The Fool’s Playlist – Exploring the Major Arcana Through Music (8-14)

The first post in this series is available here

The Major Arcana cards represent the biggest, deepest, most spiritually important aspects of our lives. But it can be hard sometimes to relate their energy and importance to bloodless words on a page.

Music helps with that, though. Music can connect us to the energy of the cards in a way words can’t. So here are my current picks for songs to represent each of the cards. This post covers cards 8-14.

As before, if you disagree with my choices or have alternate/better suggestions let me know in the comments!

*Note: This post is full of embedded videos. FYI.

Strength: You Gotta Be, Des’ree

No one gets every single thing they want, and sometimes hard work and dedication simply aren’t enough. It’s easy for our ego-driven Fool to become disillusioned when things don’t work out. However, it’s through those losses that the Fool learns Strength, the first of the three Virtues in the Major Arcana. Here the Fool begins to learn the strength of their own convictions and character, and how they apply to the larger world around them.

I had my choice of songs for this one, but eventually went with Des’ree’s You Gotta Be.  What makes that song fit so well are the lines “Herald what your mother said, read the books your father read, try to solve the puzzles in your own sweet time”. Strength doesn’t abandon what came before, it combines it with personal experience to build something more fitting and lasting. The song also focuses on many character traits instead of just brute strength or endurance, like the strength to be found in vulnerability. I’d really rather simply call this card “Character”, because that’s how I read it, but no one asked me (yet!).

Hermit: Crawling in the Dark, Hoobastank

At this point in the journey, the Fool has learned everything they need to successfully navigate the material world. Most folks seem to stop their spiritual development at the Strength card, in fact, and have no interest in going any further. But our Fool senses that something’s missing. Why are we the way we are, and why does the world function as it does? The Fool is starting to ask probing questions and look for deeper truths. These questions aren’t exactly light topics, and the Fool may be surprised at how quickly questions alienate them from the people they thought they knew. That’s fine, though – a period of seclusion reduces distractions, and the Fool appreciates that as they dedicate themselves to finding answers.

While Hoobastank isn’t normally a group I’d turn to for meaningful lyrics, and the vibe of the song certainly isn’t the more ethereal one I associate with the Hermit, Crawling in the Dark undeniably captures the essence of this card. “Show me what it’s for, make me understand it! I’ve been crawling in the dark looking for the answer. Is there something more than what I’ve been handed? I’ve been crawling in the dark looking for the answer.” Me too, Hoobastank. Me too.

Wheel of Fortune: Where Are We Going From Here, Blackmore’s Night

The Wheel of Fortune can be a challenging card to read. I follow a goddess of transition and fate, though, so for me this is very much a card signifying a leap of faith. I think it’s appropriate that the Fool is card 0 and this is card 10 – they feel like mirrors of each other. Except by the time the Fool encounters the Wheel they have some experience under their belt. They’re no longer clueless Moana setting off on an adventure they can’t comprehend. They’ve survived enough to know what adventuring means while still appreciating that they’ve still got a long way to travel – they’re not even halfway through the journey. And while it might be tempting to quit, the Fool still thinks there’s something more meaningful at the end of the road. They just have to get there.

There are many songs that play with the idea of cycles and change, but few do it with the contemplative grace of Blackmore’s Night. “We’re all on this road, miles to go, braving new pathways into the unknown/But who do you ask, when no one really knows, where are we going from here?”. When this card appears I answer with “the Powers – let Them guide you”. This is the first card where I think the Fool really grapples with the idea that there are Powers out there beyond human understanding, that can provide assistance along the way if only we take a leap of faith and ask.

Justice: Beds Are Burning, Midnight Oil

Justice is the second Virtue card of the Major Arcana. The Fool has just taken their first spin on the Wheel and now they’re pausing to consider cause and effect. While the Wheel was the first place the Fool encountered the Powers, Justice is the first place the Fool encounters universal laws. They begin to see their actions as part of a larger world, developing concepts of “fairness” and “balance” they maybe didn’t have before. I always think of college freshmen when I see this card, encountering ideas of intersectionality for perhaps the first time and wondering why the whole world doesn’t work for everyone equally. It should, right? Right?

Any number of social justice anthems could be used here, but I went with Beds are Burning by Midnight Oil. An Australian protest song, it advocates giving land back to the Aboriginal people who were forcibly relocated to settlements by the government. What clinched the choice for me was the chorus: “The time has come to say fair’s fair/To pay the rent, now, to pay our share!”. Seeking justice for the oppressed even if it’s against their own self-interest is a turning point for our young Fool on their journey that deserves a moment of reverence. What better for that than a rock song?

The Hanged Man: The Hanging Tree, Jennifer Lawrence

The Hanged Man is another of those cards that can be challenging to read. In this card the Fool encounters their personal “cross”, a situation or experience that threatens to break them. None of the skills they’ve learned thus far can help them carry the burden of it, so they have to submit to it instead. In so doing they learn that things will work as they should if we simply let them. As the Hanged Man is hanging upside down, so too do we take what we think we know and turn it on its head. What can we learn, and where can we go, if we focus on inner growth instead of outward measures of success?

