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

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Deep Part of Darkness

From the Tarrochi Celtici, the Knight of Fire; from the Art of Asia Oracle, "Winter Moon on Toyama Plain" by Takahashi Shotei:
          Wrapped up with what appears to be a coral snake (though the 'red on black' pattern identifies it is a nonvenomous scarlet kingsnake), this Knight also holds linking 'S' hooks that might hang a cooking pot over a fire. Her totem is a boar, one of the most frequently depicted animals in ancient Celtic art associated with warriors. While she likes to be known as a badass adrenaline junkie, the ivy and ogham (Gort) paired with this card point out her liabilities. The Knight of Fire has not yet learned that cooperation can aid her growth in greater ways than competition. The verse for Shotei's work comes from Robert Bly: "The moon has her porches turned to face the light, but the deep part of her house in the darkness." It's possible that some time spent in self-assessment might shine some light on the benefits of having allies rather than just competitors.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Detachment with Connection

From the Tarrochi Celtici, the Five of Air; from the Art of Asia Oracle, Fang Chuxiong's "Monkeys Grooming:"
          One pixie, dressed as a raven, flies over another who is napping rather than working. The raven pixie is probably aggravated that his buddy is napping and making music rather than shoes. Although he might scare him enough to get back to work, it's doubtful that it will have more than a limited effect on the lazy pixie. People who haven't learned how to maturely communicate their needs to others will try to control/manipulate, people-please or withdraw/stonewall to get their way. Yet Chuxiong's artwork shows another approach, along with the paired quote from Stanley Kunitz: "Touch me, remind me who I am." Through compassion, we can realize that others will not always agree with us because we are different; we can be detached from a person's opinions while still being connected to the person. People don't do things because of who I am but because of who they are. Not taking things personally may offer an opening for discussion.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Power Boost

From the Tarrochi Celtici, the Three of Water; from the Art of Asia Oracle, "Old Man and Tortoise" by Fan Zeng:
          The water nymphs work and play under the watchful eye of a rowan tree. This tree symbolizes personal power because it grows higher up the sides of mountains than any other native tree, often growing in the most inaccessible of spots. The ogam for this card is Luis, a letter representing the attribute of inspiration. Being the in the company of friends or family who have no ulterior motive other than support and love can both empower and inspire us. These relationships can boost our confidence and help us follow our dreams. Yet the Aesop quote paired with Zeng's painting offers a suggestion to pace ourselves rather than become overexcited: "Slow and steady wins the race."

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Raising a Ruckus

This week I'll be using the Tarocchi Celtici, created by Laura Tuan and published by De Vecchi Italia. Paired with it will be the Art of Asia, an oracle I created for my personal use. Today's draws are the Queen of Air and Hiroshige's "Eagle Over 1000 Acre Plain at Susaki, Fukagawa:"
          The Queen of Air (owl) is all about blunt communication, whether I want to hear it or not. She's enlisted the help of some flying pixies to raise some noise to get my attention. But this particular card is also connected to the Celtic Ogam Ngetal, associated with healing, and Reed connected to harmony. The Queen of Air doesn't raise a ruckus without reason; she knows that sometimes wounds need to be exposed and cleaned before they will heal. The quote attached to Hiroshige's work is from Robert Green Ingersoll: "A freethinker is an eagle parting the clouds with tireless wing." Harmony will come only when small minds can expand beyond the constrictive boundaries of personal opinion and knowledge. In Tuan's illustration, one pixie sits on a Celtic clasp of a horse and rider with the horse holding a human head. Sometimes I need to try on another person's mind in order to see from a wider perspective.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The One You're With

From the Spiral Tarot, the Nine of Cups; from the Sacred Journey Cards, 'Goals:'
          This particular Nine of Cups shows a woman sitting on 'cloud 9' - a state of contentment and happiness. It will dissipate soon enough, but why not enjoy it while it lasts? I feel this way when I have a moment of connection, whether through the wonder of nature or when having an honest and open discussion with someone. As Augustine encouraged, "Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you." Or as Stephen Stills sang, "Love the one you're with." The Goals card emphasizes a need for commitment. That can seem overwhelming to me, so I often break it down into bite-size pieces called daily intentions. Perhaps my intention for today should be to focus on who and what's around me, rather than who or what's missing.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Served on a Silver Platter

From the Spiral Tarot, the Five of Pentacles; from the Sacred Journey Cards, 'Thrive:'
          The booklet states this Five of Pentacles is about 'poverty of mind and spirit.' In other words, it not a basic needs issue but a First World problem issue. To illustrate:
1) I can't believe I still have to use this lame-ass (not the newest model) iPad.
2) Why didn't they make this toaster with a bagel setting?!
3) I had to wait twenty minutes in line to vote this morning!
4) Wi-fi is out again (followed by curse words).
5) Can you believe my cleaning lady wanted me to change days this week?!
The Thrive card is a reminder that much of my wellness and well-being depends on my actions and attitudes. The Declaration of Independence might give me the right to pursue happiness, but that doesn't mean I'm entitled to it served on a silver platter. Recent research in the field of positive psychology has shown that 40% of our happiness is determined by intentional behavior. As psychologist Martin Seligman explains, "Curing the negatives does not produce the positives."

