An Interview with Marianne of Two Sides Tarot

When I wandered into the wild world of internet tarot two years ago, Marianne of Two Sides Tarot was one of the first cardslingers I discovered.

I was scrolling through Siobhan’s tarotscopes when I came upon her contribution, and it was immediately apparent that she was talented. I’m always delighted to discover a taroist who’s equal parts wordsmith–so much of what we do relies upon the nuanced and thoughtful use of language, so a reader with a strong writing background is quite the force. As I got to know the woman behind the words, I realized that the powerful kindness, insight, and honesty so prevalent in her writing finds its source in her. I just knew I had to interview her for this series, and to my absolute and utter delight, she accepted.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetWhen and why did the idea to stock tarot decks in the shop come to you, and what did manifesting that goal require?

It was really inspired by my own desire for all the gorgeous indie, artist-published decks that we’re so blessed to have at this time in tarot history. Most creators are based in North America and Europe, and being in Australia, I was dropping US$20-$40 in shipping fees every time I backed something on Kickstarter or bought a deck from Etsy. I knew this was an expense other Australian collectors struggled with, too, so I thought, since I had the platform and the community already, why not build a bridge between all of these amazing artists and the diviners who want to put their art to work?

From idea to execution it probably took me about a year, but to be honest, much of that time was spent grappling with the fears I had about expanding my business. Logistically, it’s not too hard to contact creators and arrange wholesale, and throw everything up in an online store. The tricky part – at least, I found – was being brave enough to step up and make my business (and myself) more visible. I was pretty abashed at first, reaching out to tarot legends like Kim Krans and Mary Elizabeth Evans, but once I gave myself the psychological permission I needed to own the direction Two Sides Tarot was taking, all of that fell into place.

The tricky part – at least, I found – was being brave enough to step up and make my business (and myself) more visible.

It helps that pretty much everyone in the tarot space is a delight to work with, and I’ve received so much support and encouragement from my customers, suppliers, and peers. Beth over at Little Red Tarot in particular has been such a champion of mine, and offered me so much support, advice, and inspiration. I even have international customers now who say they’d rather have decks shipped all the way from Australia in order to shop with me, which is a total thrill!

I say that I wanted to help Aussies save on shipping fees, but at heart, all the joy of this work comes from community. It’s really an honour to be able to support deck creators, and I love getting to kiss my parcels goodbye when they go in the post, knowing that the recipient is definitely going to have at least one life-changing card reading in their future, thanks to my efforts! Tarot people are a special bunch, and it’s a pleasure to serve them in this way.

As someone who pours over fabric samples before deciding which to purchase for my tarot bags, I have to ask–what criteria do you use to choose the decks?

I imagine at least one of our methods are similar – sometimes when you see a deck, you just know you’ve got to have it! My own taste is, of course, a big part of it, but I have other considerations, too. I’m always on the lookout for decks that are interesting and unique in some way, whether in their artwork or their philosophy. Decks that are LGBTQ+ inclusive, and decks that aren’t solely populated by skinny white people are also always on my shop wish list. Variety is important, too. If I’ve only got about 20 decks in my shop, I want to make sure they represent a broad range of aesthetics and ideas.

Decks that are LGBTQ+ inclusive, and decks that aren’t solely populated by skinny white people are also always on my shop wish list.

I also make choices based on my knowledge and appreciation of a deck’s creator – for example, I’ll take practically anything Mary Evans or Marcella Kroll do, sight unseen, because I trust their work will be resonant. Popular demand is also a factor. I try to keep on top of which decks are coming out and getting a lot of buzz, and my customers will often contact me with requests for forthcoming titles, which I do my best to accommodate. Getting to pick and choose is definitely a fun part of the job!

What first drew you to tarot?

It’s funny you should ask, because I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on my tarot origin story. It’s going to be a letdown, because honestly, I can’t exactly remember! It certainly wasn’t a cataclysmic moment, more like a slow dawning. I came to tarot in my mid-20s, so I wasn’t one of those witchy teenage goths who’s been reading since high school slumber parties (although I was definitely a witchy teenage goth!). It was around the time that I finished my master’s degree, I was a bit at a loose end, and I’d read a bunch of fantasy novels that used tarot as a plot device. At that stage, I was still dedicatedly “un-woo” so when I picked up Robert Place’s Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination, I maintained it was purely for academic purposes. Naturally, about two pages in, I was hooked.

The funny thing is, though, once tarot arrived, it thoroughly took over my life and it was like it had always been there. I’d always been bookish (and in fact, I’ve worked in the book industry for nearly 15 years), and my academic background is in literature, so reading texts of all kinds is my jam. Interpreting tarot cards is not dissimilar from interpreting a novel or a poem, so reading tarot is a natural extension of the interpretive skills I’ve cultivated my entire life. It feels like the perfect confluence of so many things I’m passionate about!

Your writing is gentle yet raw, honest, yet stylized—in other words, you’re an awesome writer. How does this interest/ability relate to your study and practice of tarot?

