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!

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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: http://www.sciencetarot.com/cards.html


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.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Nine of Pentacles

It seems only fitting that following so many cards related to tribe and community and collaboration, we now have a card of sovereign success and powerThe Nine of Pentacles. We last had a visit from this lady and her falcon back in June of 2015 (you can read that here) and I am heartened to have her grace us with her presence again.

Pentacles are considered a feminine suit in that they are about gathering inwardthey ask us to be receptive. Pentacles are also one of the order-making suits. Like the Swords, their masculine counterpart, they are about transforming chaos into understandable patterns. But while the Swords can often be efficiently brutal in this processyes, those blades do cut both waysthe Pentacles are gentler and at the same time stronger. Pentacles are foundational cards: seeds into mighty oaks, bricks into cathedrals, a humble abode into a safe and nurturing home.

Our Lady of the Falcon is all of these things. She is successful, as those golden coins and sumptuous clothes attest. She has labored long and hard, as anyone who has ever tended a garden will tell you. And she has tamed her wilder impulses, as personified by the predator on her arm.

Ah, but we are creative folk, yes? We know that below the surface lies a much more interesting tale. And it has as much to do with the nature of storytellersand storymakersas it does with the nature of falcons.

Writers court wildness. We offer our arms as a perching spot. We train and hone our minds to call it to us. Because if you've come this far in your creative journey, you know that wildness does not respond to being chased. As I explained previously, "Wildness comes to stillness. We must learn to be composed and self-contained to develop a relationship with the part of us which flies clean and high. The part of us that swoops in ever-widening gyres, but which--with trust and proper care--will always return to our arm."

This week, become the Lady of the Nine of Pentacles, the tarot's example of the self-made woman. Trust, release, and know that your wild soul will never desert you as long as you partner with it instead of trying to control it. Pull off the feathered hood. Do not fear its big sharp talonsthe better to feed you with, my dear.