Spiritual and Energetic Wellbeing
The Modern Guide to Energy Clearing is making its way out into the world, beyond my wonderful team at Llewellyn. Some reviewers are starting to share their opinions. Here are a few from NetGalley:
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. As an introvert and empath who is into all things spiritual, I very much enjoyed this book. The author's tone was friendly and down to earth, but she also takes these concepts and her work seriously and I admire and respect that. The book does a wonderful job at showing why energy work is important to learn and practice. I do wish more attention had been given to the cord cutting section, but overall, this was an amazing read. The blessings section was particularly beautiful and expounds on a practice I already regularly include in my life. Will recommend and will read again!
Great guide to Energy Healing. The information includes not only energy clearing (which is the primary focus), but also touches upon containment and cultivation. The author gives a good number of techniques, all of which are easily accessible. Importantly, she advises that each practitioner use those ideas that speak to them individually. These are simple to perform as well as to incorporate easily into everyday life. Recommended.
To give you a better idea of my approach, here is an excerpt:
Spiritual and Energetic Wellbeing
Energy clearing and cultivation are great practices for making your home, office, or even your car feel good and safe. You can use these ideas to help support your own physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Good energy management can create a life with greater balance and peace, but energy work goes much farther than that. In fact, consistent energy clearing and cultivation is essential to living your soul’s purpose and that’s pretty exciting.
The idea of your “soul’s purpose” is a powerful but often misunderstood phrase. Too often we think that our soul’s purpose is like a glorified career guidance counselor that will tell you what to do to earn a living, as if our soul came to this earth to gain a specific job title. It makes sense that we think that because our culture really drives home the point that we are what we do for a living. The truth is that our job title can be part of how we express our soul’s purpose. Our soul’s purpose is the reason and the way we do what we do rather than what we. To complicate things further, your soul’s purpose isn’t just one word or sentence. It isn’t something finite but rather an ongoing dance between you and the Divine. With each step of the dance, we are changed so our soul’s purpose or at least our conscious understanding of it evolves. The more we live it, the more it reveals itself to us. Perhaps the simplest way I can describe it is that your soul’s purpose is the collection of ideals that you hold most dear, the ideals that you are willing to do whatever it takes to live up to.
But who among us fully lives up to our own ideals each and every minute of every day? I know I don’t. This means that our soul’s purpose is something we express in the world and it is also our North Star that guide us through the dark and confusing times as well as affirms our steps during easier, clearer times. I heard an interesting tidbit: airplanes are off course ninety percent of the time and pilots are always course correcting. Pilots learn that they have to continually adjust for changing circumstances. Sometimes I feel like my life is like that, that I’m kind of heading in the right direction but also kind of not. During those times, I find it’s important to pay attention to my energy and the energy around me in order to correct my course. That is another benefit of good energy health. The more robust your energetic health is the easier it is tell when you are off track.
Thinking about energy work, living your soul’s purpose, and just plain old living life as a continuous sequence of course corrections is actually a relief. Knowing that the point is the journey and that we are not required or even meant to ever completely “arrive” takes the pressure off. We are allowed and expected to make mistakes. Mistakes are valuable teaching moments especially with energy work. We cannot quantify and measure and label this work in any sort of scientific manner, so we really do have to rely on our experience. Because of that, energy work does not require a complete lifestyle change.
In fact, overhauling your life would be more of an effective distraction from the real work of developing sustainable practice in your life right now. For example, Minimalism is very popular right now and while it does draw from ideas about energy work, some of the Minimalist techniques are just too overwhelming for most of us to adopt easily. I rarely have time to clean a drawer or closet; it’s unlikely my family and I would have the time for a Packing Party. A Packing Party is where you invite people over to help you pack up your house as if you are moving in one day, even everyday essentials. Then you unpack what you need as you need it. After three weeks, whatever isn’t unpacked gets thrown away, donated, or sold. For some this is the perfect approach, but it can make others feel defeated before they begin. Instead, the energy clearing and cultivation that I practice simply involves one good decision at a time within the life you are currently living.
In order to make good decisions, to make appropriate course corrections, and to live your soul’s purpose, you have to be energetically clear. Think about your ideals. In fact, write them down. What beliefs mean the most to you? When you are between a rock and a hard place, what ideal helps you decide what to do? What matters to you? Those things are the essence of your soul’s purpose. Once you have your list, think about your past twenty-four hours. In what ways did your behavior, actions, words, feelings, and thoughts reflect your cherished ideals? Which ones did not? If you are like me, some things really are expressions of your values and some are not.
