Examine the Water You Swim In with Tarot Cards

In tarot algebra, the Suit of Cups = the Element of Water = Human Emotion. Multiply your Cups by the numerological values of 1 through 10, and voilà! …you have a definition for each Cup card.

As in life, what makes sense logically in tarot is often a far cry from the full picture. I made a leap in my own understanding of the Suit of Cups when I realized that these 10 pip cards are less about cups per se, and more about the mood-altering liquid inside.

To convey feeling over words, I’ve had some fun dressing up my cards (with the help of Pamela Colman Smith of Rider-Waite fame). May this entertain you and further enhance your understanding of the Suit of Cups!

xoxo – Yetta

Version 2


Learn tarot with me! Check out my Tarot Salon if you are in the Seattle area. Or simply contact me for a reading if that’s more up your alley. I wish you the 10 of Cups and much more!


Presidential Portraits and the Tarot

You had me at “archetype,” Amy Sherald.

Michelle Obama High Priestess

After watching the unveiling ceremony of the Obama’s presidential portraits for the third time, I have to sit down and record my tarot-based impressions.

In tarot, the Major Arcana cards are known as archetypes, and the one that most closely matches Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama is the High Priestess. The High Priestess is: Purity of intention. Universal integrity. Eternal presence. No nonsense. The High Priestess also happens to be Michelle’s tarot birth card*.

Version 2In accordance with the character of a High Priestess, Michelle was not interested in having a portrait be all about her. Instead, she chose an artist who, in her own words and by their contract, made something “bigger, more symbolic… an archetype.”

For the comparison, I bring out the High Priestess from the iconic Rider Waite tarot deck of c. 1910. The otherworldly teal in the background of Sherald’s work is the same color that is so prevalent in this tarot card. Tarot artists often paint themselves into their decks, and I suspect that the face on this card is that of its creator, Pamela Colman Smith. (Also an artist of color, by the way).

Barack Obama Papa Coin

As for Kahinde Wiley’s portrait of the president…

I see it matching a Court Card rather than a Major Arcana archetype. It’s not that Obama isn’t capable of encompassing archetypal energy, but his desire for this portrait, as he explained in the ceremony, was to “take it down just a touch.” Though Obama didn’t knowingly speak in tarot terms, he did get a laugh by making the point that he did not want to be portrayed as an Emperor. “I have enough political problems,” he said, “without you making me look like Napoleon.”

(The Emperor, by the way, is Major Arcana card number 4, which is Donald Trump’s birth card by the numbers. If you want to go back to a juicy prediction about this figure in American politics, check out my post from August 2016).

King of Pentacles RWSI digress. Back to today… “Down just a touch” in tarot takes you to the Court Cards, and the one jumping out as a match for Obama is the King of Pentacles (shown above as “Papa Coin” in my favorite new deck, Dust II Onyx). In the Rider Waite tarot deck, this king also has vines and leaves encroaching on his throne. He is the provider king, the one who makes sure that everyone has what they need to eat and stay warm. He understands that it would be ridiculous to tend only to the showiest flowers in this garden. The soil, the seeds, the shoots, and the critters all need to be nurtured first in his ecosystem. “Politics should be about not simply celebrating the high and the mighty and expecting that it unfolds from the top down,” Obama recounted about his conversations with Wiley, “but rather, that [power] comes from the bottom up.” The King of Pentacles is enormously powerful, but he distributes his power with a steady and fair hand.

Speaking of hands, have you noticed how HUGE they are in Wiley’s portrait? Nice touch! One more reason to thank the artist.

Version 4

*A footnote about numerology and birth cards:

A tarot birth card is determined by your birthdate. Add the day, month and year together, then continue to add the digits until you have a number or numbers smaller than 21 (the number of the highest card in the Major Arcana suit). Amazingly, Michelle and Barack Obama’s two birthdates reduce to exactly the same tarot cards. To find out about that, and to identify your own birth card, use this online calculator.

