Archive for September, 2011

Autumnal Equinox Tarot Circle Game

A.  Gather in a circle, whether around a table, on the floor, or on the ground.  Place a beeswax candle in the middle.  Remove any card(s) from your tarot deck that reminds you of Autumn or the Equinox (e.g. Justice for equal light and dark; any card that depicts harvest or letting go, etc.).  Place this card(s) in the centre beside the candle to represent your intention for gathering.  You can also add seasonal fruits or fallen leaves to the central space.

B.  One at a time, each person receives the tarot deck as it’s passed clockwise.  Each person, when s/he receives the pack, says one word or one phrase that lets the group know how s/he is as s/he enters this game(e.g. “I’m feeling grateful for X this evening.” or “I’m tired, but happy to be with you all today.” or “I’m curious about what we’re about to do.”).  If the players are new to one another, it’s a good idea to speak your name as well.  Then s/he mixes the deck and picks three cards at random before passing the pack to the person on hir left.  This continues until everyone has checked in and has three cards in their hands.

C.  Three rounds are played clockwise (each round’s topic is below).  During each, every player gets a turn to lay a card on the surface in front of hir and use its image to inspire a continuation of the open sentence provided.  This can be done by consciously selecting a card from your face-up hand or by keeping your three cards face-down and intuitively picking which one will be your sentence-completion image.  Each player can expand on the sentence as much as s/he chooses.

  • FIRST ROUND: “Currently in my life, balancing times of dark and light means _________.”
  • SECOND ROUND: “What I’m preparing to put to sleep for a while includes _________.”
  • THIRD ROUND: “I’m grateful to be harvesting _________.”

D.  After everyone’s cards have been played, allow a fruitful, respectful conversation to unfold, continuing until it reaches a natural conclusion.

E.  For the final round, the tarot deck is passed around counterclockwise.   One at a time, people receive it, express gratitude for one thing they’ve heard or said during the game, mix their three cards back into the pack, and pass it to the person on their right.

F.  After everyone’s cards have been returned to the deck, the central card is shuffled back into the pack.  Extinguish the candle.

 You can enhance your Autumnal Equinox tarot circle game experience by reading poems or singing songs that are relevant to the occasion.  This can be done between parts A & B and between parts E & F.  Your time together can be extended by visiting over an autumn harvest meal (mmm…squash soup and apple pie!) after the game.

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Waite’s *Other* Tarot Deck: How Can We Help

When many people think of a tarot deck, the Rider deck, by Arthur Eward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith comes to mind.  British tarotists Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin are involved in a project to bring Waite’s other tarot deck, executed by artist John Trinick, back to life.  I had the privilege of seeing projections of the images when I was at the Omega Institute in July.  They’re stunning!  They still haunt me.  Depicting Waite’s “hidden” Qabalistic correspondences, used by the Order he founded after leaving the original Golden Dawn group, they don’t come off as technical and high-falutin’; the art really invites one to take part in the Mystery.

If you’re a tarot afficionado and would like to contribute something to Marcus’s and Tali’s effort, you can do so at http://www.indiegogo.com/Waite-Trinick-Tarot-Publication

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Wendalyn Bartley, known by many of us as Wende, is a sound energy practitioner, composer and ritual performance artist who is dedicated to an awakening of the voice of the feminine, the earth, and a reunited humanity.  I first met her in a circle-based spiritual community to which I belong.  We’re shared many moments of ceremony and sound with land, water, and many other more-than-human beings.  Wendalyn’s new CD, Sound Dreaming: Oracle Songs from Ritual Spaces, is to be released soon.  There’s a fundraiser to get the project completed at http://www.indiegogo.com/sounddreaming .  Please contribute what you can to this juicy and powerful project.  You can visit Wendalyn online at http://www.awakeningyourvoice.com/.  I hope you enjoy this interview with her.

Wendalyn, your album, Sound Dreaming: Oracle Songs from Ancient Ritual Spaces, has been a project calling to you for some time.  What enabled this calling to come to fruition for you?