Joshua Fields Millburn (one of the The Minimalists) often says in his podcasts that if you show him your budget and your schedule, he can name your values. He means this in a slightly provocative way, because for most of us, our budgets and schedules do not reflect our true values but rather what we think we are supposed to value. It is a statement meant to make us think seriously about how we spend our time and our money. If we are human beings with free will and the ability to make conscious decisions, why do we make decisions about our time, money, and behavior that separate us from our values rather than embody them? That is a great question. In fact, it might be the question. “Why do I behave in ways that are not in alignment with my beliefs and ideals?” One answer is “well, I am only human.” That works but it is also a cop out. No one likes to think about where they’ve fallen short, unless they (like I’m ashamed to admit that I do) like to beat themselves up about it for a while. Yet, these moments, these mistakes or failures are road signs that point us to where we can find energy issues that need attention. In order to live your soul’s purpose, in order to live your values in your daily life, you need to be free from energetic disharmony. We identify our points of departure from our guiding values, figure out what caused the discrepancy, and deal with it. Then we can more easily correct our course toward becoming the people we truly want to be. The alternative is to be controlled, reacting to life rather than engaging with it in a mindful and meaningful way.
The next two chapters lay the foundation for our exploration of energy clearing. First we will establish a shared vocabulary. After that, we will discuss the basics of energetic health.
Spiritual and energetic health and wellbeing is about so much more than waving around a burning stick of sage or plugging in a salt lamp (although those things are really useful!). It is about knowing what you value and keeping yourself free so that you can live those values in the world in your own beautiful and unique way. You have great medicine in you that we desperately need. So pick up that sage bundle and let’s get to work so that you can express your glorious soul, support other glorious souls, and heal our world.
 I don’t remember where I heard the original mention, but when I looked into it to verify the facts, I found this: Airplane Flying Handbook FAA-H80833B, (OK, Oklahoma City: US Department of Transportation, 2016), 6-2.
 Millburn, Joshua Fields. Minimalist Podcast. http://www.theminimalists.com/podcast/.
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In addition to Tarot in Wonderland, which releases at the end of April, I have another new project coming in June. It is my first non-tarot (or non-oracle) work via traditional publishing (my wife and I wrote and self-published a book about dating).
This book was written during a really challenging time in my life. Because it wasn't tarot, with its own handy built-in structure, and because I never considered myself an expert in energy work, it was so hard to write. Last week I worked on my author proofs and queries from my editor. It was the first time I looked at the text in ten months (publishing has a LONG lead time) and I was so scared. But to my surprise (and likely due to my editor's very hard work), it was actually good. I felt proud of it.
Here's a little bit of the Introduction, to give you an idea of what to expect. I'll post more little snippets throughout the coming weeks.
To pre-order from Amazon, click the picture below!
When my publisher asked me to write a book on energy clearing, my initial reaction was “But that’s not my area of expertise; I don’t know nearly enough to fill a book.” Initial reactions can be tricky. Sometimes they are inspired moments of knowing (also called intuition). Most times, though, they are reactions shaped by deeply furrowed patterns that may or may not be based in truth. After releasing the initial fear about taking on a new challenge, I was able to respond more thoughtfully.
As it turns out, I’ve consciously worked with energy for most of my adult life, even before I was grounded in a wide understanding of a variety of New Age ideas. While these stories I’m about to share may not have been my first attempts at deliberate energy working, they are the first I remember. Without any experience in or knowledge of modern magic, I created a ritual to help my sister sell her home and one to help a friend’s husband find a job. They worked. Both were simple rituals, designed in ways that made sense to me and used things that are found in most homes, or at least most middle class, suburban homes, which is where I live. My understanding and practice grew slowly at first and then more quickly when I discovered the New Age materials. The culmination of my current understanding came together only a few months before being asked to write this book.
In April 2016, I was a main stage presenter at the annual tarot conference in New York called The Readers Studio. You see, tarot is my recognized area of expertise and has been a part of my life since the late 1980s. I’ve written many books, designed decks, given readings, presented at conferences all over the world, and taught students in person and online through a year-long correspondence course.
Tarot to me is far more than a divination tool. It is a sacred text that contains something more important than ways to peek into the future. Within the cards, I find spiritual wisdom and practical teachings. Tarot has become the lens through which I see the world. How does tarot apply to energy work? There is a direct connection. Don’t worry, though; after this story, tarot won’t be mentioned again.
Most people who want to learn the cards focus almost entirely on the card meanings, which, of course, are important. But many people get frustrated when they try to do a reading. Readings that focus only on the card meanings are often disjointed at best and confusing at worst. You see, in the space between cards is where the real magic occurs. All the cards have a specific energy. When we simply observe the energy of the card in isolation, nothing much happens. When the cards interact is when they come to life. When the cards are read in relation to each other it is easier to see what is actually happening in a situation..