That is very kind of you to say, thank you! I might have jumped the gun and partially answered this above, but my tarot practice is very much informed by my studies in English lit. Obviously, my tarot readings are not academic in style, but I think many years of essay and thesis writing have given me a few transferrable skills. Also, they say that one of the best ways to make yourself a good writer is to be a good reader, and that’s something I’ve diligently practiced since the Babysitters Club days of yore!

What I didn’t expect was that writing would become so much a part of the intuitive process for me. It’s rare for me to read cards in person; most of my readings are done in writing via email, and it’s through the act of writing about the cards that I’m able to best access my intuition. Often, when I sit down to do a tarot reading, I don’t immediately know what the cards are about, but once I start making notes the messages become clear.

What I didn’t expect was that writing would become so much a part of the intuitive process for me.

I don’t think this is an act of channeling so much as it is just the best method for me to organize my thoughts and listen to my intuition. I can uncover connections and draw out stories by putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) that my mind couldn’t otherwise retrieve. I’ve been an avid journaler since I was about 12, too, so I think writing has always been how I’ve figured things out. I’m glad I now get to use that skill to help others figure things out, too!

I’m basing this question off of a series of hashtags on one of your Instagram posts—is Sydney really a feminist utopia?

Haha! Sydney is by no means a feminist utopia, but we’re very lucky to have Australia’s only women-only ocean pool, McIver’s Baths, where I swim a couple of times a week. It’s so beautiful, I can rarely resist taking a picture for instagram, hence the #feministutopia hashtag! A friend introduced me to it over last summer, and I can’t believe that all this time, the thing ruining the beach for me was men! Obviously, I’m kidding, but it has shown me how precious and magical women-only spaces can be. We’ve referred to it as our feminist utopia ever since.

The baths have been women-only since they were developed in 1886, but many sources – including local women – suggest that the rock pool was used prior to European invasion by Aboriginal women. I’m acutely aware that it’s because of my unearned privilege as a colonizer that I get to experience this beautiful place, and I always try to do so respectfully (which isn’t hard when it’s evidently such a special and sacred space). If any of your female-identified readers find themselves in Sydney, I definitely recommend a visit – you might even catch me in my smalls on the rocks, doing my morning tarot Weather Report!

Be sure to visit Two Sides Tarot to learn more about Marianne and her offerings!

Much Love Beauties,

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“I Just Can’t Even” Tarot Spread

We’ve all had those days, folks–no matter how hard you try to get it together, it ain’t happening. You’re in the middle of a project and things aren’t going the way you’d like and you want to throw your hands up in defeat. You keep trying to start something, but lose interest, take a different tack, and lose interest again. Then you try to go do something else, but you find yourself in the same place of general indecision/lack of will. It becomes so frustrating that you just can’t even, and you either want to scream or crawl into your bed and hibernate. If you’d like to avoid both of those options, try throwing the “I Just Can’t Even” tarot spread I just wrote because I just can’t even right now. Seriously.

This is a tarot spread to help you get clear on your next move–be it regroup and restart or take a long, pensive, self-loving time out.

 

No one’s perfect, and sometimes we need to take a step back to discover the best way forward. Since I’m currently feeling these vibes, I’m going to throw this spread, take a picture, and share the positions and my personal reading with you. Wish me luck!

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  1. What’s tripping me up?
  2. How do I effectively address this obstacle?
  3. Do I need to double down or take a time out?
  4. A “pat on the back.”
  5. A well deserved reward.

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First Impressions

This spread is dominant in pentacles energy and includes two cards from the major arcana. I’m looking at a blockage in the mundane, practical sphere, so that’s where I should direct my attention and efforts in the coming days. The Ace of Pentacles and The Fool point to an opportunity for new beginnings, so trying to force something that’s not working wouldn’t be in my best interest right now. Instead, I should “wipe my slate clean,” so to speak, and begin approaching things from a completely different angle.

1. The Hanged Man suggests that I’m either unable or unwilling to accept the current state of things. I’m trying to push a concept or and idea that simply isn’t workable given the circumstances, and I’d do best to take a look at what’s happening organically as opposed to what isn’t. For the curious, I threw this spread to help me gain clarity about changing things up biz-wise, and it appears that I need to spend some time at my altar in meditation. The Hanged Man is all about surrender–about succumbing to the reality of a situation so that you can direct your energy down channels that may prove fruitful. To me, this shows that the changes I was considering making today aren’t the right changes. My body knew it, and thus resisted. Good thing I stopped to reflect when I did!

2. The Ace of Pentacles is the cosmic thought of a seed that eventually grows into a towering sycamore. In order for the tree to mature, it must be lovingly fed by the rains, the sun, and the rich soil that houses its roots. I’m invited to consider a new idea, a new way forward, one that’s more practical in terms of output and yield. The self-loving choice here is to hold space for change, to create an incubator for new ideas and projects to grow and thrive in.