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Cooperative, Open Mindset

From the Spiral Tarot, the Three of Wands; from the Sacred Journey Cards, 'Believe:'
          This could be me this morning (but in much less formal attire) watching the DISH technicians pull up to the house to rebuild our satellite dish. Like the woman in the card, I have to rely on others for a great many things. While I have my own talents, there are many services that require the skills of another. Getting things done tends to be a cooperative effort. The Believe card suggests moving beyond a rigid, narrow view to a broader, more inclusive perspective. It reminded me of the Daily Dharma quote by Joan Halifax in my email this morning: "We can’t know, but we can trust that there will be movement, there will be change. And that we will be part of it."

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Creative Restlessness

From the Spiral Tarot, the Two of Wands; from the Sacred Journey Cards, 'Detachment:'
          This fellow has two rods (projects) with healthy vines growing up them that are sprouting leaves. But he seems restless and distracted by the city skyline across the way. I can understand this desire to move on once the creative and developmental stages are done, particularly when there's nothing much else to do but watch from the sidelines. However, the Detachment card cautions that I shouldn't get too attached to whatever project I envision next. Verse 2:47 of the Bhagavad Gita explains this well:
You only have authority over action, not ever to the result.
Don’t be motivated by the result, and don’t get attached to inaction.
In other words, I shouldn't get caught up in what the outcome is supposed to look like, just do the action to the best of my ability. There are too many variables that I have no control over; I might be elated when things go my way or disappointed when they don't. Yet I can focus on the task at hand rather than give up, even when the results don't look exactly as I imagined.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Appreciative Joy

From the Spiral Tarot, the King of Cups; from the Sacred Journey Cards, 'Connection:'
          This King might be known for his compassion and kindness, but he still has a firm grip on that scepter. He is first and foremost a leader; he can't afford to let emotions edit reality or be swept away by drama. Immersed as he is, the King of Cups must develop equanimity so as not to let his common sense be hampered. The Connection card is something any community or nation must realize for its own well-being. It reminded me of how hard it could be to watch other neighborhoods get their power and water back after the hurricane, while we still dealt with the sweltering heat. It is easy to be angry and spiteful when something good happens to another instead of us. But emotional maturity helps me realize that another's good fortune can also be joyful for me too.
Appreciative joy is a natural expression of our best humanity…[it] cheers for the happiness and success of others and celebrates buoyancy, health, and happiness wherever they are encountered.
Judith Simmer-Brown

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Keep On Keeping On

This week I'll be using the Spiral Tarot, a book and deck set created by Kay Steventon and published by U.S. Games. I'll also be drawing from the Sacred Journey Cards, a set created by Cheryl Thiele and published by Pomegranate. Today's draws are the Eight of Wands and 'Synergy:'
          A big wind blows out eight staves, sending them quickly to their destination. It always amazes me, particularly after a big change that drastically alters normal events, how life keeps on keeping on. Bills must be paid, groceries bought, and services requested. I suppose it is the law of nature to continue moving even as things fall away or change. As I was sawing up limbs yesterday, I noticed that the zinnias that I planted in the spring - which I recently pulled up after they died - have left behind little sprouts of seedlings. Synergy reminds me that when I get sucked back into the busyness of life, I need to be careful not to use up my energy randomly but connect with others so more can be accomplished by working together.
The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members. ~Coretta Scott King
Thank you, Carolyn, for your compassionate action!

Saturday, October 20, 2018


From the Prisma Visions Tarot, the Hermit; from the Secret Language of Color Cards, 'Silver:'
          I tend to see the Hermit in a similar way to the Seven of Pentacles - as an assessment. But rather than an external inventory, the Hermit represents an internal one. Standing on the bridge, he temporarily pauses in the stream of life, looking back at decisions made and actions taken from a spiritual standpoint. Silver suggests I be persistent in this fearless endeavor of honestly evaluating my own stuff without excuses or blame. We met with our insurance adjuster yesterday who looked over our property damage so we could file a claim (he was wonderfully calming and helpful). We have more damage than we initially realized, yet most of it will be covered. My Hermit reflection time brought me this awareness: I am much more fortunate than I feel. 

