A One-Card Spread

“I’m struggling with my self-esteem,” a friend declares. “Where is my goodness?”

She pulls the 2 of Pentacles, reversed.Version 2

Continue reading “A One-Card Spread”

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Tarot Workout: Reconciliation

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.

The Question

A man — I’ll pick the name Xavier — wrote to ask if his ex would return to reconcile after a fight. He gave me no more information than that his ex is a man whom he loves dearly.

This is the kind of question that often brings people to a tarot reader. It is wonderful because it is heart-felt, and tricky because it is a yes-no question largely focused on someone other than the questioner. I opened up the question and gave it a twist to allow for Xavier’s free will to enter while honoring the spirit of his inquiry. I asked, “show me this relationship’s most likely next stage, with a guidance card for Xavier.”

The Layout

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  • CARD 1 (Covering energy) This is like the card in the center of a Celtic Cross spread. It represents the overall feeling of the time in question.
  • CARD 2 (Crossing energy) This is like the second card at the center of the Celtic Cross. We often say that it “represents the opportunity that shows itself for better or worse.”
  • CARD 3 (Guidance) What it sounds like.

The Cards

  1. 10 of Pentacles, reversed
  2. Princess of Pentacles
  3. The Empress, reversed

Present Day Tarot reading workout

I used the Light and Shadow Tarot deck by Brian Williams and Michael Goepferd. I love the bold block prints and energy in this deck. However, the cards are oversized and printed on very tacky card stock, which makes them unusually difficult to handle. I reserve this deck for email readings to avoid the inevitably awkward situation of having a client struggle to shuffle the cards.

***** Tarot students, stop here and formulate your own answers ***** Continue reading “Tarot Workout: Reconciliation”

Tarot Royalty at the Conservatory

To get to know the tarot suit of Swords, I suggest spending an afternoon in the cactus room of a plant conservatory near you. I recently went to the big glass house in Volunteer Park to soak in the energy of these prickly friends.

Here’s the diminutive Page of Swords, which Benebell Wen describes as, “an aggressive but graceful young woman. She is a strong intellectual, with great capacity for learning, great potential for diplomacy, and likewise, great potential for becoming a fighter.” (Holistic Tarot, p. 202). You go, girl!

Page of Swords cactus

Her sibling, the Knight of Swords, is messier and more reckless, but still has a tender side. Arthur Waite describes him as “riding in full course, as if scattering his enemies. … A prototypical hero of romantic chivalry.” (The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, p. 230). Angeles Arrien says this card “represents the inspired mind that does not want to be limited, restricted, or restrained in any way.” (The Tarot Handbook, p 111).

Knight of Swords cactus

The Queen! I found her in the most mammary of the Mammillaria! She has order, finesse and beauty, with a biting sense of humor. Most textbook definitions describe her as angular and refined, but mine has an additional layer of irony. Isn’t this the design my grandmother once stitched on a pillow? What does that say about the Queen of Swords through time?

Queen of Swords cactus

How does she differ from the King? The King of Swords is someone who knows what he does well and does it repeatedly. “…Someone of authority who is on guard all the time” (Thorson’s Way of the Tarot, p 121). Up close, you can see that each leaf of this mighty aloe holds an imprint of the leaf that grew before it, informing its shape and determining a pattern that won’t easily change. Until the spring, when a towering pink flower shoots up from its center, surprising us all.

King of Swords cactus

My prickly d8I can spend hours in the conservatory! All the tarot cards can be found there — sometimes distinctly, but often overlapping in thought-provoking ways. This particular outing was inspired by my lovely d’8, disguised here as the matronly Queen of Pentacles. She took me to this earthy place for my virgo birthday, knowing I would revel in it. (Thanks, Rojo!)

If you want to see the card images referred to in this essay, check out my Facebook post.

 

Tarot Questions

If you could know the answer to all your questions, what questions would you ask?

Version 2“What’s going to happen to me?”

That would get old fast.

I bet you’d move quickly to “how can I…?” questions. How can I get the most from this situation? How can I understand what’s going on? How can I make the world a better place?

Not that all tarot questions need to be lofty. Personal curiosities are a huge part of our every day, and are often what draws people to tarot. But try shifting a question like, “will she go out with me?” to, “what can I do to better my chances?” Then see which question yields the more empowering information.

Creative and empowering questions make the best use of the Tarot and distinguish it from fortune-telling. And — the truly beautiful thing! — the more you explore what questions you really want to ask, the more likely you are to find rich, meaningful answers that will have a positive impact on your life.


