Friday, April 29, 2016

Reading a Spread: Mirror's Edge

This spread is a layout that can tell you things you don't necessarily want to hear.  It's about looking at the contrast between the things we like about ourselves, and what we don't like.  When I started designing this spread, I was using phrases like "your best self," but the results weren't very informative.  Using language that was less about judgement and more about contrast yielded a much richer spread.

With my trusty Universal Waite-Smith, I pulled the cards below.  Let's see how they demonstrate the ways in which our darkness is a reflection of our light.


Note that in this spread, the cards are not laid out in perfect chronological order (see the placement of cards 7 and 8).

CARD 1: Your hopes

I've said before that the High Priestess always elicits happiness and tranquility in me.  In this position, she speaks to my hopes for a richness in life that goes beyond material satisfaction, and taps into a contentedness that sits deeply in my sense of self.  This card also suggests that I would like to get better at trusting my intuition, something I have been practicing pointedly over the last couple months. 

CARD 2: What makes you feel pride

I feel like the driver of the Chariot often looks a bit smug, but I can hardly blame him.  He is an expert at balancing the opposing forces in his life, and using that energy to create movement.  I do take special pride in the fact that my skills often center around bringing together opposing viewpoints, or balancing different ends of a spectrum of values. 

CARD 3: What you most admire

Lots of trump cards in this spread!  The Empress is the Earth mother, the crunchy granola feminine goddess.  Frankly, in this position, I would expect something more like Justice, or one of the Queens.  But the Empress reminds me that I am more drawn to the messiness of earth-based spirituality than I let myself admit.  This is especially effective when combined with the High Priestess from the beginning; it really is important for me to embrace my "hippie-dippy" side order to manifest my brightest self.

CARD 4: Your fears

I'll be honest.  I feel like the Knight of Swords can be kind of a jerk.  He loves learning and truly wants to pursue justice, but he trusts his own intellect a little much and may not consider other points of view.  I advocate passionately for the things I believe in and am not afraid to disagree with others, but I worry that I can bowl people over with my intensity.  I do not want to be the type of person who leaves others too intimidated to disagree!

CARD 5: What makes you feel shame

I know the Three of Cups seems like an unequivocally happy card, but I instantly knew what it meant here.  My social anxiety manifests itself in periods of shame after any positive social interaction, especially after parties. It's almost always independent of anything I actually did or said, and I think it's probably a common experience. Usually, I just brush it off as par for the course, but this card suggests that I might need to look a little more closely at that shame. 

CARD 6: What you most disdain

Wow, it's pretty harsh to be told you have disdain for.... everything.  The World could be signaling the fact that I have the most contempt for people who hold power and perpetuate systems of oppression that cross the entire globe, but that's a bit of a stretch.  I think it speaks to the fact that when we are overly critical of ourselves, it inevitably bleeds into criticism of others.  This card reminds me to practice compassion for myself in order to be more gracious to those around me. 

CARD 7: Your brightest self

It's interesting pulling a Minor Arcana in this prominent position, after getting so many trumps in the rest of the spread.  The Eight of Wands doesn't show any human actors, so we don't have facial expressions or postures to look at.  There's barely even a setting, just some rolling hills in the background.  No, this card is pure, unadulterated, forward-moving energy. Without a doubt, I feel at my brightest and when there is a sense of progress or change in my life.

CARD 8: Your darkest self

Strength is a special card to me, and I pay attention when it shows up in a spread.  It's part of a small cluster of cards that I identify with closely.  In some older decks, it is called Courage, which comes from the French word coeur, meaning heart. We know, then, that this strength doesn't refer to how much you can bench press, but rather a spiritual or emotional strength.  It is kind of reassuring to see it in this position!  Instead of focusing on my weaknesses, this card tells me what I can draw on in my darkest moments.  Even in times when I am feeling shame, fear, and lacking confidence, I can pull on my inner strength to get me through. 


This particular manifestation of the spread demonstrates how the cards can surprise you, or seem contradictory, but still provide a fresh perspective on things.  I find this spread to be helpful for self-awareness, and if it appeals to you, I offer it as one of my available readings. 

