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

Thursday, January 31, 2019

This Hour

From the Touchstone Tarot, the Sun; from the Waterhouse Oracle, 'The Shrine:'
The Sun offers understanding and clarity in their infancy; wisdom can grow in this garden if the mind stays awake, eager and curious. This is not another day, the child reminds us, but a new day. It gives us a chance to see from new perspectives and a choice to break out of old habits. The Shrine shows a woman sniffing the flowers placed on an outdoor garden shrine. Though the alcove is hidden from view, this is a sacred place dedicated to a figure of awe or respect. The pause to honor could easily be applied to the day itself. I just watched the most beautiful sunrise; my first reaction was that I needed to grab my camera. But my second thought was, "But getting distracted with the camera will make me miss most of it - it's fading fast." I can't freeze-frame what I enjoy in life and crop out what don't. It comes as a package deal and deserves my attention.
Happiness, not in another place but this place...not for another hour, but this hour.
– Walt Whitman

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Just Five More Minutes...

From the Touchstone Tarot, Judgment; from the Waterhouse Oracle, 'The Household Gods:'
          An angel trumpets while women alternately pray over and bless a sarcophagus. Black writes that we should "heed the herald's call." Yet there are days when we may really want to stay in our beds or hide in our homes and not rise to any challenge. We're tired and worn out, and we'd prefer not to 'rise up.' But in spite of our aches, we find ourselves moving forward. On those days, it helps to remember the words of Pema Chodron: "When we think something is going to give us misery, we don’t know. Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all." Though you can't see them in the card, The Household Gods painting shows two women offering flowers, food and drink to their deities. People have known for centuries the importance of pausing, reflecting and contemplating, whether it is to a god or not. It is a regenerating practice that can ground and help us rise to the daily challenges of each day.
While I waited yesterday to see if water from the storm would come through the roof again, I decided to create a bedside altar that would give me a chance to pause, reflect and contemplate. The sitting Buddha and Kuan Yin photo remind me to start from a baseline of wisdom and compassion. The prayer beads and mantra give me a chance to calm my mind (The mantra means "May all beings everywhere be happy and free of suffering"). The 'resilience' stone is my inspirational word for 2019 (thank you, Carolyn and Sharyn). The feather and heart are symbols to reflect on the day's swan dives and belly flops (where I maintained or forgot my principles and precepts); this daily inventory helps me determine if I need to make amends to anyone. Hotei - a happy, benevolent monk who became a bodhisattva - reminds me to ask myself what made me smile or what touched my heart that day (a gratitude practice). The ladybugs represent the people in my life who might need some good thoughts sent their way.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Secure Investments?

From the Touchstone Tarot, the Tower; from the Waterhouse Oracle, 'The Crystal Ball:'
 If you're invested in security and certainty, you are on the wrong planet.
– Pema Chodron

          A man prays and a woman sobs as a huge crown topples off a tower. Whatever their crowning achievement was - land holdings, enough diplomas to fill a wall, a multitude of family and friends or a fat bank account - it did not save them from falling back to earth where all mortals must dwell. There is a huge difference between preparing and micromanaging; preparation has plans in place for when an event happens, while micromanagement attempts to keep the inevitable from happening at all. The Crystal Ball shows a woman trying to foresee her future. Will she try to control or plan for what she sees will happen? An interesting bit of trivia about this painting is that one of the previous owners had the skull painted over (as if that would keep death at bay). Life is full of difficulties and delights for everyone, but as Jack Kornfield reminds us, only three things truly matter in the end:

  • How well have we lived?
  • How well have we loved?
  • How well have we learned to let go?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Wiggle Room

