirth.

This year, I’m thinking of broadening the card search by having us ask the cards a general question about which areas of life are opening up for us. This will take more than the usual amount of consideration as people go through their decks, trying to identify themes of awakening, opening, and emergence in their cards, so we will allow time for plenty of questions and discussion. There are actually a great many possibilities, not just in the traditional meanings of certain cards, but in certain graphic elements. Of course, different decks may also bring in different graphic elements. I have just purchased a copy of Corrine Kenner’s “Wizard’s Tarot” (illustrated by John J. Blumen), which is my favorite new deck, so I am excited to explore ways that we can magically interact with this deck, and—for Sunday’s session--how we might be able to relate the new images to the magic of opening. The card normally titled the Fool is now “the Initiate,” so it seems appropriate to that idea of new experiences.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


We are now well into that emerging, opening-out stage of spring. The crocuses have already bloomed, and daffodils are starting to poke their spear-like leaves out of the earth; at the same time, flocks of robins, blackbirds, grackles, sandhill cranes, and killdeer are flowing over the northlands like a flood. In less than a week it will be April, and of course on April 3rd, the first Sunday, I will be back to resume another year of teaching magic and tarot tips at The Triple Goddess.

Because my fist session typically falls close to April Fools Day, I sometimes build my theme around the Fool card and ideas about the Cosmic Trickster, but the first of April has another association worth exploring. The month of April is said to take its name from the Latin word “aperio,” “I open,” because, before a number of historical calendar changes, April 1st was the New Year, and also the date of the Spring Equinox, so it “opened up” the year. (Just as in springtime, we also see the world of Nature opening up.) However, there is an alternative theory that April takes its name from Aphrilis, referencing the goddess Aphrodite/Venus. In fact, the ancients also celebrated April 1st as the day in honor of Aphrodite Virilis (or Fortuna Virilis for manly fortune). Before they identified their goddess Venus with the Greek Aphrodite, the Romans honored her as a goddess of agriculture, associated with the force that drives the growth of plants, (similar, also, to their original view of the god Mars). We can see that Aphrodite as love goddess is also a force of nature, among whose golden gifts are life and growth.

Because there is a vast field of lore associated with “the magic of opening,” I will try to discuss some of the ways we can incorporate that in our lives, while also exploring how the mysteries of Aphrodite are associated.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tarot Numerology and Tarot Spells

In the most recent series of posts, I have been demonstrating a number of ways that we can explore the numerology of our birth dates, and the current year 2011, by linking them with tarot card imagery. These techniques include looking at card numbers associated with a person’s birth day, month, and year to get something of a personal tarot portrait. Another technique involves adding the numbers for the birth day and month to get a special card correspondence out of that, and then adding the number/card for the present year, to get another number card signifying something that a person with such a birth day and month might get out of this particular year.

There are, of course, many other configurations you can get by arranging all these numbers, and I invite you to experiment and explore the different possibilities. Some folks my wonder if, with so many different ways of manipulating cards and numbers, this isn’t ultimately some very arbitrary mumbo jumbo. However, if certain images and meanings you derive from them have a special resonance for you, then go with your feelings in pulling new insights from your arrangements.

In addition to using these arrangements for philosophical reflection, you can work with their imagery by turning them into tarot spells. A spell is a multi-media, multi-sensory affirmation, and a tarot spell combines visualizations and verbalizations of things you’d like to manifest in your life with the delightful visual and tactile qualities of the cards. So, for example, if the inmates in one of these layouts hints at certain blessings or certain challenges, you can visualize yourself enjoying the blessings or rising to meet the challenges, while also thinking about practical ways that you can improve or mitigate your circumstances. You can also help empower your spells by finding ways to express the cards’ qualities in daily life.