Is this a spread you would try?  Do you have any questions about the positions of the cards, or why I read them the way I did?  Let us know in comments!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Closer Look: Queen of Swords

Key words and concepts

  • Reflection
  • Wisdom
  • Mental acuity
  • Impartiality
  • Wit
  • Experience
  • Articulate speech
  • Sorrow
  • Pain

The Queen of Swords is an intriguing card with a lot of depth. I used to see her as cold and critical, using her intelligence to make fair but merciless decisions. My feelings towards her became more nuanced when I found suggestions that her wisdom and intelligence is a result of painful experiences in her past.  The Queen of Swords is well acquainted with sorrow, and if her judgments seem harsh, it's because life has left her with a clear sense of realism. 

She's not all judgment and criticism, though.  She's often described as witty and articulate; I think of her as having a silver tongue to go with her shiny sword, which is pointed skyward with calm confidence. She is a leader, and though she expects much from her followers, she gives back in wisdom and reflection. She always considers all sides of an argument or decision, no matter how difficult. 

I see the Queen of Swords as the Minor Arcana counterpart to Justice.  Whereas Justice is the pure form of the ideal, the Queen of Swords embodies fairness in the ways we encounter it in everyday life. She's the friend who isn't necessarily warm and fuzzy, but is always there for you when real disaster strikes.  She's the boss that makes a decision that is harsh, but takes the time to explain to her employees why it is necessary and helps them through it. She looks at life unflinchingly, unafraid to see things as they truly are, bringing wisdom, fairness, and measured consideration to a situation.  Ultimately, her goal is justice in service to her subjects.

Are there people in your life (not just women) who embody any of these aspects?  Have there been times in your life when you have drawn on your own internal Queen of Swords?  Be sure to share your thoughts in comments!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Tarot Cards in Rituals

April 22 was the full moon, called a Pink Moon in this month. After reading about this spring moon ritual at the Moody Moon, I was inspired to try my own take. I'm not officially pagan or Wiccan, but I find great value in ritual and in marking the changing seasons.

Below you will see the small altar I came up with; I have a small votive candle, some plants from the woods behind my house (harvest responsibly!), and some rainwater instead of dew (you'll also notice I left out the charcoal part of the Moody Moon's version).  I thought I would bring some of my own creativity and make the ritual more personal to me, so I circled the altar in pink sea salt (for the Pink Moon!), using the little bird candle holder as a vessel. I also recited an Emily Dickinson poem, because alternating speech and silence is a big part of how I practice my faith.

Ok, but this is Down Home Tarot, not Down Home Approximation of Pagan Rites. Well, as I gathered my materials, I just really felt like something was missing.  I realized that I needed some tarot cards to complete my altar and make it my own. 

I went to my Tarot of the Magical Forest, because it has a great whimsical and slightly creepy Hieronymous-Bosch-meets-Sesame-Street feel that fit perfectly with a springtime moon.  I chose the Moon, to help focus the ritual on the full moon.  I also selected the Three of Pentacles.  This card holds my hopes for the coming lunar cycle; I'm job searching and feeling optimistic but guarded, and I'm hoping for progress on that front in one form or another.  Finally, I thought the Ace of Cups was a great way to represent the spring, and the soft pink coloring in the illustration truly created the feel of a Pink Moon. 

My ritual was simple, and probably didn't take much longer than five minutes, but it still left me feeling grounded, more peaceful, and more connected to the things I find important. 

This is an example of using tarot cards with intention, as opposed to shuffling and pulling cards to see what they have to say.  It is a way of dedicating your intentions, or clarifying and stating your purpose for yourself.  Maybe you are not into putting together a ritual, per se (we can't all be hedge witches), but you may find that meditating on cards you select purposely is rewarding in of itself.  Selecting and meditating on specific cards is a great way to get to know a new deck, too.  

Are there any individual cards that you have been drawn to?  Have you tried meditating on a card yet?  How was the experience?  Share your insight in comments!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Floral Interlude

Today, I'm putting the down home in Down Home Tarot by showing you some of the blooming life around my home!  Here are some little moments from the woods behind my house that showcase the early spring.


I mostly see these pretty fuchsia flowers in shade or growing at the base of trees.  I wish the camera had focused better on the petals!

These lovelies I only see occasionally, though these ones were just smack in the middle of my back yard!  I had to hold the bloom between my fingers so the camera would focus on the delicate pale starbursts at the center of the blue flower.

