It’s a new calendar year and, of course, I’ve been thinking a lot about setting intentions. While planning and pondering what my touchstone should be, the Strength card kept making an appearance. Over and over.
Strength is one of my favorite cards (if not my absolute favorite) of the Smith-Waite deck. It’s a powerful image: a female figure calmly subduing and closing the jaws of a lion. There is no brute strength going on here. This is tapping into the inner power at your core.
When this card comes up for my clients I often explain that this isn’t the hard unyielding strength of a bulldozer… this is the fluid and enduring strength of a wave.
The Strength card is asking us to find that leonine power within ourselves and to channel it. The lemniscate (infinity symbol) over her head reminds us that we aren’t being called to find one big burst of strength, but to develop real fortitude; turn the fiery bursts of energy into a steady stream of stamina. Endurance is the name of the game and we can handle it with grace.
Happy new year.
I am currently living out The Hanged Man card in my life. I am in the midst of personal and legal issues and really all I can do is wait. There’s frustration and humiliation and a very real sense of powerlessness. I’m moving towards a better time and I know that fairly soon I will be cut down from this scaffolding, but for now… here I hang.
Times like this can be excruciatingly unpleasant; like riding passively in a car on your way to an emergency. Sometimes it feels like if you could just get out of the vehicle and run it would feel better, even though you clearly can’t run as fast as a car can drive. It seems like if only you could exert enough effort you could make time go faster. The feeling that you need to “do” something about the situation can be tough to fight.
So how can I tap into the resigned grace of The Hanged Man in the Major Arcana? Intellectually, I definitely understand that there really is nothing to do but just wait it out. Find an interesting pose, take some deep breaths, take in the view. Time to just “hang” or “be” with the situation. If I can stop flailing and settle down enough, I know I can gain a lot of insight during this time that will serve me well once the rope is removed from my ankle. So for now, deep breath and wait. This too shall pass.
I’ve been thinking a lot about ways to face challenges head on without becoming bogged down in the… well… “challenge” part. Inspired by the season I created The Trick and Treat spread. The center card identifies a core current challenge needing attention. Upper right is the “treat;” what the positive benefits could be from dealing with this challenge. Upper left is, you guessed it, the “trick;” what makes this particular issue a little difficult. The three lower cards are a suggested action path to bridge the gap from the trick to the treat.
I’ve been experimenting with this reading a lot lately and I’m very happy with the results. This time of year can be filled with stress and reflection on those things in our life that have brought us pain. While it’s important work to face the shadows… we need some light to keep us from getting lost there. The Trick and Treat spread is like a nice little meditative lantern in the autumn evening. It’s simple, direct, and empowering. Realistic and hopeful.
Try it for yourself or book a reading with me: The Trick & Treat
My go-to spread is all about the present. No surprise, given that I believe wholeheartedly that the present is “where it’s at.” You can’t look at a map and get to where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. Your present is where your past and your future meet in one fantastic spark of a moment. Your present is where the magic happens.
This past weekend I read cards for patrons of the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. Reading at these types of events is always an interesting mix: the querants range from Tarot regulars and enthusiasts to absolute skeptics and people just looking for something fun to do at the festival.
Given the broad range of querants, the opening exchange is really crucial. I need to know what it is they’re expecting, if anything, and their overall comfort level with the process. Inevitably there were many who, when asked, “Is there anything in particular you’d like to focus on today?” answered, “No, just the future. What’s going to happen this year?” These were also the ones who would not divulge any information about themselves, waiting to be convinced of the validity of a Tarot reading. So, I would proceed with the reading, and about halfway to two-thirds of the way through they would be hooked. Sometimes they’d actually say as much, other times it was a subtle uncomfortable shift of weight until the end when they’d shake their heads in disbelief and shake my hand, and a couple times jaws were dropped. Synchronicity can really knock you off balance if you’re not used to it.
