Five of Coins — Tarot of the Absurd

Saturday, October 13th, 2012


five of pentacles

Isolation. Insecurity. Worry. Financial loss. Poverty.


Perhaps I was a bit cynical when I drew this card and, to be honest, I’m not sure how much I like it. Maybe I was mean…


Some people have the attitude that if you’re poor or you can’t get a job, it’s your own fault. You don’t work hard enough. You’re not smart enough. You made dumb investments. You never invested. You squandered your money. You need a better education. You work for a non-profit. You don’t use the latest technology. You make your own luck and you, looser, you don’t know how. You’re poor and it’s not my fault so I’m going to pretend you don’t exist even if you live next door.


Who is someone else to tell you what’s wrong with your life? Your actions are indeed your responsibility, but whose fault is injustice and malchance? You’re overeducated. Companies are only hiring people who already have jobs. You have no connections. You’re brilliant, but socially inept. Your boss fired you because you were pregnant. Your work was bulldozed. The government funds large corporate entities, enabling them to sell their goods at a price that would otherwise be a loss while you, small businessperson, are left trying to sell your goods for what they’re worth and nobody buys. Your talents have become obsolete. You are too old. You are disabled. There are not enough jobs. There are too many people.


I tried to illustrate a way out for this troubled couple: if they would just stop looking in their empty purses, pick up their shovels and work, they’d be fine. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Sometimes we dig and dig and dig and after all that work, all we have is a hole. Sometimes, the only way to keep this hole from becoming a deep pit of despair is faith. I have illustrated foolishness, but I have failed to illustrate faith.

The Empress — Tarot of the Absurd

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Marija GimbutasIn the spring of 1995, I was gently nudged towards the path of feminism by my then-boyfriend, a man who would be affectionately known as My Favorite Former Lover for years to come. He was a god in bed, and with his artist’s touch he sculpted women into goddesses. I was in college majoring in writing and biology— a double major due more to indecision than ambition— and one of my classes was ANT 280: Human Evolution. Our assignment was broad: pick a topic in human evolution and write about it. A biologist by nature, left to my own devices I would have probably found something nice and dry to write about, such as the correlation between spinal curvature and cranial capacity between years X and Y. As it was, newly introduced to the concepts of neo-paganism and sexy-feminism, I chose to write about neolithic society and religion in southeastern Europe.


My paper was based largely on the work of the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas. Through her research, Gimbutas concluded that long-term, stable, woman-centered egalitarian societies were prevalent across neolithic Europe. Gimbutas earned a mixed reception by other scholars, who often considered her to be eccentric. However, her research and writings made her a keystone of the matriarchal studies movement and the Goddess movement. In short, I was searching for historical basis for my boyfriend’s religious belief. 


Archaeology, like statistics, can easily slip into showing people what they want to see. Although the information gathered is unbiased, few people enjoy reading raw statistics and findings of archaeological digs without a good story attached. And archaeologists— like statisticians— like any good teller of a tale— lie.


Although goddess worship is largely a construct of women’s need for self-empowerment, this is not wrong. All worship leads to empowerment. Worship of one’s own god(s)— and I use the term without regards to sex— is a unifying and empowering act across society. One of the first things any successful conquerer does is suppress the religion of the subjugated realm. This squelches the people’s identity. In search of identity, the subjugated incorporate something of their conquerer’s beliefs.


Rebellion begins when one realizes the beliefs of the ruling party are unjust to one’s own needs. Feminism is a rebellion against the heavy hand of a patriarchal society. In order to empower ourselves, women need to see power in the ruling party. Neo-pagan goddess worship is often liberating for women who feel oppressed by the status-quo.


So, why is the Empress fat?


The Empress is representative of femininity and female fertility. She is beauty and the beauty of nature. She is creation and procreation. She is those things women hold solely in our domain, and thus the Empress is pregnant. This is goddess worship: worship of the female. Worship of women as we are as beautiful. Worship without the need to revert us into wiry, hairless adolescents. Worship of women’s bodies as powerful vehicles perfectly fit for birth, the act of which life itself depends on. The Empress is the most powerful women. She is powerful without needing to emulate the powerful aspects of men. In order to empower ourselves, women must be able to find the things that make us uniquely powerful— and to worship them.

Two of Swords — Tarot Nova

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

[This card measures about 1″ tall by .5″ wide.

I do not agree with the interpretations in this deck’s book.]


Artist: Julie Paschkis

Author: Dennis Fairchild


“Boy or girl?” I asked. I drew the Two of Swords.


