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

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Furnace of Love

From the Rohrig Tarot, the Ace of Cups; from the Master Tarot, 'The Comet:'
          The companion book describes the Ace of Cups as "love in all its modes of expression." A woman walks into the fiery radiance of such love, offering no resistance. Where there is love, the heart is vulnerable and wears no armor. Whether it's a pet, a child, a spouse, a lover or friend, our heart resonates with their joys and their sorrows. Love can melt us in its furnace, yet it can also transform our heart. It requires us not to become self-absorbed in the emotion so that we lose sight of our connection. The Comet suggests an auspicious time and states that "something is about to pierce through our armor." Sounds like an opening of the heart, but in order to welcome it fearlessly, it might be best to take Sharon Salzberg's advice:
Love is a feeling and it’s what we yearn for, but looking deeper, it’s a capacity within us to care and to want others and ourselves to be free from suffering. We want to have a sense of belonging that’s rightful no matter who we are, and that is an ability within us. If we think of it as a warm fuzzy feeling then it’s in the hands of someone else. I describe it as being beholden to person holding a package on our doorstep who then changes their mind. They’ve gone somewhere else and then there’s no love in our lives. That’s the way we usually think about it. But if we see love as a capacity within ourselves to connect, then people can enliven it, enrich it or threaten it but no one is giving it to us. Or taking it away.

Monday, July 30, 2018


From the Rohrig Tarot, the Sun; from the Master Tarot, 'The Scream:'
          The tiny fellow on the mountaintop reflects the keyword that the companion book gives this card - self-actualization. Psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers developed this concept of psychological growth. Maslow defined it as "The impulse to convert oneself into what one is capable of being." The Sun's radiance shines and illuminates all the dark places. Symbolically, it represents seeing our potential and the possibilities that lay before us. Fear of 'what if' has been burned up by enthusiasm for what is. The preciousness of life is felt and acknowledged on an experiential level. The Scream depicts the moment when our pink cloud is interrupted by the pain of life. Just when we were having fun, we get thrown out of our comfy nest. Yet this too (the dark side) offers us a chance to grow and learn if we realize pain is universal and not personal. As Viktor Frankl puts it, "Human freedom is not a freedom from but freedom to" and further explains, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Cliff Jumping

This week I'll be using the Rohrig Tarot, created by Carl W. Rohrig and published by Sirio. I also have a companion book written by the artist and Francesca Marzano-Fritz and published by Bluestar Communications. The other deck I'll be drawing from is called a tarot, but I'll be using it as an oracle: the Master Tarot. It was created by Amerigo Folchi and Mario Montano and published by AG Muller. Today's cards are the Seven of Wands and 'No Clothes:'
          Watching the silhouette of a man leap from one cliff to another, it's easy to see why the Thoth keyword for this card is Valor. It implies a courageous struggle, facing formidable situations and dealing with them head-on. A friend who tried to recover from alcoholism was buried this week. Anyone who has ever tried to break a pattern of behavior that had been used habitually to deal with fear, anger, pain or grief knows that it's like leaping across a chasm. It's terrifying. Fighting the urge when triggered is like being willing to stand in the middle of a fire. As Pema Chodron explains, "when habitual reactions are strong and long-standing, it’s difficult to choose intelligently. We don’t intentionally choose pain; we just do what’s familiar, which isn’t always the best idea." The No Clothes card shows a naked duo who have shed not only their clothing but their masks as well. NA states that the insanity of addiction (of any kind) embraces the belief that we can take some thing outside of ourselves to fix what’s wrong inside of us: our feelings. Yet this bare look at ourselves has nothing to do with shame and humiliation. As Chodron writes, "It is said that we can’t attain enlightenment, let alone feel contentment and joy, without seeing who we are and what we do, without seeing our patterns and habits.  This is called maitri—developing loving-kindness and an unconditional friendship with ourselves."