The initial seeds for this project really began over 30 years ago in my early days as a composer.  At the time, my major influences were the works of visual artist Judy Chicago (“The Dinner Party”) and writer Susan Griffin (“Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her”). These visionary feminist artists opened my awareness to the historical silencing of woman’s voice and the arising movement to reclaim a lost heritage. I committed my own artistic journey to the process of uncovering the voice of the feminine in music.  Each composition I wrote became a way for me to delve deeper into the European goddess traditions while simultaneously discovering my own voice.  As I learned how to more fully open myself up to the sounds within me, I was also surprised by the diverse repertoire of sounds and ‘sonic characters’ that would come tumbling out of me.  Initially I used this repertoire as the basis of pieces for professional singers, but eventually made a shift towards trusting my own voice and worked with my recordings directly to create my pieces.  Eventually I came to the point where I had to fulfill a deep stirring in my belly that was calling me to visit the temples of Malta and Crete and make recordings right on location. I was now ready to vocally explore the energetic field of memory and ancestral wisdom that I intuitively felt would be accessible to me.  The vocal improvisations I made at each site I visited became the foundation for the music you hear on “Sound Dreaming”.
I’m intrigued by the term “oracle songs”.  When people hear “oracle”, they often think of tarot cards, rune stones, or an entranced priestess uttering wisdom.  What makes the pieces on your recording oracular?

 I love this question for it takes me deeper into the layers of what this music is really all about, and describes the process I used to create the vocalizations.  By aligning with the “morphic field of resonance” as biologist Rupert Sheldrake describes it, I’m translating the energetic qualities of this field through the sounds of my voice – much the same way I would while giving an individual sound healing session. What guides me is the intelligence of the sounds themselves, for they speak and communicate a particular form of knowledge. The voice is the instrument of the soul and becomes like a “divining rod” that enables the flow of divine wisdom to move through me, just like the process of a higher intelligence revealing itself through the Tarot images, the runes, or prophetic words spoken.  Thus the ‘oracle songs’ are a way of knowing that goes directly into the cellular layers of our being and communicates a wisdom beyond words. 

While the pieces on Sound Dreaming grew out of your experiences in the Hypogeum in Malta and other early sacred spaces, they strike me as more than an homage to the past.  What are these ancient places saying to the 21st century through your pieces.

I feel that a central aspect of the wisdom being communicated through these oracle songs is a call deep into our cellular memory to remember that we are divine beings, and that we are being called to restore our lost connection to the earth and all sentient beings we share this planet with.  The Christian tradition has imprinted the belief within our collective psyche that there is something fundamentally wrong with us – that we are ‘sinners in need of redemption’.However when we can make the shift deep within our bodies and align with the sacred life force within, trusting that we are perfect the way we are, then we can help raise the vibration of the collective field that is now so entangled with fear into the higher vibrational state of peace, love, hope and compassion.  This is the evolutionary shift we are all collectively being asked to make.  The voice is capable of creating frequencies that align us with these higher vibrational states.  The intention of the Sound Dreaming music is to help the listener experience these states of resonance with the sonic wisdom ‘divined’ from these ancient sites. 

Embodying and giving voice to the feminine is such an important component of this project.  What gifts or benefits can emerge from such an embodiment and voicing?

Marion Woodman states that one of our most crucial tasks today is learning how to embody the sacred feminine.  For me this means opening up a relationship with both our own bodies and with the body of the earth.  Again, I come back to the potency of sound as a way to guide and lead us into the exploration of what that might mean for each of us personally. For me, this process guides my artistic explorations and is at the heart of expressing myself creatively.  I find that when I combine body movement with sound, something very magical unfolds – I experience it as a form of shape shifting.  Different characters and sonic qualities emerge, my body moves spontaneously and in sync with the sounds, and phrases of an unknown language come pouring out of me.  For example, one of the pieces on the CD –  Sounding Dream Woman – arose through my creative and ritual interaction with the figurine “Sleeping Lady of Malta” that was found in the underground Hypogeum temple in Malta. These transformative experiences are deeply healing, not only at the personal level, but also at the archetypal level. The mythic voices of the feminine are longing to be heard once again, and move through each of us in a myriad of creative ways. 

