The following is my short essay on my sun sign, Sagittarius, that I submitted for a chance to get a scholarship to Aeolian Heart’s astrology course Discovery. I am proud to say that I landed one of the coveted scholarship spots and am looking forward to starting the course!
This scholarship opportunity and topic came up for me at the same time as a series of posts on social media regarding Sagittarius that, to be blunt, pissed me off. As a believer in signs, synchronicity, and guides – I have no delusions, this happened for a reason.
Most of my life, I haven’t related well to my sun sign. I blamed it on being born on the cusp of Capricorn, on my Taurus moon, or on how as we get older we tend to take on more traits of our rising sign (Gemini in my case). The fact is, I simply didn’t fit some of the stereotypes of Sagittarius portrayed in pop-astrology and, those that I did fit, often initially showed up in the shadow parts of my psyche.
The most common descriptions of Sagittarius I’ve read is regarding our physicality and romantic partnerships. This makes sense in pop-astrology as these are two areas people focus on the most – how we look and who we’re in bed with. The problem is, other than being fuller in the hips and thighs, I don’t exactly follow a lot of the Sagittarius traits. I’m not an athlete (I hate sports) and my short, curvy physique is far from the tall, muscular builds so many astrologers try and claim I should carry. In fact, the only place I’ve read about Sagittarius gaining weight is that it happens when we’ve aged and do less of our athletic work – I’ve been one of the fat kids since I can remember. I’ve also read I am supposed to have thick hair, an open smile/face, and that I am graceful. None of these things are true.
When it comes to relationships, Sagittarians are often portrayed as being incapable of commitment, incompatible with gentler signs, and unable to express interest in anything that is unrelated to them and their goals. While I agree with our obsessive nature and tendencies to jump from project to project head first, I don’t believe this to be related to our hearts.
I often read about how I am incompatible with my Piscean partner. I can see how this might be with my fiery, get-it-done personality versus his dreamy procrastination. However, after ten years of commitment and helping him in his goals of becoming both a computer tech and a wood carver, I can’t possibly imagine judging our relationship as anything but compatible, balanced, and built to last.
The part about Sagittarius being dominant and the varying levels of intimacy between Sag and Pisces has proven to be true. At first I didn’t want to admit to it. It wasn’t until after a lot of emotional and sexual exploring with my partner that we were able to figure out how to ride those waves between fire and water. I think the misunderstanding in pop culture regarding Sagittarius and Pisces is from the concept that commitment and trust are linked to monogamy and vanilla lifestyle (which has proven to not be a necessary connection with us and other “incompatible” partners we know).
The one area I’ve always loved that is associated with Sagittarius is our near obsession with religion and philosophy. Sadly, this trait was so often portrayed to me as being part of two extremes: fanatic evangelical of any religion we choose or flaky, starry-eyed spiritualist who can barely hold a conversation. In the place of choosing between being part of a cult or the real-world version of Firenze, the sighing centaur from Harry Potter, I chose to opt out. I simply didn’t identify with this form of spirituality.
Much like with other aspects of Sagittarius, I was better able to understand this train by looking at it in a different way. Our culture so often associates religion and philosophy with old men mumbling over scrolls and tomes in a patriarchal, droning boy’s club. I found my love for philosophy, religion, and spirituality flourished instead in the feminine aspects of turning inward in darkness, seeking answers of life and rebirth by looking at the natural order of birth and death, and seeking the truth in areas that were socially unacceptable (though this could be more my Pluto in House 6 talking).
Yes, I love old books on religion and studying various beliefs and practices but my enthusiasm is far more vibrant than the mustiness of cathedrals. My discussions on philosophy tend to be more breathless and excitable than lecturing professors in tweed. I might look at the stars like Firenze but I do so with my root chakra grounded and one eye on how I intend to use the information I learn.
While it took time for me to embrace my fiery Sagittarian personality, I understand that this is simply part of the the very Sagittarius goal of finding balance. The centaur’s desire to balance primal and spiritual and the archer’s balance between the pull and the release. In my case, the balance of the cultural, surface understanding and the deeper meanings behind my sun sign. I might take issue with some of the shallower pools of astrological detail but, like a Sag, my questioning mind and primal instincts both carry me deeper.
γνῶθι σεαυτόν Gnothi Seauton Know Thyself The maxim at the Delphic Oracle that bespeaks the universal longing for wisdom.
This particular maxim is one any witch can embrace in that by knowing yourself you can better see what it is you truly want, what your true purpose is, and where your power lies. Once you have that knowledge, using magick to obtain what you desire becomes much easier. The only maxim I love more than Gnothi Seauton is Credendo Vides, By Believing One Sees.
By Believing One Sees…and Better Knows Thyself
I came across Credendo Vides as a child watching the movie The Voyage of the Unicorn. In the movie, the mythology and philosophy professor and his 2 daughters are transported into the realm of the Imagination. This maxim repeats itself again and again as they learn they are part of a prophecy and are strong enough to defeat evils in both worlds if they only believe. Added to this maxim is the phrase, “Faith precedes the miracle.”
While Credendo Vides is often shadowed by the better known saying, Seeing is Believing (the skeptic’s motto), I think that it has more truth (it certainly is a truth for me). If, say, someone believes there isn’t any magick in the world he will easily be able to find evidence of it. The fact is, the skeptic believe is there before he sees proof of it. Because of his belief, proving to him that magick exists will be near impossible because he will see something different than a believer does.
This concept is discussed in quantum physics when it was proven that a person’s act of mere observation changes the course of a scientific study. There is no true objectification, everything is subjective to those focusing on it. The same goes to seeing proof of a belief or disbelief.
These two maxims (Gnothi Seauton and Credendo Vides) are not exactly independent from each other, at least not in my own opinion and experience. Both are necessary for living a magickal, holistic, spiritual life. I have found that until you do the mental work, until you BELIEVE you can do or be or have, then anything you do to achieve that will just be spinning in circles. Once you believe, then you are or it is.
For example: Know Thyself can include knowing that you have importance in this life. Knowing that you matter and have a reason for existing. By Believing One Sees is the act of believing you are important and then you are able to see evidence of this in your life. Both are intertwined. You can Know in your mind who you are “supposed” to be but until you believe it, you won’t know it in your gut, your heart, your emotions and you won’t see evidence of it mirrored around you.
