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

Monday, October 31, 2016

A Question of Loyalty

From the Navigators of the Mystic Sea comes the Knight of Swords; from the Celtic Lenormand, the Dog:
         The keyword 'penetration' has been assigned this knight, though he seems to have lost his sword and some of his armor. Or is he dropping these things on purpose? He could be a whistle-blower or someone who could no longer stand for ongoing dishonesty or injustice to continue. Being willing to speak the truth does make him vulnerable. Such people must often penetrate the walls of silence that established groups seem to form to protect themselves. They could be cops who come forth about unnecessary violence, Catholics who speak out about pedophiles, and political party members who realize their stance does more harm than good. As can be seen from the Dog, these folks have their loyalty questioned. They may suffer and pay dearly for speaking out and exposing the group as a whole. But perhaps these Knights are faithful to humanity as a whole and not one specific group.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Can't Dam the Flow

This week I'll be using the Navigators of the Mystic Sea Tarot, created by Julia Turk and published by U.S. Games. The other deck I'll be drawing from is the Celtic Lenormand, with artwork by Will Worthington and booklet by Chloe McCracken; it was also published by U.S. Games. Today's cards are the Ten of Pentacles and Flowers:
          The couple in the Ten of Pentacles card watch as the river with coins flows down to them. Did they dig this path to enjoy this abundance? This card reminded me of John Michael Greer's book Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth which describes the Seven Laws of Nature. The Law of Flow states: "Everything that exists is created and sustained by flows of matter, energy, and information that came from the whole system to which it belongs and that return to that whole system." Greer explains that accumulation is increase without flow; unchecked it will destroy the system in which it takes place.  As a result, systems respond to accumulation with responses that restore flow. If material wealth is flowing into one's life, material wealth in some form should be flowing out of it at an equal rate. This reflects the Six of Pentacles drawn yesterday. Flowers from the Celtic Lenormand suggest beauty and joy; McCracken writes that we can "feel pleasure and happiness in the moment." Flowers like happiness don't last forever. Do I want to enjoy the good days to the fullest, or anxiously cling to the illusion that I can somehow dam them up? Being present to the flow of abundance or need is much more constructive.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Grace and Mercy

From the Restored Order Tarot, the Six of Pentacles; from the Oracle of Kabbalah, Hei:
          The keyword given for this card (genade) means grace or mercy. The wealthy fellow is merciful (tenderhearted, compassionate and kind) because he shares his resources with those who don't have enough. The men who receive are filled with grace - "an abundance of gratitude for something freely given" as Katherine Osment defines it. Both giver and receivers are blessed, which probably explains why the scales are balanced. I think here in America we get too caught up in discussions about who should give and who is worthy to receive; we end up missing the meaning of grace and mercy altogether. The Hebrew letter Hei means 'behold,' a word often used to draw one's attention to something. It is like a loud noise that breaks through my mental chatter and my self-centered focus. Hei invites me to pause and look around at what I might be overlooking, such as an opportunity be merciful or experience grace.

Friday, October 28, 2016


From the Restored Order Tarot, the Fool; from the Oracle of Kabbalah, Dalet (Daled):
          In 12 Step rooms around the world, the 'HOW' in "How It Works" stands for honesty, openness and willingness. Doesn't that sound just like the Fool? His ego hasn't developed much muscle yet, so he's not concerned with shifting blame or hiding the truth. His heart and mind are unclouded by opinions and prejudices. And he's ready to try almost anything, because just being alive is an amazing adventure in his eyes. Will he learn things the hard way? It's likely, but at least he won't miss a drop of joy or wonder. The Hebrew letter Dalet is often given the meaning 'doorway,' which has a very different meaning from 'door.' Doors can be closed or open, but a doorway remains a threshold for coming and going. Thoreau once wrote, "However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names." It is tempting to close the mind and heart, to isolate the body and spirit, when life becomes heavy and hard. The Fool and Dalet encourage me not to run away or close the door, but embrace it all. Sometimes it is in the darkness that much is learned; it is where seeds develop and sprout.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hard Heads

