Archive for August, 2012

Blue Moon 2012

Tonight we’ll see a blue moon.  This doesn’t refer to the actual colour, but rather to its infrequent occurrence.  A blue moon is the second full moon in the space of one calendar month.  The next one won’t happen until 2015.  Any full moon is a time of fruition, ripeness, maturity, full manifestation, pinnacles.  Tonight is a time to double the chances of making things happen.

This begs the question, “What are we asked by Life to bring to full fruition in 2012?”  The card, drawn from the Medicine Woman Tarot, is Healing/Strength, the eighth Major card in this deck.  On a literal level, the tarot may be suggesting that we’re asked to bring healing and strength to fruition.  For me, it’s often a card about survival, so we’re asked to bring ways to survive these times (at any cost?) to fruition as well.  What also wants to come to maturity is our primal, animal, instinctive nature, the remembrance that we are not separate from Nature, but a part of it.

A blessed Blue Moon to all of you!

Moon card image from the Blue Rose Tarot by Paula Gibby.

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Minor Structures

This piece on structure in the tarot is a continuation of what I wrote on August 25 and 26.  It’s about structures applied to the Minor Arcana (small mysteries), also known as the suit cards, or the everyday experiences cards.  If the Majors are the “what” of life, the Minors are the “how”.

While I’m less concerned about structure when it comes to the Major Arcana, I find it immensely helpful to work with a system when using the Minors.  In fully pictorial decks — tarot packs with pictures on the numbered suit cards — people tend to rely on the images; however, in packs whose pip cards show suit emblems and numbers only, it pays off to employ a framework.  What are some of these?

Some people connect the Ace through Ten of each suit to the ten sephiroth on the Qabalistic Tree of Life, then place the court/people cards on four of those.  When they combine a concept from one of those sephiroth with the quality of a suit, meaning comes forth.

Other practitioners divide each suit into two parts, pips and courts.  For them, the ten numbered Minor cards are events and the four court cards are people and/or personality attributes.

There are those who think of each suit as being made up of three sections: Ace, Two through Ten, and Courts.  The Ace, for them, is the area of life (tangible, mental, relational/emotional, or spiritual) in which the event (pip card) takes place with a particular person or part of self (court).

I’ve even seen one person who puts the Aces among the courts cards, counting it as the Divinity that rules over each suit’s royal family.  Fascinating!

My own way to structure the Minor Arcana is to attribute certain qualities to each suit and to each value, Ace through King.  I learned it from Gail Fairfield’s Choice Centered Tarot many years ago.  The journey of Ace through King is one of conception through completion, so the courts cards aren’t separated from the rest of the suit.  Truth be told, if I were to come out with my own tarot deck, I’d articulate each suit as having Ace through Fourteen.  The value/rank plus the quality of the suit (physical-tangible, mental-communicational, emotional-relational, or spiritual-personal) when combined with an intention or question creates meaning.  Simple. 

The template that I use is also good for evaluating where I am in each area of my life without even pulling a card.  I can reflect on my health, finances, learning, networking, feelings, relationships, personal growth, and relatedness with the Sacred, then name each as a value on the scale from Ace to King.  “Oh, my work (Pentacles) is at a Six (stability).  And, look, my writing ideas (Swords) are at a Seven (diversity and experimentation).”  From there, I can decide if what’s happening in each aspect of my life needs to remain the same (stay at the same card value), be changed (move to a different card value), or have something added to it (partner with another card value).  “I think I’ll keep the work at the Six stage for now, so I’ll maintain what I’m doing in that department.  All of those writing ideas are great, but I think that I’ll take them to an Eight (editing, narrowing down, structuring) in a month or so.”  All of that without even doing a tarot reading.

Perhaps I value structure in the Minor Arcana because they’re all about the quotidian where, let’s face it, many of us require some guidelines.  The Greater Mysteries can look after Themselves; we, on the other hand, navigate our bodies, jobs, feelings, relationships, thoughts, information, and identities in the world with more grace when we have a map.  The Minor Arcana can be that map, or at least a part of it.



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Major Structures

My August 25 inteview with the tarot on its own structure was short.  The cards seemed to want to get to the point.  Let’s flesh things out a bit, shall we?

Today, I’ll touch on the possible structures of the 22 Major Arcana (big mysteries), also known as the trumps, the keys, and the universal theme cards.  I say “possible structures” because there are so many ways to group these 22 cards.  Ultimately, I believe that Life’s Great Mysteries defy categorising, but pegging them onto systems and structures helps us to remember what the big cards can be about.

Some people group the Majors by having the Fool (card 0) be the journeyer through the deck and dividing the other 21 cards into three rows of seven cards each.  Cards I – VII in the top row depict the outer journey, cards VIII – XIV in the middle row depict the inner journey, and cards XV – XXI on the bottom are about the transpersonal journey.