My sister-in-law asked me recently how to cleanse her crystals. She’s just been on a plane ride and dealt with some drama so her stones and gems could use a bath and some TLC. I grabbed my chatty responses to her and put them together in this brief Crystal Cleansing Guide for you. I also included some resources at the bottom for further reading.
Moonlight and Sun
This method is much talked about during the times of the Full and New Moon. It is simply setting your crystals outside or in a window to be bathed in the moonlight, cleansed, and empowered. The same is done with sunlight for similar reasons. You can get really complicated with this such as using astrology to empower crystals with certain signs or use only certain stones based on their properties (feminine, water element, deity connection, etc) for moonlight cleanse and certain others (masculine, fire element, etc) in the sun. A good, easy example of the last is moonstone in moonlight, sunstone in sunlight.
Warning about Sunlight
Colorful crystals such as amethyst, citrine, or fluorite can suffer from sun-bleaching which will fade and drain their color. This does not hurt the crystal or make its vibration weak, I understand, but it might not be as pretty or vibrant after a few days in direct sunlight. This method would require you to do some research into your crystals and stones before hand and have a good book or internet resource handy that lists the metaphysical associations of the stones. However, some get stuck with stones that don’t fall into the gender binary or, if they do, your particular stone might feel or vibrate differently…Like I said, complicated. I say go with whatever floats you’re boat and feels right on this one. As for moon phases that are best for cleansing, I always following the idea that Waning (decreasing) and New Moon are best for cleanse and renewal and Waxing (growing) and Full Moon are best for empowering.
Give Those Crystals a Bath!
Spring water, ocean water, holy water, moon water, even tap water has been used to cleanse stones. I personally don’t like or recommend tap water as its energy is not as clean to me, but that is my opinion. The idea behind it is the water flows and takes the non-beneficial energy down the drain and, presumably, back to the earth. You can use this concept by cleansing your stones in a stream or by running water over them outside by pouring your chosen libation over the stones and letting the residual fall to the earth below.
For cleansing stones I use moon water more than any other. Moon water is made by placing a glass jar or bottle of water in the moonlight to collect its energies and then storing it in a dark place until needed. I usually do this during eclipses, super moons, and other rarer occasions. When I want to cleanse or empower my crystals, I don’t have to wait for a moon phase. I simply grab my moon water of choice and give them a bath (I do this with myself and other tools that can handle water as well).
Some stones that are naturally soft can dissolve in water – example: Selenite. Others, like hematite, will rust when in contact with moisture. Check on your stone type and the effects of water on it before bathing…sort of like a Gremlin, though I’ve never tried feeding my stones after midnight. Of course also be wary of washing your crystals or leaving them in water if they are set in jewelry or tools such as pendulums as water will tarnish or rust some metal pieces.
Burying your crystals in earth or in salt is done with the idea in mind that stone come from the earth and by connecting them back to their mother element they are rejuvenated and cleanses. You can do this outside in the ground (be sure to mark the spot and draw yourself a treasure map) or indoors in a garden pot or in a simple bowl.
Just like with water, some stones are soft and salt can cause them to become brittle and break. Be gentle.
Let Them Hang Out With a Bigger Buddy
Just like some humans are renewed by time spent with a friend who can enclose them in a hug and make them feel safe – so too are crystals. Place your crystals and stones onto a larger quartz crystal cluster.
Clusters are a matrix of crystal points that all stick out in different directions and, in doing so, send out their energies in that way. This disperses the non-beneficial energies out while regenerating the beneficial ones.
Wafting the perfumed air of a burning herb stick or incense around a crystal or stone, bathing it in the smoke is a great way to cleanse. People do this to themselves and their space all the time, why not to crystals? Make sure to use a herb bundle or incense that is appealing to you – it would do no good to your crystals if you’re choking on a noxious scent the whole time you’re trying to do a cleansing. That would be like trying to clean your home with cleaners and room sprays that give you headaches and make you sick, who wants to be in that home afterwards?
Sound Therapy for Stones
Singing bowls, bells, mantras, even a CD of singing monks can cleanse stones. Done in a similar manner to smudging, the sound waves waft around the item or person being cleansed, shaking off the non-beneficial energies. This method is best for those who, of course, enjoy the sounds of bells and bowls and monks. For some, the bells and bowls especially, are a bit high pitched and there’s no need to make yourself or your loved ones uncomfortable for the sake of cleansing your rocks. Try another method if that is the case.
Or a Simple Snuggle Will Do
This might sound weird but holding your crystals, sending them love and peace, and doing a brief visualization of pure white light encompassing them can be just as effective as any of the aforementioned methods. These crystals are your allies and companions. They are there to help you in healing, in meditation, in your personal and spiritual evolution. Of course they would like your love and blessing in return!
You can also combine the above cleansing methods into a ritual of your design. Some decide to use a cleansing method of all 4 elements; Air, Fire, Water, Earth. Others simply do what feels right or experiment with new ways each time.
There is no “right” way or “one true way” despite what the books might say. Just be gentle with your stones and yourself. Not all crystals need cleansing. If you don’t feel the need to cleanse your stones, then don’t just because there are blogs and articles and books saying how to. We are all on our own individual journeys and there’s no need to do something just because someone says to.
Many books on the craft and energy healing will have a section in the index about crystals and their metaphysical properties. I suggest starting there if you already have a library started in this genre. Hibiscus Moon Crystal Academy – Hibiscus Moon has some great e-books, blog posts, and articles, many of which are about cleansing and using her crystals (she apparently gets asked this a lot too). Katrina Raphaell’s Crystal Enlightenment and other volumes on crystal use. These are my favorite crystal books and I highly recommend them for anyone wanting to delve into the magickal world of crystals, healing, and energy work.