I am off to Tarot Tuesday and Taproot Cafe & Bar. Thanks for reading, Tarot friends. Please share this with others and follow my blog. xoxo

Business Advice for the Metaphysical Practitioner

Chakra to-do listEvery self-employed person I know struggles to get structure into their workday. It can be even harder for the metaphysically inclined, because at the same time we try to get stuff done, we want to maintain a balanced energy system. To keep myself going as a professional tarot reader, I categorize my to-do list according to the 7 chakras. At any given time, I try to have something to engage each chakra. For instance:

Version 21st Chakra – Something Grounding

Start your day with 15 minutes of grounding introspection. Then, rather than have it hang over your head, let some of your home life into the workday. Garden, walk the dog, get groceries, exercise. File when you need to. Tidy your work place. Walk barefoot.

2nd Chakra – Something Rigorous

This creative chakra makes things happen. Make something with your hands. Deliver your product to your client. Put up flyers or do other outreach. Make nervy cold calls. Do something you can’t be shy about to push your intention outward.

3rd Chakra – Something Fun

Third chakra joy is the kind that makes you feel great about yourself. It’s playful and delicious. Hop on the bike to visit a gallery as fodder for an essay. Have lunch with a friend. Identify your favorite work activity and schedule it to recur multiple times this year. (I’ve done this with the Tarot Salon and Tarot Tuesdays).

Rider Waite Smith 4 of Wands4th Chakra – Something Interactive

This chakra reminds you to connect to your community. Do something for someone else’s good. Allow generosity into your day, and accept it when it is offered to you. Do a free reading. Donate an auction item. Contact a local business with a partnership idea. Respond positively when someone reaches out to you.

5th Chakra – Something Vocal

The keyboard is a tyrant! If you work from home, make sure you speak with someone about work every day. Blogging and posting to social media are poor substitutes, but if that’s what you’ve got, read your words aloud before hitting ‘send.’ Feel the sensation of saying what you mean.

Version 26th Chakra – Something Intuitive

If this is your craft, tarot reader, you are in luck. Get a reading in every day. Offer short, free readings if your client base is small – these are like weight lifting for intuitives. Schedule time to daydream and journal about the direction you want your business to go. Act on your intuition.

7th Chakra – Something Inspired

Meditation is where the 7th and 1st chakras meet. Write down your dreams. Quiet your mind so that you can converse with your subconscious. List your gratitudes. Study the work of a mentor. Let your 7th chakra take you somewhere unexpected.

Well, according to my own rules, this blog post is a poor substitute for 5th Chakra vocalizing, so I should wrap it up. I’ll read it aloud, then do some 3rd chakra play to find matching images. Luckily, I have an event with readings tonight, giving me the 4th and 6th chakra action I need. I can feel and see that I’ve neglected chakras 1, 2, and 7, which is something of a pattern for me. Luckily, my boss is pretty forgiving. And there’s still time for a rigorous walk before I have to head out.

If thinking of your to-do list in this way is helpful to you, huzzah! I’d love to hear your tips for me.

(pictured above: a Present Day Tarot to-do list color coded by chakra; the Ace of Pentacles from the Light and Shadow Tarot deck; 4 of Wands from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck; The High Priestess from Tarot del Fuego).

Liebster Award

liebsterThank you, Louise-in-btween, for nominating me for a Liebster (small blogger) Award. Louise and I once worked in the same building and saw each other all the time. Years have passed since then, but I’ve gotten to know so much more about her through her blog. If you’re into hiking, cycling, and poetic introspection, I highly recommend Louise-in-btween.

The Liebster Award is given by a blogger to bloggers with fewer than 200 followers, with an aim to help others discover and spot new, amazing bloggers.

Louise asked me several questions as part of this nomination. Here’s our Q&A:

Louise-in-btween: If you could be any animal, what would you choose?

CCF04092014_00001 copyYetta Snow: I am a horseshoe crab. It’s already decided. When I was growing up on the Eastern Seaboard, we called them “dinosaur crabs.” I once had a marvelous dream of talking to one through a dixie-cup walkie-talkie, and I’ve been enamored ever since. Horseshoe crabs would make good tarot readers. They have thousands of eyes that become wildly powerful during a full moon. (This pic is a tarot card I made to represent my archetypal inner crab).

