Monday, May 22, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Seven of Swords

It is raining here as I write, not the gentle showers of April. No, this is the roaring lion of May come down to growl and pace and throw himself around a bit. My dog is hiding with each thundercrack, and I am grateful to have a roof over my head on such a night.

I am one paragraph away from finishing the draft of what (I hope) will be the sixth book in my mystery series. I need to get to that paragraph. I need to be done. And yet I am still crossing off items on my to-do list. I have paid the bills, cooked the supper, written the letters, proofed the blog. Check and check again.

And now this last thing to do. When did tarot become a chore? A task?

Alas, that is not how it's supposed to work. So it is with little surprise that when I finally settle down to get this post written, and I turn over the card, it is the Seven of Swords, the card of sneak thievery.

He has tiptoed into our readings before. What I said about him then still resonates:
Of course, to call him a thief is to presume that the swords he is so stealthily carting away don't belong to him already. Perhaps he is simply reclaiming what was rightfully his in the first place, which makes this a mission of liberation, not larceny. The image is open to interpretation, and that's what you must do this week.

Contemplate the Larger Enterprise of which you are a part — has something of creative value been taken from you (or vice versa, it must be admitted)? What means justify the ends of getting it back? What steps should you take to correct this imbalance? And what exactly is it that's been (or is being) snatched away?
If I am to heed my own advice (and surely I should, for what's the point of sharing useless advice?), then I must look this thief in the eye and realize that he works for me. I hired him to steal snippets of time. He picks the locks with his tool of multitasking, but what he doesn't say is that his services cost me more than any purloined bounty he brings.

Today I have double-teamed every moment I have had. Not one has been deep, or singular, or purely experienced. I have charged through every single one, desperate to get to the next item and check it off.

Some days are like this, I know. Best to put one's head down and keep moving forward, stubborn as a bull. One step after another. But today there have been gardenias and rainbows and red wine, and the thief I hired to steal time for me has instead stolen moments from me.

This, not this week. Right now. Put down your creative to-do list and claim instead an hour of non-productive non-work. Don't check off anything. Don't rush through an unpleasant task. Creativity is a gift we give ourselves. Send the thief packing. Let the seconds run through your fingers indolent and lovely. And know that I am taking my own advice, as of right this very second.

It's time to unplug and sit with the lightning.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Empress

Occasionally here at The Writerly Tarot, I break procedure and instead of pulling a random card from the deck, I choose one deliberately. I do this on the sabbats, those eight turnings of the Wheel of the Year that mark the solstices and equinoxes and cross-quarter celebration days.

I'm being deliberate again today, even though this weekend's holiday is a secular and not particularly spiritual one--Mother's Day. (Hint: If you haven't called your mother already, this is the Universe reminding you to do so). This day is probably second only to Valentine's Day in terms of floral purchases--likewise perfume and candy--but there's actually a deep significance to Mother's Day that goes deeper than its commercial expressions. 

The modern concept of Mother's Day began with Anna Jarvis, who wanted to celebrate her own mother, peace activist Ann Reeves Jarvis, who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War and who created Mother's Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. And while the holiday does celebrate (as Ann Jarvis describes) "the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world," the day actually celebrates the deeper commitment to service to humankind.

And to peace. Julia Ward Howe's famous Mother's Day Proclamation echoed this call boldly:
Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be of water or of tears! 

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
Like Mother's Day, the Empress has depths. On the surface, she is the epitome of creative fertility, the Queen of the May, the Lady of the Land and all that it provides. And she is. But she is also the Lady of blood and fire and pain, for both birth and death are her purview. And yet here, as the Empress, she offers us bounty and blessings, abundance and Love, the big good kind. Her arms are open to all.

This week, be grateful for all the mothering and nurturing that you have received, and for all the ways that you have been able to share it, whether in a literal sense with your own mother, or in a metaphorical sense with women and men who have cared for you or nurtured your endeavors. And you know those people.

