Tarot Deep Dive: The Emperor

The Emperor from the Smith-Rider-Waite deck

The Emperor card in the Tarot corresponds to Aries. In the Smith-Rider-Waite Tarot deck, the Emperor shows a man with a white beard and hair with a crown on his head. He is dressed in a red robe and seated on a concrete throne. The throne is adorned with ram’s heads at the top and the ends of the armrests. In his right hand he holds an ankh, a symbol of life. His feet and legs are adorned with armor. Behind the throne, mountains rise up in the distance and a river flows beneath them. In the deck I have been using lately, the This Might Hurt Tarot deck by Isabella Rotman, the Emperor is shown as a man with white hair and a white beard in a blue suit with a red tie. His left hand rests on a globe and his right hand grips an ankh. At his feet lays a ram. Two pillars with a wall between them separate the man from the mountains in the background. There are trees and a river at the foot of the mountains.

Traditional interpretations of the Emperor card talk about him as a father figure, an authoritative figure, someone who is in charge or a leader. I don’t necessarily disagree with the equating of this card with leadership; however, because of the patriarchal implications I do not subscribe to the Emperor being a father figure or an authoritative figure. My teacher Lindsay Mack said, and I love this so much, that if tarot is not for everyone, then it is not for anyone. Some people may not have that father figure in their lives. Some may have had really bad or traumatic experiences with authority figures in their lives. So that interpretation of the Emperor does not really resonate with me. Tarot as I interpret it is a healing modality, so I interpret the Emperor in a way that can heal past trauma rather than ask someone to relive it.

The Emperor is a huge archetypal card that is really about foundations and what we are building the foundation of our lives on. If we look back at the Empress – and I am referencing the Empress in the This Might Hurt deck – we see a woman in nature with vegetation growing all around her. Stars adorn her head, and her pose suggests someone who is completely in touch with her sexuality. The Empress is in touch with the cyclical patterns of nature: the cycle of night and day, the seasons of the year, even the cyclical movement of the planets through the zodiac, which is what her crown stands for.

When we look at the Emperor card, we can see that he has separated himself from nature and those cycles. He doesn’t stand on grass, but on a flat surface that could be concrete. Even in cards where he is pictured on grass, such as in the Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan, he is separated by the armor that her wears and the throne upon which he sits. He has created a new foundation for his beliefs and being, one that is not rooted in the cyclical patterns of nature, but in the linear patterns of societal structures. Even the ram laying in the foreground of the This Might Hurt Tarot card signifies a domestication, a moving away from our wild animal nature and the drives that are included in that, and toward a tamer, calmer existence.

The Emperor card is about the structures that have been put into place that make up the culture of a society. They can be huge structures such as capitalism or socialism. They can be smaller structures such as the education system. They can be structures that define the “shoulds” of society, such as diet and workout culture defining what form the body “should” take to be beautiful, or that you “should” get a credit card in order to build credit to buy things. They can be political systems and the laws that govern society. The Emperor stands for all of them. These are the new foundation that the Emperor has laid down as the basis of his belief and belonging.

We can see the archetype of this card playing out in recent events. 2020 was an Emperor year, and definitely shined a light on different social systems. Oppressive systems like systemic racism were highlighted during the riots that year, and continue to be highlighted as more light is shined on the abuses experienced by people of color every day. Our economic system has also been highlighted as we feel the effects of disruptions due to covid and also of people leaving the workforce or leaving low paying industries in an attempt to earn a living wage. There are so many other examples of ways that these systems have oppressed people for so long, and a lot of people are standing up and saying, “No more!”

Now we are seeing it playing out in other ways too, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfolds. So many systems play into this invasion, including political and economic systems. It shows us that in a lot of ways, these systems have not necessarily tamed us, but cause their own problems that can lead to our animal natures coming out in the worst possible ways.

So when we pull the Emperor, we can ask ourselves what are the structures that we have in place that separate us from nature and its spiralic cycles. I have a couple of examples of where this was highlighted in my own life. One night after work I was sitting at a stoplight. It was still in the winter season so it was dark outside. The stoplight I was sitting at was wedged between two large shopping centers on either side of the road, so the whole street and the parking lots were lit up with lights. As I sat there watching the cars drive through, it occurred to me how dark it actually was outside and how we have gone to such great lengths to banish the dark from roads. All in an effort to help us get places after the sun has gone down, but to what end? So that we can be consumers for a longer amount of time every day? I thought, “If none of these lights were here, these people would all be home right now, safe in their houses.” We shield ourselves from the day/night cycle with our artificial lighting, just as we shield ourselves from the cycle of the seasons with our climate controlled houses. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with that and I am the first person to turn on my air conditioner at the sign of a warm day because I can’t stand to be hot, but it has been a great practice for me to become aware of the ways that we separate ourselves from the cycles of the earth, and even take some time to embrace the hot weather once in a while as a celebration of that.

