Exploring the Mind/Body Connection in Tarot

My husband got sick five days ago. It didn’t worry me–I don’t automatically get sick just because he does, and I felt absolutely fine. A few evenings later, however, my nose began to run. About a half-second later, I felt my body slacken and weaken. Goddammit, I thought. I don’t have time to be sick right now. I poured myself a cup of respiratory health tea, threw a blanket over my head and breathed in the goodness. I’ll be fine by tomorrow.

At precisely 3:40 AM, I awoke to an unbearable pounding in my sinuses. The pain was so intense that I couldn’t sleep. I dampened a towel with water and some Lavender essential oil and threw it in the microwave. Once I had the compress on my face, I began thinking. And thinking. It wasn’t the good kind of thinking, mind you, but the freakin’ nine of swords kind of thinking. By 4 AM, I’d convinced myself that I was dying of skin cancer. I picked up my phone and began scrolling through photos online, trying to find one that confirmed my diagnosis. I knew that it was completely useless to act this way and that all I was doing was fueling anxiety that would keep me from sleeping. I couldn’t seem to stop, however. I continued compulsively surfing the web until I’d given up on answers and was so exhausted I didn’t have a choice.

Hypochondria is certainly a condition that I’m known to exhibit, but only under severe duress. If my health is in good working order, I’m not carried away by compulsions or irrational thought. As soon as I’m in an overwhelming physical or psychological state, however, it’s as if the levee breaks and all hell rushes forth. This got me thinking about the mind/body connection, and how important it is for us to nurture both systems if we want to maintain a general sense of health and wellbeing. And this got me thinking about…tarot, of course!

The pip cards do an awesome job of illustrating this mind/body connection, which is why we need to give these cards their due in terms of attention. Now, don’t get me wrong–a lot of majors in a reading certainly does indicate that something huge is afoot, but it’s the pips that help us break it down into single serving portions of understanding. When the six of wands appears in a reading, for example, I’m likely to interpret it as an indication of stress in the most physical sense of the term–a prolonged adrenaline reaction that causes anxiousness, sensitivity, clamminess…the list goes on. Determining the stressor is a great first step, but taking some viable action is necessary in terms of getting your stress back under control. How do you do that? It’s easy for a tarot reader to say, “Do work that makes you feel empowered, not stressed.” “Your relationship with your mother triggers you? Maybe you should stay away from her for a while.””The cards indicate that this relationship isn’t working out. Perhaps you should consider moving on.” These are all amazing suggestions, and given the situation, may be exactly what the doctor ordered. However, many of these are likely to increase stress, especially in the short-term. In the interim, treating the body may be your best bet in terms of stress reduction. Meditation is a statistically proven way of relieving stress regardless of the existence of stressors in a person’s life. Likewise, exercise is known to lessen the effects of depression by half. And yoga…don’t even get me started on yoga.

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As a metaphysical practitioner, I help others navigate the landscape of their subconscious so they can reach clarity in terms of what’s happening (and in rare cases, what may happen) in their lives. But the truth of the matter is that there’s so much more in terms of wellness that must be addressed in order to make major headway. Therefore, when cards like the six of wands come up, I may suggest a more physical stress relief technique (of course, only those I practice and have greatly benefitted from). Likewise, when a card such as the nine of wands appears, it’s an indication of physical exhaustion, and prioritization of responsibilities and activities is in order (read: your body need some rest).

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On the flip side of the coin, the King, nine, and ten of pentacles are indicative of comfort and vibrant health. I mean, they’re practically wearing blankets–these lords and ladies know how to take care of themselves. Given the question, their appearance in a spread may mean that the querent would greatly benefit from a spa day. Literally. Physical relaxation breeds psycho-spiritual contentment and vice-versa. One rarely exists without the other.

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Now, I’m no doctor (as my ethics very clearly state!), but I’ve been around for thirty two years and in that time, I’ve learned a thing or two about the body. And given that I draw from both my personal experience and scientific research, I find know qualms with suggesting a meditation session within a tarot reading. If a client mentions that he/she has recently stopped exercising and my reading indicates that this is an issue, my interpretation will most likely include actionable advice about getting moving again. Why? Because it’s good advice. And I have enough practice and experience in tarot reading to know how to do this lovingly, gently, and productively, and how to connect it to the psycho-spiritual issues that led her to consult me in the first place. I figure that if one client in ten is inspired to view her situation more holistically, the suggestions are well worth it. Sometimes, all it takes is the right combination of word choice and context to make something real to a person. And if that word choice and context comes through one of my readings, more the better.