From the Touchstone Tarot, the Hanged Man; from the Waterhouse Oracle, 'The Missal:'
          Black illustrates her Hanged Man with the painting of  St. Sebastian. Sebastian was a part of an elite group of the Roman army who guarded the Emperor. When his conversion to Christianity was discovered, the Emperor wanted him to go back to worshipping the Roman gods. Sebastian refused, and so he was tied to a tree and shot with arrows. A widow, thinking she was retrieving a body to bury, found him alive and nursed him back to health. Unfortunately, Sebastian must not have had any moments of acceptance while on that tree about things he can't control, because he later went back to the Emperor to confront him about his sins and was subsequently clubbed to death for his effort. The Missal shows a young woman reading from a prescribed book of prayers and rites for the year. Rituals and routines are comforting, but I wouldn't want to be told that I could only do things a certain way with no creative wiggle room. A zealot of any stripe is still a zealot. Shakespeare wrote that even "the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose."

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Finding Your True Self

This week I'll be using the Touchstone Tarot, created and self-published by Kat Black. Along with it I'll be using the John Waterhouse Oracle, created and self-published by Elaine Wilkinson (aka Seven Stars). Today's draws are the High Priestess and 'Ophelia:'
          With a book, scroll, and pomegranate in her arms, this High Priestess seems to beckon us into the darkness without speaking. Her manner illustrates the word 'quietude' - the state of being quiet, still, and calm. The symbols she holds promises hidden knowledge that once revealed will be fruitful. She asks only that we become open and receptive; in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, "Make your ego porous." At the other end of the spectrum sits Ophelia by a pond of lilies moments before her death. She drowned herself after Hamlet killed her father and deserted her. Without a porous ego, it is impossible not to be bound by the many ways we define ourselves. When these labels are ripped from us, it can be as if we've had the rug of reality pulled from beneath our feet. The High Priestess implores us to see beyond this limited sense of self.
'Finding yourself' is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten-dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right here, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. ‘Finding yourself’ is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.
Emily McDowell

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Allow Things to Come and Go

From the Victorian Romantic Tarot, the Moon; from the Dreaming in Color Deck, 'Respite:'
          As this woman combs her hair beneath a cloud covered moon, she seems to be in a daze. Without the light of clarity, everything that bubbles up from her unconscious can make things a tad confusing. Our blind spots may use this information to create something frightening that is not based in fact. The Respite card - a message to take a break and rest - allows receptivity without activity. There's no need to draw any firm conclusions right away. As the Tao Te Ching advises:

He allows things to come and go. 
His heart is open as the sky. (Tao 12)

Receptive as a valley. 
Clear as a glass of water. Do you have the patience to wait 
till your mud settles and the water is clear? 
Can you remain unmoving 
till the right action arises by itself? (Tao 15)

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Telling of Stories

From the Victorian Romantic Tarot, the King of Cups; from the Dreaming in Color Deck, 'Foreboding:'
          I imagine this King of Cups knows what Aesop knew - stories stick better than simply giving advice about ethics and morals. Wrap what you want to teach in tales of challenge and courage, loss and love, and forgetting and finding if you want the listener to remember. Yet there are some stories that we should avoid because they are more harmful than helpful. The Foreboding card seems to point to a dark storm that is coming. But I know if I am stressed and worn-out, I'm likely to be over-sensitive to any information I receive. What may seem like a strong intuition about an impending catastrophe is likely just my emotions on overdrive. Time to turn off the news channel and find some quiet stillness for relaxation and recuperation.
Before you jump to conclusions & get all stressed out,  try taking a few deep breaths & capture your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Bright and Soft Lights

From the Victorian Romantic Tarot, the Fool; from the Dreaming in Color Deck, 'Patience:'
“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal — a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
~ Mary Oliver

          Too often, I think, the Fool is portrayed as a bit of self-indulgence, rebels intent on proving how different they are, or people trying to impress others (or prove to themselves) they are a daring risk-takers. In my head, I see the Fool as unexpected wisdom in an unexpected place - an inner light that shines outward. Such light includes rays of joy, acceptance, and gratitude that reaches to embrace others, not for any selfish motive. Patience is one of those traits that seem nice to have, yet no one really wants to work too hard to acquire it. But patience can prevent something mildly irritating from turning into a dangerous rage; it can offer deep listening (rather than platitudes) that keep someone from walking off a ledge with no hope of return. Perhaps that is part of that light too. A softer light that touches others gently.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Space of Failure