After assessing the situation, we can use the cards to determine advice. We do this by bringing in other cards that represent actions the seeker can take. We analyze the probable results. If the results are not what the seeker prefers, we try other cards. We figure out what kind of energy to tap in order to create the desired (or best possible) result. Years of paying attention to how the energy of the cards affects each other enhanced my understanding of working with energy in my daily life. But this is not what my 2016 presentation was about.
Ironically, my two and a half hour workshop did not focus on how to read the cards or share a new technique. Instead, it was about clearing our space, both internally and externally, in order to be better people and thereby better readers., It is kind of funny how this thinking has become such a part of the way I look at and move through the world that I didn’t even realize that I do, in fact, have an understanding of and experience in energy work.
What to Expect
My understanding evolved slowly and through everyday experiences. I didn’t learn some complex esoteric system or take training through a trademarked or certified energy school or teacher. There is nothing wrong with those paths, if they are your paths and if they resonate with the deep chord of your heart. But if you are reading this book, I suspect you are like me and favor personal experience and intimate connections that spring from within rather than taking on the cloak of someone else’s practice.
This book is for you if you are looking for a clear way of understanding energy, seeking practices that help you to live more freely, and hoping to improve yourself, your environment, and even larger world around you. This is, in fact, the main goal of becoming adept at energy management: to be unencumbered of anything that takes away your free will and causes you to act in ways that are not in accordance with your ideals.
You may be wondering what makes this a modern guide to energy clearing. There are two main traits that make this approach, at least in my mind, more modern. The first is that this book provides ways of thinking about and understanding the energy at work in our own lives and more importantly in ourselves. This differs from other approaches that follow a step-by-step prescription. My hope is that by guiding you as you form your understanding of energy that you also find what works for you, which may not be what works for me or someone else. It’s like understanding the basics of cooking. Once you know how some things that work, some simple principles, and your own preferences, you can make a meal out of virtually anything. Likewise, if you recognize the flow (or lack thereof) of energy in your life, understand what effects that flow, and know your own best state of being, you can “do” energy work anytime and anywhere.
The other characteristic that makes this approach modern is that real energy work is about controlling the outside world but controlling yourself. Many energy books focus on clearing external energy, but you will find that most of the energy work presented here has more to do with clearing and cultivating your own energy. The result of that work could very well be considered a third way that this book is modern: freedom. My greatest wish for you is that you are liberated from energy patterns that have controlled your life so that you are free to become the person you were meant to be and want to be.
The ideas presented here will be written in as neutral language as possible and broad enough to be adaptable to your personal beliefs because, and this is very important, I’m not promoting a specific practice complete in itself with specific lists of what you must do. Instead, I offer you general ideas, concepts, and practices that can be mixed and matched and modified so that they reflect your truth. The wisest teachers don’t ask you to accept their wisdom but rather lead you to the threshold of your own wisdom. I don’t necessarily claim to be wise, but I do believe a good teacher guides and encourages rather than dictates. I offer these ideas, based on my personal experience and understanding, freely, with no expectation other than to inspire you. If I can find my way to a personal understanding and set of useful and effective practices, so can you. In fact, I am still finding my way. Every single day, as I learn and experience more, my ideas and practices change, and I hope yours do, too.
My understanding of energy and magic was the result of just living my life in the best way I knew how. Energy work is a kind of magic, the kind of magic that creates change in the world according to your will. [AW1] A long time ago, I heard this story about magic that really rang true for me and which applies just as well to energy work. Here is the story as I remember it:
There was a farmer who sought out the advice and magic of the local wise woman. He wanted to learn how his farm could be more prosperous. She gave him a bag of sand and told him to walk around the parameter of his property every morning for a year and a day, dropping a grain of sand every few feet. Over the first few weeks, he noticed things like sections of the fence needing repair, damage to the edges of certain crops, and evidence of intrusive weeds. He began carrying some basic tools and materials on his walks, taking care of things as he found them. He was able to closely observe where things grew well and where they didn’t. He cleared debris after storms and planted trees as wind breaks in exposed areas. As the year progressed, he diligently dropped the grains of sand and attended to his land. The next year, his property was in good repair, his crops abundant, and his animals healthy.
Were those magical grains of sand? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps the real magic was the attention paid to what was going on around him.
What does this have to do with energy clearing? We usually look for ways to clear energy when we feel that something is wrong, just as we often only go to the doctor when we don’t feel well. There are definitely ways to correct, cleanse, or clear energy that is inappropriate, stagnant, or just not right. Some may call it negative energy, but that duality doesn’t make sense to me because all energy comes from the Divine. Furthermore, labeling energy as “positive” or “negative” makes us lazy in our observations and identification of energy. Instead, if we talk of “inappropriate” energy, we are encouraged to identify in what ways it is inappropriate and what would be more appropriate or desirable. The more specific we are, the more effective our work can be.
