The Queen is a Knitting Sheep
Another of my favorite cards from this deck is the Queen of Pentacles. I was always so intrigued by the Sheep's shop, and as a knitter and someone who thinks sheep are wonderful, and as a fellow Pentacles creature myself, it would be hard for me not to love this card.
Queen of Pentacles
Through the Looking Glass
The Sheep shop owner is our Queen of Pentacles. Her store is so filled with things that Alice can barely focus. Not only that, but the items behave so strangely, and yet the Sheep is not bothered at all. Even when Alice’s shopping is interrupted by a dreamlike boat trip that ends with them both back in the shop, the Sheep continues knitting and only asks, as if nothing had happened, “Now, what do you want to buy?” After Alice decides to buy an egg, the Sheep takes Alice’s money and tells her get her egg herself. “I never put things into people’s hands—that would never do—you must get it for yourself.” Alice doesn’t understand why it would never do, but the Sheep, our Queen of Pentacles, knows that it is better for people to reach for their desires on their own. She is happy to help, but doing things for Alice isn’t the best way to help. The Sheep is from the “teach a man to fish” school of supporting others.
Down the Rabbit Hole
In a reading, the Queen of Pentacles understands the physical world and is a master of material things. Using whatever resources are at hand, she can make almost anything she needs. She is a canny businessperson but isn’t known for greediness. Because she has made her own way in the world, she understands true value. Lessons are learned through experience and the Queen of Pentacles will happily help you gain that experience but she isn’t giving anything away. She’ll encourage you to figure things out but will not let you fail; she’ll step in to save the day when necessary. It’s likely, because of that you’ll never make that same mistake again. Gain her friendship and aid by appealing to her practical side, ask her to teach you, and be willing to roll up your sleeves and get dirty, if need be.
Keywords: ally, confidante, helper, authority, accomplished, resourceful, generous, learns and teaches through experience, supportive
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The Sweetest Knight
Most of us have a favorite court card or two. But when asked to pick our favorite card(s) in the deck, rarely (in my experience) are court cards selected. In this deck, though, there are a couple of court cards that fall into my "favorites" of this deck. The White Knight (some say Lewis Carroll himself) as the Knight of Cups is very dear to my heart.
Knight of Cups
Through the Looking Glass
We’ve already met this wonderfully sweet knight in the Hermit card. The White Knight is a very apt Knight of Cups, with his dreamy idealism. When Alice seems sad, he says, “let me sing you a song to comfort you.” Alice, who had heard a great deal of poetry already asked if it was long. He replies, “It’s long, but it’s very, very beautiful. Everybody that hears me sing it—either it brings the tears into their eyes or else….” trailing off midsentence, as a true dreamer of dreams and singer of sad songs is wont to do.
Alice’s reaction to him is the very description of a Knight of Cups character: “Of all the strange things that Alice saw in her journey Through the Looking-Glass, this was the one that she always remembered most clearly. Years afterwards she could bring the whole scene back again, as if it had been only yesterday—the mild blue eyes and the kindly smile of the Knight—the setting sun gleaming through his hair, and shining on his armour in a blaze of light that quite dazzled her—the horse quietly moving about, with the reins hanging loose on his neck, cropping the grass at her feet—and the black shadows of the forest behind—all this she took in like a picture, as, with one hand shading her eyes, she leant against a tree, watching the strange pair, and listening, in a half-dream, to the melancholy music of the song.”
Down the Rabbit Hole
In a reading, this Knight represents someone sweet, creative, and dreamy. Like the other knights, he does focus intensely on his goal but because he lives in a kind of between worlds state, we can’t always “see” or understand what he is doing, consequently, it is easy for him to be misunderstood. Luckily, he is more concerned with whatever he is working on to care much what others think about him. If you want to catch his attention, appeal to his commitment to the kind of truth he values…the “truth is beauty” kind not necessarily “these are the facts” kind. Show him how his participation can really help someone in need or serve a greater ideal. Don’t expect things from him that he can’t give. He’ll never be a take-charge person or a natural leader but he will be a true friend and support you with every bit of his vast heart.
Keywords: focused, goal-oriented, short attention span, dreamer, committed, idealistic, romantic
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The Horn of Judgement Day
One of the interesting aspects of creating this is that it is not “an Alice in Wonderland” deck. In other words, it is not made by matching scenes from the stories to the cards. It is truly Tarot in Wonderland…and (as the book is called) Wonderland in Tarot. The images come from the place where these two sacred texts meet and mingle. Sometimes, if appropriate, the scenes are directly from the stories. At other times, the characters from the stories find themselves in tradition tarot card scenes.
Judgement is one of those cards whose image isn’t from the story but rather a blending of Wonderland and tarot.
