As you probably know, I write a lot. Each year I recieve several contracts for publication or for teaching. One day (this was back in 2015), I was telling Lisa about how I love it when my authors (the ones I contract to write for Llewellyn) are so excited to get their contracts and to hear how they celebrate. I said something about how we don't celebrate my contracts because they've become "my job." Then we realized that that is a bunch of crap and that we should celebrate each and every opportunity for the awesome blessing that it is. So now we do because why not?
James Clear notes that despite all the lovely accomplishments, large and small, that he didn't celebrate them. Instead he acted humble and moved on to the next goal. But by doing so, he was not only not honoring the achievement but also depriving his loved ones an opportunity to be part of his life in a really wonderful way.
My blessing for you today is that you celebrate your accomplishments, large and small, and that you help those you love celebrate theirs, every day all year long.
January 1. We call it New Year’s but that date has not always (and does not, in all parts of the world) mark the date a year begins. You can read more about the history of January 1 HERE).
Even though December 31/January 1 are just a dates on a calendar, they are infused with so much expectation. It's got to be hard to be an arbitrary point marking an ending and beginning. Even more challenging: on a circle (like the earth’s journey around the sun) there is no one beginning/ending point.
Nevertheless, since around 1570, we have invested this date with power. The power of a clean slate. I do adore clean slates; don't you? As Anne Shirley said, "Every day is fresh, with no mistakes in it." A new day is awesome, but there is something even more powerful about a whole new year! The potential! The possibilities! The football games! Fresh calendars, new journals. AND, perhaps most importantly...the new season of Sherlock. Ahem.
So whatever energy or magic there is in this time for you, may you soak in it, release and relax into it, let it reveal its secrets to you.
I look forward to sharing the journey into 2017 with you.
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.
As some of you may know, I've begun blessing my neighborhood each night. I talk about it HERE.
Some nights, the blessings feel too special to keep to myself and my neighborhood, so sometimes I'll share them here for you. Because I want you all to be blessed, too.
You are blessed with discernment.
You are blessed with the ability to take action.
May these qualities drop deeply into your heart and grow.
May your deepest core start imagining, feeling, seeing how things can be different.
May that beautiful vision grow until it manifests through your actions
and change the world.
Human beings are manifestation machines. There are lots of ways we create reality. On the physical level, we are natural makers…from creating whole worlds with words, to deep emotions with music, to grand awe with paint or architecture. We also create in other ways. There is a belief, which I share, that thoughts become things. This is an amazing ability that we are only starting to fully appreciate. With this ability comes responsibility.
Everyone has the same amount of time in a day. Everyone has a store of energy and attention that can be used during that time. The big question is what are we doing with it? What are the long term and bigger picture ramifications of our thoughts and actions? The more we understand our power, the more responsibility we have in wielding it well. We have the opportunity to decide what larger field of reality we are feeding.
In times of chaos or fear or anger, we…or at least I…turn to the comfort of focusing on smaller things that we feel we can control. Creating order out of chaos is a natural response and usually helpful. But sometimes we get caught up in either things that don’t really matter or are harmful although we may not realize it. Both of these responses are a misuse of our creative manifesting power.
Let’s say we spend some of our precious, non-renewable resource of time and some of our potent energy (it is potent whether you realize it or not) in posting some grammar meme, like these:
Now, as a writer I understand the importance of grammar (even if I don’t always get it right). As a spiritual being who is trying to understand how to best use my power and resources to create a world that is an expression of Love (as opposed to our limited human ideas about love), I cringe at hyper vigilance and judgment being spread like an insidious virus in the name of humor or in upholding the pillars of civilization (many take their grammar way too seriously).
I believe that when we do something like this, we accomplish two things.
1. We are using our precious resources on something that is at most ineffective and at best downright wasteful. If we truly care about grammar and helping people learn to use language more effectively, our time and energy would be best used in teaching…and teaching with love and respect. Intent matters. Indeed, I am counting on the importance of intent as I write this, as I certainly don't want to fall into the trap I am describing.
2. We feed the field of bullying and judgmental energy. This is so important. We live in a liminal time, a time in between stories. Our old worldviews are dying and new ones are forming (we, as co-creators of the universe are at this moment creating the future). That’s one reason we are seeing things in the world that we are right now…the old world has essentially died and we are experiencing its death throes. It has nothing to lose so it is thrashing out wildly. Our job is to help minimize the damage it does on the way out. Our other job is to pay attention to what energy fields we are feeding with our time, attention, actions, words, etc. Calling or implying that people are inferior to you because they didn’t have the same education or environment that allowed them to take advantage of education as you feeds the field of bullying. Do we want our next story to the same story but just with other people doing the bullying? I don’t. Be the change you want to see. Live the story you want to tell. Think about what you are doing and why. Imagine your actions as seeds that will grow in the future. What will they grow into? Something that nourishes live or something destructive?