In addition to paying attention to understanding the nature of energy, I talk both about energy clearing and about energy cultivation because the two go hand in hand. After you’ve cleared out the energy that you don’t want, it makes sense to bring in (and cultivate) the energy that you do want. Once any immediate issues are dealt with, we can create healthy spaces within ourselves and our environment. Through good energetic health practices, we create spaces that are resistant to inappropriate energy and are easy to maintain. Just like we don’t brush our teeth once and consider it done for life, our spiritual energy thrives best with consistent habits that support health and vitality. This is true of our personal energy and of the energy in our surroundings.
When we take care of our own energy, we are more stable and able to attend to the energy around us. After clearing and containing basic health, we can cultivate the energy within us and around us to support certain qualities or goals, such as protection, abundance, kindness, or creativity. We attend to ourselves so that we are stronger, liberated, and able to live our soul’s purpose in the world. In short, we attend to our own energy so that we can create ourselves and become the people we want to be. And if the people we want to be are people who want to heal and care for the world we live in and those who share it with us, so much the better.
Your Practice, Not My System
The approach to energetic health that I suggest is not a step-by-step system but rather a template or recipe. People are such unique beings and situations are so complex that it is unrealistic to think that any one approach will be right for everyone or even a majority of people. It is also unrealistic to think that doing the exact same things every day will suffice since each day brings new energy and new challenges. A more flexible, customized approach increases the probability of success. Not only are you more likely to do a practice that fits into your life, the focus will be more specific to your needs, which can change daily.
You will notice that the thinkers who have most influenced my ideas about energy work come from a broad range of subjects as well as various spiritual paths. So much wisdom can easily cross categories. A few decades ago, when I was learning to knit, the incomparable Elizabeth Zimmerman shaped my approach. A prolific author and highly respected teacher, Zimmerman rarely provided normal patterns detailing precisely how many or what kind of stitches to make. Instead, she taught general principles and provided examples of how to use that information to create precisely what you wanted. She empowered knitters to experiment and above all to trust themselves. She said, in her book The Opinionated Knitter, “I deliberately keep my knitting notes vague, because tastes vary, and your brains are as good as mine anyway.” This it is true. Your brains are as good as mine. I may have read more about this topic, practiced longer, and spent more time exploring the general principles of energetic health, but in this book, I’m sharing all I know. Once you’ve read it, the only thing you don’t have, perhaps, is experience. Using your perfectly lovely brains, commonsense, and knowledge of yourself and your life, you can incorporate these principles to achieve your own goals. Based on my own experiences and the information in these pages, I share ideas and suggestions to get you started on your path to becoming the free and awesome person you were born to be.
Clearing and cultivation is not hard or complicated. You don’t have to subscribe to any specific tradition, belief system, or religion. Part 1 will establish a foundational understanding. This includes using clear, common language to create a shared vocabulary that will make it easier to talk about the nature of energy. We will also discuss in greater detail the purpose of energy work. The language and purpose will help us have realistic expectations about what we are going to do and how we are going to do it.
The most important work will be your own personal clearing, which is covered in Part 2. Personal clearing includes creating a toolkit of techniques that you can use in different circumstances as needed, clearing long-standing energy blocks within yourself, and developing an energetic maintenance practice. You can try the techniques as presented and keep notes in a journal about how they worked for you as well as ideas for modifying the techniques to better suit you. After you’ve tried some techniques for yourself, you will use a simple step-by-step process to help you develop a practice that works for you and the life you are living right now. There will be no need to completely overhaul your life or purchase any special items. These ideas can slip easily into your already existing day, as naturally as washing your face or putting on your shoes.
Part 3 moves beyond ourselves and into the greater world. After you are feeling cleared and centered, we move outward, learning about the energy of spaces and places and how you can affect the energy of your home, work place, car, etc. Finally, you’ll learn how simple practices can change the world, one small action at a time.
As mentioned earlier, this book is a guide, not a manifesto of dogma. You will get the most out of it if you read it with a journal (and of course a writing utensil) alongside. There will be exercises for you to try and suggestions for lists, reflections, and general journal entries. Together, your journal and this book will help you create your own personal energy practice.
 Zimmerman, Elizabeth. The Opinionated Knitter (WI, Pittsville: Schoolhouse Press, 2005), 31.
Recently I heard the idea that we should look at hard times in our lives as allies because they help us to become the people we are meant to and want to be.
I know it is common for us to sometimes advise people to “look on the bright side” or to consider that “every cloud has a silver lining,” but these platitudes are cold comfort and feel, well, just lame.
They feel that way because we have a larger, more important idea about hard times that shapes our underlying understanding of the role that hardship and challenge play in our lives.
