78 Notes to Self: A Tarot Journal

We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Karmic Wrist-Slap

When you see Justice in symbolic iconography, she is often depicted with scales.  They represent, of course, balance.  Hers is the cosmic force of karma which is the means of keeping human behavior in equilibrium.  Sometimes people can go years and years doing underhanded crap and it seems maybe Justice isn't looking.  But given the right moment, she sneaks up on situations and people and delivers her backhand with aplomb.  It is meant to be corrective, not retributive, so we must be careful when celebrating someone getting what was coming to them.  It's not always the hand of Justice.  Sometimes it's just the Wheel turning, and Providence is simply dealing one a normal dose of life's vicissitudes.  We need to watch our own attitudes and judgments, lest we become too haughty and presumptuous, such as some well-known political televangelists who seem to enjoy pointing out that earthquakes in Haiti are the direct result of the population's practice of Voodoo, or that AIDS is Justice for a homosexual lifestyle.  That kind of arrogance sets one up for a karmic backhand of your own.  It's all about Balance and taking a wide-angle view.  That scale is wielded by a goddess, not a mortal, who sees over time and into hearts and intentions.  We, being quite myopic and unable to hear all the evidence that she is privy to, can't begin to fully assess the final decree.

Often she lends a gentle warning, a smack on the wrist, rather than a full on backhand slap upside the head.  Sometimes it's so gentle it goes unnoticed, but we are wiser to pay attention.  Recently Theresa Reed published a wonderful post on her blog, The Tarot Lady, called "The F Word."  It pretty much sums up the way I and many other tarot readers feel about reclaiming the fortune telling aspect of tarot.  There does seem to be a strong sense in the tarot community of distancing from predictive readings, of "telling the future," and yet those of us who read professionally can attest that most of our clients come to us wanting us to read their future.  I wholeheartedly support Theresa's statements.   I got pissy  four years ago at a tarot conference because fortune telling and divination seemed to be addressed as so "passe," that the only acceptable and worthy use of reading tarot was for one's own "spiritual enlightenment." I left the table in a hurry lest I said something I'd regret. I went out for a smoke and found a small clan of tarot readers who likewise felt the same. It was comforting, but we felt "rebellious,"  as if we weren't in the center of things but in the margins. Well, that's ok with me.  The margins are where I've lived my whole life, so what makes practicing tarot any different? Fortune tellers are, and forever will be, margin dwellers. Celebrate it if you dare and if you identify with it. I don't care to legitimize it for it may lose its magic otherwise. Dance in the margins and offer your gifts to those who visit there.  

Then came the karmic nudge.  Two days later, Theresa blogged again.  This time, her post "Medium Low" described a scene in a television reality show where a well-known psychic medium showed herself in a most undesirable light.  While I know that kind of thing makes for good TV, it also embarrasses those of us in the fortune-telling community that work hard to maintain a respectable and ethical environment.  She wrote:
The grand irony is that I had just written an article on reclaiming the dignity of the psychic profession (“The F Word”), when along comes this “psychic” (of some renown apparently) displaying behavior that would be considered abhorrent to anyone, but which is particularly shameful and harmful when done by someone who represents the profession on television in front of millions of viewers.

I don't know if anyone else felt the nudge, but I did.  In my fervor for reclaiming the fortune teller moniker in all its glory, this was a stern reminder of why the term has fallen into disfavor.  Psychics and tarot readers are human and as such we are prone to mistakes and showing our less than attractive sides.  But then there are those, and I'm not saying this woman on the show is such a one, who seem to make it their mission to downgrade the profession.  Some think its an easy way to make a few bucks, to tell clients what they want to hear, to pretend to read their futures, to do cold readings with much ado and flourish.   Clear away the smoke and mirrors and you find...nothing of substance.  The general public knows this and expects fortune tellers to be all fluff and no genuine substance.  We're entertaining and all, but that's about it.  Maybe Justice wanted me to know that there is a reason for this perception and not to dismiss it casually.  I need to likewise respect the well-founded impression that the public holds for tarot readers while simultaneously do my best to counter it by being genuine and by offering more than smoke and mirrors.  Also, there is good reason why some tarot readers opt out of doing predictive readings.  Some have found them to be of little practical value and have chosen not to offer them because they've found their own personal gift and strength is in a form of life coaching using tarot.  People who seek out their services tend to be the kind of people who want that kind of reading and those who want more predictive readings simply move on to another kind of reader.

The point is, there are many reasons why fortune telling has earned its reputation and it takes more than a simple statement of reclamation to tidy up its image.  I'm not saying it can't be done, but I don't think it will ever be considered entirely legitimate.  I'm not sure we should even want it to be.  The appeal of fortune telling lies in its mystery and magical otherworldly aura.  It rightfully belongs in the margins, in that liminal place where the High Priestess dwells, between acceptable and non-acceptable.  As long as one is comfortable in the margins I think there is where fortune telling becomes respected.  It will always be something doubted by skeptics, but then again, even mainstream professions like psychology have their skeptics, too. 

Justice broadens my view in ways no one else can.  She helps me view all sides of an issue with the least amount of bias I can muster.  She helps keep my own views in balance and the lessons she has taught me have been the most significant in my life.  She never fails to remind me when my mind is becoming too narrow, my sight too myopic, or my stance too dogmatic.  She tells me all is not what it seems, there is much to be considered before rendering judgment and her authority will not be usurped by the likes of mortals, that we are all simply subjects of her cosmic court and as such are vulnerable to her decrees as well.  Luckily for us, her aim is to help us grow and become more whole, more compassionate, more divine.  Her drive is not to punish but to correct, to balance, and we are more liable to avoid the more severe sentences if we respond positively to the lighter ones.

Credits: Justice tarot card from The Classic Tarot By Carlo DellaRocca, a reproduction of a Milanese deck, dated 1835. Published by Lo Scarabeo 2000

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Reading Sale

1 comment
In the spirit of the season, I am having a reading sale.  Ten dollars off my Full Reading, regularly $40, is currently $30.  Also, if you would like to purchase a reading for someone as a gift, I have also discounted my Gift Certificates to $30 as well.  This sale will last until January 1.  Email me at sophia78notes@yahoo.com to request a reading and we'll discuss. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Tangled Webs We Weave
Relationship readings.  The boon and the bane of every tarot reader's practice.  I love them and I hate them.  I love them because I'm all about relationships.  People are so interesting and difficult to predict.  Even so-called "predictable" people are known to throw a definitive curveball on occasion.  The fascinating thing about relationship readings is they, too, can throw a distinct curve.  I am a woman who has seen her share of relationships and consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the tendencies and patterns of people.  But I am routinely surprised when tarot pipes in with some off the wall advice or outcomes to relationship questions.

Most often, the scenario that seems to unfold is that what appears to be the death knell of many relationships, tarot chimes in with, "It's not over."  It causes me, as a reader, many shakings of my head.  I sometimes wish it would say differently.  I wish it would just put the poor heartbroken client out of their misery.  But then, it's not up to me to pontificate on what I think would be best, that's not why my clients ask me to read tarot for them.  Still, even when tarot says, "It's not over," also does not mean there will be a happy ending.  At least not in the way one may imagine.  Many times I've seen, via my repeat clients, the story of a relationship unfold, one reading to the next.  Sometimes, when tarot says, "It's not over," is because the querant isn't ready for it to be over.  There may be unfinished business, not only between the couple, but most often, inside the querant themselves. One more round between them is exactly what my client may need before they can cleanly let go.  So just because a tarot reading may indicate that there is unfinished dealings between a couple, it doesn't mean the reconciliation is pending.