3. The Seven of Pentacles could be interpreted in one of two ways here. On the one hand, this card could be encouraging me to be steadfast in my efforts and be patient–the yield will come. On the other hand, it could be letting me know that I’ve done what I can in terms of this particular approach, so I should simply collect the more modest yield and move on. In the RWS deck, the figure in this card looks exhausted and disappointed– true portrait of “burn-out.” It could very well be that I’m experiencing a burnout moment, so I’d do best to ease my foot off of the gas a bit and take a look at the roadmap before I proceed (it happens to be rainy and gross where I am today, so this is totally a tempting option).

4. The Fool is upbeat, lighthearted, and hopeful. In this position, he suggests that maybe I should set aside a bit of “adventuring” time for myself–hiking, walking the earth, taking a day trip, or even just taking a day off from the hustle so I can experience things in a refreshing, novel way. The Fool is one of my favorite cards in tarot, and its appearance never ceases to excite me. I harbor a fair bit of wanderlust and a desire for new experiences, so maybe this is just the message I need to help me begin a new chapter in terms of my biz.

5. The Eight of Pentacles seems to stress the axiom that hard work is its own reward. Given the overwhelming message that I need to look at what isn’t working and take things in an entirely new direction (and given how much work it is to start over!), I’ll find a heavy yield once I embrace my new process and approach. Honestly, this reading is affirming the presence of what I’ve been avoiding (isn’t that what tarot’s supposed to do, after all?) and is telling me that my gut instinct to switch things around is something I should definitely be listening to.

You heard it here first, folks–change is on the horizon, but not until I’ve quit being hard-headed and accepted what’s not panning out.

Now, I feel like I have a way forward. And that’s precisely what a tarot reading is supposed to do for you.

 

If you happen to use this spread, feel free to comment below and let me know how it worked out for you! I would love to hear all about it and to have confirmation that I’m not the only one who just can’t even from time to time.

Much Love Beauties,

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Are you having a “just can’t even” kind of year? Let me help you out.

5 Ways to Make Spring Fever Your Friend (And a New Tarot Spread!)

The sun has warmed and the flowers have bloomed. Dogs and babies and grown-as men and women are laughing more, jostling more, smiling more. The smell of coffee emanating from the cafe seems deeper, more intoxicating. And everybody looks damn good.

It’s official: spring fever has hit me like a Mac truck.

It happens every year–I’m chugging along like the little engine who could, making deadlines and conceptualizing projects and getting my hustle on and adulting like a complete badass. Yet, on the first day the temperature rises past 70 degrees, I chuck my planner in the corner, put on a flowery dress and say, “Fuck it. I’m going to walk the earth.”

Instead of writing this blog post yesterday, I sewed a light, flowing skirt and spent the better part of the day walking around and thinking, “I must look so seductive and amazing in this skirt.”

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(Image from yesterday when I finished said skirt and was seriously feeling myself so I took a picture in my messy-ass room because fuck it–it’s spring. And yes–that’s a clean diaper on my dresser.)

Don’t get me wrong–I still went grocery shopping and mailed some tarot bags and cleaned and cooked and live-streamed a Spread This, Witches video, but there were a fair few things I didn’t check off my to-do list.

And if the gloriously balmy breeze streaming through my wide-open window is any indication, there are a fair few things that may be left unchecked on today’s to-do list.

Because I’m a decades-long sufferer of Spring Fever (and because I’ve had to figure out how to prevent my life from falling to shit as soon as the winter breaks), I’ve generated some fail-safe methods of keeping myself on task and in the driver’s seat. Firstly…

Let Go of the Expectation of Perfection.

It’s nice outside. You’re a human being. If you’re lucky, you’re a Pagan (heehee), and the call of the wild is freaking impossible to resist. So give into that impulse to commune with the mother goddess of nature and go out and enjoy her bounty. 

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(Image from the cherry blossom in my neighborhood from one of many “I’ll just go out for a few minutes” turned two-hour walks.)

This season comes but once a year, and if you don’t allow yourself time to enjoy it, you’re going to have to wait another nine months to do so. You don’t have to be completely productive all the time. Likewise, you can indulge in a total “fuck it” day without utterly falling behind (as long as you don’t let it go to your head and are able to put your nose to the grindstone the next day!)

Make the most of Crappy Weather Days.

If I see rain in the forecast, I book my schedule to capacity. If I’m able, I do all of my client readings on that day. I write as many blog posts as I can and I shoot a video or two if possible. I order in take-out and I let the house fall into chaos and fully devote myself to work. I turn off the TV and immerse myself in the interwebs, tweaking reading offerings and the design of my website. Why? Because when the sun breaks and it’s beautiful again, I can spend my evening walking to the park and listening to drum circles and watching hippies hoop and walk the slack line. Holy crap, I do really live in the crunchiest neighborhood ever.

Make the Most of the ‘Weird Hours.’

The ‘weird hours’ are those that fall outside of the nine-to-five–the super-early mornings and the late nights and evenings. Many of us use these times to unwind with a cup of tea or coffee or wine (which is freaking glorious, btw) and a good book or TV program, but when the spring arrives and the greatest delight can be found through riding a bike or laying on a blanket in the grass, I use these hours to get some serious shit done. I’m writing this blog post in the “weird hour” time slot. I’ve finally figured out the proper lighting and camera angle to shoot my cardslinging videos at night (as it gets nicer, expect many more of these!). Likewise, the warmer weather makes it easier for me to get out of bed and be immediately productive, so I use that to my advantage by writing/responding to social media posts while I make breakfast. It can be super multi-tasky, but when you’re doing yoga in the park at sundown, you’ll be happy you did it.

