I’ve not always been this bold or this forthcoming. In fact, I was downright terrified for most of my life.
In fact, if you told me five years ago that I’d be running my own tarot business and creating workshops and courses to help others lean into their fears, I’d have said you were crazy. I could barely face my own uneasiness let alone help others face theirs, and at one point I considered myself the most cowardly person I knew.
Anyone I shared this belief with told me I was mad, but I knew what lay beneath the surface–a vast and shadowy landscape of doubts, terrors, and endless shame I knew little to nothing about.
I’d faced the manifestations of these demons for years, but I hadn’t fully allowed myself to explore their roots. Once I did, I realized that I was merely touching the surface of the giant iceberg of shadow that lay dormant in the subconscious, waiting to be stirred to life.
And so I probed deeper. And deeper. And the insights I gained along the way have greatly informed the strong and capable person I consider myself to be today.
And yet, I found that probing my shadow wasn’t enough to inspire meaningful change. I knew the roots of my fears and why I did what I did, but I didn’t know how to use that knowledge in practical, applicable ways. Throughout the course of the past three years, I’ve forged my own path from shadow to light, and as challenging and demanding as it’s been, the rewards of this journey are measureless.
It’s this journey that inspired me to create an offering that I’ve dedicated the past month to–Ascending from Shadow.
And it’s in the spirit of this creation, the day of its birth, and my wish for each and every one of you to step into your power and live fully and fruitfully that I offer this spread to you.
Ascending From Shadow Spread
Which of my shadows most strongly affects my thoughts and behaviors presently?
How does this shadow manifest in my life and relationships?
What are the ways this shadow holds me back from doing what my soul desires?
What do I need to channel to gain control of the negative affects this shadow has on me?
How can I lean into the fear this shadow inspires and act in accordance with my highest good?
Where should I look for guidance and support as I do the difficult work of taking the risks I’ve always wanted to take?
You can throw this spread as often as you care to–we have so many shadows that beg to be integrated that you may use the spread to explore each of them. And if you want loving, actionable, and effective guidance on how to break through your shadow barriers and be as bold as you’ve always wanted to be, consider joining us on the Ascending from Shadow journey.
Modern tarot is a far cry from the parlor trick antics it was once associated with.
Gone are the turbans, the crystal balls, the sleight of hand. In their place are sage bundles, aura crystals, and the careful consideration of psychology, self-care, and social justice. It’s safe to say that today’s tarot is less about telling the future and more about unpacking the here and now, and for many, it’s a source of insight and guidance through life’s transitions, obstacles, and challenges.
Perhaps you’ve wondered if you should get a tarot reading–after all, Vogue, Bustle, and Marie Claire have all wondered the same. As a full-blown believer in the power of tarot to guide, inspire, and transform, I’m generally quick to recommend a reading (especially to those who’ve never had one before). However, there are some definitive signs and indications that getting a reading would be especially beneficial for you at the moment, and I wanted to share those in case you too were wondering if getting a tarot reading would be helpful!
1. Your Life is Kind of a Hot Mess
We’ve all been there–break-ups coincide with family issues coincide with work issues coincide with health issues. If you’re having a “when it rains, it pours” moment, tarot can be especially helpful when it comes to sorting things out and working things through. Depending on the degree of general chaos and disorder you’re experiencing, a few specialized readings may be more helpful than one generalized one. You could go about this in one of two ways–you can choose a few different readers to work with (readers often have specialities and strengths, and a bit of internet research can point you in the direction of a reader who’s uniquely qualified to address your concerns), or you can choose a single reader to tackle your question from multiple angles for continuity’s sake. Either way, the readings should help you to take stock of where you are and shed light on a way forward.
2. Your Self-Love Practice Needs a Re-haul
A conscious, continuous self-love and self-care practice promotes confidence, compassion, and wellbeing. Unfortunately, it’s often the first thing to go when our lives become hectic and demanding. If you’ve been ignoring your own needs in the service of others or if a recent event has taken a toll on your self-esteem, a reading designed to tune you in to your own magnificence and re-ignite your self-care practice may be the way to go. Depending on your reader, your session may include tips, journal prompts, and actionable advice to help you develop a self-care strategy that works for you. Book a Self-Love Reading.
3. Your Past is Coming Back to Haunt You
One of the most common requests I get from my clients is advice on how to move forward in light of the troubled events of a difficult past. Moving on is difficult for the best of us, and having someone in your corner to provide guidance and advice through that process can help you make some serious headway. If you’ve been tackling these issues alone and still feel like you’re treading water, a reading that addresses shadow work, generational healing, or emotional healing can be particularly useful. Tarot’s incredibly adept at bringing forth that which we’ve repressed or refused to acknowledge, and confronting these difficult truths can be instrumental to our ability to heal, forgive, and move forward. Book a Shadow Work Reading.