How does this tie into tarot? Let’s consider the 5 of Swords. It tells many stories, as all the cards do. The story I’m thinking of now is of the pyrrhic victory. As we try, in our fear of chaos and the death throes of the old world, to push forward anything that imposes order and makes us feel better about ourselves, we may win some battles. We may help someone actually understand the differences between they’re, their, and there. We may (and this is more likely) help ourselves feel better about ourselves because we are so very smart and our like-minded friends will jump in and help feed that good feeling even more. But those are the short-term benefits. What are the long-term possibilities? Like the dude in the 5 of Swords, gleefully collecting all the weapons and probably feeling pretty darn superior, at what cost did he win? Did he give up a part of his soul? Did he alienate potential allies? Did he create future enemies? Did he feed the energy field of terror and fear?
I imagine we can all feed the world...this current one and the future...with something more nourishing, more life-giving, and more beautiful.
I had a really amazing experience last night and even in the midst of it, I knew I wanted to share it with you.
In the face of overwhelming headlines about the state of our world, it can be hard to know what to do to make a difference. Over the past few years, I've found little ways to make if not big differences at least small differences that could yield larger resonances.
For the past 6 weeks or so, I've begun a little blessing practice. With all the fear, hate, and anxiety coursing through our society, I knew I couldn't gather everyone into my arms and hold them to my heart until they calmed down. Instead, before going to bed, I bless my neighborhood and everyone in it. Each night it is different and I never know ahead of time what the blessing will be. Inspiration always came, like some wise and caring being whispering in my ear. Even though no one hears the blessing, it feels like some of the most powerful work I've ever done.
What was different about last night is that after I finished the blessing but was still looking out of the window, I saw a car driving out of the neighborhood. As it was driving away, I immediately thought toward the people in the car "and you, you are taking this blessing with you and spreading it wherever you go; it is going viral."
Now the magical practitioner in me rose up all ethical and judgmental saying, "It is bad enough that you are blessing people without their permission, but now sending it out into the world like a virus...not cool!" But whatever. It felt right. If felt powerful. It felt like it came from my heart and from something/someone more than just me.
In addition, it was a really cool blessing. Some that are whispered to me are more poetic than others. Here it is and I give it to you, too. Feel free to spread it or any other blessing. How often do you get a gift idea that is free and actually gets bigger, better, and shinier the more it is shared?
"May the magic in your world leap into your heart like drops of fire and pulse through your veins making you feel just so good to be alive."
And here is a special additional blessing for you, my friends:
"May you move through this season with ease and grace,
as a walking blessing to the whole world."
In what is turning out to be an annual tradition, Andrew McGregor of the Hermit's Lamp, and I had another lovely talk and luckily recorded it just for you!
You can find it here or search the Hermit's Lamp podcast on iTunes: CLICK
Let me know if you enjoyed it.
May you find sparkly joy in small moments.
May your steps lead to wonders that delight your heart.
Many people who love tarot consider it in some way sacred, depending on their definition of that word. My definition of a sacred text is very broad and I'm not the only one. The wonderful podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, has the tagline, reading something we love as if it were sacred. The podcast is so good and you should listen to it. First, just because it is deep and human and real. Second, because their practices are so easily applied to tarot or whatever you love.
The way "sacred text" is defined varies depending on who you ask. One of the characteristics I've heard that rings true for me is that a sacred text is generative. That is, it inspires and/or is directly connected to creating new material. Of course I love this idea because I believe that the Divine did not complete the creation of the universe but rather left it unfinished and invited us, all of us, to participate in its continuing co-creation. Also, if something doesn't support or inspire new life or creations, I don't see how it can be sacred.
Tarot, as a literary and art form, has proved to be very generative, offering us versions of the Rider-Waite-Smith that look at different themes through that lens and bold decks that take on completely new lenses. Wisdom can be found in all of them.
Today I wanted to stretch myself out of my comfort zone and take a look at a page from an unusual version of tarot, the Ace of Swords from the Circle of Life Tarot.
A nude pregnant woman sits on the ground, looking at her full belly in wonder, curiosity, and admiration. Near her is a large, ripe pumpkin fully of sunshine and seeds and a sword is thrust into the ground. Hovering in the air, soft underbelly toward us, a huge beetle tightly clutches a sword/spear with the tip at its head and the shaft running along the length of its body.
All the sexual symbolism makes this a unique Ace of Swords. Usually associated with new beginnings or new ideas, the ripeness of this image reminds us that beginnings lead to endings.
This card is reminder that ideas bear fruit and manifest in the physical world, particularly when we nurture them. Then from that initial idea or seed, many more will come and, if fed, will likewise bear similar fruit.
Select the sword or idea you plan to wield as you co-create this world. It will make ripples, resonances, and consequences that will affect you and all of life.
I know things are hard for lots of us right now. We're afraid and angry. We do need to remember, though, that our words and ideas are creating the future...not a million years from now but like tomorrow future. We will live with the fruits of our words and thoughts. Calling other people monsters and saying exaggerated things, demonizing others, focusing on headlines and sayings rather than actual policies only feeds and nurtures the great divide and perpetuates more of the same. I could go on, but this small wise person says it all so well:
CLICK HERE FOR HUMBLING WISDOM
My blessing for you all today:
May you find the heart center of your life.