I get this question, in various forms, quite often, especially when reading at events. Before I go on to giving my answer, let me please say there is no Right answer or One True answer to this question. Each tarot reader might have a different opinion and it really is all about you and what you are comfortable with. I know of at least one tarot reader who feels it is absolutely necessary for the clients to touch the deck. She feels that this connects the client’s energy to the cards and that the next client that chooses that deck, they choose the whole package – energy, cards, message, and all. She might have a point as I’ve never had a client respond with distaste to my decks or their energy (at least those clients who want a reading – this isn’t about those people who respond with distaste to my profession, that happens) even after they’ve been in the hands of clients all day at a fair.
Varying Opinions I have no issue with letting a client touch my cards. I’ve even had clients ask if they can go through my cards to look at the images on a certain deck they are drawn to and let them. I don’t feel it has a damaging effect and I usually cleanse my cards, thank them, and give them care between events anyways so I don’t feel I’m bringing a jangle of energy home or from event to event to event.
What About a Client with Bad Energy? You can always choose who you want to read the cards for. That being said, if you still would like to go on with reading for someone who’s energy you don’t feel comfortable with, by all means, shuffle, cut, and deal the cards yourself. Most clients won’t know the difference. If they do ask why they aren’t cutting the deck themselves, just say that you felt moved to do so or were intuitively guided. You don’t have to make them feel uncomfortable by stating you don’t like their energy.
Cleansing Your Deck If someone does touch your deck and you don’t like it or feel the need to cleanse your cards, there are many ways you can do so – I discuss them here.
If you are at an event or party, the easiest way is to shuffle the cards continuously with the intention of dispersing the energies on them. Otherwise, you can be as elaborate or as simple in the cleansing process as you like. This is also why I usually if not always have a cleansing stone like clear quartz or selenite near at hand for space clearing. However, I also know clients who guard their tools and tarot with great vindication. No one touches these cards but them and if they do, those cards then undergo a thorough cleansing and cycle of re-bonding with the reader.
Still other clients have 2 decks – 1 they read for clients and allow or don’t mind when they are touched and 1 for themselves that no one touches but them to keep the bond strong. As for how much each tarot reader allows others to touch the cards is also varying. Some only allow a client to cut the deck but do not allow any further handling. Others don’t mind or even desire the client to thoroughly handle the cards.
I used to ask my clients to shuffle the cards – I stopped doing that when 2/3rds of my clients turned out to be uncomfortable with it as they felt they weren’t good at shuffling or had a hard time with 78 cards that were a lil bigger than a standard 52 card playing deck. I still have my clients, when in person, cut the deck because I think it draws them further into the experience and the connection between them, their question, the cards, and me can only benefit from it in my mind. Like I said before, when it comes to this question, it all depends on the reader and their personal beliefs.
Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview! How long have you been reading tarot? What got you started?
I started reading tarot in 1996 when I was a newbie pagan. It was a period where I was trying out everything–tarot, herbs, crystals, totems, etc. My first deck was the Shapeshifter Tarot, because I liked the concept of being able to assume the forms of other animals, even if only in spirit, and the artwork was lovely. In 1999 I discovered Ted Andrews’ Animal-Wise deck, and it was love at first sight. We worked out our own directional/elemental spread together, and it’s been my main form of divination since, more from a totemic perspective than a strictly tarot-based one.
Coming back to the tarot through the Tarot of Bones has been something of a homecoming for me. I’m older and more experienced, and I have a more nuanced and personal view of the cards and their symbolisms. Early on, I stuck mostly to the books; I was especially fond of P. Scott Hollander’s “Tarot For Beginners”. Now I’m reforming my own relationships with the tarot cards, and while I follow some of the common themes, there’s a lot of personal interpretation.
I love what you say on your website about your use of Bones, especially the part, I hope you don’t mind if I quote, “Through bones we can speak with our evolutionary ancestors; through divination we create patterns that help us make sense of the world around us–and the worlds within.” What started your wonderfully morbid hobby of collecting and creating art with bones? I’m not sure I’d call it “morbid”, though it certainly is wonderful! When I was a kid I was always bringing home little natural treasures–feathers, leaves, bones, etc. These were unfortunately lost when we moved from one place to another. However, in my late teens I found myself with a pickup truck and a small income, and so I was able to go to craft stores, antique shops and the like to pick up hide scraps, old fur coats, and so forth. In 1998 I began creating and selling artwork made from these remains, first small projects like pouches and necklaces, and then more elaborate costumes and other pieces.
It’s an intensely spiritual practice for me, always has been. I wanted these remains to have a better “afterlife” than being a trophy or status symbol, and I wanted to care for the spirits that were still within them, even if they were just haunts or impressions. So everything I create, even if it has a seemingly mundane purpose, is sacred. Everything gets a ritual purification with prayers once complete, and I make offerings through donations to nonprofit organizations that benefit wildlife and their habitats. These are our relatives, even if somewhat distant, and they deserve care and attention like our human ancestors.
They’re also a constant reminder of the world beyond our human-centered habitats. We keep thinking in terms of “natural” and “artificial”, when in actuality we are just human apes and everything we do is an extension of the big brains we evolved as a survival strategy. Yet we make decisions as though we are the only ones who matter. My hides and bones, especially my skull collection, help remind me otherwise; they’re sort of a council that I consult.
What other items besides bones are you drawn to as tarot and art mediums? Honestly, I mostly stick to making art with animal remains and other natural and recycled materials. I have drawn on a wide set of skills in creating the Tarot of Bones assemblages–painting, sculpting, adhesives, design, etc. And I do use these skills in my more general artwork, but it’s more along the lines of using acrylic paints to decorate a leather pouch or animal skull necklace, rather than creating an acrylic painting on a canvas as is more traditional. This is the first tarot deck I’ve designed, so I don’t know what I’d use for a medium if I created another one, but I do have a few ideas on the back burner.
I use a lot of recycled and reclaimed materials. Every one of the backboards for the assemblages came from a thrift store as did many of the other materials, from paints to faux flowers. Even a lot of the hides I work with in my artwork are secondhand or salvaged. Most of the bones were bought new or found out in the great outdoors; a lot of that is because I was very particular about which ones I used, both with regards to species and condition.