In modern Christianity, at least in some denominations (particularly the megachurches and fundamentalists), there is the idea that if one lives in a way pleasing to God that one will prosper because God, being happy with you, will reward you with material comfort.
This idea isn’t only embedded in Christianity. It is part of our New Age understanding of the world, too. We have ideas like “if you are on the right path, things will open up and be easy for you.” The Law of Attraction is another example. If only you believe strongly enough and be VERY careful of every word that comes out of your mouth, the Universe will reward you. And variations of that quote that I’ve seen attributed to various writers, “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”
Somehow we’ve gotten it in our heads that having things go well and easy for us are rewards for and evidence of our good behavior and that when we experience hard times, we must have made some mistake and are experiencing a punishment. This kind of thinking is so dangerous. It leads to the “blaming the victim” notion that so many abuse victims have to deal with. It also can parallelize us from making any decision or taking any actions because every choice is fraught with concern over the outcome. The concern is not only the normal, what if this doesn’t pan out variety, but the deeper story we’ve attached to the outcome of our actions: all the world will know if we are good or bad. If we are successful, then clearly we are good people who are doing “life” right. If we suffer setbacks and hard times and failures, then we must have done something wrong, something more deeply and fundamentally wrong than just making a mistake.
We tell ourselves terrible lies like (or just as bad, we believe these things of others): We expressed a negative thought and therefore the Universe rained tribulations on us. We didn’t properly follow our bliss, therefore we are living a pale, sad life. We sold out and kept our muggle job because we needed the insurance and don’t have the time or energy to pursue more high-minded pursuits.
Maybe hard times aren't measures of how great or enlightened or lousy we are. Maybe hard times just sometimes happen to everyone. Maybe they are part of life because, well, because they are part of life.
More philosophically and more importantly, maybe they are part of life because they are our allies who help us learn and grow.
May you make allies of difficulties.
May you never judge yourself by the outward appearance of your life.
May you never compare yourself to others.
An Important but Forgotten Lesson from the 5 of Pentacles
As we know, the tarot has evolved over the centuries. Some of our most beloved cards don’t look like they did in the earliest decks. The Fool is no longer a madman whose bare butt is bitten by a dog. The Magician is no longer a con artist. The High Priestess is no longer a fake pope. Strength is no longer a strong man bludgeoning a lion with a club.
Strangely, some cards that should have evolved to reflect our changing world and evolving consciousness have not. The Hierophant is a holdover from a time when the church was an important part of people’s lives. Judgement retains its “last judgment” qualities, a story from a mythology that no longer serves us (at least how it is currently interpreted).
Many of our modern decks are inspired and shaped by the Rider Waite Smith Tarot, which was designed by Victorian Christian Mystics. The Christian symbolism meant something different to those people than it does to most modern tarot readers, yet instead of evolving the symbolism we change the meanings to something more negative, reflecting our issues and wounds. I can only imagine we haven’t brought these cards up to date with our current beliefs because we are still too wounded, still haven’t done our shadow work in these areas, and still aren’t ready to move on.
Another card that has not evolved and consequently has taken on negative overtones is the 5 of Pentacles. It usually shows people in desperate physical need outside of a (usually) Christian church. One way we interpret this is to say that our religious institutions have let us down, have locked us out in the cold, and have failed in their job to take care of their people.
In the past, churches did (and for current, active members still do) provide services and help for members. Churches were (and for some, still are) communities. When someone is a member of a community, they participate. If we are no longer active members of a church, it is presumptuous to expect that community to take care of us.
A different lesson from the 5 of Pentacles might be the importance of community. If the old religions, the old communities no longer serve us, then perhaps our response should be to form new communities that do serve us. To be in community means to be involved, to accept the responsibilities of and commitment to something greater than ourselves. Some of us have shifted our idea of where responsibility for helping others comes from, namely, the government. However, besides voting (maybe), paying taxes, and perhaps protesting or posting indignant or angry comments, how involved with and committed to our government are we? Are we really part of our local governmental communities? If not, how realistic is it to expect that institution to take care of us in ways that matter to us most?
When we create and are involved in community, we give of ourselves in many ways. We are present. We help identify problems. We help create solutions. We are active. We help. If we are invested in a community, we give and in turn can expect support and help in turn if we need it.
Unfortunately, most organized religions don’t suit us (by us I mean people reading this blog, which probably means tarot readers and/or alternative thinkers). Unfortunately, most of us focus on national politics (particularly these days) where we often feel that we have little influence (and this certainly feels true, at least to me). Unfortunately, most of us are not involved in local politics because of whatever we prioritize over involvement in that form of community.
