I use tarot and oracle cards as tools for reflection and contemplation. Rather than divining the future, they are a way for me to look more deeply at the "now."
"The goal isn't to arrive, but to meander, to saunter, to make your life a holy wandering." ~ Rami Shapiro

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wake Up and Grab the Peanut

From the Shining Tribe Tarot, Awakening (Judgment); from the Animal Tiles, Woodpecker:
          Roshi Melissa Blacker described a riverboat trip in Costa Rican rainforest during which the tour guide stopped the boat and had them gaze at a large tree while being still and breathing deeply. After a few minutes, he said "Let me know when you see the iguana." Sure enough, as each passenger became relaxed, they were suddenly able to see the camouflaged lizard. This is what awakening is like - to encounter reality just as it is without preconception. When we drop our bias and assumptions, our hearts and minds open much wider. Our perspective completely changes.
          I've been putting raw peanuts mixed in with sunflower seeds in my feeders this year, mainly to attract several varieties of woodpeckers. But because these birds are built to grip tree bark so they can drill for insects, they don't have the ability to perch like songbirds. They first hang upside down from the feeder's ledge then sort of flop themselves ungracefully over and upright. Their babies first spend a lot of time just hanging on that ledge, unable to figure out how the parent gets to the food. Eventually through the effort of trial and error, they too figure out how to get to the peanuts. Like the woodpeckers, awakening to raw reality generally means I need to readjust my attitude and actions. Otherwise I'll keep hanging upside down, trying to convince myself (even though I've seen differently) that life is unfair.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Unconditional Giving

From the Shining Tribe Tarot, the Gift of Stones (Queen of Pentacles); from the Animal Tiles, Buffalo:
          Once again I am glad to have Pollack's book in order to understand what her card's illustrations attempt to get across. The curvy stone outlines in the middle represent the Ggantija Temples, two prehistoric temples on Gozo, an island in Malta. The oldest temple predates both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids. The structures were dedicated to the Great Earth Mother, and there is evidence an oracle (priestess) resided here. A few artifacts have been found, including the famous, full-figured sleeping woman. Yet as archaeologist Marija Gimbutas explains, this was not a feminist culture but one that recognized the importance of interdependent kinship: "she [the Great Earth Mother] embodied in Her all powers of nature, male and female together. They were not separated. There are many sculptures in which she has a phallic head. This is Her strength—life stimulation." The addition of Buffalo to this card reminds me of the abundance that comes from benevolence. Both draws make me ask myself, "What part of me do I give to nurture and sustain life? Do I offer my gifts only to who or what I find useful and enjoyable, or to all?"

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pause and Pay Attention

From the Shining Tribe Tarot, the Seven of Stones (Pentacles); from the Animal Tiles, the Green Anole:
          Pollack explains the top of the image as her rendition of the Saptamatrikas, or Seven Mothers of India. Interesting that they also resemble tadpoles and a line of eggs (toads lay their eggs in strands rather than clusters like frogs). The toad at the bottom was in earlier times associated with a woman in labor, squatting as she brings forth a child. Considering this illustration with the RWS version of the Seven of Pentacles, this card makes me remember brief moments between contractions of trying to relax and catch my breath. The Green Anole is shown with his bright pink dewlap extended; it is a warning to other males to stay away from his territory. Anoles have two ways to protect themselves: camouflage (changing from bright green to dark brown) and autotomic tails (which break off and continue to wiggle to distract predators). Both the draws today suggest that the labor-intensive work already done should be protected so all that effort does not go to waste. It's time to pause and pay attention to what might become a complication or a threat.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Embracing Two Sides