The Two of Swords indicates difficulty making a decision between two seemingly balanced sides, forces or ideals. My question has nothing to do with a decision; there are simply two balanced sides. It was a stupid question. Either/or & yes/no questions just don’t fly with the tarot deck. The baby is most likely either a boy or a girl. I do not believe the tarot can tell the future or reveal the unknown. I don’t want it to. I just wanted to be able to say something like, “This is a real masculine/ feminine card. It will be a boy/ girl.” Exactly. Anyhow, I think it’s a girl. I’ve thought so since the start. There. I’ve said it to the world. Of course, I could be wrong. That’s perfectly fine. This tarot card adds nothing to the situation. I will learn the answer in a month.

Ace of Cups — The Fairytale Tarot

Friday, February 24th, 2012

1 Cup Fairytale TarotWritten & Designed by Karen Mahoney
Illustrated by Alexandr Ukolov, Baba Studio
Artwork by Irena Třískov


Feeling nostalgic for an era ended not long ago— five months, to be exact— I said, “Tell me something about climbing trees.” The deck showed me the Ace of Cups.


Keywords & phrases: Being open to new  creative beginnings • Bursting with life and passion • Accepting love and affection • Exhilaration about imaginative or artistic projects.


“The Ace of Cups shows us a moment of emotional openness and new beginnings. It’s a card that signals the possibility of new connections with people or with things that arose strongly positive feelings in us. It tells us to accept, rather than analyse, these emotions, and to be glad of the flood of warmth and companionship that they bring.”


The Ace of Cups represents the beginning of love, happiness and compassion. It can indicate the start of a new relationship, the sort in which two souls connect and leave each feeling good about themselves and life in general. It is a card of giving and accepting love unconditionally.


Climbing trees was a love. I loved it. I loved the movement and structure of the tree, the physical exhilaration, mastering the skills necessary to perform my job, and the view from the top. I love trees. Climbing trees is something I am letting go of right now in order to make space for my baby. Although it was my favorite job I ever had, I am not certain I would want to climb for a living in the future. I feel protective. I want to seek out something more subdued and nurturing. I no longer need to prove myself master of a man’s trade. This leaves me nostalgic. Nostalgia is not all bad, though. I know sometime in the future I will be nostalgic for today— the time that is now— when I am newly through with climbing trees and open to whatever this new venture of motherhood brings to me.

Five of Swords — The Fantastic Menagerie Tarot

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

five of swords; Alex Ukolov

[I drew this card reversed.]


Artist: Alexandr Ukolov

Author: Sophie Nusslé

Designer: Karen Mahoney


In this image, a cockerel wearing a bonnet to cover his comb and coat to cover his plumage entices a large moth with a candle flame. On the table is a box of coins and a note. On the wall hangs a picture of a wasp trouncing a beetle in swordplay. Why doesn’t the cock show his true nature to the moth? Perhaps because he knows the moth is hypnotically attracted to the flame; he uses this knowledge as an unfair advantage in this battle of the sexes.


This morning I woke up with unusually large feet and ankles. All my bones had disappeared into a puffy, swollen mass of flesh. I went for a walk to improve my circulation, something I had avoided yesterday because my sacroiliac joint pinches on a high note and my pubic symphysis sends low, throbbing undertones of imminent dislocation across my hips and down my inner thighs.


The Five of Swords reversed says:
My body-mind is engaged in a humiliating battle. There is little I can do to alleviate the crises enacted by my body in these last few months of pregnancy aside from change my mind about how I approach life. A battle against hormones is lost from the start. I am open to changing my behavior in order to avoid further humiliation. I surrender my mental blade of determination and watch in pained amusement as my body charges forth with its strange changes. I look forward to the day when this mock-battle is over and I can focus my energy on healing.

14 Temperance — New Age Tarot

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Walter Wegmüller[Sometimes it seems really manipulative to ask a question. I wanted to see what this deck had to say without asking.]


Artist: Walter Wegmüller


Temperance is defined as moderation or self-restraint, especially in the realm of eating and drinking.


About this card: “This is the conscious aspect of every measure or dimension. Yardstick of all knowledge and all laws governing light and dark, inner and outer form, weights and distances, proportions. […] The balancing of opposites: man and woman, day and night, high and low, etc.”


Divinatory Meaning: “Organize your life and work differently. Define boundaries. Control and adjust dimensions. Justice. Determine the right amount of work you should be doing and the right [amount] of food and drugs you should be taking.”


