Wednesday, May 3, 2017

An Announcement!

Y'all.

I wrote a poem.

Now the poem is getting published!

If you don't know andi grace and the witch cabinet, I highly recommend you take a look. It's for "badass femme magic," and andi's healing lens is powerful and infuses everything they do. They've published several zines and posters, usually around femme healing on particular topics, and they also have a column over at perennial favorite Little Red Tarot.  I have andi's herbal abortion poster, and I look forward to collecting more of their work.

This month, the witch cabinet is publishing a zine called "soother - femmes grieving family and fertility." When I saw the call for submissions, I was stirred to work on a poem about my own infertility, and how it ties in with my gender and my body. I ended up with The Freemartin, a poem structured around tarot cards I found relevant. Just writing and submitting it was scary, but andi's approach made that vulnerability safe, and for that more than anything I thank them.

The zine will be published on Mother's Day. Consider pre-ordering it, especially with the consideration that ten percent of profits will go to a "community group that support parents in marginalized communities." It's pay what you can.

Thank you to everybody in this community who has made it safe to be vulnerable, and special thanks to andi grace for helping us use that vulnerability in service to healing.

A Closer Look: Ace of Pentacles

Key words and concepts

  • Reward
  • Security
  • Physicality
  • Planting seeds for future success
  • Earth element

I love aces; they  communicate their meanings so clearly when I pull them in a spread. As the essence of the suit, the ace of pentacles represents themes of tangible security and success. Historically, pentacles are related to work and money, but more and more I see them read as physical manifestations in general, especially body-related. You can decide which theme you prefer, or combine them!

If you've read my post on suit meanings, you know that pentacles are associated with the classical element earth. Personally, when I pull the ace of pentacles, it's a sign that I need to get back to gardening!  Beyond the classical elements, though, each suit has an associated season and cardinal direction. I read aces as the cards that carry those meanings most prominently.

Season and cardinal direction association is another chance for you to bring your own idiosyncratic flavor to your readings; for example, I know that the "official" season for pentacles is spring (at least, that's what I learned). In the Waite-Smith deck, you can see white lilies blooming in a newly-lush garden, a clear indicator of springtime. However, the interpretation never worked in my readings. Cups always declared themselves the springtime suit for me, with pentacles settling nicely into the role of summer. For cardinal directions, pentacles mean south to me.

When I pull the ace of pentacles in a spread, I might read issues of basic needs; are you getting enough sleep, food, and water? Have you spent the right amount of time outside for you?

I might also read it as some essential issues around work, but "work" means a lot of things to me, not necessarily just money-earning in a capitalist framework. The ace of pentacles could mean that the effort you are putting into a technical or creative endeavor right now is laying the groundwork for success later on.

Aces provide a lot of clarity around how you read a suit. Do these meanings make sense for your version of pentacles? What would you change about directions or seasons? What does it mean to be the "seed" of a suit?  Let us know in comments!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Start a Local Tarot Club!

I recently started up a tarot club with the help of a local coffee shop, and it has been a wonderful way to connect with others and expand my own practice. It's something I wanted to do for a long time and only recently got around to starting. At first, I thought I had to have something highly structured and exciting, and that it would only be successful if I had a dozen or more people each time. I'm finding, though, that our loose, small group is deeply satisfying.

If you're interested in cultivating a local community of tarot readers, but you're not sure where to start or think you aren't "advanced" enough to organize a meeting, don't worry! I'm here to share the structure and origin story of our tarot club to help get you started.

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1. The Prep Work: Location, Time, & Publicity

If possible, find a place that will partner with you and let you announce club meetings on their social media. I approached my local coffee shop because they were used to seeing me there and I knew they were interested in creating a welcoming, creative space. You'll want a public space that is as accessible as possible and doesn't require people to spend money (or at least not very much). Our club meets once a month, and it's posted on my blog's social media as well as the social media of the coffeeshop. Include the time and place, but also a sentence or two about the purpose of the club. It was important to me that our tarot club be open to everybody from experts, beginners, and skeptics, but you can decide what tone you want to set for your community.

2. The Structure

When I started planning our tarot club, I thought I had to have a unique theme and activities for each session, plus exciting new educational material for people. Fortunately, I was extremely wrong. Since I technically initiated the club, folks did look to me for structure, but I ended up keeping it simple.

We start each meeting by going around in a circle and introducing ourselves and briefly describing how and why we read tarot; this is useful because we are a drop in group and there are new people each week.  Of course, we read cards, too: Every person pulls three cards for the person to their left and interprets them while the group observes. After the reader finishes their interpretation, the querent and group members describe what they learned and what they have to add. Just the intros and this simple activity fill up an hour or two quite easily, especially if you factor in all the time we spend drooling over each others' decks!

This structure ended up being really great; since the personalities in our group are very supportive, it turns into a really empowering experience that pushes us to interpret the cards in new ways. It also gives new readers a chance to hear different ways of interpreting, showing them that there isn't one correct way to read the cards.

3. The Follow Up

My tarot club is pretty low-maintenance. I keep up with my social media and try to respond in a timely manner when club members contact me, or when people reach out with questions about us. I announce our meetings ahead of time, and I also try to drop in and do some donation-based readings at the coffeeshop just to keep the tarot presence active. Additionally--and this is important--I do my best to support the venue in other ways. Our coffee shop supports us by hosting us and publicizing us, so I also make sure to promote other events that they offer. We're lucky because our coffee shop is the kind of place I want to promote anyway--that's why I picked them!

