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, December 31, 2019

Informed Generosity

From the Mary-El Tarot, the Queen of Disks; from the OH Cards, Listening/Dream:

          Like the sustenance and stability provided by the Earth itself, the Queen of Disks shapes the environment, providing comfort and nurturance. She has no time for pity; her tears turn to diamonds, illustrating her compassionate action that is tangible rather than just emotional. The OH card shows an adult listening to a child, not with one ear or eye on a smartphone, but truly hearing what the child is saying. The Dream word card suggests that the child is enthusiastic about the ideas or goals she wants to materialize. Both these draws are a reminder not to give someone what we think they need, but to ask first then listen deeply to what they tell us.

Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.
~Kathy Calvin

Monday, December 30, 2019

Learn, Don't Lean

From the Mary-El Tarot, the Wheel of Fortune; from the OH Cards, Dismember/Fail:
          White describes the Wheel of Fortune as "the ever-changing nature of life and the perfection of struggle." Today I am celebrating a recovery birthday - 32 years. When I look back at the past, I see how conditions shaped my choices, and how those choices first helped me survive but later nearly destroyed me. I am grateful for the chance encounter with someone who showed me another path and those who encouraged and supported me as I attempted to walk that road. Life is ever-changing, but today I have some spiritual tools in the hub of that Wheel that help me navigate them. The Dismember/Fail cards remind me that trying to forget my past is neither helpful nor healthy. The "perfection of struggle" doesn't mean I make only wise decisions, but by remembering the choices of my past and their consequences, I can choose not to repeat them.

You must learn from your past mistakes, but not lean on your past successes. ~Denis Waitley

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Shape of Motivation

This week I'll be using the Mary-El Tarot, created by Marie White and published by Schiffer. I'll be pairing it with the OH Cards, created by Ely Raman and Joe Schlichter and published by Eos Enterprises. The OH draw is actually two cards - one a picture and the other a word. Today's draws are the Five of Wands and Middle/Hope:
          At what age does our will develop, when we transform from a submissive lamb to a lion willing to stand up for what we believe? Likely, it's how the phrase 'terrible twos' came into being. In the Thoth world, the number five stands for motion and change that shake up the previous structure and stability. Applied to the Wands suit, we find assertiveness and courage to speak up and defend our views regardless of the blowback. Yet the Middle/Hope combination suggests we don't burn any bridges just yet. If we're looking for group support, taking an extreme perspective will not be where we find it. Extremists don't care what anyone else thinks or feels - they only cherish their personal beliefs. Khentrul Rinpoche said, "Behind every idea is a motivation that is shaped by hopes and fears." Rather than simply driving a stake in our own viewpoint, can we listen and look for what has shaped the viewpoints of others? Can we attempt to see from another's personal landscape? Perhaps there is a middle path we can all travel on, even if some of us hug the edges.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Stretch Goals

From the Delta Enduring Tarot, the Nine of Oaks (Wands); from the Southernisms Oracle, 'Keep your head down and your tail up:'

          The nutria is a large, semiaquatic rodent. This mother is flashing her teeth and making nasty noises in order to prevent any interloper from bothering her babies. Feeding and protecting her young is a round-the-clock task, and her role can require a lot. Yet she is persistent; her instincts keep her moving even when she would like nothing more than to eat a big meal and sleep all day. This particular Southernism was often repeated by my father-in-law. Just as a tracking dog holds his nose to the ground and his tail up (a sign of confidence), this saying is an encouragement to continue doing the job at hand by staying focused, completing one task after another, without getting overwhelmed by how much there is to do. The intensity of our job or duty won't last forever, and when it's over, we can congratulate ourselves on a challenge surmounted.