From the Victorian Romantic Tarot, the Page of Pentacles; from the Dreaming in Color Deck, 'Fear:'
          Don't let the slouching teen on the fur fool you; he is constructing something in his head. First, he sees in his mind what he wants to create, then he'll diagram it on paper (looking for any flaws) while listing the resources he will need. With paper in hand, he'll gather his tools and supplies and begin working to materialize his idea. This studious young man can seem like an old man in a young body; he is often too serious and worries about all the 'what ifs.' I'd tell him to go read Pema Chodron's advice to her granddaughter's graduating class:

If you want to be a complete human being, if you want to be genuine and hold the fullness of life in your heart, then failure is an opportunity to get curious about what is going on and listen to the storylines. Don’t buy the ones that blame it on everybody else, and don’t buy the storylines that blame it on yourself, either.

Out of that space of failure can come addictions of all kinds—addictions because we do not want to feel it, because we want to escape, because we want to numb ourselves. Out of that space can come aggression, striking out, violence. Out of that space can come a lot of ugly things.

 I can tell you that it is out of this same space that come our best human qualities of bravery, kindness, and the ability to really reach out to and care about each other. It’s where real communication with other people starts to happen, because it’s a very unguarded, wide-open space in which you can go beyond the blame and just feel the bleedingness of it, the raw-meat quality of it.

It’s from that space that our best part of ourselves comes out. It’s in that space—when we aren’t masking ourselves or trying to make circumstances go away—that our best qualities begin to shine.

Monday, January 21, 2019


From the Victorian Romantic Tarot, the Nine of Pentacles; from the Dreaming in Color Deck, 'Hope:'
          I was reading an interview with a woman who had been a successful therapist; she retired, moved with her partner to a state with a temperate climate into a lovely home with a garden. She described her retirement as "a beautiful prison." Though money wasn't a problem and she was in good health, an absence of purpose left her feeling bored and depressed. I think changes that take us out of our structured lives - no matter if we're empty-nesters or retirees - can leave people feeling unmoored. As one fellow said, "There's only so much gardening and golf one can do." The Hope card reminds me of a quote by George Washington Carver: "Where there is no vision, there is no hope." Carver, one of the most innovative scientists and inventors in African-American history, believed we need something to look forward to and work toward. It doesn't matter whether it originates from a small project or a large one, as long as it gives us a reason to get up in the morning.
There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.
~Louis L'Amour

Sunday, January 20, 2019

You Go High

This week I'll be using the Victorian Romantic Tarot, created by Alex Ukolov and Karen Mahony with Magic Realist Press as publisher. I will also be drawing from Dreaming in Color: the Luman Deck, created and self-published by Mindy Hope Sommers. Today's draws are the Five of Swords and 'Breakthrough:'
Not all forms of abuse leave bruises.
~Danielle Steel 

          I wish bullying was something kids would grow out of, but as the current political stage shows, bullies don't have an age limit. I was angered to see the video of Catholic high school boys (who were in Washington, DC for an anti-abortion march) get in the face of a Native elder who was there with others to be a voice for the rights of indigenous peoples. Is this something their parents and school would be proud of? I would love to see these boys shipped off to live on a reservation for a month. Maybe a little understanding would grow in their tiny, undeveloped brains. My initial reaction to bullies is to push back, hard. But the Breakthrough card reminds me that this kind of action only feeds animosity and cruelty. Instead, I might take Michelle Obama's advice that she gave her girls (which the elder modeled beautifully): "We explain when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you do not stoop to their level. Our motto is when they go low, you go high." A wide perspective can make something that at first seems personal be reflected right back to the bully.