Predicting other people's behavior is really tough sometimes.  I have a spread that examines someone's thoughts, feelings, desires and likely actions in a relationship and there is almost always a glaring disparity between what someone wants versus what they will likely do.  I find that fascinating, but I am quick to remind my querants that I do often see that disparity and just because someone may want to be your Knight of Cups doesn't mean they will act on it.  Likewise, just because they may want to run away and never speak to you again doesn't mean they will.  The thing to remember, too, and this is crucially important, is that a relationship reading is primarily about you.  It's only secondarily about the other person.  All insights tarot may have are for you to consider about yourself, your thoughts, your feelings and your future actions.  While it may certainly help you better understand someone else, ultimately you are the one in control of your choices and responses.

A tarot relationship reading can help one be better prepared for making those decisions.  It can affirm what you may already be feeling about what to do.  It can calm the freakouts and allow you to rationally and somewhat objectively assess your next move.  The finest benefit is that it creates a time for you to re-evaluate your own feelings and whether or not you want to continue pursuing a relationship with that other person.  It serves the querant best when it is viewed as a way to feel more empowered in a situation where fifty percent of the interaction is entirely out of one's control.  Because ultimately, you are in the drivers seat of your own life and that includes your relationship choices.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hearing Voices
My statement in the comments section from this  post  regarding the "personalities" of decks seems to fly in the face of my stance that these tarot cards are inanimate bits of paper and ink that have no power in and of themselves.  How can I say on one hand that they lay lifeless until the reader gives them voice and on the other hand state they have unique "personalities?"  It's really just a metaphor, and I think tarot readers are so accustomed to speaking in metaphor, given the symbolic and highly metaphorical nature of tarot cards, that we tend to say stuff like this and it goes unchallenged because we "get it."  But not everyone reads tarot and not everyone gets it.  And some people are fruit loops and think the cards actually talk.  But no lie, it sometimes seems like they do.

When I chose my first tarot deck I did so out of purely subjective preference for the artistic style of the deck.  I really love art deco/nouveau, 1930's era children's book illustrations and pre-raphaelite styles.  I was torn between Pamela Coleman Smith's and Frieda Harris' styles.  Of the Rider-Waite-Smith choices the softened colors of the Universal Waite appealed to me and the large size of the Thoth deck counted against it as I have smallish hands and needed a deck I could actually shuffle. (I have since learned this deck comes in a smaller size.)  In the end I eventually acquired both, but I started with the Universal Waite.  Tarot was so new to me then that I didn't perceive any particular "personality" to the deck.  To me it was just a deck of lovely pictures that I was trying to learn and decode.  That deck became very worn very fast.  It remains one of my favorite decks to read with and I tend to use the RWS when reading professionally because I am so familiar with it and it feels very straightforward to me.   I don't want to have to work any harder than I already do.

Soon enough, I felt the yearning for a different deck, a different set of pictures or at least the same pictures drawn a different way.  I chose the Robin Wood tarot.  It was so like the RWS that I had come to know, but different enough to challenge me and force me to look at certain cards a different way.  I still think the Robin Wood deck's Devil card is one of the most unique I've seen and the 3 of Swords, 7 of Swords, and 8 of Swords are, to me, very compelling.  I don't care for most of the court cards, though, and they have a very late 70's early 80's style of art that wasn't appealing to me.  I still hadn't sensed "personality" in these decks but was focusing mainly on the appeal of the art.  The Robin Wood reads similarly to the RWS, so it wasn't much of a difference.  As I began collecting decks that appealed to me and started reading with them, I think the first one I noticed myself having a distinctly different response to the cards was the Fey deck.  The scenes on the cards, seemingly childish and cartoon-like, actually held within them much depth and darkness, and yet the figures would often seem playful and not at all serious.  The images themselves seemed to reach into places inside my mind that my other decks did not go and they inspired me to look at the meanings of certain cards in a unique way.  This is what lends a deck its "voice" and "personality."

The voice of the deck, how it "speaks" to you, is subject to your own experiences and preferences.  Certain images will provoke certain responses from you while others leave you blank.  That's why we choose certain decks over others, because of our own visceral responses to them. That response will differ from reader to reader as it is highly individual.  The Thoth, to me, is slightly dark, humorous, and snide.  When reading with this deck, I sometimes feel like it's being sarcastic or playing a slightly amusing to itself joke on me.  It's an intelligent and dry kind of humor that doesn't sit well with some people.  The Hudes deck, while some don't like the "dull" expressions on the faces, I love it for its quiet and somber mood.  It's deep to me and expressive.  I can only really "hear" the voice of a deck if I work with it a lot.  I have to get to know its distinct personality, the way it sends its unique messages, the tone of readings that are common with the deck.  I was really surprised by the cute, retro Housewives Tarot.  It was so kitchy and fun, I picked it up on a lark, just because it reminded me of all the old TV shows I used to watch as a kid.  But when I began reading with it, I was floored by the straightforward, "listen up, girlfriend!" readings it gave.

One thing I have learned about decks and their unique styles is that you never can tell how one will strike you.  You may love the artistic style, but when reading, it lies flat on the table, mumbling its messages.  I say, "Speak up!  I can't hear you!" and it just keeps murmuring.  This is not the fault of the deck at all.  It's not really a fault even.  It's just that the images, appealing as they may be, just aren't resonating with my subconscious storehouse of associations.  I've given these decks away to others for whom that chatter incessantly.

It can be tempting to become a deck hoarder just to sample the variety of personalities out there, but what I found when my deck collection began to grow is that I just didn't work with new decks enough to hear them well.  One has to really become familiar with a deck by reading with it a lot before you can really assess its tone and style.  Which is why deck reviews have very little appeal to me.  While some may find them useful, my experience with tarot is unlike watching a movie or eating at a restaurant.  It's even more intensely subjective and one person's "dud" deck is another one's tried and true gut-spilling oracle.  Just because a deck may or may not "read well" for one person is no indication at all whether I will click with it or not.  I appreciate deck reviews mainly as exposure for new decks I haven't seen yet.  Following the online link to the author and/or artist website so I can see more has led to a few purchases.  After acquiring around twenty or so decks, I stopped collecting.  Tarot decks are, to me, like confidantes.  Just as I can't possibly truly know a hundred people intimately, I feel I wouldn't have time to really get to know more decks.  I am not closed to the opportunity to make a new friend with a new deck, if I should find one that especially appeals to me, but I am now very selective about those choices. 

Here's an example of how I "hear" the Housewives Tarot:

Question:  I just applied for a position at my place of work.  Is there anything I can do to increase my chances of getting the job?

That Queen of Cups is all, "I know, honey.  You're so tired of the process and you want something to come through for you soon.  It's really hard.  Here, have a drink and relax.  You've already submitted your application and there's nothing you can do now but wait and see if they contact you.  You know you are more than qualified for that position.  They would be so lucky to get you!"  (Thanks, I needed that bit of encouragement)

Temperance: "Just wait a bit.  Keep doing your present job to the best of your ability.  Don't do anything rash.  Keep stirring, just keep stirring.  You know the secret to baking is the precise amounts of ingredients, so maintain a good balance between giving a damn but not letting it affect your life outside of work.  Remember what happened  the last time when you allowed yourself to get a little carried away with the attitude that it was a sure thing?  Yeah, your cake fell and bubbled all over the oven.  Just allow yourself a measured bit of hope with realistic thinking."  (Oh.  Ok.  Good reminder)

Five of Wands: "It's a highly competitive environment both in and out of your workplace.  You have to show how talented and skilled you are above the others vying for the job in order to make an impression.  There are just too many applicants that all have the same skills.  Find a way to stand out and shine! Now go get 'em, Girlfriend!" ( I'll be happy to do this if I score an interview)

See, to me, it's a very positive deck and yet realistic.  It's not Pollyanna-ish, but it is lighthearted.  I love this deck for advice readings.  I don't usually use it in professional readings because people tend to look at it quizzically like, "That's a tarot deck? What am I paying for here?  June Cleaver's predictions?"  I like it, but that doesn't mean everyone will.