From the Shining Tribe Tarot, the Lovers; from the Animal Tiles, the Hawk:
          Well now there's a position I've never tried - suspended in midair. Pollack has chosen to pair an angel with a human, suggesting we embrace both our human and spiritual sides. Mary Jaksch writes that there are three core experiences for being able to live from both parts:
1) The present moment is a doorway.
2) Ordinary notions of 'self' are recognized as limiting, separating 'us' from 'them.'
3)  Awareness of interconnection becomes natural with mindfulness.
So if I live this way, then basically that means I'm a partner with every living thing. I have a commitment to care for all creation, human and otherwise. But before I take off on a head trip of "all is light and love," Hawk flies in with the gift of discernment, the ability to see with clarity and objectivity. No rose-colored glasses are needed. Seeing from a larger perspective means I don't have to hate, but I might need to take a stand, set a protective boundary or try to change an unjust situation. For instance, I may loathe Trump's views, but I don't have to wish him harm. Instead, I just don't have to vote for him.
Bearing witness is not only about understanding what drove “them” to do such terrible things. The practice is also to look deeply and with precision at the innumerable ways that they are us and we are them...Cultures do not spring forth from nothing. They are created by people - we the people. As such, these acts of violence, allowed for by our laws and lionized by our culture, reflect something poisonous in each of us. ~  Joshin Brian Byrnes

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Guiding from Experience

The week I'll be using the Shining Tribe Tarot, a deck and book set created by Rachel Pollack and published by Llewellyn. The oracle I'll be using is a wooden set of Animal Tiles, hand pyro-etched by my multi-talented friend Carole. My draws this morning were the Speaker of Stones (King of Pentacles) and Otter:
          Pollack writes that the spiral of dots above this figure's head represents knowledge of the mind, while the radiating design on the belly implies knowledge of the gut (instincts). Yet this King is grounded in reality; I imagine that table in front of him/her is for drawing up plans rather than divination. Ideas and hunches may be taken into account, but past experience will likely be given more weight. As a guide for his/her kingdom, concrete information instead of abstract thought or feelings will hold more weight for the Speaker of Stones. Otter pops in to back up this King. Unlike sea otters who spend most of their time in the ocean, river otters spend much of their time on land to prevent their fur from becoming waterlogged. If I am looking for wise guidance and direction, I might first have to take a step back from tradition, personal preferences and the viewpoints of others. I am reminded of the Buddha's advice given to the Kalama people:
Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted and carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness' — then you should enter and remain in them. ~ Kalama Sutta

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Seeing the Whole

From the Tarot of Durer, the Knave (Page) of Pentacles; from the Philosopher's Stone, Complement:
          The booklet describes this Knave as a 'scholarly youth,' though the knowledge he seeks is not abstract. He prefers practical information that can be put to use - how to manage time wisely, live a long, healthy life and sustain a secure lifestyle. In his view, plans and dreams are only as good as the actions that follow them. He's a realist by nature; the skull denotes his awareness of how transitory life can be. For that reason, the Knave may be impatient to find the answers he seeks. The Stone card, Complement, suggests a lesson that might not come easy for this lad. He'd prefer a straightforward 'yes or no,' 'black or white' explanation for everything. Make it cut and dried, thank you very much. But the different pieces of stone that fit together like puzzle pieces imply that life isn't that simple. Sometimes the answer isn't either/or but both (like the question of nature vs. nurture). If he can incorporate this wider outlook into his education, he'll end up with a much more complete picture rather than only a piece of it.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Seeing the Solution

From the Tarot of Durer, the King of Swords; from the Philosopher's Stone, Solution:
          Unlike his younger sons, the King of Swords has tamed his dragon (impulsive words) and domesticated his fox (manipulative intellect). Now that doesn't mean he can't build a fire under people to get them moving or plan a strategy to protect and advance his kingdom. He just does it thoughtfully and objectively, considering what will benefit all instead of just a few. As I leave to go spend a few days with my mom and cousins, I need to adopt his mature vision. Their political and religious views are very dissimilar to my own, which can make conversation difficult. The Stone card suggests there is a solution, as the stylized question mark becomes an exclamation point in shadow. Rather than an obstacle, the brick wall might be the answer. As long as I remain respectful and don't become emotionally entangled, I can make space for everyone's opinions and beliefs. Then we'll all have a section of wall to creatively express our ideas on, just like graffiti artists.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