Now in the course of this discussion, I’ve been using President Obama’s numerology for my examples, and just as you can do tarot spells directed at other people as well as yourself, this may raise some concerns that people might use this knowledge to try to influence other people, whether to help people they admire or hinder people they oppose. There are a number of points to consider in regarding what we view as manipulative magic, and how people who are concerned about acting ethically can avoid it. It goes without saying that no one should project hateful and harmful thoughts and wishes toward anyone else, if for no other reason than that which we put out into the Universe comes back to us by becoming our personal reality. Fortunately, people do have a certain natural level of psychic immunity to suggestions—even magical and subliminal suggestions—that go against their well being or that are repugnant to them. Consequently, although we live in this enormous cauldron of psychic and subliminal influence, where vast numbers of people and institutions are consciously trying to affect our behavior, we tend to respond only to those suggestions for which we already have a predisposition, and treat the rest as so much white noise. In the case of politicians—and especially the president—in a country such as ours, where public opinion is roughly 50-50 on so many issues, you can figure that at any given moment, any number of people are thinking about how they’d either like them to succeed or fail at one thing or another. The actions of presidents and other persons in power do have a bearing on our private lives, so you can’t blame people for pinning so many of their hopes and fears on them.

If you are concerned about the actions and policies of some public figures, and wish to magically convey your ideas for changes or improvements without trying to force your will on them, an ethical way to do that is to perform your spell with the attitude that you are visualizing an ideal of how you believe life can be better if they follow such-and-such a course of action, and that you are holding those images out for their Spiritual Selves—Guardian Angels included—to take up if they acknowledge the beauty and wisdom of the vision.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

More on Numerology-Tarot Card Correspondences

We had been looking at how the numerology of a person’s—and in this case, Barack Obama’s—birth day, month, and year can be added up and then broken down to correspond with tarot cards that serve as Soul symbols and Personality symbols, as well as challenges for a specific year. However, when we contemplate the individual numbers that make up a person’s birth date, we can see further tarot correspondences by looking at the cards associated with the individual numbers for day, month, and year.

So, in the case of Barack Obama, whose birth date is 8-4-1961, Eight corresponds to Strength, Four to the Emperor, 1961 (1 + 9 + 6 + 1 = 17) to the Star, whose 1 + 7 further breaks down to 8, the number of Strength. From a general psychological viewpoint, we tend to resonate to the number associated with our birth day moreso than our birth month and year, so it is interesting that Emperor energies are central to Obama’s numerology. Because Strength comes up twice in this formula, the powers of the Strength card are also underscored in his life. Similar principles apply when we look at his year card portrait: 8-4-2011, which combines Strength and the Emperor with, once again, the Emperor, meaning that those already central Emperor energies will be emphasized this year.

Seeing that the different components of the birth date correspond to tarot cards, a person’s birth date suggests a natural tarot arrangement that comprises something of a personal tarot “snapshot,” and which can be mused upon for purposes of magic and meditation. How many cards you would include in such a layout depends on whether, in the process of breaking down the numbers, you get cards between ten and twenty-one, which in turn can be reduced to cards between one and nine. Some folks may get a good number of cards in their arrangement, but everyone will get at least three cards out of the process. In Obama’s case, you could use a three card layout: Strength-Emperor-Star, or a four-card: Strength-Emperor-Star-Strength. Because Strength is used twice, you would need to pull a Strength card from another deck if you wanted to do this as a card arrangement. If, instead, you wanted to focus on Obama’s presidential challenges for the year—or anyone’s challenges for a given year—you could lay out an arrangement based on the birth day and month, plus the card for the present year. Furthermore, you could also do arrangements based on whatever numerology-card correspondence combinations you can come up with for a person, including layouts based on his or her Soul and Personality Symbols.

One other quick observation on playing with President Obama’s card combinations: If you add his birth day and month, you get the number Twelve, which corresponds to the Hanged Man card, and which, in turn, can be broken down to Three, corresponding to the Empress. Traditionally, the Hanged Man could denote issues around life in suspension, though modern tarot readers emphasize its positive aspects related to time out for meditation, self sacrifice, and the ability to see things from a different perspective. Mary Greer relates it to unconditional love and complete devotion to one’s work or cause [“Tarot Constellations” 69]. The Empress denotes generativity and abundance, and relates to the creative forces of the number Three. We already looked at the numerology by considering Three’s creative qualities applied to the Emperor Year. However, in considering Obama’s personal life, we can also see the Empress symbolism has bearing on the central role Michelle plays both as wife and First Lady. So, for example, if you were musing on Obama’s Emperor Year numbers, using the basic numerology system described in previous posts, 3 + 4 = 7, and represented that visually with tarot cards, Empress + Emperor = Chariot, you get a certain harmony in the pairing of Empress and Emperor, and can consider how the idealized archetypal pair inspires the movement and innovation suggested by the number Seven, and by the Chariot. (If one wanted to get into Chinese symbolism, the harmonious relationship of Emperor and Empress is essential to the balance of the cosmos, and is denoted by the dragon and the phoenix)