To expect assistance from a community, one must be involved with that community. It would be a like a distant family member with whom you’ve never had a relationship, who was never involved in the family in general, and indeed denigrated the family, asking for help in an entitled way. There is so much talk of entitlement these days and we all suffer from it. We feel entitled to help from institutions/communities that we’ve never been truly involved with or are even actively denigrating.
The 5 of Pentacles suggests that being involved in and committed to a community may have its price, but it also has benefits. Instead of railing against ineffective or inappropriate (for us) communities, the 5 of Pentacles invites us to form new communities that better reflect our ideals and gives us meaningful ways to serve, so that we may be served in our times of need.
May you find community.
If you cannot find it, may you make it.
Tarot as Sacred Text
One of the reasons that tarot fascinates so many people for so long (often for the whole of their lives) is that there are so many ways to look at and use the cards. Divination is one way and perhaps the most common, and certainly valuable. I also like to see the cards, individually and in groups, as a sacred text that teaches me about the mysteries of the world and of myself.
Sometimes these insights deviate from the way one may interpret a card in a reading. Sometimes they can add a new facet or understanding of a card that can be used while interpreting a divination. Sometimes they really shake up a long held belief or understanding of a card.
The cards are called keys for a reason: they open doors to entire worlds of wisdom. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I spend so much time in one particular part of a world that I get comfortable and begin to think that I’ve explored the whole place.
For example, the other day tarot showed me an interesting way to look at a series of cards: The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, and The Hierophant.
1. The Magician is the expression of our will via our ego. By ego I mean our sense that we are unique and separate individual beings.
2. The High Priestess is the expression of our intuition via our soul. By soul I mean our sense that we are connected to all things.
The Magician and High Priestess together describe the state of being human, that strange dichotomy that drives us: the desire to express our individuality in the world and the yearning to reunite with all that is.
3. The Empress is our ability to create via our actions.
4. The Emperor is the direction of creativity via our intellect.
Together these four cards are like the four pillars of our identity: what drives us, what we do, and how we do it.
5. The Hierophant is the movement of our identities toward our ideals via change.
Many people miss the value and inherent energy of the Hierophant due to wounds caused by the imperfect expression of the Hierophant energy by others (both individuals and organizations) in the past. Because it is easy to dislike “organized religion,” which admittedly fails so many of us, we can easily dismiss the true value of the Hierophant. This is just as dangerous as disregarding the value and positive aspects of the Empress because our mother wasn’t a great mom.
When we allow our wounds to denigrate the true wisdom and gift of an archetype, we put it in shadow. Things in our shadows (individually and collectively) always find a way out and when they do it isn’t pretty because anything left in shadow for too long will grow twisted and punchy.
While we easily understand the numerological connections of the Magician, High Priestess, Empress, and Emperor, the association of the Hierophant with the number 5 baffles many people. Fives, after all, are about change and, for better or worse, most of us see the Hierophant as rigidity rather than innovation. That is too bad because we miss out on the gift of the Hierophant, and it is such an important gift for those of us on the path to becoming our best selves and living our true soul’s purpose in the world.
The Hierophant is about change.
Taken together, these five cards illustrate how we, as spiritual beings having a human experience, can move forward toward continued spiritual, mental, and emotional growth.
May your mind and heart always be open to the wonders in the cards.
May the cards reveal their expansive wisdom to you.
May you use these gifts to make yourself and the world better.
Edited to add: days later and it suddenly occurs to me that in some numerology systems, 5 is the number of man, that is to say, humans. In Christian Biblical numerology, it is also the number of grace.
I subscribe to none of those. To me, the Wheel of Fortune is a Trickster card, a card of uncertainty. We spin the wheel and takes our chances. Who knows what where the Wheel will stop? Not this tarot reader. I firmly believe that there are some things we are not meant to know and there are cards in the deck that represent this.
Peeking into the future is just one use for tarot. It’s most important function is reading the cards as a sacred text. The Wheel of Fortune is excellent as a sacred text.
Here’s the lesson. Things happen. We cannot always control things that happen. I know that is not a popular belief but it is true, isn’t it? The secret golden nugget in the Wheel is: the closer you stand to the center of the wheel, the less likely you are to lose your balance. If we think of our lives as the wheel, the closer we are to our own center, which is defined by our core values, the easier it will be to stay steady, even if the wheel spins fast or lands somewhere that is just plain not cool.
Because this year is associated with the Wheel, we can be sure it will be one of change. The 5s are also associated with change and I do think we are going to see the energy of these cards throughout the year.
The 5 of Wands will bring a lot of competitiveness and ego.
The 5 of Cups will leave us lost in grief instead of actively grieving.
The 5 of Swords will bring us Pyrrhic victory after Pyrrhic victory.
The 5 of Pentacles is perhaps the most troubling in this case as it shows the potential for a complete separation of our resources from our values (both individual and collective).