The other example I want to share has to do with the education system. When my daughter was younger, just starting middle school, she became extremely burnt out. She went through a lot because she is neurodivergent, and we decided to just take a break from school. And that is what we did, for about half a year. There is a process called deschooling where you just take a break from that system and the schedule and expectations that come with it, and it was great for her because she was able to really figure out who she was at that time. That is a gift that most kids don’t get, and that is kind of the age where they need it the most, that time to define who they are outside of the group. Peer pressure and the pressure to conform is so huge at that age, and in high school too. It’s the initial laying down of these structures that we are talking about, not to mention the overall structure of schedules and classroom expectations and homework and all of the pressures that come just from being in school.

I have talked to a lot of parents who have either worked from home or didn’t/couldn’t work because they did not want to put their children in child care while covid was so new and unknown and such a threat. A lot of these parents are going back to work and their kids are in child care since the threat of covid as a serious illness is disappearing. These parents talk about how much more stressful their lives are and how hard it is to keep up with everything, from kids to jobs to homework to housekeeping. Some even wonder how they managed it all before covid. It is like they did their own deschooling, except from the structure and expectations of their job, keeping their kids busy, doing homework, and all of the millions of things a working parent has to keep up with. Without jumping too high onto my soap box, I will say that this is what our capitalist economic system has sold to us as how life should be: two working parents keeping it all together and still having the clean house full of lots of things and soccer practice for the kids on the weekends. It is a demanding way of life, and the time away from it has shown a lot of parents just how thin they were stretching themselves.

These are the kinds of things that the Emperor card wants us to examine in our lives. Sure, you can read the card as someone needing to take on a position of leadership, and it might be true. They might need to. But doesn’t this interpretation go a lot deeper? Doesn’t this examination of the systems that rule our lives cause us to do some deep diving into what we have laid as the foundation in our lives and, if we don’t like what we find, give us the motivation to change that? That is what makes Tarot so great, using it to ask those really deep questions about what is driving us and motivating us and seeking to change those things to make our lives better.

How has the Emperor card shown up in your life? Can you point to any systems in your life that you would like to move away from in order to incorporate some healthier systems? Let us know in the comments.

Entering Aries Season

Aries the Ram

Today marks the first day of spring, and the first day of Aries season. All around us there are new signs of life everywhere. The green of the earth is returning with new leaves on the trees and the grass turning from brown to green. New life is everywhere as baby birds hatch and other animal babies are born. I used to live in an apartment that had a pond behind it, and every spring the ducks that lived near that pond would have little baby ducklings. We used to wait with baited breath for the sight of those cute little ducklings taking their first swims in the pond with their parents. That time was always a celebration of spring.

Aries, The Spark of Creation

The Spark of Creation, handed down by Spirit, God(dess), the Universe

Aries is a cardinal sign. Cardinal zodiac signs are the signs that lead off the season, so Aries is the first sign of the spring season. It is also the first sign of the zodiacal wheel, the beginning of a new zodiacal year. Before Aries arrives, we have spent several months bare trees and brown all around us. Everything in nature is sleeping for the winter. Aries is a call to action. The weather becomes warmer and the trees begin to flower and become green with leaves. The grass becomes greener, too, as the amount of sunlight that the earth is experiencing increases. Aries is that first spark that ushers in the life force as living beings all around us engage the will to exist. It is not much different than when a baby is born and takes its first breath. The baby experiences that will to be alive and exist here on this earth, and the breath is taken as a statement of that will. That will to live and the action taken to achieve it are all part of Aries energy.

Aries, the Warrior

Aries the Warrior

Aries comes to us as a teacher, as do all astrological signs. Aries teaches us how to have the courage to begin something that may be frightening to us. Aries loves adventure, and in order to be an adventurer you must have courage. Sometimes having the courage means going ahead and taking the step even if it scares you to death. When we face something that we are scared of doing and begin the process of doing it, a lot of times the courage grows within us because we began. Aries, as a warrior, faces difficult challenges head-on. I recently read in the book “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks that if you take the time to acknowledge your fear and sit with it for a moment, then it can turn into excitement and even exhiliration as you channel that fear and use the energy from it to propel you forward.

The brain likes to invite us into fear a lot when we are thinking about doing something new, something that we are not used to doing. The brain’s job is to keep us safe, and the brain knows that there is no where safer than where we are right now. So when we try to do something new, the brain will scream and throw a fit, coming up with a million scary scenarios to keep us where we are. The key to getting beyond this fear is to acknowledge the screaming brain, thank it for its warnings, and let it know that the situation is safe. It can even help to have a conversation with the brain about the likelihood of the scary scenarios happening. This can help you move beyond the fear and reach your goals.

