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Playing with a (New) Full Deck

A few weeks ago, after a lot of handling, a little humming and hawing, I purchased my first new Tarot deck in YEARS!  The beneficiary of my decision (other than our local Orangeville shop ‘Healing Moon’)?  The Wildwood Tarot.

It is this earth-based, wheel-of-the-year focused deck that eventually pushed me and my bank card to the point of no return. Since then, I’ve set aside time almost every day to go through the cards one at a time. I’ve grouped them by minors, majors and courts.  I’ve laid the deck out in ‘wheel’ fashion, (as suggested by ‘The Little White Book’ that accompanies this deck and pictured below) with the help of Merlin, our cat! 🙂

IMG_0580
The art in the Wild Wood Tarot deck pictured above was created and copyrighted by http://www.willworthingtonart.co.uk – Merlin and the rug? Not so much.

I look to experience learning a new deck in different ways: visually, physically, intellectually and emotionally.  I shuffle the cards, ask a question, see what comes up. Sometimes, I go to the book, see what it says.  Other times, I want to connect them to previous knowledge of the other decks I use. I want to compare and contrast meanings and images. I want to feel the cards and look at them. I want to connect the deck’s  energy to my own. I want to ‘hear’ the cards as they speak to me.  By the end of the process, I want to know my deck. And I want to like it.

Eventually, I’ll do all of my ‘pagan-y’ deck prep. For me, that means I’ll cleanse the deck with a smudge. I’ll put it outside under a full moon.

But before I do any of that, I’ll play. A lot.

Which leads me to this question… How do you connect with a new deck?

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Falling Asleep with the Tarot

Hockley Hike

Do you ever have trouble sleeping at night? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with your mind racing and the inability to fall back to sleep?  I use a unique combination of advice I found somewhere on the internet and a Tarot strategy referred to as ‘Entering the Card’ to help me drift back into Slumberland.

I have been contemplating writing this blog entry for quite some time now.  I have always had difficulty falling asleep. I’ve tried various homeopathic, traditional and not-so-traditional remedies (although have never ventured into the realm of the ‘sleeping pill’), meditation, change in routine but all, at some point, seem to fail. Not this latest one, though.

Mary Greer, in her book ‘Tarot for the Self’, describes an activity she calls ‘Entering the Card’. This exercise involves selecting a card, picturing it in one’s imagination, and then entering the card, taking detailed notes from the experience. I have used it many times when working with a new deck, struggling with a particular card or when teaching students.

And, while poking around online a little while ago, I came across a brief article on suggestions to deal with difficulty sleeping. One of the suggestions that resonated with me was a visualization exercise. I was to imagine a peaceful place and then enter it in my mind. It then suggested that I increase the amount of detail that I imagine. For example, if I was near running water, I could see the river and then the small waves on the surface, the small plants breaking the surface of the water, the fallen leaf that floats by. The only thing that did was make me have to go to the bathroom. 🙂
I’m not one for detail in everyday life. Those who know me would probably refer to me as a ‘big picture’ kind of person. It isn’t until I fully understand something that I’ll bother with the detail. So when I tried to visualize some of my favorite relaxing destinations (fall hikes, Hawaii, Corfu Island, the ‘Muskokas’, the ‘Kawarthas’), I had difficulty picturing detail. But I know the Tarot well. And I have worked with a few decks for awhile so I can easily visualize several cards in detail. I began picturing cards that I thought had a peaceful theme (Empress, 4 of Swords, 4 of Cups, The Hermit, The Star, and many of the cards from my Gaian Tarot deck, etc…). I would enter the cards and then stop, look around and let me five senses take over. I would pick up things, note smells, talk to people and, sure enough, sleep came.

Pick a card that you think will work for you. Try it and let me know.  And… sweet dreams!