There are esoteric groups that contemplate and live out the last seven trumps, XV through XXI, as a process of initiation, moving from bondage into cosmic consciousness.

Other people find it helpful to think of the Majors as eleven pairs, each pair adding up to XXI, the World card, the ultimate goal of being a tarot practitioner.  0 (Fool) and XXI (World) belong together in this system.  So do I (Magician) and XX (Judgement), II (Priestess) and XIX (Sun), and so forth.  Each pair is a path to fulfillment.

The Hero’s Journey as outlined by mythologist Joseph Campbell is another template that is applied to the tarot keys.  The innocent soul goes forth into the world, experiences challenges and triumphs, and returns to hir community with skills and gifts that benefit all.

Jungian achetypes are also perceived in the Majors.  The Empress is a symbol of the Mother and the Emperor of the Father.  The Hermit points to the Senex (Wise Old One) while the World is the Anima Mundi (soul of the world).

The late Jean-Claude Flornoy structured the trumps by having the Fool stand alone, cards I – V represent childhood, cards VI – X represent apprenticeship, cards XI – XV represent membership in a fraternity, cards XVI – XX represent mastery.  XXI (the World), in the centre of them all, is wisdom.

In one workshop I offered last year, I invited participants to create a timeline of their lives from birth until the present day and to write down important events along that timeline.  Beside each event, they laid a Major Arcanum, ignoring any traditional order.  Some people clustered cards that seemed to belong together.  Some cards stood alone.  Some were upright, others tilted to the side or arranged in pairs.  Each person ended up with an order for the trumps that made sense to them because it was rooted in their own experience.

All of these structures, and the many more that I didn’t mention, are valid.  They assist the ones meditating on and/or using the cards to remember things about the cards and about themselves.  There comes a point, however, at which whatever structure we’re using falls away, allowing Life’s Great Mysteries as illustrated in the tarot to stand one their own terms, free from the construct that helped us forge our understanding of them.

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The Tarot Talks About Its Structure

On March 23, 2013, we’ll hold another Toronto Tarot Symposium.  My presentation that day will be Tarot Structure: A Map for Living.  As the name suggests, we’ll explore the potentials of the 22 universal theme cards (the Majors) and the 14 stages to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual maturity (Ace through King of the four suits) to guide us to solutions and goals.  With this in mind, I interviewed the tarot about its own structure.  The deck with whom I spoke was the Camoin-Jodorowsky version of the Tarot de Marseille.

James:   What do you most want to tell us about your structure?

Tarot:  I. Le Bateleur.  My structure is both truth and distraction.

J: What is the truth of your structure?

T:  VIII. La Justice.  It is perfect balance and perfect objectivity.

J:  How is your structure a distraction?

T:  XI. La Force.  It’s something to wrestle with and chew on while the real work takes place.

J:  What is this real work?

T:  X. La Roue de Fortune.  Setting destiny in motion.

J:  How do you set destiny in motion?

T:  XX. Le Jugement.  By awakening heart, mind, and body from their repose.

J:  What connects this awakening with your structure?

T:  VI. L’Amoureux.  A well-aimed intention shot into a moment of choice.

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Same Old Question? No!

Trying to squeeze the answer you want to hear from the cards and/or the practitioner is a big no-no in my books.  Asking the same question ad nauseum in new disguises creates dependency and screws around with your mind.  Yanking cards from the tarot pack until your hopes or fears are justified sets you up for huge let-downs.

Imagine having a situation in your life that you’d like to discuss with a trusted friend.  You visit Trusted Friend (TF), tell hir about your situation, and request advice.  TF offers you the best counsel possible based on what you’ve told hir.  You go home and stew some more.  Next day, you visit TF again, talk about your problem, and s/he gives you similar advice as s/he did in the first chat.  You go home.  You ruminate again.  You pop in to chat with TF yet again.  By this time, TF has had it up to the eye teeth with the same old story, so s/he just tells you what you want to hear just so you’ll go away.

Imagine going to a tarot consultant in the same way that you went to TF.  Imagine your Inner Teacher getting really fed up with the same old questions without any action being taken on your part.  The tarot is going to mirror your wisdomsource’s fed-up-ness and mess with your mind.  Not fun.  Not helpful.  An addiction to needing to know something can be as harmful as an addiction to any chemical substance. 

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I used to offer “meet the public” tarot sessions at a bookstore in Toronto.  One consultation stands out for me in a not-so-good way.  The client and I talked about the cards in the context of hir question.  Suddenly, s/he reached for the tarot deck and began to pull cards willy-nilly, tossing them randomly onto the table while barking, “Come on, there’s got to be more!”  I calmly retrieved the pack from hir hands and said, “This reading is over.”