13061915_1359126837434529_5398939659237312328_nLIB: How did you choose the name of your blog?

YS: It’s the same as the name of my Business, Present Day Tarot. It says upfront that I am not a fortune teller. The best way to discover your future is to truly understand your present. And as it turns out, tarot is a wonderful and magical tool to help you do that. (This pic is the Queen of Cups from the Golden Tarot by Kat Black)

LIB: Tell me about an experience or person who shaped your life for the better. 

YS: I saw a Reiki healer about 20 years ago named Marie Manuchehri. She’s a well-known public figure and energy healer nowadays, though at the time she was simply a young entrepreneur working hard to manage a busy life. She’s outrageously multi-sensory. She told me my doctor’s secrets, spoke to my cervix, communed with my mother’s soul, and flipped my whole concept of the world upside down. I have followed her and studied with her since then, and credit her influence in many of the bolder decisions I’ve made in my adult life.

LIB: What is your favorite blog post that you have written (link to it please)?

envy-2YS: I am fond of a post called Lies, which was inspired by the airport protests of the first Travel Ban in 2017. I also really like some of the political predictions I was ballsy enough to publish early on, but you’ll have to dig for those. (This pic is from Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel).


LIB: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

img_6710YS: I am currently part of a collective superpower known as the Resist Movement. But I also know that when I work really hard to resist something, I run the risk of attracting it to me and, consequently, giving it life. So I’ve begun to favor the term Counteract. I would like this to be a new superpower in our collective consciousness. To Counteract is to speak up, organize, and energize in accordance with what is true and good. (This pic is from a series I made for my Txrot Womxn’s March 2017).

LIB: Name one thing that you want to do or accomplish in 2018.

YS: I understand I get to nominate someone for a Liebster Award! I nominate DoulaJane as a new blog to watch.


I’ve bent the rules of the game a bit in this post, but for the record, this is what is asked of Leibster Award nominees:

  • Acknowledges the blog that nominated you.
  • Answer the 11 questions your nominator asked.
  • Nominate 11 other bloggers.
  • Ask them 11 questions.
  • Let them know you have nominated them.

My questions for Doula Jane are:

  1. What do you love?
  2. How does your blog reflect that?
  3. How do your life and work intersect?
  4. What do you enjoy doing that is unrelated to your work?
  5. What is your primary element (earth, water, air or fire)?
  6. What other 6 questions would you like to be asked?

Many thanks again to Louise-in-Btween for bringing me into this game, and to the initiator of the Liebster Awards, wherever you may be in the world.



Tarot Workout: The Deck Makes the Difference

Tarot Workouts are short, real-life case studies to help you exercise your tarot-reading muscle. Enjoy this as a sample reading. Or, if you are a tarot student, read the question, check out the cards, and then step away from the essay to formulate your own response. Read the end later to see how my response compares to your own. Leave comments for me about how your interpretation may differ.

The Question

The question wasn’t particularly unusual. Alison explained, “I love my career but am terribly unhappy at work. I was hired because of my expertise, which is desperately needed during a transition. My supervisors tell me they love me, but I get the feeling they are keeping me on just to train the next team, and then will let me go. Should I beat them to it and just leave before they fire me?”

Something about Alison made me want to step off the beaten path. I decided to use an unusual deck – the Tarot del Fuego by Ricardo Cavolo. (I’ve written about it before). Although I love this deck, its quirkiness can make for some unwieldy readings, and I don’t use it very often. It turns out that the idiosyncrasies served me well this time, as I pulled this simple 3-card spread.

The Layout

  • CARD 1 (Overall energy of Alison at work): Knight of Swords, upright
  • CARD 2 (Opportunity crossing for better or for worse): 3 of Cups
  • CARD 3 (Tarot advice for Alison): 6 of Swords, reversed

Here is a better look at the 3 cards in their upright positions:

(To complete the Tarot Workout, stop reading now to come up with your own interpretation of Alison’s cards. Read on only after you’ve settled on your answer, then enjoy a comparison to mine).