This song – The Hanging Tree from the Mockingjay movie – is creepy in the extreme, and the “hanging” in the title isn’t even why I chose this song. On the one hand, we have the song itself, where the narrator is asking his love to join him in death so they can both be free. He even refers to a noose as a “necklace of hope”. I love the way that plays with the idea of sacrifice embedded in this card. On the other hand, I appreciate how a simple story ballad about a murderer becomes, through the singer in a specific time and place, a song of rebellion against corruption and a battle cry for a better (living) future. How’s that for turning something on its head?

Death: Dust in the Wind, Kansas

Having gained wisdom in the last card, the Fool is now prepared to cut out the aspects of self that hinder future growth. By the time our Fool finishes this stage of growth he won’t be who he was anymore. Like a forest fire, he’s cleared out old tangled growth to make room for a whole new life. Death is a card of transition and change, and with practice we realize that we’re always in the realm of the this card. Consistent self-improvement leaves us no other choice.

The best song I’ve found for Death is Dust in the Wind by Kansas. A song that speaks of impermanence and transition, it perfectly encapsulates the idea that everything eventually passes. Even the most entrenched habits we despair of mastering. We just have to keep chipping away at them.

Temperance: Sober, Kelly Clarkson

Temperance is the third Virtue card of the Major Arcana, and like Strength and Justice is also about balance. The last few cards have been a study in extremes for our Fool, and equilibrium needs to be established before further progress can be made. Think of a sword that’s been heated and beaten over and over – it requires plunging in cool water to harden the metal and temper the blade. Temperance is a chance to find our balance and get used to our new normal after all the changes of the previous cards. It’s a necessary pause, too, as it helps us prepare for the next and most challenging bits that still lie ahead.

Kelly Clarkson’s Sober is a perfect fit for Temperance. The imagery even works! After realizing “nothing’s real until you let go completely” with the Hanged Man, and “picking your weeds but keeping your flowers” with Death, we start to see a light at the end of the tunnel when we realize that “we might catch a glimpse” of who we’re growing into.  And while we could backslide, and need to repeat the lessons we’d thought we’d learned, we know that it’s more important to do it right than to try to rush it and lose our way.

 

Stay tuned! The next post will go up in a day or three!

 

The Fool’s Playlist – Exploring the Major Arcana Through Music (0-7)

The Major Arcana cards represent the biggest, deepest, most spiritually important aspects of our lives. But it can be hard sometimes to relate their energy and importance to bloodless words on a page.

Music helps with that, though. Music can connect us to the energy of the cards in a way words can’t. So here are my current picks for songs to represent each of the cards. This post covers cards 0-7.

Disagree or have alternate/better suggestions? Hit me up in the comments and let me know! I’d love to see!

*Note: This post is full of embedded videos. FYI.

The Fool: How Far I’ll Go, Moana

I find that the Fool’s Journey as a concept really speaks to me, on both a Tarotic (is that even a word?) and spiritual level. With that being said it should be no surprise that the image of our brave Fool setting off on an adventure with just a knapsack of tools they can’t yet use and maybe a small dog for company resonates strongly, too. Hell, make the knapsack the size of a small car and I LIVE this life, small dog included!

The song that immediately came to mind for this card is How Far I’ll Go from Moana. Moana is called to seek something more than she knows, so she sets off to find it. In a boat she can’t sail. With no water, no provisions, and no plan. But she does it anyway, because settling for the life she knows is scarier than the unknown. Her companion here is a little pig, but it’s close enough to the little dog of the Fool card to count!

The Magician: Razzle Dazzle, Chicago

The first two people the Fool meets on their journey are the Magician and the High Priestess. They exist only in balance to each other, so definitely come as an equal pair. The Magician is the card of the tangible and material, the part of the world we can sense and affect with our conscious minds. On the one hand, the Magician can seem awesomely powerful. He knows what all the tools in the Fool’s knapsack can do, and he knows how to use them well. He’s got charisma and flair to spare, but sometimes it’s hard to see what’s really there and what’s just smoke and illusion.

What better song is there for this than Razzle Dazzle from Chicago? The singer is a highly successful lawyer who delivers on what he promises, but he does it by creating such a spectacle that people focus on his creations instead of the truth. He’s undeniably skilled in the ways of the world but not necessarily ethical, and that flexibility is part of his power.

The High Priestess: Rhiannon, Fleetwood Mac

Where the Magician represents the physical world, the High Priestess represents the hidden depths of our unconscious minds, our individual potential that has yet to meet a catalyst for manifestation. As such she is a confounding, mysterious figure. She doles out our inner truths in riddle and rhyme, and often it’s only later that we understand what she was telling us. If we’re lucky we’ll figure it out before we need it, but that is in no way guaranteed.

I debated a few songs for this one, but eventually settled on Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac. The lines that clinched it for me were “she’s like a cat in the dark and then she is the darkness; she rules her life like a fine skylark and when the sky is starless”. She’s a mystery and an enigma, everything and nothing all at once, and mystery is where she gets her power.

The Empress: In My Arms, Plumb

As the Fool starts interacting with the world the Empress is usually the first “other” to impinge on their awareness. My relationship with the Empress is surprisingly complex, and I find that her meaning shifts for me quite a bit as I read. At her core, though, she’s the quintessential mother of the Tarot, often depicted in burgeoning fields with a babe at her breast and a shield at her side.