4. You’ve Exhausted Your Resources
When we’re facing especially difficult or challenging times, many of us turn to friends and family for guidance and support. Although calling on your support system is one of the best decisions you can make in times of crisis, it may not be able to help you in the way you need. Maybe you’re dealing with something that’s incredibly personal, and you’re not quite ready to let your people in on it yet. Maybe you’ve spoken with them about the issue, but you’ve left the conversation feeling even more confused and unsure. Maybe they are the problem. Regardless, an objective opinion could help you view your situation in a different light so you can consider and explore options you didn’t even know were available. Likewise, it could help you clarify what the best decision is for you without having to consider what your loved ones think is best.
5. Life is Awesome, and You Want it To Stay That Way
Although tarot is incredibly useful in times of crisis, it’s equally useful in times of success. Some of the most rewarding readings I’ve given were for clients who wanted to capitalize on a lucky streak or to ride their current momentum into the land of manifestation and dreams realized. It takes a lot of thought, effort, bravery, and perseverance to overcome the obstacles that stand between us and our goals, and some added clarity and insight (as well as some guidance and support) can help you maintain your strength and confidence as you go after what you want.
The decision of whether or not you should get a tarot reading is ultimately yours, as is the choice to act on the advice and insight it provides. If you’ve never had a reading and you’re curious, however, I’d say go for it–you may be surprised by how helpful and useful it can truly be.
Full disclosure: I cried on my birthday five years in a row.
I was smack in the middle of the wilderness years of my twenties, and I wasn’t too keen on the path my life was taking. Rather than celebrate everything I’d managed to achieve, I bemoaned what I hadn’t accomplished and drank way too much and stumbled home in a puddle of my own tears. They were far from the most enjoyable birthdays I experienced, but they did manage to teach me something: taking time to decide what kind of “party” we need can definitely make or break the occasion.
Since b-days always stirred up some serious shadow shit for me, I did my best to ignore them and didn’t plan much of anything. One of two things happened: the day came and I had nothing to do (and was therefore depressed and whiny), or my friends planned a get-together that often didn’t resonate with how I was feeling (therefore drunkenness and embarrassment).
Consciously working through some of the more difficult emotions that birthdays engender (read: I’m getting older, I haven’t yet written the great American novel, what’s my true calling, and what is life anyway?) will pave the way for meaningful contemplation that empowers you to honor who you are and to decide who you want to be.
Pimp Out Your Morning Ritual
It’s your birthday, beauty, and that means that you deserve to spend some extra time indulging in self-love and self-care. Make yourself a special breakfast (because who needs to rely on someone else to give us the love we deserve?) and bring it to the altar. Savor the scent and flavor of your coffee. Delight in the glorious taste of your waffles/pancakes/omelette and think about how many mornings you’ve had the pleasure to see on this earth. If you’re feeling adventurous (or particularly sharp), try and remember a few (remember that time you were allowed to eat Lucky Charms every day on vacation?). See if you can conjure the emotion of some of your best mornings and embody that emotion for as long as you can.
Light a candle and thank your guides for all of their love and support–whether real or imagined (or both), they’ve seen you through some serious shit and showing gratitude for their guidance will make you feel all warm and fuzzy.
Switch on your favorite meditation music and devote some time to mindfulness. Let what comes up come up, and let it pass. Keep a journal handy to make note of any “birthday shadow” that comes up and that you may want to work on later. Take in the sounds, the smells, and tap into your inner smile.
I prefer to take my b-day ritual bath in the AM, but whatever time resonates with you is best. I smudge the crap out of the bathroom with sage and palo santo to clear out last year’s metaphysical detritus and I fill a sachet with my favorite herbs (red rose petals, hibiscus, red clover, chamomile). I add the sachet to the bath along with a decoction of cinnamon (good luck and prosperity), cloves (luck and protection), and cardamom pods (lust, because it’s my b-day). Then I toss in some sea salt and soak for as long as I feel the need. Depending on how long I’m in there, I may even dip into the astral and have a chat with my matron. Again, this is an exercise to help me relax and savor and to encourage any challenging emotions to rise to the surface.
Shadow Work Hour
By all means–take as much time as you’d like (or as you need) to shadow work. For some of us, it’s safer to shadow work at set times the week before your birthday (*ahem* this lady). For others, a little bit will go a long way. Regardless, I do recommend that you do some so you can clear the air and the space and make room for what awaits in the next year. Bust out your journal and write about some of the more challenging and difficult ordeals you lived through. How did you manage? What did they teach you? How will you apply what you’ve learned moving forward? If you have any funky feelings about childhood birthdays (maybe they weren’t honored or perhaps you had a parent or loved one who couldn’t be there), this is the time to think about it, to feel it, and to write it.