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Storytelling with the Tarot

Thoth EmpressOn Wednesday, May 25th, to celebrate World Tarot Day, I led a workshop entitled ‘Demystifying the Tarot’ at a natural food store in Erin called Treehaven.  The small turnout caused a ‘rethink’ of the structure of this workshop. So, three Tarot peeps… me, a woman who had been part of our bi-monthly Tarot study group and another who I had met through the Guelph Occult Meetup group proceeded to spend 2 hours just talking Tarot. I must say, despite my initial disappointment at the turn out, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

We began by simply talking, about our favourite decks, cards we see often in our Tarot work, our past experience with the Tarot and how we work with it. The three of us asked each other questions. We moved to an unstructured comparative look at cards from different decks, looking at the differing symbols and meanings in front of us.

We then moved to a storytelling activity. I can’t give direct credit as to where I got the idea from but I won’t claim it as my own. I know Rachel Pollack does a significant amount of story-based work in the Tarot. Maybe I read it in one of her works. I was also inspired by the teacher-librarian at my school who had shared a storytelling deck with me that she was using in one of our classrooms.  Regardless, I’m sure it’s an adaptation of someone else’s idea.

To prepare for this workshop, I had previously divided the decks I brought into 3 sections: the pips, the courts and the majors.  I suggested we use these 3 piles to tell a story. We selected the Thoth deck and randomly drew our cast of characters from the courts, our theme from the majors and began developing a plot with the pips. It was a great process. At first, we laughed a little at a suggestion that the story might become risqué. We then began the process. The deck shared our sense of humour and offered up the Empress, home of abundance, fertility, and sensuality,  as our theme.

Thoth Queen of CupsWe continued the exercise by drawing the Queen of Cups as our protagonist (a supportive, but at times overemotional and menopausal mother), the Queen of Swords as a secondary character (her sharp-tongued adult daughter – although, upon reflection, maybe her equally sharp-tongued neighbour would have better suited the Queen but, for our purposes, the daughter worked fine) and then began constructing our story. Our starting plot points were the 6 of disks (success) and the 2 of swords (peace).  I believe, had our time not expired, we would have created quite the story; we appeared to be in fine form 🙂

Try the activity. Divide your deck into three sections (pips, courts, majors). Shuffle them well. Begin by drawing a card from each. Remember that your major card will remain the overarching theme of your story. Draw just one. You drew ‘The Fool’? Your story could develop into an adventure story. ‘The Chariot’? A fast-paced story a la ‘Fast and the Furious’.  ‘The Moon’? Could be a little twisted and scary, don’t you think?

You might find that, once you’ve drawn your characters, beginning your story with ‘Once upon a time, there was a …’ and then proceed to describe the character using your knowledge of the Tarot or the image presented on the card. Then make them go somewhere or do something by drawing cards from the pips.  The 6 of swords might take them on a journey over water, the ace of wands might be the sign of a new song idea or the 5 of pentacles might indicate a struggle to make ends meet.

The three of us decided that at some point, we would take this concept further. If you decide to as well, please feel free to post about here.

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‘Demystifying the Tarot’ workshop in Erin

On Wednesday, May 25th, from 6:30 – 8:30, I will be leading a 2-hour workshop entitled ‘Demystifying the Tarot’ at Treehaven Natural Foods in downtown Erin. This introductory workshop will provide attendees with a brief overview of the ‘histories’ of the Tarot, its structure, its meanings and its uses.  Its intent is to shed a little light on this ‘mysterious’ little deck. The cost of the workshop is $15 which also includes light refreshments. The cost for the workshop is payable in advance at Treehaven or at the door. Space is limited so please R.S.V.P. at whitesagetarot@gmail.com,  by calling me at 519-217-7243 or by contacting Treehaven at 519-833-9006.

I will also be available for in-person Tarot consultations on Saturday, May 28th and Saturday, June 25th at Treehaven Natural Foods from 12:00 – 6:00 p.m.  To book your consultation in advance, please use the same contact information stated above.

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In Honour of Mothers’ Day

Queen of Cups

It was a recent episode of Modern Family that got me thinking.

Mitchell serves his partner Cameron breakfast in bed and all is well until Cameron realizes that it’s Mothers’ Day. This upset Cameron because he feels that Mitchell is casting him in the role of woman. (As an interesting aside, of all three couples portrayed on Modern Family, it may be the same-sex Mitchell and Cameron who most closely represent the ‘Rockwell-esque’  ideal of the distinctive roles of the two-parent family).