Aries: I AM

Aries tells us that we belong. We are essential beings on this planet. We have a right to take up space. We will touch on this more in the upcoming Emperor Tarot Deep Dive, but it doesn’t matter the structures that are in place or what society tells us about the way that we should take up space. The person that we are in this moment in time is essential and belongs, and can take up space in the way that we show up. It is hard to do that sometimes when society screams at you about how you are supposed to be and how you are supposed to act. We feel like we need to do all of these things to change ourselves in order to exist. But Aries tells us that we are here. We exist. It is okay to exist how we are.

So how is Aries showing up for you today? What messages are you getting from the energy of this time? I personally have been able to feel the activeness of Aries, more than I have in the last couple of years. Maybe the oppressing energy of COVID is finally starting to subside, giving way to more movement and action. I would love to know in the comments if you are feeling that too.

Entering Leo Season

We have been on a sort of journey through this zodiacal year. We have witnessed birth when Aries season came in, seen nature grow and take hold with Taurus. Gemini season brought about the exchange of information through the release of pollen into the air, as well as the mating signals of the animals. Cancer brought the sunlight and the rains that the plants and animals need to survive and thrive by taking them inside. Now we are arriving at Leo season, where nature is full of outward expression brought about with the help of the rains and sun of Cancer. Nature shows us this through putting forth flowers, fruits, vegetables.

Most of the time we think of Leo as loving to be in the spotlight and being the center of attention. But Leo energy is slightly more subtle than that. Leo takes all of the inner growth that took place in Cancer season and brings it to outer manifestation. So Leo is very much about taking what is brewing on the inside and bringing it out where everyone can see it and enjoy it, much the same as nature does during Leo season. And while for some people this may come more naturally than for others, everyone can do this – everyone has some expression of Leo in their lives. Our thoughts and ideas don’t just exist in a vacuum; we speak them, write them, draw them, cook them, play them – we are creators at our core and our ideas come out into the world. Everything on earth that has been created once started out as a potentiality (Aries), then an idea (Taurus), then a plan or communication to others (Gemini), then a gathering and building of resources (Cancer, and then the beginning of outward manifestation (Leo). It is all part of the creative process.

Tarot Card of Leo: Strength VIII

Strength card from the Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan

The imagery on the Strength card shows a woman sitting with a lion. Both the woman and the lion are comfortable; neither one is scared to be with the other. In fact, they both look to be very comfortable with the other. The woman, the archetype, also has an infinity loop over her head.

So we have already said that Leo energy involves bringing inner processes into outward manifestation. Anyone who is or aspires to be a creator knows how daunting that can be, to reach into the depths of yourself, create something out of what you find there, and then bring yourself to that point of vulnerability where you offer your creation to the world. It’s daunting because of those “what ifs” that rear their heads when you offer something to the world: what if no one likes it, what if people hate it, what if its not good enough, and on and on. The Strength card is about making yourself that vulnerable, that you can approach that lion that represents those fears, and approach it undefended, in complete vulnerability. Could you imagine if the woman in the card went to the lion with any kind of defense? I doubt we would be seeing this picture if that were the case. The energy would be different because there would not be that level of trust there, and the level of comfort that the card shows would be unattainable. Just as, if we are unable to make ourselves that vulnerable, our creations would never make it into the world.

We don’t just have to approach our creation with vulnerability, though. We also have to approach the process of going within, completing those inner processes, with vulnerability as well. If we don’t, if we show up to ourselves and our work defended, on the defensive, we will never fully open up to who we really are and our creations will reflect that. We won’t fully know ourselves or be fully comfortable with ourselves, and it is hard to create from that place of authenticity. In order to be authentically us, we have to open up and be vulnerable, be honest with ourselves about our inner work.

This takes courage, to be able to look at ourselves, look at our shit, and do it in a way where we are undefended, not closing ourselves off to what we see or the lessons we could learn from it. It also takes courage to be vulnerable enough to put pieces of ourselves out there for the whole world to see. It takes courage to face and approach the lion undefended. But as we see in the card imagery, the lion is not necessarily as scary as we once believed.

The infinite symbol in this card is special, as only three cards in the deck have this symbol. I believe that this symbol means that there is more at work here than simply what I have already said. Lions and humans don’t simply sit together, no matter how open and vulnerable you make yourself. There is another power at work here as well. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have to work at this. We do have to show up and we do have to be willing to be vulnerable. But that Higher Power, Spirit, the Universe – whatever you want to call it – shows up when we allow ourselves to be this vulnerable and open, and helps us bring that forth into outer manifestation. That is the power of this card.

Tarot Spread for Leo Season

This spread is designed to help guide you through the energy of Leo season.