A few months ago, a person who had had two consultations about a particular topic called to have a session about the very same thing.  This person had done nothing based on our previous explorations nor had anything about hir situation changed.  I felt that I had done my part, so I gently and firmly said, “[Name], it seems to me that you’re looking for a particular answer and you haven’t gotten what you’ve wanted to hear.  I’ve done what I can and you have all the tarot-based information you need about [name of situation] for now.  If you’d like to have a consultation about something else, I’ll be happy to spend time with you over the tarot.  If not, you don’t need an appointment at this time.”

Such behaviour is an abdication of responsibility for one’s own life.  I won’t participate in such an interaction.  My tarot practice is an ethical one.  To explore sub-topics of a previously looked-at topic is fine.  Drawing cards for fresh questions that emerge from an intitial consultation is perfectly okay.  Forcing an issue, playing “tell me what I want to hear”, then getting huffy when a consultant/reader/practitioner won’t go along with it isn’t cool.

By all means, let’s cultivate healthy curiosity, but let’s not encourage quick fixes and hoped-for pat answers.  The sacred art of tarot consulting deserves respect and consciousness.

These words from pages 62 – 63 of Oracle of Initiation by Mellissae Lucia sum things up nicely:     “Do not ask the same question over and over again in a short period of time hoping for a different answer.  That is insulting to your Spirits and may affect their willingness to offer information…Just because you are resistant to the message does not mean they are wrong.  You may need to expand to meet the truth of what the cards are showing you.”

Image: The Devil from The Healing Tarot by Jennifer Elizabeth Moore.

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Tarot Shows the Present

“When we eliminate the illusion of ‘reading the future’, the Tarot becomes a psychological tool and a tool for self-knowledge.”

These words appear on page 420 of The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards by Alejandro Jodorowsky.  On page 432, he states, “The tarologist reads the present, which is the true unknown for the consultant…” 

Both sentences enliven me because, for me, the tarot, whether using its structure as a map or drawing random cards to surprise ourselves into insight, assists us to look at the here and now.  A tarot consultation is an opportunity to withdraw for a time from the bustle of a 21st century schedule in order to contemplate a visual representation of our present.  The symbols arranged before us invite us to notice what is occurring in our bodies, minds, emotions, souls, environment, and world right now. 

From the vantage point of the present, we can be aware of options, some of which we knew were there and some that seemed unknown because our minds were elsewhere.  Engaged with the tarot’s potent images, our imagination and creativity can call forth options, allowing us to choose more consciously.  Such choice-rich moments are empowering because they reveal to us more of who or what we can be, do, or have.

The tarot’s response to questions such as “What is the next right thing in my life?” or “What is the best possibility that can emerge from this situation?”  isn’t dipping into prediction, but rather is our Inner Teacher showing us, via the  language of the cards, something that already sits waiting for us to activate it or not, according to the choices we make based on the information delivered.  Again, it is seeing something that is present, but seems as though it doesn’t yet exist because we haven’t slowed down enough to pay attention to it.

The future isn’t some pre-ordained room into which we stroll hoping to find the goodies or dreading the crap we might encounter.  The future is the sum of our choices.  Thank Life that the tarot and other tools of insight can be lenses into the choices that dwell in the present.

Image: La Justice from the Camoin-Jodorowsky version of the Tarot de Marseille.

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I Value Who I Am and What I Do.

A portion of a phone conversation with a potential new client a little while ago.

New Person:  How come you charge $150 an hour for your tarot consultations?  Isn’t that a bit much?

Me:  Not if you take my 33 years of experience into account.

New Person:  OK, I get that, but $160?

Me:  Let me ask you something.  Do you get paid holidays and sick days?

New Person:  Yes.

Me:  I don’t.  I’m self-employed.  Do you get a regular salary?

New Person:  Yes?

Me:  I don’t.  I’m self-employed.  The hours vary.  What does your job consist of?

New Person:  I take bookings at [Name of Company].

Me:  Anything else?

New Person:  Not really.

Me:  I do tarot consultations for people, prepare for each session by looking over my notes about their topics and questions, create the map or layout for their consultations, do my own administration, make sure the place is clean when clients arrive, brew the tea, attend conferences, and buy books and decks related to my field of work.

New Person:  Oh.  That’s a lot.

Me:  I don’t begrudge any of it.  It’s all part of doing what I love to do and offering to the world what I’m called to offer.  It’s not just about the money, it’s a part of who I am.  $150 per hour ensures that I get fair compensation for it.

I’ll let this conversation speak for itself.

Image:  The Ten of Earth from the Tarot of the Spirit by Joyce Eakins and Pamela Eakins.

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Medicine Woman Inner Guidebook: What a Good Map!