OK, to conclude my discussion on how a person’s birthday numbers can provide images and arrangements for tarot meditations and spells, in my next post, I will discuss why and how you can use such techniques. Also: how to use tarot spells in a way where you are not trying to use coercive magic to force other people to do your evil bidding, but rather, put positive images out into the universe as suggestions for empowerment or improvement.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Obama’s Numerology, continued

For those who were confused by the previous post, I have gone back and edited it a little, which I hope will better explain the two different systems of looking at a person’s “year card.”

So, to continue the discussion: we have gotten an inkling as to how Barack Obama’s August 4th birthday numerology might have larger implications in the Emperor year 2011. Now, let’s take a closer look at how his birthday numbers correspond to some other tarot cards, and the sort of personal meanings these cards can hold.

In a system which I believe was developed and introduced by Angeles Arrien, and which has been further articulated by Mary Greer, you can find Major Arcana cards that serve as Life-Time Soul and Personality symbols. This involves adding the numbers in your birth day, month, and year, and then breaking them down numerologically to get a number between one and twenty-one, (if possible--not everyone will be able to do this), and then a number between one and nine. Everyone has a number between one and nine that corresponds to one of the first tier of Major Arcana cards, and this card serves as you Soul Symbol. For persons who can only get one tarot card correspondence, that functions as both Soul and Personality symbol. The Soul card symbol pertains to a core need for spiritual fulfillment, and the Personality symbol reveals some unique form of personal expression that you display as a means of meeting your soul needs. When the Soul and Personality qualities are combined, the underlying spiritual drive is more immanent in your personal expression.

When we distill the numbers for Barack Obama, born on 8-4-1961, we find a Soul card number of Two, which corresponds to the High Priestess. An individual with this Soul symbol will strive to see into the nature of things. In the political arena, such a person would want to explore all the issues, as well as the needs and philosophical motivations of the different political actors and factions. Whether those are qualities we Americans value in our leaders, I don’t know, but I would hope that it provides the ability to establish some common ground.

Getting a personality number between ten and twenty-two for Obama, I have discovered, is interesting, because it makes a difference whether you do the numerology horizontally like this: 8 + 4 + 1 + 9 + 6 + 1 = 29 and 29 = 2 + 9 =11 (the Justice Card, though in some systems, the Strength card ), or whether you initially stack the numbers vertically, which is the technique that Arrien and Greer use, and which in Obama’s case results in 20, (the Judgment card). [For numerological reasons that I am not sophisticated enough to understand, it appears that the horizontal method casts a nine.] I won’t attempt to replicate the vertical example in this blog, because I’m not sure I can get the numbers to line up in the right columns. So, it would seem that Barack Obama has two personality cards, depending on whether you add horizontally or vertically. This does not suggest a split personality, as both Justice and Judgment share the High Priestess’s number Two as their root or Soul core. Here, we might see the High Priestess’s emphasis on intuition expressed through a personality that tries to understand both sides of an argument, and that tries use this understanding to achieve transformation.

So, that is some of what we can learn about President Obama using the Soul Card and Personality Card system. However, there are still some other observations to be made in relating his numbers to tarot cards, and how a person’s tarot portrait can be used in empowering meditations and such, so this discussion will be continued in the next post.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

President Obama in the Emperor Year

In a recent post I mentioned that 2011, being an Emperor year, is potentially auspicious for a president, so I have been taking a closer look at President Obama’s numerology. Barack Obama was born on 8-4-1961, so if we apply the basic technique for magical numerology demonstrated in the previous post, by adding the birth month (8) to the birth day (4), we get 12; then, we reduce that to the smallest number, so 12 = 1 + 2 = 3. The creative qualities of the number Three can combine with the Emperor’s concern with establishing order and laying foundations, so we have the potential for a very productive year. And indeed, because Obama’s Three combined with the Emperor’s Four yield Seven, the number of innovation, this can lead to the creation of systems that actually solve problems.