These petite flowers come up everywhere, and their blossoms bob on the top of thin stems.  The effect is like tiny little floating pale stars on the forest floor.  You can see in the picture that they often grow in little batches scattered throughout sunny spots.  It's like finding fairy footsteps or something.  Pretty damn magical.

I know that mushrooms aren't flowers, but I love them.  Here's a shot of some growing on a fallen tree.  We get a lot of fallen trees in our woods (pine trees do not have very strong taproots, and they can fall over when the ground is soggy and they are heavy with ice); the resulting ecosystems are beautiful, strange, and intriguing.

And finally, I love this stump!  Look at this guy.  Gnarled, moss-dappled, old, and dry, but still firm and strong.  Way to go, stump.


I hope you liked this little peek into my corner of the southeast United States.  How are the seasons changing for you?  What are you noticing in your world?  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Reading a Spread: Setting Your Intentions

Today's spread comes from Tarot by Cassandra.  Her tumblr features lots of creative spreads, ranging from simple to complex.  It's a great resource if you're looking for new ways to read the cards.  Using my Universal Waite-Smith* deck, I pulled the cards below to help me set my intention!

*I have decided to start using the name Waite-Smith for the deck that has historically been called the Rider-Waite; more tarot scholars are starting to use Waite-Smith, and it more accurately represents the origins of the deck. 


As I shuffled the cards, I posed the following query to the cards: Over the past two months or so, I've had a schedule that has allowed me to pursue creative and self-care activities.  As a result, I've developed some really great habits around my health and spirituality.  When I move into a fuller schedule, how to I maintain these good habits?  Let's see what the cards say!

CARD 1: The Seed: Your Intention

The Ace of Pentacles was the perfect card to describe my intention.  Aces are beginnings, and pentacles are down-to-earth.  I'm at a point where I am beginning a new set of practices that help me feel grounded, and this card absolutely reflects that.

CARD 2: Hesitation: Fears Stopping you from Planting

I thought that the barrier to this intention would be the lack of time, but the King of Cups is a ruler who focuses on balancing emotion.  I've always had trouble getting to know the King of Cups; in this position, I am taking this as a sign that it is not limited time that will be my barrier, but rather my ability to balance my emotional reactions in a way that is constructive and does not drain me of energy.

CARD 3: Push It In the Ground: Overcoming Fears and Waiting

When I pulled this card, I was initially confused.  The World is about completion, satisfaction, and a sense of wholeness with the universe.Whenever I am stuck on a card, I try to let go of any prescribed meanings and look at the overall picture and flow of energy in the spread; I realized that the woman on The World looks like she could be dancing, and I had an image of dancing in the garden and letting my footfalls push the seeds--my intentions--deeper into the soil.  Instead of anxiety around my new schedule, if I look towards it with holistic joy and optimism--a "dancing" energy--I will have an easier time incorporating my positive habits.

CARD 4: Taking Root: How Your Intention Will Become Reality

What a lovely card to pull in this position!  The Three of Wands is the synthesis of mind, body, and spirit to help move forward with creative goals, especially in collaboration. The first indication that my habits have been incorporated into a new schedule successfully will be some creative collaboration or form of connection.  For example, I want to keep going to the gym; maybe I'll make time for an exercise class, or start going with a workout buddy.

CARDS 5 & 6: Bring it to the Surface: Ways to Nurture Your Intention

Though these cards are grouped together, I am reading them as chronological.  As my intention grows and solidifies, I will see more professional or creative collaboration with the Three of Pentacles, nicely continuing the themes from card 4.  I was pleased to see the Six if Pentacles in the final position; it indicates that the ultimate manifestation of my success will be a generosity of spirit and the ability to give back.  This ties in very strongly with my personal values, as I see self-care and community care as part of the same spectrum, with both nourishing each other.  It creates an optimistic cycle to this reading, where nourishing my personal growth and health ultimately improves the community, and vice versa.


This spread tells me that I should focus on the optimistic joy my new practices have brought me instead of fussing over my schedule, and keep an eye out for opportunities to collaborate creatively with others, even in small ways.  What do you think?  Would you use this spread?  Could you see alternate readings to these cards?  Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Closer Look: Two of Cups

Key words and concepts

  • Romance
  • Kindred spirits
  • Partnership
  • Affinity
  • Empathy
  • Commitment
  • Soul mates
  • Well-balanced friendship

If you are new to tarot, you may very understandably think that the trump card the Lovers is the card of romance, but the two of cups deserves that distinction.  This example from the Universal Rider-Waite deck shows two people facing each other with formal but gentle postures, and Waite suggests that they are toasting their commitment to each other.  