What it made me think about is what and who exactly are we honouring on Mothers’ Day? I suspect the first intent is that we all honour our mother. That’s a given, since we all have one. We may not know her, we may not live with her, we may not talk to her much, but she is the reason we are here. There’s no way around that one (and Happy Mothers’ Day to mine, BTW :)).

But, on this day, (and we might not even realize it) we also honour ‘Mother’. We recognize the importance of the nurturer, the care-giver, the empathetic listener, the cuddler, the keeper of the den, the compassionate one, to name but a few roles that ‘Mother’ would take on.

This week’s ‘Modern Family’ episode reminded me that there is an important distinction between the two.  The episode ended with the acknowledgement that just because Cameron was ‘slightly mommer’ than Mitchell, didn’t make him any less of a man. I know as a half-time single Dad (albeit with significant support from my fiancée), there are many times where I take on a ‘Mom’ role.  But I never feel as if I relinquish my masculinity.  In fact, I believe that by embracing different aspects of the role of mother, regardless of our gender,  we honour the archetype. Actually, a little while ago, while sharing praise for one another as part of a Circle activity, one of the most powerful compliments I ever received from a friend was the following: “Peter, I honour the fact that you don’t always have to act like a man to assert that you are one.”  As a male whose spiritual practice equally celebrates Feminine and Masculine divinity and the importance of those archetypes in all of us, I was touched by the words.

So, this morning, I turned to the Tarot and chose a couple of ‘mothers’ from the deck.  I selected the Queen of Cups from my RWS deck as representative of the role of mother . She is the penultimate listener. She is nurturing and emotionally receptive. I also selected the Empress from the same deck as representative of the Archetype of Mother. The Empress is fertility, compassion and, for fear of sounding a little Freudian :), sensuality.

The RWS Empress

Take a moment and reflect when and where you or others around you play ‘Mom’? Was it while listening to a friend in need? Perhaps you’re a teacher and needed to show compassion to a struggling student? Or maybe you know someone who happily nurses a sick animals back to health?  Find a Tarot deck and select a card that best exemplifies the role played in this situation. If you feel the need, honour us by sharing.

Wishing a Happy Mothers’ Day blessing to all.

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BIT and the Guelph Occult Society

Recently, I have joined up with a wonderful and eclectic group of people that meet once a month to discuss all things esoteric. Although I thoroughly enjoy all of the various discussions we have, I am very pleased that several of us are Tarot enthusiasts. There was discussion about exploring the Back in Time Tarot method at an upcoming meeting. Since both my son and my partner are celebrating birthday’s today, I have to miss the February meet-up. I thought I would provide my contribution to the discussion by exploring my recent experience with the Guelph Occult Society using Janet Boyer’s BIT.

Discovery of the group: Ace of Fire – Gaian Tarot: Of all the cards in the Gaian Tarot deck, this one expressed the most potential for me. It symbolizes the passion of a new opportunity and the readiness to send one’s energy out into the world. When I discovered this Meetup group, I was initially filled with creative potential, hoping that this group could be the start of something new.

Apprehension of meeting new people: 5 of Wands – RWS: When two or more people meet, there is always the potential for tension and conflict. When one ventures into a new situation, one often wonders: How will it go? Who will I get  along with? Who will I conflict with? What should I share about myself? What should I not? This five makes me think about wandering out into a new world, regardless of the potential for inner or outer conflict. It underlines the ‘you’ll never know until you try’ mentality.

Can I make it fit into my schedule: 10 of Wands – RWS: Let’s face it, the life of a school principal is hectic enough. And, like everybody else, I have family, friends, loved ones, hobbies and passions that are all deserving of my time. Is there a risk that this once-a-month commitment will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?  

Excited about ‘New’: Child of Water – Gaian Tarot: Despite the apprehension of meeting new people and the worries about a new time commitment, I find myself like the child in this card, ankle-deep by the shore, eyes fixed on safety yet preparing to explore new waters. Like the ebb and flow of the cool tides at my feet, it is exhilarating!