Success is due to our stretching to the challenges of life. Failure comes when we shrink from them. ~John C. Maxwell

Friday, December 27, 2019

Eyes on the Prize, Hand to the Plow

From the Delta Enduring Tarot, the Six of Acorns (Wands); from the Southernisms Oracle, 'That field's been plowed:'

          This fellow holds his prized show rooster aloft after winning first prize at the Parish Fair. He deserves acknowledgment for his skill in raising such a fine cockerel. Yet he didn't gain the victory simply because of his desire for a ribbon, but because of the time, effort and knowledge he applied. The saying 'that field's been plowed' means that a farmer isn't going to keep tilling the soil; once the field has been plowed, it will be planted. Likewise, over-thinking or over-discussing a subject is a waste of time. In the case of the Six of Acorns, it would suggest this fellow enjoy his win but he shouldn't rest on his laurels if he wants to win next year. (It might also be a subtle hint that his friends are tired of hearing him brag!)

I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have. ~Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Dogma and Discernment

From the Delta Enduring Tarot, the Hierophant; from the Southernisms Oracle, 'Hold your horses:'
          This preacher wears two faces - one that appears concerned about his congregation and another that looks greedily at the cash collection. This version of the Hierophant reminds me of a story told by Krishnamurti:
You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, “What did that man pick up?” “He picked up a piece of Truth,” said the devil. “That is a very bad business for you, then,” said his friend. “Oh, not at all,” the devil replied, “I am going to let him organize it."  
In the same way, organized religion seems to have been poisoned by greed, feelings of superiority and power. What should be a community of support and encouragement has become a monument to the ego held together by judgment and separation from 'other.' Yet the saying 'hold your horses' reminds me not to be too quick to throw shade on everything associated with religion. If I dig down beyond the dogma and look with discernment, I'm likely to find something useful. In the words of Krishnamurti, "A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others." 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Pursuit of Knowledge

From the Delta Enduring Tarot, the Novice of Moths (Page of Swords); from the Southernisms Oracle, 'Playing possum:"

          The pursuit of knowledge can be witnessed in even the very young. Like this young girl, they listen, observe, and ask questions with a tireless intensity. What this Novice hasn't learned yet is that some sources of information are better and more reliable than others. She's about to touch a saddleback caterpillar, whose spiny hairs contain a venom that can cause severe pain and other severe reactions. She might learn after the fact that using an insect book is a wiser alternative to touching. The saying 'playing possum' comes from the American opossum, which has developed the ability to avoid a fight through an involuntary physical reaction that makes it appear dead. When folks want to avoid being annoyed, they pretend to be ignorant or feign misunderstanding (play possum). I'm sure this young gal has seen plenty of this when her barrage of questions wears people out. As her patient observation and literacy skills grow, she'll be able to find the answers she seeks on her own.

Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.
― Albert Einstein

Happy holidays to all my friends. May you be surrounded by love and anchored by peace.

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Ending Within

From the Delta Enduring Tarot, the Nine of Oysters (Cups); from the Southernisms Oracle, 'Sweet/pretty as a peach:'
          A woman relaxes with a glass of wine and a plate of oysters in the evening. At this moment, she truly feels like the world is her oyster. Unlike many people who are satisfied for five minutes and then start chasing the next pleasure, she is content to fully enjoy the experience as long as it lasts. And judging by the framed butterflies on the wall, she knows it will be fleeting. The saying "Sweet (or alternatively 'pretty') as a peach" is a high compliment in the South where a lot of this crop is grown. The fruit's skin is soft and flannel-like while its flesh is sweet and juicy. Yet inside the center is the rough seed known as a pit. Life can be sweet one day and 'the pits' the next. Equanimity comes when we can see this as the natural flow of things, when we are willing to taste everything on the plate life serves us regardless of how pleasant it is.