I know many readers also fall into the subcultures of vegan and animal rights activism while others simply feel uncomfortable with using animal curios. What reactions have you received over your deck? I actually haven’t taken much flak for the Tarot of Bones in specific; I think the information on the website helps a great deal, particular where I do explain why I chose bones as opposed to other materials. Bones tend to cause less consternation than, say, fur, and I even know a few vegan pagans who pick up bones from the woods for their altars. I have gotten some negative responses for my art in general over the years, ranging from nasty comments online to, well, nasty comments in person. They usually follow the same few patterns–trying to convince me to stop my art, telling me what a horrible person I am and how someone should use my bones in artwork, etc-
-so I’ve come up with some stock responses over the years, and I try to keep the conversation brief and civil since arguing is pretty pointless. It happens to everyone who makes hide and bone art, unfortunately, and too often the people who come in swinging aren’t interested in hearing anything that doesn’t toe their party line. So I try to keep the conflict to a minimum in situations where we aren’t able to have a more constructive conversation.
My hide and bone art is part of how I am an environmentalist; it helps remind me and others that there is more than just the human-centered world we live in, and brings a more nature-centered energy to homes otherwise filled with drywall, furniture, computers and other human things. I reclaim a lot of materials in my art, and I make sure everything gets a use–even tiny scraps end up as pillow stuffing. I donate part of the money I make to environmental nonprofits, and because I have a flexible schedule I can do some volunteering locally, too. And a lot of the vegan alternatives to my materials are pretty bad for wildlife and their habitats; plastics are almost all made with petroleum, crystals and metals are often mined with very polluting methods, cotton and other plant fibers are grown in massive monocrops that destroy habitats and poison animals through pesticides and fertilizers. Never mind that everything you buy at, say, Michael’s was made in China by underpaid, often abused labor, and was sent to the U.S. on ships that pollute the ocean with oil and other unpleasant things. I try to minimize my use of these supposedly “cruelty-free” materials, and buy them secondhand as often as I possibly can.
Without giving away your trade secrets of course, how do you purchase or find or gather your bones? I have a few different hide and bone dealers whose sources and methods I trust for legal and ethical reasons; Custom Cranium and Frozen Critters are two of the main ones, and for resin replicas I like Arctic Phoenix and Bone Clones. I used to have more access to wild land where I was able to collect bones on my own, but these days I have neither the resources nor the time. And since I share a small apartment with two other people and we have no yard, bone cleaning isn’t really an option so I have to stick to pre-cleaned bones. But I’d rather be making art with them anyway, so it all works out–I get to support small businesses, and I have more time for what I really love doing.
Why did you decide to create permanent pieces rather than ones that you could move around and change between photos for the tarot cards? I understand this decision raised the cost of creating the tarot deck for you? First, I’m an assemblage artist, not a photographer, when it comes to the Tarot of Bones. So my primary art form involves putting the items together into a completed piece of artwork which will then be ritually purified and sent off to its new home. The photo is just what’s necessary for translating that assemblage into an easily replicable format–tarot cards. And a lot of what I do to the materials in the process of putting together the assemblages permanently changes them, like painting them or adding a sculpting compound, so it wouldn’t make sense to make them temporary anyway. From a spiritual perspective, creating a permanent assemblage rather than a temporary one seals the energy in more thoroughly. A photo is not the same as the real deal, though it can convey some of the power. These assemblages are shrines, both to the spirits of the bones within them, and the spirit of the cards themselves. I wanted them to have a long-term form, rather than an ephemeral one. Honestly, I can’t wait for the official release party where I plan to have all of the assemblages on display in someplace that is NOT my apartment!
Yes, it did cost a lot more, to be honest. I could have just cycled through a few dozen skulls and bones and other materials in varying combinations with temporary assemblages, with many of them appearing in more than one card’s artwork, and saved a lot of money. But I had a grander, more elaborate vision than that, one that involved individual species and the symbolism of different bones in the vertebrate body. Since I needed to have a lot more bones for that purpose, why not just have bones for each unique assemblage?
Will you be selling any of the finished pieces? They will all be for sale once the Tarot of Bones is officially released, though I want to keep one or two for myself. I love having them around, but they take up a LOT of space; most of the free wall space in the apartment at this point is covered in them, and they need to do the equivalent of growing up, moving out and getting a job. Plus the money I’ve crowdfunded has all gone to materials, perks, and other costs. Selling the pieces will help me pay myself for the time and effort I put into designing the deck in the first place. I’m fully self-employed, after all, and every hour I put into the Tarot of Bones was an hour I wasn’t able to put toward more immediate income to pay my rent and bills–but I had to have a place to live and food to eat all through the process anyway. So selling the pieces will help me get back my initial personal investment in the project.
You are currently ahead of schedule, if you stay that way can we expect edits to the current image releases or anything surprising before the release date? Well, the pictures you see on the website right now are just quick snapshots saying “Hey, look what I made!” They’re not the final photos for the card art. So after I have the assemblages done I’ll be setting up a better photography studio in my home and taking the final pictures and then editing them with GIMP. I may go back and tweak a few of the assemblages before then, but the production schedule probably won’t get moved up too much. The printing will take a while, and I want to hire a professional editor for the book and they’ll need time, too.
Can you tell us a little about the companion book? Will it be a basic tarot cards defined or will it be just as unique as the cards themselves? The Tarot of Bones companion book is not meant as holy writ or the final word on what each card means. But it’ll give readers more of an idea of why I created each card as I did, why I chose specific animals, etc. It’s a guide to the Tarot of Bones in specific, and while you can certainly use other books and your own interpretation when you use the deck, there’s a lot of valuable information that may help you navigate the deck as its own individual entity. I won’t be going into the basics of tarot; there are TONS of books that do that. But I will likely be including some unique spreads along with my card interpretations.
What is your favorite piece so far? That’s a tough one. I think my perennial favorite is still the Magician. I really like how the design turned out; it best illustrates my personal style as an assemblage artist. But I also have a deep, abiding love for the Four of Wands, the second assemblage I ever created. And I’m tempted to keep the Hermit for myself, too.
Why did you choose crowdfunding for your tarot deck rather than the more traditional route of going through a major publisher? Honestly? Creative control. I’ve published books with a couple different publishers, and while they’ve let me have a fair bit of control, this is a deeply and intensely personal project. It is the product of almost two decades of art and writing experience, and it draws together all of my skills into one Magnum Opus. I’m outsourcing very little with the Tarot of Bones; I hired Narumi of Lotus Lion, who has done several graphic design pieces for me, to create the back design for the cards, and again I’ll have an editor for the book. But I’m doing everything else–the photography, layout, etc.