There’s a Spread for That!

This is a tarot blog after all, and what would this post be without an awesome spread to round it out? I conceptualized this spread this morning when I was like, “How the hell am I going to stay on task when it’s so damn lovely outside?!” I’ve christened it the “Spring Fever Spread”, and it goes a little something like this:

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  1. Energy to embrace as we bloom into this glorious season.
  2. Impulse to resist for the good of Self and All.
  3. Card to channel to get some serious shiz done when you need to.
  4. How to be like the spring and be a creative badass.
  5. Advice for finding harmony and balance.

Bring the Inside Out, and Bring the Outside In.

If, like me, you do a majority of your work on your laptop, bring that bad boy outside. Sure, you run the risk of distraction, but if you persevere in this, you’ll be able to find a way to be productive despite the call of the wild. Experiment on days where your schedule isn’t madly packed so you can allow yourself a digression or two. And besides, how awesome is it to read tarot outside?

Tear open the shutters and fling wide the windows, folks. Go to your local farmer’s market and buy a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers and feature them on your kitchen table. While you’re at it, select some gorgeous produce and make a spring green salad. Create a vibrant home that’s filled with light and cleansed by a constant breeze, so even if you can’t be outside, it will feel like you are.

Much Love and Happy Spring,

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Want access to fifty unique, one-of-a kind spreads? Check this out!

Three Tarot Spreads for Working With the Moon

The connection between tarot and our closest celestial body is varied and deep.

Most overtly, The Moon card illustrates the portal into shadow–that which is hidden in the subconscious and is revealed through reflection and exploration. As the moon reflects the light from the sun, its understated brilliance is an illusion, one that we seek to demystify by engaging with the tarot’s archetypes.

So too do we cleanse our tarot decks by the light of the full moon–this phase is regarded as heavily potent and energetically powerful, so this “moon bath” is said to re-energize the cards and remove any lingering energy that might interfere with subsequent readings.

For those of us “moonbabies” out there, the moon phases are an important time to focus intention, to manifest, to reflect, and to release. 

The Magician archetype is a beautiful representation of the period between the new and full moon phase, illustrating the confidence and willpower needed to bring dreams into reality. The nine of swords and the three of swords exemplify our wounded heart and the need to forgive and release (a process commonly begun during the full/waning moon phase).

The ways in which tarot archetypes reflect a given lunation is nearly endless, and their full exploration is another post for another day.

Today, I want to offer a few tarot spreads that can help you connect with lunar correspondences.

Who knows? You may dig them so much that you become a bonafide moonchild too!

The New Moon Spread

At the start of each lunar month, I sit down and write a spread in correspondence with a) the task of intention-setting, and b) the astrological sign assigned to the new moon of the current lunation (lu-na-tion: term for a lunar month). Each sign exemplifies different traits and characteristics, therefore a moon in a specific sign corresponds to certain areas of focus.

That’s a bit of a tall order, especially if you’re not an astrology whiz and your not particularly keen on writing tarot spreads. Here’s the general new moon spread I use as the bones of the designs of my monthly ones.

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  1. What intentions can I set to strengthen my finances?
  2. What intentions can I set to strengthen my spirit?
  3. What intentions can I set to strengthen my creativity?
  4. What intentions can I set to nurture my relationships?
  5. What intentions can I set to inspire others?
  6. What intentions can I set to improve my overall wellbeing?

The goal here is to get clear about what you want to accomplish in the coming month so you can set workable goals for achieving those ends. This spread is designed to consider our holistic experience; if it doesn’t jive with you as-is, simply drop some positions or switch the last few words to something that resonates more deeply.

The Full Moon Spread

This is a spread for the gloriously witchy and magickal and the woo-woo-curious. The Full Moon is the perfect time to do spell work and to put in the last big push before the moon begins waning and we begin reflecting on the efforts we made in the past two weeks. I designed this spread specifically to tap into the high-vibe wonder of the divine feminine in her strongest aspect–be prepared to feel electric and empowered.

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The Fountain Tarot, Self-Published, 2014

1. Where your power resides.
2. Advice on how to harness and channel that power.
3. An intuitive message to guide your workings.
4. What to release as you move into waning moon phase.
5. A lesson to inform your future manifestations.

The Four Phases Spread

Here’s one for the less moon-wild among you–those who are new to tarot, those who are new to lunar astrology, or those who want a quick and simple overview for the lunar month ahead.

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The Wild Unknown Tarot Mass-Market Edition, HarperElixir, 2016

The general idea is to pull a card for each of the four main phases–

  1. New
  2. First Quarter
  3. Full
  4. Last quarter

–to get a sense of the energies you can channel/work with during each. Regardless of astrological correspondences, this is a good way to check in with yourself throughout the month to make sure you’re moving in the right direction and maintaining balance as you do so.