Same question, same cards, different deck: The Thoth

The Queen is enshrouded in mist and can barely be seen or heard.  Her voice sounds muffled as if speaking under water.  I'm hearing her speak more to my mind, impressions, not a voice with words.  It sounds much like she's trying to calm me, soothe and comfort me,  reminding me that I am fine just the way I am.  But I won't get this job unless I really want it.  I have to feel the desire, not just speak it.

Temperance shows I'm going to need a good dose of mojo working in my favor to get this job.  It's a job that calls for a blending of many different qualities and skills, so I need to be aware that I'm going to need some heavenly odds in my favor, some magickal working.

Five of Wands -- Even with the gods in my favor, I'm still going to have a lot of competition, so without the gods, I'm screwed.

Thanks a lot, Thoth.

Others will likely see and hear these cards differently than I, and that's my point.  The cards themselves don't really have a voice or personality but that which the reader ascribes or associates with them.  The artist may intend one thing, but the viewer of the art perceives another.  We can argue forever about why this or that deck is "awful" or "fabulous" but in the end we're only talking about ourselves.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Dark Side of Being Human
"Cruelty is a part of nature, at least of human nature, but it is the one thing that seems unnatural to us."  ~Robinson Jeffers

I finally visited the National Holocaust Museum recently.  I've been wanting to do this since it opened its doors in Washington D.C.  Although I am neither Jewish, nor German, nor related to anyone, that I know of, who perished during World War II, I still felt a human obligation to bear witness to the event.  

I was really young when I first discovered accounts of the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps.   The public library was one of my favorite haunts and I soon discovered the Reference Room, the back room that housed large volumes that weren't on loan but could be read on the premises.  I scoured the shelves, fascinated.  I don't know how I found the book, whether it was a history book or what, but I remember sitting on the floor between the tall bookshelves, alone in the Reference Room, discovering what one group of people did to others in hatred.  We didn't learn about this in school in those days.  It was the early to mid 1970's and I was only vaguely aware that Nazi soldiers and swastikas were somehow "bad"  but I was not aware at the time of the deep-seated  and widespread hatred of Jewish people.

I should have.  My neighborhood was almost entirely white Protestant.  Jews, Catholics, and Blacks were considered "other."  But it never occurred to me to be anything besides curious about those "others."  There was the Catholic family that lived behind us that had sixteen children.  Why so many? Because they were Catholic.  That made no sense to the mind of a child that knew nothing of sex or procreation or why being Catholic made one prone to having many children. Besides, the neighbors across the street were also Catholic and they only had two kids. We weren't Catholic and there were four kids in my family. The Catholic kids all went to private Catholic school and wore plaid skirts and white shirts.  I wondered what it was like to attend that school.  I imagined it was like going to Sunday School every day.  There was one Jewish boy in my class.  I asked him what it was like to be Jewish.  He said, "I don't know, what's it like to not be Jewish?"  I then asked him why Jewish people didn't believe in Jesus.  He replied, "We believe in Jesus, we just don't believe he was the Son of  God."  Which got me thinking about what that meant.  Did I even believe that?  And why should anyone be "different" just because they do or don't believe this?  I didn't have any Black friends until Jr. High and into High School.  I just didn't.  It wasn't a choice as the option wasn't available to me.  There just wasn't much diversity in the neighborhood and I wasn't allowed to venture too far beyond its borders.  My elders were racist.  My mother tried not to be.  I viewed those unlike myself as curiosities, different, interesting, and while it's not anything even remotely like hatred, it is a kind of prejudice, too.  It's called Othering. 

I prefer the Anthropological definition of Othering.  It is a simplistic recognition of normal human diversity, combined with ethnocentric thinking that can lead to a tendency to depict ‘others’ as somehow, categorically, topologically, intrinsically, different.  Unfortunately, this leads to placing a value judgment on those differences and it seems to be human nature to believe that one's own group's ways are superior to those who do things differently and therefore must be lesser.  We are "normal" while they are "abnormal," and even "sub-human."  We are right and they are wrong.  It is entirely possible, and preferable, to observe the differences and not place value on those differences but instead employ cultural relativism.  Cultural relativism is the principle that an individual human's beliefs and activities should be understood by others in terms of that individual's own culture.  Unfortunately, this anthropological and philosophical approach was not developed until the 1920's and was not known outside of academic circles until after 1942.  Ironically, this approach had its origin in the German Enlightenment through the philosophies of Immanuel Kant and his student Johann Gottfried Herder.  In the late 1700's  Herder argued that Jews in Germany should enjoy the full rights and obligations of Germans, and that the non-Jews of the world owed a debt to Jews for centuries of abuse, and that this debt could be discharged only by actively assisting those Jews who wished to do so to regain political sovereignty in their ancient homeland of Israel Herder refused to adhere to a rigid racial theory, writing that "notwithstanding the varieties of the human form, there is but one and the same species of man throughout the whole earth". He also announced that "national glory is a deceiving seducer. When it reaches a certain height, it clasps the head with an iron band. The enclosed sees nothing in the mist but his own picture; he is susceptible to no foreign impressions."

Truth is, the average person in the Western world  was not as culturally sensitive and aware in the middle of the last century as we are today.  Well, most of us, anyway.  We still Other others.  We still talk about other nations and peoples as if they were lesser because they do things differently.  But while we may cringe at the idea that the wife of the commanding officer at Buchenwald collected tattooed human skin, our own military sent home the skulls of "japs" from the war in Japan as souvenirs.  We rounded up American citizens and interred them in camps, too.  In the name of "National Security."  We destroyed businesses, families, homes, lives.  I'm not excusing the Nazis by any means.  Interring people in camps and systematically exterminating them are miles apart.  Heaping up piles of corpses, mass graves, human bonfires...we all know how wrong it is, no matter if one has heard of cultural relativism or not. But it starts with Othering and ends in human destruction.

I've heard the Holocaust deniers.  I know people are quibbling over the number of people that were exterminated.  The official, commonly accepted, count:
  • Jews- 5.9 million (close to two thirds of Europe's Jewish population)
  • Soviet POW's- 3.3 million
  • Non-Jewish Poles- 1.8-2 million
  • Romanis ('gypsies')- 220,000- 270,000 (but even the higher figure may be too low)
  • Disabled- 200,000 - 250,000
  • Homosexuals- 5,000 - 15,000
  • Jehovah's Witnesses- 2,500 - 5,000
Some will say no, it wasn't six million Jews, only about a million.  Well, a million is unfathomable, too, so shut up.  The gas chambers didn't exist, they say.  The piles of corpses all died from typhus and starvation. Nevermind that the Nazis own records and diaries condemn them.  What the deniers want is a smoking gun, a signed, sealed and notarized direct order from Hitler himself that outlines the construction of gas chambers and disposal of millions of bodies.  As meticulous as the Nazis were, atrocities are still atrocities and whether or not they were aware of cultural relativism, everyone knew what they were doing was morally repugnant.  They didn't broadcast their Final Solution.

