Archive for October, 2010

A Layout for Samhain

Samhain.  Hallowe’en.  Scorpio time.  The Death card month.  Whatever we call it, we’re reminded of non-permanance.  Here’s a layout to use at this poignant and wispy time of the year.  In the spirit of autumn mist and winddropped pieces of twig, feel free to arrange your cards in any pattern that feels/looks appropriate to you.  You might even stand on a chair or other higher place, state the layout numbers and questions one at a time, and drop each card onto the table, floor, or ground one at a time as if they’re falling leaves slowly disengaging from the life support system of root, trunk, and branch.

You might even do this in group format by sitting around a table with friends, dealing eight cards to each, and letting everyone respond to each question with whatever card in their hand feels/looks most like the answer.  Let this turn into fruitful discussion.  You’ll have a grand evening sharing heart-rooted stories about life.  A concluding snack or meal might consist of a pot-luck of ancestral foods.  Blessed be the most life-affirming wisdom of our ancestors.  And love to you all.

1.  What in my life is well and truly dead?

2.  How does it need to be honoured?

3.  What in my life is in the process of dying?

4.  How can I appropriately midwife that dying process?

5.  What in my life is sprouting from the compost of the past?

6.  How can I appropriately tend that sprout?

7.  What ancestral gifts and skills do I carry in this lifetime?

8.  How can I use them for the well-being of all of life?

NOTE:  If you don’t have tarot cards, you can use runes, crone stones, soul cards, or any other tool.  You can also reflect on these questions in your journal or with a trusted friend or take them into a shamanic journey.

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Process and Tarot

In our journey through the Three Ps of the Feminine as they might relate to the tarot, this second pause invites us to wonder about process.

When someone comes to me for a tarot consultation, I encourage hir to set an intent and/or generate some questions around hir intent.  Tarot as process takes that intent and surrenders it to a set of symbols randomly drawn from a deck of cards and by a session that develops from the person’s needs.  The readee and I can be surprised by what we turn over.  This allows wonder and exploration to come into the session rather than to talk about the person’s situation, issue, or question as two people might do in everyday conversation.  The randomly chosen images take us into regions we might not normally enter.  Process!

Even the structure and uses of tarot have undergone a meandering journey over the centuries.  From trick-taking card game to divination tool to Western Mystery mnemonic device to psychological growth catalyst.  From an undecided number of Trumps to 22.  From five sticks and some decoration to a picture of young men engaged in mock combat to an image of a bold fire-breather.

The tarot might be my primary insight tool, but I do my best to remember that it’s just that, a tool.  It’s the process of a consultation that fascinates me, no matter what someone’s tool is.  I’ve read many books on tarot, psychology, coaching, counselling, symbolism, mythology, personal growth, dreamwork, strategic questioning, and more.  I’ve attended multiple workshops and councils on tarot, Jungian thought, shamanism, circle process healing, journal writing, and such.  The moment that a client enters my space or calls me on the ‘phone, all of that head knowledge goes out the window.  Before me is a person who is curious about something in hir life.  S/He is not a textbook or a workshop, but a being of flesh, bone, blood, and soul.  I listen to hir story and allow the session to develop from there.  My favourite tarotists, astrologers, and agents of change are securely rooted in an effective system that provides structure and which is fluid enough to accommodate what needs to happen then and there.  Process!

Two consultations from last week might illustrate this point.  The first of these was for someone with a serious health condition, a sticky family matter, and doubts about vocation.  Hir tears and frustration felt like they needed airing, so I kept the session very simple.  After s/he chose a deck for us to use, I asked hir to place two or three cards in one section of the table surface to represent where s/he is now, another group of cards in another section of the surface to represent the life-giving potentials that exist in hir and hir life, and one more group of cards to depict the bridge from where s/he is to hir potentials.  The first group allowed this person to vent the challenging feelings that were coming up.  The second gave hir an opportunity to notice what is still alive and good in hir life and self.  And the third inspired grounded strategies rooted in both academia and spirit.  S/He left my space changed, and a couple of days later, I received a lovely note from hir stating how the session really shifted her outlook and helped hir to feel like s/he had power over hir life again.

The second session was far more structured.  The client entered and stated hir intent to explore career options and relationship strategies.  We spent time together carefully crafting layouts that contained very specific questions.  We divided up the appointment so that each topic or option got equal time.  Our card-by-card investigation opened up a powerful story of what the person really wanted and didn’t want.  S/He left my space feeling like things were in order again and that s/he now carried a powerful personalised map.

So very different, yet so very appropriate for each person.  Process, for me, is related to presence in that it comes down to listening to the moment and acting (or not) accordingly.  It’s about being openness to throwing the plan over my shoulder and working with what I’ve got.  I’m reminded of a phrase from Christina Baldwin’s The Seven Whispers: Surrender to Surprise.  In the chapter about that phrase, Baldwin writes that if we do good work with life’s smaller surprises (unexpected traffic jam, dropping a dish, phone call from an old school friend), it prepares us for larger surprises (death of a partner, getting fired, a gift of a house in Tuscany).  She encourages us to notice what’s happening, acknowledge what’s happening, and to work with what’s happening.  A good tarot session honours that noticing, acknowledgment, and working with.  Process!