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Cultivating a local tarot community is enriching and empowering. A tarot club is a relatively simple way to do it; would this approach work where you live? How would you change the structure? Would there be a benefit to restricting it to advanced practitioners? Please share your thoughts in comments!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Storytelling Practice for Tarot

Many of the beginner approaches to tarot out there focus on learning card meanings. There's a good reason; 78 is a lot of cards to learn, and the basic meanings are foundational to reading the cards. But I find comparatively few resources out there to help us practice synthesizing meaning. This is frustrating if you are somebody who struggles to "just use your intuition" around the cards. In other words, it's hard to find beginner resources for the storytelling aspect of tarot.

The exercise I'm sharing today works even if you have zero knowledge of card meanings; you can do it with your first tarot deck, fresh out of the box, with no background! It's also an exercise I still find useful even after reading cards semi-professionally for the past few years. Long-time veteran cardslingers, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

The first step is to take your deck and pull two cards.  Lay them side by side.  I'm using the Tarot of the Magical Forest today, and I pulled the knight of wands and the nine of pentacles.


Now, I want you to tell a story about these two cards.  Forget that they are tarot cards; view them as adjacent illustrations in a children's book. Don't worry about associating them with tarot meanings.  Write or say a few sentences about what is happening in a way that connects the two pictures into a cohesive narrative.  Here's my "story" about these guys:
Sir Swampington is a young noble, famous for his ability to tame wild frog-steeds. He has pined after Patricia Pentacles, a dashing young fox woman; however, she has taken a vow of silence and celibacy. She lives content tending to a wildlife refuge. Sir Swampington has decided that the heartache is too much, so he leaves to seek a new adventure. 
Is it silly? A bit over the top?  Heck yeah. That's kind of the point here; creativity and storytelling are skills that require practice, and this exercise is the basic version of it (think of it as practicing your scales on the piano so that you can play a sonata later). Also, ignoring the tarot meanings for awhile gives you the freedom to get a bit silly with it, and whimsy can be a great tool for allowing yourself some creative freedom.

Once you're comfortable with this exercise, you can try another permutation.  Pull three cards, but this time assign them a specific role. The first card is your main character; the second is their best friend, and the third, their antagonist. I pulled Judgement, the three of pentacles, and the High Priestess:


I'm doing the same kind of children's-picture-book storytelling here, but I've added more structure with the roles.  I'm still not thinking about tarot-related meanings. Here's the story I came up with:
Lucretia Flufflywings is a sheep-angel who is in charge of leading a band, but she is nervous about being in charge.  Her best friends, Foxypants and Weasel-nose aren't good enough musicians to be in her band, but they know she is stressed out, so they invite her over to their weird church-house so she has a relaxing place to stay. Their landlord, Queen Owl, doesn't like this; she makes it her goal to keep Lucretia from staying with Foxypants and Weasel-nose, and even tries to break up Lucretia's band. However, it only galvanizes Lucretia, and with the support of Foxypants and Weasel-nose, she leads her band to win all the Grammies the next year. 
Guys, that story was so silly that I was almost embarassed to type it out. This brings me to another point: obviously, our querents are in a vulnerable position when we read for them, but we are also vulnerable as card readers. That is to say, we are exposing our own intuitions, instincts, and values. This story-telling exercise not only helps us practice connecting cards together, it helps us practice letting go of the inhibitions that prevent us from really tapping into our intution.

These two exercises will help you get used to joining multiple cards together in narrative. Whether you use the simple two-card version, or the more structured three-card, you'll get to work on an important tarot skill without the pressure of "doing tarot."  This exercise should also work with any non-abstract deck (I don't necessarily see it being super useful with a Thoth deck, but hey, I could be wrong).

Do you think this exercise would be helpful for you? What are other ways you practicing combining cards? What story would you tell based on the cards I pulled here?  Let us know in comments!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Reading a Spread: Self-Compassion

I am certain that I am not the only person who struggles with shame and vulnerability. They are experiences that are a normal part of the human condition, but shame can easily hijack our minds and prohibit us from growing or moving forward. I came up with this spread last week after realizing that I needed some concrete, tangible way to frame my feelings.  This spread provides a scaffolding that makes space for shame and pain, but also a pathway for self-compassion.

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CARD 1: Querent's ego

When I say ego, I mean the self-aware part of ourselves with cognitive, critical focus. In this case, it is the part of us that replays every sentence uttered, every gesture attempted, and finds it wanting. Pulling the five of wands in this position was some major real-talk; when I am in a defensive, reactive place, I lash out. Some of the blows hit my attackers, but inevitably some also land on my allies and even myself. It feels not unlike being in a chaotic fight with a bunch of guys with sticks. For me as the querent, it leads to shame, which makes it difficult to find self-compassion.

CARDS 2 & 3:  A container for the pain

I pretty much sighed with relief with these two; I think the ace and the ten of pentacles provide a lovely symmetry here.  If the ace is the essence of the suit, and the ten is the suit come to fruition, then I see here that my pain and discomfort is held in a container of tangible security. I always have the earth, and I always have my home. I can relax into that certainty when facing my ego.

CARD 4: A strength of the querent's

This card, the four of swords, surprised me a little.  While I may struggle to control my reactions in the moment, I'm actually pretty good at finding time later to retreat and consider what happened.  This card also speaks to recovery; it tells me that whatever pain I suffer, I have the resilience to spring forward from it.