From the Tarot of Durer, the Sun; from the Philosopher's Stone, Light:
          A kindly sun shines down on a harbor town where two cherubs hold freshly picked fruit. The phrase on the card reads: "This sign will bring success." The Sun does bring light, warmth and energy, thus giving clarity, life and growth. For me this is a card of radiant joy - feeling full of vitality and confidence while also perceiving and understanding more deeply. But like everything else in this physical world, our time in the sun will be balanced by time in the darkness. Can we maintain a positive but realistic outlook even then? The stone man with his eyes closed and serious expression reminds me of a quote by Bill Wilson: "Hold your face up to the light, even though for the moment you do not see." Faith born of experience rather than simply belief can keep that sun shining within until it rises again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Lion has Landed

From the Tarot of Durer, the Eight of Wands; from the Philosopher's Stone, Freedom:
          Have you ever made plans and gotten the ball rolling on some project or event, but when the the goal day arrived, it caught you unprepared? Imagine someone who planned a bridal brunch, then forgot to set her alarm clock and woke up with one hour to clean house and prepare the food. Or consider someone who's applied for a job in another city by first sending in an impressive resume. After a few phone conferences with the prospective employer, he's asked to come for an interview; half way there, he realizes he's forgotten to look up the address of where he's going. The guy in this card obviously put things in motion, but wasn't ready when it was time to take that final step. The Freedom card reminded me of something written by Os Guinness: "Freedom requires order, and therefore restraint." It's so easy to get excited and fired up about something that we drop some pieces and tools we need to complete what we're building. Guinness went on to say that "the problem isn't wolves at the door but termites in the floor." That firm foundation is a must.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Make Hay

From the Tarot of Durer, the Wheel of Fortune; from the Philosopher's Stone, Tension:
          Bless his heart... this poor dwarf thinks Lady Fortune is the most beautiful lass in the world, but that's because his good luck is on the upswing. Once that wheel goes around and runs over by him, I bet he imagines her looking not-so nubile and lovely. Fortune (Life) doesn't really play favorites; as Matthew reminds us, the sun rises on both the evil and the good and the rain falls on the just and unjust. Best to make hay while the sun shines and adjust to the rainy days that come. The card Tension shows what happens when we don't adapt and accept what fate brings. Stress can be enough of a burden all on its own, but endured for long enough, it can literally break us and our relationships apart. There is no such thing as a perfect life or even a perfect day, unless it is a life or day without the weight of expectations.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hang Tight Without Shrinking

From the Tarot of Durer, the Hanged Man; from the Philosopher's Stone, Task:
          The phrase underneath this hanging man reads: "Many hidden dangers await the good." When you live with a tender and kind heart, there are many ways for it to be hurt. I don't know anyone who hasn't felt pain of some form. In the case of this card, it has come because he is powerless to stop or control a situation. Sometimes life is hard, and there's not a thing that can be done to change it. This fellow is yelling and flailing about to the extent that he's lost a shoe. I imagine the rooster is suggesting that he stop squawking; reality is not impressed or influenced by hysterics. The Task card shows three different way we can handle these kind of difficulties: with grace, with a sense of duty or with an attitude that life isn't fair. There is a line in a novel by Anita Shreve that says, "To be relieved of love, she thought, was to give up a terrible burden." Do you think of love as a burden, or is it the key that unlocks a new way of seeing?
Love is a willingness to stand in the fire of life and not shrink back.
~ Will Donnelly