From the Restored Order Tarot, the Five of Wands; from the Oracle of Kabbalah, Tav:
          I chose a hard-headed husband because I needed one. Stubborn as a mule about my ideas, I needed someone who would not back down easily about his. We discuss passionately (no yelling) but respectfully our views with each other, and it helps both of us see new perspectives and understand new information. The Five of Wands is the same sort of bantering. These fellows are in a field of grain, possibly arguing about who to sell it to or for how much. Even heated discussions can be valuable if everyone remembers it's not personal and can stay open-minded enough to recognize a good solution when they hear it. Tav is the final letter in the Hebrew alphabet; it literally means 'seal or stamp' and indicates completeness (as in a stamp or seal of approval). Along with Aleph, the first letter, it creates the word emet, or truth. Tav is a call to face the facts of a situation, for reflection on a process that has ended. If my view isn't lauded as the correct one, will I pout? Or can I be mature enough to feel grateful for having learned something new?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Dealing with Demons

From the Restored Order Tarot, the Devil; from the Oracle of Kabbalah, Aleph:
          When I translated the first phrase from Dutch to English in the booklet for this card, it read "I commit myself." Now usually commitment is a good thing, but in this case not so much. These chained folks fear the truth, and their actions are focused on not seeing reality. Whatever distracts them from dealing with life on life's terms is what they are committed to. But these people wouldn't be so afraid if they realized what they think of as being the truth is likely only a half version of it. Fear has a way of distorting things. Aleph's form represents a joining of earth and heaven, of the physical with the spiritual. This Hebrew letter is a paradox of oneness that appears as diversity. It can be way too easy for me to think I have cornered the market when I'm dealing with life's difficulties. I can isolate myself, thinking I'm the only one who has to deal with such struggles. But the truth is that everyone has a daily dose of challenges, and no one is immune. Instead of covering myself in the ashes of self-pity, I should go ask how others constructively deal with their demons.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Dullness of Discipline

From the Restored Order Tarot, the Chariot; from the Oracle of Kabbalah, Beit (Bet):
           The charioteer learns self-discipline in order to control his instincts and emotions. He doesn't want anything interfering with the drive to succeed. Armor protects his heart from being vulnerable to anything that might distract or deter him from the goal. But I'm wondering if his control has been a little too over-the-top. It's obvious he's made some progress, the but the limits and restrictions he's got in place seem to have zombified his two sphinxes. If he doesn't loosen up a little, any creative project he's engaged in is likely to be as exciting as watching paint dry. Beit is the first letter written in the Torah, and so is connected with beginnings. It is also associated with the number 2, a number of duality. Beit reminds the charioteer that even new endeavors need a balance of work and play. A laser-like focus on work is fine for a period of time, but everyone needs a space where they can take their armor off and unwind.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Rescuer or Rescued

From the Restored Order Tarot, the Ten of Staves; from the Oracle of Kabbalah, Samech:
          The translation from Dutch for this card suggests this man is stockpiling, but not for selfish reasons. He is making a personal sacrifice for the common good. There are preparations underway (perhaps for a dangerous storm, flood or hurricane), and he is doing his part to help his community. Many people are often moved to help others both before and after disasters; it is a time when people seem to forget racial, economic and cultural barriers and just do the work that needs to be done. The root for the Hebrew letter Samech means support, and the unbroken shape of its form suggests protection. Seidman suggests our challenge is not to get stuck on one side - as always the protected, never the protector or as always the giver, never the receiver. To have a healthy circle of friends, community or country, we need to be willing to sacrifice our ego as well as our resources.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Impermanence and Orange Tans

This week I'll be using Tarot in de Herstelde Orde (Restored Order Tarot) created by Rob Docters van Leeuwen & Onno Docters van Leeuwen and published by Servire. The other deck I'll be using this week is the Oracle of the Kabbalah created by Richard Seidman and published by St. Martin's Press. Hebrew artwork is by Adam Rhine (not from the oracle cards). Today's draws are the Wheel of Fortune (also called The World by the creators) and Tzadi:
Image result for hebrew letters botanical art

