Equinox Musings

The Autumnal Equinox (in the northern hemisphere) will take place at 4:20 a.m. Eastern Time on September 23.  We honour equal night and day, balance, the harvest.  We prepare to enter the cooler, darker time of year, wade into its depths step by step.  As I sit here at the table looking at the basket of squash, beets, and tomatoes, I light a beeswax candle and reflect on these themes. Questions arise, and I pull cards at random from the Gaian Tarot to respond to them:

  1. What is true balance?  XII, The Tree (Hanged One).  True balance is letting go, surrendering to process, a willingness to adopt an alternative perspective.
  2. For what bounteous gifts are we to be grateful this year?  XIII, DeathEndings that led us to renewal, our capacity to transform, the gift of the truth of impermanence.
  3. To what deep place are we journeying this autumn?  Child of EarthWe’re journeying to a place of tactile connection, the realm of awe of the body, Earth, nature, food, basic sustenance.
  4. How can we prepare for this deep, connective journey in a good way?  X, The WheelCreate and employ a centring practice as we observe and experience organic seasonal changes.  Remember that as beings who are part of nature, our own cycles and seasons of sadness and joy, having less and having enough, sleeping and waking, intimacy and autonomy, etc. are perfectly OK, so move with them.


I give thanks and extinguish the candle as I wish all of you a blessed Equinox.

Here’s something for all of you to do at home. It’s in four parts.

1. Go through the tarot trumps, one per day, for 22 consecutive days. Jot down three to six qualities about each card that you like and appreciate. For each quality, answer the question, “How can I show myself that I am more ____ today?”

2. Go through the tarot trumps, one per day, for 22 consecutive days. Jot down three to six qualities about each card that you feel could be problematic or painful in some way. For each quality, answer the question, “How can I show myself that I am less ____ today?”

3. Go through the tarot trumps, one per day, for 22 consecutive days. Jot down three to six qualities about each card that are inspiring and visionary. For each quality, answer the question, “How can I show myself that I carry a vision of ____ today?”

4. Go through the tarot trumps, one per day, for 22 consecutive days. Jot down three to six qualities about each card that you feel are calls to action on behalf of your community and/or on behalf of our world. For each quality, answer the question, “How can I take action on behalf of life based on the call to ____ today?”

At the end of the 88 days, what do you notice about yourself?

Eating the Tarot

I often encourage people (myself included) to EMBODY the tarot in some way so that the cards are more than just talk.  One enjoyable way to do so is to create a recipe from a tarot card then eat what you make.  Admittedly, puttering in the kitchen is relaxing for me.  To eat your tarot-based dish can be a sort of communion, a way to ingest what you want to create in yourself or in your life.  You can base your delicacies on the image, your understanding of the card, or both.  Below are two examples.

TAROT RECIPE EXAMPLE #1: Bounty/Empress Soup (based on Trump 3 from the Medicine Woman Tarot).


  • Soak three cobs of corn, husks still on, in water for at least 30 minutes.
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celcius).
  • Place corn cobs, husks still on, on a baking tray.
  • Place chopped potato, onion, squash, and bell pepper on another tray.  Drizzle with olive oil and freshly ground pepper. Toss.
  • Place both trays in pre-heated oven for 55 minutes to one hour.  Keep an eye on the corn; the husks should brown or blacken.
  • Remove both trays from oven and remove husks (which should be dry and dark) from corn.
  • Purée all ingredients in a food processor with a little stock.
  • Simmer the puréed mixture on low heat on the stove.
  • Serve in bowls (with a dollop of yoghurt, if you like).

TAROT RECIPE EXAMPLE #2: A Nine of Pentacles Dinner (based on the 9 of Pentacles from the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot).


  • First Course: Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves).
  • Second Course: Escargots (see the snail in the lower left corner).
  • Third course: Poultry (the bird).
  • Dessert: Grapes in Champagne Jelly.

You could even hold a pot-luck meal with your tarot study group.  People could bring dishes based on different suits and trumps.  Fun!

Resources to spark some recipe ideas include:

  • Tarot for Every Day (book) by Cait Johnson.
  • The Epicurean Tarot (deck) by Corrine Kenner.


Yesterday, I posed two questions on Facebook:

  1. What bores you the most in the world of tarot?
  2. What might be a fascinating alternative to that thing?

The varied responses, from my point of view, can be sugared down to:

  1. What bores most people is the tarot being treated as some sort of authoritarian “ism” (i.e. “This deck/spread/meaning/school of thought/book/etc. is right and that deck/spread/meaning/book/etc. is wrong, so you’d better get/use/know/adhere to/read this.”) and the deck as a relic that’s only for readings about surface matters.
  2. What might be a fascinating alternative would be to listen to, witness, honour, and respect the diverse roles that the tarot (and spreads, processes, books, etc.) can play.  People also seem to want experiences or encounters with the tarot that take them into experiences/encounters with something deeper and larger (the soul, interconnectedness, nature, our world, cultural change).

