Tarot and the Craft: How I Use the Cards in My Spiritual Practice

Hello, Beautiful People.

For those who don’t know (although my blog is positively dripping with evidence), I’m a witch. Generally speaking, it means I’m a crystal-loving, goddess-worshipping, intention-manifesting practitioner of the craft. For me, it also means that I’m a yoga-practicing, mantra-chanting meditator. Anyone who identifies as a witch knows that there are as many forms of witchcraft as there are witches, and that the collective elements of an individual’s unique practice are vast and varied enough that you could write a book on it. Thankfully for all of us, I’m not quite that ambitious today. What I would like to share with you, however, are the ways in which I incorporate tarot into my spiritual practice. Feel free to try and share as you see fit!

Intention-Setting

Part and parcel of being a witch is defining what you want and using physical and metaphysical means to bring it into being. When I’m having trouble defining my intentions (read: I’m confused af), I bring my tarot deck to my altar and throw down some cards. Sometimes, I create sacred space with a spread in mind (this one’s great for intention-setting). Others, I shuffle until I feel ready and I pull cards one by one, taking note of what they seem to be telling me in light of my circumstances. I mention that I do this in ritual because it’s instrumental for me in terms of finding clarity when I’m confused–a more casual tarot environment failed to provide answers, and I need to get into an alpha head-space so I’m more receptive to messages from my subconscious.

Spell-Crafting

Tarot spells are some of the most fun and unique spells that I cast. Rather than imagine specific intentions coming to pass within the context of my actual life, I internalize the imagery, tone, and symbolism of a chosen archetype to help me embody the change I wish to see manifested. The primary way that I do this is through pathworking–projecting myself into the landscape of the card and imbibing everything that it has to offer. If I wanted to cast a spell to help me strengthen my work ethic, for example, I’d place the eight of pentacles on my altar. Given time (and guided meditation practice), I’d imagine myself hunched over the work bench, hammer in hand striking the metal of the pentacles to fashion them exactly as I saw fit. I’d imagine the jarring I’d feel when metal met metal, the sweat that would sprout from my brow and the callouses forming on my palms. I’d watch a droplet of sweat hit the finished pentacle, and I’d breathe deeply, both exhausted and proud. This way, I internalize the effort before I even begin the project, helping me push through when things become challenging and obstacles arise.

Meditation

Whether I plan to use them or not, a deck of tarot cards is ever present on my altar. When I sit to meditate, I place a cleansing crystal (usually clear quartz or selenite) over my deck and “share” some of my meditative energy with it. It’s as if I’m making myself a conduit of cleansing, and am connecting myself to my deck so that it can benefit from the energy. When I’ve finished my practice, I perceive my deck to have a fresh, new energy–one that prepares it for my next round of readings.

Communing with Deities

I’m one of those witches who has a matron, and I’m one of those witches who chats with her matron. I often go through periods where each time I’m sat at the altar, the goddess whose guidance I need almost instantly appears to me and begins sharing her wisdom. I also go through deity “dry-spells”: periods where the goddesses are speaking only in the form of synchronicity. During these periods, I often ask the goddess questions and allow her to answer through the wisdom of the 78 cards. Is this any different than traditional divination? Honestly, it is for me, because I interpret the cards in relation to the tradition and tone of the goddess I’m working with. For example, Brigit would interpret The Emperor very differently than the Morrighan would.

Affirmation of Intended Magickal Working

Casting a spell takes a fairly heavy amount of concentration and focus. Some days, I’m not sure whether or not I succeeded in “charging” the spell. If I’m having that feeling, I’ll shuffle my deck and pull a card and interpret it as either affirmative or negative given the nature of the intended spell. If affirmative, I leave the working knowing that the universe received the message. If negative, I go back to the drawing board and try again later.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the witchy tarot-ness I’ve shared here today! If you try anything out, I’d love to hear about it! Likewise, I’d love to hear how you use tarot in your spiritual/magickal practice!

Much Love,

Jessi

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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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“No Frills” Tarot Series: Get Out of Bed Spread

We’ve all been there. There’s just those days where we just don’t feel like doing anything. Call it malaise, call it fatigue, call it laziness–call it whatever you want. Human beings just want to chill sometimes. And sometimes, chilling is exactly what the doctor ordered. Other times, chilling is not an option (anyone have a job? Kids? Dreams?). So what do you do to get yourself off the King-size and into the real world? Throw this spread. And then do the things.