Whatever you believe or don’t believe, working with the moon is an amazing way to get organized and stay focused.

When we’re stuck in a rut or we lose track of what we want and where we’re going, lunar correspondences can give us the structure we need to get back on track and back in the driver’s seat,

Happy Cardslinging,

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Want access to fifty unique, one-of-a kind spreads? Check this out!

How I Learned to Embrace my “Clair”

I believe in science.

For decades it was the divine masculine to my literary divine feminine. The idea that one can’t legitimately assert something without measurable proof is comforting, humbling, and rewarding–if you want anyone to respect your ideas, you’re going to have to do the work to convince them that you aren’t just pulling this stuff out of your ass. And when you do the research and make your observations, you discover a breathtaking explanation for why the world works the way it does and set your audience up for mind-blowing moments.

I love having my mind blown by science. It happens less and less these days, but when it does, my inner smile comes out. It’s a holy experience and I hit my knees at the altar and revel in the beauteous construction of the cosmos.

This is precisely why I’m feeling a bit uneasy these days. As I’ve completely opened myself up to the “woo,” my experiences are less and less rooted in the rational world. Things are beginning to happen that I can’t quite explain, and even stranger, I don’t want to try to explain them. 

Blasphemous, but true.

As a tarot reader, I pride myself on my groundedness: my readings are firmly centered within psychological tradition, I read to provide insight on the present circumstance and not the future, and I don’t channel spirits in my readings. Honestly, I didn’t even believe in the existence of spirits until a dear friend told me he saw them all the time. 

The strange thing is, the more open I’ve become about my profession and spiritual leanings, the more open others have become about the role woo plays in their lives.

These are folks who’ve hidden this side of themselves from me for our entire relationship, and it’s led me to the following questions: “Are we more woo than we commonly let on? How many of us adhere to beliefs that defy nature and science? How many of us experience things we can’t possibly explain? What does that mean for who we are and how we view the world?”

I’ve been feeling my claircognizance, y’all. I just had to come out and say it before I rambled on for another half page as a stalling tactic. It’s something that I’ve been dabbling with since I worked with Tarot as a Tool for Craft and it’s become far more prevalent in my tarot readings than I anticipated. There are things I simply know about a situation without any definitive information to support it, and I can’t adequately explain where the knowledge is coming from. I don’t hear voices other than my inner voice, but sometimes it says things that seem random and unprompted given the card and the position.

Sometimes, it seems, I feel my clients–I latch on to their energy and perspective and gain greater insight as far as their obstacles and options are concerned. 

Considering that I do a majority of my readings online and that some of my clients are hundreds of miles away, this is weird to me, but I’m learning to question it less and embrace it more in the service of my clients.

Honestly, it’s a question of integrity: “Should I silence these messages simply because I don’t know where they’re coming from?” To work around this problem, I attach a disclaimer to these insights: “I’m no medium, but this came through pretty strong, so I thought that I’d include it here.” I never make a guarantee that any predictions will come up in a reading because I pride myself on the legitimacy of my business and in no way do I want to promise anything I don’t feel confident I can deliver.

Yet, I don’t want to limit myself in terms of the guidance I provide, nor do I want to silence my intuition because I can’t figure out a way for it to “make sense.”

Even so, my left brain tells me that I’m fabricating it, that the incense is going to my head, that I’m projecting my own experience onto that of my clients’, that something in the tone of the question tipped me off, that I’m so familiar with the dynamic interplay of human relationships that I unconsciously manifested the message as a result of the information given to me…the list is endless. And no matter how often I try to convince myself that there’s nothing mystical going on here, I just don’t feel like any explanation measures up.

Feeling. That’s the precise sense that’s throwing me for a loop, that’s asserting that all logical explanations are falling short.

It’s always been there, this intuition, and I’ve always been fighting its existence.

It never made me feel comfortable. It made me feel more terror than humility. And it felt much more ominous and foreboding than any reward I ever received. But its mystery, its attraction, its thoughtless knowledge never ceased to intrigue me. Even now as I pen these words, I feel uncomfortable–have I revealed to much? Have I delegitimized my practice? Have I allowed my inner witch too much leeway? I think not. And as I continue on this path of spirit and in my practice of tarot, I secretly wish for more of this unknown, more of what can’t be explained. I wish to revel in the beauteous mystery–not construction–of the cosmos.

Much Love Fellow Seekers and Cardslingers,

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Want to work with me? Book a reading.

Three Tarot Spreads to Help You Plan Your Week

It was roughly seven months ago that I self-initiated into the worldwide cult of paper planning. Though I’d always proudly described myself as a free-spirit and a lovable scatterbrain, missing dates and forgetting deadlines was getting really old. I bit the bullet and bought myself a planner, but it regrettably stayed blank for weeks. Determined not to waste my investment (and to get my shit together, by hook or by crook), I turned to my beloved tarot cards for guidance. The answer was clear: “Use me to plan. Design spreads with planning in mind. If you ever stray from the path, consult me again, and I’ll get you back on track.”

Duly noted.