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Picking up Coins

From the Ancient Italian Tarot, the Ace of Coins; from the Marseille Oracle, 'Loss:'
          There is a lot of vegetation surrounding this coin, a promise of growth in the material realm if one chooses to accept this opportunity. There may be several valid reasons for not picking up that coin - a lack of time, not being sufficiently motivated to see it through, or a clash with a backer's ethics or vision. Yet many people probably won't pocket that coin out of a fear of failure. It may help if we frame it as Mary Oliver does: "It's not a competition, it's a doorway." The Loss card shows a candle that has been snuffed out and seems to parallel the choice of not taking the opportunity. The lack of light is suggested by the booklet's phrase, "Clarify things before proceeding." If we are planning to turn down an offer based only on assumptions, perhaps we should get more information before we act; it would help to make sure what we think is actually true.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Egotism vs. Wisdom

From the Ancient Italian Tarot, the Devil; from the Marseille Oracle, 'Wisdom:'
          The little booklet came with the Ancient Italian Tarot assigns the keyword 'egotism' to the Devil. Wikipedia explains that this is "the drive to maintain and enhance favorable views of oneself, and generally features an inflated opinion of one's importance. It often includes intellectual, physical, social and other overestimations." What does the ego do when it runs into a situation it can't control or manipulate? Unhealthy or unskillful habitual patterns often emerge. There's a reason why Temperance is the trump card before the Devil. Wisdom includes not just knowledge but maturity, experience, and insight as well. It is helps us recognize patterns of thinking and behavior then allows us to change them. Wisdom encourages us to acknowledge both our assets and liabilities, asking for help without shame when we need it.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Intellectual Instability

From the Ancient Italian Tarot, the Ten of Swords; from the Marseille Oracle, 'Troubles:'
          The Marseille Ten of Swords indicates mental or intellectual instability, a mind incapable of reason or logic. It made me think of one of the Buddhist precepts: I vow not to intoxicate body or mind but to cultivate a mind that sees clearly. Many things that have nothing to do with drugs or alcohol can intoxicate the mind - strong opinions, desperate longings, and emotional surges. The Troubles oracle card shows a two-handed saw, which allows one person to push and another to pull (making the job easier). The lwb states that it represents cutting off social and loving relationships. In other words, we cut off what aids us and balances out our ideas, especially thinking that is way out of line with reality. Hopefully, those on the receiving end of those cuts won't stomp off in a huff but will wait until the other 'sobers' up for a heart-to-heart talk.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


From the Ancient Italian Tarot, the Three of Swords; from the Marseille Oracle, 'Amends:'
          The Three of Swords implies intellectual analysis, the kind that leads to a defensive strategy. Like the bush that has borne berries in the illustration, there is something that needs protective boundaries. Usually, such planning begins when someone has appropriated something without permission or selfishly taken advantage of a situation. Yet caution needs to be taken so that paranoia doesn't reign. As Rick Hanson put it, "Staying with a negative experience past the point that’s useful is like running laps in Hell: You dig the track a little deeper in your brain each time you go around it." There's a difference between putting a fence around your yard and nailing a sign to a tree that states 'Trespassers will be shot.' What happens when we cross that boundary into Rambo La-la Land? We often hurt those who don't deserve it. Thus the Amends card shows up. But just in case anyone thinks it is suggesting self-flagellation, the phrase associated with it is 'Save your energy.' In other words, rectify the situation and make restitution if necessary, but there's no need to beat ourselves up over it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


From the Ancient Italian Tarot, the Nine of Coins; from the Marseille Oracle, 'Law:'
          The Nine of Coins suggests wise management and prudent investment of one's resources. Like the set of four coins on the top that matches the set of four on the bottom, what goes out does not exceed what comes in (with a little nest egg for emergencies in the middle). Living this way is a struggle for some folks, perhaps because they've not been taught to be good stewards of what they have (or because they have very little to begin with), but often it's simply because they have 'plastic money' that allows them to spend more than what they can pay for. The Law card with its scales of balance implies that keeping things as level as possible is important if we don't want trouble. It's not simply that we overspend, but that we do it knowingly. We tell ourselves that the companies or government tax offices that get screwed because we don't pay them have plenty of money. But in reality, it's not the bosses that pay the price, but the underlings that suffer - the regular Joes and Janes that are just like us. How are we going to rationalize our actions to them?