CARD 5: A message of compassion

Possibly the most empowering card I could have pulled, Strength is about emotional fortitude. In this position, she is a reminder of my own courage as well as the loving support of those around me. I'm actually struggling to write out an interpretation because this is one of those cases where the simplicity of the card, and the impact of the visual with her basic meanings, really conveys the message better than words.  It's one of those lovely moments in tarot that seems to transcend language... although I guess that's kind of a cop-out for a blogger!

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This spread gave me a chance to honor the painful experiences of shame by providing a safe vessel for vulnerability. Do you think you would use this spread when you need to practice self-compassion? Could you see this spread working for somebody trying to cultivate compassion for others?  Did I totally just leave you in the lurch with my inability to describe the fifth card?  Please share your thoughts in comments!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Pentacles: Three and Eight

One thing I’ve noticed when working with beginner tarot readers is the reluctance to bring idiosyncratic meanings to cards. One of tarot’s greatest joys is learning the traditional meanings of each card, but as readers we should also be willing to trust our intuition and provide our own interpretations, even if they differ from precedent. In fact, most aspects of tarot are not hard and fast, even down to the specific meanings of individual cards. The three and eight of pentacles is a great example of competing interpretations, and it’s an opportunity to bring your individual preference into your reading style.

The suit of pentacles is about concrete, tangible aspects of our lives, and traditionally has also correlated with wealth and work (the suit is still called "coins" in many decks). The three and eight show chapters in the journey from apprentice to master, but how those meanings are assigned varies from reader to reader.  Some read the three of pentacles as the apprentice, and the eight as master, while others reverse those meanings.  Others read the three as professional collaboration at any level. 

I personally learned the three as the master, while the eight is the apprentice.  If we're looking at the Waite-Smith symbology (pictured below), we see in the three of pentacles that the stoneworker is interacting with two others (including a monk), presumably to update them on the project's progress. This stoneworker, then, is in charge of an important, permanent project (stone decoration on a fancy building). On the other hand, the eight of pentacles is alone in the frame, making the same simple plate over and over, like a beginner practicing a simple skill. Looking at the card, I'm reminded of the hours I spent at the piano just playing scales. Boring, y'all, but foundational. 


From the Universal Rider-Waite (Waite-Smith)

But what about the opposite interpretation? Why read the master-apprentice dynamic in the opposite direction, since I've just given such a compelling explanation for the inverse? Well, the monk and hooded figure in the three of pentacles could just as much serve as instructors for the stoneworker as they could patrons. Maybe he needs extra monitoring as he works on his first major project.  The eight of pentacles, in contrast, can be read as a master worker who has enough skill and reputation to set up his own shop, and no longer needs to take commissions.  Additionally, eight is the larger number and comes later in the suit; if we are looking at the progression of numbers, we see that three is about growth and collaboration, whereas eight is about forward-moving energy.

Ultimately, you will decide which interpretation resonates most with you.  Additionally, your interpretations will be altered based on the surrounding cards, the query posed, and even the deck you're working with. This post is intended to give you a foundation for working with these two cards, but ultimately to encourage you to explore your own individual interpretations.

How do you read these two cards? Are there interpretations beyond what I've presented here? How does all this translate to other non-Waite-Smith decks you've worked with?  Let us know in comments!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Reading a Spread: Cultivate-Practice-Celebrate

While working on another project, I found myself writing the phrase "cultivate, practice, and celebrate." I realized that these are the steps we can take to manifest certain characteristics in ourselves and our lives. Sometimes, we know what we need more of--maybe you want to become more resilient, or foster simplicity in your life--but don't know how to make it happen. The spread below provides a starting point.  

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Approach this spread with a specific characteristic in mind.  The reading I'm presenting you was in response to my query, "How do I cultivate, practice, and celebrate patience?" 




CARDS 1 & 2: Barriers

The ace of wands and the Hierophant provide an interesting contrast. The ace is all about creative beginnings and starting new projects, while the Hierophant represents knowledge gained from those who came before you, or institutional knowledge.  I see the conflict between the two as challenging my patience; when I'm excited about starting a new project, it can be frustrating to feel bogged down by institutional procedure, or the need to familiarize myself with background research. Sometimes, you just wanna get started!

CARD 3: Cultivating

This card answers the question, "How do I create an environment that encourages patience?" When we're trying to change a behavior, it's easy to forget what a big role our environment plays. The six of pentacles describes how I can make it easier on myself; this card can mean generosity, among other things. In this position, I'm encouraged to seek out people with a generous spirit, where being patient is less of a challenge, so that I can more easily practice truly embodied patience. With any luck, this mindfulness around my generous friends will be like practicing for a more difficult event--having patience with people who actually piss me off!

CARD 4: Practicing

This position tells me the action, the behavior, I can take to manifest patience. The queen of wands is a passionate leader, and a talented, inspirational communicator. If you know how I read court cards, then you know that I see the queens of the tarot as the highest rank, and the ones who see the broadest context of our lives. Here, she's telling me that I can still use that passion from the ace of wands (originally a barrier) and channel it into communicating my appreciation to the people around me. She also encourages patience by teaching me to take the long view--I might be eager to move forward right now, but there is wisdom in slowing down and noting how much I still have to learn. 