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Take the Offered Hand

This week I'll be using the Tarot of Durer, created by Manfredi Toraldo and Giacinto Gaudenzi and published by Lo Scarabeo. The oracle deck I'll also be using is the Philosopher's Stone, created by De Es and published by AG Muller. Today's draws are the Four of Wands and Direction:
          The lion-skin rug depicted here is not an encouragement to safari hunters, but a symbol of  self-will. Volition can be useful if it's reined in rather than given free rein (which tends to lead to extremes). A somewhat similar example can be seen in the creatures associated with Hindu deities which represent the forces they control. In the Four of Wands, this fellow seems to be trying to convince his bride of what he's capable of building. Being able to focus the will on a project without being easily distracted is a good start (thus 'the rug'). The Philosopher's Stone card - Direction - suggests that the fellow with big dreams might need some help. Looking at his roughly hewn timbers, I think some guidance from someone who's accomplished a similar goal would be in order. He can learn from both his mentor's successes and mistakes, making it possible for him to finish his project before his patience runs out and frustration sets in.
But then it occured to him that any progress he had made on his quest so far he had made by accepting the help that had been offered to him. ~ Neil Gaiman

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Less Traveled Path

From the Sheridan Douglas Tarot, Judgment; from the Pages of Shustah, the Path:
Some wake-up calls can radically change the path you're on.
 Sometimes it takes a wake-up call, doesn't it, to alert us to the fact that we're hurrying through our lives instead of actually living them; that we're living the fast life instead of the good life. 
~ Carl Honore

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bending Rules

From the Sheridan Douglas Tarot, the Emperor; from the Pages of Shustah, the Spying Page:
 Rules are in place for a reason; stop trying to weasel around them.
"No" is a complete sentence. ~ Anne Lamott

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Prudent Bliss

From the Sheridan Douglas Tarot, the Ten of Cups; from the Pages of Shustah, the Serpent:
 While following your bliss, you still need to watch your step.
“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” 
John F. Kennedy

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bring Your Bathing Suit

From the Sheridan Douglas Tarot, the Two of Coins; from the Pages of Shustah deck, the Sacred Mushroom:
          Douglas writes that in the physical world there are natural fluctuations, much like the tides and waves of the sea. One day you're well and full of energy, and the next you're under the weather and feeling drained. This week you've just gotten paid and have a multitude of things to do, and the next week you're pinching pennies and bored. This lass has on her bathing suit; she's prepared for whatever the tide brings. Treading water might not be as fun as floating on your back, but neither one will last forever. The Sacred Mushroom implies being open to a spiritual lesson. In this case, the teacher has appeared and asks, "Are you receptive to what is being taught?" The principle that easily connects to such fluctuations is acceptance - the ability to be receptive of 'what is' without feeling uniquely targeted. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow stated, "For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain." It's useless to curse the sky or feel like like life is treating me unfairly. Instead, a little common sense and an umbrella can be much more valuable.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Telenovas and Electric Fences

From the Sheridan Douglas Tarot, the Knight of Cups; from the Pages of Shustah, the Separating Fence:
          This young knight wears no armor, most likely because it would detract from his blonde hair blowing in the wind and his watery cape that flies out behind him. His pony is barely at a trot, which makes me think there is a fan blowing just out of the frame to give him this windswept, romantic look. The Knight of Cups always makes me feel as if I'm watching a telenovela. There's lots of passionate emotion, but it doesn't appear to be very realistic. Yet perhaps this knight's job is not in the physical world; he could be just trying to rescue those of us who are cut off from our feelings. As Helen Keller put it, "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart." Which makes the message of the Separating Fence seem strange: "the recognition of the need for partial restraint against another person." I was flummoxed until it dawned on me that sometimes this person can be from our past and live in our heads. I have one who reminds me of what a weak and worthless person I am every time I cry. For him only an electric fence will do.
Mike Luckovich - The Denver Post