Monday, July 23, 2018

Advice to Heed

From the Ancient Italian Tarot, the Eight of Chalices; from the Marseille Oracle, 'Inspiration:'
           The Ancient Marseille's booklet suggests the keywords 'maturity' and 'sentimental steadfastness' for this card. Lee Bursten refers to the Eights as 'the efficiency expert' (due to discipline and structure). The two chalices in the middle are flanked by three on top and three below. It reminds me of how family, coworkers, and friends or lovers can shape how we view relationships. Experiences, both good and bad, will form a model of what we look for in a mate and what we want to avoid. Those who mature through such bonds will learn what is healthy and what isn't; those who don't will simply repeat old patterns. The phrase given to the Inspiration card is, "Listen to the advice from those who love you." Those who care about us can see our patterns and be objective when we may be blinded by what we desire. If they love us, they want what is best for us, and it would be wise to listen to what they have to say.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Keeping Justice Jolly

This week I'll be using the Ancient Italian Tarot, a Marseille deck reinvented by an anonymous Italian artist and published by Lo Scarabeo. I'll also be drawing from the Marseille Oracle, created and published by Lo Scarabeo with a lwb by Isa Donelli. Today's cards are Justice and 'Hard Work:'
          The scales of Justice symbolize impartial distribution, and her sword represents truth and protection of rights. While she personifies equity and harmony, she also demands responsibility. "Oops, my bad" won't cut it with her. Restitution or compensation will be required of the one who has caused those scales to tip out of balance. Yet according to Plato, Justice doesn't work alone but with other virtues: wisdom (Hermit), courage (Strength), and moderation (Temperance). It seems even virtues need a checks-and-balances system. The Hard Work card shows a man who has laid down his yoke and load to have a drink. But while he sits and takes a break, he keeps his eye on whatever he has been carrying. The phrase given in the lwb is "insist on the road undertaken." What would this road look like? It would be paved with attention to how thoughts, words, and actions don't just affect the person doing them, but also how they might impact others. That might even get a smile out of Justice.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Exit Ramp

From the Tarot of Pagan Cats, the Ace of Swords; from Brownie Wisdom, 'When others scoff:'
          What's interesting about the Ace of Swords is the way the sword goes through the top of the crown - there is no covering. It symbolizes an open mind that creates enough space to see many possibilities rather than relying on a rigid, traditional framework of how things have always been done. Solutions are often found in what is innovative or what has been cast aside as worthless. The little booklet describes it as "an opportunity for a new way of thinking." Yet new ideas often create fear in those who prefer to keep walking the well-worn road, and those who are afraid will likely try to take control by infecting others through worrisome, dire predictions. The Brownie Wisdom card suggests that we don't tie up our energy arguing with these folks; the best defense is a good offense. Showing can be more persuasive than telling. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Hard-won Wisdom

From the Tarot of Pagan Cats, the Tower; from Brownie Wisdom, 'The gift:'
          Regardless of folklore, cats don't always land on their feet. The greater the height from which they fall, the more likely they will land in a way that results in injury. The injury in the Tower's case is to the ego, which uses a number of devices to lure us into the belief that we'll be untouched by the natural vicissitudes of life. We would do better to follow the teaching in the Samiddhi Sutta: "I, friend, do not reject the present moment to pursue what time will bring. I reject what time will bring to pursue the present moment." Hiding from our fears in whatever tower we construct never works out well. The little booklet suggests that while our wake-up may be unpleasant, it is not without benefit: "An unexpected event that changes everything, that destroys all that no longer serves you and allows a breakthrough, a creating of a new and more appropriate reality." The Brownie suggests that gifts should be accompanied by a cheerful heart, and it could be said the reception of a gift should be received in the same way. Such unexpected 'gifts' generally require time and a wider perspective to see the good in them. But given enough space (while letting go of our grip on what 'should be'), we may eventually see the wisdom that awaits us.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Gathering and Releasing