CARD 5: Celebrating

If I want to manifest patience in my life, I have to be willing to appreciate it when it comes along! The nine of pentacles is a lovely card that denotes warmth, abundance, accomplishment, and security. This card always feels like a chance to revel in the good parts of your life; when patience is embodied, it provides an opportunity to observe deeply the best aspects of the world. These moments themselves become a celebration. 

CARD 6: Possible outcome

One of only two major arcana in this spread, Temperance is balance and cooperation.  By manifesting patience in my life, I can create a greater sense of internal balance, as well as increase my ability to connect meaningfully with the people around me. An encouraging card, and much in line with my reasons for focusing on patience. 

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What characteristic are you trying to manifest in your life right now?  Would this spread help you?  What do you think of just using the third, fourth, and fifth card and making it a 3-card spread?  Share your thoughts in comments!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Week 4: #tarotnerdschallenge

As I shared on Monday, I'm catching up with the #tarotnerdschallenge on Instagram, and expanding on my responses here on the blog. Today, I'm looking at some of the questions from Week 4.

I like these questions because they draw on the distinct meanings of each tarot suit; I cover these meanings in my blog post about reading runs of suits. This week's challenges ask you to draw only on the relevant suit to answer your question.  Below, you see the cards I pulled in response to each query, as well as my interpretations.  I used the Chrysalis deck for this one, in part because of the distinctive coloring for each suit.  I start my analysis with the card in the upper left and go counter-clockwise.




What does my body need? Draw the answer from the suit of pentacles.


I loved pulling the ace of stones. Since aces are the essence of the suit, this card is telling me to reconnect with the earth, nothing more and nothing less. The local weather has just warmed up, and with the recent spring equinox, this card could not have better timing.

What does my inner fire need? Draw the answer from the suit of wands.


The eight of spirals is one of my favorite cards in the Chrysalis suit of spirals; I grew up around lots of deer, and where I live now we have enough regulars that I've given several of them names. Essentially, deer feel very familiar to me. The forward movement of the eight of spirals (wands) encourages me to embrace my desire to do more creative activities. So far, I've been doing that with things like the #createthisoracledeck challenge as well as this blog, but I think it is also time to get back into some of my fiction writing (maybe I need to revisit my writers' block spread...)

What does my heart need? Draw the answer from the suit of cups.


The two of cups is a lovely card that can mean both close romantic love as well as intimate, one-on-one relationships. Here, the two of mirrors captures that sentiment with a pair of affectionate swans. I can read this card as a reminder to stay connected with my partner, but I think it is also an indication that my most rewarding social experiences happen when I get to have one-on-one time with folks.  For example, getting coffee with a friend will nourish me more than going to a party, even if I love everybody at the party.

What does my mind need? Draw the answer from the suit of swords.


Another ace!  The swords are already the suit of mind and intellect, and the choice of scrolls in this deck suits the domain perfectly. You can see this card also includes a raven and a key, which are symbols of knowledge (in fact, the Wild Unknown Tarot uses these symbols to indicate the deep knowledge of the Hierophant). With aces meaning the heart of the suit, and scrolls bringing an especially literary sense to the suit of swords, I'm reading this card as reminding me to keep reading literature. I go through periods where I devour several books in a short period of time, and then I tend to take a week or two off. This card reminds me that I always feel better during periods when I'm reading.

What theme or lesson is prevalent in my life? Draw the answer from the major arcana.


Since the major arcana tell the narrative of life's journey, it makes sense to pull from them when looking for overall life themes.  I pulled the Hermit, or the Storyteller. I have an affectionate relationship with the Hermit, and I love seeing her as a storyteller in this deck. As a hermit, she draws on her inner light and knowledge. This card tells me that I am at a point in my life where I define my life story, and I get to decide how I want to tell it. We all tell ourselves stories to help make sense of the world; as such, storytelling, even if only to ourselves, is a powerful act.


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What do you think of these interpretations?  Have you been inspired by any of the March card challenges going on?  Do you incorporate general suit meanings in your readings?  Let us know in comments!


Monday, March 20, 2017

March Card Challenges: Tarot and Oracle Decks

Hey folks!

March has been a bit busy for a couple reasons. The first: I started a job (yay!); I like it a lot but I have less time to write about tarot! Second, I have been putting a lot of my creative energy into the #createthisoracledeck challenge on Instagram. This is literally my first experience with any kind of oracle cards, curated by Over The Moon Oracle Cards.  You can see my responses to the prompts at my Instagram account.

But I really want to get back to some solid tarot practice and writing, so I was pleased to find another challenge going on in March: the #tarotnerdschallenge, also on Instagram (but I double post all of my responses to Twitter, too).  This challenge isn't about creating your own cards from scratch, but rather sharing your practice by responding to a few questions.

Today, I am posting a combo of cards inspired by a few of the prompts from the first week of the challenge.  From left to right, you see my birth card, my zodiac card, and my moon/rising card.




But what do those things mean, exactly?  Well, you know here at Down Home Tarot I really don't do a lot of numerology, so I actually had to look up how to calculate my birth card (which turns out to be the Wheel of Fortune). You may remember that my Zodiac card is Justice, since I'm a Libra. But it turns out there are actually other elements to your astrological reading: You have a separate sign for where the moon was when you were born (your moon sign) and also, what constellation was on the horizon when you were born (your rising sign).  For me, both of those happen to be Aquarius, so I only need one card (the Star). 