I wanted a song that captured both the love and the fierceness of this card, and I found it in Plumb’s In My Arms. She talks about the joys and pains of motherhood, knowing that she’s doing everything she can to keep her child safe while acknowledging that eventually that won’t be enough. She’ll always be a rock to cling to, though, and a safe space, and if that’s not the essence of this card I don’t know what is.

The Emperor: March of Cambreadth, Alexander James Adams (as Heather Alexander)

If the Empress is the loving mother of the Tarot, the Emperor is certainly the stern father. This is a card of top-down authority, dominance, and law and order. While the Empress is focused on her child first and foremost, the Emperor is focused on the whole of those for whom he is responsible (family, tribe, even nation). Individual happiness within that group is great but not required. He protects his people from anything that could be seen as a threat with swift and decisive action. In return he expects obedience. After all, hasn’t he demonstrated over and over again that father knows best?

I see him as a very black and white thinker, with a streak of ruthlessness that can’t be denied. If he can’t cajole things into going his way he’ll damn straight make them. Which is why this song is such a great fit. It’s a call to battle, tribe against tribe, where “us” vs “them” thinking is paramount and top-down authority must be heeded to prevent disaster.

The Hierophant: Tradition, Fiddler on the Roof

And now we’re at the Hierophant! The teacher, the sage, the guide, he who guards tradition like treasure and upon whom the continuation of society rests. The Hierophant represents both the underlying worldview and the formal education the Fool encounters when they first venture from their family unit into the wider world. He also represents faith and mystery traditions both. Anything that is passed on from generation to generation eventually falls into the Hierophant’s realm.

He too is very much about the whole over the parts, but while the Emperor comes at it from a familial or even tribal place the Hierophant thinks of the soul and society. He’s usually represented as a Pope-like figure for just that reason. The song I chose for this card is more Jewish than Catholic, but I think the meaning shines through clearly enough regardless!

The Lovers: Take Me to Church, Hozier

The Lovers is a surprisingly difficult card to find music for. There are a billion love songs out there (and I’m probably low-balling that number), but the Lovers isn’t just any love affair. The Lovers is where the Fool reaches for that which completes or complements them on a soul level (sometimes a person, sometimes not).  It’s one soul finding another, or us finding pieces of ourselves. It’s soulmates and alchemical weddings and keys fitting locks, not giggly crushes and bubblegum. Claiming what we yearn for also requires us to critically assess what we’ve learned from our elders, weighing the values we’ve been taught against the values we’re now mature enough to choose and prioritize for ourselves. That’s a lot to put into one song!

Thinking of the Fool’s Journey, though, brought this card’s song into sharp relief for me. Especially as we’re coming out of the Hierophant! Hozier’s Take Me to Church is a direct rebuke to the traditions and norms that would keep the Fool away from that which fits them best, a rebellion of the purest kind, and as such is the best fit here.

I normally try to choose lyric versions of songs for this, but it would be a crime not to showcase Sergei Polunin’s dance to this song. So here it is, in all it’s amazing glory.

The Chariot: – Lose Yourself, Eminem

The Chariot is the ultimate card for setting your own course and charting your own way. Wishy-washy people who don’t know what they want can never hope to master the Chariot. It takes will, dedication, and tenacity to keep the horses moving together so we can reach our goals. This is the ego of the adult Fool, strong enough to persevere and triumph over the world around them.

There was really only song to choose for this. It even has a driving beat that sounds kind of like hoofbeats! Eminem’s Lose Yourself is about pursuing our goals – whatever they are – with everything we’ve got. When we enter a zone where failure ceases to be an option we’re touching the essence of this card.

 

Want more? Click here for the next set!

The Hanson-Roberts Tarot – Tarot Review

Back in the dawn of time, when I was but a wee lass, I watched my aunt read Tarot with the Hanson-Roberts deck. I loved to watch the cards flip and I never forgot the Queen of Rods – it was the card I most associated with her. Years later, when I went back to find this deck, it was the image of the Queen that let me know I’d found the right box.

Honestly, though, it wasn’t all that hard to find. As far as I can tell it’s been in continuous print since 1985. It’s definitely an RWS-inspired deck, and that combined with the non-threatening size and artwork makes it suitable for beginners and advanced readers alike.

The Deck

One of the first things I noticed about this deck as an adult is that the cards feel tiny. They’re regular playing card size! Those with small hands will find this deck a better fit for them, and it makes larger spreads much more doable in tight quarters. It’s also helpful if you like to have clients shuffle your deck, as it’s more easily managed by people unused to Tarot-sized cards.

A card from the Hanson-Roberts deck on top of a card from the Gilded Tarot. The size difference is obvious.

A card from the Hanson-Roberts deck on top of a card from the Gilded Tarot. The size difference is obvious. And isn’t that reversible back design pretty?

The deck comes in a tuck box with a LWB. The smaller size of this deck makes it wonderful for travel. The tuck box fits nicely in a purse, for instance, and the box can take a decent amount of wear before it needs to be replaced.

The Hanson-Roberts Tarot. The tuck box is in the center, flanked by the 2 title cards that come with the deck. The LWB is below the tuck box and the deck is fanned out below.

The Hanson-Roberts Tarot. The tuck box is in the center, flanked by the 2 title cards that come with the deck. The LWB is below the tuck box and the deck is fanned out below.