From the Tarot of Pagan Cats, the Four of Pentacles; from Brownie Wisdom, 'Deeds of love:'
          The small booklet that came with this deck gave an interesting phrase for this card: gathering power. Since this is the Pentacles suit that deals with the material, this power could include money, physical energy or time. All three can be spent unwisely, leaving us with no reserve that might be needed later. Yet the Brownie Wisdom card suggests our resources can be used selfishly or unselfishly as well. Deeds of love come from an open heart, not an open wallet. And that heart won't be concerned with making an impression but with making a difference.
Everywhere in life, the true question is not what we gain, but what we do.     
~Thomas Carlyle

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Prep Work

From the Tarot of Pagan Cats, the Five of Swords; from Brownie Wisdom, 'The knowing:'
          What caused a dissolution of friendships because of a simple argument? My guess is that rigid, black-or-white thinking was at the root, a my-way-or-the-highway approach. Humans get so caught up in their opinions and beliefs that we forget that things are contextual - they always depend on the circumstances that formed the setting or created the situation. An immigrant has a different intention than a refugee. A child getting a free school breakfast has a motivation that is distinct from the guy who hangs out at shopping centers and hands out a sob story for money. Brownie Wisdom suggests that preparation in advance is a key for handling these disagreements. Rather than adding fuel to the fire, how can I respectfully present my ideas while listening to those of another with an open mind?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


From the Tarot of Pagan Cats, the King of Swords; from Brownie Wisdom, 'Time:'
          In this wintry landscape, I can imagine the King of Swords saying, "Just the facts, ma'am." Does this mean he cares more about justice and less about kindness? I don't think so. I'm currently taking a class taught by Joan Halifax called 'Compassion at the Edge.' She speaks often about metacognition - the awareness and ability to understand one's mental processes. Instead of riding the roller coaster of the mind, we step off and watch its twists and turns, high points and low points. We come to recognize our particular preferences and prejudices as well as how emotions and memories can bias us. From this vantage point, we can make rational choices rather than reactive ones. However, the Brownie Wisdom card reminds us that time won't stand still, so we can't sit and watch our mental gymnastics forever. We have to use the information we have to make the wisest decision we can at the moment.

Monday, July 16, 2018


From the Tarot of Pagan Cats, the Empress; from Brownie Wisdom, 'They assemble:'
          The Emperor may be about setting rules for structure and security, but the Empress will likely bend a few if it gets in the way of creating or nurturing what she is trying to grow. Brownie Wisdom implores us to not believe everything we hear. How can we tell what is fake news designed to sway and influence us? The Empress would tell us to look for what they nurture and create. Do their words inspire divisiveness and hatred or cooperation and kindness? Are they building walls and exploiting resources or sustaining the life of all beings? Is their love or approval conditional? Is everything they do first filtered through "How will this affect me?"
I have tremendous respect for women.

I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.

I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.

I think I am actually humble. I think I’m much more humble than you would understand.

Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure, it's not your fault.

I think if this country gets any kinder or gentler, it's literally going to cease to exist.

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Long Game

This week I'll be using Lo Scarabeo's Tarot of Pagan Cats (mini) with booklet by Barbara Moore and art by Lola Airaghi. Paired with it will be Brownie Wisdom, the smaller deck included with The Brownies Oracle created and self-published by Doug Thornsjo. Today's draws are Emperor and 'Brightest hours:'
           Seeing this fluffy cat sitting on his dais made me think of the 'Big shot' panel from the Baby Blues comic strip back in 2001. But a closer look at this cat's face makes him look a little tired (although still serious). The logic of the Emperor motivates him to create a world that is stable, secure, efficient and prosperous. Moore writes that his "decisions are made for the greater good, intending to benefit as many as possible." Of course, there are always a few who won't benefit, and they're usually the ones who will be shouting the loudest for him to be dethroned. The best leaders focus on serving the well-being of the whole and aren't moved by a few opinionated or influential individuals. It is a heavy responsibility that will age him in a hurry. The Brownie card implies that everyone has dark nights and bad luck, but this won't last forever. Good decisions will eventually bring good results in the long run.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Prudent Approach