Tarot Deep Dive: The Chariot

The Chariot card from the Smith-Rider-Waite Tarot deck

I have a profound interest in the Chariot card because it is my life card. If you have never figured out what your life card is, all you need to do is add together all of the digits of your birthday until you get down to a single digit. Then you have your life card. I can do a blog post about the life card in the future. Let me know in the comments if you are interested.

In the Charicot card we see the Charioteer. He is standing in the chariot and his face is relaxed. This card typically signifies success, so perhaps the Charioteer waged a successful campaign and is now coming back. There is a lot to be said for that when it comes to interpreting this card.

However, my teacher Lindsay Mack (who I think heard it from someone else, I don’t remember now) astutely pointed out that this card is not named the Charioteer; it is named The Chariot. So while we may notice that the Charioteer seems successful in his endeavors, we should be focused on his vehicle.

The Chariot’s astrological correspondence is Cancer, and through this correspondence we get a bit more information about the meaning of this card. The sign for Cancer is the crab,and the crab moves about in a shell. Once the crab outgrows his shell, it has to find a new one. But this is no easy task! The crab has to find the right shell, and then it has to leave the old shell – leaving itself vulnerable in the process – in order to go into the new shell.

The Chariot is like that shell. The Charioteer has been successful in this chariot, but now they need to find a new vehicle to venture forth in, preferably one with horses instead of sphinxes – one probably won’t get very far with sphinxes leading the way. But in order to take advantage of the expansion that is possible with a new chariot, the Charioteer has to leave the old chariot behind, making themselves vulnerable in the process.

So the Chariot card invites us to examine our lives and the vehicles that move us through it, which could be just about anything: our job, our families, our house – anything that moves us through this life. We can identify which of those vehicles are worn down and need to be replaced while also acknowledging the process of replacing and expanding can leave us vulnerable for a time. But once we get past that, we will have a wonderful new vehicle in which we can expand and learn and grow.

Does this interpretation resonate with you? Do you have any specific cards that you would like me to do a deep dive on? Let me know in the comments below!

The Lessons of 2020 and the Emperor Year

I think we can all agree that 2020 was a difficult year. I have already watched, read, and listened to multiple videos, articles, and podcasts that have outlined some of the more life-changing events that happened during the past year. 2020 brought death, destruction, separation, and violence in many different aspects. From other perspectives, however, it brought awareness and reflection. It was definitely a complex year.

I’ve spent some time during the past couple of weeks reflecting on the year and the lessons that it brought to me. I remember how excited I was about 2020 being an Emperor year, from the perspective of the Tarot: when you add the digits of 2020 together, they equal 4, and Emperor is the fourth card of the Major Arcana. I don’t prescribe to the interpretation of the Emperor as the imperialistic, patriarchal male figure, which is a common interpretation of the card. Because the Emperor card is associated with Aries, I interpret it as having to do with assertiveness, being okay with taking up your space in the world, and movement associated with your life calling. On the zodiacal wheel, Aries is the first sign and has to do with the essence of who we are on a soul level. The Emperor asks us to step into the truth of our identity as soul beings. Stepping into my truth has been hard for me for most of my life, so I was excited about the lessons that this year would bring.

Fours are all about structures. In the case of 2020, with all of the changes that we have faced and the disruption those changes have caused to existing structures, the Emperor seems to have signaled that disruption or destruction of existing societal structures and the beginnings of the building of new structures in our society. As a collective, we have experienced more awareness of systemic oppression in multiple facets of our society, including racial inequalities, police brutality, and marginalization of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC folx. This awareness has led to a rising up of voices in the form of protests and other forms of activism. We have also seen more awareness around the effects related to capitalism. We have seen people changing the way they live and work related to that awareness. There has been dialogue about how the structures that were put into place when this country was founded caused real harm and trauma and continues to cause harm and trauma to this day.

Emperor themes arise on a personal level as well. I was recently gifted an experience that summed up Emperor energy for me. A friend of mine was leaving a job that she liked for a better opportunity. When she told me about the environment of the place she was going, I thought about how awesome it would be to work in a place like that. If I had indulged in the fantasy that my mind created, my whole job would have been different than it is now. It would have been the same as the job I was doing before I ended up where I am now. It would have been the same as the job that landed me in burnout. But I have often fantasized about going back into that aspect of my field because it was fun and I was good at it. The temptation to send in my resume for another opening that was available was strong, but then I thought about everything that my current job offers me. It allows me the opportunity to build on the skills I have already acquired. It has allowed me the opportunity to heal from my burnout. It is a place of support and growth, and the skills that I am learning will help me as I move forward with what my guides are calling me to do. If I had indulged in my brain fantasy, I would have been taking a huge step backward, a step that could have potentially taken years to right. In the moment that I came to the conclusion that I was in the right place doing what I was meant to be doing, I gained a newfound confidence in my current position. True to my Emperor interpretation, I had found the confidence to step into my place and take up space. It also gave me more confidence in my candle magick abilities as I work to build a future for myself in this completely new field (new for me, anyway). It seems that completely letting go of the past and embracing the present really does lead to more confidence in one’s abilities.

