It’s snowing. There’s no going outside. Like C.S. Lewis’s home bound children, I spent the morning looking for a magic wardrobe.

People or books tend to be my magical doorways and today I walked into a book. Perusing The Watkins Dictionary of Symbols, I came across a excellent discovery and new word.

The Tetramorph.

Ever wonder about those four creatures in the corners of the World card?

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See the similarity between the images?

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Christ In Glory, circa 1200,  British Museum

I’m not talking about the figures in the middle. Although it is worth noting that within Tarot, it is YOU, who becomes the Divine. Which, of course, you are!

Check out the four corners. Those figures are a Tetramorphs.

The Watkins Dictionary says, “In some cultures, the four-headed guardians of the four directions on space – symbolizing in many traditions the universality of divine dominion and guarantee against the return of primal chaos. The four biblical tetramorphs described in the first chapter of Ezekiel have the heads of a man, lion, ox and eagle.”

Christianity goes on to link this with the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

With Christ’s incarnation, resurrection, sacrifice and ascension.

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Above, Christ with Four Evangelists, Bode Museum.

Tarotist link the corners with the four directions and the four suits of tarot.

Astrologers with Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius which of course connect to the vernal equinox, summer solstice, autumnal equinox and winter solstice.

We have the complete cycle of the year and the FINAL card in Tarot, the World card.

We all know Smith and Waite took loads of inspiration from Christian symbolism but it is still super fun to see them all together.

440px-CLUNY-Coffret_Christ_1Above, we see 13th Century Ivory Carving “Christ in Majesty.”

The Tetramorph was not unique to Christianity. Like all religion, Christianity was built on the shoulders of those who worshiped and prayed before. The Tetramorph was first seen in in ancient Mesopotamia. Note below, how the Palace Guardian below combines the elements of human (face), eagle (wings), lion (body).

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Palace Guardian, c. 965 BCE, British Museum

You will find the Tetramorph in the four corners of the Wheel of Fortune card too.

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Does any of this help us divine the future?

Nope.

But Tarot symbolism helps us unlock the past. Especially when we examine Tarot imagery as a repository of the human spirit. We see how early man understood the nature of the world.

And those of us who listen to secrets whispered from the past (and tarot speaks to you all the time) are bound to unlock unexpected gateways to the future .

Happy snow day and happy hunting.

Hope you discover your own magical doorway today!

Xo

Angels and Tarot

January 30, 2015

This is why I love working with Tarot…

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New York City was frigidly cold yesterday morning. But the earth angles have shifted since Winter Solstice and the sunlight contains the lemon yellow of summer not the blinding white of winter. You can see spring in the light even if you can’t feel it on your cheeks, even if our bundled sweaters and wool gloves tell us otherwise.

My daughter and I walked westward toward her school with the sun behind us. It was at such an angle that our shadows stretched long and narrow before us, like Slenderman stick figures. A least a quarter of the block long. We marveled at our specters and wondered if they were us walking to school in a dream scape. We watched our shadows appear on passing taxis  as we waited for the streetlights to flick from red to green.

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I dropped her to school and retraced my steps. Now walking East, toward the sunlight, I saw a million photographical moments. It was like strolling through a hard cover, coffee table, photo art book. Yellow light spilled around the Empire State Building, bounced off the top of Madison Square Garden and poured over the morning rush below. Each commuter looked like a fire breathing dragon. Their heads buried into their scarves, plunging ahead to their offices and shops while their normally invisible breath curled up and around them dissolving into the air like Medusa snakes yearning to break free.

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2 blocks from my apartment, I found myself on a mysteriously desolate block. A wine and chocolate bar with heated outdoor seating, pumped a Motown song into the street. Marvin Gaye’s voice echoed between the empty concrete canyons and all around me. The song sounded … hollow … like the music they played in The Shining’s flashback sequences …. like a forgotten memory.

The sideway glistened and I swear, it felt as if I had stepped inside a vampire film. I sensed (imagined?) figures, not of this world surrounding me, just out of sight, behind the parking garage wall, peering from the roof, in the apartment building above me, under the sidewalk grates looking up.

I began to take it to a dark place, thinking these things were waiting to pounce. Then I remembered human nature brings conflict and danger into every story. We also tend to fear what we don’t understand. So, I waited for a moment, listened and felt the experience with my body.

It wasn’t dangerous, just different. Not of this world.

It occurred to me, perhaps they were angels. And I heard the flutter of a thousand feathers beating and their wings disturbing the air. But their eyes. That was what I felt most of all. And it wasn’t one or two which is how I normally experience my guides. It was dozens.