The card stock is standard and these cards shuffle well. The art has an almost fairy-tale feel and is done with pencils, making the images both vivid and soft. The portrayed figures are also more dynamic than seen in decks like the original Waite-Smith, with a full range of human emotion and a sense of movement.

A selection of cards from the Hanson-Roberts. Here we see the energy of the Knight of Swords, the wonder of the Star, the utter desolation of the Five of Pentacles, the dreamy quality of the Seven of Cups, and the triumph embodied in the Six of Rods.

A selection of cards from the Hanson-Roberts. Here we see the energy of the Knight of Swords, the wonder of the Star, the utter desolation of the Five of Pentacles, the dreamy quality of the Seven of Cups, and the triumph embodied in the Six of Rods.

Suits are also standard RWS, except that here the Wands are called Rods (a common substitution). There’s also an emphasis in this deck on blooming, on florals and greenery. It all contributes to the lush feeling of the art, helping the deck feel more friendly and approachable.

The Fool and the four Aces from the Hanson-Roberts Tarot.

The Fool and the four Aces from the Hanson-Roberts Tarot. Note the greenery on every card.

One thing I especially appreciate about this deck is that it’s obvious the Minors got as much time and attention as the Majors. That can be hard to find sometimes, but all the cards are visually consistent and equally well-thought out across the deck.

It should be noted that esoteric symbology is less prevalent in this deck than found in, say, the original RWS. I personally don’t miss it, but as always YMMV.

And now I’m going to include another gratuitous pic of the artwork because I’m writing this and I can. 🙂

Cards from the Hanson-Roberts Tarot. The top row is the Page of Cups, the Seven of Cups, and the Eight of Swords. The bottom row is the Eight of Rods, the Moon, and the Four of Swords.

Yes, here’s that dreamy Seven of Cups again (oops). We’ve also got the Page of Cups looking surprised at the fish in his chalice (as we all would be!), one of the most stunning Eight of Swords cards in any deck anywhere, an Eight of Rods that really appeals to me, a lovely Moon, and a rather quietly reflective Four of Swords. I’ve never pictured myself as the guy in the tomb when this card appears – I’m visiting the tomb, with all the quiet contemplation one should have in holy places.

The deck comes with a LWB, but as we’d expect of a deck with this kind of longevity and popularity there are companion books on the market. Two, in fact, and which one you get depends on what exactly you’re looking for.

Tarot Unveiled is a Tarot 101 book using the Hanson-Roberts images. It’s been around for awhile, and you can find used copies on Amazon for under $2 plus shipping. If you’re relatively new to Tarot this is the book to get.

The Hanson-Roberts Tarot Companion Book is written specifically for the Hanson-Roberts deck. It’s more like the book you’d find in a Tarot set than a Tarot 101 book and is around $13 used plus shipping on Amazon. If you’re looking for something specific to this deck and are beyond 101 stuff this would be the book for you.

Using the Deck

The somewhat cutesy art might make you think this is a fluffy deck, but it is surprisingly well-rounded. The Hanson-Roberts is one of my favorite RWS-inspired decks because it’s so universal. It’s a deck that will grow with a reader, from beginner to advanced, and everyone will appreciate how easy to manage it is.

Even better, this deck nicely works with all three purposes I have for a deck. They read beautifully, they can be great tools for Tarot spellwork, and the life in these cards makes them useful for meditation despite the smaller size. It’s like a trifecta of awesome!

The Hanson-Roberts has stood the test of time for good reason. If the art style appeals to you I say go for it. It’s a great buy.

Available here.

After the Tower Falls

I staunchly maintain that there’s no such thing as a bad Tarot card. However, I have to admit some are a damn sight more uncomfortable than others. One of the best illustrations of this concept is the Tower, and that’s the card I’ve been living for the past few months. I’ve finally moved into the realm of the Star, though, and looking back I’m once more reminded that the Tower is only scary until we gain perspective from its passing.

The Towers leads into the Star. Both cards from Le Tarot Noir are shown with an rightward-facing arrow between them.

My life in Tarot card form. Images from Le Tarot Noir.

The Tower’s Fall

The first brick of my personal Tower fell when I was suddenly laid off last May from my job of three years (hence my lengthy blog hiatus around that time). Everything – and I do mean everything – kind of dominoed after that.

As might be expected my professional life profoundly changed with the layoff. My finances went into a period of freefall and necessitated an unwanted change in location too. My personal life and health both experienced dramatic flux. With all of that going on I fell face-down into a rather wicked lake of depression, which led to a period of withdrawal that was extreme even for me (I tend to be fairly naturally withdrawn to begin with).

Thing is, I stubbornly (and perhaps obliviously) thought all of these changes were isolated. It can be hard to see the whole Tower when you’re dodging individual bricks! It was only when I stopped dodging that I could see the true extent of the devastation.

Standing in the Rubble

There’s a clarity that comes in the aftermath of a disaster, a quiet shock that allows us to observe our surroundings without filter or bias. As the dust settled I stumbled into the middle of what once was a pretty cozy life and looked around.

What exactly had been destroyed? What random parts still stood, and did they need to be rebuilt or further demolished? Going deeper, what weaknesses and strengths were exposed by the Tower’s fall? What lessons had this all taught me?