I heeded the advice and created a series of spreads that I use to keep me excited and organized, and today is the glorious day where I share these spreads with you. It’s my intention that they serve you well in your quest to plan like a boss.

The Week Spread

Every Sunday night I grab a cup of tea, my planner, and a tarot deck and head into my bedroom to do this mammoth “bed spread.” I draw two cards for each day of the week. The first (bottom) position indicates my focus, and the second (top) position indicates the obstacle I’ll face on that day. The layout looks a little something like this:

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The Wild Unknown Tarot, HarperElixir 2016

I find this spread helpful in terms of deciding where to put what–which day’s best to write a blog post, to make a video, to do readings, to clean and go grocery shopping…you get the idea. Likewise, I become mindful of the potential roadblocks I’ll face as I work through my week–this awareness helps me to remain calm and centered when they inevitably arise.

The Daily Draw

Many of us in the tarot community are committed to the daily draw–a card pulled every day to give us a message or affirmation we can use to help guide us through our day. I rather like to draw three cards–morning, noon, and night–to help me decide which tasks I’m going to do when. If I receive the High Priestess in the morning, I’ll use that time to meditate and do some self-reflection. The appearance of a Wands card at noon let’s me know it’s time to get some serious shit done, and Pentacles in the evening point to finance or family life. The goal here isn’t necessarily to force oneself to do certain tasks at certain times (Not all of us have the luxury to arrange our days in this way), but rather to get us thinking about our priorities, remind us of our responsibilities, and attune us to things we didn’t consider.

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The Reboot Spread

We’ve all been there–plans fall apart, we get sick, we encounter resistance, we run out of time. One of the worst things we can do in this situation is toss our planner aside in hopelessness and frustration. When you’re feeling like you just can’t even in terms of what you wanted to do, grab your deck and give The Reboot Spread a shot. It’s designed to help you make concessions and alterations so you allow yourself the proper self-care without letting your intentions fall by the wayside.

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1. What’s the most important task to prioritize this week?
2, Which task can I drop or put off until I’m feeling more up to it?
3. What self-care practice do I need to engage with to help me get back to center?

Planning can be daunting and overwhelming, especially if you’re exactly like me someone for whom “organization” is a dirty word. But if you have a deck of cards, a passion for tarot, and a willingness to try, these spreads should help you transition from mess to success in two shakes of a lamb’s tail (bonus points if you get the reference)!

Much Love and Happy Planning,

Jessi (AKA the Mind Witch Mama)

A Guide to Intuitive Tarot Reading

When I first tackled the behemoth that is tarot study, I armed myself with a deck, a beginner’s collection of tarot books, and a few blank journals to jot some notes in. Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to be that hard. I mean, I’d gotten down and dirty with Deleuze, Foucault, and Heidegger–what kind of challenge could divination cards give me? Turns out, quite a challenge. When you’re working with text, it’s literally spelled out for you, even if it is a bit abstract or archaic. There’s usually some sort of objective meaning to be gleaned, a central point that’s attempting to be made and that drives the essay forward. Not so with tarot, my friends. The visual and symbolic components invite much more subjectivity than one initially realizes, and the point, more or less, is revealed much more cyclically. Essentially, your subject matter is the same (universal archetypes), but the way it’s addressed and to what end is radically different. Therefore, commonly accepted study methods–repetition, memorization, and critical thinking–are not enough in terms of becoming a well-rounded, proficient reader. One must dip into more primal, esoteric energies–intuition, premonition, and spontaneous knowing. This is where the concept of intuitive tarot reading enters, that method which utilizes the imagery and symbolism readily apparent to the reader rather than commonly accepted card meanings. In my humble opinion, the most powerful readings incorporate both, resulting in a gorgeous balance of masculine and feminine energies. But, as the reader who inspired this post so accurately pointed out, there’s much more attention given to the former, and not nearly enough to the latter. So, let’s change that a little bit, shall we?

Methods of Reading Intuitively

From what I can glean, the extent to which readers read intuitively varies, as do their methods. Some readers never read a traditional tarot book and choose only to reference the guides that are specifically created for their decks. Thus, they aren’t necessarily approaching their readings with one of the three traditional systems (RWS, Thoth, Marseille) in mind. Rather, their knowledge is based off of the specific imagery conveyed in their deck and the meanings the deck creator chose to attribute to it. So, one who bases their reading of the Osho Zen Tarot on the guidebook and one who bases their reading of The Osho Zen Tarot on its RWS correspondences are going to provide two completely different readings. Likewise, one who approaches the Osho Zen as an oracle deck (it’s been known to happen and I’ve certainly done it from time to time) is going to pull something completely different from it–oracle cards are often read as entities in and of themselves and not necessarily a subsidiary part of a larger whole.