I know this card was intended to be a woman (left) and a man (right), but I feel like the genders read much more ambiguously than that, which I really like.  I could easily see these two folks as men, women, or non-binary.  It creates more depth, and more accurately represents a "universal" experience, if we allow for more flexibility in interpreting the genders on the card.

Another aspect of this card that I see overlooked sometimes is the aspect of friendship.  I am guilty of seeing this card in a spread and automatically thinking, "Romance! Love! Sex!" The truth is, the two of cups also symbolizes the affinity our soul feels when encountering a best friend.  For as much as this card could be the romance card, it could also be called the bosom buddies card. Again, keeping this interpretation in mind helps your readings become more universal and more accessible; after all, you don't want to alienate an ace client by declaring a steamy affair is in their future.

Finally, there is the imagery of a caduceus and giant.... winged lion head? What does that have to do with relationships, love, and friendship?  Robert Place explains that these are references to the god Hermes, and the winged lion's head a reference to the ancient religion of Mithraic mysteries.  But what does that mean for reading the card?  Well, honestly, it doesn't change my reading that much. This is a great example of why it isn't necessary to have an exhaustive knowledge of ancient symbols and belief systems to understand tarot.  It's cool to realize that Waite was making a statement about the role of divine power in loving commitment, but it doesn't really change my personal connection with this card. 

The more you work with the two of cups, the more you will discover shades of meaning.  It could refer to relationships that are romantic or platonic, sexual or not, straight or queer.  When you see this card in a spread, I hope you feel the warmth of a tender, supportive connection.


What does the two of cups evoke in you?  Do you have any particular decks with a two of cups you're just crazy about?  Let us know in comments!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Tarot Blogaround!

One of the most fun parts of starting this blog has been getting more serious about following other tarot bloggers and tweeters.  I've learned so much about tarot, enriching my own practice.  It would be selfish of me to keep these resources to myself, so I've highlighted three tarot bloggers below for you to check out.  I picked these examples specifically because I'm interested in a tarot community that is progressive and inclusive, and I feel that these blogs are creating that space.  Please read and enjoy!

  • Little Red Tarot by Beth Maiden is one of my major tarot touchstones.  Her writing is warm, vulnerable, and upbeat. You really do feel like she's sitting at your table with you over a cup of tea.  Her blog also hosts amazing series like Queering the Tarot by Cassandra Snow. 

  • Bri over at The Hoodwitch says that her blog title is "a reference to the curanderas and the wise women in the neighborhood botanicas that [she] grew up in." I was sold on this blog after reading an especially impressive post about "scary" cards, written by Gabriela Herstik.  Her description of the Devil particularly resonated with me.

  • One of the things I love about Siobhan Rene's approach is that it feels so very different than mine, yet demonstrates all the progressive values I strive for.  At Siobhan's Mirror, she offers tarot horoscopes, blog posts, and more.  I'm always drawn in by her honest, unapologetic writing.

These are just some of the wonderful folks I've begun to follow online, and I hope they help you appreciate the wide world of tarot.  Each of these authors has a unique approach that has deepened my own relationship with the cards.  Whether or not you're looking for serious, long-term insight into tarot, or just trying to learn more about the community, these blogs are a great place to start.  Leave your own recommendations in comments, and keep an eye out for more blogarounds!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Tarot Timeline

There is so much written about the history of tarot, some true, and some of it speculative.  You can really go down a rabbit hole looking into the history of the cards, their uses, and their meanings.  What started out as playing cards in Europe six hundred years ago are now a popular spiritual tools across the world.

Today, I am giving you the highlights: Dates and developments that have led to tarot as we know it today.  You could dig into any one of these moments, or look for others, and come up with all kinds of fascinating history (I, for one, can't wait to get my hands on Robert Place's book of tarot history.) To get you started, this timeline provides a basic overview.


Mid 1400s, Italy

  • Decks of playing cards featuring not only four suits, but additional trump cards, start to show up.  In Italian, they're called trionfi (which means "triumph"), since they outrank suit cards.  Sometimes, the deck is also called tarocchi, after the game they are used for.  The Tarot de Marseille is the best example of an early tarot deck. 