So yes, be sure to call your mom (that's the second time I've told you, so...) But yes also, say thank you this week. Say it in an email or a phone call or better-best in person. Be specific. Surely there is someone in your life who provided some precious water to a seedling of your very own. The Universe wants you to let them know you are grateful.

And have a blessed and fruitful Mother's Day. Peace be with you.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The King of Cups

First, a confession.

I cannot look at the King of Cups as depicted in the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot and not think of Q, the almost-omniscient troublemaker on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Something about that weird hat crown. And the whale-tail throne floating in the middle of the ocean. And the blue dress. And the necklace with the fish amulet, which is not something Q wore, but only because he hadn't thought about it yet, I am sure.

Because let's face it, the King of Cups is an odd combination of traits. He's one of the court cards, tricky devils when it comes to interpretation because they can represent the querent (the person getting the reading), a person in the querent's life, or some manifestation of the energy of their suit. So if he shows up, he could be you, or somebody else, or some kind of kingly presence.

The Cups themselves are also notoriously hard to pin down. Like the watery element they spring from, they are always ebbing and rising, flowing and switching course, in a perpetual state of constant change (ponder that paradoxical concept a moment). They transform and are transformed in continual movement, only temporarily contained. The King of Cups represents that dynamic, especially its emotional power. The Cups are the suit of the heart, after all, and this King is deeply in touch with feelings of all kinds, especially compassion and love.

This contradicts with the outwardly-focused, actively-engaged nature of Kings. Masculine cards are direct, linear, and somewhat relentless in their drive forwardinterior work is not their forte. And yet here is the King of Cups representing just that.

Also, you must understand that in the tarot, concepts like masculine and feminine have nothing to do with genderthey simple describe ways of being in the world by creating two poles on a continuum. So Kings don't always refer to men, and even when they do, they don't always reference the "manliness" of said men.

In summary, be on the lookout for the King of Cups this week. He'll beto quote Suzanne Vega's "Left of Center""in the outskirts/ in the fringes/ in the corner/off of the strip." He may be disguised, deliberately unassuming or delightfully outrageous. He may be in your own heart, or sitting next to you on the bus. He may be a she, or an it, both or neither. And he'll have a message for you.

What does this have to do with writing? you say. Excellent question. You should probably ask this King when he appears. He may answer with a riddle. But he'll always answer. Guaranteed.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Nine of Swords

In numerological thinking, nine is the number of completeness and culmination. So is ten. In the tarot, however, endings are actually beginnings. The ten is the last number is a suit, and therefore leads you right back to the one. Circles in the sand, cycles and seasons.

Nines, though...nines don't play that paradox game. Nines come down like a curtain. And nowhere do we see the nines' knack for utter finality than in the Swords.

The Swords are the suit of mental acuity. Like the blades that are their metaphor, Swords cut both ways. The same intellectual sharpness that we use to be logical and rational can also be used for cruelty and spite, sometimes at the same time. To paraphrase a popular saying, we always hurt the one we know best. And we know no one better than we know ourselves.

The Nine of Swords occurs during the dark night of the soul. But it doesn't reference any actual event; rather, it refers to those times when our anxiety is so strong that it becomes a force to be reckoned with all by itself. Our worries are only worries--insubstantial, wispy--but given the proper fuel, we can worry them into something three-dimensional.

So perhaps the nines do traffic in paradox after all.

This week, if you feel the cold breath of something unpleasant against the back of your neck, don't let your imagination fill in the details. Turn around and face that monster straight on. It's guaranteed to be smaller that way, less corporeal. Give it a poke and watch that soap bubble baddie go poof right in front of you. You created it after all. You can de-create it just as easily.

But if that doesn't work...brew some tea and call a friend. Nothing like flesh and blood sympathy to take the edge off a nightmare.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Review of The Science Tarot by Logan Austeja Daniel, Martin Azevedo, and Raven Hanna

In honor of the Marches for Science taking place around the country today, and for Earth Day, I'm sharing again my review of the Science Tarot. This review first appeared at The Mojito Literary Society, and it describes why I consider the Science Tarot to be the perfect blend of data and divination.