Social media did not help me in this personal journey. Constantly seeing what other people are doing on their journeys brings forward a lot of anxiety and stress about what I am doing, whether or not I am doing it right, if I should be doing it differently. Stepping away from social media has given me the presence of mind to realize that my journey is my own and that it doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s. My brain and nervous system have been a lot healthier without social media in my life, and my confidence in my own journey has grown the longer I have been without it.

However, when social awareness exploded over police brutality of BIPOC folx, social media help me see, hear, and understand the points of view of marginalized people and voice my support. It also helped me find ways to financially support organizations committed to change.

Emperor energy also helped me to examine my relationship with the capitalistic structures in our society, from the way our society weight-shames to the way the structure instills an unhealthy work ethic in the bottom tier of the workforce. Rest and grounding became constant themes of the year for me as I worked to heal from the damage that years in a burnout state had caused. I developed many self-care rituals to help me in this process and to help me manage every day stress (which is much different since the pandemic hit), from herbal teas to essential oil blends.

2020 was definitely a difficult year, but it did build a foundation for the work that 2021 will bring. The job now is to take the knowledge and skills that we gained and build a new, brighter future with them.

Journey Into Candle Magick

I’m actually not sure why I haven’t written a post on candle magick before this. I have been making candles to use in candle magick for about a year now, but just in the last few months have I really started wrapping my head around what candle magick actually is and how it is actually done. I’ve done a little bit here and there and I’ve had good results from my spells so far. But something happened a few weeks ago that really made me stop and think about candle magick more from the magick aspect of it and less from the candle aspect. You know, instead of it being an emphasis on pretty things I am making in order to help someone reach a goal, the emphasis being on the magick behind why I am making those pretty things to help people reach goals.

I have a friend who came to me one day and talked to me about a personal journey she is on. She was frustrated because she has a goal but she is having a hard time finding the motivation to reach the goal. She likes dealing with things face-to-face, and the pandemic has made it harder for her because everything is online and virtual now. She wanted to know how I keep my motivation when I am doing things online and virtual. I thought that was funny, actually, because lately I have been the worst at procrastination or finding anything to do but working toward the goal I have set for myself.

I know that this is a problem for me, and it is one that I really want to fix because I do have goals. I want to leave my current line of work to do magickal things full time. I want to sell the candles I have been making, and make more magickal things. I want to learn astrology. I want to do tarot readings. But procrastination has made it hard for me to do any of that. So I decided to do a manifestation spell. I know what I want. I know what I need to do to get there. So lighting a manifestation spell candle with the intent to cut through the procrastination and get some work done seemed like a good idea.

As I was lighting the candles, spirit called to me to send pictures of the candles and the spell to my friend. So I did:

“This candle represents you. The light is the light of your soul that shines for everyone in the world to see.”
“This candle represents your goals that you want to achieve. As you look at the flame, say your goals to yourself. Imagine the smoke and heat from the candle sending your goals and desires up to heaven. There is nothing that can keep you from realizing your goals because your Father hears them and is working with you to help you realize them.”

It was very powerful. I could feel the energy as I sent the words to her. I’m not Christian but I felt the power in relating the spell to her using her own belief system.

She came up to me the next time we saw each other at work and thanked me. She said that she had done what the text said and it really helped her. And then she said that after she completed the spell she received a phone call that she had been hoping for but had not been expecting. She was very excited that she had received the call.

I had not expected so much from the simple spell I sent her. All I had been trying to do was motivate her toward her goals, but a very concrete thing happened afterward that she related to the spell. For me, it was the first time something besides a change of mindset had happened after a spell I did. A concrete thing happened – the universe had answered the call of the spell. Actually, this is not the first time energy I have sent out has been manifested in a concrete powerful way. It is the first time I could relate it to a candle spell and the first time it happened to someone else that I did a spell for. It was amazing.

I imagine that I will be writing more posts about candle magick in the near future. I am learning more about candle magick and looking at different candles that I can make and use for magick. This is an exciting time in my journey.

Have you ever used candle magick? Tell me about your experience in the comments. I would love to hear about it.

Making Tarot Cards Relate to You

I feel weird writing a post about tarot card meanings because I feel like I’m not that far along in my journey with tarot. I guess I’ve been reading for myself pretty inconsistently for couple of years now. One thing I’ve found that makes it easier to be consistent is making the cards relatable.

Now, I feel like I’m probably plunging into an area of tarot that a lot of people disagree about. When I first picked up a pack of tarot cards, I was really big into memorizing the traditional meanings of the cards. After all, the cards have had those meanings for so long for a reason, right? Why mess with something that has remained unchanged for so long? I looked with disdain at decks where the authors did their own thing, jumping out of the mold of Rider-Waite or Thoth.