Think of how much you were able to thrive and survive through. Pat yourself on the back for making it through another year (relatively) unscathed. Praise your very soul and being for its strength and fortitude, and if you’re a fan of romantic poetry, read “To You” by Walt Whitman and struggle to hold back tears when you read the last line: “what you are picks its way.” Allow your shadow session to beautifully transition into a celebration of self, and in this spirit, get out the mags and the decoupage.
Make a Birthday Candle
Birthday candles are so often throw-away items; here’s a chance to craft your own personal birthday candle and imbue it with meaning. Perhaps you’ll let it burn all day in celebration of you and who you are. Perhaps you light it for an hour, then blow it out so you may light it again next year–the choice is yours.
Prayer candle (cheap and affordable and stocked at most grocery or dollar stores)
Magazine clippings that delight and inspire you
Mod Podge (Elmer’s glue can be used as a substitute if need be)
Paint brush or sponge
Anointing oil (optional)
Glitter (also optional, but why not?)
Cover the glass container of your prayer candle with a layer of Mod Podge and let it dry. Next, scrawl sigils, a spell, words of inspiration, self-love, and encouragement all over the glass container. Next, apply Mod Podge to the back of each magazine clipping and arrange them however you’d like on the candle. Let dry, and apply a layer of Mod Podge over the entire outside of the candle. Anoint either the wax or the candle with oil, and light that bad boy as you set intentions for the year to come.
Perform a Release Ritual
Birthdays are a perfect time to clear out all the psycho-spiritual crap that’s high-jacking your consciousness. Write a list of the behaviors, relationships, dynamics, and patterns you’d like to release as you move into your new year. Gather banishing materials (Sage, black tourmaline, smoky quartz, hematite, cloves, etc) and an organza (or mojo) bag and bring them to the altar. Create sacred space and light a black candle. Speak your list to the cosmos as you fill your bag with the crystals and herbs. When you’ve finished reciting, pass the burning sage over your spell bag and seal it. If you’re feeling so inclined, dig a hole and bury it, and whisper, “so mote it be.”
Blow Out Your Candles and Make a Wish
Seriously, though–this ritual is performed by so many people worldwide that it’s bound to have some pretty serious heft magick-wise. Even though it’s pretty difficult when you have several pairs of eyes staring at you, take a moment to look a little foolish and to wish with every fiber of your being. Male sure that you know what you’re wishing for before the moment, and that it’s a wish that has your highest good (and the highest good of others), in mind.
Happy, Birthday, Witches XOXO
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I’m currently packing my bags for a long weekend trip to Cape May, NJ. For those of you familiar with the Jersey Shore, I assure you–this is nothing like it. Think Victorian village on a narrow spit of land. Basically, this town is my personal witchy dream.
Cape May Beach
Victorian Villa in Downtown Cape May
Because I’m preparing to get down and dirty with some R&R, I’m posting a spread that I wrote quite a bit ago called the Free Your Mind Spread. I know I shared it on Insta, but I’m fairly certain I have yet to share it here. So, here’s a six card shadow work spread for those who are serious about moving through the blocks.
1. Where are the seeds of my doubt? What do they reveal about my insecurities?
2. Where do I sustain the greatest losses when I allow my fears to take control?
3. What is the core of my disbelief? What prevents me from holding space for my intuition?
4. What actionable steps can I take to move beyond negative feedback loops and into the seat of my power?
5. What actionable steps can I take to nurture self-love and self-belief? What can I do to convince myself that I’m worthy of the life I desire?
6. Kick-ass oracle to make you feel like a rockstar.
I use this spread when I’m reconsidering a shadow I’ve already addressed, or when I know that I’m acting a fool but have no idea why. It’s helped me gain clarity so I could stop the self-sabotage and get back on track with who I am and what I want. It seems to attract cosmic presents of understanding, so if you’re confused and you want to work through it, give it a try!
I’ve been a witch for three years now. Before that, I was a proud atheist, but I was still trying to discover the meaning of life and find my place in the vast web of existence. And way back in space and time when I was a child who maybe/probably believed in god, I wondered what eternity would feel like when I arrived. Honestly, I doubted its “promised land” branding. In short, I’ve always been the sort that struggles with the fundamental questions, and this trait has made me…”sensitive.” “Difficult.” “Deep.” “Overreactive.”