All things already have their endings within them. If we become attuned to this, then we can appreciate the moment. We can appreciate the extraordinary fact of our unique and precious lives.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Stop the Clock

This week I'll be using the Delta Enduring Tarot, created and self-published by Bridgette Egan. Along with it, I'll be drawing from the Southernisms Oracle (a deck I created based on sayings I grew up with). Today's draws are the Three of Oysters (Cups) and 'Til the cows come home:'
          Who's got your back? Who doesn't care whether you shave your legs, are wearing makeup, or have your comfy clothes on? I was brought up in a home that was a dysfunctional disaster on the inside, but punished severely those who left the house without 'looking presentable.' It's a relief to have friends who care more about how kind I am than my outward appearance. As Donald Miller once said, "When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are." The saying 'til the cows come home' refers to the slow, unhurried pace of cows (unless they're being chased). At the end of a day, they slowly plod back to the barn. If something is said to continue ‘til the cows come home, it’s going to go on for a very long time. Looking at the fun these ladies seem to be having on their picnic, it might do them all a world of good to ignore the clock and let their enjoyment and laughs wash the stress right out of them.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Hard Head

From the Tarot of the Crone, the Witch (Knight) of Wands; from the Transforming Dragons deck, Antalgo:
          "I know my desire," declares this Witch/Knight. Many people have a longing for something (contentment, security, belonging, etc.) but few of them have a specific goal with a strategy to reach it. No wonder she's fired up with enthusiasm. But what some of her elders know (which they'll let her figure out) is that life doesn't always run on our schedule or according to our plan. Unexpected events, obstacles, and challenges have a way of getting us off track. Here is where the dragon Antalgo enters, whose head is so hard it is often mistaken for a rock. He'll encourage her not to budge from her original plan, to be stubborn and refuse to listen to alternatives. This tactic will make all progress come to a halt, possibly permanently. She would do well to learn resiliency, maintaining her determination but with a large portion of flexibility tossed in.

Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it's less good than the one you had before.
~Elizabeth Edwards

Friday, December 20, 2019

Up Against a Brick Wall

From the Tarot of the Crone, Death; from the Transforming Dragons deck, Fliquito:
This is the End
There is nowhere else to go
Something has to change
And that something is you.
~ Ellen Lorenzi-Prince 

          The bare-bones truth is that people and things will never change to suit our circumstances. If we want things to be different, we have to change. Sometimes we put off that change until it literally almost puts us in the grave. Humans are a stubborn lot. Yet the red groin in this Death card signifies an opportunity for rebirthing ourselves if we'll take it. Do we realize how quickly time is slipping away? Fliquito is associated with dishonesty which comes in many forms. Deception may come in the form of denial, omission or using a partial truth to cover up a larger deceit. We hide the truth from ourselves as much as from others. Change only begins with awareness and acceptance - an honest appraisal of ourselves and our situation.

Growth and comfort do not coexist.
~Ginni Rometty

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Unconditional Embrace

From the Tarot of the Crone, the Grandmother (Queen) of Cups; from the Transforming Dragons deck, Pitog:
          There are no black sheep or outsiders in this Grandmother's embrace. Everyone deserves to be loved, listened to, and treated with kindness. She welcomes all without exception or expectation. It reminds me of a poem by Daniel Ladinsky (in the literary form of Hafiz):
Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe Me.”Look what happens with
A love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky.
Though it's easy to ostracize those who are different or seem weird, Pitog (who represents violence) shows us the result. His attacks should not be excused, but the roots of his rage might have been cut off if someone had offered compassionate attention before it grew to such a terrifying intensity. In the words of Parker Palmer: "Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our suffering." 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

It Seems True...

From the Tarot of the Crone, the Seven of Swords; from the Transforming Dragons deck, Jarv:

         The seven eyes on this card represent the ways our mind perceives and then imagines life to be. Imagination can be beneficial if used creatively to enhance and nurture the well-being of ourselves and others. But it can also be used negatively; we create stories in our heads that embellish reality, fueling our anger, sadness, fear or apathy. The dragon Jarv is associated with the pressure that stress brings, and he loves to add chapters to our mental narrative, regardless of whether these stories contain any truth at all. I'm reminded by these two cards today that sitting meditation has a much more practical side to it than any 'eureka' moments of enlightenment. It can allow me to witness these stories, see that they are pure fantasy, and prompt me to stop fueling my imagination with fictional tales.