Much Love,

Jessi

Deck Interview With The Wild Unknown

I’m late to the party.

I’ve always been skeptical of this hipster deck–The Wild Unknown–because it looked so damn simple. Too simple. Like, where’s the symbolism?  Where are the people? How will it interact with more in depth, psycho-spiritual readings? Will I be able to bond with the animal imagery (I have my totems, but otherwise, animals generally don’t speak to me in terms of the collective unconscious)? And seriously, where are the people?

As time passed, it rose in popularity. I bided my time. And then Kim Krans began mass producing the deck, and I thought, The Wild Unknown is iconic. It’s the gold standard for the new age of tarot. Get over yourself and buy the deck and see what all the hype is about.

And so I did. And when I clicked “purchase”, a funny thing happened–I felt excited. Giddy, even. Okay. I’m listening.

When it arrived to the tune of our earsplitting doorbell yesterday, I ran down the stairs with anticipatory glee. The fact that it arrived with my husband’s Christmas presents (a clear, plexiglass ukulele and a slack line, because I’m an awesome wife) made me even more excited. I guess you could say that I’d fallen under its mysterious, pervasive spell.

And of course I did an unboxing video. It started off normal enough, but as I thumbed through the deck, I became curiouser and curiouser. I realized that I intuitively gleaned its meanings quite easily. Also, I was having a hell of a lot of fun. There’s something about this deck that lifts the deep and heavy cloak of tarot right off. And I immediately understood why so many are drawn to this deck in the first place–it’s accessible.

Halle-freakin’-lujah.

I realized that I wanted to give my first official deck interview, and so I went to the place you go to when you’re looking for amazing tarot resources–Little Red Tarot. Seriously, if you haven’t gotten over there yet, do yourself a favor and do. Beth Maiden has a simple, yet surprisingly encompassing Deck Interview Spread that I’ve been looking to try out, and I knew that this was the perfect time to do so. Why do a deck interview, you might ask? For the very reason we sling cards in the first place–to get a handle on something that’s a little confused, foreign, or unorganized and to use the overview as a foundation from which to proceed. With this in mind, I attuned myself to the positions:

1. Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic?
2. What are your strengths as a deck?
3. What are your limits as a deck?
4. What are you here to teach me?
5. How can I best learn and collaborate with you?
6. What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?

 

Okay: the first three questions have the deck as the subject, and the next three questions have me as a subject. The first half infers static information, the last half dynamic. Got it. Let’s throw some cards.

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I took a moment (like you do) to process the cards as a whole. Four majors in a six card spread is A LOT of majors. Most of the spreads I’ve thrown recently have been saturated with majors. For the laymen among us, that means that intense shit is circling around me right now. Take Note: If your spread is mostly majors, PAY ATTENTION. It’s kind of a big deal. This spread also seems to be dealing out some serious yang energy–The Emperor, the Five of Wands, The World, and The Wheel of Fortune are definitely action, and not reflection, cards. As such, this spread let me know that this deck would generally be a good deck for readings addressing creativity, manifestation, and active transformation. In other words, this deck will help me and my clients to get up and go. I’ll leave the work of reflection to The Mary El for now. So, what does the spread mean positionally?

1. The Emperor

This deck is definitely no bullshit. It’s clear about what it wants, it’s unremitting in taking what it believes is its right, it’s fair in terms of logic and it has a definite code of conduct that it operates from. It’s meant to give straight, clear, actionable advice in the face of uncertainty and confusion. It possesses a certain protective quality that embraces those whom it reads for; it will make them feel as if that which threatens them cannot harm them. It will place its querent and its reader firmly in the seat of their power and will help them see the situation with the needs of the self in mind. It also infers that it is a “seeing” deck–it surveys the situation from a position of knowledge and authority, so trust its word when it’s speaking clearly to you!

Quote (and all those that follow) from The Wild Unknown Guidebook:

“It suggests reconnecting with the part of you that stands strong and tall and knows just what to do.”

2. The Eight of Swords

This deck’s strengths lie in acquainting you (and more importantly, those you read for) with your limiting beliefs. It will reveal some painful truths and let you know the ways in which you shoot yourself in the foot so you can let go of unhelpful behaviors and make room for helpful ones. It will coax you out of your chrysalis so you may face the psycho-spiritual threat lurking in the subconscious in an empowered, proactive way. Yawp.

“The Eight of Swords demands an answer. You cannot hang here much longer.”