          The creators of this deck use the world as the Wheel, which makes sense considering it is because of our physicality that everything is constantly changing. All the fixed signs of the zodiac have books, implying that hopefully every trip around the sun we'll be learning useful information instead of making the same mistakes over and over. The Hebrew letter Tzadi is the root for the words 'just,' 'honest' and 'fair.' Perhaps that is what is in the books the figures hold, with aphorisms like "Honesty is the best policy," and "Cheaters never prosper." But a look at men like Donald Trump might make me question this philosophy. He reeks of prosperity and has a habit of telling people whatever they want to hear, regardless of whether it is true or not. Yet underneath his orange sprayed-on tan, is he really happy and content? I would guess not, which may be what the real lesson is about living. According to Jewish tradition, every generation has thirty-six Tzaddikim (Righteous Ones) hidden among humanity who hold the world together. I hope one of them is watching over the U.S. election next month.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

It's All in the Attitude

From the Japaridze Tarot, the Devil; from the Holitzka I Ching, Hexagram 31:
           Before I read the booklet, I thought this image was confusing and chaotic. Yet isn't that when we're most susceptible to the Devil - that inner part of us that craves stability and certainty in an ever-changing world? Japaridze looks to the Buddhist term of grasping to help illustrate and explain this card. Grasping happens when we think life should not be a certain way (it's unfair!); we attempt to push away what we dislike and hold tightly to what is pleasant. This is how a lot of compulsions and addictions develop deep roots in our lives. Hexagram 31 is referred to as 'Influence' and suggests an attitude of openness and humility rather than an iron fist. Holitzka writes that one should make wise use of his or her strength. Instead of fighting, there is receptivity and understanding. I do have some influence over confusing situations, but sometimes my power rests in an attitude of acceptance rather than actions.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Candle Carrier

From the Japaridze Tarot, the Queen of Fire (Wands); from the Holitzka I Ching, Hexagram 17:
          This woman's candle lights the way for herself and others. The flame represents her passion and enthusiasm - what inspires and moves her to action. Yet because she is a queen, she is also a nurturer who wants others to find their flames too. Buddha stated: "It is like a lighted torch whose flame can be distributed to ever so many other torches which people may bring along; and therewith they will cook food and dispel darkness, while the original torch itself remains burning ever the same." The Queen knows sharing will create more light, not less. Hexagram 17 is often entitled 'Adapting,' and refers to being flexible enough to happily be a guide or a follower. The point is not who gets to be the leader, but making progress without the interference of the ego. When there's no personal ladder to climb, everyone benefits.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sell No Wine Before Its Time

From the Japaridze Tarot, the Eight of Gardens (Pentacles); from the Holitzka I Ching, Hexagram 49:
          Japaridze describes this figure as an alchemist. Alchemy was both a philosophy and a protoscience with an aim to purify, mature, and perfect certain objects. In Europe the area of interest was mainly metals, while in Asia it was medicine. The alchemist as a symbol for the Eight of Pentacles seems a good fit, as he works hard with attention to detail in an effort to perfect his craft. Hexagram 49 is alternately called Revolution or Metamorphosis and refers to perseverance that finally brings about change. From an alchemical point of view, this in-between time (perseverance) would be the effort put forth for purification and maturation. Just as wine needs time to age so that it's quality improves, so does any movement or project.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