Here is the rule to remember in the future, When anything tempts you to be bitter: not, 'This is a misfortune' but 'To bear this worthily is good fortune.' ~Marcus Aurelius

Friday, October 19, 2018

Will One Thing

From the Prisma Visions Tarot, the Page of Chalices; from the Secret Language of Color, 'Sapphire:'
Purity of heart is to will one thing. 
– Soren Kierkegaard

          This pure-hearted Page offers a bowl of clear, fresh water to the turgid river. Kierkegaard's quote suggests we live by a unifying principle (Good) that gives us meaning and purpose. It also requires that we don't divide our mind and hearts - what I wish for myself (happiness, peace, safety) is what I wish for everyone without exception. Without this 'one thing,' I will continually be in conflict and dissatisfied. The Good gives me a way to prioritize and make choices that won't add suffering to everyone's load (including my own). As Kierkegaard phrased it, "If it be possible for a man to will the Good in truth, then he must be at one with himself in willing to renounce all double-mindedness." Sapphire encourages regeneration, growing back what was lost or damaged. What has been damaged in humanity? Our love for one another has been replaced by division, separation, hatred, and distrust. I am not advocating giving everyone a pass for bad behavior (actions have consequences), but perhaps I could look at others through the lens of that unifying principle, realizing with compassion that we all operate under layers of ignorance and conditioning.

The Three Pure Precepts:
With purity of heart, I vow to refrain from ignorance.
With purity of heart, I vow to reveal beginner's mind.
With purity of heart, I vow to live, and be lived, for the benefit of all beings.
—Shunryu Suzuki

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Tilling the Garden

From the Prisma Visions Tarot, the Ace of Pentacles; from the Secret Language of Color Cards, 'Brilliance:'
          Ead's Ace of Pentacles reminds me of The Secret Garden. After discovering the walled garden, Mary asks the master of the manor "might I have a bit of earth?" He replies, "You can have as much earth as you want" and encourages her to "take it, child, and make it come alive." Therein lies the rub with this card - the opportunity it represents must not only be accepted but worked and tilled like the soil. The Brilliance card is like the light that glistens on water; it represents change and transformation for when one feels anxious, lethargic or depressed. In order to work with my bit of earth, I'll need energy and optimism as fuel. I'm having a hard time finding that sparkle right now, as all I feel is tired. Sarah Hoyle (a writer for tiny buddha) offers some things to do to find it again:

  • Acknowledge and appreciate everything that happens, even the seemingly bad.
  • Challenge limiting, irrational thoughts.
  • Do something just for you. Every day.
  • Let the fun in.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Air Flow

From the Prisma Visions Tarot, the Lovers; from the Secret Language of Color Cards, 'Emerald:'
          Last night, right before sundown, our electricity came back on. It's been a week of survival for our community since Hurricane Michael roared through. It will probably take us at least a year to get back to normal. But being able to cool off in 90F degree weather with air conditioning and a cold drink can make anyone feel like dancing. My muscles are sore from cleaning up debris and cramping from dehydration, but I feel like swirling and shouting with glee. I can't help but compare the last card I drew before the hurricane (Nine of Cups) that focused on contentment and today's draw of being in love with life. There was a week of hell in between. Yet the Emerald card reminds me that I can maintain sanity through just about anything if I remember to take care of the mind, body, and soul. As James Baraz explains:
When we are not attached to who we think we are, life can move through us, playing us like an instrument. Understanding how everything is in continual transformation, we release our futile attempts to control circumstances. When we live in this easy connection with life, we live in joy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Tenderizing the Heart

From the Prisma Visions Tarot, the Nine of Chalices; from the Secret Language of Color Cards, 'Pink:'
Nature teaches us simplicity and contentment because in its presence we realize we need very little to be happy. Mark Coleman

          A man relaxes on a bench and enjoys the colors of a sunset. Contentment, a feeling of peaceful satisfaction is found only in the moments when we are paying attention. Though it won't last forever, the booklet reminds us to treasure it so that the memory can bring us joy even on gray, rainy days. Pink suggests we 'let love in,' or allow our hearts to be tender and vulnerable rather than hard and protected. The practice of tonglen - visualizing that we are breathing in the suffering of others as we inhale and sending them comfort as we exhale - is a wonderful tool for tenderizing hearts. Though it seems like we might add to our own suffering, it has the opposite effect. By placing our attention on others, the anxiety and fear fueled by self-absorption have a chance to fade.

