Broken Bone Tarot Reading

One of my early tarot “aha!” moments came from a spread featuring the 3 of Swords and the 4 of Pentacles.

My young daughter had taken a fall and her thumb was hurting badly. The simple question was: How serious is this injury?

I was new to tarot, and the meaning of the two cards didn’t come to me immediately. These were the first and final cards in a Celtic Cross spread, which was pretty much the only spread I knew how to do at the time. (“What was happening to your injured child while you dealt out a 10-card reading,” you ask? All I can say is that she can text as fast as any of her college-mates today. It must have been okay.) Continue reading “Broken Bone Tarot Reading”


U.S. Immigration in 3 Tarot Cards

“Show me U.S. immigration policy in 3 tarot cards.”

I ask the question, then shuffle and cut my deck as usual. Like so many of us, I’ve been focused on the news of children being separated from families at the US/Mexico border. I’ve just smudged my room with white sage and energized it with sweet grass. The sun is shining through my studio window. I feel present.

I place the first card in the center to represent the central theme.


Cards two and three go to either side to represent clarifying details.

4 of Pentacles and 2 of Wands. Both are upside-down.

Present Day Tarot Immigration Reading

In the most neutral interpretation, these cards say, “There is a battle for fairness (Justice) regarding two groups. One is looking for a home (2 of Wands). The other is holding the doors shut (4 of Pentacles).*

Continue reading “U.S. Immigration in 3 Tarot Cards”

Father’s Day Tarot Spread

Dad with macrame beltI was lucky to be raised by the guy on the right. The one with the macramé belt.

My dad was a high school French teacher for 35 years, well known in our hometown and in towns across France, too. The two French gentlemen in the photo? Who knows? My dad probably asked them for directions and ended up getting the insiders’ tour of the town. For my dad, a walk down a street is above all a chance to make friends. Bonus points if you do it in a foreign language!

This post features a different way to use tarot cards. I’ll call it Tarot on Purpose. For this kind of reading, choose the cards deliberately rather than at random. Place them down and let them talk to each other. What do the cards say about your subject? How does your experience of the subject teach you more about the cards?

Here’s my Tarot on Purpose tribute to you, Dad, using a 3-card tarot spread specially designed for Father’s Day:


Continue reading “Father’s Day Tarot Spread”

Tarot Connections

I see tarot cards in the world around me.

I do it for sport, like the time I got Pete to pose as the 4 of Cups as we endured a long airport layover.


The card spoke to the moment. Boredom, dissatisfaction, and being too caught up in tedious expectation to welcome in the unexpected. Cup #4: a ukulele! Did we take the advice of the card and play it? Energetically, yes. We had fun staging my vignette and eventually had to run to catch our plane.

Another pip card moment: I happened upon some large-scale groundskeeping when I visited the MIT campus last week. I suppose they were preparing for graduation. Continue reading “Tarot Connections”

Struggling Lovers

Civil Rights, Art, and Tarot together at the Seattle Art Museum

They say the Lovers card is about choice, which means it is equally about consequence. That often overlooked corollary of this tarot card is, for me, the central take-away from Robert Colescott’s paintings currently on exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. (The exhibit, Figuring Historyruns until Sunday, May 13th 2018). Thanks to Colescott, the American struggle for civil rights will forever more inform my understanding of the Lovers card, and vice-versa.

A Visual Parallel

Because of the composition, the connection is most obvious in Natural Rhythm: Thank you Jan Van Eyck, from 1976 (below, left).

Continue reading “Struggling Lovers”

Tarot Workout: A Longing Heart

My Tarot Workouts are based on real-life readings, minus the identifying details. Add them to your Sunday puzzle routine! If you want even more exercise, search for “Tarot Workouts” on my blog.

A Longing Heart

‘Candace’ asks, “Will I ever reunite with my ex?” You design a simple 4-card spread, which loosely mirrors the center of the Celtic Cross:

4 card visual alternate cropped

CARD 1 (Overall energy between them): Knight of Wands, reversed
CARD 2 (Opportunity for better or worse): 10 of Wands
CARD 3 (What direction are they headed?): Death
CARD 4 (Lesson from the universe): Queen of Wands

Using the Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot, you draw the following cards, placed all upright here for you to see clearly:




What do you say to Candace?

Continue reading “Tarot Workout: A Longing Heart”

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.