Through the Looking Glass
Like several other cards in the tarot deck, this one could do with a new name. “Judgement” as a name implies being judged. In addition, the traditional imagery—angel sounding a horn and dead people rising from their graves—suggests the biblical story of the Last Judgment, where all people, living and dead, would be judged. Maybe centuries ago the card was interpreted in this way. However, as human consciousness evolves, so too does our understanding of the cards. It is now more common to recognize that this card is a gift and an opportunity.
In Wonderland, particularly in Tenniel’s iconic illustrations, the playing card people (other than the royalty cards) are shown as flat, as if they are actually made of cardstock. In some ways, they are metaphors for two-dimensional people. In this image, they hear the White Rabbit’s trumpet. As they respond, they find themselves filling out and, like Pinocchio, becoming real three-dimensional people. They are, in short, coming to life…or more accurately to new life, since they were already alive in some sense of the word.
The White Rabbit in the sky takes the place of the tradition angel. In Wonderland, he plays the role of herald during the Knave of Heart’s trial. Heralds were, among other things, the messengers of the nobility. They were sometimes experts in law or known for giving moral guidance, which explains why, in the text, the Rabbit is able to take control of the proceedings of the trial, even to the point of contradicting the king. He was a voice that represented an order that was higher than earthly jurisdiction.
During the trial, Alice waits, curious about the next witness to be called. “Imagine her surprise, when the White Rabbit read out, at the top of his shrill little voice, the name ‘Alice!’” When she takes the stand, the story reaches its climax and ends with Alice asserting her will and her sense of what is meaningful in the face of nonsense and violence. The White Rabbit did not only call Alice to the stand; he called her to become the person she knew she should be.
Down the Rabbit Hole
In a reading, Judgement marks an invitation to hear a higher voice, perhaps your preferred deity or your own higher self, and follow its call. You have the opportunity to leave behind an old life and embrace a new way of living. Humans, though, are resistant to change and try to ignore this call, especially if their old life was not so bad. It is even harder to change your ways if your current life is actually good and comfortable. Plus, answering this call means a kind of death, since you will be leaving some parts of you, some behaviors, some beliefs behind. A call like this, though, resonates deeply in the heart and unless you shut down your heart entirely, you won’t be able to resist it forever. After you begin living in this new way, when you look back on your old life, you will see that it was a kind of half life, a cardboard life, a life lacking depth and dimension.
Keywords: rebirth, renewal, rite of passage, calling, vocation, awakening, change, decision, forgiveness, redemption, absolution, judgment
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Oh my ears and whiskers!
It's going to be late!
Tarot in Wonderland, illustrated by Eugene Smith, will be available in mid- to late April. Sadly it is stuck on a boat between here and China and will be a little late…just another Trickster experience that has been part of this deck from the beginning. In fact, it has been so delayed for so many reasons from the beginning that it is dedicated to Hermes, my favorite expression of the Trickster.
Even though the subject matter is whimsical and supposedly nonsensical, it is one of my deepest decks yet. Having loved Carrol’s work from childhood through writing innumerable papers on it in college, this deck was a joy to create.
Part of the fun was exploring the similarities between tarot and the Alice stories. Some topics discussed in the book include: identity, searching for wisdom, and opposites.
Another direction we consider is reading mundane things as sacred texts. Below is an excerpt from the book explaining this idea. Below that is an excerpt about the Hierophant, a suitable match to go with a discussion about sacred texts.
I hope you enjoy this and ultimately, the deck.
Tarot in Wonderland
Many spiritual paths have sacred texts. Christians have their Bible; Muslims, the Quran. Many pagans say that the earth is their sacred text. I do not think that a sacred text must be ordained or approved by any organization. You can have your own sacred text. Witches have their Books of Shadows, where they write all the important things that they learn as well as their spells. It is their personal sacred text. Many tarot readers consider their decks as an unbound sacred book that can be shuffled to provide wisdom about any situation. Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile created the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast in order to read a series that they love as a sacred text.
According to Zoltan and ter Kuile, one defining characteristic of a sacred text is that it is generative. What they mean is the work is not static but continually provides new and insightful information. This is one reason that tarot readers love their cards. Tarot readers can use a deck for years and yet still see something new in the cards. Not only that, but consider this: we do not have a single complete existing original tarot deck and yet throughout the centuries we continue to create more decks that show the wisdom of the cards in different ways. Even decks with similar themes are all still unique from each other. There are lots of cat-themed tarots and they are all different. Likewise, there are multiple versions of fairy, magic, witch, animal, Steampunk, and even Alice-based decks. There is room in the world for all of them because tarot is generative and each incarnation shows us something different.