From the Via Tarot, the Princess (Page) of Disks; from the Nature's Pharmacy deck, 'Chicory:'
          The Princess of Disks, elementally the Earth of Earth, could be represented by the word embodiment - a tangible form of an idea, quality, or feeling. Her staff points downward because she is like an electrical grounding rod. She believes in what can be proven through material evidence. Ideals and plans aren't worth much to her unless they are manifested in the real world. Chicory's root has a history of being roasted and ground to be used as a coffee substitute, especially during hard economic times. Coffee made with chicory tends to have a more bitter taste, while the more expensive Arabica coffee has caffeine, a pleasant aroma, and a smoother flavor. Together with the Princess of Disks, these cards imply a prudent approach. Instead of wants, focusing on needs would be more appropriate.
When I was young, people lived from paycheck to paycheck. Today, it seems like they live from credit card payment to credit card payment. ~Robert Kiyosaki

Friday, July 13, 2018

Invalid Truth

From the Via Tarot, the Devil; from the Nature's Pharmacy deck, 'Myrrh:'
          When I first pulled this card (without my glasses on) I thought it was the Sun. Only when I could see clearly did I notice the skull and bones. I think everyone has an addiction of some sort if it is defined as a behavior pattern that produces unhealthy or negative results. But most of us focus on the 'sun' and deny the 'bones.' If someone points out our habit, we point a blaming finger at other people and situations. We fail to see the Devil is not outside us, but the impulsive reactions we depend on to deal with life when it becomes stressful. Myrrh was used in ancient Egypt to embalm the dead, and its woodsy, spicy scent is used in fragrances today. In one case it is used to cover the stink of decay, in another to add to the scent of the living. Its meaning suggests that we consider whether our habits (both thought and action) are an attempt to cover up reality or navigate it.
No denial of the truth will ever invalidate it.     
~Nikki Rosen

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Tender Attempt

From the Via Tarot, the Ace of Swords; from the Nature's Pharmacy deck, 'Tea:'
          The swastika (an auspicious sign for hundreds of years before the Nazis twisted its meaning) at the top of the sword in this Ace is left-facing. The right-facing symbol was associated with the sun and the left-facing with Kali and the night. Kali is a Hindu goddess known for battling darkness and bringing enlightenment. The swirling above the sword is the sweeping away of confusion and distraction in order to bring clarity. Once we are able to see clearly, we can make wise decisions and take prudent action. Tea processed for drinking can be green (unfermented) or black (fermented). In the Book of Tea, Okakura Kakuzō explains that 'teaism' (the ceremonial preparation of green tea) was a way to bring harmony, purity, tranquility, and respect to a meeting between groups. Kakuzō writes, "it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life." The clarity of the Ace may inspire quick action, but the methodical ceremonial aspect of Tea suggests we slow down and attempt to incorporate the four principles of teaism as we act.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Having and Helping

From the Via Tarot, the Ten of Disks; from the Nature's Pharmacy deck, 'Parsley:'
 The results of your actions can carry well past death, so make sure that you don’t sacrifice the goodness of your thoughts, words, and deeds to save things that will slip through your fingers like water. Thanissaro Bhikkhu

          What we have put into living - our energy, time and resources - has produced a harvest for us to enjoy. Yet the Ten of Disks is not focused on sitting on our comfy couch and being complacent, rather it urges us to use what we have with discernment and generosity. Hoarding tends to corrupt and create paranoia. There's a reason some of the richest people in the world (like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates) are also some of the biggest philanthropists. They know happiness doesn't come from simply having it all. Parsley is often seen as a garnish, but because of its high chlorophyll content, it has been used since ancient times to freshen the breath. It is also high in Vitamin K and thus aids in calcium absorption and improving bone health. Like many herbs, Parsley is a helper; together with the Ten of Disks, it suggests 'having' is not the ultimate goal but 'helping.'