Change has always been a challenge. Letting things go? A damn-near impossibility. Sometimes, it feels like the pop psychology term “baggage”was created with me in mind. The adrenaline rushes that overwhelmed me in times of fear, pain, and crisis burned those experiences into my brain, and try as I might, I could never quite erase them. This is still something I must address on a continual basis; my awareness makes it possible to introduce the coping mechanisms I’ve developed to stop the “wheel of darkness” from careening down the side of the mountain. It’s safe to say that at this point in the journey, I’m a master at psycho-spiritual damage control, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I’ve reached a level of awareness that makes it possible for me to attend to the needs of my unique, beautiful mind. And as I write this, I meditate on the Wheel of Fortune and express this triumph with the utmost humility and reverence for the unknown path ahead and all that it may bring.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, I salute you, fellow shadow walker. I hold space for you and all that you’ve encountered and endured. To have a sensitive heart and a metaphysical mind is a wonderful gift, but it’s also a great burden. Everything means something. Nothing goes unnoticed. And through a boundless curiosity the sheer will of contemplation, not much stays hidden either. Harmful words flippantly expressed tend to stick to you like nuclear melted cheese–no matter how hard you shake, it ain’t coming off until it’s good and ready. And even so, it takes a huge effort to make sure every last bit has been accounted for and removed. Years may pass without thought or mention of a traumatic experience only for a random trigger to rear its ugly head and send you careening back into the mouth of the beast. What do you do? How do you prepare for something you can’t anticipate? And once you’ve relapsed, how do you dig yourself out again?
I crafted a spread this morning. It came from the depths of my soul, from my heart and my head’s best intentions. That may sound hyperbolic, but it’s true. I took this spread for a spin and the reading was absolutely amazing–clear, purgative, intuitive, revealing, comforting. I want to share this with you because I’m fairly confident it will help. It’s no pony ride (but let’s be real–when have I ever written “pony ride” spreads?), but most honest things aren’t. But if you’re ready, it’s waiting.
1. What is the primal source of my deepest pain and suffering?
2. What must I release as I prepare to re-establish agency and sovereignty?
3. How do I let go of the pain of the past, once and for all?
4. What does my inner child need to feel safe and cared for?
5. What boundaries do I need to draw in order to feel happy and healthy?
6. What can I do to hold space for others’ unique personalities and needs? How can I be more understanding?
7. How can I address triggers that cause me pain, but I cannot avoid or control?
8. Oracle message of love and support.
I wish you the best in each and every one of your journeys towards healing.
The pathway of healing is not a wild, untamed path. It is a manicured path, a watered path, a tended path. The sweet bloom of integration can only unfurl under certain conditions; as Miles of Sideways puts it, “Pinot is very temperamental. Only the most nurturing of growers can bring it into its fullest expression.” If the soil is barren and the ivy has strangled the yarrow and the birds have no seed to feed on, we won’t be sustained. The wild, untamed path is that of epiphany and revelation. The tended path is that of returning to wholeness.
I know this logically. I think most of us do. But to know it in our bones and to have the strength to trim back the vines and cut back the shade is harder to summon than a thought. It takes willpower, self-control, and dedication. It also takes a leap of faith.
As of today, I have gone a week without smoking cigarettes. This habit, so taboo in contemporary society and even more so in the witchy/metaphysical/new age community, was the vestige in a string of bad habits I’ve managed to break over the years. I felt shame over the fact that I smoked, but I smoked anyway. A dear friend’s mother died of lung cancer, and still I smoked. Neighbors would slam their windows shut in reaction to my morning smokestack behavior, but still, I smoked. I justified it based on the fact that I had rid myself of all other vices; indeed, that marriage and motherhood were largely incompatible with the word “vice”. As I spoke from my righteous soapbox, however, my convictions felt hollow. I knew that I was harming myself. I knew that my values and beliefs violently clashed with the habit, but I simply didn’t stop. I was the modern day St. Augustine; “give me chastity and continence, but not yet.”
But a week ago, it was time. How could I possibly dedicate an entire month to healing without considering the dire effects that smoking was having on my body? How could I ask others to bravely move through their suffering if I wasn’t willing to let go of my own self-harming behavior? Smoking hadn’t made sense for a long time, but I clung to it like a well-loved, ill-fitting jacket. I’d long outgrown it, and it was time to finally bite the bullet and move on.
I’ve had cravings. I’ve been irritable. I’m experiencing insomnia the likes of which I haven’t seen since I spent the summer of 2008 in Norway (ever wonder what it’s like to live and work in a country/season where it doesn’t get dark?) But my energy seems boundless. I’m happier, lighter. Everything seems clearer, somehow. And my muse has flown from her tower to perch comfortably on my shoulder, and oh, how happy I am that she’s here. Sometimes taking care of yourself means letting go of things you love because you know that you’ll be better off without them. Sometimes healing means trimming back the overgrowth to make room for a new, beautiful direction.
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.
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.