Also, in doing a bit of research, it’s harder to get a publisher for a photo deck; they tend to prefer other sorts of art. Since I wasn’t willing to morph the photos of my assemblages into computer-generated designs, I just decided to do this on my own. It’ll be my first major foray into self-publishing, so I’m drawing on my experience in the publishing industry to help me along. And I’ll be getting some mentoring with some of the skills I’m less familiar with, like the photography.
Were there any surprises in the crowdfunding process? Yes: the amount! The IndieGoGo campaign last spring met its initial goal in four days, and doubled the amount by the end of the six week campaign. I was incredibly surprised and honored that that many people wanted to back the Tarot of Bones. It just made me want to make even more sure that the final deck and book will be amazing. I also was wowed by the emotional support people gave throughout the project, all the cheering and high-fives I got. I mean, I have some of the best supporters and fans in the world, so the quality doesn’t surprise me–but I was amazed by how many people came out to help! At this point I’ve pre-sold 250 deck and book sets just through that one campaign. And again–thank you to everyone who contributed.
Speaking of crowdfunding, there will be another IndieGoGo campaign in early 2016, for those who missed out on the first one? While the spring 2015 campaign paid for all the materials and some related expenses, a lot also had to be factored in for perks, upcoming shipping costs, and the like. So I’m far from being in the black on this, and this second campaign will primarily be for the purpose of covering printing costs for the deck and book. The IndieGoGo campaigns are NOT my only source of funding; I’ve also been drawing funds from my art and book sales once rent and bills and other expenses have been paid. But I had a lot of people say they were unable to support the last campaign due to finances or finding out about it after it ended, so this is a win-win situation: they get a second chance to pre-order the deck and book and other goodies, and I get another healthy shot of funding so I can stick to my production schedule and the planned Summer 2016 release.
What advice do you have for those out there thinking of creating their own tarot deck? Do smaller projects first. This has been a HUGE investment of my time, skills and energy, to say nothing of money. If you’ve never undertaken a big art project or written a book before, I don’t recommend this sort of thing as a starter project. Smaller projects will help you hone your skills to a finer degree so that you’re more prepared physically and mentally when the time comes to get started on your tarot project.
Once you are ready, make sure you have a solid concept. You don’t have to design all the cards at once; I went into most of these assemblages only sure of what card it was going to represent and what bones I was going to use. But those two factors–the bones and the meaning–were the common thread I had to work with throughout the entire project, and they helped to tie them all together. So make sure you, too, have at least one solid thread that binds your cards into one deck.
Also, don’t take my production schedule as something to measure yourself against. Remember I’m self-employed and I’m already in my studio almost every day. So I’m working on the assemblages and the book manuscript in between working on other projects throughout the day. I have the luxury of getting this put together relatively quickly because I’ve done this sort of thing before on a smaller scale, and I’m already immersed in a creative setting much of the time.
Will there be a release party online or off that fans can attend? There will definitely be an in-person one in Portland, and likely some pieces in galleries after that as well. I’m not entirely sure how to pull off an online party, but I’m sure something can be arranged there, too. I want everyone to have the opportunity to celebrate with me, even if they can’t be with me in person.
What amazing creative projects can we expect from you in the future? Wellll…a lot of them are currently secret projects under development. I don’t like to announce things until I have a pretty solid plan, because I don’t want to let people down. That and I am a VERY busy person, and unfortunately I just don’t have the time to enact everything at once. So while I have several books bouncing around in my head, some other elaborate art projects on a similar scale, and some new avenues unrelated to anything I’m doing now, I need to maintain my focus on the Tarot of Bones until it’s out and everyone’s gotten their packages of goodies in the mail.
That being said, I do have a new book coming out from Llewellyn in January, Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up: Connect With Totems in Your Ecosystem, which I’m really excited about as it talks about land-based, bioregional totemism in a lot of detail. You can always keep up on my progress with the Tarot of Bones and if you’d like to see what else I’m up to head on over to The Green Wolf.
I recently lost a tarot card out of a deck I loved. I pulled the deck out of my trunk after I was unpacking from an event. I went through the cards and realized immediately something was wrong. I counted and alas, only 77. I separated the Major and Minor Arcana and knew just by looking, the Moon had disappeared. While disappointed, as I love reading this deck, I wasn’t completely heart broken because I know broken decks can be used in so many ways.
The Robin Wood deck is sadly not the first deck I’ve had problems with being broken. I’ve had decks given to me missing cards, I’ve bought decks used that are damaged, and I’ve had pets decide to do a little tarot reading of their own that has caused card damage. At first I was embarrassed to talk about the decks with other readers and I tucked them away in hopes of going back to them months later and they magickally develop that missing card or their tears and coffee stains be mended. I then realized that this was folly all its own and that the tarot can be used for so much more than just a traditional reading! This came to me when I was looking at a piece of furniture and wanting to do something to it to make it look spooky-magickal…like add tarot! A tarot deck is considered broken when it is 1) damaged or 2) missing at least one card. Broken here means that the deck cannot be read in the traditional fashion.
If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It Make sure that the deck is broken. If it is missing a card, set the deck aside for a week or so and set your manifestation into gear to find the missing card. This has worked for me a number of times and usually the card shows up in the most random place. If the deck is damaged, do a thorough assessment and decide if its unusable in the traditional sense. Is it just one card? Would you still be comfortable reading for someone else with this deck, even if it isn’t professionally? Are you still able to read for yourself? Maybe this deck just needs to be handled with care and set aside for personal use only. Don’t dismantle or give up on your deck when it isn’t too late. As I developed this concept of non-traditional card use, I looked online and realized there are many, many readers who have broken decks ( I am not alone! gasp!) and are looking for something to do with them! I began compiling ideas and here is the fruit of my labor:
Create a Major Arcana Deck If the lost or damaged cards are part of the Minor Arcana only, the Major Arcana cards can still be used in readings. Some types of readings and spreads, especially ones focusing on the spiritual aspects of life, use only the trump cards.