My thinking about tarot has changed a lot since those days as a baby tarot reader. When I stuck to the traditional meanings I didn’t read cards very much because I had a hard time relating to them. When I took a course that helped me look at the cards in a more relatable way (thank you, Lindsay Mack) I started reading cards a lot more often and using them as a way to connect with my intuition. Not only that, but using tarot in this way has seemed to be a gateway that has allowed my intuition to open up even more. I am feeling energies that I did not before, which I will expound on more in a moment.

Even after I took the Tarot course, I have still been married to the idea of memorizing card meanings. This time, though, it was Lindsay Mack’s card meanings that I was trying to memorize instead of the traditional Rider-Waite meanings. And while I have found that Lindsay Mack’s meanings are not that far off from the traditional meanings, there are some cards where either meaning just doesn’t feel relatable to me.

One thing that Lindsay Mack said over and over again in the course I took (Tarot for the Wild Soul) was that you should create your own meanings to make tarot relatable to you. Don’t count on her meanings or the traditional meanings, or the meanings in the little book that comes with the deck, or anyone else’s interpretation of the tarot. Tarot is only useful when it is relatable to you. And she’s right. How many more times have I pulled my deck out since taking her course and having the cards relate more to my life? I’m trying to do weekly spreads on this blog because I feel like I can now because the cards make more sense to me.

But this week I ran into a card that even Lindsay Mack’s meaning did not feel relatable to me:

The Three of Cups from the Witch’s Tarot by Ellen Dugan

The suit of Cups has always been hard for me to relate to because a lot of times I feel cut off from my feelings. But the tarot is actually helping me out with that by reminding me that the thinking brain is not all that there is, and that heart perception is actually even more important when it comes to life’s journey than the brain. You can disagree with me about this point if you want to. That is just my opinion in this stage of my journey. But moving back to the three of cups, when I got this card the other day I looked at the traditional meaning first:

“A gathering of friends, family, or coven members to celebrate. The power of three and the magick of manifestation. Observing the sabbats, sharing experiences,” (Dugan). Well, with the pandemic going on there is no gathering going on with me. I haven’t gotten together with friends or family members since March, and I’m not a member of a coven. Even before the pandemic I didn’t gather much. I don’t have a lot of friends (by choice) and am pretty solitary and eclectic in my magickal workings. So this definition did not work for me on any level.

Then I looked at Lindsay Mack’s interpretation:

“An invitation to come together with ourselves and our invisible community in a kind of ritual celebration,” (Lindsay Mack, Tarot for the Wild Soul, 2020). Her definition continued with an appeal to including well ancestors and how we can free ancestors who were able to come along but could not.

I am not criticizing ancestor work. Let me make that clear up front. I believe that our ancestors watch over us and help us along our way. But ancestor work is not something that I have done much of yet in my spiritual journey. It is something that I know that I am moving toward slowly in different ways, but is not something that is really happening in my practice yet. So this interpretation did not really resonate with me either.

However, I began to piece something together that does resonate with me. In Dugan’s book, the interpretation also mentions creativity and growth. And Lindsay Mack has helped me connect in a deeper way to spirit and my spirit guides. So to me the obvious interpretation would be:

“Connecting with Spirit in order to create. To be a channel for Spirit so that creations are in alignment with what is in our highest and best.”

Earlier in this post I mentioned being more connected to the energies that are out there, and this is actually an example of that. This year, according to the Tarot, is an Emperor year. It is a year for finding our voice, stepping into our truth, and knowing ourselves in a deep and meaningful way. Being able to stop relying so much on the Tarot meanings that others have come up with and make the Tarot something that you truly resonate with is a manifestation of that Emperor energy. Sometimes it is hard to do, to think outside the box that has been in place for so long, but as you work to make your practice your own, and make the tools of your practice work for you, you come into your own as a true practitioner of Magick.

My Herbal Path

Tarot imposed on the Qabbalah Tree of Life

You’re probably wondering what the above picture has to do with an herbal path. At one time I did too. I started my herbal path by taking some small courses with the Herbal Academy of New England. It’s a great school. I’ve completed the introductory program and I’m in the intermediate program now. But there comes a point sometimes in a line of study for me where I stop and think, “There’s something missing from this, something big that ties everything together.” I look for patterns, systems, ways of looking at things. I did the same thing in my last big study undertaking: early childhood education. I didn’t rest until I found the underlying pattern and system, and spent years applying it in the classroom and teaching it to others. Now my interests have shifted and I find myself doing it again.

I didn’t find it at the Herbal Academy. The Herbal Academy is great and they have given me a foundation from which to work, but they made the question come up in my mind. They brought it out but they did not answer it. I knew I had to look elsewhere for the answers.