There is something far more powerful and awe-inspiring about gaining clarity over your present circumstances than about generalities of a vague and hazy future. In my view, predictions not anchored heavily to an examination of the present are useless. Just as your route on that map depends upon where you are starting, the future depends largely on what is happening now. The past is fixed, the future is just an idea, the present is workable.
When the Death card comes up, querants often tense up a bit. Sometimes there’s a slight intake of breath (natural when confronted with the thought of death since we are only ever guaranteed an out-breath.) Other times they outwardly remain calm but their eyes continually flicker over to the card with the dramatic name.
But the Death card is neither good nor bad. And very, very rarely refers to anything related to an actual physical death. It is only change. Inevitable change and completion. Change that one way or another we have to deal with. The beauty of Death appearing in a reading is it’s a chance for us to shift our minds back into that mode. It gives us the chance to unhook the ropes we’ve attached to certain hopes, desires, fears, expectations. Death lets us know that it’s a good idea to remain flexible and fluid. Transformation is painful, but it is neither unnatural nor disastrous.
I’m particularly fond of the imagery for Death in the Shadowscapes deck by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law (pictured at left). The phoenix succinctly represents the concept of a completed life-cycle without the seeming finality of the Black Death imagery found in the Smith-Waite deck. It’s easier to let go of the paralyzing fear of change in this light. It’s an expected part of the cycle. Painful and dramatic, yes. But inevitable and natural with the potential for renewal and a fresh start.
The Fool. The “0” of the Major Arcana. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for The Fool. Perhaps it’s the sunny nature of the card and the funny little dog nipping at his heels. Maybe it’s simply because The Fool’s image graced the cover of my first Tarot book. Whatever the reason, I am always pleased to see The Fool make an appearance in a spread.
Early on in my Tarot training the authorities I encountered emphasized the warning aspects of this card. They droned on about a “foolish nature” and the dangers of “not looking where you’re going.” Some even insisted that the dog was a terrible nuisance driving our hero “over the edge.” While all of these aspects might be accurate in particular readings, I hardly think they apply as absolutes for every time our wanderer appears. And limiting our interpretation of The Fool to a cautionary tale is leaving out too much of the picture and cutting out the incredibly empowering side of this iconic card.
The Fool at “0” is what Buddhist philosophy refers to as Beginner’s Mind. The Fool is open to possibility, to learning, to expansion. No, The Fool doesn’t know it all… and that’s a really good thing. Our hero is stepping into the void, he doesn’t know what waits for him, and truth be told, neither do we. We cannot see what lies just one step below the edge of the card; will he truly fall into a cavern or is there another ledge just a foot away? He is groundless, which is the space filled with the most opportunity.
The Fool has been making an appearance in many of my personal readings lately. I’m in a period of profound transformation and many new endeavors are taking off. While I remember that The Fool can carry a warning to pay attention to where I’m headed, I smile to see this traveler setting out on his journey… so much potential before him. Yes, it’s scary and unknown, but you will never reach your goal if you don’t take the first steps.
I bought my first Smith-Waite deck when I was twelve years old… and I’ve been using Tarot as a meditation and self-exploration tool ever since. To be honest though, I could never reconcile the cultural association with Tarot as a “fortune-telling” method with the rational present-time-loving me. And so my card reading was something I did in private and kept largely quiet from all but a few. Last year, a friend of mine and fellow cartomancer, insisted that I let go of the “hippy dippy shame” and fully embrace what I’m good at… using the cards as a tool to help myself and others dig deep into self-exploration. So I did. And the response has been fantastic.
This summer a local designer and artist handed me a copy of his version of the High Priestess. Mark Allen’s cyanotype image is beautiful, contemporary, and haunting. The High Priestess was a reminder that while I love learning and I have a strong education underpinning my life experiences… I am first and foremost an intuitive creature. I thanked him for the timely message and his beautiful work.
I’m thrilled to be officially launching Moth and Candle.
Thank you for joining me on this journey.