You Can't Take It With You

From the Japaridze Tarot, the Ten of Gardens (Pentacles); from the Holitzka I Ching, Hexagram 36:
          The booklet describes the image of abundance in the Ten of Gardens as the accumulation of conventional wealth. The young girl at the front seems in awe of it all, yet I imagine it has lost much of its shine for her grandparents. I got a quote in my inbox this morning by Anne Morrow Lindbergh: " One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few." When we're young, we spend our time and energy trying to collect and have it all; as we become older, we spend our time giving most of it away. Stuff just doesn't have the same allure as it did before. Hexagram 36 is sometimes called 'Clouded Perception' and indicates a profound darkness of the mind that occurs when we are doing inner work. It is a state of ignorance that can make us react rather than respond. In combining the cards, I see it as that moment when my mortality becomes real to me rather than an intellectual flirtation. It can be tempting to abandon life before I die, adopting a nihilistic attitude. Or I can choose to enjoy each moment as fully as I can, realizing each day has a signature that cannot be replicated.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Diversity and Development

From the Japaridze Tarot, the Two of Tides (Cups); from the Holitzka I Ching, Hexagram 35:
          I thought this card was an illustration of two wolves, but the companion booklet states it is a dog and a wolf who have established a friendship. Japaridze explains that in such a relationship where the differences are obvious, we have the opportunity to appreciate and learn from diversity. I think the best friendships and partnerships are this way; each person can bring a strength to support the other's weakness. The I Ching card appears to parallel this idea with one figure leaning on the other. The traditional image is of the sun rising over the earth. It concerns self-development which becomes a useful tool in how we relate to others and the world around us. The suggestion is not simply self-improvement that stokes the ego, but a change in attitude and beliefs which will help in making progress while maintaining harmony. I might have to drop what I've been clinging tightly to in order to make headway; time to take a page from someone else's playbook.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Look at the Pieces

From the Japaridze Tarot, Love (Lovers); from the Holitzka I Ching, Hexagram 62:
           Instead of two lovers, the Japaridze card shows a pixelated heart over a human form. The companion booklet describes this card as an ethical or moral choice. The pixels remind me how complex human beings are. We are made up of millions of experiences that shape our ideas and beliefs. Judging someone only by the outside will miss all the bits of information on the inside. Taking the time to get to know someone - their values, goals and motivations - could completely change my mind about them (one way or the other). Hexagram 62 is often called 'Small Powers' and refers to how the small, seemingly insignificant things are important. It warns that one should read between the lines and notice the parts that make up the whole. I think when it comes to people, one of the easiest ways to do this is to simply observe their actions and how they respond to life's ups and downs.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Need a Bucket

This week I'll be using the Japaridze Tarot, painted by Nino Japaridze. Its booklet was written by Steve Lucas and the set was published by U.S. Games. The oracle I'll be drawing from is the I Ching, illustrated by Klaus Holitzka with instructions by Marlies Holitzka; it is published by AGM Urania. Today's draws are Strength and Hexagram 48:
           A woman floats alongside her inner lion among the clouds (a clue that this derives from the mental rather than physical plane). The black and white versions of the heads of both seem to blend them together. The lion seems calm, and there is no show of force (be it a chain of flowers or a closing of his mouth). The woman still retains her fire to use when called for, such as when courage or perseverance is necessary. But through it all, she remains peaceful and detached rather than entangled. Hexagram 48 is often called 'The Well.' It is described as a well that remains intact and doesn't run dry, no matter how much the city around it changes. It suggests an inner resource of strength and clarity that can be tapped into which never runs dry. But to access this place, I have to have a spiritual practice that allows me to reach it. No one can get to the water without the bucket.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Muse Memo

From the Art of Life Tarot, the Ace of Wands; from the Tao Oracle, Treading:
 Whatever you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Hexagram 10: Treading on the tail of a tiger without getting bitten.

          Years ago there was a show called "Touched by an Angel;" I've been touched by my muse. I've been so completely taken over by it, I might need an exorcism to recover. There is no trickling stream of creative thought, but a tsunami size wave of it. I'm struggling to keep up and to bring it into a concrete form. Sometimes I succeed, and other times (when I pause for too long) I'm pushed along to bring forth the next idea. It's exciting and exhausting at the same time. There is an underlying feeling that it won't last forever, implying I better hang on and surf that wave while it's here. The downside of being possessed is shown in the tenth hexagram. Both the images (the traditional and Padma's) suggest a need for prudence rather than proceeding at full tilt. Now I know those of you who sew, paint, write or create in other ways understand how routine gets tossed out the window when your muse has you by the earlobe. Yet no one can live by inspiration alone - we need rest, good food and companionship. I'll send her the memo.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Battle of Wills

From the Art of Life Tarot, the Five of Wands; from the Tao Oracle, Approach:
The wisest men follow their own direction. ~ Euripides 
Hexagram 19: Land rising above a marsh.