Enter the School of Evolutionary Herbalism, run by Sajah Popham and his wife Whitney. I didn’t know at first that this school was going to hold the key that I was looking for, the pattern I was seeking, the system that would explain all of the missing pieces I perceived. But I knew that if there was a school out there that would bring me close, this one was it. It taught things differently. It wasn’t about, “Here is an herb and here is what it is good for. Here is a bunch of anatomy for you to hopefully memorize during this online course, and here are the herbs that can help remedy different issues in this system.” Like I said, Herbal Academy is great, but it brought about more questions than it answered.

The School of Evolutionary Herbalism was different in every way. The first course I started with them was “Elemental Herbalism.” It talked about how to see the elements of earth, water, air, and fire in nature. However, it is a totally audio course with no clear layout and I found myself drowning in the lack of structure to the course materials. It was hard for me to stay focused during the audio portions, so I never finished the course. But it did show me that Sajah had something different than other herbal programs. There was a pattern and a system that he was teaching. I signed up for another course.

The next course was Astro-Herbalism, and it had videos to go along with the printed notes (which Elemental Herbalism had too). This time I had a much better way to keep up with my notes and take notes while he was talking, and the course was also made up of videos instead of audio recordings, which held my interest longer. I found the material interesting – I just started my second year of study. The first year was rather tedious, going through each sign of the zodiac, talking about the ruling planet, discussing the people and plants that correspond to each. Long year of study. But then I did something that changed my whole outlook and motivation level.

I’m a big picture person. If I don’t see the big picture of what is going on, then it is hard for me to stay motivated and focused when I’m being shown all of the little pieces that make up the big picture. That was what was happening to me at the School of Evolutionary Herbalism. Sajah was teaching me all the little pieces, but I couldn’t see the big picture, even if I tried. But Sajah did something recently that changed all of that for me. He came out with a book, which I bought. It basically had all of his teachings in it, condensed down to a readable book. I tried to read the book from the beginning and I found I was going through the same problem: reading about all of the little pieces with no pattern or picture to place them in. So I skipped to the back of the book and started reading. And everything I read changed my whole perception about my herbal path.

I’m not even sure I can explain what I read. But every piece that I have been taught by Sajah for the past three years made sense in one moment. Not only that, but other pieces that I had dabbled in, like the Tarot and Qabbalah were fit in to create the pattern and system that I had been looking for the whole time. It was amazing. It created a holistic spiritual program that I didn’t even think existed. It tied everything together to the point that now I want to dissect all of those pieces that Sajah has been teaching me because now I see how they fit in the whole.

I never thought that the herbal career I have been envisioning would turn into the greatest spiritual journey of my life. But that is what is happening. I’m so excited to be on this journey now and I can’t wait to learn more. That is definitely a change from when I started this journey.

THE Voice

What an amazing time of year. I can’t get over how magical everything has seemed lately, but perhaps that is less about the time of the year than about the journey that I am moving into. Whatever is causing this feeling of wonder, I hope it doesn’t stop. It is a very blessed thing, being able to see magic in different aspects of the year, of life, and of people, of nature. Being able to appreciate the uniqueness that they bring to the world.

This particular time of this particular year has definitely felt like an energy portal. I feel like something big is about to happen. Maybe that’s because I’ve been doing all of this work to create, and I know that the new year is when those creations will make their way out into the world. Maybe its because everyone and their mother in this community is talking about how powerful the energy is during this time. Maybe its because my own energy is shifting, or maybe it is a combination of all of these things. I don’t know, but I am loving this energy, although it can be a little overwhelming at times.

I’ve done a lot of reflection on this past year and a lot of mental preparation for the coming year, more than I ever have in previous years. Tarot has been a big part of that for me since I’m utilizing the Tarot for the first time in a consistent way. I’m also preparing for the birth of my project, so that leads to a lot of mental preparation as well. Because of all of this reflecting, I came to a very strong realization about the previous decade and the one coming up.

The last decade, the one of my thirties, was a busy time for me. I was going to school, working full time, studying beyond what school taught me. I created my own business and became super knowledgeable in my field. And as I thought on the decade and what I have learned about the decade to come, I realized that this past decade has been one all about working with knowledge with my brain. That’s where it was at for me. I read everything I could get my hands on about my field, I applied it in my classrooms, and I regurgitated it in my school classes. I used that knowledge to build up my business. It was all about the brain and what I could accomplish using it. It was also about using other people’s words and knowledge to try to build something unique, which can be challenging and sometimes feels like you are regurgitating someone else’s voice. When I had my business in that field, it never truly felt like my voice because I built what I did off of the voices of other people and the knowledge that they had also acquired from others. Such is the path of brain knowledge, perhaps.

