Shedding My Skin

Death from the Motherpeace Tarot

2018 is a Death card year for me.* The Death card from the Motherpeace Tarot is one of my favorites. It includes Birch trees, which in Celtic lore represent new beginnings and rebirth, but it also shows death. So many Death cards tend to skip straight to the rebirth part, ignoring that death has to happen first.

Death and transformation aren’t easy processes. You get reduced down to bare bones like the skeleton in this picture. In fact, my word of the year has ended up being “Bones,” meaning what is most foundational to me? What is most essential to me? What really matters? I’m working my way down to the bare bones of many things in my life.

I also love the image of the snake shedding its skin in this card. I have a friend who has a pet snake, and every time he molts he becomes lethargic, stops eating, and his eyes cloud over. Each time she worries that he isn’t going to make it through the molt. So far he’s made it through every time, emerging fresh and new. However, it obviously is not an easy or a comfortable process for him, and death and transformation aren’t easy or comfortable processes for us either.

I feel like I’m in the process of shedding my own skin. My skin feels itchy and uncomfortable. It feels like many things in my life don’t “fit” me any more. However, I don’t know what I’m moving towards, I don’t know what’s next. Like physical death, experiencing transformation in our lives is moving into the unknown. It’s a process, and it moves in its own time, and right now I just feel like all I can do is wait and see what happens next.

That’s why I haven’t been blogging as much—I don’t really have all that much to say. My life feels like it is in flux. I’m not quite sure who I am right now, or who I am becoming. It is both frightening and exciting. It is tempting to try and do something to speed up the process, but I’m realizing that isn’t possible. Like my friend’s snake, I have to just let myself go through it, and trust that I’ll emerge fresh and new on the other side.

I feel like I am questioning everything right now, getting down the bare bones of everything in my life. The constant questions I keep asking myself are things like, “Does xyz really matter to me?” “Do I really care about xyz, or am I doing it because I think I ‘should’?” “What do I really want? What matters to me?” It is liberating to ask these questions, but I don’t always have the answers. Sometimes I just have to live with the questions and trust that I’ll find my answers eventually.

And like the snake, I find myself retreating during this process, becoming lethargic and withdrawn. I go to work, I take walks, I go to bed early. I’ve also recently started working on old crewel kits from the ’70s that I find on eBay. They are almost like paint-by-numbers—no counting, no thinking, just lots of stitching, which I find soothing. There’s is also a sense of nostalgia, looking back to my childhood in the late ’70s/early ’80s that makes working on these kits a pleasure. Again, it feels like I’m getting down to just the bare bones of life. It’s simple. It feels right for me right now.

So I’ll most likely continue to be somewhat quiet as I make my way through this period of transformation in my life. It is feeling very good to just experience things without having to put them into words. I’m realizing that words aren’t always enough, and sometimes they even get in the way of truly experiencing our lives. I’m enjoying just being and feeling and not having to think and analyze it all.

Here’s to getting down to the bare bones and finding our true foundations!


*To determine your personal tarot year card, add 2018 + your birth month + your birth day. For example, if you were born on 2/15, you’d add 2018+2+15=2035. Then add those numbers together: 2+0+3+5=10. Your personal year card would be 10, The Wheel of Fortune. If the numbers add up to 22, your card is 0, The Fool. If they add up to 23 or more, reduce them again by adding the two digits together, for example if you have 29, 2+9=11, and your year card is 11, Justice. This system was devised my Mary K. Greer, and more information about tarot year cards can be found in her books Tarot for Yourself, and Who Are You in the Tarot? 

15 Quiet Minutes: Tarot Prayers and Affirmations

The Halloween Tarot

I’m very excited about this 15 Quiet Minutes practice because it combines two of my favorite things—tarot and prayer beads!

For this practice you will need a tarot or oracle deck, and a set of prayer beads if you have them, as well as some paper and a pen or pencil. However, you can still do the practice even if you don’t have a tarot or oracle deck or prayer beads. There are many great inexpensive tarot apps for your phone (I especially like those from The Fool’s Dog), and you can also find some free one-card tarot readings here

If you don’t have prayer beads, there are also other options. You could simply take a thick piece of string and tie knots in it. Try tying seven knots, or nine, whatever number speaks to you. Or you can fill a small bowl with stones, dried beans—anything, really, just be creative! As you say you prayer or affirmation you’ll remove one item from the bowl. Once the bowl is empty, you have completed your number of prayers or affirmations.