The Alice stories are read by many, whether they know it or now, as sacred texts. In fact, in this book, we will, for brevity’s sake, often refer to the Alice stories as “the text.” The stories are filled with so much symbolism and playfulness and enough questions to allow space for expansion. That expansion can go in so many directions. People view the books through various lenses: psychological, mathematical, logical, political, historical, biographical, and literary, just to name a few. This is similar to tarot because different readers work with the cards from psychological, spiritual, therapeutic, or psychic approaches. Further, if you consider all the movies, plays, spin offs, books, and comics that are based on or inspired by Carroll’s work, we have to admit that the Alice stories are certainly generative.
V, The Hierophant
Through the Looking Glass
These days, The Hierophant is one of the most disliked cards in tarot. That is because people have too narrow a view of The Hierophant because traditional imagery shows this character as a Roman Catholic Pope. The Pope is just manifestation of the spiritual, ethical, or philosophical teacher archetype, which is what this card really is. The Hierophant, regardless of the specific image used to illustrate this card, represents the underlying belief system that guides our behaviors and actions. Different versions of this archetype…a Catholic Pope, an evangelical pastor, a popular philosopher, a self-help guru, a motivational teacher…all share a similar quality: they suggest a possible way that the world works. Once you understand your own beliefs, then you can measure all your decisions, actions, words, and goals against that worldview. The Hierophant as a card doesn’t so much represent how to think as to the importance about what you think. What you accept as the “truth” about the world determines your behavior. When our behavior is at odds with our beliefs, we suffer severe emotional, spiritual, and psychological (and sometimes physical) distress.
The Cheshire Cat explains to Alice how Wonderland “works” and about the importance of knowing one’s goals. Some of the most famous lines (and there are so many) from the Alice stories are:
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you ca’n’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
The Cheshire Cat gives an explanation that hinges on the idea that no one knows what is real and what is false. When his remarks are pushed further by philosophers and other great thinkers (as so much in the Alice stories has been), discussions include the inability to know for certain whether one is in a dream while one is in the dream. Likewise, when one is “mad” or what we would call suffering from mental illness is it possible to know that one is in a state of insanity? The idea of madness continues with the Mad Hatter and March Hare. I’ve heard that a basic definition of madness is when what is in our heads doesn’t match what is outside our heads, or what some call reality. To be in good mental, emotional, and spiritual health, our internal lives (our beliefs) must match our external lives (our actions).
Alice asks for directions, but has no destination in mind. The Cat responds with “then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” This echoes wisdom from the Talmud that says “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” If you have no goals, no intentions guiding your path, then what you do doesn’t matter. The Cat and the Talmud don’t mean goals like “make six figures” or “start a successful business,” at least not as ends in themselves. We are talking about core beliefs, about why we are here, and about what we believe we are meant to do.
Down the Rabbit Hole
In a reading, The Hierophant invites us to examine our actions and measure them against our beliefs. If they are lining up but things are still feeling wrong, then perhaps it is time to re-examine our guiding principles. If there is a gap between the ways in which we behave and what we claim to believe, then it is time to tighten up that space and start being the people that we aspire to be. When we are confused about which path to take or which way to go, we often turn to the cards for guidance. This card says that you need no outside advice but instead, but instead to do that which in your heart of heart you know to be the right thing.
Keywords: education, teaching, learning, knowledge, conformity, tradition, institutions, group identity, values, guidance, orthodoxy, rites, blessing, status quo, social conventions
To pre-order through Amazon, click the picture below!
New Year, New Life
Hello my friends!
I hope that 2018 finds you full of optimism and confidence.
There have been many changes in my life this year. The biggest is my move from Minnesota to northern California. We moved early November and are still settling in and getting used to our new life. If you want a short version of the story, you can check out my recent newsletter, which also includes some photos from teaching in China and celebrating Lo Scarabeo's 30th Anniversary in Italy. Click here for the full newsletter: CLICK!
The newsletter version is very short and leaves out so much. While I've begun writing the longer version, which will probably be a shortish book length, it will be a while before that is finished, in part because the story is still playing out. In the meantime, you can get some of the details from my fourth and most most recent annual conversation with Andrew McGregor. To listen, click here: CLICK!
My travels and recent move really wore me out, so I've been resting and refreshing myself with that favorite winter pastime: reading. I've been enjoying some really good fiction lately, which you can find on the Currently Reading page.
A Peek into the Future
In publishing, things happen happen far in advance. For example, I just turned in the text for the 2019 Tarot Calendar. Sometimes it is easy to forget about projects because they are awaiting publication while you work on the next project. But there are two that I have not forgotten and have been waiting to tell you about.
But today isn't exactly that day. Instead of telling all about them, I'll just give a little sneak peek.