3. The Empress

Ah, some feminine energy. Yet, she occupies the position that points to limitations. Given this, it seems that The Wild Unknown (in my hands, at least) is not a deck for nurturing and guidance, and it’s not a deck for the receptive creative process (think gestation and rebirth rather than getting your hands dirty). It’s a deck that moves you towards action, gives you some “tough love” guidance so you can get off the couch and back into the driver’s seat. It’s not particularly inclined to hold space in the traditional sense.

Duly noted.

4. The Five of Wands

So, this card called me the fuck out. I knew exactly what it was speaking to as soon as I laid the spread, and it made my lips curl up at the edges with this beautiful slyness I inhabit when I get called out and I was like, “I think we’re going to get along just fine.” Basically, this deck will teach me how to be more focused, more organized, more clear, more concise, and more straightforward. I’ve just recently overcome my struggles with paper planning, and I’m seriously ready to get shit done and it seems that this deck will be my copilot in that endeavor *high-fives The Wild Unknown*.

“Take this card as a warning: find ways to bring calm and focus to your mind, or these troubles will only increase.”

5. The Wheel of Fortune

If I’m able to suspend my disbelief and let go of my pre-conceived notions regarding the deck, we’ll work pretty damn well together. I’m also moved to interpret this as an indication that the strengths and purpose of the deck may very well shift as I become better acquainted with it, so I’d be well-served to keep an open mind despite this reading. Well played.

6. The World

I was so pleased to see this card in this position. I don’t read tarot in a bubble–as much as I enjoy reading for myself, I find purpose and fulfillment in reading for others. Since The Wild Unknown is such a well known deck these days, it will help me bond with others who are familiar with it and/or use it as their primary deck. I feel the swell of community like a warm blanket (thank you, Beautiful People), and The Wild Unknown promises that that amazing goodness will grow and grow. What an awesome parting fortune.

As above, so below.

Much Love,

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A Tarot Spread for Healing Psychic Wounds

What does it mean to heal? Physically speaking, healing infers closure, a resealing of skin and a resetting of bone and relief from the pain of injury. But what if healing is not so simple, not so straightforward? For some, pain is chronic, persisting long after a wound has healed; physical therapy, medication, and dietary changes are undertaken in the search for a possible cure, and are changed and rearranged until the patient finds a combination that provides her some relief and increases her quality of life.

Psychic healing is a similar process, but its causes, conditions, and treatments differ radically. First, a psychic wound must be identified–since it cannot be seen, one must plumb the depths of the mind to find it. Once found, one must address its causes, and once the causes are fleshed out, one must determine the best method to treat it. Psychic pain is much like chronic pain–it seems to persist long after treatments have been administered, and it tends to flare up when least expected. When we’re overcome by a wave of psychic pain, it’s important to address it, make space for it, and treat it before its adverse effects begin to eat away at us.

When I’m in the midst of a shadow resurgence, I consult the tarot using this spread.

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It reads in a circle to reflect the cyclical process of healing, ending much where it begins.

The first position is illustrates the source of your psychic pain. The second sheds light on the trauma(s)/event(s) associated with that pain. The third explores your triggers. The fourth explores the ways in which your pain influences your behavior. The fifth gives a suggestion for processing the pain. The sixth illustrates actions you can take to move forward. The seventh demonstrates ways that you can hold space for yourself while you heal.

As you work your way through your trauma using this spread, don’t be afraid to deviate or disagree. As previously stated, healing is a process, and we can learn as much from our negative reactions as our positive ones. Spend as much time as you need to reflecting on the feelings that the reading evokes, and don’t forget that your emotions are valid, no matter what they are. Happy August healing, my loves.

Jessi

 

 

Summer Lovin’

Every year, it’s the same–I wake up one morning, step outside, and just know that midsummer has arrived. The heat rises from the earth and the pavement, the mayflies hatch and glint in the sunlight, the tree-branches buckle beneath the weight of fully grown leaves, and the echo of drum circles heightens my focus like meditation chimes. I love to honor the season’s transitions, to wake up to the shifting of the elements and resonate with the world as it is in the moment. In the summer, this is effortless for me. I feel at home in the cotton caress of shifts and scarves, delight in the way the breeze lovingly plays with my skirt hem and tickles my calves. The well-being and balance I feel is unparalleled, and I spread my arms wide and drink it in while it lasts.

Summer is the season of love, of suspended inhibitions, of ersatz gatherings and weekend bazaars. This energy practically begs us to open ourselves, to set aside duty and expectation and seize the opportunity for universal communication. I find my rituals become more spontaneous and my tarot readings more intuitive–it’s almost as if the collective unconscious is speaking through me, offering primal and cosmic insights that speak to the wellspring of human consciousness itself. Gorgeous literary quotations worm their way into my mind and present themselves through my interpretations, connecting me to my deep love of literature and resurrecting the ghosts of the novel prophets of yore. Their messages are broad and profound like the gentle rolling of placid seas, and just as welcome.