The World card is the final Major Arcana card in the tarot deck. It is generally said to stand for awareness, completion, and earned wisdom. The World isn’t all-knowing; she just knows what questions to ask. The image above is from the Fountain Tarot.


Do you have an empowering question in mind? Contact me for a reading! Email yetta@presentdaytarot.com and check out my website for more information.

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Tarot’s High Priestess in Polka Dots

Version 3Tarot’s High Priestess is Major Arcana card number two. If she were a book title, she would be Women’s Ways of Knowing. Her masculine counterpart, the Hierophant (whom I wrote about last week), would be something like The Bible, or Gray’s Anatomy.

Unless you’re a poet, it can be hard to write about the High Priestess card. Once you get caught up in the rules of grammar, you sink from the ether into your head, and The High Priestess evaporates. She is intuition and invisible inklings. She is your feelings before you put words to them. Good luck with that.

Version 2Intuition. When we channel it directly, we get an “aha,” and feel momentarily awestruck. Many of us who value that experience spend time trying to cultivate it through meditation, dream work, and art.

Visual artists of all sorts try to capture High Priestess sensation in physical form. I once heard a brilliant local choreographer give a terrible radio interview, finally declaring in exasperation, “If I could TELL you what the piece meant, I wouldn’t have to DANCE it!” It was a High Priestess moment.

My most recent encounter with the High Priestess happened last week at the Infinity Mirrors exhibit of Yayoi Kusama, currently at the Seattle Art Museum. She’s a High Priestess to the extreme, living in an intuited universe of polka dots and mirrors, seeking what she refers to as ‘obliteration.’

Yayoi Kusama on screenThose who manage to exist in High Priestess energy for long stretches may, like Kusama, lose their grasp on reality. When seeing Infinity Mirrors, the first thing you learn about the artist is that she lives in a mental health facility in Japan. They lead with that intrigue, but don’t supply details. We are left wondering if, in her immersive experience as a High Priestess, she has ever been tempted to cut off an ear.

Yayoi Kusama Soft Sculpture

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Here’s a reminder for August, 2017: I’m offering $25 email readings until the end of August. Also, there is still room in two of my summer classes — check it out!

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Pictured from top to bottom after title: 1) The High Priestess card from the Golden Tarot Deck by Kat Black; 2) The High Priestess from the Tarot del Fuego by Ricardo Cavalo; 3) Yayoi Kusama as seen in the exhibit video. (My camera gloriously distorted her wig color from pink to gold); 4) “Phalli” soft sculptures from the Seattle Art Museum exhibit 

Tarot’s Sexy Hierophant

 

 

Admit it, tarot readers, you get crushes on your cards. The Star is romantic. The Magician is dreamy. The Empress… a goddess. Even the Hermit has that strong, silent appeal. But the Hierophant? Not so sexy. Especially given the images I’ve chosen to represent him here. (Portrait of Pope Innocent X by Velazquez, 1650, and Figure With Meat by Francis Bacon, 1954).

Le Pape Marseille Tarot DeckCalled The Pope in Marseilles-style decks, this card is generally seen to represent the religious establishment and its teachings. If Tarot’s traditional Judeo-Christian references make you uncomfortable, this card is probably not your favorite. But more and more I’m warming up to him. I come from a family of educators. Education was our religion, actually. Recognizing this as the teacher card, as many do, makes the Hierophant more approachable.

Version 2When reversed, I think of this card broadly as our collective unconscious. Not just the overt teachings of a ruling class, but all of our invisible agreements that over time weave a thick fabric of directives for us to live by. Individually, that might be the Devil. Collectively, at least from one angle, it’s the Hierophant. The effect can be sinister, like in Francis Bacon’s Figure with Meat. Or it could simply be unconventional (Francis Bacon, again, I suppose).

But I’ve been known to overcomplicate things. When this card shows in my readings, the meaning is almost always surprisingly specific: a contract, a bar mitzvah, a church gathering. My challenge is being comfortable enough with clients to ask, simply, “do you go to church?” or, “What religious conventions do you embrace?”

I remind myself with regularity that it’s not a tarot reader’s job to make a message palatable. Still, I searched the decks I own — animal decks included — for a less imposing visual representation. No luck until I combed through some Pinterest accounts and found this lovely example, with the Dali Llama as the Hierophant, and a nod to Star Wars nerds at his toe.

(Also pictured are Le Pape from the Marseille deck and The Hierophant from the Thoth deck)

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Seattle folks: there is still time to sign up for my classes this month. August 10th, 13th, and 27th. Come to one, two, or all three — I’d love to see you there.