1491, Italy

  • The Sola Busca tarot is published, the first deck with fully illustrated pip cards.  I find varying evidence regarding whether or not it was intended as an esoteric deck, or just for playing.

1500s onward, Europe

  • The cards are used for divination, but not in a widespread way (maybe just for lone weirdo types). At this point, folks start getting interested in the supposed Egyptian roots to tarot.  This is really more about exoticism than any actual evidence of Egyptian history in tarot decks, and it's a part of tarot history that I find problematic. 

Mid-Late 1700s, France

  • A dude named Etteilla claims that tarot is pretty much totally based on Egyptian spirituality.  He is the first to revise the tarot deck specifically for divination. 

1910, England/America

  • A publishing company called William Rider & Son publish a deck intended for divination.  The deck was entirely drawn by Pamela Coleman Smith, under instructions from occultist A. E. Waite.  This deck is known as the Rider-Waite deck (even though PCS is the artist!), and is arguably responsible for popularizing tarot in the mainstream. (Coleman Smith led an intriguing life, and created many beautiful works of art; ultimately, she died in obscurity.)

1944, England

  • Aleister Crowley publishes the Thoth deck, based heavily on Egyptology and Quabbalah.  The Thoth deck is another popular tarot deck, though it is not my cup of tea. It draws heavily from Thelema, the philosophy/religion Crowley developed. I have a lot of problems with Crowley as a person, and it is difficult for me to separate him from his work, so you will probably not see me use the Thoth deck.

Modern Day, World-wide

  • Tarot is used for esoteric and divinatory purposes around the world, with new specialized decks coming out all the time.  The original game of tarot is still played, especially in central Europe. 


I hope that piques your interest about the process that produced the tarot we know today.  You'd be surprised at the number of books you can find on the subject at your library.  Leave your thoughts, additions, and recommendations in the comments!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Closer Look: The Star

This week's Closer Look is suggested by commenter Allispin!  Today, I take a look at the Star.

Key words and concepts
From the Shadowscapes Tarot

  • Optimism
  • Inspiration
  • Clarity
  • Illumination
  • Potential

Looking directly at the sun hurts our eyes, and the moon changes shape from night to night; only the Star provides a single, cool, constant point of light that we can use to guide us. For me, the Star signifies the spiritual impulse to live your true purpose. Now, I don't always know what that means, but it definitely is a mix of all those key words listed above, with some confidence and self-awareness added.  I picked Stephanie Pui-Mun's art for this card in part because she really captures the luminescence of the Star.  Doesn't that painting look like it could literally bring light to a dark room?  I really recommend checking out her Shadowscapes Tarot Deck.

The optimism of the Star is so compelling in part because it suggests more than just the possibility of getting what you want; it represents finally knowing, deep in your bones, what it is you actually need to flourish.  In some ways, the Star brings a message of being brave enough to do the thing you love, that brings you passion.  Let yourself be uplifted by this card, and throw yourself into something that gives you joy!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Reading a Spread: The Rainbow

This is a spread I came up with originally just to be playful, but I keep coming back to it for insight and comfort.  Today, I shuffled up my Universal Rider-Waite and pulled a Rainbow for y'all.  I set the cards in an arc, with each card representing a sentiment that I instinctively associate with a specific color.  Let's take a look at what the cards say!


Check out the spread, and see the descriptions below of each card and its position.

The Rainbow

CARD 1:  What you are passionate about

The Hermit seems like a slightly strange card in this position, because I usually think of my passions as having more active energy.  The Hermit is about solitude and turning inward for guidance, and valuing the wisdom that comes with silence and meditation.  I will say that this aspect of myself--the valuation of silence and solitude--is not immediately apparent in my personality, but is still a vital part of myself.  This card reminds me that passion does not have to be fiery or flashy in order to still be a profoundly important part of our motivations.

CARD 2: What comforts you

I mean, who doesn't like a party?  The Four of Wands is often associated with specific celebrations, like weddings or other rites of passage, but I often end up reading it as any sort of celebration, necessarily with others.  I think that this is particularly interesting in contrast to the solitude of the previous card; this says to me that when my own internal passions begin to isolate me, I can find comfort in relaxing, playful celebration with friends.