This card reminds me I am having a hard time organizing and balancing my life right now. I am having an easy time staying in bed a large portion of the day, saying to myself: I am tired: rest is good. I am having a hard time motivating myself to exercise.


I am having an easy time procrastinating with household projects, instead spending time doing things such as browsing the internet for things I think I need or things I think I need to know or writing this silly blog— although this silly blog is just about the one activity I do with commitment.


I am having a hard time remembering to eat foods that are good for me (green! green! green!) and eat on a schedule and not to just eat everything in sight with the excuse that I am growing my baby— I am a bit old for this baby-having activity and would like to grow a healthy baby.


I am having a hard time finding balance. Will I ever feel balanced? Is life just one long, drawn-out balancing act? Is it ever easy?


Page of Cups — Ship of Fools Tarot

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Brian WilliamsArtist & Author: Brian Williams


I can’t sleep. My body is a new, strange, ever-growing size. My hips hurt when I sleep on my sides. I get nauseous when I sleep on my back, quickly triggered by my constant hovering in a semi-nauseous state. I really just want the entire bed to myself so I can flail around without injuring or waking my partner. Failing that, I rise, clean the fishtank, sort some dry beans left to soak, put away the dishes, tend the woodstove, eat a sandwich, surf the web for information on sleeping, and finally ask the tarot deck: “Tell me something about sleep.”


Brian Williams says about this card’s meaning: “A wanderer, impulsive quester, wayward pilgrim. An emotional and poetic person, a seeker on life’s journey. Side trips and detours, the unexpected moments of travel, the pleasures and perils of a poor sense of direction. Rediscovering one’s intended path.”


The fool on this card has at last found his path after a lengthy bushwhack. On the path there is a shrine: a holy or sacred place, dedicated to a figure of awe and respect. The shrine points the correct direction: a well-traveled path. I know this traveler. I have been him a hundred times or more. The delight of gaining one’s bearings is enough to make one wander off the path almost as soon as the path is found. All who wander are not lost. Finding one’s self and finding one’s self again, over and over, is a thorough state of meditation. That which seems like aimless roaming can be the most thorough search for self-awareness.


Eventually the wanderer finds a path so enticing, he does not notice he’s actually following a path instead of meandering through woods and wilderlands. The path is well-trodden not because people follow it, but because people find it. It is a path of inner-wisdom, of following one’s dreams, of intimate knowledge of sacred and holy places not as destinations, but as places created by the journey itself.


What does this card tell me about sleep? Sleep is a naturally recurring state characterized by reduced or absent consciousness, among other things. It is as impossible to wake up without sleeping as it is to find one’s self without noticing one is at least slightly lost. Or have I got that reversed?


Page ~ Princess of Wands — The Renaissance Tarot

Friday, December 30th, 2011

[I forgot to ask a question again.]

Illustrator: Helen Jones
Author: Jane Lyle


Interpretation: “Ability. Creative beginnings. // …an upsurge of the pace in everyday life. Original ideas, intuitive guidance, a desire to make new friends— all these may spring from inside ourselves. Outer events mirror this energy; there is often an increase in conversations, letters, invitations, short trips and social events.”


How about: I would like an increase in conversations (with friends), letters (from friends), invitations (to visit friends), short trips (with friends) and social events (at my house).


Is grocery shopping or a trip to the doctor’s a short trip? Is traveling to Quebec or Syracuse for the weekend or week a short trip or a long trip? Perhaps the length of the trip is determined by how long the trip feels. “Short trip” is supposed to seem positive whereas “errand” generally seems negative.


Maybe “short trip” means “brief psychedelic experience.” From the on-line urban dictionary: “An adjective meaning cool, freaky, groovy, amazing, or all of the above, depending on the context in which it’s used. …the root word, “trip,” refers to soft psychedelic trips and has been in use since the 60’s.”


When I wanted Martin to consider home birth, I didn’t try too hard to be convincing. I handed him my only book on birth— Ina May Gaskin’s book Spiritual Midwifery— where the natural birthing experience, as described by the husband, is always trippy, other-worldly, and extremely spiritual. After he’d read a bit, he said, “I’d like to experience that kind of energy.” I was happy.


The short trip of birth (as opposed to the long trip of raising a child) will indeed herald new beginnings, an upsurge in the pace of life, and the need to come up with original ideas to solve every-day problems. It will necessitate following my intuition. I hope to make new friends who can help me with these things.


