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

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

Pride-Blind

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

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Of Kings and Chaos

This week I'll be using the Tarot of Timeless Truth, a book and deck set created and self-published by Leila Vey. I'll also be using the Shaman's Oracle, created by Wil Kinghan with text by John Matthews and published by Watkins. Today's draws are the Emperor and the 'Hunter of Gifts:'
          Vey's companion book lets the Emperor speak: "I am the commanding voice of authority, bringing order to the chaos of your lives." Turn any group loose to complete a task and it will soon look like an updated version of Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors." We need managers and guides to keep us on track and protect us from the messes and problems we might unknowingly create. Yet directors need their own set of rules too in order to prevent the chaos of self-serving braggarts. Brian Tracy, author of The Psychology of Achievement, lists seven traits of effective leaders: vision, courage, integrity, humility, strategic planning, focus, and cooperation. Many Americans feel we are currently under a leader who lacks all of these qualities. Yet the Hunter of Gifts appears with a search for what will help us live life to the fullest. These things are not just the basics of survival, but things that will help us thrive like creativity and perseverance. He also would point out that the 2020 Presidential election is not that far away.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Team Effort

From the Russian Lubok Tarot, the Five of Wands; from the Oracle of Alice's Leaves, 'Black Walnut:'
          These fellows look like the five stooges: one rides a hobby horse (completely oblivious to all except his own fun), another looks like he's up for a competitive game of ball, and three others look like they are trying to smack or trip someone. They've all lost sight of what's important - the primary goal they're supposed to be working toward. Perhaps there is a misunderstanding of what the objective actually is, and unless they put down their sticks, they're unlikely to figure it out. Black Walnut, or Juglans nigra, has developed a way to preserve its existence by killing off all competitors. Its roots contain the substance juglone which poisons other trees in its domain (even its own seedlings). Black Walnut's tactics are like someone who shows up to a team meeting with their own agenda and refuse to listen to anyone else's ideas. That team will never make progress. In the words of Vince Lombardi, "Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work."

Friday, January 4, 2019

Word Finder

From the Russian Lubok Tarot, the Ace of Swords; from the Oracle of Alice's Leaves, 'California Laurel:'
 ...find words that do not divide but unite, that do not create conflict but unity,
that do not hurt but heal. ~Henri Nouwen
           I really hate telling adults what to do, especially when I know that they understand the rules. Like this morning at Planet Fitness: I was working out in the circuit room with another couple who didn't wipe down any of the machines they used. The husband, in particular, was dripping sweat everywhere. At this particular gym, it is a cardinal rule (explained when you join), and they have spray bottles and paper towels every few feet to make this easy to do. I don't want to leave my sweat prints, but I am also an adamant cleaner because I've seen women with cancer work out here. Yet like the dove and the eagle (and the peaceful scene and the battle), words can easily change an idyllic environment into an angry one. The words used and tone of voice matter, which means I need to watch for a snarky attitude. All the parts of the California laurel, or Umbellularia californica, have a strong, spicy smell. Inhaled too suddenly or deeply, it can cause a sharp, intense pain like accidentally breathing in a noseful of water when swimming. But gently smelled, it can be appreciated for its sweet, camphor-like odor. In the past, I've often assumed people react negatively to 'rule monitors' because of a sense of entitlement. But if I make a more charitable assumption - they react because they got caught and are either fearful or embarrassed - I am more likely to speak with gentleness.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Quick Fixes

From the Russian Lubok Tarot, the Queen of Cups; from the Oracle of Alice's Leaves, 'Cajeput:'
          The Queen of Cups is known for her empathy, so its no wonder that she has a protective circle around her head and heart. She must be careful that her visceral experience of another's feelings is transformed into compassionate action rather than allowing it to emotionally overwhelm and wear her out. Like the flower she holds, she needs the sun too - not just constant rain. Cajeput, or Melaleuca quinquenervia, is a prime example of why non-native plants should not be randomly sown in the wild. In the 1940s, the seeds of this Australian tree were sown from the air in hopes of turning the 'useless' wetlands of the Florida Everglades into timberland. Now the destructive results on the native vegetation and wildlife are apparent. The Queen should take a lesson from the Everglades experiment; what might look like an easy fix should be looked at from a longterm and wide view. Easy usually never means benign and beneficial.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A Table for Three

From the Russian Lubok Tarot, the Three of Cups; from the Oracle of Alice's Leaves, 'Woody Nightshade:'
          Three fellows sit around sharing a simple meal and companionship. The two creeks that cross in front of their table suggest how randomly some friendships begin, but because we attend to and cultivate them, we can develop lasting relationships. Woody Nightshade, or Solanum dulcamara, is related to several important food plants such as the tomato and potato. Yet all parts of this plant are poisonous, giving rise to its other common name, deadly nightshade. Folk medicine used the leaves as a poultice; today, chemists have found this plant contains solanine, a substance found to help clear up obstinate skin disorders such as poison ivy or ulcers. Taken together, the message of these cards seem to say that no one is perfect so we shouldn't expect a friendship to be either. While there are some lines that shouldn't be crossed, we need not expect our friends to agree with us about everything.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Blending Vessel

From the Russian Lubok Tarot, Temperance; from the Oracle of Alice's Leaves, 'Blackberry:'
          Rather than combining liquids by pouring them back and forth, this Temperance is the blending vessel herself in which the mix will occur. She pours out a little water from one bucket in order to balance her yoke. It makes me think of resolutions for the new year which seem to be either one extreme or the other - I want to have more fun or I want to be more disciplined so I can ____ (lose weight, stop smoking, etc.). But we shouldn't have to choose one bucket over the other (with a little creative thinking), which may explain why those resolutions tend to fizzle out. Blackberry, or Rubus spp., is a plant I'm very familiar with. While living on a farm, we picked these juicy berries to eat fresh or freeze for making cobblers. Yet caution had to be observed: the briers were full of sharp thorns, the berries needed to be picked when black not red, and rattlesnakes often lay beneath the foliage. Discernment was needed, a message that parallels the acknowledgment that 'all or nothing' doesn't exist in a balanced state. However, I can have fun while being disciplined, and I can enjoy pleasures while not expecting them to last forever.