Both of these projects are very near and dear to my heart. I hope you find them interesting. The pictures are clickable (to Amazon and you can pre-order).
Grace and peace and love, my friends.
May a sweet moment bring delight to your day.
May all beings be at peace.
Falling in love with Rumi
In the meantime, I've been in a strange liminal space, a time when loose ends are being tied and all that is no longer required is being released. Because this work is so contrary to our usual American "Do more, bigger, louder, longer" attitude, even though it is quiet work it is very hard. Being a wise woman, I've built plenty of time in my days to let things process. Part of that quiet time included falling in love with Rumi. I've been drawn to his quotes lately and decided I wanted to read them in context, so I got a book and have been loving it!
Because most of you are probably tarot people, I thought you might enjoy this poem because it is about the elements. Not necessarily only the classical alchemical elements, but still. It's beautiful and I hope it makes you smile.
Answers From the Elements
Last night I asked the moon about the Moon, my
for the visible world, Where is God?
The moon says, I am dust stirred up
when he passed by. The sun, My face is pale
from just now seeing him. Water: I slide on my
head and face
like a snake, from a spell he said. Fire: His
I want to be that restless. Wine, why so light?
I would burn if I had a choice. Earth, quiet
and thoughtful? Inside me I have a garden
and an underground spring.
This world hurts my head with its answers,
Wine filling my hand, not my glass.
If I could wake completely, I would say without
why I’m ashamed of using words.
A Blessing for You
May you ask the moon about the Moon
May the answer beguile and enchant you
May the Moon ask you about YOU
May your answer delight the Moon
Here are some links (that give me a little commission) for the Rumi Collection, and my two newest releases, The Mystical Manga Tarot and Llewellyn's 2018 Tarot Calendar.
Sacred Practices and TArot
People who know me know that I love podcasts. One that I really enjoy is Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. If you are a Harry Potter fan, I highly recommend this podcast.
The hosts, Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, don’t just talk about the books; they talk about them as if they are sacred, as if we can find wisdom and revelation in them. A book doesn’t necessarily have to sanctified by someone or some organization to be sacred. They read the books, one chapter per week, and then examine the chapter in details through a theme, like forgiveness, love, humor, loneliness, commitment, being a stranger, change, confusion, etc.
Another thing they do is draw sacred practices from different traditions, practices that were designed to be used with that tradition’s sacred text, and use them with the Harry Potter stories. One that most of us are familiar with is Lectio Divina. Another is Ignation Contemplation, which is very similar to something many tarot lovers already do: imagine the scene and put yourself in it.
Vanessa and Casper introduced me (through their podcast) to a new practice called Pardes. It’s from the Jewish tradition and is a method for exploring a specific passage in a text, usually the Torah. It is such an easy thing to extrapolate this practice to a tarot card.
It is only four steps. I almost said “four easy steps” but I don’t think they are necessarily easy. Spiritual reading and contemplation isn’t like vegging out binge watching The Magicians or something (however, it is also an activity I can recommend).
Give it a try and let me know what you thought. Better yet, try it with some friends or a meet up group. Enjoy!
May you always find new ways
to see the beauty
in the things you love.
In tarot everything can mean something. Most readers understand that the suits all have a specific energy. Likewise, so do the numbers. If you are like me, some numbers are easier to get than others. Fours have always been easy for me. A four-legged chair is more stable than a three-legged stool. Stability, security, and safety are associated with the number four. It's negative extreme is stagnation.
In our fast-paced world, we are more apt to keep the screen moving, keep scrolling, keep breathing in more and more information than we are to pause, to dive deeply, to process.
Because of this, it might be good to consider the positive advice that we can find in the 4s.
The number four is not just about stability or stagnation. It is also about stopping the flow of energy. Energy stopped for too long leads to stagnation. But in a world where energy is encouraged to move at a frenetic rate, I don't think we will hurt anything by slowing down a little. In fact, just the opposite. There are great benefits to slowing down.
A Blessing from the Fours
May you take the time to celebrate your achievements.
May you acknowledge and honor your emotions.
May you allow your mind time to integrate ideas.
May you listen to the wisdom of your body.
2018 Tarot Calendar
Sometimes in publishing, you have to keep your mouth shut about things and it was really hard keeping my mouth shut about this project because I LOVED working on it so much! Everything about this was fun. Even the committee meetings! Yes, I know! But everyone was super excited and creative. We came up with fabulous ideas. I got to pick out cards that I was aching to talk about.
There are four different page designs, so there is a lot of variety. Each design includes a card, of course. In addition, there might be a spread, a short essay, tips and techniques, specific symbol studies, and all kinds of good stuff.
Don't take my word for it. Here are a few examples. I can't wait to hear what you think!