That what this year is going to teach us. We are going to be tested to see what our priorities and values really are. Unfortunately, our country feels (to me) like it sees its role as a for-profit business, which is why, apparently, so many of us voted to put a businessman at the helm. But I never thought that our country was a business. It is a representation of our values…or it should be. If it is not performing that function, then what do we do? How do we make sure our values are expressed in the world? What are our options?
This year is going to be challenging. It will also be a gift. We will finally get to find out exactly who we are. I’ve heard someone say “show me your schedule and budget, I’ll name your values.” I couldn’t agree more and this year is going to be like a final exam. Who have you been striving to become? What is that person going to do in the face of real need…human need, creature need, earth need?
May we all hold on tight to our values, not get distracted by the world spinning around us, and stay calm and centered as we help keep the world on course.
The Key to Success
This version of the 8 of Pentacles is one of my favorites because it shows the sweat and challenge of hard work. Yes, she has tools and materials, the only way she will improve is to work. Through practice and discipline she learns what she needs to achieve exactly what she wants.
Have you noticed that there are often these words that float to the surface of popular consciousness? Often they are ones we've not used often (or at all) but suddenly, they fall off our lips as if they are part of our understanding of the world. Lately, for me, it's been the word "iteration." Usually I feel annoyance at these words, as if they are some lame affectation. That annoyance is stupid, I know. With this particular word, I've had to fight that irrational reaction because what this word means is so close to what I believe as someone who is always trying to master something new and as a teacher.
Iteration is a procedure in which repetition of a sequence of operation yields resutls successively closer to a desired result. Technically, we could use the word "draft," although interation feels more active with more focus on the act of repetition as a learning experience. Repetition is, in so many areas of life, the single best way to get better at something.
As many of you know, I'm working to become a better artist. I took classes to get me started but after a point, taking in more information wasn't affecting my actual art. It was only when I started practicing what I'd learned, making mistakes, figuring out what went wrong, and deciding things to try to correct the mistakes did I actually start improving. A lot of art tutorials by established artists feature "cheap supply challenges." The point of these is to show that while quality supplies are awesome, they are not necessary to create good art nor is not having them an excuse not to practice. If you develop skill, you can create with whatever is at hand. The best supplies or tools are no substitute for skill. Skill comes through practice. Saying that we will get better once we take that one class or acquire that specific deck or tool actually undermine your progress and take away your power.
So as we all move forward, reaching toward becoming our best selves in whatever areas we are focusing on, the 8 of Pentacles is here to remind us that while we should enjoy and utilize whatever can support us we need to know that practice does indeed make perfect. Make messes, make mistakes, try new things.
May you commit to the discipline of your chosen goal.
May your successes inspire you.
May your mistakes teach you.
May you find joy in the process.
Exploring Reader Bias
If you are not comfortable with reading for public figures, perhaps you would be reading for fictional characters. Some people who don't read for those not present or without permission are okay with ideas like this because these are practice techniques, meant for your learning only.
The idea was born when one of my students did practice readings for public figures. She admitted that when she read for Trump that she had trouble finding anything positive to say because of how she felt about him, because of her judgment of his character and his choices. As readers, we know that not all our clients share our beliefs and are walking differnt paths than ours. When we feel very strongly about their paths, it can be hard to give an objective reading free from our own ideas about what is best.
You may wonder if you have such biases. This activity can help throw some light on that question. It does not solve the problem but rather is simply an experiment to explore potential biases, perhaps illuminating a tendency that you might not have been aware of.
Step 1: Select 2 "clients"
Pick one public figure that you admire, like, or respect. Pick another one, someone who you don't like.
Step 2: Decide on the question
Develop one question that would be appropriate for both clients.
Step 3: Decide on the spread
Pick one spread that will address the question and use it for both readings.
Step 4: Create the blind testing environment
Write each name on small pieces of paper and fold them up so that you don't know which is which.
Step 5: Do the first reading
Pick one piece of paper, without looking at the name. Do the reading. Make notes or record it. When done, do NOT look at the paper.
Step 6: Do the second reading
Follow the same instructions as Step 5. Note: unless there was some miracle in shuffling, you will have different cards for each reading.
Step 7: Journal or reflect
Note how you felt, not knowing who was the client. Did you have moments where you wished you knew who the reading was for, thinking that it would "help" you with the interpretation? Did you consciously think about how you might interpret the reading differently if it was for one client rather than the other? Were there any moments of cognitive dissonance?
Step 8: Reveal the names
Unfold the papers and learn which reading was for which client. Note your reactions.
