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).

Riffing off the iconic 15th century painting by Hans Van Eyck, Colescott seems to say: Here’s a marriage to consider: Black and White in America. How do you like me now? With a single visual change – the skin tone of the female figure – Colescott opens a door from this composition to the struggle for civil rights in America. SAM’s Modern art curator, Catharina Manchande, says: “Changing the woman’s skin color to black raises issues about power dynamics, gender, and race.” I’ll say. That this is done so effectively in a visual language is the hallmark of a good artistic encounter. It feels similar to that “aha” moment in a good tarot reading. (The contrasting tarot image above is from the Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative tarot deck).

A tarot aside: Clients tend to give happy cheers when the Lovers card turns up in tarot readings. This isn’t a happy romantic card, I explain. It is about commitment, for better and for worse. Richer and poorer. Oppressing and oppressed. Choice and consequence. Still, clients express a flush of victory — it will be different for us!

Back to SAM

The first parallel I notice with the Lovers card is in the 1969 painting, Night and Day, You Are the One (below, left), which is displayed on the 2nd floor of the museum, before the larger exhibit upstairs.

Here the figures are two women and a child, reminiscent of the Lovers card from the 18th century Marseilles deck (right). (Colescott’s detail is difficult to see in my snapshot, especially since so much of this painting is affected by the texture. Go see the real thing if you can.) The child completes the triad typical in the Lovers card: two humans and one spirit. The male figure from the Marseilles card (omitted in later versions of the Tarot), is us — the viewers — looking in. The traditional tarot interpretation says that this man is in the position to choose between two desirable opposites. And while everything about the two female figures seems incongruous in Colescott’s painting, the women are connected like night and day. How can we move forward without fearing each other? How can we both exist, with equal stature, on the same canvas? How can we be equally revered by the viewer, and by one-another?

Almost too much to take

The final piece that screams Lovers to me is almost too powerful for me to be near for more than a few minutes at a time. I return to this room several times, trying not to overhear the incredibly personal reactions being shared in the crowd. The painting is: A Cruise to Southern Waters, 1988.

Colescott cruise 1988What slays me about this painting is how it incorporates the issue of aging – another inevitable aspect of the Lovers card that tends to fall into the shadows. The reading glasses! The dentures! Lust and death! Imagine this image turning up in a tarot reading about your romantic future. Would you cheer?


Surrounded by Colescott’s work, I feel The Lovers in terms of struggle, longevity, and the impossibility of ever escaping history. I feel different tarot connections in the works of Kerry James Marshall and Mikaline Thomas, the two other artists in the Figuring History exhibit. Do you see tarot in their works? Share your associations below.


If you enjoy seeing tarot in the world around you, please check out my Instagram feed.


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.



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!



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

This card is about juggling small details and decisions. Yes, my friend is a busy woman, and the jaunty pose and rolling waves show the effort required to keep balance while multitasking. Aces can be high or low, but the 2 is indisputably a little number. As such, it runs the risk of being thought of as less significant than other cards. But consider the role of the tarot 2s. Their job is to advance the Ace energy, which is infinite and intangible. If the earth sign Ace is an endless field of potential, the 2 is the single farmer who chooses the crop and commits to its care. Like in the daily tasks we perform at work or for home, the energetic action is a much bigger deal than we give ourselves credit for. The 2s work to make divine potential come to Earth. But the effort can be overwhelming. It’s easy to imagine this taking a toll on one’s self-esteem, especially when the card shows in reverse.

So I say to my friend,

Your goodness is that you are trying and you’re trying hard. Struggle is not failure. It’s the first step to something important that you do not know yet. Your goodness is in caring enough to walk an invisibly rocky road. It is internal. It feels so serious, but look at your silly red hat and remind yourself to laugh. Look through the eyes of your higher self. The things in front of you are not the actual things you’re grappling with. The forces that you are trying to move are much greater than what you see, and they are divine. So, while you feel buffeted and beaten up, you can know that your goodness is in your efforts to bring meaning to life.

On a practical note, I point out that the next card in the tarot deck is the 3 of Pentacles — a card of collaboration and productivity. Do you feel alone in your efforts? Can you share your vision and labor with someone else?


Present Day Tarot StudioAre you Tarot-curious in Seattle? Learn, discuss, and practice tarot with me at the Tarot Salon! For those of you in the great world beyond Seattle, please sign up for my email list or follow my blog for other Present Day Tarot offerings.


The card above is, of course, by the amazing Pamela Colman Smith for the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, created and published in the early 1900s when the artist was 17.

Introducing the Tarot Salon

Please note: this is the original announcement from when the Tarot Salon first began in the fall of 2017. Go to this page for up-to-date information.

For Tarot-Loving Seattleites

DSC_4416 copy

The Tarot Salon is a place for people to discuss, learn, and practice reading tarot for one-another. The Tarot Salon takes place one Sunday of every month from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm in the Present Day Tarot studio in Southeast Seattle. Each Tarot Salon includes:

  • Discussion around a topic
  • A sample reading by Yetta
  • Practice with friends

This is a casual forum for tarot students, readers, and enthusiasts. Since it is held in my home, I ask for people to sign up and pay ahead of time. The address and other details are sent to you when you sign up and pay.
Continue reading “Introducing the Tarot Salon”


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


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!


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