Thursday, September 30, 2010


I love the tingly feeling I get whenever some sort of synchronicity makes itself evident, and I can see that many others feel the same, because when having our tarot sessions, or spiritual discussions, or other types of discussions, some striking synchronicities will often come up while we’re “comparing notes.” In the presence of these meaningful coincidences, I’m so much in awe that I want to acknowledge it, but generally, the best I’ve been able to muster is some expression like, “Far out!,” or “How about that?” However, as a result of my current reading in “Healing Dramas” by Raquel Romberg [see previous post], I’ve become aware of the importance of acknowledging synchronicities in the Puerto Rican spiritist and magical systems.

The terms used in Puerto Rico are “comprobaciones” or “confirmaciones,” because they confirm the manifestation of messages and other assistance from the spirit world, “which always produces an excited reaction in brujos, sometimes marked by their banging on the table followed by Aché [So be it, Power, or Amen],” [p. 119]. Romberg noted that they sometimes also ring a bell when they become aware of another synchronicity, or some other message from Spirit.

For the brujas espiritistas Romberg worked with, (as with us), confirmaciones could involve simple, every day things--for example, when learning that a particular herb is needed for a magic working, and it happens that a gardener friend has just offered you some of this herb. Romberg learned that, “Manifestaciones and comprobaciones can happen at any time … for they express a basic objectifying principle of a ‘so be it,’ or a potential energy that might burst—as a capricious genie might—as a result of any word and thought we utter, any image and gesture we enact, and any object we manipulate,” [p. 121].

We can see that confirming the spirits enhances the flow of communication and generates more synchronicities and other manifestations. After all, when a person acknowledges you and shows an interest when you’re speaking, you’re probably more likely to say more than you would to someone who is inattentive. Confirming synchronicities also enables us to become more receptive, because it helps to maintain that state of “hopeful expectancy” which keeps the channels open.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Embodying the Cards

Next Sunday, the Third of October, will be my next magical chat at The Triple Goddess in Okemos. We will be focusing on court cards, so some of the reading techniques I will demonstrate include, “The Royal Court in Residence,” “Knight’s Quest” (i.e. “Pentacle Quest”), and the Medieval Castle version of the Dollhouse Oracle. Because I have only one castle, I’ll have to demonstrate for one person at a time. However, while you are waiting, everybody is free to look on and contribute their own insights, or just amuse themselves by browsing around the Triple Goddess. It is especially fun to use the various King Arthur themed tarot decks for doing readings with the castle.

Because of my interest in medical anthropology, I am currently reading the book, “Healing Dramas: Divination and Magic in Modern Puerto Rico,” by Raquel Romberg, and I’ve been thinking about how some of her observations can be utilized in the divination and magic that we do. Romberg did her field work among a number of individuals who practiced an eclectic mix of Espiritismo (Spiritism), Santeria (which draws from African religions), and brujeria (folk magic); they call upon saints, orishas (African deities), and other types of spirit guides for divination, trabajos (magic working), and healing.

Among other things, Romberg explores issues around body memory and embodiment as they apply to ritual and spirituality. The Puerto Rican healers believe that aspects of your self presentation, such as the types and colors of clothes you wear, as well as other expressions of your personal style tend not only to reflect your own personality, but those of your “protecciones,” your guardian spirits. I interpret that as meaning that we tend to have an intuitive sense of alignment with those protecciones, and that’s why we favor certain looks. However, you can get out of sync with the spirit powers that “rule your head,” as when you try to dress in conformity with the customs of some social group or institution. If you feel that you’re not in harmony with your spiritual forces, consider whether your manner of dress is the best expression of who you are. Colors are especially emphasized in the African derived systems, and seem to be common knowledge and a regular topic of conversation in countries where Santeria, Candomble, Umbanda, Voudon, and similar systems have a larger cultural influence. (I’ve encountered this in other authors’ works, too.) Also, when you want to align yourself with certain orishas or spirit powers to gain specific benefits, you can surround yourself with their colors and other symbolism. There is a lot more to the concept of embodiment than I can get into here, but people who relate to different spirit powers will find those qualities and personalities also being expressed through their body language, physical bearing, tone of voice, reflex reactions, and other somatic signatures.

A number of tarot practitioners will also try to attune to the qualities of a card’s archetype, mostly through choice of color, (though this will vary with different decks), but also through movement and other physical expressions. This can be done as a way of getting to know more about a card’s meanings, but it is also something you can do when you have done a reading for advice, and a certain card personality comes up in relation to a potential course of action. (My book Tarot: Your Everyday Guide is all about advice readings.)

Astrologers also suggest the use of color and other modes of personal expression for aligning with planets. A good source is Barbara Schermer’s “Astrology Alive: Experiential Astrology, Astrodrama, and the Healing Arts,” where she suggests role playing activities, including how to “walk” with the bearing of different planetary types.