I slowly moved towards home. The song ended, dying down to absolute quiet. No new song came on. Silence.

A million goosebumps erupted and I shivered down my spine!!!!!

I came home and pulled a tarot card to discover what it all meant, if I was correct in my interpretation of the strangeness. I pulled:

The Temperance Card.

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The Angel.

I love tarot.

Because sometimes, when you aren’t sure you know what’s going on, or if magic is real, Tarot reminds you and confirms that it is. :)

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Does post-Halloween depression descend on you as quick as icy November wind?

Halloween roadkill breaks my heart. You’ve seen it. Discounted bat and skull decorations, neglected costumes, stale candy shoved onto back store shelves, making room for the green and red explosion of tinsel, elves, and Santas.

Doesn’t it seem like Halloween is cruelly ripped away? As if Halloween were a passing fancy, picked up, used and thrown aside like the crunchy leaves your dad used to rake into black garbage bags when you were done jumping in them.

But, I’m cheered by the fact that winter solstice and the longest nights of the year loom ahead. That the chilly nights of November and December are ripe for magic, meditation and reflection. That Charles Dickens’s best ghost stories are about Christmas.

Plus, it’s almost time to bring a live, living tree into the house. And what could be spookier than an evening visit from a mysterious man bearing gifts?

So, I ignore the crass commercialization and monetization of the season as the year winds down. I recall what ensuing holidays are really, truly and cross-culturally about. Darkness and rebirth.

And I reach for my cards … because the joy of reading tarot is that we peer behind the veil every time we flip a card. No matter the calendar date.

1. Trick or Treat with Your Cards

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~Shuffle your deck randomly and select any number of cards you like, face down.
~Imagine these are doors you will knock on.
~Say, “Trick or treat!” and flip the card as if the door were opening.
~Let the card answer you with a message.
~The message is your treat!

2. Perform Victorian Parlor Tricks with a Card

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~ An old Victorian divinatory game instructs a woman to walk upstairs, backwards, eating a boiled egg, without salt,and peer into a looking glass. There, she shall see the face of her true love.
~Do this very same thing but use a random tarot card instead of or in addition to a mirror.

3. Perform a Reading for a Dead Historical Figure

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~ Have you ever given a reading to a ghost? You might try it. Perhaps you’d like to read cards for Washington Irving, Ed Wood or Bram Stoker.
~ Communicate with them through your cards.

4. Dress as a Card

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~ You don’t have to wear an all out costume.
~ Wear a moon hair clip to connect to the High Priestess, a scythe necklace to connect with Death. A faux snakeskin belt to connect with the Magician.
~ Do so mindfully. Wear the symbol of the card, you also invoke the energy of the archetype.

5. Use a Tarot Card in a Magic Spell

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~ Tarot cards are powerful visual tools. Archetypes contain energetic reserves. Use both in spell work.
~ And if you’ve never cast a spell, perhaps it is high time you try…

I write books about tarot (here’s a pic of my newest baby) which means loads of tarot facts are thumping around between my ears. If you are reading these words, it means you love to study the cards as much as I do.

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Tarot students are often nervous to “get it wrong”  if they don’t know what a card means. What most new cartomancers don’t realize is that their so-called ignorance of the cards is really their strongest asset. The key is waiting for the information to come to you.

“Book knowledge” and vast arrays of esoteric theory are not necessarily helpful when it comes down to reading for ourselves. After all, we dive into the cards and visit psychics/intuitives for information we don’t know. If we knew it, we wouldn’t be asking in the first place.

When reading for ourselves how can we break out of the rut of what we know? How do we keep our personal readings fresh and insightful?

Simple.

Ask the cards what you don’t know.

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1). Clear your mind.

2). Sit with shuffled deck in front of you.

3). State out loud, “What I don’t know about the _____ card is that ________________.”

4). Fill in the blanks by selecting a card and finishing the sentence. Don’t try too hard. Let some aspect off card strike you and state it clearly and articulate it out loud or write it down.

Once you figure out why this particular answer came to you, discover why it is relevant to your situation.

You will know your information is good if:

1). The information surprises you or makes no sense.