Anyone deemed "different" was not only shunned but killed. Differences were color-coded.  Concentration camp prisoners were made to wear badges on their clothes that designated their particular difference, their reason for extermination.  Some of these inverted colored triangles have since been re-appropriated into symbols of pride and as a protest against discrimination.  Depending on the triangle color it designated your particular "otherness."  Pink was for (male) Homosexuals; Red stood for Political Prisoner (which all Jews were considered); Green was for Criminals, though that category grew quite large since it was, after all, a crime in Nazi Germany to speak ill of Hitler or the Nazi Party or to resist the government in any way, to consort with Jews, even to buy goods or services from them, to assist a Jew in any way, etc.; Blue was for Emigrants, those German citizens who fled Nazi Germany and were captured;  Purple was for Bible Believers, those whose faith prevented them from taking oaths and swearing allegiance to the government; Black was for "asocial" persons, lesbians, or persons considered "work-shy" (Romanis were classified as such at first); Brown was for Romanis, the gypsies.  Jews had the red inverted triangle with a yellow triangle overlaying it to form the Star of David.  Some had designations of letters inside the triangle, such as P for Poles.  The identification seemed important to the Nazis, though I'm not sure why, as they had designated all but themselves as unworthy.  Insanity isn't always chaotic.  Sometimes its very neat and organized.

My first exposure to the atrocities when I was a child set up a sort of resistance in my own mind to learning anything substantial about World War II.  I really didn't want to know, I had seen enough.  Although I couldn't comprehend it, and I still can't and don't know anyone who can, I also couldn't bring myself to read any political justification or "reasons" for war, for genocide, for destruction, for hatred so deep it resulted in That.  Unspeakable.  Horror.  I grew up with political suspicion.  I was just a baby when the Kennedys were assassinated, a child when Nixon  resigned over his Watergate transgressions.  I grew up not trusting government systems and not really believing what was broadcast on the news.  When the World Trade Center buildings were destroyed, that very morning I remember thinking I wouldn't be surprised if our own government officials were behind it.  I'm just very cynical, I suppose.  And cautious.  And did I mention suspicious?  I am suspicious of the motives behind those who vilify Muslims in our recent political climate.  I hear conservative politicians making shit up about Muslim communities out of paranoia and quite frankly, I can't help but hear the sound of marching jackboots when they do.  I've watched as folks jump on the bandwagon to protest an Islamic Community Center taking up residence a few blocks away from the former site of the WTC, calling it a "Ground Zero Mosque" as if it was to be erected right on the rubble.  I sense the groundswell of bigotry and I cringe inside.  It's frightening to me that Middle Eastern shops and places of worship were vandalized in the wake of 9/11.  I am not Muslim, but I remember the pictures of  KristallnachtThis is what is also disturbing behind the new immigration policies and laws in Arizona.  Whenever a particular group of people, distinguished by race or creed or gender or lifestyle, is singled out for "special treatment,"  I get very, very nervous.  Particularly so when people in government or stations of influence are trying to gain support for such treatment such as Newt Gingrich's recent comments about Muslim Sharia Law posing a threat to the US Constitution. And then there's Rich Iott, the Republican nominee for Congress from Ohio's 9th District, who for years donned a German Waffen SS uniform and participated in Nazi re-enactments.   Sometimes the statements from those who align themselves with the new US Tea Party movement sound a bit too much like the "patriotic" call to arms from Germany's past:  "Germany for the Germans!"  And while I know it is poor internet form to throw up the Nazi card in discussions because it is done far too often and is usually a lame straw-man argument, I am doing so here because, well, it just seems too similar in its roots.  While I haven't heard anyone yet dare to speak of annihilating any group, there are serious proposals to limit their participation in American life, to curtail their civil rights, based only on their nationality or religious affiliation.  Mexican-Americans already must be prepared to show forth their papers at any time in states that border Mexico and even then there have been incidents where their genuine papers have been deemed forgeries and deported illegally.  These things have me concerned.

But this is not a political post, not really, and it's not even so much about tarot, per se.  I am far too out of the political loop to coherently debate these current issues.  Just like those who jump on the "No Ground Zero Mosque!" bandwagon with little information to go on, I may also be jumping to conclusions.  We're all at the mercy of which news feeds we read.  The more I learn about history, from ancient times to modern times, I am struck by the observation that humans have not really changed much and I think this is the reason such things concern me.  I think people often live under a false notion that because we have already experienced such an atrocity as the Holocaust, we have learned our lesson and it will never happen again, that we have evolved since then.  Heck, the term "cultural relativism"  wasn't even known outside of universities until after WWII.  Regardless, religious teachings for thousands of years have promoted anti-xenophobic attitudes.  Othering is something human societies seem prone to.  The constancy of human nature over time and across cultures is something that allows the tarot to remain relevant.  Many of the symbolic images, colors, shapes and figures pre-date tarot and have been part of human culture for ages.  That we can take these cards, which were developed into the form we know them today only several hundred years ago but which contain iconography and archetypal representations from the distant past, and interpret meaning which is totally modern and applicable to one's life today, is proof that humans are really much the same as we always have been.  The practice of divination, too, is also ancient and people have always used whatever is at their disposal to predict, interpret and manifest intuitive meaning and significance to their relatively short lives.  What really makes us so different today that we could not repeat the grand-scale horrors of human history?  Clearly General Eisenhower understood this propensity of humans when he wrote to Marshall at the liberation of the camps:
"The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they [there] were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit [to Gotha] deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda.”
Many understand this tendency, especially to downplay atrocities after the fact because we don't want to believe we belong to a species capable of such cruelty.  Denial is never a healthy response because it dooms us to ignorance.  There is plenty enough blame to go around, in that no country or group involved in a war can be entirely absolved of guilt.  U.S. concentration camps with German prisoners were atrocious as well.  The civilian casualties from Allied bombings and raids were legion.  "Collateral damage" from any war is entirely repugnant. My studies into history and human culture have broadened my view to a much more encompassing perspective.  I own what we have done.  I hate it, but I own it.  I am not unlike the "others" who are so cruel.  I am one of them.  They are us.

This isn't an exercise in self-hatred.  This isn't a "we suck" party at all.  It's a recognition that the human capacity for evil, for cruelty, for bigotry and hatred lies within us all.  It is understanding that "they" are no worse than "we" if they only practice their biases differently.  Certainly, I can be intolerant of intolerance, bigoted against bigotry, but the irony is suffocating.  It's like hitting your child to teach them not to hit.  Last night while watching the movie, Invictus, the story of how Nelson Mandela used the South African rugby team to encourage the fractured new nation to unite,  I was struck by the way Mandela recognized the very human temptation to follow the old cycles and repeat each others mistakes.  Mandela recognized the team's importance to the white minority, a minority that was still very powerful, and rather than erase the team and create an entirely new one, he encourages the existing almost all-white team to victory in the World Cup.  That victory was a watershed moment in South African history, a reconciliation in a violently race-torn country.  It's perfectly understandable how someone imprisoned for 30 years might want to come out and turn around and eradicate the white minority from the country, yet not so understandable when that same person seeks to create harmony and reconciliation.  We marvel at the conviction of such a man because it appears to go against human nature.  And yet we claim to not understand our cruel side.  I think we understand it better than we admit.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Do You Believe In Tarot?
When asked if she wanted a tarot reading, a friend replied laughing, "Oh, I don't believe in that."  I haven't been able to stop thinking about that response.  What exactly does she not believe in?  I wish I had thought to ask, but her response was so very commonplace that I just breezed right past it.  I wish I had thought to probe the statement further because I really am curious what it is that people think constitutes "belief" in tarot.  To me, tarot either works or it doesn't.  There really isn't much belief involved there.  Having read tarot thousands of times, I have seen it work with enough reliability that I don't have to believe.  Is belief a prerequisite to getting a reading?  It probably helps, but I don't think it's necessary. In fact, a predisposed belief in tarot may skew the results in such a way that the querant may not be able to critically examine the reading and authentically extract genuine benefit. Then again, maybe I am confusing "belief" with "blind faith."  A simple belief that tarot works probably isn't detrimental whereas blind faith can be, well, blind.