I personally like to do this practice with one of my pocket prayer beads that has 21 beads, but you can use any number of beads (or knots, stones, beans, etc.) that you like.

First, take a few deep breaths and quiet your mind while holding your tarot or oracle deck. Once you feel ready, ask what message you most need to hear at this time, and draw a card from your deck. If you already draw a tarot or oracle card every day, you could also use the card you’ve already drawn for the day. For this example I used The Halloween Tarot, because it feels like fall today, and I’m already looking forward to Halloween! I drew the Page of Bats (Swords).

The Page of Bats from The Halloween Tarot.

Now, write a quick prayer or affirmation based on the card you drew. Don’t stress over this part—it doesn’t have to be brilliant or perfect! You may immediately know what the card means for you right now, and be able to write an affirmation. Some books that come with tarot and oracle decks already include an affirmation for each card, and you can use that if it is speaks to you.

If you are having trouble creating a prayer or affirmation, pick out one image on the card that stands out to you. For example, on my card, my eye was drawn to the glasses she is holding and the binoculars tucked inside her bag. So I might write an affirmation such as: “I clearly see the truth in the situations that surround me.” She also looks to me like she is on an adventure, braving the darkness in search of her truth. So a prayer might be something like, “May I face the darkness bravely, may I find my own truth.”

What is the difference between a prayer and an affirmation? This is not a formal definition, but this is how I see it. Affirmations are positive statements, usually written as “I,” that affirm you already have the quality, item, etc. you wish to possess. “I communicate clearly and maintain my boundaries with those around me,” or “I do work that fulfills me and supports all my financial needs.” Those are examples of affirmations.

I think of prayers more as dialog with the Divine, so I write them differently. I might write the above statements as “May I communicate clearly and maintain boundaries with those around me,” or “May I find work that fulfills me and supports all my financial needs.” I see prayers as asking for assistance with creating these things in my life, and opening myself up to Divine inspiration and communication to help move me towards these goals.

Once you have written your affirmation or prayer, use your prayer beads to repeat it however many times you choose. If it really resonates with you, you might want to keep the card you drew on your altar and repeat the prayer or affirmation for several days. If you keep a tarot or oracle journal, you may want to make a note of your prayers or affirmations so you can refer back to them, or write them in the book that goes with your deck.

This is a great practice for getting to know your tarot or oracle deck better, as well as taking regular quiet time for prayer and affirmation in your day-to-day life.

Let me know if you have any questions and may you have a blessed Dark Moon tonight!

Lammas Musings and Tarot Spread

It’s harvest time! Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere will be celebrating Lammas, or Lughnasadh, on August 1 or 2, depending on your preference.

Lammas is a holiday that tends to get overlooked a lot of the time, although it is one of my favorites. Like its sister holiday, Candlemas (or Imbolc), on the opposite side of the wheel, it is the beginning of a major seasonal transition. While August is often one of the hottest months here in Oregon (in fact, we are supposed to be over 100 all this week, possibly even up to 113, setting a record for the hottest temperature ever recorded here), the gradual shift to autumn is apparent in the shortening days and the autumnal slant of the light as we move toward September.

This is also a time of abundant harvest. In my area melons, peaches, blackberries, cucumbers, corn and tomatoes are ripening quickly, and I’m enjoying fresh local fruits and veggies with every meal. I am, however, a little worried about what this week’s excessive heat might do to the harvest, and will be keeping my little tomato plants well-watered this week. Thank Goddess that we had a wet winter with a lot of snow in the mountains, so we still have plenty of water available for irrigation for our farmers right now.

In our personal lives, this is a good time to take stock of our year so far and see where we are. What have we harvested so far this year? What can we be grateful for? And what might need to be sacrificed in order to keep ourselves on track towards our goals and dreams?