The core is communion and compassion. Self-love. Channelling the wave of emotion outwards like a beacon of hope. Here and abroad, there is a strong opposition to opening, to accepting, to being in peace with the world as it is and striving to create safe spaces for everyone.  I imagine an open heart as a giant bubble that expands and welcomes the world in its embrace. I imagine, and as a witch, I believe my imaginings hold weight. They will not stop the hate. They will not stop the suffering. But they will not feed into it. They will not perpetuate it. And so I whisper my wishes of love into the soft summer breeze and hope that they fall on the ears of someone who needs it the most. I hope, and I dream.

Love, and Love, and Love,

Jessi

The Beautiful Dynamism of the Two-Card Spread

Anyone who travels in the circles of my twitter sphere knows that I’m a fan of the two card spread.  The simplicity of the one-card is almost too simple–done as a daily draw, it tends to reinforce traditional interpretations which, if you’re starting out and still getting the hang of meanings, is great.  If you’ve got that madness on lock, however, the two-card spread can be an accessible (and extremely effective) method of exploring the intuitive aspect of tarot; in other words, it introduces relationships that expand on our understanding of the cards and how spreads function holistically. The best readings I’ve given (or received, for that matter) have paid close attention to the nature of these relationships, creating an arc and a narrative that lays the situation out in a way that makes sense. When we allow the cards to speak to one another, we make room for revelations in ourselves and our querent, allowing for greater clarity and catharsis. This experience, I believe, constitutes the “mystical” aspect of tarot–it’s almost as if we’ve tapped into some greater truth, some pure and holy message that our querent was meant to receive.

Since I post a daily two-card draw to Twitter, I’m limited in my interpretation (140 characters, to be precise).  At first, I viewed this as a potential roadblock to the quality of the readings I would give.  As I went ahead with the project, however, I realized that the text limitation was unexpectedly expansive–if I was going to do this in a way that resonated, I was going to have to dip into my poetic arsenal and address these things macrocosmically. Instead of truncating the standard interpretation of the cards and crushing them together (which you still really don’t have space for), I would have to address how the cards played off of one another and attempt to express that dynamic in a pithy, wide-ranging way.  For example, here are the cards that I pulled for this morning’s spread:

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The Seven of Swords is indicative of theft and deception, whether subjectively or objectively. Temperance speaks to the need to maintain a fluid balance in the various areas of our lives, the need to constantly consider the whole rather than becoming fixated on certain parts. A general reading that only mildly considers the relationship between these cards may go a little something like this: “Beware the stranger who threatens to subvert your achievements. Even if you discover the culprit, exercise restraint in your reaction.” It’s simple, to the point, and it certainly touches on the meanings of both cards. The connection between them, however, seems disjointed: treating the “culprit” justly doesn’t  explore why you’re being deceived in the first place.

Here’s the interpretation that I actually posted: “Never take more than you need. When you make use of something, you deny others the chance to. Make it count.” It doesn’t speak to the meanings of the cards specifically; rather, it answers these questions: what do deception and temperance have in common? How does the notion of temperance relate to acts of deception? Why did the figure in the Seven of Swords leave two swords behind? What does temperance mean when it’s applied macrocosmically; in other words, how does temperance function in the societal and natural world?

When I first saw these cards, I recognized in the imagery that one spoke of balance while the other spoke of imbalance; five swords were taken while two were left behind. This suggested that this pair was at odds, and I’d need to offer a bit of “guidance” to unite them. The theft depicted in the Seven of Swords sparked me to think of resources, and how the figure was almost weighed down by how much he had seized. I looked back at the Temperance card and saw it as depicting the perfect balance of resources. Then I took it to  a macro place and considered the ethical and environmental implications of the unequal distribution of resources and the general cycle of environmental pillaging we seem to be stuck in. I was reminded of the manner in which tribes of indigenous Americans approached the use of buffalo–only taking what they needed and using every single bit so that more would be left over for future hunts and future generations. Thus, my interpretation was born.