Peace and clarity arrive through understanding patterns and the underlying nature of our minds, rather than through stopping our thoughts, achieving some special state, or having a particular experience. —Oren Jay Sofer

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Mining Wisdom

From the Tarot of the Crone, the Two of Swords; from the Transforming Dragons deck, Luling:
          A fully cloaked figure stands in front of a mirror; the reflection symbolizes outer appearances while the covering represents looking within. I can see myself in this card as I make dozens of choices about tile type and color, paint color, faucet style, etc. There is the nudge to go with what's popular yet also a pull to go with what I like personally (and will have to live with). Luling is the dragon of illuminated wisdom, or as Buddhists would say, the luminous mind. When we find a place of inner calm, where there is curiosity rather than categories and labels, there is wisdom to be mined. I've listened to the helpful advice of my wonderful contractor, but I'm going with my own choices (which sometimes mirror his). After all, this is my sacred space, not a cover shoot for House Beautiful.

Monday, December 16, 2019

What's Your Motive?

From the Tarot of the Crone, the Three of Wands; from the Transforming Dragons deck, Ogrostov:

          The snakes in the cauldron represent the drive to create and expand; two of them seem content to stay where they are, but the third rises upward. It is so easy to stick with what's familiar because it's convenient and the effort required is minimal. But a lot can be missed by not being willing to go beyond the daily trudge. Yet what lies beneath the motivation to develop and grow is important. Ogrostov is the dragon of self-importance, and everything he does is designed to fluff up his image. But such motivation does not last long enough to make it through the challenges that new experiences or projects require. It's better to be driven by something with a more honorable purpose and benefit if anything of worth is to be created.

How to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness is in fact for most men at all times the secret motive of all they do, and of all they are willing to endure. ~William James

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Rights and Privileges

This week I'll be using the Tarot of the Crone, a book and deck set created and self-published by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince. I'll be pairing it with Transforming Dragons, a set created by Sonia Cafe and published by Weiser. Today's cards are the Grandmother (Queen)of Wands and Lupt:

          The keyword Lorenzi-Prince gives this card is 'matriarch.' Unlike most leaders, she sits on the ground in a circle with her people. She wants everyone to have an equal voice and is willing to listen to everyone's ideas. She recognizes that they all depend on each other and that they all have different areas of knowledge, skill, and experience. But the dragon Lupt interferes with this cooperative effort by misusing what he has been entrusted with. In this group's situation, there may be trollish behavior that attempts to distract and dismember any progressive, positive actions they might attempt to take. Hopefully, the Grandmother will be wise enough not to tolerate such conduct since having rights requires respect and responsibility from all participants.

[Equality] is a noble ideal, but it can never be realized, for what men
value in this world is not rights but privileges. ~H. L. Mencken

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Two Roads

From the Hezicos Tarot, the Two of Swords; from the Way of the Horse, Moonlight's Embrace:

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,      
I doubted if I should ever come back.      
I shall be telling this with a sigh      
Somewhere ages and ages hence:      
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-      
I took the one less traveled by,      
And that has made all the difference.
~Robert Frost 

          The limbo of indecisiveness is an uncomfortable place to be. While sometimes we need to take a beat to let a strong surge of emotion pass, often we become rooted in fear because we don't want to make the wrong choice. Every time I read Frost's poem, I want to ask him if the 'difference' he writes about was good or bad. Moonlight's Embrace suggests expanding the mind beyond what we can see. Our minds are biologically geared to look for patterns and to go back through our mental file cabinet to see if any experience in our past remotely resembles the present. Now while this may have been helpful in avoiding dangerous animals in ancient times, it tends to trip us up in the present. The mind has a preference for negative bias, for labeling things as a threat because it slightly bears a likeness to something that wasn't pleasant in the past. It's not concerned with how this creates prejudice toward a situation or person that is without factual evidence. What happens if I expand my mind and heart beyond the tight confines of fear, making space for what I don't know? I'm thinking I might choose 'expansive' or 'spacious' for my 2020 focus word.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019