And then I had to go deeper still. Previously I had thought that I was made up of all the things that had fallen down. That obviously wasn’t true, though, because I was about the only thing left standing. So who exactly was the Me standing dazedly in the rubble?

I’ve spent months diligently answering these questions. At times it’s felt like my own little archaeological excavation. There have been bits and pieces I’ve tossed over my shoulder with a shrug and a “good riddance”. Others I’ve further destroyed with a sledgehammer while laughing in maniacal glee. There have been heirlooms I’ve bitterly wept over before deciding they couldn’t be salvaged, things that inspired a sense of vindication by their very survival, and a few lost items newly exposed that I had to learn about all over again.

I’ve reassessed who I am and the foundations on which I stand. It’s been an interesting journey, this sorting and evaluation process, but after all of it was done I was left with one overwhelming question: what now?

Star-Gazing

In the Major Arcana the Tower is immediately followed by the Star. There’s a reason for that. When all of our walls have come down and we’re ready to rebuild, the Star’s gifts of hope, faith, and renewal guide us forward.

What I’ve seen by the Star’s light has been transformative.

For years I’ve known that my Lady wants me to live a life grounded in my spirituality. Even more than that, She’s pushed for a more holistic and integrated life, one where all of the pieces work together instead of against each other. After all, it’s not like I can grow into my full potential when my life is shoved into tidy but limiting boxes.

Thing is, I’ve agreed with Her. The need for a holistic life is an obvious conclusion to draw and I’ve been fine with the idea of it. It’s just that every time I actually started Doing the Work to make it happen something stopped me. Often I stopped myself. Some changes required tearing down support structures in my life that I thought I needed or relied upon. Other changes were intimidating, overwhelming, or even baffling.

All the motion without forward progress resulted in nothing truly changing at all.

Dithering over taking action is a luxury I no longer have. Despite my best efforts everything crashed down anyway. What was incredibly scary at the time has turned out to be freeing, because there’s nothing left to block me anymore. My life is open and receptive, the walls are down, and I can build whatever I want to encourage me to grow however I want. The Tower’s fall wasn’t a disaster, it was the start of a brand new opportunity.

I’m still working on what this looks like, to be honest. I don’t know where it’s going, only have the vaguest end game in mind, and I’m feeling it out as I go.

The biggest and arguably most profound change is that I am now working full-time as a diviner, spiritual consultant, and content producer. This swings from intimidating to thrilling by the day, and sometimes I wonder if it’s the right thing long-term. It’s honestly too early to tell on that yet. Things are looking good so far, though, and I do know that it’s absolutely the best thing for me right now. I need to pursue paying work that feeds my spirit, and this fits that bill admirably.

When I’m not reading for clients I’m working on my own Tarot deck, wrapping up the book I’ve been writing, prepping classes I’m teaching, taking classes as a student, and learning about alternative methods of interacting with our political process. I’m also toying with the idea of writing a devotional for my Lady, since there isn’t one for Her and I find that to be not ok. MystikNomad’s new internet home is being prepped as we speak and will hopefully go live over the next few months. I’m presenting at a conference this summer, too, and will likely be relocating sometime in the next year or so.

So many changes! So much forward momentum! So much amazingness in store! And none of it would have been possible had my personal Tower not fallen. I find that comforting, actually, because it reaffirms my faith that even utter destruction is a way to clear the path for future growth. I’m excited to see the harvest from what I’m currently planting, and I’m so glad all of you are here to appreciate the blooms too.

 

Connecting with Your Cards

Learning Tarot can be a long and involved process. Starting with a good beginner deck can help, of course, but once we get the deck what do we do with it?

Study and practice, of course!

These are the exercises that I personally credit with my understanding of Tarot. Give them a whirl and see what they can do for you!

Journaling

Whether you’re new to Tarot or simply have a new deck, this is a really useful way to start connecting with your cards. All you need is a card and a way of taking notes.

For this technique, I like to start with the Fool and work my way through the deck card by card. You can pull cards randomly too, though. Just stay consistent with whatever method you choose.

Feel free to light some candles and incense if that helps you focus, then pick a card.

Study the art. What do you get from it? Look at the label of the card – the Fool or the Hermit, for example. What does that word/concept call to mind? Pull out a Tarot book or two (the one that came with the deck is fine) and check that write-up. Does it enhance the meaning any for you? Do any words or phrases jump out at you? Think about the number the card is associated with – does that have an application for you? (If you’re new to numerology check out this convenient link.) Think about real-life situations that bring this card to mind and how the card reflects that. Write down any associations you come up with.

My process is a bit old school because I like to have the physical card when I do this. It’s not strictly necessary, though. Pretty much any card from any deck (especially the Majors) is available online, and there’s a lot you can learn by simply looking at the images on your computer. You could also type your notes out, although again I’m personally pretty old school with this part and prefer writing by hand.

My suggestion? Get a three-ring notebook and some tabs for each deck you plan to study (table of contents tabs are the best!). Make dividers for the Majors and each Suit. Write everything down on loose-leaf paper, and before you begin on the next card file the finished one in the appropriate section. By the time you’re done you’ll have a handy personal Tarot guidebook!

Card Dialogues

Here’s a fun one with the Majors and the Court cards!