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The Osho Zen Tarot, St. Martin’s Press, 1994

Another method of reading intuitively is to reference no system or guidebook at all. Rather, one riffs off of the images presented in the cards, interpreting what the cards mean as the reading progresses. In this sense, the reading is largely querent-focused and as such (in my opinion, anyway) is much more overtly directed towards what’s being asked. These types of intuitive readings seem to work best when done in person because they create a sense of equality amongst reader and querent that invites the querent to take an active role in the reading process. In some cases, the querent is given the opportunity to deliver input on which cards moved them or spoke to them, and so there’s much more of a psychological exploration going on than there would be if the reader were interpreting the cards based on her knowledge of esoteric modes and systems of thought. Actually, this is most often the method of reading used amongst therapists and psychologists–cards are flipped face up and the client is asked to rifle through and riff on those that jump out at them. In this process, the reader/therapist takes a bit of a backseat, gently guiding their client on a trip through the subconscious.

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The Rider-Waite Centennial Edition, US Games Inc., 2010, The Wild Unknown Tarot, HarperElixir, 2016

 The last method of intuitive reading that I’ll offer here is the one I use most often: applying one of the three traditional systems when reading with a deck that isn’t wholly based on it. A good example of this is my approach to The Wild Unknown Tarot. From what I understand, the deck’s influenced by both the Marseille and RWS traditions, but given that I’m fluent in RWS, I simply approach it that way. Now, there were times when I first began working with the deck that I noticed that my understanding of a card simply didn’t add up with the imagery (the six of wands is a really good example of this). In this instance, I studied the imagery on the card and deciphered meaning based on that. Then, I reconciled my intuitive understanding with my traditional understanding to arrive at a holistic understanding of the card.

The Spontaneous Intuitive Read

Contrary to what the first section may suggest, intuitive reading isn’t solely based on the approach the reader takes with their deck of cards. Rather, intuitive interpretation can crop up in the middle of any reading for any reason whatsoever. In this case, the card in question speaks to the reader in a way that’s hardly related to the traditional meaning at all–she gets a feeling that it’s supposed to mean something radically different, and she chooses to trust that message over the one that the card would commonly convey. A few days ago, for example, a reading I was doing for a client had revealed a five of swords. However, I had an overwhelming feeling to read it like I would the five of wands. I didn’t really know why I had this feeling (nothing in the question indicated that this interpretation would be somehow “better” than the traditional one), yet I viewed it as a synchronistic occurrence and followed my intuition. There are readers for whom this admission would make them cry “blasphemy!” There are others still who’d question whether or not there was a distinct difference between them anyway. This is why the community of tarot is so amazing–every reader approaches the art in a way that’s unique and resonant with their own strengths and personality traits. No two readers read alike, so chances are, there’s a reader out there whose approach deeply jives with what you’re looking for. And this diversity can be attributable to the intuitive aspects of reading–those that deviate from the common meaning to add depth and richness to the form. Frankly, the vast array of tarot decks available to us as students and readers also do much in terms of coaxing these intuitive readings from us. If we were all using the RWS all the time, chances are there’d be much more similarities than we currently find.

Practicing Intuitive Reading

It may seem contradictory that one could practice intuitive reading. After all, isn’t it something that blossoms organically? For some, reading intuitively does come naturally–creative and spontaneous meaning generation is one of their strengths, and they can seamlessly connect the narrative of one card to the next. For others (the majority, I’ve found!), the ability to coax original, nuanced interpretations is a skill that must be practiced. There are a number of ways to go about doing this, but one that I’ve found most helpful is to create what I call tarot narratives. I think of a transformative or vivid experience that I’ve had and I choose a card from the tarot to represent it. Then, I record my experience through the lens of the card that I’ve chosen, paying keen attention to the myriad subtle ways it plays into the story. For me, this is more of an exercise for the subconscious–I’m attempting to create a web of connections that may not be readily apparent, but reveal themselves when something in a reading triggers them. Another way to practice intuitive reading is to pathwork the cards (I know I’ve mentioned pathworking copious times, but that’s only because of how instrumental it can be in expanding your understanding of tarot). When you project yourself into a card’s unique energy landscape, you can pick up on things you didn’t even know were there. Likewise, you can upload quite a bit to the hard-drive unconsciously to be accessed at a later date). When you’re reading for yourself, try identifying your question in the cards. Think of the answers you’re looking for and see if there’s any card that could speak directly to that answer. Say you’re trying to decide whether or not to switch careers. Which card indicates a potential career that you’re interested in? Which one represents the one you have currently? You can even use the two questions I just posed as the basis for card positions (1. My present career 2. My potential career) and figure out a way to relate the card to the position even if it seems to completely oppose it.

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The Mary El Tarot, Schiffer Publishing, 2012

Another wonderful way is to buy a deck that’s based off of a system that you’re completely unfamiliar with and do readings for yourself based on the imagery alone. Don’t be afraid to speak stream of consciousness as you take in the imagery and symbolism and likewise offer an interpretation. And if you still find that your intuitive reading game is off, let a friend who knows nothing about tarot flip through one of your decks and riff on the cards. Take note of the creative process they undergo as they try to figure out what it all means. It’s inspiring, interesting, and it can teach you a hell of a lot about learning.

Much Love,

Jessi

Want to learn more about intuitive tarot reading? Check out the Cardslinger’s Dream offering in the WISE ONES Coven!