I am not somebody who goes deep into astrology, so I don't really know how to read a star chart or anything. However! If you want to know what your moon and rising signs are, you can have a star chart generated for you at Astro.com, and then do what I did and head over to Astro DIY at Little Red Tarot and have Tabby walk you through the process.

I'll be posting with more of my #tarotnerdschallenge as well as regular content.  Be sure to check Twitter and Instagram for more posts!  Are you participating in any creative challenges this month?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Reading a Spread: Two Trinities

When I started practicing spreads, I exclusively read Celtic Crosses.  The Celtic Cross is a classic ten-card spread that can address specific issues, or serve as a check-in for general insight into the querent's life. It's one of the first spreads a tarot reader learns, which is surprising seeing how it's also one of the most complicated. Eventually, I started branching out into other spreads and finally started developing my own; now, I rarely read Celtic Crosses.  Instead, where I would normally use a Celtic Cross, I use the spread below. For me, it's just more effective, but that will vary from person to person.  Take a look and see if it resonates!

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Two Trinities is called thus because it is a combination of two three-card spreads, with some extra cards thrown in.  In fact, I offer both the top trinity and the bottom trinity as their own readings in my store.  If you like the combination, Two Trinities is also available as a reading.




CARDS 1 & 2: The querent and their present query

Often, when I see two cards crossed like this, they have distinct meanings--the upright card is said to be the querent, and the sideways card is the issue at hand, or what "crosses" the querent.  The truth is, I usually end up blending the two cards in a general sort of "what's up with the querent right now" interpretation.  For example, I'm reading the Hierophant as my need to impress experts in my field, and the six of cups is my attempt to reconnect with my childhood self in response. That is to say, I strive to respond to the desire to please of authority by getting in touch with my most authentic self.

CARD 3: The querent's mind

Alright, I know I said before that I don't do reversals (cards that show up upside down). I actually have started interpreting them, and I will be doing a post on it. For now, when we look at the queen of pentacles, I note that my mind has been preoccupied with a disrupted sense of comfort and security, or a disconnect from my responsibilities to the land or home I steward.  I was actually kind of confused about pulling this card--until I realized how much my brain has been chewing on potentially relocating over the next couple months. 

CARD 4: The querent's body

The two of swords is such an interesting card. The picture conveys tranquility and discomfort at the same time.  This is creepily perfect right now; I'm coming out of a fairly long period of general dissociation, and I'm much more aware of my body than I was last season.  This awareness creates a much more robust sense of self, and definitely makes me feel more balanced overall; however, it also brings with it an uncomfortable awareness of things like sore joints, grogginess, and hair that's way overdue for a cut. 

CARD 5: The querent's spirit

It would be fair to say that my emotional cup runneth over. The ace of cups is the essence of the suit of cups, meaning that my spirit is embracing emotional depth. I've been able to revisit mentally some of my experiences of the past year, and folks who I previously found.... difficult, I've been able to hold with more compassion.  I believe this emotional openness is reflected in this card. 

CARD 6: The influence of the querent's past

The four of wands is kind of a party card, often referring to rites of passage. One of the big lessons for me recently has been learning that growth doesn't always (or often) happen in big, glorious, visible moments that are celebrated.  Whether or not I realized it, I held that belief in the past, and it may still be influencing how I interpret events. 

CARD 7: The querent's present

I think I'm going to call the ace of wands as representing my return to this blog! Writing and tarot are my two major creative outlets, and coming back to this space has helped reignite my creativity in general.  This card reminds me to stick with it and enjoy the energized passion that it generates!

CARD 8: Possibilities for the querent's future

Though not necessarily predictive, Strength is a powerful card in this position. I really love this card, and it is one of my "pay special attention to me!" cards. Here, it is telling me that whatever happens, I should be ready to rely on my inner courage and emotional strength. It's also a reminder that I have those resources available to me; in a sense, it's like a vote of confidence. 

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What do you think of this dual triad?  How does it compare to the Celtic Cross for you?  Do you think just using one of the three-card spreads would be helpful, too?  Let us know in comments!





Monday, March 6, 2017

Deck Review: Chrysalis Tarot by Toney Brooks and Holly Sierra

A little while back, I was given the Chrysalis Tarot as a gift.  It was on my wish list after I found myself drawn to the illustrations over and over.  To be honest, the intensely vibrant, minutely-detailed art is not normally my style, but my imagination was continually captured by the artistic and spiritual choices in this deck.  The authors specifically designed this deck to have a more feminine energy than the classic Waite-Smith. They showcase feminine spirituality in various facets, from gentle and loving in the Sorceress (the High Priestess) to powerful and destructive in Kali (the Tower).

The feminine energy of this deck isn't done at the expense of some masculine balance; for example, the authors include Papa Legba as Strength. This brings me to another highlight in this deck: Brooks and Sierra conscientiously drew from a variety of global spiritual traditions while creating this deck, and the result is a wildly rich deck featuring more people of color than we often see, at least from major publishers. I would be very interested to hear feedback from folks whose cultures and spiritual traditions are represented.

Structurally, the Chrysalis Tarot replaces the four traditional suits, calling them instead mirrors (cups), stones (pentacles), spirals (wands), and scrolls (swords).  These suits seemed pretty drastically different to me at first, but the illustrations are so good at presenting an accessible meaning that they are not hard to read.  I struggled a little bit with the court cards; instead of assigning a consistent "page-knight-queen-king" schema, the court cards are organized as "The Troupe."  Each of the sixteen court cards has its own unique title; for example, what would be the page of scrolls is The Pilgrim, while the page of spirals is The Mime. If this sounds like a lot of new meanings to memorize, don't worry: The traditional ranks of the court are also listed on each card.