There is, however, one aspect of the Emperor that some folks may regard as being somewhat disconcerting, and that is his military interests. Although the Emperor archetype has various ancient father-god affiliations, the Golden Dawn system of tarot interpretation associates the Emperor card with the war god Mars, and indeed, the figure in this card is typically portrayed with weapons and armor, often wearing a ceremonial helmet, (a practice historically associated with the emperor Constantine). Consequently, Obama’s 2011 could also see more creative forms of warfare and military build-up. However, let us hope that the afore-mentioned problem solving potentials will ensure security by finding more creative diplomatic arrangements.

The system I have described that involves breaking the birth day and month to a number between one and nine is slightly different from, but ties in with the system for obtaining a personal year card, developed by Angeles Arrien, who refers to this as the Growth Symbol for the year. The latter technique involves adding the individual numbers of your birth day and month to those of the present year, and then breaking them down to a number between one and twenty-one. This gets you a personally meaningful tarot card correspondence. So, in Obama’s case, we add 8 + 4 (i.e., 12) to 2011 to get 2023, which breaks down to the number 7, associated with the Chariot. So, his personal growth for this year will likely involve taking control of forces that want to pull in different directions, and harness them to ride a wave of energy into the future. However, other persons might get a number between one and twenty-one, so their challenges would relate to those higher-numbered cards. Basically, the difference between the two Year Card systems I have described is the former relates the card of the year to other basic numerological principles, while the latter more specifically relates the year to the symbolism of a particular card determined by one's individual numbers. Of course, as there is a relationship between the cards' symbols and numbers, the two systems do have a certain amount of overlap.

Having gotten into Obama’s numerology, I have a great deal more to say about it, including ways that it brings in the symbolism of other tarot cards, and how Michelle is part of the picture, and even how one could use this information to construct tarot spells promoting global well-being. However, as I find it difficult to get computer time, I shall try to break this information up into a series of short posts over the next few days or weeks.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Surveying Your Empire in 2011

In the previous post, I ended with a suggestion about surveying symbolic worlds and setting them in order. Because 2011 is an Emperor year, you can work with some basic numerological correspondences by adding the numbers of your birth day and year, reducing them to a number between one and nine, and then adding them to the Emperor’s number Four. This gives you a new number that illuminates some possibilities for structuring your own world. (Note: the principles and nuances here are slightly different from finding your personal year card, which involves adding your birth day and year to the number Four, and then, if need be, reducing that number to 21 or less, to identify a corresponding tarot card.)

For example, suppose a person was born on May 6th, so 6 + 4 = 10 = 1 + 0 = 1. The Number One is the impulse to lead and innovate, so this combines with the Emperor’s will to create structure and stability. Furthermore, because 1 + 4 = the energetic Number Five, this in turn may facilitate social change.

In the case of someone whose birth day and year gives Two, the Emperor’s will to create structure and stability guides his or her ability to promote relationships and foster understanding, which supports more satisfying personal and social relationships.

For a birth day and year that make the number Three, you can find creative ways to apply the Emperor’s planning and decision making to new innovations and ideas.

A birth day and year that yield the stable and foundational number Four, combined with the Emperor year’s number Four, may result in especially solid new structures and levels of personal organization.

The number Five’s multi-sensory, multi-tasking qualities combine with the Emperor’s ability to think big, yielding a multiplicity of new possibilities.

The number Six’s interest in the quality of social life combined with the Emperor’s interest in social engineering can generate lifestyle improvements.

When the number Seven’s innovative qualities are applied to the Emperor’s structures, a positive result may be the creation of systems that do a better job of solving problems and meeting human needs.

The number Eight’s concerns with organization can combine with the Emperor’s executive functions to realize a grand vision and projects carried out on a large scale.

The Emperor’s ability to bring ideas into reality applied to the number Nine’s powers of magical proliferation can result in stability that generates abundance.

For a better understanding of applying the year card to basic numerology, you might also refer to my last year’s comments on the Empress Year card.