Pull two Major Arcana cards or Court cards from the same deck and put them together. Then imagine the figures having a conversation. What would the Empress say to the Emperor, or the Hierophant, or the Star? What would the World have to say to the Fool? How do the Queen of Swords and the Page of Pentacles get along? Are any of them natural allies or complete opposites? Write down any conversational snippets that come to mind, and especially focus on how the personality of each card comes through their conversations.

File in your Journal, with the Majors in the back of the Major Arcana section and the Court cards in the back of the Minor Arcana section.

Card Comparisons

If one card can tell you a lot, what could you learn by comparing several? Lots!

There are a couple of ways to approach this.

From the Same Deck: This is handy for mastering the Minor Arcana. Pull out all of the Aces and compare them. How are they the same? How are they different? How does each Suit manifest in its respective card? Write down your comparisons. Then move on to all the Twos and do the same thing. Then the Threes. Then the Fours. Progress all the way through the Minors, comparing numbers/ranks together across Suits, and see what you get! File these in the back of your deck-specific Journal.

Across Decks: This technique is wonderful for learning a new deck! Grab two or three different decks (or a deck you’re comfy with and the new deck) and pull the same card out of each. (Again, I’d recommend starting with the Fool and then working your way through.) Compare them. First, what springs out to you about each card separately? What do you notice when you examine them together? What’s the same? What’s different? Does studying one card enhance your understanding of the other? Pull out the books that go with each deck and compare what they have to say. Does that add to your knowledge?

This is especially useful when comparing cards between different style families.

justice-deck-comparison

Justice from the Golden Tarot (RWS) and the corresponding Adjustment from the Tabula Mundi Tarot (Thoth). Their approach to this card is distinctly different, and studying both enhances my understanding of each.

Divide a binder out just like you did for the Journaling exercise, except this one will be for each card independent of a deck. (I call it the “Tarot-General” binder.) Each time you do a comparison, file it with the other ones you’ve done on that card. Make sure to note which decks you used for the comparison and if possible print out a picture of each card and attach it to your notes. This is less about connecting you to an individual card and more about connecting you to the concepts behind the card.

Color Your Cards

Cards are full of symbolism, and we may not recognize that symbolism until we really dive into the card. One of the most fun ways to do that is to color them!

This is dead easy with the Rider-Waite deck (pick up a coloring book like this one and/or this one, or just print them out), but decent photo manipulation software allows you to do it with any deck you like. Some Tarot workbooks (like this one for the Mythic Tarot) come with coloring panels too, and there are even a few Tarot decks on the market (like this one and this one) designed to let you color the cards themselves.

Whichever way you choose, get what you’re coloring and what you’re coloring with together. Sit down and really look at the image, and then figure out how you’d like to color it. Don’t feel like you have to match the colors other people have used, either. Go with your gut on this.  This is a wonderful way to explore the cards in a deeper, more intense way than you might have before.

tarot-coloring-pages

Here we have the Sun and the Seven of Wands from the Rider-Waite.

For instance, look closely at the 7ofW above. Did you notice that the guy in the card is wearing two different shoes? If you didn’t before you certainly would when you colored it! As you color the card, think about that. Why don’t his shoes match? What might that symbolize about him, about his situation, about the card? After you finish coloring, jot down any thoughts you had about the art and file.

Opening the Tarot Door Meditation

Daily meditation is a wonderful practice. Adding Tarot to it, either daily or weekly, can lift meditation up even higher. This takes journaling o the next level, and I highly encourage you to try it.

First prep your space. Dim the lights (or light some candles), burn some incense, play nicely meditative music, and prop up your card.

Then study the card. I mean really study it. Learn it until you can recall every detail with your eyes closed. (Having trouble? Color it! It’s easier to retain details after you’ve colored it.)

When you can easily recall every detail with your eyes closed, visualize the card in front of you growing larger and larger. Keep expanding it until it’s big enough to step into, until the card’s borders are like a doorway.

Visualize yourself stepping through.

What’s it like in the card? Is it hot? Cold? Windy? Still? What is the figure in the card doing? If you speak to them, what do they say, and how does that relate to the card’s meaning? What elements in the frame can you interact with? What does that feel like?

When you’re through exploring the card and interacting with the figure, step out of the card and visualize it shrinking back to card size. Open your eyes.

Now write everything down and file it with your Journaling notes.

One a Day Pulls

Add a bit of divination to your Tarot study!

Every morning think about your day, and with your cards in your hands ask what card will either best inform your day or guide you through it. Then shuffle and look at the card that comes up.

Write down a few notes about it. What comes immediately to mind? Then either carefully pack the card in your bag so it doesn’t get destroyed (in a book, maybe) or snap a pic with your phone (my preference).

Think about the card throughout the day. How does it relate to what’s happening? Does keeping it in mind help you manage your day? Do you see anything that brings the card to mind? What situations does it relate to? Add these notes to the ones you made earlier before you go to bed.

File them in a binder specifically for One a Day pulls when you’re done.

For a fun twist, those of us with multiple decks can also go with whatever deck “calls” to us before starting this exercise. I do this with the daily pulls I post. One day it’ll be one deck, and the next could be a different one. See how switching daily between decks changes your experiences!

Three-Card Spreads

I do this every week.

Think about your upcoming week, and with your cards in your hands ask for information or guidance that will help you manage it. Then shuffle and lay out the cards in a simple Three Card Spread.