CARD 3: What excites you

I think of excitement as different than passion in that excitement, in this case, refers more to the energizing but quickly-fading excitement of youth, whereas passion has more of a long, slow burn that sustains us.  In this case, my Seven of Cups shows that I get giddy when I have a ton of options.  I do love to fantasize about being a goat farmer one day, the CEO of an international non-profit the next day, and an award-winning science fiction writer the next.  The Seven of Cups also points out--especially in this position--that a glut of options can be overwhelming and paralyzing, and not necessarily conducive to growth.  This is powerful for me today, as I have several job interviews coming up, and I am trying not to be overwhelmed by them!

CARD 4: What makes you content

Oh, High Priestess, with that Mona Lisa smile; it's hard not to feel calm with this card.  She signifies hidden knowledge, empathy, and intuition.  What an interesting card, because I often struggle to honor that part of me.  The High Priestess in this position reminds me that trusting my own self-awareness is a crucial part of happiness.  I also think this is an interesting card, in that in symbolizes hidden knowledge; I often find great comfort and peace in the idea that there is so much yet unknown in the universe.

CARD 5: What saddens you

I'm calling this Eight of Pentacles straight-up literal: I'm tired of being a student!  I love learning, but the past several years have seen me in the role of apprentice and not a lot else.  I usually love this card, because the dude just seems really content to work on making his coins (plates? wheels?!), which is how it feels when you are in the zone learning something really cool.  This card tells me that, even though I will continue to learn throughout my entire life, now is a time for looking for other, non-student roles to do so.

CARD 6: What intrigues you

Well, there is nothing so intriguing as general mastery of the elements, which is what the Magician represents. He can also signify a unified sense of self, and the ability to turn your creative energies into tangible reality.  I like him in this position: It demonstrates that I have gotten pretty good at some internal balance and actualizing my aspirations, but that true, unified sense of self and accomplishment still eludes me.

CARD 7: What you are infatuated with

I like infatuation as the final card, because it is ambiguous.  It points to some need to re-examine the object of our infatuation, but it doesn't necessarily condemn it.  I was pretty excited to get Death here, and not just because it's one of my favorite cards.  I've been pretty obsessed lately with seasons, as they relate to our lives (for example, a season of growth versus a season of loss, or a season of change, or a season of poverty, etc.).  I just can't stop thinking about burning my past behind me and starting fresh; this card points out that, while in of itself that can be a healthy instinct, I shouldn't fixate on it to the point where I lose a sense of my past.


I'm curious how many people resonated with this reading.  Of course, you will have your own variations on the card meanings when you do your readings.  What do people think of the Rainbow as a spread?  Too many cards?  To few?  Which topics would you change?

Week Overview

Hi folks!  I usually try to have a post ready to go Monday morning, but since I'm a little behind today, I'm starting off this week with a quick preview/update for DHT!

  • This week I will be posting a completed spread, along with my interpretation.  It will be the first time I post a full reading on the blog!  I'm hoping to have that up today or tomorrow.
  • I'll have another Closer Look at a specific card.  If there's a specific card you'd like me to look at this week, mention it in comments!

I'm looking forward to sharing more throughout the week!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Closer Look: Ten of Cups

Key words and concepts

  • Success 
  • Happiness
  • Contentment
  • Emotional warmth
  • Happy home life

It's hard not to smile when you pull the Ten of Cups.  The imagery is pretty literal: A dancing, happy family frolics before their simple but lush estate, framed overhead by a rainbow.  I mean, a rainbow, for Pete's sake. It's all almost a little over the top.

The key words above give you a pretty good sense of this card; one of the words I hear often for this card is "harmonious," in the sense of different parts of your life coming together in a cohesive, positive way.  The result is a secure life at home and a stable family.

One thing that challenges me about this card is the normativity: success is defined as a happy (hetero) romantic partnership and children, with fertile land of your own.  I could read this imagery as symbolic: the card means success and emotional warmth, but as defined by the querent (so, not necessarily a hetero relationship with kids while owning your own home).  But I could also read it as the expectation of traditional success.

For example, let's say I pull this card in a position that represents the querent's hopes and fears.  I could read it as the querent's desires for the traditional success as pictured in the card, with the fear that it won't happen.  But I could also read it as a discomfort with this particular representation of success, with hope for the querent's own authentic version of contentment instead.