The end of fear is where we begin
The moment we decided to let love in.
~ Goo Goo Dolls

May all beings in the path of Hurricane Michael find shelter and safety.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Show and Tell for Adults

From the Prisma Visions Tarot, the Six of Swords; from the Secret Language of Color Cards, 'Aqua:'
          The Six of Swords is about moving on - changing our attitude and beliefs. My phone has been persistent in sending me a message from the Emergency Alert System to tell us we're under a hurricane warning. The TV is constantly posting updates of where Hurricane Michael is and what to expect. Of course, there will still be hurricane parties or people who simply ignore all warnings (being jaded from other storms). As NYT's writer Christopher Mele explains, "Emergency managers trying to persuade residents to evacuate as a hurricane approaches can be like parents trying to cajole their children to do something: They rely on a blend of fear, tough love and their authority." For those who are anxiety-prone, it can have the opposite effect and shut them down. Yet Aqua suggests there might be a more equanimous way of handling things. My suggestion would be to have regular people on television calmly explaining what they do to get prepared - practical steps of what to buy, what to gather together, and where to go. Show and tell for adults.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Wide Brush

From the Prisma Visions Tarot, the Hierophant; from the Secret Language of Color Cards, 'Apricot:'
          This is quite a different looking Hierophant than the usual representation as Pope. Yet the bullish look to this constellation still has the same ramifications - conformity to the rules will be required. Is it worth one's personal freedom to be able to join this cultural, man-made tradition? Of course, this card doesn't just represent religion but any long-standing group such as civic clubs, educational institutions, and corporations. Apricot offers the suggestion to laugh and release the burden of anxiety that is clouding the clarity of choice. Without that burden, it may be easy to see that authority figures automatically trigger resistance and close the mind. Step back and look with a lighter attitude, these cards imply. It may be that we're painting with too wide of a brush. Crows walk like a duck, but they are most definitely not a duck.
It is certain that the study of human psychology, if it were undertaken exclusively in prisons, would also lead to misrepresentation and absurd generalizations. 
~Jacques Yves Cousteau

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Passionate Strength

This week I'll be using the Prisma Visions Tarot, created and self-published by James R. Eads; the companion booklet was written by Katherine Tombs. The oracle I'll be using alongside it is the Secret Language of Color Cards, created by Inna Segal and published by Beyond Worlds. Today's draws are Strength and 'Burgandy:'
          Rather than a lion with its mouth held or tied closed, Eads illustration is of many lions all roaring ferociously. The 'Burgandy' card is a reminder that sometimes we need to pull from our passion to stand face-to-face with what intimidates us. The things we hold dear and the people who are important to us can give us the courage to stand our ground and do what is necessary. Yet while we might 'roar,' there is no need to be aggressive. Part of Strength's message is to remind us of a greater spiritual purpose - wisdom and compassion. Attacking others does not fix the problem but exacerbates it. We need to not lose sight of what is important (and it's not the ego's agenda). What action would be wise and beneficial rather than simply self-serving?
We often think that vulnerability is a kind of weakness, but there’s a kind of vulnerability that is actually strength and presence. ~ Ram Dass

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Unwise Investments

From the Tarot of the Masters, the Ten of Swords; from the Key to the Kingdom, the 'Seven of Hearts:'

We often think we do a pretty good job of trying to explain just how things are—until we actually experience the thing we’re trying to explain. Then we realize our words and ideas are like trying to grab a single drop of rain in a thunderstorm.
—Ed Brickell

          It's easy to get heavily invested in our ideas and beliefs. When we begin identifying them as who we are, we fall under the delusion that they are the ultimate truth. We don't realize that these intellectual constructs are merely personal viewpoints heavily influenced by our upbringing and memories of past experiences. Perhaps there is a grain of truth in them, but it is just one raindrop out of the whole thunderstorm. Ricklef's redrawing of The Death of Caesar illustrates the point when we realize we don't know everything (which most people would agree with, yet we all seem to have an opinion about everything anyway). The Seven of Hearts illustrates the death of Cock Robin from the nursery rhyme. The 'cock' part tells us there was a bit of strutting and crowing with this particular bird. Yet our cocky views can be disowned if we have a friend willing to point them out with respect and kindness. They can be (as in the nursery rhyme) the 'sparrow' that kills the cock (the confidence placed in them through ignorance).