Fever-Dream Protest in Bilbao: An Exploration of The Emperor

It is April in Bilbao, 2006. Our train pulls into a deserted station; it is 5:45 AM and the city sleeps. Using a Frommer’s map and our limited knowledge of Spanish, we find our way to the city’s welcome center, but it has yet to open. In the meantime, we rest our bodies on benches in a park across the street and feed pigeons crumbs of an old baguette that someone had stowed in their bag. There are three of us–Gwen, Rachel, and I. One of us has betrayed another. Another of us has betrayed that same other with her silence. But the trip had been planned months in advance, so we weakly mended our fences and set off.

As the sun climbed higher in the sky, it became surprisingly warm. We shed layers of clothing and crammed them into overstuffed bags. After the center failed to open at the time advertised, we set off on our own to find food and lodgings. Turns out, very few people speak English in Bilbao. I was an American who chose to study French, and my English and Kiwi companions simply didn’t have the Spanish-speaking population we do in the states. We were at a loss. Unable to communicate with the hostel workers, we didn’t know which had vacancies or not. “Lo siento” was muttered time after time. The possibility of spending the night on the street increased with each bumbled interaction.

Finally, we found someone who knew just enough English (or whose pronunciation was decipherable, I can’t remember which) that we were able to secure a room. It was more than we could afford, but at that point, we didn’t really care. As my travel companions took turns showering, dressing, and preparing themselves to find some food, I felt my body begin to shiver and sweat break out across my brow. I’d contracted strep throat (“glandular fever” to my compatriots) the week before we left, but antibiotics were keeping it pretty much at bay. But here they weren’t crammed in with the rest of my musty belongings. I knew that I’d left them in Barcelona, and that the fever was coming back. “I think I’ll hang back,” I said when they asked why I wasn’t getting ready. “I’m not feeling very well.” They shrugged and left, and I was in the middle of a strange room in a strange city with nothing but Blue Lagoon dubbed in Spanish to keep me company.

I fell into a hazy delirium. I flashed back to the moment Rachel said, “We care about each other. We have for some time.” I relived my calm request for her to leave my room and the sixty-second period of time it took for me to become a raging open wound. I relived marching down to James’ room, opening the door and slapping him, and his strangely infuriating response: “I deserved that.” As if he expected it. As if he knew how much it would hurt me, but simply didn’t care.

A patriotic march woke me from my revery. I had to concentrate to make sure I wasn’t imagining it, and once I was sure that it was real, I followed it to the window. There were throngs of people marching through the streets rather quietly. I saw a speaker set up by the door of the hostel; it blared the music, and no one appeared to be the least bit curious as to what was going on.

My sick-addled mind told my feet to walk outside. The fever had inspired aching throughout my body but also a strange euphoria, so I didn’t mind the pain. As if possessed, I began marching with them. Multiple speakers lined the streets to accompany the strange procession. Men with AK-47’s also  lined the streets–it was the first, but not the last time that I saw law enforcement carrying semi-automatic weapons. If I’d been well, I’m sure the sight would have been enough to cause me to abandon my quest, but I wasn’t well and things didn’t seem real enough, so I kept going. We finally stopped at a podium erected in a square, and a well-dressed man with salt and pepper hair in his fifties began speaking in Catalan. I listen to the gorgeous rhythm of the language and gazed at the faces around me. I felt as if I was one of a dozen characters in a Garcia Marquez novel–my life, at that moment, was magical realism. And then, the climax–the man began to deliver the same speech in French. For the first time that day, I could understand what someone who lived here was saying. This language was a bridge, a compromise; we were not fluent, but through it, we could understand one another.

He spoke of freedom. Liberation. The need to secede from a nation that didn’t have the best interests of the Basque country at heart. He said that the politics of Spain did not represent them, and that he didn’t see a time where they ever would. I began crying despite myself. Here I was in a foreign country listening to a man whose identity was hidden to me speaking a language that wasn’t my own and I felt completely and utterly understood. I bathed in the healing words of his speech and let my pride and confidence rise to the surface again. I told Rachel that I’d forgiven her because that’s what she needed to be absolved. But the truth was, I hadn’t forgiven her and I hadn’t forgiven James either. And that was okay. I needed to take time to process. I needed to allow myself to feel the anger, the pain, and the sadness. And I needed to release myself from feeling responsible for the feelings of those who had hurt me. I needed to liberate myself from the idea that I had to relieve them of their guilt at the expense of my own emotional reaction.

My fever broke in the middle of the rally. Suddenly, I saw myself supporting a resistance I had no part of and surrounded by a league of men with assault rifles. I left as calmly and peacefully as I’d come, and no one tried to stop me or give me trouble. After losing myself in the streets of Bilbao for awhile, I made my way back to the hostel. Rachel and Gwen hadn’t yet returned, and Blue Lagoon still played on the television. I crawled beneath my thin blanket and closed my eyes. When they came back, I pretended to be asleep. But in truth, I was very much awake.

Transitional Healing Tarot Spread

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.

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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.

Much Love,

Jessi

If you’d like guidance and support from a lady who’s been on the front lines, book this reading with me.

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