Either reading would be consistent with this card, and the querent might be able to tell you which one is more accurate.  Ultimately, it's up to you to decide how to read it!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tarot Readings for Abortion Access

Hi folks, I'm writing today about a topic that is very dear to my heart.  I live in a state where abortion access is restricted, due to increasing amounts of state legislation.  This is tragic for everybody who might need or want an abortion someday, but it hits low-income and otherwise marginalized folks especially hard.  For some background into what the people of North Carolina face, you can check out:

The Guttmacher Institute
News story from Rewire explaining where things were last year
Overview from NARAL Pro-choice

For the second year in a row, I will be raising money for the Carolina Abortion Fund by participating in their Bowl-A-Thon.  My goal is to personally raise $1973, in honor of Roe v Wade, and to help me reach that goal, I'm offering hella discounts on readings! I wanted to give free readings to anybody who donated, but Etsy will only let me give you 89% off; SO:

By donating to the Carolina Abortion Fund Bowl-A-Thon, you receive 89% off a tarot reading!

To claim your 89% off, just follow these steps:

1.  Go to my Bowl-A-Thon page.
2. Donate $10 or more to improve abortion access in the state of North Carolina!
3.  Take a screen cap of your receipt and email it to
4.  Wait for me to send you a coupon code, which you can then use to get 89% off any reading in my Etsy store!

This discount will be available through April 22; on April 25, I will post how much money we raised, and a picture of our bowling team!

I'm excited to help raise money for the people of North Carolina.  I encourage you to look at abortion access in your own state or country.  See if there are ways you can help improve access to this important part of health care!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Laying Out a Spread

Today, I am sharing my steps for doing readings so that you can get started!  I'll be using a simple three-card spread for my example, but what I share will be applicable to any spread you choose.  I'll also let you know how some other folks approach spreads, so you can decide what is the best fit for you!

I've broken the reading process down into a few steps, mostly because that's how I think of it.  Please share your own strategies in comments!


1.  Your Spiel

No matter who I'm reading for, or how many times I have read for them in the past, I always start a reading off with my spiel.  I keep it light-hearted, and I'm usually shuffling while I speak.  It's important to let the querent know what they can expect from the reading, and what they SHOULDN'T expect.  I recommend that your spiel include the limitations of tarot readings, as well as some description about the process.  Here's a rough version of my spiel:

As you know, tarot is for entertainment purposes.  It does not predict your future or read minds, but gives you a tool for looking at a problem from a new perspective.  As I lay the cards out, I'll describe what each position means before turning the cards over and interpreting their meanings.  You'll also have a chance to ask questions and bring your own interpretation to the table!

2.  The Querent

In order for the querent to have a meaningful experience, you want them to be involved beyond just sitting there receiving the reading from you.  Some people do this by asking the querent to shuffle the cards for them; I don't use this route. Not everybody knows how to shuffle, and even for people that do, tarot cards are usually a different size than traditional playing cards.  This can make it difficult for querents to shuffle the whole deck.

I usually ask the querent to cut the deck, but even this can be confusing for people not familiar with card lingo. My favorite way of involving the querent is to give them a chance to hold the deck after I shuffle, and I tell them to "infuse the cards with [their] mojo."  I say it a little tongue-and-cheek, and querents usually laugh or smile, but almost everybody instinctively knows what to do (which varies from querent to querent).

3.  Shuffling

If you already know how to shuffle, then you are off to a good start.  You'll have to practice with your deck, because tarot cards vary in size from deck to deck.  I personally always do a riffle and bridge, but there are many ways to shuffle cards.

My only caveat for shuffling is that you may want to preserve the orientation of your cards.  In traditional playing cards, it doesn't matter if cards get turned upside down.  If, like me, you don't read tarot reversals, you will want to keep your cards oriented upright (one of my favorite tarot bloggers talks about reversals).  This means taking the time between shuffles to make sure the halves of the deck are facing the same way.  Alternately, you can just let the cards fall as they may, and just turn the reversed cards around when you do the reading!

There is some interesting conversation about how many times you need to shuffle a tarot deck to randomize it; I usually shuffle 10-12 times.

4.  Laying out the Cards

I know some tarot readers lay their cards out already facing upward, to force them to read the card meanings more spontaneously and intuitively.  I prefer laying them out one at a time, explaining to the querent what each position represents.  Let's take a look at this three card spread, Mind-Body-Spirit; as I lay each card out, I would have said to the querent, "This card represents how your mind is addressing the issue.  This card represents how your body is manifesting your concerns," etcetera etcetera. Before I even begin interpreting the cards, the querent would see their spread laid out as pictured to the right.