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Sweetness of Success

From the Via Tarot, the Three of Wands; from the Nature's Pharmacy deck, 'Chocolate:'
          A decision has been made, initial actions taken, and now first results are trickling in. The Thoth keyword for the Three of Wands is 'virtue;' it refers to acting with integrity once clarity arises. The ram's head at the top symbolizes the courage and confidence that comes with such insight (which leads to responsibility). The triangle of wands suggests a tentative stability, perhaps from relying on others who have strengths and skills that we don't possess. Chocolate does grow on trees, but it takes some time to process it to make it edible. The seeds of the cacao tree have an intensely bitter taste and must be fermented to develop the flavor. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, a combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter or added vegetable oils, and sugar. Together, these cards imply that although progress and positive developments are happening, effort should not be relaxed. There's more to do before tasting the sweetness of success.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Disco Fever

From the Via Tarot, the Eight of Wands; from the Nature's Pharmacy deck, Cinnamon:
           The pulsing ball of energy and the ball of light at the top of this Eight of Wands gave me a flashback to disco clubs of the seventies where strobe lights, disco balls, and bass-driven dance music blared. Yet the energy here is not quite as chaotic; with direction and attention, it can clear obstacles, create change, and bring progress. The key is not to get distracted or thrown off balance by the swift movement of things (heed the 'fasten seatbelt sign'). Cinnamon has been used as a spice for thousands of years. Just the smell of it gives me a feeling of comfort. It can add spicey sweetness without relying on sugar, and it is high in antioxidants (outranking even garlic). It is a reminder to ground myself in something common and simple when life is moving at high speed.
Remember that you will have hard days and smooth days, and that the better you eat, rest, and refresh yourself emotionally, the better you will cope in the future. —Aviva Jill Romm 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Embrace without Grasping

This week I'll be using the Via Tarot, created by Susan Jameson and John Bonner; the book and deck were published by Urania/AGM. I'll also be using the Nature's Pharmacy Deck created by the New York Botanical Garden and published by Chronicle Books. Today's draws are the Princess (Page) of Cups and St. John's Wort:
          This Princess/Page tiptoes lightly across the crest of a wave, signifying her emotional freedom. She's willing to embrace all emotions, holding them tenderly and compassionately, whether they are her own or those of someone else. The swan above her represents grace and beauty, which she has in abundance. The two symbols of wisdom - the tortoise and the lotus - are held outward to help keep her balance. Without wisdom, her sensitivity will become a hindrance rather than a help. The balance of compassion with insight is the skill she is attempting to learn. The bright yellow flowers of St. John's Wort hint at its herbal uses for depression, anxiety, and tension. One of its side effects is that this herb can metabolize some medications very quickly, leading to their ineffectiveness. Together, these cards are a reminder that we can't stick a flag in one emotion and claim it forever. Joy can't be faked (in an attempt to ignore reality), but contentment may be found in the moments if we take time to notice them.
Whatever has the nature of arising has the nature of ceasing. ~ Buddha

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Sharp Swords

From the Bonefire Tarot, the Queen of Swords; from the Day of the Dead Lenormand, the 'Moon:'
          This Queen is often called a bitch (or worse) because her confidence, intelligence, and honesty threaten others. She 'calls them as she sees them', and she has an excellent inner bullshit detector. But she might have a few more close friends if she could learn to speak the truth with a little more kindness and a little less fiery judgment. Blunt honesty is often used as a bludgeon when it comes to relating to others. The Moon represents desires - those feelings that pull us in a certain direction. What does this Queen desire? Is she concerned with having control or making sure people know how smart she is? Perhaps she needs to plumb the depths of her own mind and see what she finds.
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
~ Lao Tzu