May your mind be filled with beautiful ideas.
May the sweetness of your heart lovingly nurture them.
PS What I really wish is that everyone could just settle down. This kind of energy is how a small, inconsequential action lights off a metaphorical powder keg.
Here is a little something from the musician who sings to my soul.
Click here and enjoy.
May love guide your actions today and always.
The "Fives" of tarot have been on my mind a lot lately for some reason. A recent article is HERE. That post was over a month ago and ideas are still simmering.
As some of you know, I'm working on my first non-tarot book. It's about energy clearing and cultivation. While it is not about tarot and will not include tarot, I cannot deny that tarot is the lens through which I look at life, so it shapes my ideas about almost everything. And here, with you all, I can talk about things in tarot terms and we all have this great shared vocabulary that makes communication easier. Plus, this is a great space for me to explore ideas and hopefully hear some of yours, which you can share either in the comments or via email.
So let's talk about the 5 of Pentacles, taking a slightly different point of view.
Below are images from Llewellyn's Classic Tarot and the Steampunk Tarot.
The most common approach to this card is to say that it is material need of some sort and certainly the images in many decks support this interpretation. When we think about the number 5, we think chaos and disruption. Couple that energy with Pentacles, material resources, and it is an easy step to: physical want or deprivation. We can further say that part of the need is created by the neglect or misuse of resources of the spiritual institutions that are supposed to help people. This idea works well with many people's idea that the Hierophant represents all that is worst about organized religion. I think these ideas highlight a cultural bias that I didn't fully understand.
Because so many of us who have taken up the study of tarot have, in some way or another, been disappointed by the spiritual and religious paths that came to us through childhood, we very naturally take the view that all organized religion is, at worst, evil and destructive or, at best, benign traditions that fuel a consumer economy. Not all tarot readers feel this way, but plenty that I've met definitely do.
What happens when we examine that assumption, that shared bias? I touched on it a little in that previous article I mentioned (excerpt below), but I didn't go far enough.
"The 5 of Pentacles, with its very clear depiction of spiritual life (symbolized by the church window) and human suffering asks perhaps the hardest question. What is our relationship with the Divine when life is hard, when we or our loved ones are suffering, when terrible things happen to innocent people? How do we react when things that were good, maybe even great, turn to crap?"
If you are familiar with my work, you know that I do not accept that the only or even main meaning of the Hierophant is stagnant and awful organized religion or stifling systems. Instead, I believe that the Hierophant teaches us the importance of living our faith, walking our talk...in short manifesting our spiritual beliefs in a real way in the physical world. The Hierophant is, after all, associated with Taurus, which rules the second house and is associated with values, both material and spiritual. Fives are associated with the Pentacle, which is the physical world under the guidance of spirit.
The 5 of Pentacles seems like a good companion card for the Hierophant and shows a good lesson in what happens when you are not living your faith, when you do not walk your talk. As I continue thinking about energy clearing and cultivation, I realize that many people do not pay much attention to those activities unless something is very wrong. Their house feels "weird" or "off" so they use sage or salt or crystals to clear the energy. This certainly works, but it is also like going to the dentist for a filling when your tooth hurts rather than going twice a year for cleanings and brushing and flossing in between.
While my book will contain actions to take when things are in crisis, the bulk of it will focus on how to maintain a clear, calm, stable energetic foundation in ourselves and in our environments so that we can avoid crises. This allows us to be more responsive rather than simply reactive in our lives.
Along with tarot, another guiding idea in my life is the Hermetic principle "As above, so below." This ties in so nicely with the Hierophant and 5 of Pentacles. Instead of saying that we are in need and religion isn't helping us, we can flip that and say: when we forsake the small, daily practices of our spiritual beliefs, we find ourselves in need, both physically and spiritually. The more I pay attention to the energy in the world, the more I realize that everything physical is connected with spirit.
Please do not misunderstand. I do know that there are physical needs that are dire and immediate. It is really hard to care about spiritual things when you are starving or in danger (as Maslow's hierarchy teaches us). I am not talking about those situations. I am talking about our normal, daily lives.
And so, here is another way to look at the 5 of Pentacles...and a more empowering way. Instead of blaming some abstract formal religion (which we probably aren't in community with anyhow) for not helping us, we can own our responsibility for our individual spiritual practice. If we pay attention to the details in our lives and attend to things that need attending, it is a way of attending to both our spiritual and physical needs. Cleansing, healing energy flows. Stifling, sickening energy stagnates. As above, so below. Ergo, an organized and tidy place allows cleansing, healing energy to flow. That's true of our homes, our minds, our relationships, and our spirits. Something as simple as cleaning your bathroom regularly can be a metaphor for seeing yourself clearly. It's all connected. When we let things slide, we lose things, we feel more frantic, we are less efficient, and then things snowball until we are in that common quality we love to ascribe the 5s: chaos.