This is certainly a lengthy process, and very much a dynamic one. Had I drawn these cards on another day, my interpretation may have been different, but it still would have addressed the interplay between the two. Performing this exercise trains our minds to consider how the archetypes speak to one another, therefore increasing our associations and our ability to “think on our feet” when it comes to interpreting spreads. None of these cards exist in a vacuum; they are presented as a deck precisely because there are unifying elements between each and every one of them. It is our responsibility as tarot practitioners to honor these relationships and incorporate them into our readings so that our querent can understand their obstacles in a holistic way. Decisions don’t exist in vacuums either; we only make empowered ones when we’ve considered the various factors that inform and contribute to them, and the more information we have, the better the chances that we’ll make decisions that truly resonate with what we want and need.

Love and Light,

Jessi

 

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Traversing the Wormhole of the “Culinary Underbelly”: An Exploration of the Magician

In his book, Kitchen Confidential, chef/author/travelogue god Anthony Bourdain reveals in shocking detail the twenty-five years he spent as a chef and cook in the “culinary underbelly” of the restaurant industry. As one would expect, there are palatable tales: his incomparable dining experience at The French Laundry, for one. But Kitchen Confidential is not a book about food. It is a look into Bourdain’s hero’s journey, a catalogue of his descent into drugs and obscurity and his re-emergence as the head chef of the respected Les Halles restaurant. And as much as I enjoyed his painstakingly crafted descriptions of 15 course tasting menus (I worked for the inimitable Marc Vetri for a time, and by the grace of his conjuring hands was able to dine on food of similar quality), his book ranks among my favorites for the inclusion of a single chapter: “The Wilderness Years”. In these pages, Bourdain admits to seeking out the highest paying gig so he could feed whatever habit he was gripped by at the time. His decline is mirrored by the descending quality of the restaurants in which he works and by the slow extinguishment of his passion for food, ending in a shitty diner and a shittier walk-up apartment and the feeling that there must be more to life than feeding the beast of desire and addiction.

For Bourdain, there was more. Much more. And it was because of a simple shift in his decade-skewed paradigm: he began to believe. To believe that more was possible for him. To believe that he could “choose life”, as Rents of Trainspotting so aptly put it. To believe that life was a choice, and not a tide that tugs us in and out at its whim. The moment he acquired this belief, he changed his direction. He became The Magician incarnate.

When I first read “The Wilderness Years”, I recognized them as my own. I’d been toiling away as a server for the better part of five years, buckling beneath the pressure of short term deadlines and trays heaping with entrees of varying quality. The pressure was enough to break anyone’s spirit and sanity, but we found ways to cope: cigarettes, booze, and drugs, namely. At the end of a body-warping shift, we’d shed our uniforms in cold, dark hallways and emerge in the trendy street clothes our tips bought us and beeline it to the nearest watering hole. When I worked at Amis, that bar was Dirty Frank’s, a dive that’s somehow stayed a dive despite the press it’s gotten over the years. We drank pickle-backs: shots of whiskey followed by shots of pickle-juice. And we drank beers on top of that, but by the end of the night, no one was quite sure what or how much we had consumed. Sometimes the evening ended in someone’s apartment amidst a haze of pot smoke. Other times, it ended with a drunken stumble down 13th Street and a sloppily hailed cab. I’d picked up right where I’d left off in Edinburgh, but this time, I had no straight, studious days to balance me out. Somehow I always got home, but it wasn’t always pretty; one night I walked halfway across the city with sleet slicing at my face because I simply couldn’t function well enough to tell the cab driver where I needed to go. The map was in my blood by that point, so I trudged on, knowing that I’d find my way to my doorstep.

One night, I couldn’t find my way home. The path I walked had deviated so far from the map of my mind that I traveled the streets like a shadow. I wasn’t plagued by darkness; I was darkness. And in that moment of pure and utter nothingness, the world was a microscopic point and an infinitesimal expanse all at once. When the ego is stripped down to its bare essentials, identity is precarious, but possibility is endless. It is from this fiery pit that the phoenix emerges, that The Magician is born.

The Magician is the embodiment of possibility, of new life that has found its agency. When we distance ourselves from our persona, we are no longer governed by it; the expectations we have of ourselves drift away, allowing our true gifts and talents to work through us and manifest in the world. We begin to believe in ourselves, in the primordial concoction of air, fire, earth, and water that dictates the true nature of our souls. Because The Magician has all of the tools at his disposal, he can shape the world as he sees fit. And before he could make use of those tools, he first had to crack through the crust of reality.

A month after I became a free agent, I left the restaurant industry. I look back on the years I spent there with mixed emotions, but I feel that I was fated to make that deviation. Without debasing myself so, I may never have shed enough ego to realize how free we truly are, how our view of the universe shifts the universe and shifts us.  Though my departure happened three years ago, I feel as if I’m finally discovering the usefulness of the Magician’s tools, and with any luck, I’ll wield them with as much power and confidence as that glorious archetype.