          Instead of a battle of wills between several fellows, Livingstone uses a painting of a man walking alone. For those who find it hard to be assertive in a group, to speak out loud their version of how to get from point A to point Z, it can feel lonely. Yet the information in a problem-solving session needs input from everyone, no matter how far off the beaten path some might go. Different perspectives can give different views of the problem, thus a solution agreed on that incorporates wisdom from all sides has a greater chance of making a difference. Having the courage to adamantly express one's ideas might be the difference between solving a problem or putting a band-aide on it. The Tao card shows a doorway leading from a dark hall leading to a bright, spring day. There is a sense of almost reaching something that has been desired, but there is still a need to actively do what will continue the progress. In adding this card to the Five of Wands, I think of diplomacy, the skill of managing a situation tactfully. No one will listen if they are not given the courtesy of being listened to as well. Aggression has no place here, only respect; confident insistence without arrogance may open previously closed ears.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Small Things

From the Art of Life Tarot, the Page of Cups; from the Tao Oracle, Innocence:
 There is no instinct like that of the heart. ~ Lord Byron
Hexagram 25: Thunder rolls, original nature manifested.

          People who embody the Page of Cups are easy to recognize; their hearts are so tender and soft, they are instantly moved to comfort anyone (even an animal or plant) that appears to be suffering. They don't do anything big or for show, their actions are more low-key and personal. The Page personifies the words of Mother Teresa: "Do small things with great love." Hexagram 25 fits well with this personality type. Innocence in an adult does not refer to gullibility but to trusting the heart for guidance. Life tends to beat and bully this quality out of us by the time be reach maturity. We armor the heart from the pain and suffering of others, so we don't have to be vulnerable to it. If there is no quick solution to get rid of the anguish, we'd prefer not to see it. But it is only in keeping the heart open to all of life, embracing both delight and heartache, that we find an anchor in joy. It is the original goodness and wisdom innate in all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fire and Wind

From the Art of Life Tarot, the Chariot; from the Tao Oracle, Biting Through:
 Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Hexagram 21: Lightning accompanied by thunder.

          Getting a hot air balloon up or down simply involves increasing or decreasing the propane flow to the burner. But to move horizontally, the pilot must be aware of the winds. Since winds blow in different directions at different altitudes, he must ascend or descend to catch the one blowing in the direction he wants to go. Likewise, to move successfully toward a goal will require monitoring one's inner fire (will, thoughts and emotions) as well as being alert to any external distractions or obstacles along the path. Hexagram 21 suggests meeting those blocks with swift and decisive action. Sit still too long and its easy to get comfortable. Unless I apply some discipline and determination to stoke my fire, I'll be at the mercy of whatever wind blows my way.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Don't Waste Your Breath

From the Art of Life Tarot, the Ace of Swords; from the Tao Oracle, Waiting:
I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship. ~ Louisa May Alcott
Hexagram 5: Clouds ascending into the sky.

          What a wonderful thing to mature to the point where we learn to think for ourselves instead of blindly following what someone tells us is true. Hopefully such maturity will also be accompanied by the ability to be honest and admit mistakes. I see such a wide divide in this skill with our two presidential candidates. One is willing to say she made a mistake, while the other continues to try and put the blame on someone else or use 'bait and switch' tactics. A true leader shouldn't be afraid to navigate those storms, in my opinion. Waiting suggests using this time not in frustration, but as planned inaction. There is no need to force a situation in order to make progress or cause change; right now one's own well-being should be the focus. In regard to the Ace of Swords, some people are not ready to see what the evidence is trying to show them. If I am trying to tell them the truth, they will not be able to hear it. Until they see through their illusions and untangle themselves emotionally, I will be wasting my breath. Sometimes the Titanic has to sink before people wake up to reality.  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Self-imposed Suffering

From the Art of Life Tarot, the Seven of Pentacles; from the Tao Oracle, Excess:
 With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown. ~ Chinese Proverb
Hexagram 28: A forest submerged in a great body of water.