When I turn the cards over, I explain each card individually.  Some tarot readers turn all the cards over before interpreting them, because each card can influence how you read other cards.  I do the one-at-a-time approach for several reasons.  First of all, it gives me time to be thoughtful about my interpretations.  Secondly, I think it is less overwhelming for the querent.  Finally, in my experience, the discovery of how the card meanings interact is more exciting if you turn the cards over one by one!

Here's the same reading, but half way finished: at this point, I'll have already discussed how the King of Wands describes the querent's mental state, and I'll be explaining how the Page of Cups might give insight into how the querent's body is dealing with the issue at hand.  I haven't yet discussed the spirit, represented by the third (and still hidden) card.

When I finally have a spread finished, I will try to summarize the main themes of the entire spread; this is less important with small spreads like the one in this example, but for more complicated spreads like a Celtic Cross, it can be helpful for the querent.

It's also important for me to get some feedback from the querent without putting them on the spot.  Since I don't ask for querents to share their question with me at the beginning, I will usually say something like, "Does this reading make sense?" or "Is this consistent with your question?"  If they say no, I offer to hear their question and then re-interpret the cards based on what they've told me.  Since each card has a variety of meanings based on archetype, you can usually find something meaningful (yes, I know it's the Barnum effect; remember, tarot isn't about divining some unique fate, it's about touching base with the universal human experience in order to help us organize our own reality).


When I started doing tarot, I found a lot of advice on what you "should" and "shouldn't" do for readings, often based on spiritual or supernatural beliefs.  These guidelines often produce a rich experience for folks, but chafe a little for me personally.  I've shared with you my specific approach, but if I had to leave you with a few simple pointers, they would be:

1. Be upfront with the querent about what tarot is; don't promise to solve problems or provide predictions of the future/insight into third party motivations.

2.  Create some small form of ritual around your readings.  Whether it's your speil, the way you shuffle, or how you address the querent, humans respond to ritual.  It will also give you confidence for readings.

3.  Have fun and do what feels natural!  Which, frankly, is pretty good advice for life in general.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Closer Look: The Fool PLUS April Fool's Discount on Readings!

Happy April Fool's Day!  I hope everybody's month starts out with good-natured playfulness.  Since the Fool is the very first card in a tarot deck, I thought I'd mark the day with a 10% discount at my Etsy store.  Just enter the coupon DAYOFTHEFOOL when you order, and 10% will automatically be taken off of your order!


I'm starting off my card-by-card series, A Closer Look, with the Fool (of course I had to, on April Fool's Day!) With A Closer Look, I'll provide a quick run-down of keyword meanings for those looking for a quick and accessible way to use the card, as well as my own impressions for a more nuanced approach.

Key words and concepts

  • Fresh starts
  • Renewed energy
  • Innocence
  • Youthful beginnings
  • Faith
  • Idealism
  • Recklessness
  • Folly
  • Lack of Fear

The Fool is number 0, meaning that it is both the beginning of the tarot (the trumps being numbered 0-21) and still outside of our normal numbering system.  When I'm looking at trump cards, then, I see the traditionally-numbered cards as archetypes and rites of passage in an ostensibly universal life course.  The Fool, being outside this progression, symbolizes ourselves, and the one who actually experiences the life described by the Major Arcana.

A truly excellent tarot reader can see both the positive and negative potential of any card, but I have to confess that I have a hard time embracing the Fool's downsides.  Oh, they're there, alright: the Fool can be naive to the point of stupidity, and he can make some pretty risky, brash decisions, but in the end, I'm always charmed by his whimsy.

Here's the Fool from my Universal Rider-Waite; look at that sassy face!  This is a guy who is totally convinced that his teenage poems are great works of literature, and has no idea that those fabulous sleeves really aren't doing him any favors.  But I just can't help but get swept up in his energy.  I want to fling my arms open with the same abandon, puff my chest out with the same innocent pride, and tumble head-first over the first cliff I come to (with my poor, nervous dog nipping at my heels).

The Fool signifies innocence and new beginnings, and the risks and ignorance that come with it.  It is certainly not a guarantee or intrinsically positive, but for me, there is a palpable optimism to this card.