Oracle Deck I know of some readers who continue to read their broken decks but as more of an oracle deck. They take out the damaged cards (or leave out the missing cards) and also take out any cards they don’t resonate with or want in the deck. They then use the remaining cards as oracle cards, each representing a different intuitive message for them.
Playing Cards If you lose a Major Arcana card you can still use the pips and some of the court cards in a unique playing card deck. Playing decks have 52 cards consisting of 4 Aces, the pip cards 2-10 in each suit, and the Kings, Queens, and either the Knights or the Pages as the playing card Jacks. Imagine playing poker with this deck!
Spell Cards Use what cards are not missing or damaged for spells, manifestation, rituals, or meditations and pathworking.
If you still have the 4 aces and like to use them to call the Quarters in ritual work, consider framing them or putting them in your magickal tool chest for that purpose in the future.
Set aside the Emperor and the Empress or the Sun and the Moon to represent the Goddess and the God on the altar.
Add the 4 of swords or the Moon to a dream pillow or satchet for rest or psychic dreams.
Tape the Lovers card over the glass candle holder for the focus of a relationship aid spell.
There are endless possibilities.
Magickal Artwork & Decor One of my favorite ways of using a broken deck is in art. The biggest piece of my tarot art is my tarot table. It started out as a cube steamer trunk to which I collaged the cards from my broken Jane Austen tarot deck. This is now an altar in my home and at events on which I do my tarot readings for clients and myself. There is a lot of tarot energy and my own personal mojo in this table and I love it. Use The Remainder in Business If you’re a professional tarot reader and one of your decks is broken, you can always re-purpose the cards to use in your business.
Turn the remainders in to special business cards for top rate clients.
Paste them on your sign advertising your readings.
Turn them into price tags for any other items you sell like tarot bags or boxes.
So the next time you’re going through your deck and find you only have 77 cards or your cat has gotten a hold of the High Priestess, again, don’t despair right away! Those cards are still full of purpose and spiritual juice to be used in your magickal life! Tarot Blessings,
You have probably seen books, videos, podcasts, and blogs with a very strange spelling for the word magic. One of the biggest and boldest examples is Joanna Devoe’s Kick Ass Witch slogan – Putting the K in Magick! Some of you are asking, What K? There is no K in magic? Can’t these people spell?!?
Reader Question: Why do you put a K in your spelling of Magick?
I’ve been asked this question quite a bit lately. One friend even thought I was simply making a spelling error or type-o and kindly tried to correct the issue. I appreciate the inquiries and efforts and I thought I would go ahead and explain myself.
Magick began to be spelled with a K by those witches, Wiccans, pagans, etc who wanted to differentiate their spiritual work from the illusionary stage magic of David Copperfield, Chris Angel, etc. The spells, poppets, potions, and more created by modern witches are not meant to be created as an entertainment and nor are they simple parlor games. Most witches take their work very seriously as part of their religious practice and to suppose that their work was akin to sawing a girl in half for the applause of a crowd would be a very offensive mistake.
I will say that not every witch does this just as not every magickal practitioner calls themselves a witch. It all comes down to a matter of preference. Some say magic is spelled m-a-g-i-c and people should know better by context what sort of magic the speaker or writer is talking about – whether practical witchcraft magic or illusion or fictional. I respect that and agree, people SHOULD be able to tell by the context what sort of magic the writer is talking about but, sadly, assuming that people will know the difference usually, like the saying goes, makes an ass out of someone. I’ve learned this the hard way with a lot of terminology I use – and still have some people thinking that by saying I practice magick or calling myself a witch that really I’m just obsessed with Harry Potter or play games like Magic the Gathering or D&D (note- there is nothing wrong with any of these things…I really like Harry Potter). I’ve learned to be choosy with my words because of this.
I adopted this method of spelling magick when I began my professional career as a witch and tarot reader. As part of my profession, I read tarot at events and am usually not the only reader available. Sadly, there are times when another reader in attendance is there only as a form of amusement – they have no idea how to read the cards and don’t really claim to. Their fortunes are jokes the go along with giggles behind cheap gypsy costumes in exchange for token fees. It is part of my job to ensure that Seer & Sundry, as a brand, is not confused with the cheap, false entertainment. So, I made a conscious decision to do what I can to separate myself from the farce, and spelling magick the way that I do is part of that decision.
That being said, it is still very annoying that my writing platforms don’t acknowledge magick as a word properly spelled so I tend to spend most hours writing ignoring red squiggly lines as best I can.
Tarot readers have a really interesting job. Even the ones that don’t get paid sit in this odd in-between of mystique and counselor, entertainer and wise advice giver. We hear client’s problems, their worries, their dreams. We develop relationships with them and can even find ourselves invested in the outcome – wondering if everything will turn out alright for them and if they are doing ok days and weeks after a reading. Sadly, this position that we are in can put us in a precarious place in the minds of some clients. We start to become, in their minds, a friend, a therapist, or someone responsible for their happiness. This is not only unhealthy but can be down right dangerous for some readers who have attracted a client who isn’t quite stable. How do we deal with this?
I come at this question with experience. I have had to learn the hard way to set boundaries with clients. I have had clients that have, due to my lack of boundaries, skewed the client/reader relationship and thought of me as more of a friend that they just so happen to pay for advice. These clients pestered me via phone calls and email asking for readings at all hours of the day, repeatedly for weeks, and even got to the point where they expected my advice and aid (on everything) for free or at a “friendly” discount. The situation became extremely uncomfortable, not only for me but also for Damon who had to deal with these people as well.
The creation of professional boundaries not only help protect readers from needy or unstable clients but also protects clients from overly curious or prying readers. (I mean, what cleint wants to run into a reader at the super market and get bombarded with questions about their marital problems in front of their kids or strangers in the produce section?)
In the end, I had to cut them off. I told them I would no longer be reading for them, that our professional relationship was becoming a struggle for me. I dealt with tears, name calling, and more. I’m sure these clients have nothing kind to say about me now, and partially I am responsible for what happened because I didn’t set healthy, professional boundaries. Sure, cutting off clients is somewhat drastic, especially for tarot readers who make a living off their craft. I want to say first I don’t think cutting off an annoying or strange client should be your first step at all! This was simply something I had to do in order to regain control of that part of my life. Since then, I have changed a number of ways in how I handle clients.