I think the Chrysalis Tarot would be a great deck for somebody familiar with Waite-Smith imagery who is looking for something to stretch them. It's consistent and accessible enough to be easy to read, but diverges from traditional imagery enough to provide a challenge and fresh interpretations.  If I had one complaint about the deck, it's that the cardstock is a bit stiff for me!  I use this deck less than I would if it were just a tad easier to shuffle.

Below, I'm showing you a Get To Know You spread for this deck. Originally taken from TABI, this spread gives some insight into how to be successful with this deck.



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What is your most important characteristic?




I cannot, for the life of me, figure out if "Bella Rosa" is a reference.  I've looked it up and can't find much, so I'm going by the the "beautiful rose" in her hand and the lush, Venetian carnival-type outfit (y'all, I want that jacket).  The Devil can be a card about acknowledging the parts of us that we'd rather keep hidden, which is consistent with Bella's mask and elaborate costume.  This card tells me that the Chrysalis Tarot will be useful for examining aspects of myself that I'm reluctant to face.



What are your strengths?




The glassy, watery droplets that form the nine of mirrors convey the atmospheric touches of this deck really well; there are so many illustrations that you feel like you could reach out and grab. A celebratory card, the nine of mirrors suggests that this deck's strength lies in connecting with joy, and reframing issues in a positive light.


What are your limits?



As you can see, Brooks and Sierra have renamed the High Priestess, designating her as the Sorceress.  As far as limitations go, this deck isn't one for connecting to my hidden, inner femininity. While this is a bit ironic, given the authors' goal to center the feminine, I think the feminine energy in this deck will serve me in other ways.


What are you here to teach me?



The bird on this card would be a great representation for the Chrysalis Tarot; its rainbow coloring and intricate, stylized detailing can be found throughout this deck. The ten of mirrors tells me that this deck is here to teach me to find some contentment and happiness with my life in the moment.



How can I best learn and collaborate with you?



The Illusionist takes the role of knight of stones, or knight of pentacles.  The Chrysalis Tarot LWB includes suggested interpretations for court cards, and I've decided that the Illusionist is telling me not to overthink things too much if I want to be successful with the Chrysalis Tarot. Note the arched border around the Illusionist; all the court cards have this additional embellishment, setting them off from the rest of the major and minor arcana.


What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?



The art here is an example of the global perspective the authors tried to bring; we see a desert landscape sprawling out before a goddess-like woman, who gazes above at scrolls unfolding into shapes evocative of Arabic script. Correlating to the eight of swords, the eight of scrolls is a card that encourages us to find some good in a situation that may otherwise seem hopeless; this deck has the potential to help me reframe issues in a more positive way and reduce worry.


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The Chrysalis Tarot, with its art evocative of a fabulous children's book, is a deck with great potential to help me look at uncomfortable aspects of myself, and reframe them in a more positive, hopeful way.

What do you think of the Chrysalis Tarot?  Do the vivid illustrations catch your eye?  What do you think of the alternate suits?  Could you imagine yourself using this deck?  Share your thoughts in comments!



Friday, March 3, 2017

A Closer Look: Strength

Key words and concepts

  • Courage
  • Conviction
  • Mental strength
  • Emotional fortitude
  • Mastery over fear

The Strength card is one of my very favorite in the deck.  In my mind, she is called courage.  Courage derives from the French word for heart, coeur.  The Strength card does not refer to physical strength, or even willpower, but rather bravery through compassion and love.  The woman in the picture is not fighting the lion; instead, she gently encourages him to close his mouth. I love that the tarot's idealized version of strength is one that strives to minimize violence, not inflict it. The idea here is that Strength vanquishes her foes not by eliminating them, but by converting them into allies.

From the CBD Tarot by Yoav Ben-Dov
This card also ecompasses meanings of fortitude and endurance, of finding the means to go on when you feel unable to. Strength is a card of hope.

From a technical standpoint, the Strength card is interesting because it was originally the 11th major arcana (notable in Marseille decks). When A. E. White helped develop a new deck in the early 20th  Century, he switched Strength's order with Justice. Justice is another special card to me, so I like that they have that link.

The Strength card is one that has quite a bit of alchemical and Hermetic imagery, but I'm not going to dive into that here. However, I will refer you to an image from the Hermetic text The Golden Tripod; this is a text that Waite worked with, and you can see the influence of the imagery on the Strength card.

How has Strength manifested in your life? What do you think of the contrast between physical strength and emotional courage? Tell us in comments!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Reading a Spread: Writers' Block

I'd been doing a lot of writing over the past couple months. It is a great way for me to process my fears and nervous energy; plus, I tend to feel refreshed after a good hour or two of writing. It was frustrating, then, to come up on pretty intense writer's block about two weeks ago. Realizing that this was a good issue to bring to the cards, I developed the spread below.  

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CARD 1: The querent

Well, that was straightforward.  Justice is the corresponding card to my zodiac sign, so I sometimes read it as a stand-in for me anyway. The card also refers to justice in a literal sense, and things being balanced and right in the world. I definitely write to gain a sense of internal balance, so this card makes sense.