Sacrifice can be a scary word, and it can come with a lot of baggage in a culture that often tells women that they should sacrifice their own health, dreams, time, and comfort for the sake of others. But Lammas is the season of sacrifice, when plants are harvested and die to feed us and other animals, continuing the circle of life.

Sadly, it is true that we can’t have it all. To make positive changes in our lives, we will have to sacrifice something to make room for it, whether that is a limiting belief, a way of interacting with others, an attitude, an activity that we may enjoy, or perhaps one that we simply use to procrastinate. I’ve been learning this lesson lately as I work to limit the time I spend watching Netflix so that I have time to read, paint, journal, and do other activities that really fill me up instead of just zoning out in front of the TV (I still get to do that occasionally though—balance!). I can’t watch a lot of TV and read lots of books and create lots of art, there just isn’t enough time in the day. I had to decide which of these things I was willing to sacrifice. But giving up our habits is never easy or comfortable.

This Lammas tarot spread explores these themes of harvest and sacrifice as we move through this transitional season toward Autumn Equinox.

Question: What do I need to know during this next turn of the wheel? (From Lammas until Autumn Equinox)

  1. Overall Theme
  2. Key Opportunity
  3. Key Challenge
  4. What is my most important harvest at this time?
  5. What might I need to sacrifice in order to ensure a full harvest?
  6. What action(s) can I take to share my abundance with others?

It has not been the easiest year, and I am feeling that, too. If you feel like you haven’t harvested anything, that none of your hopes and dreams for the year seem to be manifesting, try not to give in to a sense of despair. The cards you draw will show you that something is being harvested right now. It may not be something huge, it may be simply that you have made a small change, like drinking more water, that is benefiting your health. Or perhaps you’ve taken up journaling again, and as a result are starting to listen to your inner voice.

I feel like the Wheel of the Year often gets associated with working on big, lofty goals and dreams, and that is wonderful, but that isn’t appropriate for all of us at all times. Some of us may be making small, but important, changes to improve our lives. Celebrate those little harvests, too. I got just as excited about the first tiny tomato that ripened on my plants as I will about the large tomatoes that I will soon be harvesting. In fact, when they all start ripening at once it can actually get a little overwhelming as I try to figure out what to do with them all! So celebrate your small victories and your tiny tomato harvests, because they matter, too.

Also, if you are looking for something delicious to make to celebrate Lammas, I made this Cheese, Herb & Garlic Quick Bread last year, and it was so delicious. I highly recommend it!

Blessed Lammas to you all!

A Summer Solstice Tarot Spread

Cards pictured are from Monstarot Tarot Deck, the Gaian Tarot, and Tarot of the Crone. Goddess figures from Brigid’s Grove, my handmade sun prayer beads.

Summer Solstice kind of sneaked up on me this year—I can hardly believe it is tomorrow! This year the Solstice falls on different dates, though, depending on your timezone, so for some of you it will be on the 21st.

It is definitely starting to feel like summer here. The high today is supposed to be near 100. At the Grower’s Market this weekend cherries and blueberries were available, as well as lots of lettuces and greens, and a few early cucumbers. My absolute favorite part of summer is enjoying the succession of fresh, local fruits and vegetables. The tomato plants I am growing  are full of flowers and green tomatoes. They’ll enjoy this heat we’re having, even if I don’t!

At this peak of the sun’s energy, we celebrate creativity and the fruit it bears. We celebrate the creative, fertile power of the earth that feeds us, and our own creative energy that brings joy to ourselves and others.

As the sun grows stronger, my thoughts have also been turning to questions about power—how we access it, how we use it, how we fail to claim it, or give it away to others. I am writing here of our own personal power, the power to direct and make choices in our own lives, not “power-over,” i.e. trying to control others, that is the more common association with power in our culture.

This spread for the Summer Solstice looks at these themes of creativity and power, helping us to call on the energy of the sun, even as it begins to wane again, to help us access our own inner power and to light our creative fires.

Question: What do I need to know during this next turn of the wheel? (From Summer Solstice until Lammas)

  1. Overall Theme
  2. Key Opportunity
  3. Key Challenge
  4. What will fuel my creative fire during this time?
  5. In what area of my life do I most need to claim my own power?
  6. What action(s) can I take to stand firm in my own power and live according to my own values?