From the Hezicos Tarot, the King of Cups; from the Way of the Horse Oracle, Lionhearted:

          I am convinced that a King of Cups person came up with the saying "Keep Calm and Carry On." If you asked this King how someone is supposed to do that when it feels like life is skidding sideways, he'd point to the nautilus shell on his head as an explanation. "When we self-identify with emotions and events, our world feels as constricted as the center of the spiral. But when we realize this is just a moment or a brief experience in time, our heart and mind can expand into spaciousness. We realize it is just a small part of our life, not the whole of it." The Lionhearted card cautions against shutting down our compassion in an effort to protect ourselves. We can be caring and sensitive without being controlling and codependent.

Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. 
~Shunryu Suzuki

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

More Than a Mind-Sponge

From the Hezicos Tarot, the Page of Swords; from the Way of the Horse Oracle, Rasa Dance:

          This Page's pointy ears are like an antenna, seeking out information. He's not looking for juicy gossip, he's just a knowledge nerd. But he can be a handful because he asks questions about what he's heard in order to get a fuller understanding. He's not yet learned that some subjects require tact or perhaps shouldn't be broached in certain company. With his sponge-like mind, he'll be a walking encyclopedia one day. Rasa Dance shows a horse and woman performing steps in tandem. It is a dance of co-creation with each one bringing something individual to the collective movement as they play. This idea of co-creation is something the Page needs to learn. It's not enough to take in information and be able to spit it back out again. He needs to be able to think for himself, to be discerning and able to think outside the box.

The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same.

Monday, December 2, 2019


From the Hezicos Tarot, the Hierophant; from the Way of the Horse Oracle, Bonfire:
          Either this is a humble priest dedicated to 'attraction rather than promotion,' or he's wondering whether he's out of a job because no parishioners have shown up. Research in the U.S. has shown that the religiously unaffiliated category (atheist, agnostic, 'none') is up to 26% while Christianity has somewhat declined. Yet while less than half of Americans think that religion can answer today's problems, three-quarters of these folks still believe religion is important. Perhaps this discrepancy is because the dogma of religion causes intolerance and division but its deeply embedded principles (honesty, kindness, etc.) offer a spiritual framework of ethical living. Bonfire suggests burning off excess energy, due to sadness, fear, anger or joy and excitement. A safety-valve release is a good idea in some cases, otherwise, assault, suicide or substance abuse might be an end result. Imagine if all religions stopped focusing on judgment and instead had the goal of eliminating suffering, offering a safe refuge in which to heal. At least it's nice to imagine it...

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Making Peace

This week I'll be using the Hezicos Tarot, created and self-published by Mary Griffin. Along with it, I'll be using the Way of the Horse, an oracle deck and book set created by Linda Kohanov with Kim McElroy and published by New World Library. The two cards drawn for today are the Knight of Rods and 'Out of Body:'

... we try to rise above the raw and messy side of our humanness before we have fully faced and made peace with it. ~John Welwood

          Daring, impatient and adventurous all describe the Knight of Rods. He's the kind of guy that likes to leave a mark (burning rubber on the pavement), yet he prefers to keep going rather than hanging around. While his ambitious side is finely honed, his emotional maturity is a bit lacking. I'm convinced that some of his busyness and addiction to 'what's next' is a way to avoid dealing with the emotional challenges of being human. The Out of Body card shows glimpses of three horses in the clouds. It reminds me of the New Age term 'transcend,' which sounds lovely until I realize it's a nice word for 'avoid.' Life in this physical body and world is not meant to be transcended but engaged with, felt, and learned from. I can use meditation or other spiritual tools to hide from feelings I don't want to acknowledge or deal with, all the while patting myself on the back for being such a good person. But those feelings don't disappear because I ignore them. My well-being depends on my willingness to embrace them without the narrative story I've spun around them. Then, like the horse-shaped clouds, they'll eventually fade away.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

What Are You For?