2). Upon reflection, the information holds particular resonance for you.

~~~~~~~~

 

Personal Example:

Yesterday morning, I grabbed my tarot deck, thick with the humidity of summer. I said, “What I don’t know about ((randomly selected)) the Moon card is that…” I waited for it to come to me “… the brown dog on the left belongs to Gertrude Stein.”

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Hmmmmm, ok, that’s a weird piece of information.

But Gertrude Stein holds a certain amount of personal resonance for me. I googled “Gertrude Stein’s dog” to discover if she was indeed a dog owner/lover. She was. Even renowned photographer Man Ray photographed her beloved pooch. Here’s Ms. Stein is with her dog Basket and Alice B. Tolkas (pictured on the right):

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I understood why I received this random message and it was two-fold. First, it was a joy to discover that some random part of my consciousness picked up on a true fact. Two, and more importantly, I’ve been revising my first novel this summer and it has been a monster struggle.

Gertrude Stein was a mentor and guru to many of the 20th Century’s greatest modernist writers and artists. I went further in interpreting the message: “It is important to plod forward, just like the Moon’s crawfish crawling out of the water. Move forward, one word at a time. And passing the towers, braving the beasts and basking in mysterious moonlight confusion, the ghosts of artists past, present and future travel with you. While the road marked is your own, you are far from the first to travel on it.

Now how’s that for a message first thing in the morning?

~~~~~~~

I hope you try this way of questioning the cards and I hope you find it fun and useful. It makes a great addition to your card-a-day practice.

Drop me a line or a comment if you want to share any cool messages that you receive by using this method.

Speaking of the Moon tarot card, enjoy tomorrow night’s Full Moon!!!

And check out this awesome recent review of 365 Tarot Spreads on Spirituality Today!

Today, May 22nd, is World Goth Day!

It inspired a spread from my newest book, 365 Tarot Spreads. 

 

Gothic Torture Spread

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Explore transcendent themes of darkness as expressed by gothic culture. Curl up in a castle, befriend the shadows, bask in the moonlight and embrace the gloaming of your soul with a sublime tarot spread:

 

1. Grotesque: What truth have I distorted?

2. Horror: What scares me?

3. Romance: What excites me?

4. Curse: What plagues me?

5. Ghostly: What haunts me?

6. Mysterious: What mystery must be unraveled?

7. Desolate: What makes me feel bleak and empty?

8. Death: What has been lost?

9. Angst: What hope fills me with the sense of overcoming the uselessness of this situation?

10. Creativity: What makes my darkness so beautiful?

 

Cast your cards in the shape of an ankh, an ancient symbol of life:

 4.

3.             5.

2.             6.

  7.

    1.                      8.

    9.

     1o.

Find this spread and 364 more in my new book:

365 Tarot Spreads

The image of the Lovers comes from Ian DanielsThe Tarot of Vampyres.

 

 

 

 

I was thrilled when Llewellyn asked me to contribute to their tarot blog. This article is a repost. Please find the original posting here: Llewellyn Tarot Blog.

Happy Spring!

Ace-of-Wands

“I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees.”

Pablo Neruda

Neruda’s erotically charged words perfectly describe what happens within the Ace of Wands, don’t they? Especially the RWS Ace of Wands. The ace is literally shuddering, shedding its leaves in excitement. The wand throbs with fire and passion, blooming like a woman in the throws of lust and abandon, pushed to her limits, filled by her lover.

This is the absolute essence the entire suit of Wands.

Spring wakes everything up, it pokes and nudges us. We feel it it the very recess of our bones as we find the sun, shed heavy winter clothing and bask in lingering twilight evenings. We notice the purple shock of a blooming flower, warm breezes tickle our skin, farmer’s markets buzz with excitement as early asparagus and sweet peas appear. Can we align our decks and our souls with the tremblings of Spring? Can we milk fire’s magic out of a tarot deck? Out of ourselves? I think we can.

Four-of-Wands

The shift of seasons are important, they keep us in touch with nature’s rhythms and remind us we are part of nature, not separate from it. Various schools assign different tarot suits to the seasons. But Wands and the element of fire are the power that germinates a seed to sprout. Wands are the voltage of true magic, the currents dividing the pentacle-like cells in within your body.  Wands, like spring, wake us up. But more importantly, they move us to action. Wands gets things accomplished.

It is important to differentiate between the desire reverberating inside Wands and the fluid emotion spilling out of Cups. They should not be confused. Desire and love intertwine like vines of woven wisteria and honeysuckle. But they are two distinctly different things. Desire requires action while love requires feeling. Love moves mountains but it can also be a passive experience. Desire and the suit of Wands always carry a physical, visible side effect. The spark of flirtation that brings people together. A flash of passion moving a person or crowd to action. The fire ignited when injustice is witnessed or experienced. And the element of longing, that sweet ache, painful deliciousness, toe curling, never satisfying, deep in your bones longing comes straight from Wands.