Monday, June 13, 2016

Rampant Lion

From the Sheridan Douglas Tarot, Fortitude (Strength); from the Pages of Shustah, Closed Gate:
          The red lion in this card reminded me of the Royal Flag of Scotland. The flag shows a rampant lion - standing upright with forelegs raised and claws unsheathed, as if to strike. This lion has been subdued by the woman in blue, who looks like she may as well be scooping a litter box instead of holding a lion's mouth. Douglas writes that the woman represents the inner strength of purpose rather than the outer strength of action. She doesn't allow moods or other distractions to cause her to lose her focus or self-control.
          The Closed Gate looks jury-rigged (an old sailing term that meant temporarily fixing a damaged mast with the materials on hand). It represents a blockage, but not one that will be permanent. Until it is resolved, patience and acceptance will be required. I'm guessing that blockage will be the frustration that winds up the red lion. Yet giving in to these feelings by reacting to them will only further impede progress.
The more passion one has about the faults of others, the more agitated the mind becomes.
~ B. Alan Wallace

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Crabby and Indecisive

This week I'll be using the Sheridan-Douglas Tarot, created by David Sheridan and Alfred Douglas and published by Sheridan Douglas Press. The oracle deck I'll be using is Pages of Shustah, created by Ann Manser and Cecil North and published by Shustah Inc. Today's draws are the Seven of Cups and the Sign of Cancer:
          This is an interesting take on the Seven of Cups; six chalices rest at his feet while another sits farther away. It is always tempting to take what is the easiest to reach, what will require the least effort. But what if that golden cup is the one that contains a joy that is lasting? I ran into an old friend yesterday at the bank; I had been a substitute teacher for her years ago at a small Catholic elementary school. She told me that they desperately needed substitutes for the coming year and asked me to consider it. I told her I would think about it, but my internal reaction was to groan. Which brings me to the Cancer card, a sign known for its emotional sensitivity and tendency to retreat to the comforts of home when things get difficult. I've spent the last several years overwhelmed with the care of other people; I find the idea of hiding contentedly in my shell a welcome reprieve. Yet there's an opportunity hanging in the near future, and I'm not quite sure what to do about it.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Words of Wisdom

From the Ship of Fools Tarot, the Six of Swords; from the Wisdom of the Four Winds, Moss:
          I've got one person in my life who I allow to wreck my equanimity, much like this fellow's poor boat. He is unbalanced at the best of times and dangerous at the worst. My thoughts about him stir up my emotions, and I soon find myself in stormy waters. I've heard so many people advise to "just let it go," which sounds easy and doable with a simple resentment or hurt feelings. But this is not that, and I find Joseph Goldstein's advice to be more helpful: "let it be." To let something (or someone) go, implies an action that I have no idea how to do. Goldstein's suggestion allows me to acknowledge without requiring a specific action; devoid of desire or expectation, I let it float out to sea (let it be). It is, as the Beatles sang, words of wisdom.
          Moss thrives in places that no other plant will grow - on bare rock, compacted clay and in extreme shade. It appears so soft and fragile yet manages to survive in the most unwelcoming spots. Moss reminds me to find joy in the simple and ordinary, which relates to the lojong slogan I've been working with this week. It's so easy to narrow my focus until all I see is what is wrong, instead of expanding my view to include all that is good and beautiful too. If I open my heart and mind wide enough, there will be room for all.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Inside Out

From the Ship of Fools Tarot, the Mountebank (Magician); from the Wisdom of the Four Winds, Limestone:
          According to Wiktionary, the term mountebank comes from the Italian montambanco ‎- “quack who mounts a bench to hawk his wares.” America is full of them, some intentionally deceiving others for money and others who just plain don't have the skills necessary to truly offer lasting help. Got financial worries? No problem, go play the lottery and become a millionaire. Having a bad run of relationships? Go to an online dating site and find your perfect match. Want people to think you're smart? Get an online college degree (federal accreditation is no big deal, right?). Need help with your motivation? Go listen to some TED talks. We Americans love our quick fixes and dynamic speakers (just look at the Republican choice for our next U.S. President). Part of Brailsford's verse for Limestone reads, "The record of the passing of all that has been." This white stone is common in our area; kids and adults are fascinated by it because of the many fossils it contains. By shutting out the hawkers selling their wares and finding stillness and quiet within, I might find the real solution to my problems isn't an external band-aid. I need to uncover my habitual patterns, and see what behaviors are beneficial and those that aren't. My transformation needs to begin from the inside out.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Dedication with Daring