But the idea of believing in or not believing in tarot seems novel to me.  It's like asking if one believes in symbolism or art or history.  Does one believe in deriving personal meaning from a painting, a poem, a piece of music? It's not something one believes or doesn't, it's something one either does or not.  I know there are people who view art but do not personalize the experience.  They see it either as appealing or not but don't necessarily apply any significance to their own lives or thought process.  But if you asked them, "Do you believe in art?" I am quite certain they would look at you puzzled and ask, "What do you mean? Do I believe in that painting over there?  Of course I do, it exists.  Just like this chair I am sitting in or the vase of flowers on that table."  That is how I view tarot.  It just is.  It doesn't require a belief to exist, but one can either derive meaning from the cards or not. 

Do you believe tarot images are archetypal? A quick study of symbolism and art from varied cultures will soon persuade you they are.  Do you believe tarot can tell your future?  In the hands of an intuitive reader these cards, whether the reader be a novice or well seasoned,  just might.  Do you believe in the subconscious, the intuition, or do you ignore those in favor of concrete facts and evidence of proof?  I daresay give your intuition a chance and you will get all the facts and proof you need. 

Oh, I get it now!  I know what you don't believe in.  You don't believe in the woo-woo, the psychic predictive fortune-telling, destiny revealing practice of reading tarot.  Well, that's ok.  Lots of tarot readers don't either.  Instead, I would ask if you believe in gaining insight and help with sorting out the confusion of making a decision where no one "right" way is clearly revealed?  Do you believe in plumbing the depths of mind and soul to unearth revelations and create new paths for your self to trod?  Because tarot can assist with that, too.  When you say you don't "believe" in "that stuff" are you, like so many, lumping tarot in with all the charlatans, snake oil salesmen, frauds and thieves that dupe naive people out of their hard-earned money?  Or are you simply saying that in order for a reading to have any significance to you, you would first have to believe in the tarot's ability to be relevant to your life?  Because if it is the latter, you have a point. 

Tarot is not for everyone, to be sure.  But I suspect it could be for a lot more people if they only knew that they don't have to believe in supernatural woo-woo to gain their money's worth from a reading.  They don't have to suspend their disbelief either.  They can, and I hope they do, critically examine the cards, what the reader explains, how the interpretation relates or doesn't relate to their situation, to themselves.  I hope they come as a bit of a skeptic and raise one eyebrow toward the reader.  I beg of you, do not check your critical thinking skills at the door.  An involved and questioning querent is essential to deriving the most value from any tarot reading.  If you want to know why the reader ascribed a certain meaning to a particular card, ask them.  Bring your own intuition to the table.  Try the reader's intuition on for size but if it pinches and pulls, don't wear it.  Use your own.  It fits you like a glove.  If she says this card means this and only this, challenge her, politely, of course.  You don't have to discard your own perceptions and accept those of someone else.  Not if you want a rewarding reading.    And would it help if I told you there is even a card or two in the deck that symbolizes the positive trait of critical thinking?  There is, in fact, an entire suit devoted to the thought processes of the mind.  Check your brain at the door to a reading? Never!

To tarot or not to tarot may be the question, but it's not whether to believe or not in tarot.  It's not a religion, it's not a faith.  It is more closely aligned with art than science.  It is a practice, a discipline, an exercise.  It is not, however, a belief.  At least, I don't believe so.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Conversation
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A while ago, I had the pleasure of a conversation with Enrique Enriquez which he has published on his tarology blog.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Notable Nods
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Happy 100th Podcast to The Tarot Connection! For Leisa Refalo's most recent podcast she invited a panel of four other tarot readers and professionals from the tarot community to exchange ideas and opinions about some of the recent "hot topics" in the tarot world today:
* Certification
* Legitimizing Tarot vs.Reading on the Fringe
* Individual Expression
* Spiritual Elitism
* Tarot Police
* Counseling
* Rephrasing Questions
* Insurance Fraud
* Copyrights & Trademarks
* Fraud
* World Tarot Day
* Intellectual Property
  Her guests for the discussion were Donnaleigh, radio podcast personality, professional tarot reader & psychic artist; Storm Cestivani, Celebrity Psychic; Thalassa, producer of the San Francisco Bay Area Tarot Symposium; and me, Ginny Hunt, professional tarot reader and author of the tarot blog 78 Notes To Self. The show approaches these topics in order to generate discussion, not to be any kind of authoritative word on them and there were some valid points to consider, especially if one reads tarot professionally or attempting to offer something valuable to the tarot community at large.  I recommend also reading the comments section below the podcast on the site.

If you've never checked out author and artist Enrique Enriquez's blog, tarology (beta), it's a must.  Very creative and loaded with rich articles, poetry and musings.   He's the author of the e-book Looking at the Marseilles Tarot: Notes on Tarot's Optical Language.  He makes this ancient deck accessible and workable even for those who don't get non-pictorial pips.  Enrique has been featuring the most fascinating conversations with contributors in the tarot community.  They're not "interviews" but conversations and they're delightful to read, especially if you get into the heady intellectual/artsy stuff like I do.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stuff Made of Win
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Leisa released a new podcast!  Actually, two!  In a month!  I'm excited, can you tell?  Epsiode 98 of The Tarot Connection podcast is all about Jupiter transits with Dena DeCastro.  I am so intrigued by the blending of astrology and tarot, but I'm so skeptical about combining them, too.  Nevermind my internal conflict, listen to the podcast and enjoy these two professionals at work.

Episode 99 is an interesting blend of tarot professionals talking about Significators and with which court they identify.  If you've never really used Significators, you might want to read the handout from Episode 26 on Significators.  (The podcast episode itself has been archived and is available for purchase at shop.tarotconnection.net in the Year One Archive mp3 DVD.) 

I just had a fabulous session last night with Intuitive Coach, Jennifer Halls.  She works magic, I tell you! Everyone is intuitive and everyone can benefit from learning how to fine tune the intuitive muscles and inner guidance that is always available to each one of us if we can learn how to listen.  Jennifer cuts right to the heart of the situation and with her own strong and accurate intuitive skills and helps her clients reclaim what is rightfully theirs -- connection with the energy and guidance all around us and within us to live our lives as we are meant to.  She is the developer of You know.™ a unique way of teaching intuitive skills. She also teaches tarot, naturally. 

Tarosophy, the brainchild of Marcus Katz, founder of Tarot Professionals, now hosts Tarot Town a new social network for tarot people.  It's free to join and tarot people are fun and...interesting.  Do it.  You know you want to.

And a shamelesss plug, my Solstice Sale ends July 31, so for two more weeks my Full Email Readings are just $30, that's $10 off my usual rate of $40.  Gift Certificates are available for $30 for this limited time as well.  Who says you can't give one to yourself to use later?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Reading Sale!
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In honor of Summer Solstice through the end of July I am offering tarot Readings at a discounted rate of $30, that's $10 off the usual Full Reading rate. 

If you've never had a reading with me you'll want to read my About My Readings page first. Then email me so we can chat about your reading before we begin.   To get a reading just click on the Purchase A Tarot Reading link.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Just The Facts, Ma'am
I didn't have any idea how the cards actually worked or if they worked, but I wanted my friend to read them for me.  I think I was probably the most unremarkable querant she had ever had.  I didn't even want to look at the cards.  They were just meaningless pictures to me and held no significance to the reading.  The predictions were what I was after!  I figured she was the reader, she could tell me what they meant without my having to see them.  So, since we were just hanging out at her house,  I got up and walked around and didn't even care to see which card was what when she went through them.  As a reader, would that irritate you?  I think it would have baffled me early on as a reader, but now I understand.  Querants are as individual as anyone and some want all sorts of descriptive talk about the cards, their symbolism, references to the image, the figure's position and so forth.  One client of mine interrupted me once during one such descriptive reading I was giving to say, "Are you going to read the cards or am I?"  She didn't care for all the reasons for the interpretation, she just wanted me to get to the point.  Remembering my pacing around the room during my first tarot reading, I understood her desire and quickly reined in my flourishes and stated the meanings.
I have an affinity for all the aspects of the tarot images and so want to share all the depth and richness therein that I sometimes forget not everyone gets as excited as I do about the position of the Hanged Man's legs or the scroll on the High Priestess' lap.  Some readers might even refuse to do a reading for someone who doesn't want to look at the cards.  So many use the images as Rorschach cards or Jungian archetypes to help the querant arrive at their own conclusions, their own reading.  While that is a legitimate use of tarot and one of its purposes, I can assure you that had someone asked me those types of probing questions of me at my first reading, I would have sensed their pseudo-psychology and handed out a healthy dose of attitude.  I might have retorted just as my one client had, "Are you reading the cards or am I?" 