Eight-of-Wands

Become a consort to spring as it surrenders itself. Feel yourself melting and sliding into summer. Grasp the Wands of desire in your hands. Find what makes you quiver and embrace it every day. Give readings to lovers, then embrace your own infatuations. Toss imaginary tarot cards at everyone you pass. Cook a meal like it’s the last one you’ll ever eat. Dig up the garden just to smell the dirt on your skin. Find an old tarot deck and bury your favorite card to see what blossoms. Cast cards in the moonlight and charge your deck by day in the sun. Call forth the fireflies and take destiny into your own hands. Feel fortune rolling in your palm, throw it toward the stars. Let them shower back over you reflecting your own brilliance.

Spring clean with your deck, pull a card for each room. Dust off your Magician wand, polish the Hermit’s lantern and light a candle inside, fasten baskets of flowers to your porch like the Hanged Man, dip into Temperance’s pond, drive to work like the Chariot, be as brazen as Death and cavort with the Devil.

The torchlight of Wands helps me to see perfectly inside of you. I’m looking right now. You are beautiful. I see infinite winding roads, dark caverns waiting to be filled, and pages of life ready to be written. Just like spring, you’ve only just begun. And no one, not even I, know what you have in store.

So, on languid spring nights, when no one is watching and you sit alone, shuffle your cards. Let the Wands of tarot light a fire inside of you. Most importantly, let them spark you towards those untraveled places inside yourself.

Let Wands illuminate and warm you from within so as summer arrives, you’ll drip with magic, weave effortless enchantment and conjure your heart and bodily desire.

Cast your cards wisely…

The High Priestess is tarot favorite as she represents intuition, inner knowledge and the powerful hidden force of the female. Her connection to the moon and water, flow and magic make her an iconic soul sister and mirror to the spirit.

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Gazing at her image, I am reminded of invisible forces thriving deep inside. These unseen strains emulate via thoughts and actions. They become the gestures which ultimately create and determine our lives. What we turn into reality seems to spring from somewhere beneath her white robes.

Is your destiny written on her scroll? When you sense de ja vu, is it because she’s already whispered it to you? And where are the bubbling, rushing waters behind her leading you?

It is not her lunar energy or water connection I’ve been preoccupied with but the pillars she sits between.

Kabbalah study, in relation to tarot, is fascinating, yet challenging. How does this philosophical rendering relate to us on a personal level, let alone a reading?

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The High Priestess sits between two pillars as does the Hierophant and Justice. On a basic level, the two pillars represent opposite spectrums, dark to light, masculine to feminine, push and pull, creation and destruction. The middle pillar is the fleshy figure in the card and if taken literally, is YOU.

Understanding the nature of these pillars may unlock those special parts of yourself and give you fresh, unfettered access to the High Priestess.

New Age thought tells you to follow your passion and live your purpose. Good advice. However, I think true magic erupts when you work from a collision of opposites. Acting from the middle pillar, embodying the High Priestess.

A painter uses a collision of colors to bring a canvas to life, the composer uses the combination of unexpected notes to create a symphony, novels and films use the mash up of characters to create compelling narrative. In cooking, it is the salty and sweet, the creamy with smoky, the combination of opposites, that makes our mouth water.

New and unexpected are the hallmarks of creativity. Admittedly, the most creative thing each of us does every day is craft our own lives.

And isn’t this what makes the thrill of love and infatuation so exciting? The blending of the known (you) and the unknown (your lover). The uncovering of the unknown.

Lots of the things we want and desire, be they people, objects or passions, don’t necessarily come from the same place, nor are they compatible. They are from opposite pillars. We are often told by society and the “outside world” that they are unacceptable.

But it is inside the collisions and contradictions of you that makes you … well … you.

Complicated, deep, silly and profound. Unique among 7 billion people.

And isn’t the very nature of life itself made up of the collision/integration of seen vs. unseen? When you really think of it, the very experience of life wrapped and contained inside the interpretation of our own heads.

Seen (Pentacles)

Physical world, outward appearance, stuff we can see, feel and touch.

vs.

Unseen (Wands, Swords and Cups)

Passions, desires, dreams, plans, our perceptions of the world and events and imagination,  thought and most importantly emotion.

I’m paying extra attention right now to the HIgh Priestess see how the opposites in my life create interesting tension and frisson.

Do you have thoughts on embodying the middle pillar?

How you have successfully blended oppositional themes, aesthetics and desires in your life?

If so, please share them below. Would love to hear your thoughts.

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