You can still find this deck for sale. It's gorgeous, cohesive, and wonderful for readings. I highly recommend it!

*     *     *

As the new year begins, I find myself hard at work promoting the book that's coming out (February 1st! OMG!) and writing the book that my editor wants to see a hundred pages for (another OMG). So my To-Be-Read pile of books is nearing skyscraper proportions, and it's not looking to be reduced anytime soon. Even when I'm too busy for reading, however, I always find time for working with my tarot cards.

This Christmas, I was excited to find a deck from my engineer hubby under the tree. Even better, it was a deck that managed to combine the awe and wonder of the material universe with the mystery and magic of the Tarot. I am having a great time reading about the creation of The Science Tarot, but an even better time working with the cards.

The key to making this combination of seemingly contradictory systems work is structure. Both science and tarot are highly organized, orderly collections of information. Both involve a progression that feels linear, but which is actually a series of cycles. The difference between the two is the main perspective lens -- science uses logic and rationality (left brain stuff) and tarot uses intuition and subconscious processing (right brain stuff). That's a bit reductive as an explanation, but as the Ace of Scalpels (Swords) points out, reductionism is a valid method for comprehension. It's part of the seeker's toolkit. It's just not the ONLY part.

Like traditional tarot, the Science Tarot is broken into the major arcana and the minor arcana. Likewise, the minor arcana are broken up into four thematic suits, which each contain numbered cards ace through ten, plus four court cards. The difference is in the nomenclature. For example, in traditional tarot, these suits are called Wands (Energy), Cups (Emotion), Swords (Intellect) and Pentacles (Physicality). The Science Tarot uses Bunsen Burners (Creation -- astronomy and cosmology), Beakers (Integration -- biology and ecology), Scalpels (Observation -- physics and math) and Magnifying Glasses (Exchange -- geology and chemistry).

For example, the Nine of Pentacles (represented in this deck by the Magnifying Glass) is Aurora, the stream of energized particles accelerating along Earth's magnetic lines that cast off excited electrons in the upper atmosphere, creating the mythic glow of the Northern Lights.This card in both decks represents the release of outdated things and ideas, leaving only the refined and cultivated newness behind. This process often entails sacrifice, but it is worth it for the end result.

Instead of Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings, the Science Tarot present Explorers, Innovators, Storytellers, and Visionaries. For example, Carl Sagan is the Queen of Wands, the Storyteller whose intelligence and empathy welcomed others into scientific discovery.
The Major Arcana tells famous stories from science, or as the deck describes it, "shared experiences and moments of transformation." In traditional decks, these are the cards of grand archetypal experiences, the "big stuff" we all discover as we grow and evolve as human beings. For example, the Empress in traditional decks is represented here as Mendel's Peas. But both cards represent nurturing attendance and natural processes, a time for growth, patience and gestation.

By honoring the connection that science and myth share -- the wonder and awe that occur as we try to explain this universe and who we are within it -- the Science Tarot creates a bridge for skeptics who might dismiss the power of this ancient divination tool. Plus, it's just gorgeous, with each five sections rendered by a different artist, providing continuity within each suit and creating a tapestry of lush imagery overall.

I highly recommend this deck for both tarot beginners and more experienced readers. And it's especially useful for introducing someone who is maybe a little weirded out by tarot's "woo-woo" reputation to the power of their own subconscious.

To read more about the Science Tarot -- or to order it -- visit the website:

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Writerly Tarot: The Two of Swords

Hoodwinked, says Edgar Waite, one of the creators of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot.

It's the word he uses to describe the figure on the Two of Swords. The current meaning of this word involves tricks and deceptions, but its original meaning takes us back to the same ancient sport we referenced two weeks ago in the Nine of Pentacles—falconry.

Falcons are hooded to keep them calm. A falcon's sight is much more acute than a human being's, which means the bird responds strongly to visual stimulus. Despite our decidedly inferior vision, we humans have the same inclinations. We chase distractions as if they were squirrels and mice, dashing here and there. Catch a Facebook post, pounce on an email.