My Response

Tarot del Fuego Knight of SwordsAlison, my first take on this is that there are more positive things going on in your work than you are seeing. The Knight of Swords – representing you – is high-energy, action-driven, and sometimes impatient. (This description made Alison laugh at its accuracy). In this particular deck, the Knight is shown as a blindfolded stallion in full gallop, while a half-dozen eyes look on from the distance. To me, this validates that people notice your hard work and are thankful for it. While it may be true that they treat you like a workhorse, I get the feeling that the emotional distance between you does not come from their direction alone.

Version 2The second card, which is an opportunity that crosses you for better or worse, is the 3 of Cups – a card of abundance and friendship. If you are working toward an urgent goal now, I could see the frenzy of the Knight being needed. However, the 3 of Cups shows an enjoyable environment around you. That is either in the future, or, more likely, available to you now, if only you choose to see it. Is it possible that you are so intent on the workload and goals that you are less likely to truly see your colleagues as peers? To me, these cards suggest that you re-evaluate to see if there is more goodwill there than you realize. (Alison explained that, besides her supervisors, she enjoyed many of the other members of her team. She said there were several people she would miss if she were to leave).

Version 3With that, the advice card is intriguing. The 6 of Swords, when upright, typically says that it’s time to move on. In your reading, however, it has shown upside-down, which tweaks the message. That this card shows up at all for advice says that moving on
is a real option. However, upside-down it cautions you to be circumspect about how you proceed. Switching jobs may be a good move for you, but perhaps not for the same reasons you have in mind. While there may simply be a great job out there for you in terms of better pay, more status, or otherwise advancing your career, you (like any other person) run the risk of importing the same dynamic into a different setting. As you keep the door open to new possibilities, why not also be deliberate in making your daily experience better by enjoying the company of the colleagues you like? You may find that it changes the parts of your work that feel unbearable now, putting you on better footing to make a well-chosen move when it is the most advantageous for you.

We left the reading there, with Alison saying she felt both validated and challenged by the cards. As I have reflected on this reading, I think how much richer it was for having been done with the Tarot del Fuego deck. The Knight of Swords showed so much more individuality than the Rider-Waite-Smith card would have in this instance. The 6 of Swords is usually shown as a placid scene of someone sailing to calmer waters, but the Tarot del Fuego card shows a much more painful transition. I associate Cavolo’s card with plantar fasciitis and the agony of indecision, which highlighted the idea that she should move forward with care. I won’t be giving up my beloved Rider-Waite-Smith deck any time soon, but I’m happy for the interesting twists provided by this other deck.

If you are a Seattle-area reader, join the Tarot Salon — a twice-monthly gathering to talk and practice tarot in the Present Day Tarot studio.

For more information about Ricardo Cavolo, he’s got a very cool website and sells his decks here. The Rider-Waite-Smith, of course, can be found in many places.

Putting the Trumps in Order

(Twice a month, Present Day Tarot hosts a Tarot Salon for tarot readers, students and enthusiasts. This essay was written in preparation for a Tarot Salon on the subject of the Major Arcana suit. If you are in or near Seattle and want to attend the Salon, you can sign up here.)

The Major Arcana (AKA “Trump”) Cards

Tarot de Marseilles le Mat

The Major Arcana suit consists of 22 cards. Nowadays, they are typically numbered from Zero (the Fool) to 21 (the World). But in the early decks the Majors were given no numbers or established order. As the deck developed over time, the Majors fluctuated in name and number value.

The numbers on these cards may or may not matter in your tarot readings, depending on your approach. However, as you learn the cards, knowing and playing with the order can be very helpful.