Clear Company Policies
Set Office Hours
By making it clear what days and what hours of the day you are available to clients, you can prevent them from contacting you during personal hours when you are with family, friends, kids, sleeping, appointments, etc.
Create Privacy Barriers
This too will vary from business to business. For some this might mean having a business only e-mail (highly recommended anyways due to the professional look), a post office box rather than giving out your home address, or having a phone number you give to clients only. By not giving out personal information to clients, you create a barrier between the two of you that keeps you safe.
Keep your Personal Life & your Business Life separate.
(Oseaana has a great video about this on her Business Alchemy series on YouTube). Putting out there when you’re having a bad day or even a bad week gives the message that you are a mess and that will draw in people who are attracted to chaos and messes, not people who want clarity and calm via your spiritual practice. This doesn’t mean that you can’t write your personal story or blog posts about how you’ve overcome difficulties. It simply means don’t complain about the issue in the moment and then plaster that complaint all over your business social media. If you’re gonna share your life issues, share them in a way that you’re showing how your practice helped you overcome your problems.
Be Both Professional AND Compassionate
In businesses where the services are of a spiritual and emotional nature, whether its tarot reading, reiki healing, or life coaching, creating boundaries can be very difficult when it comes to emotional attachments between professional and client. In one direction, the professional can become too involved in the client’s life, problems, and worries. Taking these matters to heart can cause stress and unnecessary worry for the professional and cause them to either go over a client’s boundary by being nosy or pressing matters or allow clients to cross boundaries and take advantage of the professional’s sympathies. In the other direction, the client can come across as cold, unfeeling, and hard. Clients want to be able to connect with those they hire for their spiritual services and if they cannot connect, they won’t return. Finding the balance takes practice and can be difficult to find with some clients. In the end, we can fall back to our boundaries and policies to help us when we find ourselves lost in our sympathies for a client.
Be Wary of Who You Have in Your Support System
Everyone needs a support system. People who encourage you, who you can go to for advice, who you can bounce ideas off of and just outright be yourself first and your business second with. Make sure the people in your support system are trustworthy. This will change from person to person whether your support system is your mom, your husband, your best friend since high school, your business coach, or your reverend or high priestess. Be careful who you show your weaknesses and your ideas to. Don’t leave chinks in the armor for someone who is unhealthy and who does not have your best interest at heart.
Foot-feather’d Mercury appear’d sublime Beyond the tall tree-tops; and in less time Than shoots the slanted hail-storm, down he dropt Towards the ground; but rested not, nor stopt One moment from his home; only the sward He with his wand light touch’d, and heavenward Swifter than sight was gone. KEATS.
Mercury is known as the trickster and thief god of commerce and business. He is the swift messenger of the gods who rules over communication. With this in mind, he’s a handy deity to have on your side if you’re a professional tarot reader or business person in general. Other professions and areas that Mercury rules over include:
Astronomy/Astrology Alchemy and Science Speech Writing and Books Tarot and Runes Knowledge and Learning Codes and secrets Travel Foreign exchange and politics Athletics including foot races and boxing Mechanics Inventor of weights and balances Protector of messengers, especially at war Fertility and masturbation Sacrifices and Priesthood Sleep, deep dreams and Astral Projection
Mercury’s connection with the tarot is through his being the keeper of divine secrets (usually Zeus’s promiscuity) and his association to the invention of writing. This connection is more strongly seen in his Egyptian aspect of Thoth.
If Mercury Were a Tarot Reader…
I picture him as a tall, lanky fellow with long black hair tied back away from his face, a goatee, thick eyebrows and piercing blue eyes. He’d have an earring in one ear, not just a tiny hoop but something dangly and flashy. He prides himself in how he dresses though some would say he looks tacky with his leather, silk, bright colors, and too much bling. He’s also that type that won’t let the 60’s go, loves wide collars unbuttoned to show his chest, wears his symbol on a thick chain around his neck, and will seem fresh when he asks what your sign is – but he’s far too clever to use it just as a pick up line. Mercury flirts with men and women alike and will flit through relationships like people slide through revolving doors (and is far too charming to leave anyone in tears; every ex-lover believes it was their decision to move on). He loves the modern age with its freedom of sexuality and open, mass communication. He’s known to have all the new technological gadgets and every app for tarot and astrology, even if he can calculate what house he’s with ease. Even though he is very lucky at buying new toys and tarot decks, he is also a bit flippant with them and will toss them aside as soon as the next thing shows up.
Mercury is known to cut the deck as he sees fit – stacking the cards so that he can control the story about to be told to the client. This doesn’t mean he can’t read the tarot traditionally, of course. He knows the cards intimately; the layouts, the numbers, the astrology, and the people. He could read the cards in his sleep and may have done so from time to time while resting from a night of debauchery with his friends Bacchus and Apollo. He’s as slippery as the snakes on his Cadeceus but one would be a fool to not head the snakes words at the tarot table.
At the tarot table, he makes his clients question whether they sat down to have their cards read or to watch card tricks. He knows every way to shuffle and is one of the best card mechanics in the biz. He talks fast as he moved the deck from one hand to the other so that the cards look like their flying. By the time the deck is cut, the clients are mesmerized by the movement of the shuffle and the glint of his cuff links.
Mercury’s Metaphysical Correspondence Chart
Other Deity Associations: Hermes, Thoth, Wodin
Epithets: Hermes Trismegistus (Thrice Great Hermes), Diaktoros (the courier), Angelos (messenger), Logios (writer and knower of intelligent design), Agoraios (Of the Market Place), Dolios (crafty one), Eriounios (Luck-Bringer), Hermeneutes (Interpreter), Takhus (Swift), Poneomenos (Busy One).