From the Ship of Fools Tarot, the Knight of Coins; from the Wisdom of the Four Winds, Kiwi:
          I was curious about the crowned pig this knight rides; the original illustration shows the sow with a bell around its neck. After doing some investigative research, I found out this was a "tantony pig." These runts of the litter were donated to the hospital built by St. Anthony the Abbot, a prominent figure among the Desert Fathers. Identified by the bell around their necks (the monks who ran the hospital were "bell-ringers" when asking for donations), they were allowed to run free and forage on what they could find; it was considered an act of charity to feed them. The whole idea of physically donating and caring for something (both the pigs and the hospital) in order to help the community as a whole reminds me of this responsible and loyal knight. He asks me, "What are you dedicating your energy and resources toward, and who benefits?"
          Kiwis are shy and nocturnal. Being a flightless bird, it digs burrows instead of having a nest. It lays the largest egg in relation to body size than any bird in the world. These unique traits explain Brailsford's choice of the keyword 'courage' for this animal: "Dare to be different; that makes the difference." The combination of these cards reminded me of how the current generations have a fear of poverty and operate from a sense of lack. It does take courage to open one's heart and share one's resources (whether time, energy or money) without being threatened by not having enough.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Proficiency Under the Palm Tree

From the Ship of Fools Tarot, the Eight of Coins; from the Wisdom of the Four Winds, the Cabbage Tree:
          When I see an RWS version of the Eight of Pentacles, I am always interested in the fact that the fellow practicing his skill set is not in a home but outside. I wonder how far away he'd be placed if he was learning the violin or trumpet? (A few houses down from us was a teen a who would wander the neighborhood practicing his musical instrument in the late afternoon.) But perhaps the real reason is that he can't focus with other folks around; he needs as few distractions as possible when it comes to mastering his craft. The Cabbage Tree is know for yielding instead of breaking; like t'ai chi ch'uan, it changes in response to outside forces rather than attempting to meet them with opposing force. It represents the feminine characteristics of receptivity and gentleness. I can't think of two better traits to have when a person is developing proficiency in an area. I can learn the tricks of the trade from those who are much more experienced than I am. Yet at the same time, I need to have patience with myself - gentleness - when I make mistakes.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Keep Calm, Extend Kindness

From the Ship of Fools Tarot, the King of Cups; from the Wisdom of the Four Winds, Fire:
          People today are always in a hurry with little patience to pause when they have an agenda. But the King of Cups is generous of heart, willing to listen and sit with the pain and joy of other people. He doesn't get personally entangled with their emotional ups and downs but maintains a compassionate objectivity. His offer of a cup of kindness comes with no strings attached. It is curious that the composed and mild mannered King has been paired with the passion of Fire. Brailsford suggests this card indicates the power change, but he warns that a warm heart and good intentions should accompany it. Change forged with anger and a desire to hurt will only harm the one who fed its flames. As a British WWII motivational poster stated: "Keep Calm and Carry On."

Monday, June 6, 2016

Pennies in my Pocket

From the Ship of Fools Tarot, the Ace of Coins; from the Wisdom of the Four Winds, Air:
          This fellow pulls a giant coin over rough terrain, which fits with the gift of physical resources and the effort needed to make wise use of them. Most everyone wants their money to accrue interest, their bodies to be healthy and their time and energy not to be wasted. But how can we develop and create something tangible with the portion we've received? The media would have us compare ourselves with what others have, tempting us with the thought that we need something in particular to make us feel secure and fulfilled. But the freedom of the Air card suggests that we don't need to reduce our possibilities down to the size of a thimble. An open mind can widen and hold infinite opportunities instead of only a few.
Beginner’s mind is Zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgments and prejudices. Beginner’s mind is just present to explore and observe and see “things as they are.” Zenkei Blanche Hartman