People who repeatedly attack your confidence and self-esteem are quite aware of your potential, even if you are not. ~Wayne Gerard Trotman

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Wisdom in Unusual Places

From the Morgan Greer Tarot, the Hanged Man; from the Goddesses and Sirens Oracle, 'The Muses:'
         Two things I notice about this particular Hanged Man - it's cloudy and there is no glowing nimbus around his head. These things imply that he isn't seeing clearly and hasn't conceded his struggle against reality; he's still trying to rewind the tape and change what is. He would be better off following the wisdom of Reginald Ray: "We are called to see each arising of our day not as a threat, but as an opportunity—a chance to open our arms, lay down our weapons, and surrender to this exact moment of our life." There is no battle as wasted and useless as that against reality. Personifications of poetry, story, and song, the Muses are considered an inspiration for the arts. Yet because they originated during a time when oral history was prevalent, they are also a source of knowledge. Have you ever heard a verse from a song or poem that seemed to switch the light on in your head? As the poet David Whyte wrote, "Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity."

Friday, January 18, 2019

Reliable Barometer?

From the Morgan Greer Tarot, the Page of Cups; from the Goddesses and Sirens, 'Morgan le Fae:'
          The Page of Cups has an unarmored heart, therefore his life is like a wellspring of fresh emotions. That might be fine (as those emotions can come and pass away quickly), but he is so sensitive that he at times feels like that fish out of water gulping in air. He could use someone more experienced to show him the ropes - not how to shut off his feelings but to recognize they don't always reflect the truth. As Allen Berger states: "I believe it’s important to respect our feelings. No question about it. But we create problems when we give our feelings too much privilege in our lives." Morgan le Fae is a powerful enchantress associated with the Arthurian tales. Though early versions showed her as a healer and protector, later versions cast her as a dark, malevolent power. This change in the telling of the legend was likely due to a Christian push against the pagans. How do you create hate? Through fear. But as the Page will eventually learn, feelings are rarely a reliable barometer for what is real.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A New Way

From the Morgan Greer Tarot, the Eight of Swords; from the Gods and Titans Oracle, 'Ra:'

          Anyone who's ever endured the requisite 12 years of school knows you don't graduate because of creative thinking. You learn to memorize and spit things out; creativity only counts in art or debate. It's no wonder that as adults we get stuck and have a hard time getting out of the box of ideas that we've put ourselves in. The advice, "Do something different" seems almost too simple to be helpful. That would mean letting go of what we're certain of and at least entertaining the opposite view. The Sun god Ra was a central god of the Egyptian pantheon. He sailed across the heavens each day, disappeared at night, and was reborn the next morning. Yet even the Sun can't force an apple seed to become a pear tree, nor can it make a seed grow faster than normal. Sometimes the power of persistence can keep us in our box. But it the Sun warms the seed and allows it to take its natural course, it will likely grow. Force never seems to be a permanent solution to anything, especially when it comes to our thinking.
For me, slowing down has been a tremendous source of creativity. It has allowed me to open up – to know that there’s life under the earth and that I have to let it come through me in a new way.
  Natalie Goldberg

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Before Closing...

From the Morgan Greer Tarot, the King of Wands; from the Goddesses and Sirens, 'Freya:'
          This King has his Knight and Queen to get projects up and running, but he is the Closer - the one who can bring things to a satisfactory conclusion. There will be challenges that cause his people to feel overwhelmed or tedious tasks which create boredom; he knows how to keep enthusiasm high so that the goal isn't abandoned. Freya, the Norse goddess of power and beauty, has been assigned the keyword 'irresistibility.' She's got something to teach this King - the power of one's sincere attention, one of the most compelling and alluring traits of all. One of my neighbors, a family with three kids and a fourth on the way, decided to sell their house and move to a larger one. The first prospective buyer was ready to close the deal, but he kept telling them about all the walls he was going to tear out. This wasn't just a house to them, but a home, but he didn't understand that. He was too eager to start ripping out and rebuilding. Needless to say, they didn't sell to him but to someone else who they felt could feel the love that had been in that house for many years. They grieved leaving this haven and needed someone to understand. Connection involves communion; it's more than a business transaction.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Measuring Success