          There's a saying that I find myself thinking of lately: Hurry up and wait. As this particular Seven of Pentacles card points out, patience is a virtue, one that I can either adopt or ignore. But the kicker is that my frustration with having to wait will not make things move at a faster pace, they'll just make me suffer more. It's like the story Pema Chodron tells about the arrow: “If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart...” Sharyn pointed me in this direction yesterday in her comment on my post. The I Ching card points out that limitations have been overlooked, and now there is a price to pay known as STRESS. There's no need for blame or shame, only blunt honesty. Time to start moving according to natural rhythms rather than an artificial, self-imposed cadence.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Movement and Stillness

This week I'll be using the Art of Life Tarot created by Charlene Livingstone and published by U.S. Games. I'll also be using the Tao Oracle, created by Ma Deva Padma and published by St. Martin's Press. Today's draws are the Star and Dispersion:
If thou follow thy star, thou canst not fail of a glorious haven. ~ Dante Alighieri
Hexagram 59: The wind moves above the water.

          Judging from the chosen quote, Livingstone's version of the Star seems to be about guidance. The movement of Vincent van Gogh's night sky is contrasted with the quiet stillness of the community below it. Sometimes I think I am so busy doing that I forget the true purpose of all my coming and going. Taking time to be still and get my bearings on my personal 'North Star' can remind me of my original intent. Dispersion also shows movement, in the wind and in the breath of the flute player. This hexagram warns that rigidity in thinking has cut off the natural flow of ideas. There is a tendency to look for what backs up my own objectives, rather than being open to other points of view. Life has a way of unfolding and meandering at it's own pace rather than in the straight line I'd prefer it to travel. Might as well relax, listen and observe without judgement; I might just learn something wonderful.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Leading with Grace

From the Druidcraft Tarot, the Lord (Emperor); from the Druid Animal Oracle, the Swan:
          The Emperor sits with his legs crossed in the shape of the number four, a symbol of limits and boundaries but also security and stability. With his unwavering gaze and posture, there is no doubt he is a leader who expects others to listen and follow. Other than the green on his gown, there is no green in the background - in other words, no growth. He leaves that concern with his Lady. The Swan, according to the authors, represents the qualities of the soul: love, depth, grace and beauty. These are the qualities that can soften the roughly hewn side of the Emperor. It can make a huge difference as a leader or guide if he or she can listen attentively and respond gently and respectfully. No matter how much knowledge one has, how it is delivered will profoundly affect how it is received. Speak softly, but lose the big stick (unless it's a carrot).

Friday, October 7, 2016

Catching Salmon

From the Druidcraft Tarot, the Five of Cups; from the Druid Animal Oracle, Otter:
          We are wired to be more sensitive to the negative than the positive; it's something our brain came up with hundreds of years ago to keep humans alive ( known as negative bias). As neuropsychologist Rick Hanson explained, good things are like Teflon in the brain (they slide right out) while bad things are like Velcro (you can't hardly shake them loose). Researchers have found we need a five to one ratio of good to bad to just balance things out. Seeing the positive in life will take a great effort that involves intentionally dwelling on each small thing that's good and experiencing it fully. The Otter gives an extra push towards joy by encouraging play and wonder. What activity makes you giggle or your heart sing? What is it that makes you stop in your tracks with awe? What engages you so fully with curiosity that your focus becomes like a laser? The authors suggest that the salmon (pictured in both cards) is the wisdom that comes from breaking routine and having some fun.