As I have gone down this path, I have attempted to do it using that same method – the knowledge of the brain. I have tried to read the books, figure out what THE correspondences are, and find an ultimate truth to this path. But what I am finding is that it is hard, nearly impossible, to get anywhere on this path simply by using the power of the brain. It is impossible to get anywhere on this path by thinking about it from the perspective that there is one set of knowledge that is the correct one and that is the one that you must follow. This path is about a different kind of thinking, a different kind of interacting with the world. It requires an acknowledgement that, while this path is universal in its scope, people from different parts of the world have different truths based on their personal experiences. Hell, the person sitting across the room from me has a different truth based on their personal experience, even though we are in the same part of the world.

This path is about communicating with the heart, and using intuition and heart-centered knowledge to find your own voice in the midst of all of the brain knowledge out there. It is about finding what is true for you and using that to build something wonderful. So it only stands to reason for me that this coming decade is going to be about finding my voice using knowledge of the heart and my intuition. It is going to be about building my path based on that voice and not so much on the voices of others that have come before me. While their voices were true for them and can lend some guidance to my path ahead, this path is ultimately mine and can look different from someone else’s path.

Heart knowledge also requires us to slow down, something that I have been in desperate need of. Working from the brain, especially in our capitalistic system, requires us to move faster and push harder. It’s all about the grind, how much we can produce and how productive we are. People become faceless as they are thought of as “the consumer” or “the customer.” The world around us becomes a source of materials for the work that we do. Heart knowledge requires us to slow down and listen, not just with our ears, but with our intuition and our heart. It requires us to get in touch with ourselves on a more intimate level, not just looking at ourselves from a brain-based space (perhaps more on what that means in a later post), but really getting to know ourselves on a deeper level. It also requires us to get to know others on that same level, to listen to them between the lines and reach out our hearts to them to truly feel them. It means slowing down and listening to nature, to really perceive what is going on around us with our plant and stone allies right in our own neighborhoods, as well as on paths in wooded areas. It requires us to truly connect with others, something that seems to get harder and harder as we move through this age of technology and consumerism.

So this is why this new decade feels so powerful to me. This is the energy that I am going to be working with this year, and probably beyond that throughout the decade. Through interacting with the world from this heart space, I will be able to create a space to work that is much truer to myself than the one I worked in during the previous decade, one that can resonate more with others because we are interacting on a different level than I have with others in the previous decade. And THE voice will be my voice, a voice truer than one of the past because it will not be clouded with the voices of others. Enhanced, maybe. But not clouded.

This is truly a magickal time.

Deschooling the Mind

Not from this last full moon, but still beautifully out of focus

Last year, I homeschooled my Piscean daughter. It was an interesting experience brought about by a lot of school stress. Before beginning the homeschooling process I had learned about a process called deschooling, and we actively used this process through the majority of her homeschooling experience.

Deschooling is basically a process of giving yourself a break from school culture in order to figure out who you are outside of what the school culture teaches you that you should be. It is a process of slowing down, learning to listen to yourself, and learning from what your body, mind, and soul teach you about who you are. It is a very deep, introspective process that a lot of us do not have the opportunity to go through. We get so caught up in what society tells us we should be and what we should care about that we do not take the time to listen to ourselves and learn about what we truly care about. Deschooling gives us a chance to learn about ourselves and root ourselves in our unique identity. We then become stronger when it comes to dealing with society’s messages of how we should act and be.

I was really fortunate to be able to give my daughter that experience, but learning about deschooling told me that it was okay to question the beliefs that I have been carrying around that are not mine. I have been able to do something as simple as tell myself that it is okay to dress in a way that I am comfortable with and not feel guilty or “less than” because the way that I like to dress doesn’t follow current trends. When I was in my early twenties I didn’t carry a pocketbook because I didn’t like to. A friend of mine seemingly made it her mission to make me more socially acceptable and encouraged me to start carrying a pocketbook. I stopped recently because I still don’t like carrying a pocketbook, despite all of the years I have done so. And then there are bigger things, like dropping out of college because I recognized that I was not getting anywhere with that and it was one factor leading to burnout.

Deschooling also led me to experiencing this path in a greater, more public way. It led me to realize that it doesn’t matter what other people say about what I believe. Other people will say negative things about this path because they do not understand what it truly is. While it would be better if they educated themselves before they talk about something they know nothing about, I know that the odds of them doing that are slim, but in the end it doesn’t matter. I know the truth of my beliefs, and going through the process of deschooling has given me a strong foundation for those beliefs and others that define who I am.

I would encourage anyone to go through this process. If you would like resources, look up Akilah Richards. She has a great podcast about unschooling and deschooling, and talks about the process in some of them. Most of her work is about unschooling children, but she has a few podcasts about deschooling that were very helpful for me.