Much Love,

Jessi

 

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Releasing the Anchor: An Exploration of the Five of Cups

In 2005, I got on a plane and flew to Scotland. The cabin was cramped and the pressure made me achy; I flooded my senses with artists and playlists, but the songs (dear friends, now) couldn’t distract me from the feeling that I’d left a limb in my homeland. I’d worked my ass off to arrive at this very moment, had sacrificed hours to writing and thinking and strategizing, and now that the fruits of my labour were comfortably nestled in my lap, I was afraid.

I passed the first week mind out of body. As the haze subsided, I began to remember: I stopped at a pizza shop after I handed my fat scholarship check to the bursar. I gazed through the storefront window as I carelessly gnawed on my food, trying to process the curvature of Edinburgh’s centuries old buildings as something real. I went to the pub with my housemates that first night, legally guzzled Stella Artois as a twenty year-old and kissed a boy I didn’t know to make me feel like I existed. The phone lines gave me trouble, so I didn’t speak with family. I mingled with the other foreign transplants, traded stories and cultures, but never touched on what I was missing.

I drank more. Woke up reeling. Looked in the mirror and hardly knew myself. I imagined the deaths of my grandparents and wondered if I’d be able to get back for their funerals. I threw myself into the “uni” culture: studious and straight by day, wild and club-hopping by night. I exposed myself to the city and finally saw what I was; I drank from the two cups before me. Yet, the ties of home tightened and slackened like the ropes of a boat docked at harbor: as soon as I surrendered to the bob of the tide, the anchors of guilt and uncertainty jolted me back. I turned to the tipped cups, became lost in the patterns of their spilled contents. How was my family doing without me? Would I be able to readjust when I got back? Were my unclosed chapters being written by someone else?

The Five of Cups illustrates our fractured heart: unable to move on from the ties of the past, unable to face the offerings of our futures. This strange limbo cloaks us in the darkness of disassociation; our unresolved issues flood into our present consciousness, clouding our vision and influencing our current experience. Meanwhile, we lose the plot of our stories. We keep reading and re-reading the same chapter, never getting to the end of the book.

When the Five of Cups appears, it is a call to face the shadow aspect head on. It is so easy drift through shadow like an aimless traveler looking to an overcast sky for guidance. While looking up, our shadows pass through us unseen, triggering our sorrows in the process. We must look straight ahead and recognize them, and do the necessary work to find the messages they seek to convey to us.

When I returned from Scotland, I found that I’d left half of myself overseas. I’d unknowingly set down another anchor, and the knots I’d tied were numerous and tight. It took years of facing shadows to loosen them, and in the process, I loosened many other ties as well. I feel that the human mind naturally drifts between past and future while rarely taking the time to focus on the present. The Five of Cups warns us against this condition, and offers us the courage to read on, come what may, and finish the book.

Love to All Who Walk the Path,

Jessi

 

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Dancing With Eris in the Schoolyard: An Exploration of the Seven of Swords

My best friend lived next door. Our parents drank rum and cokes on my back porch while she and I watched TGIF and ate pizza in my living room. We snuck beneath her parents’ bed and raided her father’s vintage Playboy collection.  We made a music video to “Possum Kingdom” using pillows as drums. And when a member of our clique was home sick, we sped around the playground spreading insidious lies about her. We were nine. Our age doesn’t excuse what we did, but it does suggest that we were new to this type of betrayal: the “Mean Girl” betrayal. The unwarranted betrayal. The betrayal that cuts to the quick and leaves thick scars long after childhood had ended.

When I was approached to help my crew spread the rumor, I felt my pulse quicken.  My heart swelled into my throat and my body vibrated like a lightning rod.  I knew that it was cruel and dangerous to say such things about a classmate, but my best friend assured me that it would be okay. I accepted her reassurance and told her that I’d join under one condition: that I be allowed to say nothing. In other words, I’d be granted permission to rejoice in the twisted joy of defaming someone’s character without actively participating.  With my best friend acting as my liaison, the group accepted my terms, and I upheld them: I didn’t speak one false word to a single soul.

When my classmate returned the next day, she was met with sniggers and sidelong glances. I watched the confusion bloom across her face as she shifted her gaze from one cruel kid to the next. As we walked to lunch, she approached a group of girls to ask them why they kept staring at her. They erupted in an explosion of laughter and cobbled together the rumor between outbursts. The electric feeling flooded my body once again, but this time, it conducted pure fear.