From the Osho Zen Tarot, the Empress; from the A'HA Oracle, Resonance:

          Padma's title for the Empress is 'Creativity,' and delineates clearly a major difference between the actions of the Emperor and the Empress. The Emperor creates laws and sanctions based on what he is against; the Empress creates her world based on what she is for. How different our conversations would be around the dinner table and in shopping lines if we asked, "What are you for? What do you value and hold dear? And how are you working to create such an environment in your own life, your community, and the world?" Resonance is an amplification that occurs when an object is exposed to the vibrations of another object with the same natural frequency. Basically, what is in harmony tends to strengthen each other. It makes sense that people with common causes would be drawn together to find a common solution. But what a difference it would make if their efforts were not wasted raging about what they were against, but nurturing what they wanted to create.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Common Prudence

From the Osho Zen Tarot, the Nine of Pentacles; from the A'HA Oracle, Prudence:
          Padma has titled this card 'Ripeness,' a nod to things being at their peak. It is a time to pause and enjoy rather than rush off looking for the next pleasure. Yes, things will change soon, as that barely-there crescent moon indicates. And it is often the loss of them that reminds us of their worth. If we can enjoy the moment without attachment to it, it becomes possible to appreciate it without adding the weight of desperation. Prudence - the foresight of wisely managing resources - suggests making use of what we have while we have it with a dose of discernment. Today in America is Black Friday, a day consumers are encouraged through every media source available to spend, spend, spend. While it is a great day to find some good deals, the buyer might want to remember the bills that will come due next month.

 It is but common prudence to see our way out before we venture in.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Paradox of Pain

From the Osho Zen Tarot, the Three of Swords; from the A'HA Oracle, Chameleon:

We must not allow ourselves to numb out or to deny or hide from the pain we are experiencing. We must allow our vulnerability to teach us. 
—Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara

          Padma calls this card 'ice-olation,' a phrase that fits perfectly. Pain can be isolating, particularly when we hold it inside or attempt to box it up and place it out of sight. I know this too well from years of practice. But hidden pain is like a viral infection; sooner or later we start to show symptoms. It is normal to hurt when we've experienced harm or loss, and it's healthy to feel the emotions with it. What makes me feel isolated is not the emotion but the thoughts I attach to it: "This isn't fair - I try to be a kind and compassionate person. I've been through more than anyone else has to endure. Life should not be this hard." The irony is that it is my pain that connects me to others and my thoughts of being singled out that makes me feel alone. The Chameleon card brings up the other extreme of pain - the empathic person who not only feels someone else's pain but takes it on as their own (thus compounding the problem rather than helping). In this case, I can be willing to sit with someone in pain so they don't have to be alone, yet I must realize I don't have the power to change his or her mind about the situation. Hopefully, if calmness is catching, common sense will come to light. 

Perhaps that’s the clue about the happiness inherent in caring connections: The frightened “I” who struggles is replaced by the “we” who do this difficult life together, looking after one other.
—Sylvia Boorstein

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Peaceful Surrender

From the Osho Zen Tarot, New Vision / Hanged Man; from the A'HA Oracle, Fruition:

Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control. ~Jack Kornfield

          Surrender simply means we stop fighting. We stop declaring that our way is the right way, that our way of seeing is correct. In the stillness of surrender, we can gather new information and perhaps see from a perspective that was impossible before while our blinders were on. Our heart becomes open and our mind becomes flexible. We may have given up the fight, but we've gained equanimity and a fuller understanding. Fruition implies that what we have done has born fruit. Every act and thought in the past is producing a harvest in the present. I can't change the seeds I've already planted, but I can be mindful of what I'm planting now that I will reap in the future.

Eventually you will see that the real cause of problems is not life itself. It's the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes the problems. ~Michael Singer