CARD 2: Previous motivation

Lots of balance imagery so far!  The two of swords can mean that you're stuck, but it can also mean you are at peace.  A lot of my motivation for starting creative writing again was to regain a sense of internal balance (which we saw in Card 1 with Justice).  Even though it was a good reason to start writing, will it be enough motivation to keep me going?

CARD 3: The block

And the balance imagery won't stop.  Temperance is about being balanced, even-keeled, and capable of compromise. It's interesting to me that balance plays a role both in my previous motivation and my current writer's block.  It seems like seeking emotional balance, while a useful initial motivator, no longer serves to keep me writing.

CARD 4: How to shift your energy

The page of cups may be one of the friendliest cards in the deck.  He's a bit goofy, holding a fish in his goblet.  He trusts that his emotions are valid and doesn't second-guess them (making him a bit naive at times).  Instead of bringing a balance-seeking energy to my writing, I need to shift to a more joyful, bubbly embrace of all the emotions that surface when writing--even the more extreme ones.

CARD 5: The next step

The king of pentacles is here to give me some real talk. He's all about hard work and reasonable expectations.  He reminds me not to set my goals too high (I can totally finish this novel in the next two weeks, right?!), and to keep at it a little bit each day, even if it's not exciting or fun all the time.

CARD 6: Possible outcome

I really had to think about the two of cups here.  This is a card that usually signifies close relationships.  It seems that, if I can bring joyful energy to my writing while still giving it some practical, down-to-earth committment, I will develop an affectionate relationship with writing. This card challenges me to think about writing less as a chore or responsibility, but more as a valuable friendship. You stick with it through thick and thin, and being authentic with your friends brings you closer.  A similar relationship can develop between the author and her work.

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What do you do when you feel stuck in your creative work? Would you use this spread for writer's block? Could you see this spread--or one like it--working for other types of art? Give us your thoughts in comments!



Monday, February 27, 2017

Reading Runs of Numbers

Last summer, during one of my  daily 3-card spreads, I pulled the cards you see below.  Do you notice anything about them? What is the common pattern?


All three of these cards are numbered ten.  On the left and right, we have pentacles and wands from the minor arcana, and in the center, the major arcana's Wheel of Fortune.  In addition to making for a visually impacting spread, tarot also uses its numbering system to convey deeper meaning. 


Now, you know that I don't like to add complicating factors to my tarot readings when I don't have to; seventy-eight card meanings is plenty on its own, thank you very much! However, when you get a spread with a pattern as striking as this, it can be fun to introduce a little more flavor to your reading.

I've written before about how to read a run of suits--meaning, three or more of the same suit in a given spread. Similarly, finding three or more of the same number can be read as a run of that number.  I would call my daily 3-card here a run of tens.  This pattern told me to pay attention to cycles of completion in my life, and the process of turning accomplishment into new beginnings. 

Here is a list of the general significance of each number.  You will notice that I only list ace through ten, and not the court cards; court cards are notoriously tricky for tarot readers, and I've discussed my approach elsewhere on this blog.


Ace - Beginnings, the seed of the essence of the suit
Two - Balance, partnerships with others
Three - Growth, interacting with others
Four - Stability, accomplishment
Five - Change, conflict
Six - Resolution, harmony, balance
Seven - Looking inward for resources
Eight - Desire for forward momentum
Nine - The pause before completion
Ten - Completion, the essence of the suit come to fruition

You may find the shades of meaning offered by runs of numbers deepens your interpretation of any given spread; alternately, you may just find yourself saying to the querent, "Look at that, you have several eights in this spread. It seems like you're looking for some forward energy in your life." I like having the knowledge of runs because it is a simple way to add more depth to your reading without requiring a ton of memorization.  It's especially helpful when you realize the progression of number meanings is meant to represent the progression of a life's story. We start as a seed, then grow in our communities, face various hardships and resolution, before arriving at the essence of completion.

Do you see yourself incorporating runs of numbers in your readings? Does the narrative progression of number meanings enhance your appreciation of tarot?  Is this just way to complicated for your personal practice? Let us know in comments!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Tarot Blogaround!

My tarot practice started off as a very private, personal thing. Now, while it continues to nurture my innermost self, it has blossomed into a source of connection and community. I'm grateful for the opportunity to share some of this community with you! In that spirit, I present you the second installation of the blogaround:


  • Benebell Wen is an author and "independent metaphysician," which she does a great job explaining. She provides guidance not only on tarot, but in a variety of other esoteric fields.  Her blog is a great resource for tarot beginners, as well as anybody looking to enhance their tarot with other practices like numerology, astrology, and feng shui.  The thing is, Benebell is just a great writer. Whatever she's writing about, she makes easy to understand and engaging to read.

  • Abbie over at Northern Lights Witch is a woman after my own heart! Her blog on tarot and witchcraft feels deeply based in the natural world, and she is explicitly interested in tarot for healing and social justice, which, in my opinion, is the tarot's highest calling.  I actually received an online reading from her, which was insightful, gentle, and motivating. I recommend her work unreservedly. 

  • Alright, I am cheating a little bit; Moody Moons is not officially a tarot blog, but it is just too great to pass up. The photos of her seasonal crafts are tangibly lush. The author is a great resource for ideas for rituals and spiritual celebrations, especially around the sabbats of Wicca. Though I am not Wiccan, I draw from it in developing my own spiritual practice, and this blog has been invaluable. 