If you really want to become skillful in your thoughts, words, and deeds, you need a trustworthy friend to point out your blind spots.
—Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Friday, October 5, 2018


From the Tarot of the Masters, the High Priest (Hierophant); from the Key to the Kingdom, the 'Three of Diamonds:'
          My mind is colored with resentment today, so all I see in this card is an old white man handing down laws for everyone else to follow. The United States has become a nation governed by ROMEOs (Racist Old Misogynists Enjoying Occupation). Women, people of color, and those with different sexual or religious orientations are suffering. Laws passed and moral codes handed out are meant to favor those with money and power. Georgia currently has its first black woman running for governor against a ROMEO, whose TV ads have been as nasty and twisted as they come. Meanwhile, this brave woman continues to speak about important issues that could help everyone in the long run, not just the entitled few. The Three of Diamonds shows and has a verse that refers to the sinking of the Titanic, which took only 2 hours and 40 minutes after it hit the iceberg. I'm sure that a change and shift in our leadership will take longer, but I feel like perhaps the old reign has at last hit an iceberg.
And as the smart ship grew
in stature, grace and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew
the Iceberg too.
~ Thomas Hardy

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Doing Something

From the Tarot of the Masters, the Chariot; from the Key to the Kingdom, the 'Five of Spades:'
          Goodness, that is a huge chariot; it's no wonder those small horses seem to be shying away from it. But that's pretty much what human thoughts, emotions, and instincts do when some new challenge is introduced (particularly when it looks a tad overwhelming). No matter how we much we want to accomplish a goal, the first obstacle will be reining in those horses and convincing them that things aren't as dire as they appear. The Five of Spades is paired with a counting rhyme about catching a fish that bites a finger (and is subsequently let go) then deciding to go home because of a broken fishing line. Add a day (or past event) like that to the Chariot, and it's easy to see that progress is liable to be slow and painful. Our brains will easily convince us that the goal is elusive and impossible to attain. But instead, perhaps we should take Neil Gaiman's words to heart:
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're doing something.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Two Extremes

From the Tarot of the Masters, Demons (The Devil); from the Key to the Kingdom, the 'King of Spades:'
           The Demon in this card has a face on its stomach, suggesting the many ways we try to fill the emptiness inside us in an attempt to feel whole. The Buddha taught that we create unnecessary suffering for ourselves through craving. His understanding of craving included three types: craving for what feels good, craving for a pleasurable experience never to end, and craving to avoid or stop anything that is unpleasant. On the other end of the spectrum is the King of Spades, paired with the verse about Ol' King Cole who was a merry soul. Buddhist philosophy suggests four causes of happiness:
1) loving-kindness - expanding our concern beyond ourselves to include the happiness of all beings
2) compassion - relieving the suffering of others through intention and activity
3) sympathetic joy - rejoicing in the happiness and good fortune of others
4) equanimity - achieving balance by not holding on to things too tightly
It seems the hole in the soul stays open through selfishness and self-centeredness and closes when we sincerely embrace others in our wish for well-being.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Facts First

From the Tarot of the Masters, the Moon; from the Key to the Kingdom, the 'Ace of Hearts:'
          When someone has just enough information to be enticing but not enough for clarity, things can get out of hand quickly. The Moon sets such a scenario, making situations and ideas seem like we've got the drop on what's happening. But when we don't have all the information we need for understanding what is actually going on, we're liable to make some terrible choices based on what we think we know. I've been working on an Emotional Inventory (from the work of Dr. Alan Berger) this month. It is helping me to see what lies beneath my waters which creates unhealthy emotional reactions when I experience conflict. It's been amazing to see what's been dredged up so far. The verse for the Ace of Hearts comes from Mary St. Leger Harrison in which she describes the brief life of a butterfly. The context for the verse is her character's description of marriage: "Marriage is a sort of grave, Sara, in which it seems to me, women are called upon to bury a whole lot of precious and delightful possibilities." While Miss Crookenden (the character in the story) might be right on some level, she leaves out that what is given up might be filled with other rewards. As the humor of Mark Twain advises, "Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please."

Monday, October 1, 2018

Slipping Through

From the Tarot of the Masters, the Hanged Man; from the Key to the Kingdom, the 'Queen of Diamonds:'
         The Hanged Man's coins slip from his hands as he dangles from a tree. The illustration implies that there is a spiritual need greater than our material goals at the moment, and it will force us to notice if we don't do it voluntarily. The Queen of Diamonds in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass had a bit of a bossy, governess-like persona (but at least wasn't an emotional tsunami like the Queen of Hearts). When Alice grabs and shakes her, she wakes from her dream to discover she is holding her cat. Both these cards suggest that what we think is so important at the moment - finishing a project, getting to a specific destination, making progress on a challenging task, etc. - may turn out to be not nearly as essential as the people (or pets) around us who made need our attention. Pause, breath and check in on those we love before they slip through our lives.