Since my reading practice is primarily online, there is a lack of immediacy where I can even point out a feature on a card.  I also want my clients to know that I am not just making shit up, at least not where their reading is concerned, and I am basing my interpretations of their cards on legitimate, sound, logical, even traditional meanings of the tarot.  Since they are not in the room with me, how do they know I even shuffled a deck or pulled any cards for them?  If I don't directly associate what I am saying to a particular card, then I could just be pontificating with my own common sense, which is fine, but not what I'm paid to do.  So I really think this kind of descriptive association is more or less essential to a good email reading.  But when a reading is live there seems to be less need for many clients to get into the details of each card. 

I'm not knocking anyone's reading style at all.  If one's reading style is more cooperative in nature where the client's impressions of the card images play a strong part in the reading, that's wonderful.  I've done many readings this way and they work quite well with the right personalities.  Others just want to cut to the chase.  I find the latter are folks that really aren't that interested in the cards themselves, but rather feel they are paying a professional for a service rendered and thereby are the due recipient of that service.  Nothing wrong with that.  The reading isn't about me, anyway.  It isn't about showcasing my talents or being a teacher or even a guide.  The tarot reading is about the cards and the querant.  Period.

During a large gathering of tarot aficionados, one reader stated that she felt there was a natural evolution to reading and while one may begin with divination and fortune telling, it grows up into a spiritual practice that pretty much leaves that "immature" stuff behind.  The cards are then used solely for delving into one's spiritual state and nothing else.  I started to feel my "bad self" get irked, so I left the room for a smoke lest I say something that might offend the woo woo.  What I wanted to say was a hearty, "Bullshit!"  Tarot cards are non-limiting by the very nature of their archetypal images which embrace the whole of humanity's experiences, emotions, growing pains, and dynamics.  Why limit their use to one area of self?  The spiritual is important, no doubt, but we still gotta eat, pay the rent, have sex, wash dishes, fix a broken whatchamacallit and deal with noisy neighbors.  There's an entire suit in tarot, the suit of Pentacles, that deals with all this mundanity, in fact.  Will I get the job?  How can I make more money?  Which school should I attend?  Does so and so like me? Where is my lost watch?  All of these are genuine questions we can ask of tarot and expect a valid  answer.  Doesn't mean you'll get one, but you probably will.

Not every reader is a good tarot reader for every client.  There is definitely a personality and style meshing that has to occur.  Today, I would want a reader to tell me how she arrived at her conclusions from the cards, not because I want to critique her reading, but because I want to learn and maybe her insight into a particular card or arrangement of cards can bring me some additional insight.  If I went to a reader who just told me what she thought the cards meant without explanation, I'd probably raise an eyebrow askance.  I'd be thinking, "What do you even need the cards for if you were just going to pull that out of your underwear?"  But see, that's me, the tarot card lover, talking.  Twenty years ago, the me-querant in my friend's living room, just wanted to be told what I would be doing a couple miles down my future road.   So even my own clients have sometimes changed in their own approach to the readings.  They sometimes feel the need for more explanation and detail and other times not so much.  Within reason, I want to be able to accommodate their needs and adjust my reading style to suit.  Of course, if we don't mesh, we don't, and there's no adjusting for that, they just need another reader. 

This accommodating way just may be a feature of my Libran personality and may not be as easy for everyone.  There are some readers who simply have a "signature style" and that style is the very reason people seek them out for their readings.  Much like someone who favors Dior over Lauren, for example.  It doesn't make Lauren any less or Dior any more, it just makes them different.  It's pretty important, I think, to discuss your expectations for a reading before you pay for it, but so few people realize they can do that.  I don't mean the $5 reader at the table in the coffee shop, you can pretty much expect you get what you pay for -- and many times be pleasantly surprised you got a lot more.  I mean the reader you sink $100 or more into an hour's tarot time with them.  Most of them call themselves "tarot consultants" so that alone should give you a clue they might have something a bit different to offer than the lady with the neon palm reader sign flashing in her living room window.  But just because you pay more doesn't mean you get more if what you get isn't what you thought you were paying for.  Most reputable readers encourage discussion before hiring so everyone understands, at least generally, what to expect.  

So what's tarot for?  Is it for delving into spiritual? For fortune telling? Predictions? A guide? A Magic 8-Ball? What do you feel the primary purpose of a tarot reading should be?

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Darker Side of Empathy
I've been thinking a lot about empathy.  It's difficult to talk about empathy in woo woo circles because the lines are blurred between garden variety empathy and the extra-sensory abilities of the empath.  Just for the sake of simplicity, I am not diving into the empath realm here.  Instead, I'd rather focus for the moment on the human quality of empathy and its shortcomings for tarot readers.  Empathy has long been touted as essential for anyone whose occupation or passion involves dealing with people.  From doctors to salespeople to customer service agents, empathy for one's client is seen as an essential element to productive communication and problem solving.  I agree.  Identifying with someone else's feelings in any given matter is crucial to understanding how to help someone and if helping someone is your goal then you sure as hell better try to walk a mile in their shoes. 

Empathy is the capacity to recognize or understand another's state of mind or emotion. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes", or to in some way experience the outlook or emotions of another being within oneself. It may be described metaphorically as an emotional kind of resonance or mirroring.  Empathy is distinct from sympathy, pity, emotional contagion, and telepathy, which is what we describe as "empaths." Sympathy is the feeling of compassion for another, the wish to see them better off or happier, often described as "feeling sorry" for someone. Pity is feeling that another is in trouble and in need of help as they cannot fix their problems themselves. Emotional contagion is when a person imitatively 'catches' the emotions that others are showing without necessarily recognizing this is happening. Telepathy is not a psychological phenomenon, but a paranormal phenomenon, whereby emotions or other mental states can be read directly, without needing to infer, or perceive expressive clues about the other person. Pity is, "Things are bad for you, you seem as though you need help." Sympathy is, "I'm sorry for your sadness, I wish to help." Emotional Contagion is, "You feel sad and now I feel sad." Empathy is, "I recognize how you feel." Apathy is, "I don't care how you feel. " Telepathy is, "I read your sadness without you expressing it to me in any normal way."

I think we can mix these up quite a bit.   Empathy is not merely the recognition of another's feelings but the ability to identify with and actually feel those emotions without it being emotional contagion or telepathy.  A natural way to do this is to imagine oneself in the other's predicament and if that is not sufficient due to a lack of personal experience, to imagine or remember an event or experience from one's own life where similar feelings were involved.  In tarot terms, the Queen of Swords would be great at empathizing because she has the objectivity of the air element in the Swords suit in combination with the element of water due to her Queenliness. The Queen of Cups would be prone to emotional contagion, though she may be more likely to be an empath.  The Queen of Pentacles would be a great sympathizer and pitier.  I think the Queen of Wands may co-opt others feelings for her own and run with them, and therein lies one of the major pitfalls of empathy.