These are just a few examples of the tarot readers, witches, and occult bloggers out there providing wonderful material. Who else are you following?  What resources do you find yourself coming back to as you develop your practice?  Share in the comments!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Closer Look: Death

Key words and concepts
Death, from the Tarot Noir published by Vega

  • Transformation
  • Transition
  • Profound change
  • Rebirth
  • Endings
  • Letting go

This card has been popping up a lot for me over the last month or so.  Rather than fearful, I've been grateful to see it. I am looking forward to change in my life, which is what the Death card predicts.

You may know that the Death card doesn't necessarily--or even often--mean a literal human death.  It may refer to loss, but usually in the context of making room for rebirth.  Think of the many spiritual frameworks that see death not as a final ending, but as simply one more cycle of completion and rebirth.

The changes predicted by the Death card are not minor ones, and they may be uncomfortable.  This Death speaks to the ending of a chapter in your life, be it from external events or the shifting of your internal beliefs.  The most useful metaphor for me is the caterpillar: When it retires to its chrysalis, the caterpillar's body literally breaks down into something akin to stem cells, only to be rebuilt in the form of a butterfly.  I can't think of anything more drastic than dissolving your body to make a new one.  The "birth" of the butterfly seems a bit like a death for the caterpillar, even though they are the same organism.  In fact, the Death card is associated with Scoprio--the sign during Samhain and Halloween. While these holidays are strongly associated with the dead, Samhain has actually been called the Celtic New Year, suggesting that the spirit of rebirth is often present alongside that of death.

The Death card is less about literal death, then, and more about the closure or completion of cycles, right before moving on to a new beginning.

On a slightly more playful note, I give you this clip from the Simpsons.  I think the fortune teller gives a pretty good interpretation; what do you think?








Monday, February 20, 2017

Reading a Spread: Job Interview Jitters

We all know that job searching is fraught. It's stressful, full of rejection, and relatively high-stakes. I came up with this spread earlier this week before a job interview, looking for something to help me ground myself. This isn't a spread about finding a job, or general work-related questions; I designed it specifically to help calm my nerves before my interview!  If interview jitters are something you face, maybe this spread can help.

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Here are the four cards I pulled for my spread.  See the descriptions below.




CARD 1: The Querent

Representing me at this moment, the six of swords shows a small boat with obscured figures gliding away. This card reminds me that at this point in my life, I'm not searching for highly visible status-oriented work. In fact, over the last few months, I realized that stability is one of my highest priorities for the workplace. 

CARD 2: What grounds you

I like to read court cards as a point of view, or motto. The king of wands makes his decisions based on his passions, but such passion is tempered by his experience. I year ago, I felt more like the knight of wands: Exuberant, forward-thinking, and spontaneous. The king uses this very same energy to drive him, but he looks back on the lessons he's learned over his life.  This attitude keeps his decisions sincere and practical. I'm reminded that, however this interview turns out, I have learned a lot in my journey, and that is worth something. 

CARD 3: Something to calm you

Right before I go in for an interview--like when I'm sitting in the lobby, waiting, sipping on my coffee--is when I start to lose focus. The immediacy of it overwhelms me a bit, and I feel myself getting worked up. At that point, I need something to just calm me down.  I'm never really happy to see the Emperor, as he represents some values that don't resonate with me (authority, paternalism).  In this context, though, he reminds me that I am the only expert in my unique personal experience. However my interviewers choose to evaluate me, I know that I am the authority on my own life. 

CARD 4: Something to give you confidence

Now that you're grounded and calm, you're ready for a confidence boost! I'll admit I was a bit surprised to see the placid seven of pentacles.  He is quietly waiting for his crops to ripen, knowing that there's nothing more he can do at this point but wait for the harvest. There's reassurance in knowing that you've already put the work in, and that it's time to let it all play out. He reminds me that my confidence doesn't have to take the form of being showy, and that calmly letting things unfold is its own power. 

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After I finished this spread, I took out my notebook that I bring to job interviews.  I wrote a little summary of my spread, so that I could look down and read it if I started to get nervous.  Based on the four cards, I noted:

I am seeking calm. Experience tempers my passion.  I am the expert on my decisions. Confidence may manifest as patience. 

It's too soon to know the results of the interview, but experientially, I can say that doing this spread beforehand definitely helped ground me in the confidence of my values.  Could you see yourself doing a spread like this before a job interview?  Do you even get job interview jitters?  Are there other parts of the job-search process that you think tarot could help you with?  Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Welcome Back!

Well, hello there.

If you made it to DHT today, you may notice that I am writing again after seven months.  I'll not claim to have a readership large enough to really notice, or that my reasons are interesting enough for folks here for content.

I'll just say thank you.

Thanks for coming back around after my hiatus, or thank you for stopping by for the first time.  I'm doing some re-branding (I have a logo now!) and look forward to responding to queries in my Etsy shop, so take a look and see if there's a spread that catches your eye. You can still find me on twitter and facebook, too.

Fresh content on the blog starts Monday; not only do I have two spreads on deck for y'all, but we'll be taking a closer look at none other than the Death card. I've got other goodies, too, like another tarot blogaround and some discount prizes in the store.

I'm also returning to this blog as a USian still reeling from the election. Inevitably, I will join numerous other tarot readers and bloggers in discussions about resistance to oppression, even as we find ways to come together and celebrate the good in the world.

I look forward to using tarot to connect with others as we all face life's challenges together. I hope you'll stick around!