St. Barbara's Day
December 4 is St. Barbara’s Day. Interestingly, she is also associated with Chango/Shango. In tarot, she is associated with The Tower. For the third year in a row, my friend and I celebrated. At the bottom of this post is a spread that we used for our first year’s celebration. You can do this spread any time, not just on her feast day.
Although this is a Catholic saint, we do not celebrate as Catholics, although we were both raised as such. Instead, we work with the various St. Barbara stories as if they are a sacred text, much in the same way as I read tarot as a sacred text or as the hosts of the wonderful podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, read those books as sacred texts. As with so many of the stories of the saints, there are many versions. We do not try to establish the “true” story or demand factual evidence. A sacred text is not a scientific research paper.
Each year we focus on a different aspect of the stories. The basic plot of her story is that her father locked her in a tower to keep her safe and virtuous and away from the heretic Christians. Food and necessities were sent up to her in a basket attached to a rope. One day, somehow, a book found its way into the basket and Barbara read it. It was about Christianity and she thought it was wonderful. She wanted to learn more but her father was suspicious and controlled her life. But Barbara was pretty clever. She feigned illness and said that she knew of a doctor, the only doctor who could save her. Her father sent for the doctor, not realizing he was a doctor of the soul not of the body. Barbara learned all about Christian faith and was baptized.
Her father went away on business for a few days. While he was gone, Barbara ordered her father’s architects to add another window to her tower, which only had two windows. She wanted three windows to represent the Holy Trinity. When her father returned, he was, of course, outraged. He turned her in as a heretic and she was beaten and punished, but she would not repent. This went on for days, maybe weeks, but each night she asked Jesus to heal her wounds and he did. Because he’s cool like that. Her father was ordered to behead her so he took her to the foothills of a mountain (like you do) and attempted to cut her head off. After he accomplished this horrible crime, lightning struck, killing him and causing a mountain to fall on him.
That is one variation and I left out lots of things. And my friend and I change the ending. In our version, she does not die but escapes just before the lightning hits her father and goes on to teach love and commitment for many years.
We began our celebration by spending a few minutes at the alter I’d set up with candles and a painting I made of her followed by three minutes in meditation, inviting St. Barbara to come to us and guide us of in our discussion, reflection, and tarot reading. In my meditation, I was taken immediately to what looked like a WWI trench with soldiers in it. Barbara was going behind each one, laying her hands on them. She looked back at me with a look that said, “I’m busy right now. Just get to work.” Even though St. Barbara is associated with artillery, it was clear that this vision was metaphoric and not a literal call to physical violence.
As we discussed our meditation experiences, the message for me was that I know what is right and what must be done, what my work in the world is, and that I need to be braver and share my messages more clearly and with a wider reach. Until now, I have been quietly posting my messages on my blog and hoping that whoever needs the messages will find them. St. Barbara says that that is not enough. If I want to be part of changing the world, I need to be more on the front lines.
We finished our evening with doing readings for ourselves, sharing our messages, and adding to each other’s, as we felt led to. We used the second edition of the World Spirit Tarot and Carrie Paris’ Magpie Oracle. Very often, I take a photo or write out my reading in my journal but sometimes some readings are different. They are oracular moments that feed the soul more than the conscious mind. They are meant to be experienced rather than analyzed and mulled over and figured out. This reading, for me, was like that.
During our discussion and reflection, we noted how an apparently randomly acquired book held a life-changing message for St. Barbara. In myths, we often see that the environment is responsive to the hero. Barbara was seeking wisdom and it came to her. She, in turn, was responsive and changed her environment to reflect her new wisdom by adding a window to her tower. So my friend and I asked Spirit to help us be open to common, everyday things and occurrences that might hold such messages for us and how we can respond and create effective change in the world.
The next day I received a holiday card from a cousin who wrote something about really missing my presence on Facebook and maybe in 2017 I’d consider returning. Others have asked me over this past year but I always knew that the answer was, at least for now, “no.” With this one, I wasn’t so sure. I’m not someone who believes that every random thought is sacred intuition. Instead, I prefer to take the idea as a suggestion and test it against my current goals and values.
So I am still thinking about this, thinking how could my Facebook experience be different. How can I use it to share my messages without getting dragged back into my old way of using the platform. It may come to nothing. Or it may lead to something vital to my journey. As we enter into the darkest time of the year, I will spend time in reflection and prayer.
In the meantime, I blessed my neighborhood that night with words inspired from our celebration:
May you stand up for something with love, honor, and integrity without violence.
May you stand up for thing, large or small—yourself, another person, an ideal.
May you stand up for something you love and take one step closer to your true self.
With that, I offer an additional blessing to us all:
May you find and face the darkest parts of yourself.
May you find the peace and strength to transform them.
May you discover your next best step on your journey to live your true soul’s purpose.
May you know that you have the power to change yourself and the world.