Today, I posed the same two questions to the tarot itself, drawing two random cards from the Voyager Tarot.  Its responses were:

  1. IV. EMPEROR.  “In the world of tarot, I’m most bored with power grabs, self-proclaimed ‘monarchs’, competitiveness, ego trips, and tarot-based dictatorships.”
  2. ACE OF WORLDS.  “A fascinating alternative to that might be for tarot people to celebrate and encourage one another’s success, practise tarot in ways that respect interrelatedness, use the cards to generate synergy, and, like the planets in our solar system, each play her/his role in the grand scheme of things in ways that are natural to her/him.”


Sunday, June 7 was our final day together at Aldermarsh.  The “official” part of the day was an extended circle that took place over the course of the morning and was made up of seven sections.

First, Joanna asked people to share a meaningful image, insight, or experience they had at the gathering.  I’m always freshly amazed and delighted at what stands out for people when they share these things.  Second, Joanna invited us to pull a card from whatever deck we had with us to respond to, “What wisdom am I taking home with me from this retreat?”  Mine was the 10 of Wands from the Voyager Tarot: personal growth from the wisdom of ancestors, descendants, and the growing things; continued flourishing of life within and around me; more ways to cultivate my Centre so it can bloom and thrive in life-affirming ways; deeper roots and higher aspirations.


Next, some people who had made Ojos de Diosa showed their art and told us something about it, many of them naming their pieces for the first time in our presence.  Then guidelines for how to re-enter one’s daily routine after the retreat were offered: listen to the people at home about what occurred there while you were away, share your retreat experience with trusted people in a conscious way (i.e. in a circle-like manner) when you feel ready, place yourself within three feet of the Earth’s surface as often as possible, be aware of mood changes that can indicate grief about no longer being in the retreat environment, journal, nap, take baths, take your time, and so forth.

The fifth component of Sunday morning was a Circle of Blessings, an opportunity for participants to step into the middle of the group, state their year-long projects/intentions from the Callings and Resources activity (see the article about Saturday) and what they need in order to make it happen, and to receive the blessings of everybody else in the room through sound, touch, words, song, laughter, breath, etc.  My own intention was/is “more of this” by which I meant offering more full-day, weekend, and multi-day experiences such as retreats that bring together circle process, symbolic tools and processes, time in Nature, and clear intention in service to Life.  What I needed/need is to know:

1. What would make weekend or multi-day gatherings (such as retreats) hosted by me magnetically appealing to people?

2. What life-affirming tools, processes, and/or experiences would nourish people’s souls at such gatherings?

We concluded by retrieving our special objects from the altar, stating, “I am now leaving retreat time”, and using our voices, bodies, drums, and rattles to thank the seven directions, four elements, four archetypes, and aspects of ourselves that supported our time together with such care.

After photo ops, lunch, and clean-up, it was time to depart the beauty and magic of Aldermarsh to go forth and embody Earth’s dreams for a better future.

Most of us at the end of the retreat (photo by Joanna Powell Colbert).

Most of us at the end of the retreat (photo by Joanna Powell Colbert).

We began Saturday, June 6 with another Morning Circle, a time to share what was in our hearts and minds so far about what we were experiencing on the retreat.  Again, we pulled random cards to gain wisdom for the day ahead.  My own symbol, Unconscious (#6) from the Oracle of Initiation, suggested: whatever is happening is a mirror of my own unconscious; bring myself back to awareness when attention fades; allow what needs to emerge from the Deep Place Within to do so; find courage to embrace unknown aspects of myself; allowing connections between dreams, blue waters and skies, rich brown earth, and green growing beings to unfold.


Then I guided the group through two processes from the Work That Reconnects, a body of life-affirming, Earth-honouring activities and ideas by eco-philosopher Joanna Macy and associates.  The first one, The Seventh Generation (aka the Double Circle), was a ritual dialogue between people here in 2015 and those 200 years or so in the future.  Through this imaginative meeting, people got in touch with the atrocities happening in our time, their feelings about them, first steps they could take to change them, and sources of strength and courage to keep them going.  The Seventh Generation ritual helped us remember how to be good ancestors.