The lady of the Two of Swords may be hooded, but she is hardly deceived. She has chosen the blindfold, chosen her weapons, though she is not holding them in an offensive manner. A blend of gracefulness and tension, the woman of this card is often pictured seated, with a dark body of water behind her, the moon hanging in the twilight sky. This is a challenging pose to manage, sitting poised and ready, feet flat on the ground—the swords are long, probably heavy, definitely sharp. It takes talent and skill and concentration.

The Two of Swords is a slice of edge magic, when circumstances balance on the thin clear line between yes and no, left and right, go or stay. Its power lies in its either/or aspects, and in its ability to inhabit both outcomes simultaneously until our choice unfolds into one reality, allowing the other reality to slip into the realm of "what might have been." It is the Schrodinger's Cat of magical phases, one that occupies the overlapping territory where decision and destiny meet.

This week, find your equipose, a temporary balance of force and interest. You'll find it where action and receptivity intercept, in a separate place that is nonetheless exactly where you already are. As you balance your talents and energies, as you pull away from the need to react and wait only for the time to act, you will discover what Waite called "concord in a state of arms."

What does it mean for your creativity, finding your equipose? It means to make your choices this week from a place of stillness and balance, not bustle and grasping. Yes, your to-do list may be long, but there is a reason each item is on there—you brought each item into your life. Before you engage, pull away from activity, plant your feet, arrange your swords in the proper manner...and contemplate the power of choosing. And then, when you are ready, make your move. An entire universe will be extinguished when you do, and an entirely new universe will flare into being.

May your edge magic be strong this week. May your swords swing quick and true.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Writer's Guide to Mercury Retrograde

It's here! Again!

Yes, Mercury Retrograde is once again upon us as of tomorrow. As a very Virgo Virgo (six of my ten planets are in that fussily practical sign) Mercury energy hits me with a wallop (Geminis, also ruled by Mercury, get an ever stronger dose, right in the veins as it were).

The retrograde refers to the time that Mercury appears to be going backward in the sky. It's not, of courseTHAT would be the retrograde to end all retrogrades—but because astrology is all about perspective, it's a time of significant and potent energy swirls nonetheless.

But Mercury gets a bad rap (one of my mystical friends calls it "The Scapegoat Planet"). Yes, its energy often manifests in a chaotic manner, but that's most often because we fight it. Mercury loves a good tussle, and will give as good as it gets, so put down your dukes and power up your flexibility muscle. You can emerge from Mercury Retrograde not only intact, but stronger for the bargain.

Here are some excellent strategies (if you have more, share them in the comments).

1. Think like The Magician.  Instead of fighting energy or trying to wrestle it into obedience, the Magician understand that when lightning strikes, best to make like a lightning rod and let that pow-bang move through you. Mercury will return your opposition as reaction if you work against it, but if you channel the energy, it is now yours to harness.

2. Ponder like the Seven of Pentacles. We are too often enamored of forward motion. We like speed. We like word counts. We like page totals and checklists checked off check check check. But Mercury Retrograde is about moving forward even if it feels like we are moving backward (emphasis on the "feels"; Mercury loves to play with our "feels"). This is the time for any activity beginning with re—: review, rewrite, rethink, rejoice, recalibrate, recheck, resubmit, rewind, reconsider, rework, and, my personal favorite, revise. Those efforts will be especially powerful now.

3. Chill like The Hanged Man. This is a card of ultimate paradox—to control we must let go. Be receptive to the gifts of surprise and delight that often bloom during the retrograde. Don't get trapped with a bad case of "ought to be"; instead, open to "what is." This is a time when you'll find yourself unexpectedly taking the scenic route, discovering serendipitous connections in mundane places, or finding that a setback has actually led you to an Aladdin's cave of treasures. Just breathe, watch, be patient. And relax, for crying out loud.

So there you have it, a recipe for creative success during Mercury Retrograde. Enjoy your time backtracking across the sky, and remember, the energy is only what you make of it.

You might want to back up that hard drive, though. Just saying.