I’d love to hear how your reading goes. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about the spread.

May you have a blessed Summer Solstice and a blessed summer season!

A Tarot Spread for Beltane

Beltane (May 1) is almost upon us, and the lush, vibrant energy of deep spring is in the air here in southwestern Oregon. I have been especially captivated by the dogwoods this year, both the lovely white and pink ornamentals growing in yards, as well as our native Pacific Dogwoods that stand out on wooded hillsides, their flowers glowing white in a sea of fresh green leaves.

Almost all of our trees have leaves on them now, although some are still small, fresh, and tender. With all the rain we have had, the grasses are thick and lush, painting the mountains a vibrant green.

Yesterday, I saw a Starling feeding its young, and it won’t be long before there are juvenile Black-Capped Chickadees, Lesser Goldfinches, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Downy Woodpeckers begging for food from their harried parents at my feeders.

Every time I go for a drive it seems that the hillsides are covered in a new variety of flowers. This week the hills were covered in a blanket of pink Rosy Plectritis flowers, with a scrubby, gray-green species of Ceanothus covered in white blossoms among them.

A hill covered in Rosy Plectritis and Ceanothus.

Rosy Plectritis, up close.

May Day (or Beltane) is a time of riotous beauty as flowers bloom all around us. It is lusty, lush, and abundant. However, few things are producing seeds and fruits at this time, the energy is instead the energy of potential, and it still requires nurturing to ensure a full harvest. Right now, we simply celebrate the return of life, the return of fertility, and the potential of future fruitfulness and harvests to come.

I have created this tarot spread for Beltane to honor the energy of this season, and to help us find vibrancy and a zest for life in our own lives.

Question: What do I need to know during this next turn of the wheel? (From Beltane until Summer Solstice)

  1. Overall Theme
  2. Key Opportunity
  3. Key Challenge
  4. What do I need to nurture in my life during this time?
  5. What should I move away from that keeps me from celebrating and enjoying my life?
  6. What should I move towards to more fully participate in the simple joys and pleasures of life?

I’d love to hear how your reading goes.

May you have a blessed Beltane!

A Tarot Spread for Spring Equinox

Tomorrow, March 20th, the wheel turns again to spring. Some of you may be feeling the fullness of spring already, while I know others are still snowed in. Here we can’t seem to shake endless gray, rainy days, but the flowers are blooming, the bright green grass is springing up, and tree buds are beginning to open.

I have been dealing with lower back spasms for almost a week now, and today I also seem to be coming down with a cold. I don’t get sick or injured very often, so to be both at the same time is a bit mystifying, and also seriously annoying! I had one day this week where I felt better and was able to get out for a visit to the river and a brief walk, but apparently I overdid it, because my back has been painful again ever since. Not being able to get outside or to exercise is making me crazy!

I haven’t gotten to do any of the spring cleaning I had planned to do, or the spring life detox I had been planning. I wish I could say I’ve been using all this downtime wisely by reading great books and meditating a lot, but I’m afraid I’ve mostly been lying on the couch with a heating pad or an ice pack, watching Netflix, and feeling sorry for myself. In my defense, I have tried to read, but it is hard to focus when you are in pain. I have definitely gained greater empathy for those who suffer from chronic pain through this ordeal.

So, I don’t know how much celebrating I’m going to get to do for the Equinox tomorrow, but I will at least do a simple ritual and my tarot reading for the next turn of the wheel. Here is the spread that I will be using:

Question: What do I need to know during this next turn of the wheel?

  1. Overall Theme
  2. Key Opportunity
  3. Key Challenge
  4. What is beginning to bloom in my life?
  5. How can I best support the growth of my projects/ideas/visions?
  6. How can I honor the Maiden within me? What does She most need from me?

If you did the Winter Solstice and Candlemas spreads, you might want to refer back to the cards you drew for the questions “What dream or vision am I nurturing in the dark?” and “What seed is beginning to send out roots within me?”. How do those cards relate to the cards you have drawn for questions 4 and 5 of this spread? Are you seeing the movement of a dream, project, or vision from the dreaming phase during the dark of deep winter, to the blooming phase now in spring? Also, in our culture it is easy to relate dreams and projects to work, or to the way we make a living. Remember that we have dreams and projects in all areas of our lives—relationships, health, spirituality, creativity, our homes, etc., so you don’t have to limit your interpretation only to work issues.