While we are working with the court cards next Sunday—or whenever a court card comes up for you—it will be interesting to consider whether those cards’ personalities have been revealing themselves in your physical presentation. Also, if you haven’t read my article “The Hats We Wear in Tarot,” (see my Articles links), the different sorts of headgear featured in the cards’ illustrations adds another level of interpretation that is quite revealing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

When Fairytales Collide

In my previous post, I described how to do the Fairytale Village reading, so now I’ll try to offer a few insights on interpreting fairytale themed tarot cards in this context. Actually, this exercise does not need to be done with fairy tale cards, as ordinary tarot cards will do. However, by matching fairytale cards with fairytale places, we can see how our different life stories—as we are all living out multiple narratives—may be harmonious, or may be colliding.

I also want to mention that when I’m interpreting peoples’ cards at my chat session/workshops—or wherever—I’m just giving them some potential interpretations based on whatever pops into my mind at that moment, but those are by no means all of the possible interpretations for those cards, or even the most relevant interpretations for the individuals in question. Because I’m dealing with a high level of distraction due to trying to attend to all the group, (and as an Asperger’s person, I have a lot of mental noise, anyway), I often overlook the obvious, or don’t think of other things that would be good to mention. So, whatever interpretation I give you, that’s just something to use as a jumping off point, to help you start pondering some of the different meanings that could apply. Likewise, the interpretations that I discuss in these blog posts are just meant to be food for thought, but by no means conclusive. As always, you have to think about how a card’s different traditional interpretations and visual cues, as well as the emotions the cards evoke in you, can apply to your own life situation.

So, to get on with a sample interpretation. If I recall correctly, one person got “The Empress” from the Mahoney deck, which uses Cinderella as its illustration, in association with the Gingerbread House. The dominant figure in this card is the fairy godmother, (though Cinderella is also present), so this deck emphasizes the Empress’ abilities to help make dreams come true. I don’t remember exactly how I interpreted this card, but I think our discussion touched on the querent’s managerial job, and images of strong women leaders. As a general interpretation, one could look at whether this querent has some high expectations of the leadership role she would like to model, perhaps using her position to help other people fulfill their potential. This is a good thing—don’t get me wrong—but one then has to consider what this means in terms of the temptation and potential danger that the Gingerbread House stands for. Among other things, it could mean that you are being tempted to overextend yourself in trying to help others, or to make more promises than you can keep. This could also apply to promises you make to yourself—or to your Inner Child, as the Inner Child has to be considered in these fairy tale readings. Note that the combination of story imagery here also gets into a lot of Mother issues: your mother, your mothering techniques, your internalized mother, other mother figures in your life, etc. An alternative interpretation might focus on the “idea” of “the Cinderella story,” which is the hope that some big, lucky break will transform your way of life, and having that distract you from more practical goals.

Because a playset invites us to be playful, one can also think of approaching these things with a playfully proactive magical mindset. So, you could say, “OK, this is my gingerbread house, I’m taking ownership of this gingerbread house, so I’ll make the rules and assert my Empress powers productively. So, I’ll let you have just enough of a taste of the sweets to revive you if you’re feeling low, but I won’t let you go into sugar shock.” And if you are going to take charge of the gingerbread house, you can also take charge of the stove that is at the heart of the house as your special challenge. One thus transforms this from a story about temptation to a story about nourishment.

The stove is a traditional symbol of transformation, and Cinderella is also a story about transformation. In her book, “The Mother: Archetypal Image in Fairy Tales, Sibylle Birkhauser-Oeri mentions that “in Silesia, the flames licking out of the oven door are called the fire mother” [70]. The witch in “Hansel and Gretel” is an evil fire mother, but there are many positive expressions of this archetype. In the fairy tale “Frau Holle,” the oven serves as one of the vehicles of initiation which test the heroine and prove her worth. Oeri notes that, “The property of fires or stoves to give spiritual rebirth is founded on a psychological fact: if a person draws near to some inner passion, it causes a lowering in the level of consciousness and thus facilitates contact with the unconscious. In a powerful emotional state a transformation can take place, which always seemed like a rebirth or liberation.” She illustrates this with the Austrian tale, “The Young Wolf,” in which a girl, “in conjunction with various strange rituals,” throws the young wolf into the fire in the stove to transform him into a handsome young man. “He is exposed to the fire of passion by the anima and changed by it” [71]. (The anima is the idealized feminine soul-self, or a man’s inner feminine self.)

Well, that shows how when we combine these fairy tale themes and images, one train of thought leads to another. Now, not only are we considering the interaction between “Cinderella” and “Hansel and Gretel,” but we have “Frau Holle” and “The Young Wolf” as subtexts. This also goes to show that a cheesy cardboard playset can be a tool in making deeper psychological associations.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Last Sunday, (the Sunday of Labor Day weekend), our magical chat session focused on fairy-tale themed tarot decks. Because I have a fairy-tale themed pop-up playset with seven pop-up structures, one of our activities is “a walk through Fairy Tale Village,” where you can draw seven cards, prop them up by the different pop-up structures, and then derive meanings according to their associations. The pop-up playset, which was created by the design team of Michael Welply, Jim Deesing, and Laszlo Batki, is something I found online after doing keyword searches for pop-up playsets. However, as this playset may be hard to find, this exercise could be done without the playset, as a seven card spread.

