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.  


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. 


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.


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, 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!


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. 


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.


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.


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.  


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.


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!