Archangel: Raphael aka Israfil
Planetary Name in Hebrew: KVKB
Celestial Title: Messenger of the Gods
Symbols: Caduceus aka Kerykion, 8-pointed star, and the planetary/alchemical symbol of mercury
Tarot Card: The Magician (1)
Metal: Quicksilver and Aluminum
Day: Wednesday, the 4th of the month (as that was the only date given for when he was born) and the 25th of May
Hours of the Day Ruled: 1st and 8th hours of the day, 3rd and 10th hours of the night
Herbs: Carrot, Celery, Caraway, Cinquefoil, Dill, Fennel, Fenugreek, Fern, Lavender, Marjoram, Mandrake, Maidenhair Fern, Lilly of the Valley, and Vervain. Krokos (Crocus) – An Arkadian boy who was loved by Hermes. When the god accidentally killed him playing discus, he transformed the boy into a crocus flower.
Incense: Frankincense, camphor, malabathrumcock, and myrrh
Animals: Ibis, Dove, Tortoise, Hare, Rams, and Monkeys
Anatomy Governed: Brain, Nervous System, Left Arm, and Respiratory System
Votives and Offerings: currency, especially foreign currency.
Arcana: The Tarot Poetry Anthology is a diverse collection of 78 poems, including original verse and new translations by contemporary writers and Tarot readers. The book can be pre-ordered through the publisher, Minor Arcana Press. Tarot poetry began in Renaissance Italy with artists like Teofilo Folengo. Many famous poets–including T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, and Marge Piercy–have used Tarot in their work since. Our era is now blessed with our own poetic creations as those featured in Arcana. Editor Marjorie Jensen has brought many of these amazing poets together from an international community including Rachel Pollack, Tanya Joyce, Cecilia Llompart, and Sierra Nelson.
Marjorie Jensen is an educator, writer, and Tarot reader. Since completing her Master’s degree, she has taught (Tarot) poetry and prose workshops at U.C. Berkeley and has edited several literary publications, such as 580 Split. Her published articles include “Structuring Sonnets and Tarot Spreads” in Tarosophist International as well as “Cards are Told” in Unwinnable Weekly. She is also a contributor to Spiral Nature. See more of her writing and featured Arcana authors on Tarot Poetry WordPress.
I see that you are both a tarot reader and a lover of books as well as an editor. What got you into tarot? Would you mind sharing with us your favorite tarot deck? My mom reads Tarot and gifted me my first deck—the Aquarian Tarot—when I was about fourteen. My paternal grandmother read intuitively with playing cards, so I guess you could say my love of reading cards runs on both sides of the family! Currently, my favorite decks are the Paulina Tarot, the Wizards Tarot, and the Rider-Waite-Smith.
What initially inspired the Arcana Tarot Poetry anthology? When I started writing my unrhymed sonnet sequence based on the Major Arcana, I wanted to read an anthology of Tarot poetry. I like research, and I found a number of books and poems by individual poets, but no one had created a volume of Tarot poems that brought together multiple authors. So I decided to make the book I wanted to read.
Minor Arcana Press calls Arcana a “muse: enchanting, inspiring, and empowering.” What are some ways that the tarot has inspired and empowered you? I love writing with the Tarot and using it in writing workshops. Collecting Tarot is like collecting art (but generally on a much smaller and cheaper scale), and I find art to be a wonderful muse. Also, I feel that the Tarot enriches my spiritual practice—my private rituals as well as the spiritual connections I make when reading for others.
Arcana is described as “groundbreaking” in its uniting poetry and tarot. Before this project, you published articles like “Structuring Sonnets and Tarot Spreads” in Tarosophist International. Do you foresee a trend of combining tarot with poetry, art, and literature in the future? There are some deep connections between Tarot, art, and poetry, going back to renaissance Italy, and what we are able to do now with the internet allows niche communities—like Tarot poets—to come together and be seen. One of the things I enjoyed with this project was seeing how writing from people who spend more time in Tarot circles harmonized with writing from people who spend more time in poetry circles. Both poets and Tarotists give readings, but now a little more light is being shed on how similar those readings can be. And I think this light will continue to grow.
When this book first came into view to the public it was being crowdfunded through Indiegogo. Why did you and Minor Arcana Press choose to use crowdfunding for the project initially? Indiegogo did not make its crowdfunded goal, how did this effect printing and publishing the book? Minor Arcana Press is a small non-profit with a limited budget, so we thought that crowdfunding would be a good way to help cover printing costs and other costs of making the book. Not making the Indiegogo goal means we will be publishing fewer copies of the book. Later this year we will also be putting out an e-book edition so more copies can enter the world, but we will have a very limited press run of paperback editions. Also, not making the goal inspired amazing generosity—for instance, Mary K. Greer offered to waive her fee for the introduction. Gifts like hers made it possible for us to still put out a small press run of physical copies.
What was it like working with authors and artists like Rachel Pollack (one of the poetry authors), Siolo Thompson (who did the interior art and front cover) and Mary K. Greer (who did the intro to the book)? In addition to Mary’s generosity, and both her and Rachel have been wonderfully supportive. They have also been very accessible and welcoming. Anne Bean, Minor Arcana Press’ layout designer, worked more closely with Siolo than I did (I believe they knew each other before this project because they are both based in Seattle). I feel very blessed to have so many talented women involved in this project—I have been inspired by their words and images.
Some of our readers are both tarot enthusiasts and writers. As an editor, what advice can you give them if they are interested in writing for a project like this in the future? Be yourself. After reading hundreds of submissions, I think the best poems draw on personal experience/experimentation/style. The worst seemed to regurgitate all the clichés about Tarot. Utilize the Tarot to find your distinct voice.
Minor Arcana Press is having a launch party for Arcana on August 26th. Will you be there? What can readers expect at this online shindig? I will be there! The launch party will be held at Hugo House in Seattle—I’ve never been to Seattle before. There will be Tarot readings as well as poetry readings, and I hope we will be able to post some pictures/videos online. I’m planning on having similar events in other locations, especially Oakland (where I live).
Will there be more like this anthology in the future for us to look forward to? I really enjoyed making this book, and would be interested in creating another anthology in a couple years. In the meantime, I plan to finish and publish my Major Arcana sonnets (which are nearly complete!). And I have some fiction that my muses are demanding I work on after that, so my next anthology might end up being a multi-genre collection with drama, fiction, and essays as well as poetry.