 When I offer sound to the earth, such as toning directly into a tree for example, I experience a form of communication that is hard to put into words, yet I know something of exquisite beauty has been shared between us. Gaia deeply longs to hear our sounds and is asking us to weave them back into the tapestry of the natural soundscape as an important way to maintain and sustain healthy life on the planet. 

You have so many wonderful outlets for your creativity.  What activities and events do you see yourself offering in conjunction with the recording?

 I’d like to offer people a ritually based concert experience in small salon-like gatherings – either in people’s homes or in smaller venues.  Since the music has been mixed in 5.1 surround sound, I can create a listening environment where people can be fully immersed in the music, with the various layers of voices and environmental sounds moving around them in the room.  However I see that as just the tip of the iceberg.  Since the vision of the album is a call to embodiment and connection, I’d like to offer both group workshops and individual private sessions to guide people into discovering their own voices and how sound can take them into a deeper relationship with their own sacred essence.  I’m also envisioning guiding groups in offering sound to the earth as a form of ‘sonic activism’, and expand on my work with using the labyrinth as a ritual container. As well, I’m cooking up some ideas for the online world.  One idea is a series of telecalls organized around exploring each piece on the CD as if it were an oracle reading related to certain questions and topics. That should be fun and opens up a new way of working with the music.  

As you know, Wendalyn, I love questions!  What life-changing question does Sound Dreaming ask of us?
What wisdom and healing lies waiting to be revealed within the sound of your soul’s voice? 

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Yesterday, Joanna Powell Colbert and I were interviewed on Beyond Worlds.  As well as talking about various pieces of our work, we did a group reading about our reciprocal relationship with Mother Earth.  You can listen to the show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/beyondworlds/2011/09/11/the-gaian-tarot-with-joanna-colbert-james-wells

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A New Paradigm: An Interview with Joanna Powell Colbert

The Muse is truly alive in Joanna Powell Colbert, creatrix of the Gaian Tarot, profound friend of Nature, mythic artist, tarot reader, and coach to many people who bring consciousness and hope to our world through their lives and work.  From her home base in Bellingham, Washington, Joanna’s creativity and grouded guidance ripple into our world.  I’ve known Joanna for a number of years and participate in her wonderful Gaian Tarot Circle.  It’s a great pleasure to offer you this interview with her on the Circle Ways blog.  Please feel free to leave comments.  You can visit Joanna online at http://www.gaiantarot.com, http://www.gaiansoul.com, and http://www.gaiansoulgrove.com.

1.   Joanna, I’ve witnessed the unfolding of the Gaian Tarot over some time.  What has it been like to sustain a conversation with one creative project for nine years and more?  And how did you keep up your part of that conversation?

It had its ups and downs, like any long-term relationship.  🙂  There were times when I was very focused on it, almost to the point of obsession.  Other times, I was more relaxed, and managed to work at it a few hours at a time, here and there.  Then there were times when I ignored it completely for weeks or even months on end, when life events took priority.  I’m thinking of the 2-3 years when my first priority was looking after my elderly father before he died. My second priority was work that paid the bills, and after those two commitments were fulfilled, I would work on the deck. 

Sometimes I was over-the-moon in love with the images, and with the art medium of colored pencil.  Towards the end of the project, I was still in love with the images, but (I have to confess) pretty darned tired of working with colored pencils.  I actually don’t know if I will ever work in that particular medium again.  

The last four cards I painted were the Elders.  And even though I was getting weary at that point, I think they are some of the absolute best cards in the entire deck.  The Elders carry within themselves the wisdom of their entire suit.  

2.   Llewellyn Publications has recently released a version of the Gaian Tarot that is available to a wider audience.  Many people are thrilled to see this third incarnation of your cards and their accompanying text.  Certainly there are plans to celebrate this latest birth.  What does the Llewellyn version’s “welcome to the world” party look like?