Empathy is such a wonderful and valuable quality to have and develop that it hardly seems like it would have a bad side.  What could be wrong with identifying with others feelings?  In my own practice I have noticed that when I too strongly identify with a client, I run the risk of over-identifying and co-opting their unique experiences as my own.  I then may expect them to process their experience in the same way I have and therefore when they respond differently or make different choices or decisions than I would in a similar situation, I may respond angrily or in disappointment.  I've suddenly lost the crucial element to effective empathy: objectivity.

In this excellent article by by Kelly A. Edwards, Critiquing Empathy the author describes what I believe to be the very rabbit hole one must be vividly aware of when wading into empathy's pools.  While the essay focuses on doctor-patient relationships, the concepts presented are applicable to any relationship:

Entering any relationship with the aim of identifying with another's experience provides a replicative, not a productive, focus. By engaging in this way, we are trying to know the other in order to develop further insight into the patient's illness. This approach conceives of the other (the patient) as a knowable source that can be mined for information and the self (the physician) as a clean, reflective slate. It takes attention off the self (the physician)—where awareness and responsibility must reside—and fixes it on the other, who can be known only partially. This approach also effectively turns a dialogue into a monologue by focusing on only one of the selves engaged in the relation....

To approach another as knowable, or to act as if one has entered another's experience, can be a very dominating stance.[emphasis mine] This pitfall stems from the problematic ownership of another's experience that is implied in most conceptions of empathy. If the aim of engaging empathically is to know the other, what are the costs of getting it wrong? It is unlikely that a physician, a relative stranger and one with limited knowledge of this patient's life, will get it right much of the time. The dangers here follow from holding a person to too tight a script. Identifying with another effectively limits them to our (limited) understanding.

Rather than remaining open to the "real of the other," the clinician with empathy co-opts the patient's experience by saying blithely, "Oh, I know just how you feel." And again, to what effect? Patients, perhaps feeling misunderstood and alienated, build walls between themselves and their well-meaning physicians. Physicians, encountering a difficult patient, become frustrated.

Bravo! Exactly! How many times have we encountered others who, with genuinely benevolent intent, have devalued our experiences by saying just that? Doesn't it just get on your last nerve to hear someone who couldn't possibly know how you feel say, "I know just how you feel?" Do you? Do you, really? No, of course you don't because you are filtering my experience through your own perceptions, your own personality, your own ideas of morality. You can't help it. I can't help it. It's how we navigate through life.When we presume to "know" another, we are presuming much.  That's not to say we can't relate, understand, or seek to help, but when we cross that line into identifying with another's experiences and feelings we are treading on very holy ground and I feel a huge measure of humility and respect are in order.

As a tarot reader, I can so easily fall into the trap of empathy when I'm presented with a query on a subject or situation that I am intimately familiar with in my own life.  Sometimes a client has come to me with a situation that so eerily mirrors an experience I've had that I almost want to put the cards aside and just share what I did, just cut to the chase, right? Wrong! No matter how closely one's circumstances and experiences externally match another's it is not the same situation precisely because it is not happening only to you, but also to  another person.  Two people can experience precisely the same event and come away with very different stories.  Which is not to say one cannot offer helpful advice or suggestions to someone in a situation or experience very much like one you have come through.  I've been assisted many times by people sharing their wealth of experiential wisdom.  However, the ones that have helped the most haven't been the ones that claim to know how I feel, but have simply acknowledge my feelings in such a way that I know they empathize, but who also recognize that how I choose to navigate this experience may be very different, and not wrong, from how they muddled through theirs.  They found treasure and so would like to share it with me and that's great, but you know what they say about one man's trash being another one's treasure works in reverse as well.

Monday, May 24, 2010


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After today, my reading queue this week will be open.  That means the turnaround time on readings should be quite fast.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Going From Flat to 3-D

It's clear from the responses on the last post that there aren't one or two universal cards that draw blanks for all of us.  For each reader it's going to be unique to them.  It's frustrating and annoying when these cards show up because you just know you're missing something, particularly if the card starts reoccurring in your reads.  As I said, I'm not referring to the occasional blank spot that can happen in any reading at any time with any given card, but a card that consistently gives you very little no matter where it lands in any reading.  And I'm not talking about The High Priestess either, I think she's meant to irritate a bit because she's asking you to look deeper within for your answers, the ones you already know and therein lies her meaning.

The Sun.  Good card, right?  Great card, in fact.  Happy, happy, joy, joy!  Happy nekkid dancing and carefree innocence.  But I can't seem to get any farther than the "book meaning" with this card.  Oh sure, if it comes up as an outcome, I'm pleased to report all things will be fine.  If it comes up as advice, I might say one should spend some time relishing in the simple joys of life, remembering what it was like when you were a child and had fewer worries and concerns.  Approach the issue without judgment and cynicism.  But then it stops.  Is that enough? Well, it can be, but I feel like I always give the same report with this card, whereas with other cards the meanings are more fluid and change with the reading, with the query, with the position.  This one seems more static to me and that feels off to me.  If there's one thing I have learned about tarot is that the cards do "speak" individually to each question and situation.  Sure, each one has a basic meaning, but then it can flow and branch out from there.  Not so with this card for me and maybe a couple others, too.

What can we do to enlarge our perspectives on these flat interpretations?  It's harder when one is doing a live reading and feels the pressure to say something, anything, right away.  Much better to work on this when one is not rushed.  Better still not to do it when reading for oneself on a particularly sensitive issue.  I rarely "meditate" on a card, but in this case it might do some good.  It also may help to do some background research and look into the history of the images, digging into what the various items pictured on the cards mean symbolically.  I do  that regularly here at 78 Notes To Self because it has been a great help to me in digging deeper into a card's meaning.  For example, in my post on the 3 of Wands, I looked into the ancient cross-cultural symbolism of boats, even though the boats are not front and center in the card image.  For a long while, all I could focus on with that card was the feeling of waiting in positive expectation for something or someone.  The boat symbolism added a lot more to the range of meanings for this card and allows a reader a much wider berth to work with. 

Another action to take is to post one's dilemma on a forum of tarot readers, such as Aeclectic Tarot Forum, to receive varied perspectives from different readers.  Since others don't always struggle with the same card, you're bound to get insight from others' views. Interacting with other tarot readers has always been beneficial to me.  Besides, not all readers use the same deck, and since decks vary widely in their depictions of each card, you're liable to get varied interpretations based on which deck the reader uses.  Thoth-based decks, for example, have different associations for the card, as do Marseilles-based, and, of course Rider-Waite-Smith. Historical decks, modern decks, themed decks, art decks, all have various takes on the images and each artist often chooses which aspect of the card to draw to the eye.  By examining various decks, either your own or at a site like Trionfi, helps to break one out of the frame of the card you have always known.

Doug Gibb, author of the blog Tarot Eon, explored this question in this post from last year.  He suggests that one reason we might have consistent trouble interpreting a card or card combination is because the issues represented in those cards are ones we ourselves need to work on.  We haven't yet faced nor dealt with those particular "karmic challenges" to the degree that we need to in order for that card to flow easily from us.
I remember speaking to Paul Hughes-Barlow a couple of years ago about how some combination of cards were easy to understand while others weren’t.
Paul suggested something that was truly inspirational. He had observed, through his own experience, that even doing a Tarot reading for other people can teach us about ourselves. One of the most interesting things Paul said was, “you spend months trying to understand a combination of cards, and when you finally understand them, you’ll never see that combination again”.
It’s almost as if, in understanding a difficult combination, in the very act of doing a Tarot reading for someone else, we ourselves begin to heal.   
For instance, he would spend months “seeing” the same combinations of cards appear before he finally understood their significance. Almost as if, in understanding that combination, in being able to accurately interpret them for a client, he had healed an area of his own Karma.