3cardspread

Three card spread. Image from here.

What does the spread say to you? How do you interpret it?

Write it all down.

At the end of the week, before you do the next spread, go over your notes from the previous week. What happened? How did this reading relate to your experiences? Was there anything that could have been interpreted differently to better fit your circumstances? Make notes at the bottom of that record, then file it and do the next one.

File with your One a Day Pulls.

Beyond Tarot

These exercises are in no way exclusive to Tarot. They can easily be adapted for any card-based divination system, and with a little creativity can be adapted for a wide variety of other divination tools too. Runes spring immediately to mind, as does lithomancy

Revamps and Updates

It seems like 2017 is ushering in change, and I am not immune. Thankfully the tagline for this blog applies here too!

not-all-those-who-wander-are-lost

So what’s happening?

Glad you asked!

Mystik Nomad – encompassing this blog as well as the services I offer – is now a distinct Facebook page. Feel free to Like/Follow me there to get all the updates!

I have overhauled my much-neglected Twitter account and hope to use it more often over the coming months. If you’d like to subscribe to my feed it’s @MystikNomad.

This blog is up for a long-overdue overhaul as well, which should be finalized in the next month or two. Details will be posted as they become available.

I am also in the process of getting my Tarot deck ready for publication, as well as working on a book containing the curriculum I use to teach beginning polytheists. I am making strides on both projects and hope to have beta copies of at least the Tarot deck ready by Ostara.

Everything is so exciting!

Transition and change have become old friends, and this is more of the same. I’m so grateful to have all of you wandering this path with me!

 

When Discernment Fails

When my students feel lost or unbalanced I tell them to “go back to the Center”. Find your personal Center, your internal balance point, and work out from there. When you’ve got that as solid as it’s gonna get for now, turn your focus to your physical needs (food, clothing, shelter, health, finances). Once that’s fairly stable focus on your emotional connections with other people, like friends and family. Only when that’s stable enough to get on with should you try to engage with the larger world around you. Doing any of that out of order makes everything harder.

So that’s what I’ve been doing lately. That’s why my blog’s been quiet. I’ve been taking care of what’s closer to home since I lost my balance.

During my quiet time I have accepted and processed recent events, and I’m once again fairly secure in my (new and improved) sense of self. I just this weekend past moved into a wonderful little apartment that suits me down to the ground. My finances are strong and my health is continuing to improve. I’ve reached out to people again after a period of hermitage. I’m once more tuning in to social justice and political issues. My shrines are all finally back up after a hiatus and regular offerings have resumed.

And now I once again turn my attention to this, my blog. At least after all the recent changes I knew what to write about!

What happened?

Last October I moved to New York. Everything came together for that move so perfectly that I saw my Lady’s hand in it. So I tried to figure out why She might want me to move to the East Coast.

Looking back a year later, I still believe She helped me move. I just think I got Her reasons all wrong.

Why? Because here I am, a year later, back in Seattle. She had just as much of a hand in getting me back to the Pacific Northwest as She had in getting me East in the first place. Which means returning was as much part of the plan as going. Or so it seems to me.

Train

Whaddaya know? Trains go both ways!

And that means my discernment at the time failed, at least in part. I’ve had to reassess everything.

I went to New York with the idea that here was a chance for me to live the life of dedicated clergy I thought I wanted. It didn’t work out that way, though. New York simply convinced me that I’m not suited to the role. And I’m thinking that might have been part of the plan all along.

Why?

Simply put, serving as 24/7 clergy – at least for that particular group – fits neither my perspective nor my temperament. And I would never have learned that about myself without doing it.

Perspective

Any group work at all requires compromise. However, the compromises required for my polytheistic self to work closely in a spiritual/ritual way with Pagans are no longer compromises I’m willing to make. That’s on me, and I accept full responsibility for it, but it’s still something I have to manage.

I am a hard polytheist, start and stop. The Powers are as real and individualized as you or I. That truth is the foundation of my life. My entire spiritual path is primarily based on personal UPG, and my relationships with the Powers are completely individualized. I came to this path through Paganism, but I no longer identify as Pagan. Trying to do so leads to feeling a very sharp disconnect. I feel like an outsider looking in instead of part of the group.

slide2_2

I am now the square peg. Awesome.

It’s important to note here that Paganism is just as valid a spiritual path as polytheism. That feeling of disconnect doesn’t mean that I’m right and other folks are wrong, it just means we have different perspectives.

I’m not about to start demanding that the Powers only be honored in the ways that work for me. I’m not the Faith Police, or an asshole, and I honestly believe that the Powers work with people in ways that are dependent on a host of factors I don’t understand. If They work with me as individuals, great. If They work with someone else in a different way, who am I to judge that?

However, while I can intellectually go with that logic I can’t work with it in a ritual setting. It’s profoundly uncomfortable and upsetting. And I certainly can’t effectively teach something I don’t follow! The two perspectives are too different to work with simultaneously and too far apart to bridge, at least for me. In my experience attempts to do either are usually clunky anyway, and dilute the experience for all involved. There’s no reason to do that when separate rituals get the job done.

Separate rituals, though, kind of negate the whole “we’re doing this as a group” concept from the get-go.

My takeaway here? If I’m doing a ritual with other people, those other people need to be as polytheistic as I am, even if that polytheism manifests differently.