From the Morgan Greer Tarot, the Eight of Pentacles; from the Goddesses and Sirens Oracle, Nuit/Nut:
          A man focuses on his craft, trying to improve his skills. While the phrase "practice makes perfect" has been around a long while, I prefer Carolyn's version: "practice makes progress." A constantly changing world means any idea of perfection will change as well. Just look at how the 'ideal' woman or man has changed through the decades or the perfect computer or smartphone. Nuit/Nut is the Egyptian sky goddess who is usually depicted arching over Earth covered with stars. She represents pure potentiality and why her keyword is 'expansiveness.' This goddess reminds us how different progress looks when we refuse to compare ourselves to others but instead use our own lives as yardsticks. From this view, there is not one particular thing we need to do perfectly or one particular person to best. Our measurement for improvement is internal, not external. Then any improvement we make is a success.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Nothing But the Truth

From the Morgan Greer Tarot, Justice; from the Goddesses and Sirens, 'Persephone:'
 You can't handle the truth!
~ Colonel Jessup, "A Few Good Men"
          Do we really want to hear the truth or just our version of it? I know that pain is a natural by-product of living in this world, but the suffering that adds to that weight grows from roots in the bottom of my feet. However, that doesn't mean I see this truth immediately when life is hard. Like Persephone who lived part of her time in the darkness and part in light, it takes me time before I'm willing to shine the light and take a deeper look at things. I'm not a completely bad person, nor am I completely good one. But being willing to open my eyes to the truth can help me become a better person.

Sunday, January 13, 2019


This week I'll be using the Morgan Greer Tarot, created by Bill Greer and Lloyd Morgan and published by U.S. Games. I'll also be using an oracle made of a combination of two decks - the Gods and Titans along with the Goddesses and Sirens. Both of these were created by Stacey Demarco and Jimmy Manton and published by Blue Angel. Today's card draws are the Five of Swords and 'Garuda:'
          Would you rather be right or be happy? Most people would say 'happy,' but our actions and words would likely tilt toward 'right.' Humans tend to be a pride-blind group of folks, willing to sacrifice relationships, jobs, and opportunities to prove we've got more common sense or knowledge than someone else. When we try to discuss an issue, there's always a 'but' that hooks us and keeps us from letting go of our opinion and entertaining another view. Self-justification and righteous indignation can goad us, and words with sharp edges soon find their mark. Garuda is an eagle-like Hindu god known for speed and martial prowess. He is the personification of courage; as a warrior, I think he would agree with the words of Zig Ziglar: "Knowing when to walk away is wisdom. Being able to is courage. Doing it with your head held high is dignity."

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Terra Firma

From the Tarot of Timeless Truth, the Four of Wands; from the Shaman's Oracle, the 'Hunter of Conflict:'
          Inspiration came and was followed; a hard journey across a vast ocean was made. Now that they're on terra firma, it's time to celebrate. Sure there's an enormous to-do list, but the mind and body cannot operate on full throttle without some downtime. This is the time to let go of our worries about what lies ahead and how we will deal with them. Now is the time to unwind. The Hunter of Conflict doesn't come to stir up trouble, but to look for problems before they become full-blown storms. However, right timing is necessary. It won't do much good to sit and talk with people while they're riding stormy waves, but after things are calmer and level heads prevail. Though we may want to tamp out the conflict right away, sometimes we must wait for the winds to die down.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Noble Way

From the Tarot of Timeless Truth, Strength; from the Shaman's Oracle, the 'Ancestor of Protection:'

          The young girl blesses three powerful animals, each a symbol of what is inside her. Vey writes: "all challenges are conquered if they are met with tolerance, forgiveness, forbearance and compassion." Those who've worked with victims of abuse - people or animals - would likely agree that such gentle strength is what can heal if one can be patient. Most folks are willing to reach out a few times, but rarely stick it out if success is not forthcoming. The true test of inner strength is in the long haul. As the Japanese proverb states, "Fall down seven times, get up eight." The Ancestor of Protection acts as a guard to help us remain true to our path. All of our ancestors have provided good examples for handling things well, making a half-assed effort, or illustrated disastrous coping skills. We can choose to operate from any one of them.