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  1. Why am I still in here?
  2. What’s it going to take to get me out of here?
  3. The carrot at the end of the stick.

This spread can be applied in both the literal and the figurative sense. Basically, it’s meant to give you a shot of caffeine when you’re flagging big time. And as far as position three is concerned? That’s the treat you give yourself when you’ve done the damn thing even though you didn’t want to. Because you deserve it.

Much Love and Happy Cardslinging,

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Calculating Your Tarot Year Card

When I calculated last year’s tarot card–Death–my initial reaction was “God damnit.” I’d just come out of what felt like a death year, and I didn’t know how much more “transformation” I could take. Out of convenience, I decided that the tarot didn’t know what it was talking about, and some radical, alternate interpretation of Death would reveal itself as the year unfolded.

Oh, the vanity. Oh, the hubris. The tarot knew exactly what it was talking about, as it always does. The year prior was absolutely my Hanged Man year; I’d mistaken my acceptance of certain absolute truths as Death. If I’d been adequately reverent (Tarot! How may I serve thee!), I may have planned better and been better prepared for what came.

What’s all this chat about yearly tarot cards? Firstly, a yearly tarot card is a card from the Major Arcana that’s numerically related to your birth month, your birth day, and the current Roman calendar year. The most common formula of calculating it is as follows:

First, add the digits of your  birth month, birth day, and the current year together. If you were born on November 11, for example, your equation would look like this:

11+11+2017=2039

Next, take the total from the previous equation, isolate its digits, and add them together:

2+0+3+9=14

Using the Rider-Waite Major Arcana numbered from 0-22 as a reference, the number 14 corresponds to the Temperance card (yep, that’s my birthday and my yearly tarot card, folks). So, Temperance would be your tarot card of the year.

While researching, I found a less common (but equally relevant) method of calculating your yearly tarot card: Isolate the digits of your birth month, birth year, and the current calendar year and add each together. Using my birthdate as an example, the equation looks something like this:

1+1+1+1+2+0+1+7=14

Now, if your total is in double digits (10 or more), isolate them and add them together, like so:

1+4=5

Using this method, my yearly tarot card would be The Hierophant (he and I have an interesting relationship, so I’m going to stick with Temperance for now).

Your tarot year card, once calculated, should provide you with your personal theme for the coming year. It acts as a guidepost, a place to turn when you become lost or things become confusing. For example, when I was in the throes of shedding my skin and letting go of a stale conception of self, Death could act as a visual reminder that “all things must pass.” And one can take comfort in this–knowing that no matter how rough it gets, the levy will eventually break and the healing waters will rush forth.

And this year, Temperance will remind me to take a break when I’ve pushed myself too far. It will tell me that yes, I need to take that daily walk. And when I falter, it will be there to hold me and push me back up.

See. I found a way to make end a dry, informative post on a sappy note. Bring on the balance, Temperance!

Much Love, and Happy Cardslinging!

Which Work is Worth It: Using the Elements to Decide Where to Focus Your Energy

I’ve been in major creatrix-mode lately. I can’t tell you exactly when the muse began whispering her generative goodness, but I can tell you that ideas are running free and wild in my mind 24/7. This is electrifying, of course, but it’s also frazzling–my thoughts are being pulled in so many directions that I’m finding it difficult to actually do anything. Frankly, I can’t seem to decide which ideas to act on and which to disregard.

This is the curse of inspiration–she gives you fifty blueprints, but leaves it up to you to whittle down your options and build the house. And if we refuse to make the necessary choices, we fail to bring our dreams into being. And that, as any artist knows, is simply not an option.  So how do we choose which projects to pursue and which to abandon? How do we divine which efforts will come to fruition and which will fall flat?

As a witch and a tarot reader, I often turn to the elemental correspondences to help me make such decisions. Each element represents a cluster of traits, and when the diverse traits dance with one another, they work to illustrate aspects of the human experience. Balancing these elements is key to living a healthy, self-loving life. It’s also key to making wise, self-loving decisions. So without further ado, here’s a guide to consulting the elements to decide which work is worth it.