That whole perspective doesn’t work with an umbrella Pagan organization, and it’s high time for me to stop trying to force it.

Temperment

Clergy for a group fulfill a number of roles, as I’ve previously discussed. *shrug* And honestly? I’ve discovered that, in general, I’m either not interested in or suited to fulfilling them.

Let me explain.

  • Visionary

The first role is that of a Visionary, someone who conceives of a better way and devotes themselves to sharing that way with others.

I’ve done the first part of that, no question. Over the years I’ve established my own relationships with the Powers, with the Wheel of the Year, with my approach to both spirituality and magick. They click in my head better than any other approach I’ve ever found.

That second part, though? That’s not me, not my path.

My way is personal, individualized, and in many ways unique. It’s better for me, but that in no way makes it a universal thing. Honestly, there aren’t many other people my way would suit. I teach and share my perspective when asked, I maintain a blog, and maybe eventually I’ll publish the books I’ve written for my own use that lay out my particular approach. I wouldn’t say the vague thought of “hey, that might be useful” is devotion to sharing, however, and it’s not something I feel called to do.

Being a Visionary is not a clergy role I feel I can claim. So I don’t.

  • Lore-Tender

The job of a lore-tender is to keep a tradition or path as close to the vision of the founder as possible, through judgment and education. Since I don’t consider my personal path a tradition, there’s no traditional lore to tend. I maintain a ridiculously extensive library containing books about every path I can find, mine or not, and enjoy sharing those resources with others if they’re helpful. But beyond that, tending the lore of a tradition I do not personally follow in my day-to-day life feels hypocritical. And I’ve already explained why teaching my personal path is problematic.

Now general hard polytheism? That’s something I can help with. But that help is either so generalized it’s 101-level knowledge, or so specific it’s more my personal perspective than anything else.

In other words, this isn’t a clergy role I fulfill in anything other than the broadest sense.

  • Ritual Facilitator

Rituals – or at least ritual elements – are what hold a group together, even beyond a shared history and creed. From full sabbat observances to ritual greetings, those elements give a group a foundation that unites its members.

What I do won’t hold a group together. This goes back to my way not being suitable for large numbers of people. My personal rituals aren’t nearly as meaningful to other people as they are to me. However, stepping aside from what I do follow the ritual of another tradition (especially non-polytheistic ones) feels like I’m setting aside all of my personal relationships with the Powers and the UPG with which I’ve been blessed. That feels damned near sacrilegious.

Individual rituals custom-crafted to a specific purpose are fantastic, and I adore the challenge, but they are intentionally one-offs. One-offs do not a tradition make or a group build, though, no matter how much I enjoy them.

  • Pastoral Care-Giver

Short story here? I don’t have enough spoons to make this a regular part of my life.

Pastoral care-giving – supporting group members through trouble and crisis – is something I find equally rewarding and draining. I do it well (or so I’ve been told), but I can’t do a whole lot of it without feeling beaten by sticks. I have occasional issues with fatigue anyway, and dealing with others going through crisis exacerbates this. I get so drained I get depressed. That leads to me becoming even more reclusive than I already am and avoiding people more than I already do.

fish

Little fishy, I totally feel you here!

It simply works out better if I’m not the first person others think of when a crisis situation occurs. There are a few folks who have me on speed-dial for this kind of thing, and all of my students are encouraged to reach out whenever, but for the most part I do this kind of work by referral. I’m like Tier 2 tech support. I only get the people who need their issues escalated.

I do read Tarot for other people, but I charge for each session and almost always require an appointment unless it’s a bona fide emergency. The fee is another kind of gate-keeping, and the appointment helps me manage my energy.

This is not the kind of baggage that works for a group. Wise woman in the woods? Solo urban monastic? Yes and yes, absolutely. But being on call 24/7 to an extensive group isn’t something I could realistically do for any significant stretch of time without draining myself dry and spreading myself way too thin. Maintaining some distance is not just better for me, it’s better for the quality of help I offer.

  • Administrator

I’m good at administration. Seriously, I rock it. However, this role only really becomes a thing within an established tradition or group. There has to be something to administer, right? I think I could fulfill this function for a group if it was the only role I fulfilled, but with everything else I think this talent is better suited to other types of tasks.

What does all that mean?

I realized – after much examination and thought – that I’ve been holding off on other parts of my life to keep myself available for a clergy role if and when it became available. Without my sojourn in New York I don’t know if I’d ever have figured out that I was holding out for something that would not bring me happiness or satisfaction.

I needed to confront it head-on to understand it and move on. My Lady made it almost impossible for me to do otherwise.

That being said, I do not consider my time in New York to be a failure. Not at all! I accomplished quite a bit while I was there. *amused* Just nothing I factored into my planning!

I also don’t have a problem with Pagan practice, in general or specific, and I wish the group I was working with every success. It’s just not for me, not anymore.

Now that I’ve come full circle I’m left with one question that has lasting implications: if serving as 24/7 clergy is no longer a goal to which I aspire, what other areas of life does that open up for me?

I honestly don’t know. There’s been a lot of soul-searching in Casa de Caer as of late.

Nature abhors a vacuum though, and my Lady isn’t shy. I might even have some ideas. I’m looking forward to the challenge.