Anyone can be cooperative, patient, and understanding when things are going well and life is good. But it is the noble man or woman who can behave with grace and compassion and even kindness when times are very, very bad. ~Garr Reynolds

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Completely Awake

From the Tarot of Timeless Truth, the Ace of Swords; from the Shaman's Oracle, the 'Hunter of Dreams:'

The path of awakening is not about positive emotions. On the contrary, enlightenment may not be easy or positive at all. It is not easy to have our illusions crushed. It is not easy to let go of long-held perceptions. —Adyashanti

          Vey describes this Ace of Swords as "the truth that cuts through your illusions" and brings "challenges that test your strength and shake your ideas and perceptions." Illusions and ignorance can hide us from reality, which often seems like a much more comfortable, cozy place than seeing things as they are. But pulling the covers over my head won't change anything for the better and will probably allow the problem to grow deeper roots. The Hunter of Dreams creates a back door into the mind to open the doors of perception that we thought we had securely bolted. We will have to face life, one way or the other. As Pema Chodron puts it, "To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh." Yet having that fresh view (with my head out from under the covers) is what will help me find the answers I seek.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Stinginess or Stewardship?

From the Tarot of Timeless Truth, the Four of Pentacles; from the Shaman's Oracle, the 'Shaman of Purification:'
          What is the line between stinginess and good stewardship? Where is the line between being helpful and enabling? The harm done to either side because of hoarding or helping is one box to tick. The other is to check for hidden motives and insecurities behind the action or inaction. Do we act to become less selfish and self-centered or to people-please and look good? Do we hold back to keep us from financial chaos or because we're insecure and judge others as undeserving? The Shaman of Purification tells us to sweep off the top layer of whatever we tell ourselves and look a little deeper. Reassess and purge the attitudes and beliefs that are no longer appropriate. The truth lies beneath the propaganda and half-truths.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Staying Awake

From the Tarot of Timeless Truth, the Nine of Wands; from the Shaman's Oracle, the 'Spirit of Nurture:'
          It's hard to be watchful and alert, especially if we've been at it for a while. Boredom creeps in, and we begin to fantasize about doing something more enjoyable. Or it can become something else; in the words of Paul Tillich, "Boredom is rage spread thin." The effects of rage can equally distract us with detailed thoughts of revenge. Yet the Spirit of Nurture offers us a way to be present and awake without slipping into paranoia, boredom or rage. Matthews describes this Spirit as one that will fortify and offer us sustenance. It gives us support and access to energy. If we are paying attention, we might meet a new person or find out about a book that will offer us information we seek. We could hear words that give us a much wider perspective than the narrow view we've been tightly holding onto. What is coming over that hill might be an ally rather than an enemy.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Back Into the Sunlight

From the Tarot of Timeless Truth, the Three of Cups; from the Shaman's Oracle, the 'Shaman of Song:'
          The roaring waterfall behind these women symbolizes the power of emotion channeled in healthy ways. We need other people in our lives, not just for the camaraderie and celebration, but also as a resource that lifts us up. Who hasn't woken up in a dark mood from lack of sleep, worry or pain and then had others whose presence reminded us of the goodwill, beauty and wonder around us? These are not the folks that shame us for not feeling grateful, but like the Shaman of Song, they "sing from the hollow places of being." They start where we are and lead us back into the sunlight.

Sitting with someone who’s in pain can be tough. But the most supportive thing we can do is to truly listen and be present with them in that very moment — without trying to fix the situation, making assumptions, making it about ourselves or minimizing their pain.
~Margarita Tartakovsky