Well, that’s about all the sitting upright my back can handle for now. I think I’ll be doing some Reiki and crystal healing for my back and the impending cold today. Maybe I can head off the cold!

I hope you all have a wonderful Spring Equinox!

Candlemas Musings and a Tarot Spread

candlemas17

My Candlemas altar. The image of Brigid is from Joanna Powell Colbert, which she graciously gave to us to color and use on our altars in a Candlemas class I took from her several years ago. My parents brought me the silver Brigid’s cross pendant from Ireland last year.

I have to admit, life has been challenging lately. I imagine many of you are feeling the same way. I feel like I’m being bombarded by horrible news on a daily basis, but I can’t seem to look away. I’m trying to balance staying informed with staying sane, but it isn’t easy. Things feel heavy and overwhelming, but there are also hopeful moments like the Women’s March, and the way people are being activated to get involved.

I’ve been doing what I can to cope with it all. I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors, walking or just sitting in the sun (when we are lucky enough to have some!).

I’ve been starting most of my mornings at my altar, followed by half an hour or so of yoga (I have been enjoying the Revolution series by Yoga with Adriene). That gets my day off to a good start, as long as I manage NOT to check Facebook or the news afterwards while I eat breakfast.

I’ve been reading a lot of women’s spirituality books. I just finished When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone, which I found at a used bookstore a couple of weeks ago. Why had I not read this book before? It is so good.

I’ve been watching Parks and Recreation on Netflix when I need a mindless break from it all. I’m not usually much of a sitcom/comedy person, but I like the characters and it always makes me laugh.

I have been struggling to get myself to make art, although I know it would help.

And so it goes, one day at a time.

Now, Candlemas is almost upon us, and it is one of my favorite holy days. The days are noticeably longer now. Here bulbs are sprouting, buds are ever-so-slightly swelling, and hazelnut catkins are opening, releasing their pollen to fertilize their tiny magenta flowers, the first flowers of the year. There is a sense of hope in the air. Spring is on its way, life and growth are returning to the world. Even for those of you who are still deep in winter, the increasing light promises that the snow will melt and spring will arrive.

I love the themes of Candlemas: cleansing and purification, illumination and inspiration, rebirth, initiation and dedication, creativity.

This is the time of year to asks ourselves what needs cleansed in our lives. Do we want to do a thorough spring cleaning between now and the Spring Equinox? Or maybe just clean out a certain part of our homes—a closet that really needs attention, our kitchen cupboards, our clothes, or our bookcases. Do we want to cleanse an activity like checking the news or Facebook (I’m looking at myself here!), cut sugar out of our diet, or commit to drinking a detox tea each day?

It is also a time for initiations and dedications. Are we ready to commit ourselves to a course of spiritual study, to working with a particular Goddess for the year, to reading a certain number of spiritual books, or to practicing regular prayer or devotions? What part of our spiritual path or practice is calling us to deeper commitment and devotion?

As the light grows, as new life begins to emerge all around us, what do we feel inspired to do? Is it time to get to work on an idea for a project or creative practice that has been simmering deep inside during the winter months? I know it is definitely time for me to get myself back to my art table, if only to play in my art journal and enjoy myself. Because this time of year is also the time of the Maiden, who is young, light, free, playful and full of life. Let’s shake off some of the winter darkness and have some fun!

Here is a tarot spread you can use on Candlemas to answer some of these questions and find your own inspiration for the next turn of the wheel:

tarotlayout

Question: What do I need to know during this next turn of the wheel?

  1. Overall Theme
  2. Key Opportunity
  3. Key Challenge
  4. What seed is beginning to send out roots within me? (This could be an idea for a project, a dream, a new beginning.)
  5. Where in my life can I be more playful and creative?
  6. How can I more fully devote myself to my spiritual path?

Candlemas blessings to you! May you find a spark of light to guide you when things seem dark. May we all be blessed with hope and love as life returns to the earth. Blessed be.