Etteilla FolieThe most common explanation for the order of the Trump suit today is to see it as a linear story called the Fool’s Journey. It shows the Fool, an innocent soul, falling to earth and encountering each card one-by-one. For me, this story has no narrative pizzazz – which seems a waste for a subject that is so rich in story-telling potential. But getting to know it is like learning the basics of grammar. I combed through some YouTube options dramatizing the Fool’s Journey, and chose these videos (with thanks to the people who took the time to make them), because they are the shortest. You can see the story straight-up, with a British accent, and wouldn’t you know, as a rap. And that’s enough time on that.

An Added Dimension

Author Rachel Pollack is credited with a simple and popular restructuring of the story that adds a helpful layer of meaning. Holding the Fool card aside, she maintains the standard order but splits the remaining 21 cards into 3 rows of 7. Each row indicates a different level of mastery for the Fool as he/she travels from innocence to awareness. The Fool first masters the physical world (Majors 1-7), then his unconscious world (Majors 8-14), and then finally, the spiritual world (Majors 15-21). Here is an image of the Rider-Waite-Smith cards placed in Pollack’s order:

Rider Waite Major Suit

The Best, (and most difficult to describe), for Last

The most helpful way I have ever seen the Majors ordered is by the prolific tarot scholar, Gareth Knight. In his 1991 book, The Magical World of the Tarot: Fourfold Mirror of the Universe, he pictures the whole deck as a giant, floating building with four halls. The halls are energized by the work of the Magician, guarded by four dominant Trump cards, and peopled by their closest cousins in the Major Arcana. The four halls correspond to the elements, and are gateways to the suits of the Minor Arcana. This is my favorite and most often misplaced tarot book, and Knight spends a good portion of it building a layered vision of the cards. I will condense his vision (as I remember it) into a quick overview graphic, below. I look forward to discussing it more with you at the Tarot Salon!

Tarot Trumps restructured


The tarot cards not cited above are two early versions of the Fool: Le Mat from the Tarot de Marseilles and La Folie from the Book of Thoth, also known as the Etteilla Tarot.

The Owl and the Tarot Reader

Present Day Tarot Barred OwlIt’s been a pretty great start to the year at Present Day Tarot. My first magic of 2018 was an encounter with this barred owl, who perched just above my head and watched with me as the super moon rose on January 2. Making deep, direct eye contact, I asked her about the year to come. “I’m not sure,” I heard, and she turned her neck with a sigh.

A day or two later, a deck I’d supported through Kick Starter arrived in the mail. It’s called Dust II Onyx: A Melanated Tarot. After backing the campaign, I was lucky enough to meet the artist, Courtney Alexander, at the annual NW Tarot Symposium in Portland. (Check out my fan photo!).

Courtney Alexander and Yetta Snow

The deck is entirely magic, made even more impressive by the fact that the artist is at the very start of her tarot journey. She’s been studying since just 2015, which may be why (in conjunction with her artistic talent) she manages to capture the high-energy excitement that so many life-long readers experience when they first discover the Tarot. New readers, take heart! You don’t have to log in decades of study to connect with your tarot deck.

Now, if you’ve been to one of my classes, you may have tried the “I am the one who…” exercise in which we imagine each card finishing out that phrase in its own voice. Do that with Courtney’s cards, and you’ll find they have a lot to say. In one of my first readings with Dust II Onyx, I asked for information about an unexpected development in the year ahead. I drew the following:

Dust II Onyx Justice

The Justice Card showed upright at the top of my reading.

Version 2Papa Gourd (the King of Cups) showed upside-down beneath the Justice Card.

Dust II Onyx 6 of Gourds And the 6 of Gourds (6 of Cups) showed next to Papa Gourd, also upside-down.

As they spoke to me, I wrote these words in my tarot journal: “It will even out better than you think. The unsteady king will be beaten by children (working in secret).”

We can hope. And stay alert. Then, at moments that take our breath away, we can look an owl in the eye and search for answers together.


I had so much fun teaching last year that I decided to double down on the number of Tarot Salons I offer each month. If you are studying tarot in or near Seattle, Join me at the Tarot Salon! The next one is Sunday, January 14th, and then after that, Thursday the 25th. I’d love to see you here!