I could, perhaps, have picked another aspect of my life to relate this card to. I’ve used pregnancy a number of times. However, that’s what gets my attention right now. Louann Brizendine, MD, director of the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco explains pregnancy brain, in part, like this: “There are 15 to 40 times more progesterone and estrogen marinating the brain during pregnancy, and these hormones affect all kinds of neurons in the brain.” And, “You only have so many shelves in your brain so the top three are filled with baby stuff.” Good enough for me.

Page of Cups — The Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Artist: Yuri Shakov
LWB*: Stewart Kaplan


Interpretation: A studious and intent person. Reflective. Meditative. Loyal. Willingness to offer services and efforts toward a specific goal. A helpful person. Trustworthy.


[I think, from now on, if the LWB is completely at odds with how I generally view a card and has nothing in particular to say about a deck itself, as in this case, I shall cease to quote it, as it adds little to my insight.]


Yuri ShakovI love the Page of Cups. When my mom saw the image I drew for the card, she said it reminded her of Alice in Wonderland. Wonderful! The Page of Cups is my not-quite-rational, dreamy inner-girl-child. She reminds me: Be open to the unexpected. Listen to your intuition. Never cease to dream. And she reminds me to take a fresh perspective— a child-like view— when faced with difficult issues.


A couple of days ago I told my Big Sister I am going to have a baby. Six months is rather far along for just telling her, but we don’t talk often. I didn’t know how to bring it up sooner. I was afraid of feeling judged in one way or another. When I told her she said something like, “WHAT? Now you’ll be Mom’s favorite forever and ever.” Which is silly and she knows it isn’t true: I’m just Mom’s most huggable child. I will have Mom’s favorite grandchild by default: there are no others.


Having a child sets my sister and I down incomparably different paths. She is on the successful-career path and has succeeded, whereas I never quite tried hard enough. I am suddenly, after many years of much goofing-off, on a path of motherhood.


Today when I pulled a card, I remembered to ask a question: How does [my Big Sister] really feel about me having a baby? The answer is: the Page of Cups. Keep an open mind. If I expect a certain reaction, I am more likely to get it. If I expect to be judged, I will feel it. On the contrary, if I am able to be playful, to be open to unexpected feelings, to admit the possibility of a positive change in our relationship, I am more likely to be pleasantly surprised.


*LWB= the little white booklet that comes with most tarot decks
and tells, quite briefly, what each card is about

13. The Journey — The Wildwood Tarot

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Artist: Will Worthington
Authors: Mark Ryan & John Matthews
This card corresponds to the Death card in the Marseille Tarot.
“The first step is to ask the initial question,” write the authors. “This is the most overlooked part of any divinatory system… the act of asking focuses the mind. The desired answer or even the real question itself may be buried so deep in our own subconscious that we need the help of Tarot to reflect our own unknowable truth.”
The truth is, I have not been asking a question other than which card will it be? what will it show me? When I pull cards for this blog, I am not searching for insight. I merely seek the ability to understand the cards more thoroughly. But if I want to get a better answer, I have to ask a better question.
This deck has caught me unawares. The book is extremely well written. I do not just want to jump to the card and see what it means. I want to read the book, understand where the authors are coming from, and move from there. I am the sort who reads instruction books cover-to-cover. I hope my book will be so enticing to others.
From the book—
It is time to face the inevitable, to let the bones be laid bare and acknowledge the deepest aspects of your fears and desires. Do not fear change, because this is also a time of purification and realignment. This change may seem extreme and destructive, but old crops must be cleared for new growth to thrive and static or sterile modes and concepts must perish. A celebration of the past or an acknowledgement of the passing of  one part of life may be required. Let the threads of the old slip from your fingers with joyful remembrance and enter this time of withdrawal and renewal with patience and calm.
I had trouble calling my death card “finished” for a long time. I was trying to illustrate death as something that begins in childhood and grows with life. Death is there all along; it is nothing new. I drew people of three ages dancing with snakes that grew with them, both the snakes and the people enjoying life. Death enjoys life. Over and over, death enjoys life. Still, something was missing. That something was death itself, a fourth stage of life, like the four seasons of the year. When I added the skull, death became complete. I was not afraid that death was part of life; I was afraid that death was part of death.
Here is a celebration. Before the birth of my child, celebrate the death of my self: my selfish-self: my self who wanted to be only-self for so many years and had “too much to” do to be devoted to another self. I think it would be a good thing: to say good-bye thoroughly to what I no longer need, that I might greet with purity what I desire.
I am excited for this death and birth of life.