After a pause, we did the Callings and Resources exercise (aka Gifts and Resources).  First, we reflected on all that had emerged for us from the dreams, the tarot readings, the nature walks, and the Seventh Generation ritual.  Then, in pairs, participants connected with a vision of how to be of service to life on Earth, a specific project to carry out over the next year, resources to call upon and to attain, potential blocks and how to overcome them, and actions to take over the course of the week following the EarthDreaming retreat.  As one spoke, the other scribed.  The scribe got a nurturing hand massage at the end as a “thank you” from the speaking partner.


An image of the Spiral of the Work That Reconnects (art by Dori Midnight).

Saturday afternoon was Free Time.  Some people stayed and worked on making Ojos de Diosa in Marsh House, others went to a nearby beach, some went for a walk or napped.  I did a private tarot consultation for one of the participants then made my way up the hill to the Whidbey Institute to walk the labyrinth, do the Dance of Life in the gorgeous wooden Sanctuary, and savour the land and its foliage.

The Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary.

That evening, Lee LaMar led us all in a Drumming Circle at Marsh House.  He taught three basic rhythmic patterns then got the group doing all three of them.  Magic happened as people began to improvise with drums, rattles, and other percussion instruments.  Many of us vocalised chants we knew spontaneously, adding harmony as we felt called to do so.  Some folks got up to dance and move their bodies to the mind-altering beauty of the instruments.  Gradually, we wound it down to soft chanting as the sun set and our central candle was the sole light.  Good basic communal ceremony at its best!

Before bed, time for a sauna, visiting with new and old friends, sacred art play, and just unwinding after a rich day.


Friday, June 5 brought us EarthDreaming retreatants into deep symbolic space.

During Morning Circle we shared significant experiences we’d had at Aldermarsh up until that point.  To hear what carried heart and meaning for each person was moving.  Then we each pulled a tarot or oracle card for the day and spent five minutes journalling about its wisdom for the day for us.  My own card, the Knight of Wands from the Greenwood Tarot, suggested: sniff out the soul, reflect on where I’ve been in order to get me to where I need to be, focus on Self.

Greenwood Knight of Wands.

Greenwood Knight of Wands.

Next, we held Dream Council.  This telling of “big” sleep-state dreams was carried out in the spirit of a dream coming not only from and for the personal psyche, but also from and for the collective psyche and from and for the Earth’s psyche.  We explored and tended them as creative, healing experiences that were/are gifts from and for the entire Web of Life which includes us.  Dreams were shared in two ways.  First, we read them aloud as is, from the perspective of the dreamer in the present moment.  The second time around, we told the dreams from the perspective of the Earth, replacing “I, me, my” with “the Earth, Gaia, First Mother’s” etc.  To listen to and imagine each dream from this larger point of view made them more vital.  The final part of Dream Council was to reflect on the common themes that emerged and to write down and speak aloud an open-ended question that came to mind based on those themes.  My own question was/is, “How can the waters of the world show us a direct path through what is out of control?”

The group then went outdoors to spend time with Grandparent Fir and to engage in a silent, contemplative Nature Walk.  We did not talk with our human friends and did not go into any human-made structure, but rather stayed outside to build a more-than-verbal connection with wild roses, rabbits, alders, stones, grasses, clouds, and all the beings.  It was a beautiful way to round out our Friday morning.

After lunch, people had the opportunity for Sacred Art Play with Joanna.  She taught people how to make Ojos de Diosa (Eyes of the Goddess) with sticks, yarn, and various adornments.  The care with which folks wove these pieces together spoke to me of the care they have for living at this time.  That afternoon, I also performed private tarot consultations for a couple of participants.  Visual magic all ’round!

Our altar/centre with Ojos de Diosa added to it (photo by Joanna Powell Colbert).

Our altar/centre with Ojos de Diosa added to it (photo by Joanna Powell Colbert).

The latter part of Friday afternoon was dedicated to amplifying the dreams we had shared by employing the tarot.  Each retreatant listed hir dream characters, components, events, and scenes, then drew a card for each one.  Sharing observations of the symbols with activity partners helped people notice richer layers in their night-visions.  In addition to the personal, these layouts were intended to explore what else the Planet Herself was suggesting.  We summarised our readings by responding to the question, “Why might the Earth have given you these particular cards at this time?”

Trump III from the Noblet TdM.

Trump III from the Noblet TdM.

After dinner (another of Elaine’s brilliant repasts!), we gathered in Marsh House to do the Dance of Life, a series of movements that honours the wisdom of each of the four main directions.  We did this to a recording of She Who Hears the Cries of the World by Jennifer Berezan.  This dance was a gorgeous, embodied way to wind down a full and lovely day before moving into social time, quiet art-making, or relaxing in the sauna.

There’s more to tell you about the rest of the EarthDreaming retreat, but what do you notice so far?  What stands out for you in these first two blog posts about the gathering?



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