I asked the tarot, “What is process?” and received the 5 of Wands, reversed.  So process is:

  • being OK with not quite knowing who I am at the moment
  • grist in the mill of personal growth
  • hashing it out with my subpersonalities
  • a willingness to change my self-perceptions
  • to challenge and be challenged by my core spirit
  • hard soulwork

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Presence and Tarot

In my October 28 entry, I spoke of the Three Ps of the Feminine.  One at a time, I’d like to reflect on them as they relate to tarot as I practice it.

Today, we’ll contemplate presence.   

In the popular mind, the tarot is something that tells us the future, what will be.  In my mind, there’s no such thing as a future set in stone.  How can I know where I’m going if I can’t even see where I am?  Potential futures are sculpted in every moment, sometimes consciously, often unconsciously. 

To sit down and spend time with the tarot, whether a single card or a full layout, assists me to be present with what’s going on in my mind, feelings, and external experiences.  Any cards I look at mirror my current sphere of life.  A tarot layout is a snapshot of the here and now, a map of the current territory in which I can see my options.  When I see these options, I am empowered to make conscious choices.  I can both intuit and think about what I choose to plant, what I choose to alter, what I choose to maintain, and what I choose to release.  Even those events which I didn’t want or cause to occur become understandable, so I can choose my emotional response to them and whether I’ll address them or simply detach from them.

To practice tarot IS to practice presence.

I asked the tarot, “What is presence?” and received the 2 of Cups, reversed.  So presence is:

  • a partnership with the Sacred Unseen
  • a process of valuing and teaming up with my deepest feelings
  • a way to say “yes” to my intuition
  • a choice to love myself
  • a heart-filled toast to the creative forces of the subliminal mind

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The 3 Ps

In recent conversations and classes, Marion Woodman’s words about the “Three Ps of the Feminine” have come up.  They are:

PRESENCE.  Be here, be now, herenowness.  There’s a meal in front of me right here, so don’t think about the dinner I was eating last week or the one I’ll prepare tomorrow.  What you’re currently experiencing is what IS.  Show up!

PROCESS.  The journey IS the destination.  How we get somewhere is just as (more?) important than arriving.  The path is fluid, winding, meandering.  Like walking the labyrinth, process sometimes takes us close to the centre, then away from it again, dancing between the two.  Let’s detach from specific outcomes and allow what needs to be to emerge.

PARADOX.  This AND that.  Light and dark, up and down, fear and love, certainty and surrender, stillness and agitation — all of these can co-exist in one being, one space, one room, one mind, one body, one gathering, one heart, one life.  To be able to hold the tension of both or all perspectives is a holy and powerful act.  To be able to contain paradox, even for a moment, is wholeness-making.

I asked the tarot, “How can we best live the Three Ps of the Feminine?”  The card is the 10 of Wands, reversed.  This suggests:

  • get out of our own way
  • step back from our personal stuff
  • temporarily extricate ourselves from isolation
  • take a break from self-centredness

Then I asked, “What happens if we live in that way?”  The card is the 3 of Cups, upright.  This suggests:

  • an ability to clarify emotions
  • the promise of greater connectivity
  • an awareness of the factors that go into healthy relating
  • we’re prepared to celebrate life with others

How do YOU live the Three Ps of the Feminine?  What happens for you when you do?  Please let us know.

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If You Can Vote, Why Didn’t You?

I’m not pleased with the results of the Toronto municipal election.  The elected (not by me) mayor is right-wing and not friendly to many things that could keep our city vibrant. 

Only 52 % of eligible voters in Toronto actually went to the polls.  This is supposedly a higher number than usual, but where were the other 48%?  Almost half of those who can vote didn’t.  How disappointing that so many people turned down the opportunity to use a great privilege.  I know people who can’t vote yet because they don’t have citizenship, but they really want to contribute to our electoral system. 

As far as I’m concerned, if someone has the right to vote and they don’t use it, they have no right to complain when things go awry. 

I did a short reading with the William Blake Tarot of the Creative Imagination about all of this. 

1.  What caused 48% of Torontonians to not vote in this municipal election?     2 of Science (Reflection).     Their minds were on the fence about the candidates.  They needed more time and information before they could make a clear decision.  They felt cautious because they believed we needed some form of compromise.    

2.  What were/are Torontonians really seeking in a Mayor?     Child of Poetry.     Bold vision.  Daring individuality.  Someone who is receptive to ideas and inspiration and who opens hirself to imaginative breakthroughs.