Well, it’s sure a lot of fun!  Llewellyn of course is putting their marketing muscles behind the deck, so it’s appearing on the cover of their current New Worlds magazine, and articles about it are turning up in their e-newsletters and on their website.  I started a Gaian Tarot Facebook page a couple of months ago, and did a 78-card-a-day countdown to the official publication date of September 1st (even though it came out at the end of July). I get dozens (sometimes more) comments and emails every day from people telling me how much they love and appreciate the deck. 

I’m traveling to New Mexico, Massachusetts and Ontario in the coming month to support the deck at workshops, retreats and conferences. This in-person part of the party started at BATS (San Francisco Bay Area Tarot Symposium) at the end of August.  I will also be doing a number of personal appearances at Northwest bookstores this fall and winter, starting with my own beloved local independent bookstore, Village Books in Bellingham, on October 20th. I’m hoping my local community will come out for that one. 

Finally I’m in the midst of a Virtual Deck & Book Tour for the month of September.  Many of my Tarot friends, like you, are presenting me to their readers, but I also am appearing on a number of blogs outside of the tarot community. I’m hoping that a wider range of people will pick up the Gaian Tarot!

3.  You know that I’m a great fan of questions, Joanna.  If the Gaian Tarot were a question, what might that question be?

How about a *few* questions?   

What kind of a relationship do you have with the natural world?  How can you allow yourself to be healed by the earth?  How can you offer healing to Her in return?  

4.   On page 8 of the accompanying book, you state that you hope your deck’s images will help create a culture of strong and gentle women and men, working together to create a beautiful, peaceful and just planet.  I stand in awe of that statement!  How might that happen?  What activities or processes with the Gaian Tarot might facilitate it?

In order for us to create a new paradigm, a new way of living on the planet, we first have to envision it, before we can make it a reality. The images in this deck show a community of people, animals and plants all living harmoniously together. The deck and book together give us a vision (or maybe even a blueprint) of how we might all live up to our own “best selves,” personally, in community, and on a global level.  

So, first we see the vision of a new way of living. Then the cards (and book) themselves give us practical advice on how to bring ourselves, and the world around us, into wholeness. We are challenged to step away from stereotypical gender roles, to serve the earth and each other, and to bring our own deep gifts to the world.

The Motherpeace Tarot helped to create Goddess culture, and I hope that my deck will help to create Gaian culture in a similar way.

5.   Joanna, what’s the next right thing for you professionally?  What’s the new mystery that yearns for embodiment through you?  How are you responding to its call?

I am being called first of all to pick up the role of teacher again, which is something I did for many years before creating the Gaian Tarot.  I will be offering more and more online and in-person courses and workshops in the coming months. Some are on Tarot, some are on earth-centered spirituality, some on manifesting your dreams. I have a few more ideas floating around as well.

I went on retreat in July, hoping to receive a new “assignment” from Spirit for a new creative project, and I was thrilled with the “divine download” that came to me.  I’m now writing and illustrating a book about practices for connecting with the natural world.  It’s still very new, so I’m not talking about it a lot. But it’s sitting there, gestating, in my heart, and pouring out my pen little by little.

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Please join the Tarot Counselling conversation

My dear friends,

“Tarot Counselling for Self and Others” is a dream come true for me.  For a long time, I’ve wanted to share the processes I use to help myself and others learn and evolve from life’s situations.  And it’s happening!

Lots of folks joined us on August 30th for a juicy teleseminar on tarot counselling and the art of asking questions.  You can listen to it and take part in the activities by going to

I’m enjoying the interactions and explorations with folks who’ve already signed up for the course: http://www.gaiansoulgrove.com/jameswells-tarotcounseling/

I hope you can join us for an enriching time!  Registration is open until midnight on Monday, September 5.  People in the “Tarot Counselling for Self and Others” course forum are very approachable and supportive, so your input, insights, and questions will be respected and will be considered vitalin the learning process.  It would be lovely to have you join our inspiring conversations.

Wishing you every good thing this holiday weekend and always!
~ James

P.S.  Again, the link to the course information is http://www.gaiansoulgrove.com/jameswells-tarotcounseling/

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Link to Free Tarot Teleseminar

If you missed us live, you’ll LOVE listening to us here:



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