Helpers, healers, and counsellors need help, healing, and counsel as much as anyone.  If we’re going to be of value to our clients and to our culture, we need to do the work (whatever form that takes for each of us) on ourselves.  My own practices of journalling, drawing a card for daily wisdom, and reciting phrases that remind me to be present and choose consciously all help.  Sitting in council with my peers and having my words and thoughts mirrored is of benefit.  My yearly check-in with a tarot mentor is a boon.

My latest mode of personal growth and constructive change is a return to The Medicine Woman Inner Guidebook by Carol Bridges.  This 239-page book accompanies the Medicine Woman Tarot, also designed by Bridges, one of my favourite packs of cards (among several).  Even without the cards, the book is a real repository of wisdom.  I’m slowly reading and re-reading certain parts in order to stay on track in my work as a tarot consultant, host of council circles, writer, and teacher.  Bridges’s viewpoint as the reader journeys through the structure of the tarot is one of wholism and sustainability.  More and more, I’m deepening into the structure of the deck — Majors and the progression of the four suits — as a template for living.

Besides meanings and some text in which each card speaks for itself, there are meditations, visualisations, and activities to carry out.  The Seed (Fool) reminds me to remain open to flow and to do something I’ve always wanted to do.  Resources (Magician) invites me to support only that which enhances the good with my money, time, and thoughts.  The Seeker (High Priestess) helped me look at long- and short-term cycles, to notice patterns, and to listen to the intuitive knowing of my body.  Bounty (Empress) took me for a nature walk in nearby parks and ravines. 

One of the most powerful activities I’ve done so far comes from the chapter on Command (Emperor).  The Chief in this card asked me to choose a challenging area in my life and to write down one-sentence synopses of my beliefs around it.  According to the Command chapter, those were the laws by which I was living that aspect of existence.  The invitation was then to rewrite each of them as a new “law” by which to govern that part of my life (like a chief or emperor) and remind myself of them often.  Then, since “command” is about working with a force that is already flowing, my duty as Chief of this part of me is to place those new laws and all activities connected with them into an already-happening flow of energy.  The results are showing!  I can’t wait to take these fresh personal laws and all associated actions to the Peacemaker (Hierophant) for refining.

The Medicine Woman Inner Guidebook is one brilliant example of a programme that employs the structure of the tarot as a map for walking this earthwalk in a good way.  There are others, too, but I wanted to bring this one to your attention at this time because I’m currently working with it in my own soul pilgrimage.  If you get a chance to read and work with it, please do.  And the deck reads well, too.

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Another Layout to Try

As you know, I like to work with the tarot in a spacious, interactive way.  A client and I can sometimes spend five to ten minutes on a single card until we get to the nugget that the symbols wants to call forth from the person’s inner teacher.  It is in this way that I invite you to spend time with this new layout.  There might only be four cards, but do give yourself an hour or so to really soak in the experience of them.  Questions 1 and 2 take us to the issue and what it wants to teach us.  Questions 3 and 4 help us to incorporate and live the knowledge or wisdom that emerges.  This spread, too, will be going into my new book, so please remember to credit me if you decide to use it with anyone.  I appreciate your respect in this matter.

“General” Tarot Counselling Layout

[1]   [2]   [3]   [4]

  1. What would like to be explored in this tarot session?
  2. What do I need to know or learn about it?
  3. How can I integrate this knowledge/teaching?
  4. What question am I invited to contemplate outside of this tarot session?

I’d be delighted to receive your feedback about the use of this layout.  And I’d be delighted to guide you through this spread in a personal consultation some time.

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A Sample from My Upcoming Book

The process of writing my new book of original tarot layouts has been one of flow.  The Muse and I are collaborating well.  I thought that you might enjoy seeing one of the spreads I’ve designed.  It’s based on qualities connected with the zodiacal sign of Taurus.  Try it out with tarot cards, Soul Cards, Crone Stones, or runes, or simply use the questions as prompts for a journal writing entry.  Please remember that this layout will appear in my book, so remember to credit me if you use it with anyone.  Thank you in advance for this act of respect.

Tarot Layout Based on Qualities of Taurus


[4]   [5]   [6]   [7]


[1]   [2]

  1. What are my deepest personal values?
  2. What in our world do I truly value?
  3. What service, product, and/or skill can I produce or build that serves both 1 & 2?
  4. What reliable tools and resources can help me to cultivate it/them?
  5. What earth-honouring, indigenous way(s) can help me to cultivate it/them?
  6. What stable, grounded habits can help me to cultivate it/them?
  7. What do I most need to invest in this service, product, and/or skill in order to bring it/them into being?
  8. How will I know that the work has been worth it?

Please let me know how it works for you.  And if you’d like to explore this layout in the context of a private tarot consultation, please contact me for an appointment.  I’d love to guide you through the process of producing something of value and meaning for our world!

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