During recess, each member of our clique was called into an empty classroom to be interrogated.  When it was my turn, I simply stated, “I didn’t say anything.” I wasn’t lying, but I wasn’t telling the truth either; honestly, I thought that everyone would deny their involvement anyway. When I returned to the hallway, I could see that this wasn’t so: each girl’s head was bent low, eyes studying the patterns that her shoe tips made when she scuffed them across the floor. I tried to make light-hearted conversation, but they ignored me. I tried locking eyes with my best friend, but she sighed and looked away.

My heart contracted. I realized that my silence was far more duplicitous than the rumor could ever be; I was the true wolf in sheep’s clothing and I wouldn’t be forgiven for it.  I will never forget the shame that I felt at that moment; it’s so potent that it surfaces every time I draw the Seven of Swords, regardless of who I’m reading for. When I pathworked this card, I was spirited back to our perfidious whirlwind tango in the schoolyard, and as I peered into the eyes of my comrades in crime, I didn’t see malice, aggression, and hate. Rather, I saw fear, shame, and insecurity: the painful burden of society’s children. Only then did I truly forgive myself for that day, and only then was I able to forgive those whose deceptions had left me with thick emotional scars.

As lightworkers, spiritual souls, and tarot readers, it’s our responsibility to see the truth that lies in deception: a wounded, disempowered soul. It is only then that we can begin to integrate the awesome power of truth in to the fabric of our own lives, and use that truth to help heal others so that they may do the same.

Much Love,

Jessi

 

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The Fool, the Devil, and the Power to Transmute our Demons

When I begin a project, I approach it with the energy of the Fool–I’m excited and starry-eyed, idealistic about the journey and almost radically hopeful for what it will bring.  There comes a time, however (usually after a few bumps in the road and facing the enormity of what I’m up against), that I’m forced to get down to brass tax and look into my heart to discover my true intentions: what am I called to offer?  How can I contribute to the community in a unique and valuable way?  What is my core self, and how can I convey that through my content?

This marks the first evolutionary stage in my creative process, one that is inevitably fraught with doubts, insecurities, and confusion.  I’ve been through this process often enough to recognize these thoughts and emotions as my ego’s way of rejecting the new and the challenging, so I’m usually able to prevent them from overriding my momentum. But this was not always so.  And despite everything I’ve done to smother the beast of fear and self-loathing, it still manages to rear its ugly head from time to time.

When I can’t seem to quell the negative loops from co-opting a major chunk of real-estate in my brain, I bring out the big guns.  Being of the witchy and woo-woo sort, I attack these destructive specters with my two favorite tools: magick and tarot.  When I shuffle through my deck, I’m met with archetypes and symbols that illustrate the obstacles I’m facing.  When I practice ritual, I commit myself to locating my center and honoring the messages of my subconscious.  If nothing else, these tools help me to put my experience into perspective and to continue the fight against my more depressive leanings.  I’ve been sucked into the vortex of self-destructive thought more times than I care to admit, and nothing useful ever came from those sojourns.  I know how difficult it can sometimes be to avoid the pull, and how difficult it is to climb out once you’ve succumbed to that dangerous gravity.

I may not have a perfect outline of what this particular project is (not yet, anyway), but I do know that I’d do just about anything to make sure that no one has to suffer the damaging effects of self-destructive thinking.  Here, then, is my offering on how to reframe and transform the little demons of negative self-thought into something workable and manageable.  I make no claims to hold the cure to this unfortunate facet of the human condition, but I have figured out a few ways to halt the process of negative thought and build the foundation of a loving, respectful relationship with self.  I wish you all strength and confidence in each of your journeys, and hope that you’re able to overcome the the demon of doubt as it manifests in you.

Many Blessings,

Jessi

 

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The Court Cards: Exploring Meaning Through Process

Ah, the court cards. Any nascent cardslinger will tell you that these are the ever elusive figures of the tarot, and for good reason. Excluding the knights, these figures are fairly stationary, so it’s challenging to discern how they function in the realm of the tarot.  The view that the pages, knights, queens, and kings represent the wisdom, motivation, and ability that each of us possesses in certain developmental stages of our lives (adolescence, early adulthood, and mature adulthood respectively) is incredibly useful, but I’ve been searching in vain for something a little juicier to sink my teeth into.

As I was reading “Messages From the Archetypes” last night, it dawned on me that each of the court cards represents a developmental process, and that we cannot attain the mindful vehicle of the king until we’ve fully explored the terrain and internalized the wisdom that the page, knight, and queen have to teach us.  Much like a scaffold, one must construct the base (page) in order to construct the first level (knight), and that one must complete the first level to construct the second level (queen), and so on.