3.  In what other ways can we experience the qualities named by the second card?     XVI. Lightning.     Be catalysts of reform.  Be thundering voices for change.  Channel anger constructively.  Be the breakthroughs that we’d like to see in our city

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Access Your Inner Teacher on Oct. 26

with James Wells
Tuesday, October 26 at 7:00 p.m.
in the graciously sacred space of Grey Heron, Maple, ON
The tarot’s 78 cards are visual gateways to your wisdom.  Enter these gateways through an evening of basic teaching and hands-on activities with the tarot.  You’ll enjoy viewing the colouful array of decks that are available, learn and work with basic tarot structure, sharpen the art of asking empowering questions, and enter into a tarot experience that will provide you with insight generated by your own Inner Teacher.  All levels of experience are welcome to participate and all will leave the session with a deeper appreciation for the tarot and its simple efficacy as a helpful feedback tool.
$50 for the evening.
Please register with my wonderful hostess, Andrea Mathieson, at (905) 832 – 8245.

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A Vital, Musical Weekend

Cyrus and I were in the Niagara Region this weekend for relaxation, socialising, and lovely music.  The concert took place in my friend Suzanne’s house in Vineland.  Forty-two of us enjoyed the terrific music and meaningful, honest lyrics of Laura Smith and Ryan MacGrath, accompanied in many numbers by Mike Ritchie.  Laura and Ryan took turns singing and playing guitar.  Many fun moments were mingled with poignant ones.  A pot-luck meal followed, during which we got to chat with the performers.  Their down-to-earth manner was touching as we talked about music, food, healing, and living our dreams.  A walk through the orchard in the early evening glory of autumn was restorative.  The 11 of us audience folks who remained were treated to a second performance, a spontaneous jam session by the talented trio.  It felt like a ceiledh, or musical kitchen party.  Here’s a photo of me with Laura:

From the Gaian Tarot, I pulled a card to respond to the question, “What is the gift we received from our time in Sue’s house.  I got the Sun, which suggests sheer joy, vitality, replenishment, and an infusion of fun.  We’re reminded to create a life of happiness and to make choices each day that help to energise that life.

Thank you to Sue, Cathy, Bev, Laura, Ryan, Mike, Cyrus, Bryan, and RoseAnn for a splendidly sun-like weekend!

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Interview on Gaian Soul

My dear friend and fabulous colleague, Joanna Powell Colbert, recently interviewed me for her blog/site, Gaian Soul.  There are thoughts on creativity, tarot, and my relationship with Mama Gaia.  Please read it at http://www.gaiansoul.com/2010/10/a-gaian-soul-chat-with-james-wells/ .

Feel free to leave comments.  It would be great to turn the interview into a dialogue.

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Rescued Miners As Myth

I would like to honour the Chilean miners who are, as I write, being rescued from their underground place of confinement.  They are all alive and they have survived an ordeal that would wither many of us. 

The miners have been in their own version of the Devil card, the fifteenth tarot trump.  They entered and were held in the realm of shadow, uncertainty, darkness, the unknown.  The ground that held them has been penetrated with the forces available to us, just like the lightning bolt in the Tower card, the next symbol in the sequence of Majors.  I suspect that the experience of coming back to the surface is like the Star — a glimmer of light and breath of inspiring hope.

We can see the incident of the trapped Chilean miners as just an event or we can show them respect by treating it as a mythic story.  These men descended into a very deep, dark place.  Many traditions speak of such a descent experience as part of an intitiation.  Inanna entered the underworld, removing layer after layer until only her bare essence remained.  Persephone was abducted into Hades.  They came back and life was restored, only better.  There can be no butterfly without the dark, mushy waiting of the chrysalis phase.


What deep, dark place have you entered?  What have you been stripped of there?  What essentials remain?  How might you break through?  What light awaits you back on the surface?  What about humanity as a whole?  In what deep, dark place are we?  What are we being stripped of?  What essentials remain?  How might we break through?  What light awaits us back on the surface?

* Images are from the Healing Tarot by Jennifer Elizabeth Moore.

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Astro-Tarot Class

My relationship with astrology is interesting.  I love the stories that one can find in one’s natal chart.  I’m not interested in the calculations nor am I interested in pigeon-holing people by their signs and planets.  It’s the process of a consultation that I love — the counselling and exploration that one can engage in through the symbolic language of astrology.  The best astrologers I know don’t treat the chart as a stone tablet of “this must happen”, but rather employ it as a blueprint of possibilities.  It’s up to us how to flesh out those energies.  My own primary tool, as you know, is the tarot, which also acts as a great springboard for story, insight, counselling, and exploration.  Whichever tool one uses, it becomes a catalyst for incredible creativity to sculpt one’s life.

I”m looking forward to tomorrow evening’s monthly tarot class (Thursday, Oct. 14 at 7:00 p.m.), ASTROLOGY IN THE TAROT: THE BASICS.  We’ll look at correspondences between planets, signs, and cards; do brief partnered readings using what we learn; offer a horoscope layout group reading to one attendee; and expand our awareness of what the tarot can be.  I hope that we can discover some more of our own creative resources as we interact in the class.

There’ll be a special offer for all participants.  Join us and find out what it is.

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