For those who were unable to join us, here is the basic technique: shuffle and cut your cards while saying something like, “Please show me some stories that are playing out in my life.” Then place the first card in front of “Grandma’s House.” Grandma’s House represents a place where you can feel secure and go for comfort, though depending on the card you draw, it may be a safe place or it may be hiding some danger, (as in the “Little Red Riding Hood” story, this is the place where the wolf lies in wait).

Note that when, in this exercise, I use the word “place,” this could be an actual physical location, but more likely it is a metaphorical place, such as an idea, frame of mind, or life situation.

The next card goes in front of the Three Bears’ House. This could be a place where your Inner Child is trespassing, or simply a place where you don’t belong, because you’re not among “your own kind.” The term “your own kind,” could refer to people that you feel “at home” with, or a community that is supportive of your growth needs.

The third card is the Gingerbread House. This could be a place of temptation, (with your card offering visual cues as to whether you are the tempter or the tempted), or it could be a place of challenge where you overcome limitations, as in the story of Hansel and Gretel, Gretel uses her wits and quick thinking to save the day.

Next we arrive at the three piggys’ homes. Card number 4 is the Piggy’s Straw House, some area or your life where you have not built a stable structure. Card 5 is the Piggy’s Stick House, where you have built a somewhat more stable structure. This place may be OK for a temporary stop-over, but not secure enough for you to spend the rest of your life. Card 6 is the Piggy’s Brick House, a place where you have done a good job and can enjoy greater security.

For the last stop, we go to the center of the village, which is the Wishing Well. This represents some of your wishes or fantasies for the future.

By the way, as additional level of interpretation, you could toss a die, and the number that comes up (from 1 to 6) could denote the Fairy Tale Village structure where your attention or energies are most focused at present.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Looking forward to Sunday with hopeful expectancy

First, a reminder that this upcoming Sunday, September 5th, I will be at the Triple Goddess demonstrating tarot techniques with four different fairy tale decks. Even though it’s Labor Day weekend, people still like to come by, so I will be there too. Second, in my past few entries about the fairy tale decks, I forgot to mention that the artist for the Inner Child deck is Christopher Guilfoil, and for the “Fairytale” deck, Alexandr Ukolov is the illustrator, but the artwork is done by Irena Triskova. (I’m afraid I’m not clear on the distinction there.)

A little while ago, I brought up the topic of the Inner Child in relation to these decks. The Inner Child was a particularly hot topic in, if I recall, the 80s, but now one doesn’t hear about it quite so much. Does the fact that the Inner Child is not so much a part of public discourse mean that we’ve all settled into better relationships with our inner children, or is it that we—at least as a society--have had to shove the Child aside in the need to focus on material survival issues? Or perhaps I have a distorted view on this, as here in Michigan, we’ve been in recession for a lot longer than the rest of the world?

Engaging the Inner Child can be your key to reviving a sense of wonder and delight, yet back when this was a prevailing topic, much of the discourse around the Child was negative in tone, because it focused on aspects of the Child that had been abused or neglected, or aspects of the Child that manifest as complexes. A complex is a condition where one of your subpersonalities takes control, so you behave differently and may start doing and saying things that lead to embarrassment and regret. In this respect, when the Child grabs control, it can be compared to the negative aspects of animal transformation, as discussed earlier, because both are forms of regression to a primitive state which involves a surrender of conscious guidance. It seems that one of the easiest ways to identify the Inner Child within yourself is to think about psychological issues that stir up a lot of old hurt and anger, frustration and deprivation. This can lead us into negative feedback loops if we dwell on it. At the same time, however, the Child can bring revitalization by leading us to forgotten sources of wonder and pleasure. For example, if, as a youngster, your family stifled your curiosity about nature because they didn’t want you to go outside and hurt yourself or get dirty, you could get involved in some naturalist activities as a way of reawakening your curiosity.

Where there is curiosity, there is vitality. Another great thing about curiosity is even when you are locked into a life situation where you can’t bring about any immediate changes, you can still indulge your curiosity. … And while we’re on this topic … this is another opportunity for me to tout the tarot as something to keep curiosity alive. You can always ask the cards questions like, “What is the next bit of good news that I have to look forward to?” or “What is my next lucky break?” A question like, “Who is the next luck-bringing person that I will encounter?” opens a state of hopeful expectancy that connects you with your larger human society, because then, with each person that you encounter, you’ll be wondering, “Is this the person?” “Is that the person?” In her book, “The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self,” Jean Shinoda Bolen points out that when a person is in a state of hopeful expectancy, helpful synchronicities are apt to occur, and she notes that this is the state of mind that typifies heroes and heroines in fairy tales. It is what Jung called “the archetype of the miracle,” or the archetype of “magic effect” [Bolen 81,80].