In many ways, the Tarot is our best teacher. It teaches us, not only through personal study, but also in the very act of reading for other people.
 So, the very act of delving deeper into that card will, in turn, provide us opportunities to grow, not only as a tarot reader, but as a person.

I'll give my perspective on the cards you all mentioned in your responses in a following post, and I'd like to hear what others think about my nemesis The Sun as well.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


We all have them.  There's at least one card in the tarot deck that, when you look at it, inspires little in the way of interpretation.  Of course we know what it means, or rather, what it's supposed to mean, but we can't seem to draw any more out of it than that.  It's not an aversion, per se, because the card isn't provoking any negative feelings or responses in you, but it's just sitting there, not saying much, being, well, just a tarot card in a spread. I'm talking about one specific card that does this routinely, not just a random blank moment in a reading. 

What's your tarot dullard? Maybe we can take a fresh look at it.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Testing 1...2...3
I just did my first audio reading for a client and, according to the feedback I received, it went quite well.  So, I am now offering audio readings as an option.  If you would prefer to receive your reading in a download-able audio file format instead of written text via email, just let me know.  It takes about the same amount of time to produce, so there isn't any difference as to pricing. 

I am also trying to work out a way to offer tarot classes and a download-able e-book.  I've worked for hours today rearranging the site and searching online for products and services to help with this stuff.  It's definitely doable, so I'm going to do it, but it takes a lot of time. 

I really do enjoy working with all this techno stuff, so it's all good.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Sprucing Things Up

Looks different around here!  I have had the same blog design for a couple years, so I thought it was time for an update.  I've rearranged some stuff, but you should be able to find everything.  If you're looking to order a tarot reading, just look on the little orange note paperclipped at the top entitled "Pages." There is a link there that says "Purchase A Tarot Reading."  If you've never had me read for you, please first visit my "About My Readings" page.  I've changed my reading prices slightly, too, so if you're a returning client, make sure you check that out before you order.  I'm still in the process of tweaking the blog design, but it's workable for now.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

REVIEW: Affirmations For The Everyday Goddess
1 comment
About a month ago, author and artist Pamela Wells asked me if I'd take a look at her deck of "Inner Guidance Cards" called "Affirmations for the Everyday Goddess."  I would have responded with a knee-jerk, "No thanks," except I took a look at the publisher's website first.  Artmagic Publishing is a sweet site with all kinds of goodies that are divine-feminine minded, spiritually leaning, and just really good work.  I took a look at the cards and decided, sure, why the hell not?  It looked like a nice deck.  I tend to shy away from oracle and affirmation decks.  I do own one or two, but I tend to dismiss most of them as, oh...I don't know, spiritual chotchkies, not incredibly meaningful or useful.   What specifically caught my interest was that these cards were described as  TAROT Guidance Cards. Oh really? So I replied to Pamela letting her know I would like to review her deck on 78 Notes To Self.

Opening the deck upon arrival  proved to be a genuine treat.  It is enclosed in its own well constructed, sturdy, lined box (yes, it is lined!)  The cover art is exquisite and reminiscent of ancient religious art.  The figure on the front is clearly Eve standing beside the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  She holds one fruit in her hand and is almost greedily reaching up to pluck another from the tree.  The implication here is she is hungry for knowledge and despite any warnings to the contrary, she wants all the wisdom she can hold.  Interestingly, the snake, which Christian tradition holds as the vile tempter, is echoed in the gown that drapes her body, enveloping her body.  Its position reminds me of the cadeceus and the Rod of Asclepius, both symbols that represent healing and medicine.  The implication is that while there are responsibilities and consequences to acquiring wisdom and knowledge, the effect of it is healing and growth.  The end papers that line the box are richly patterned as are the gold borders of the cards.  The bottom section of the box is lined in paper that is decorated with stylized, calligraphed names of God from various spiritual traditions and practices.  Opening the box feels a bit like stepping into sacred space.

The 22 cards themselves are the size of regular (large) tarot cards, and they are gloss coated, so at first use they are stuck together, but once separated they shuffle smoothly and don't stick together.  The shiny surface is a bit much and detract, I think, from the richness of the art as the light reflects and glares impede the ability to view the art the way, I believe, it was intended.  I think the coating is unnecessary since this is not intended as a "reading" deck and isn't likely to suffer the abuse of constant use.  The art is detailed and exquisite, the colors rich and vibrant.  Some of the goddesses appear to be of ancient origin while others seem more modern which gives the deck a timeless quality, allowing one to envision the goddesses as timeless themselves.  The women featured on the cards, we are assured, are real women.  They are all very beautiful but I don't have a problem with that because they're goddesses, after all.  Personally, if I was a goddess and able to choose my material form, I'm pretty sure I would choose an aesthetically pleasing one.  I do appreciate the diversity of skin tones and hair colors and textures represented in this deck.

Only two cards do not feature a goddess image, although the Sun is anthropomorphized with a feminine face.  After all these years of associating the Sun with a masculine energy, it is refreshing to see it personified as feminine.  The nurturing gaze on the face of the Sun suddenly brings to mind the Empress and her creative, prolific energy.  Of course! They are obviously connected!  The other goddess-less card is The Tower.  The tower itself does not appear to be in the process of being destroyed as much as it is being revealed by the "all-seeing eye" above it.  The absence of the physical presence of a goddess is poignant because in times of extreme personal loss and devastation it can seem as if the Divine has in fact abandoned us or, worse, is the malevolent force behind the destruction.  Therefore, the absence of a physical representation of the goddess on this card is particularly significant.

Each card includes an affirmation printed unobtrusively on the bottom border.  I am not personally a fan of "extra stuff" printed on cards, like keywords, affirrmations, etc., so I like that one can use these cards without being forced to use the affirmation if one does not desire.  So even though this deck is clearly intended as an Affirmation Deck, it does not overly impose that practice on the user.  The affirmations themselves are intelligent and based solidly on a clear understanding of the accepted Major Arcana card meanings.  They are positive, yet realistic, and don't feel "forced" when spoken aloud.

The affirmations would be enough in themselves but the artist has also authored a companion book that guides one through an intelligent practice of using affirmations in one's spiritual life.  The book -- I refuse to call it a "booklet" despite its diminutive size -- is a worthy introduction to archetypes, the use of affirmations, and non-dual awareness.  Dual awareness is what keeps us entrenched in dichotomies, such as masculine/feminine and other either/or ways of categorizing people and things.  It is an effort I can deeply appreciate given my strong feminist beliefs.  At first it may seem hypocritical to promote non-dual awareness with a deck that is clearly all feminine all the time.  Yet this deck is clearly promoting non-dual awareness by imaging women in roles that are traditionally male dominated.  One of the most striking cards in the entire deck is the Emperor.  A beautiful ebony-skinned goddess with natural hair stands squarely facing the viewer.  She holds a scepter, a symbol of power and authority, in one hand and in the crook of her other arm rests an eagle, an ancient symbol representing a noble nature, strength and aristocracy.  A lion stands by her, also representing power, courage, authority and royalty. She stares forthrightly out of the card and one would be hard-pressed to deny her inner strength and determination.  There is no doubt she IS the Emperor.  No question.  Imaging the persona of the Emperor as a woman assists in creating that non-dual awareness that allows us to see both men and women as equally suited for roles.  

The book is a very helpful guide through each card as well, including as it does quotations appropriate for the meanings of each card and self-exploratory exercises one can do, or not, with each card.  I love the flexibility of this deck which allows Major Arcana tarot readings, meditative exercises, and affirmation practice.  One can use it as one chooses.  And the art is gorgeous.  You won't get tired of looking at these images.  They're rife with hidden details and symbolism.  This is most definitely a deck that would take a long time to uncover all the mysteries both in a tarot sense and in a spiritual sense.  

Very well done, Pamela.  Well done.