Community of people in celebration: Three of Cups – RWS: There is a celebratory nature to the 3 of Cups that I have difficulty overlooking. Three women raise their glasses in an unknown toast regardless of differences.  Here’s to the potential for new knowledge, new beginnings and new friendships.

Exploring the mysterious side of life – The Moon – RWS: Rachel Pollack states, in her book “Tarot Wisdomthat our society “has moved… from a solar to a lunar consciousness, from an emphasis on rationalism, clarity and masculine forcefulness to intuition, mystery and subtlety.” Based on the description of the intent of this group, I believe this adequately sums up what I’m looking to explore in our get-togethers.

Enjoying sharing my passion about the Tarot: 6 of Fire – Gaian Tarot: Perhaps because it is a little self-indulgent, I saved this one for the end. I am passionate about the Tarot. In the mainstream, this may be considered as ‘dancing to the beat of my own drummer.’  So be it. Like some, I used to hide my passion for the Tarot in a closed room. Now, I will happily discuss and share all things tarot with anyone open to the idea (and to more than a few people who are not) 🙂  There appears to be a large percentage of people, myself included, interested in learning about the Tarot. That makes this place a safe one to sing my song at the top of my lungs.

Have a wonderful meet-up (whether your there in person or spirit) and feel free to use a new experience as your own BIT exercise. And, if you do, please share!

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Where’s the Love: A Valentine’s Day-inspired look at the Tarot

Two of Cups - Rider Waite
Two of Cups - Rider Waite

Where’s the love?

Like all other emotions, love has its place in the Tarot. The Lovers, card of choice and, perhaps obviously, card of love, would be a great starting point for a search for love in the Tarot. It is the card where passion and reason come together, where difficult choices need to be made and where the very concept of synergy lives.  

The Two of Cups, representing a covenant or a coming together of two, is another obvious place to find love in the Tarot. Interestingly enough – well… at least interesting for me 🙂 – many couples have their songs and will be listening to them during a romantic moment on Valentine’s Day.  My partner and I have our card… it’s the Two of Cups and it will be on display on the 14th. (We have our songs as well but perhaps I’ll save that for another Valentine’s Day blog.)

The Cups are the resident suit of our feelings. Many cards in that suit at least hint at Cupid’s emotional realm. The Ace is the seed of love’s potential, the Three is the celebration of a love of company and companionship and the Ten is one’s recognition of the presence of emotional abundance and fulfillment.  Our Queen of Cups, who possesses the never-dormant ear, is an endless source of compassion, is the Tarot’s version of the Kindergarten teacher 🙂 and is another place to find love.

Our other Cup courts are no strangers to love. Our Page is the personification of the Ace and the representation of being in the early stages of love. Our Knight is in the business of love ‘em and leave ‘em. Upon reflection, that might not be how one would define love but don’t tell that to the knight. When he’s in love’em mode, he’d tell you that he’s clearly residing in the realm of Eros, as would the beneficiary of his attention. Our King is the master of love. He is blessed with the ability to both love fully and to keep his love in check as opposed to wearing it for all to see.

The Lovers is not the only place in the Major Arcana where we find love. The Empress represents, among other things, a mother’s unconditional love. As the home of the outwardly Feminine principle, hers is a passionate love.  A little further along the path of the Fool’s Journey, Strength shows us the resultant action of the Empress’ unconditional love.  Looking for one example of this strength-based love in action? Try crossing a lioness when she has her cubs nearby.  I would also argue that we can easily find love in two of the last three majors: The Sun, where our overwhelming optimism and joy includes a love for all things; and the World, where, as the card of completeness, contains all things, love included.

Like it or not, Valentine’s Day is a day where, at least commercially (oops, my bias is showing), we are reminded that love indeed makes the world go ‘round and is a many splendid thing. And I’m sure I’ve just scratched the surface of the presence of love in the Tarot. Do tell… where’s the love for you in the Tarot?