Fire

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Fire is the element of action, swiftness, passion, and desire. When we feel a wave of electricity rush through us as we stumble upon a new and exciting idea, we’re connecting with fire (that “lightbulb” analogy exists for a reason). When we’re driven to action by the prospect of excitement, adventure, or achievement, fire is at the helm. Fire is the spark that inspires us, and it’s necessary to maintain that spark if we have any hope of completing an artistic undertaking. For this reason, it’s important to let your grander ideas simmer before you make any major investments (time, money, or otherwise).

Whenever I stumble upon a “grand scheme” idea, I often dabble with its each of its contingent parts to see if I can maintain interest over time. When I began my tarot business, for example, I dipped my toe into the social media sphere, seeing who did what and what was out there. I made a conscious effort not to get sucked into its vortex because a) I didn’t want to get burned out, and b) because I didn’t want to invest too much time and energy before I even knew which platform jived best with my unique interests and abilities. Likewise, I needed to dabble in blog-writing and video making and see if I was interested in any of those. It’s really important to determine if you absolutely loath a contingent part of your scheme before you’ve placed all of your eggs in one basket. And that brings me to my second element:

Earth

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Earth is the “work” element, the element of manifestation. It represents the blood, sweat, and tears of a project–that which you must do in order to create something. In the dream realm, anything is possible. In the physical realm, however,there are physical limitations, and you must consider them if you’re ever going to bring your vision into being. Before you launch into constructing that earth ship, for example, you have to ask yourself whether or not you’re physically capable of the task. You have to consider how and where you can purchase materials. And you have to reference the zoning laws.

Earth is the element that I grapple with the most. The actual nuts and bolts of a job often elude me, and I underestimate how much I’m going to have to do in order to complete a task. This is artistic suicide–if you get halfway through a project before you discover that it’s physically impossible to complete it, you’ll be forced to abandon ship. The only way to prevent this is to brainstorm, outline, and plan before you even pick up your hammer. which brings us to our next element:

Air

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Air is the element of logic and intellect. We channel it when we give words to an idea and when we apply the process of analysis and logistics to a thought. When it comes to creation, air provides us with the language we need to describe our vision so others can share in its formation.

When we apply words and concepts to an idea, we make it possible to create a practical model to guide us through the process of creation. Ever tried to sew a dress without a pattern? Make a candle without knowledge of the boiling and flash points? Paint a portrait without a working understanding of perspective? When we consider these factors, we can determine whether or not a project is theoretically feasible before we get halfway through.

Water

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I consciously saved this element for last because it represents the cornerstone of any artistic work. Water is the element of emotion, and the extent to which we are emotionally invested in a work directly correlates to the possibility of it coming to fruition.

Personally speaking, I’ve never completed any creative project that I didn’t care about. NEVER. Work that I failed to connect with lacked meaning, and so I simply didn’t see the point in continuing on. Art is an expression of our unique humanity, of who we are. When we face obstacles, failures, and setbacks, it’s our love for our creation that carries us through. So before you set about manifesting an idea, ask yourself this question: do I love it enough to do everything I can to see it realized? If the answer is “yes”, it’s time to get started.

Much Love and Much Inspiration,

Jessi

 

 

Full Moon Tarot Spread

My, how I love a full moon. It jostles my inner-child into consciousness–I’m practically giddy as I watch the moon rise above the horizon and present her gorgeous swell over the earth. Her radiant glow is like healing nectar; I bask in it, bathe in it until I feel drunk with its magic and beauty. I climb onto my roof and converse with the Moon Goddess, thank her for all that she has bestowed upon me, and feel generally high off of gratitude and good vibes.

And of course, I perform magick. Nearly every full moon I completely witch out–sage, incense, crystals, sigils, candles, mojo bags…the list goes on. And I love it. But most importantly, I attune myself to my personal power, my divine femininity, and my ability to stand strong in the face of challenges and hardships. Being the cardslinger I am, I throw this spread to tap into these energies.

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1. (center) Your node of personal power.
2. (above) Your transformative aspect.
3. (clockwise) Your creative aspect.
4. Your heart chakra correspondences.
5. Your holistic wellness.
6. The font of your prosperity.
7. The strength of your protection.

The spread itself is like a holistic blueprint of my current position in the moon cycle. Seeing as I’m at my peak, it reads incredibly positively (which is sometimes exactly what the doctor ordered). Even so, it gives me guidance on where I need to direct my energies as well as where my energies will be most productive.

Happy Reading, Moon Mavens.

XOXO,

Jessi

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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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