Let’s take the suit of swords as an example (in the pursuit of clarity and simplicity, I will be referring to each figure in relation to his/her depicted gender, but I want to stress that the process I attribute to each is not gender specific).

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The Page of Swords is an adolescent coming into his power.  He is beginning to step beyond the moral, ethical, and ideological boundaries impressed upon him by his parents so that he may discover an intellectual worldview that resonates with his bourgeoning sense of self.  As he interacts with and observes new behaviors and ideas, he becomes enchanted by them, and begins to experiment (think of the teenager who explores other faiths, scrawls the anarchy symbol on his notebook, and becomes disenchanted with the education system).  The realization that he is free to construct his own worldview is incredibly liberating, and he openly expresses his views with his peers, and often with a strong sense of conviction.  Even though his thoughts and opinions change from one day to the next, he feels that each is absolutely true as he adopts it.  This process of ideological shapeshifting allows him to take a myriad of cultures, beliefs, and behaviors for a spin, allowing him to internalize what resonates, and discard what does not, allowing him to assemble a unique and functional worldview.

In a broader sense, the page of swords represents an ideological shift.  He demonstrates the conviction of a new ethical or intellectual element, and he is ready to communicate his views to those around him. Through communication and the exchange of ideas, he is able to solidify his view, and is thus ready to transition to the “knight” stage.

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The Knight of Swords represents the “independent” years, the time where one withdraws from the familial nest and sets out to establish a life that is grounded in his individual pursuits.  Equipped with a functional worldview, he “rides off” to put what he’s learned into action.  Perhaps he writes ethical treatises that he strives to live by (guilty as charged), perhaps he begins to stand up for himself and others according to his beliefs, or perhaps he sets out to obtain employment and construct a living situation that meets his ideological needs (i.e. he rejects the social structure of “success” and seeks employment that allows him the freedom and flexibility he so craves).  He does not tackle this process lightly–he is often consumed by his need to live as he pleases, and may jeopardize or destroy a host of relationships in the process.  His thoughts and ideas proliferate everything he does, be they academic, anarchic, productive or destructive.

Generally, the Knight of Swords is a ideological crusader.  Due to the knowledge he gained from his adolescent experimentation, he is confident that his views are rooted in some semblance of intellectual truth, and this allows his integrity to strengthen.  On the other hand, he is so bull-headed and convinced that his truth is the objective Truth, he may become confused or irate when contradicted.  As each interaction he experiences reveals differences between his truth and other truths, he is introduced to the idea that dialogue is an interplay of different perspectives, ethical codes, and moral values, and he transitions to the process of the Queen.

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The Queen of Swords represents the transition from independent ideology to integrative ideology.  She represents a stage when the dauntless pursuit of radical autonomy subsides, making room for the thoughts, opinions, and ideas of others. She may be entering into a committed, long term partnership or starting a family.  She may find herself becoming an part of a broader community and attending more to the needs of others.  Rather than trying to prove that her truth is the only Truth, she begins to understand the diversity of truths that exist in the world, and the validity and rationality of others’ opinions even if she doesn’t share them.  As she invites open dialogue with others, she realizes the value of compromise, and how honoring the perspectives of her loved ones creates a harmonious and balanced environment.  By actively listening to others, she begins to guide and advise rather than to instruct and dictate.

The Queen of Swords depicts the receptive, feminine energy of the intellect–that which receives as much as it gives, and that which grows in depth and complexity as it does so. As the Queen perfects her process of tolerance and communication, she transitions to the process of the King.

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The King of Swords integrates the strength and mastery of the Queen’s receptivity in order to achieve a moral, considerate productivity.  Now an integral part of a family or community, he offers his wisdom and advice to ensure its health, balance, and growth.  He is a mediator, a counselor, and a sage.  He is particularly skillful at resolving disputes–he is able to understand both sides of an argument, and to help others understand both sides as well.  He does not regard knowledge as absolute; rather, the attainment of knowledge exists on a continuum, and different ideas perspectives must be applied to different situations.

The King of Swords is a master of rational thought and communication.  He is open, just, flexible, and knowledgeable.  His services are highly valued in the community, and his opinion often improves any scenario to which it is applied.

When viewed as the stages of a process, the court cards begin to exhibit the evolution of understanding and proficiency in regards to the elements of the four suits.  In theory, if an individual is able to successfully engage in each of the elemental processes, he/she may reach the much prized state of self-actualization.