Being Your Own Magician: The Magician Tarot Card

“If we do not consciously live our best lives we are destined to unconsciously live our worst.” – Sylvan

I was recently reading about Dorothy Maclean, cofounder of the Findhorn Community and author of, “To Hear the Angels Sing:  An Odyssey of Co-Creation with the Devic Kingdoms.”    She’s done extensive channeling with the Devas, the beings that oversee the development of forms, for instance of plants.  These two quotes really jumped out at me because of messages I’ve been receiving from my guides:

What I would tell you is that as we [the devas] forge ahead, never deviating from our course for one moment’s thought, feeling or action, so could you. Humans generally don’t seem to know where they are going, or why. If they did, what powerhouses they would be! If they were on a straight course, how we could cooperate with them!

Why go around like zombies, following this or that external guide when all the time your only guide is within you?

The Magician Tarot card premises that each person is his or her own Magician.  In other words, we all – individually – channel down energy from the Astral and use it to create our lives and our environments.  We don’t need to hire anyone to do it, we don’t need to consult with a priest or a shaman to do it, we don’t need to have any secret knowledge to do it.  We ALL do it, ALL the time. We are creating our worlds every single day, whether we know it or not.

And for the most part, we don’t know it.

Here’s how therapist Gay Hendricks put it:

 . . . one thing I want you to accept about yourself is that you’re already a manifestation genius – I guarantee it.  Now all you have to do is hitch your genius to your heart’s desires instead of your default programming.

In other words, we are manifesting our lives and our environments every single day but, because we don’t realize it and don’t realize what we’ve been programmed to believe about ourselves, many of us are manifesting a load of crap.  If, for instance, you were raised in a highly critical family and your parents were always telling you that you’d never succeed, guess what? You’ll manifest a whole lot of failure because that’s what you were programmed to do.

So step one in being your own Magician is realizing that you ARE your own Magician.  You ARE manifesting your world right now and, as Hendricks said, you’re already a genius at it.  You don’t need to practice because you’ve got it down.

Step two is getting really, really straight in your mind and heart about what you WANT to manifest in your life.  And, yes, a lot of us have trouble with that. It can go something like this:

What I want more than anything is to be happy.  And to get into Debbie’s pants. Of course, Debbie makes fun of me and we’re really not compatible so if we have a relationship I won’t be happy.  I could lie to her about wanting a relationship and then I could get into her pants and that would make me happy. Only then I’d have to admit that I was a hypocritical jerk and I hurt her feelings just so I could get into her pants.  And that would make me unhappy. On the other hand . . .”

Or as the Devas put it:  Humans generally don’t seem to know where they are going, or why. 

The trick – the Magic Trick – is to manifest consciously.  To take the time to do the self examination and thinking about what you want, where you want to go, and why.  Take the time to figure out what you were programmed to be when you were a child and see if that fits with what you really want to be.  Take the time to meditate and learn to listen to your heart and your spirit guides. And then make your magic happen. Be your own Magician.

Why go around like zombies, following this or that external guide when all the time your only guide is within you?

“Just the Tarot,“available on Amazon.com

The Sex Cards in the Tarot

Everyone likes sex!  Well, nearly everyone.  I actually read an article recently about people who don’t like sex in any way shape or form and don’t feel any sexual desires.  They’re calling themselves, “asexuals,” and actually have their own organization.  How about that?  What an interesting world.

Anyway, nearly everyone likes sex and there are certain Tarot cards which definitely indicate its’ presence in a persons life.  It can be handy to know when it’s likely to pop up in a relationship, whether you’re interested in the other person or not. Come to think of it, it could even be handy for people who are official Asexuals because they’d know who to avoid.  Nearly everyone, right?

FOUR OF WANDS

Two people dancing beneath what looks very much like a wedding gazebo.  There is an element of sex here but in the more traditional sense of marriage and an on going union.  A happy card that includes the idea of sex without actually signifying it outright.

TWO OF CUPS

A man and a woman hold chalices and gaze into each others eyes.  This is a card of profound bonding and love, the start of a serious relationship.  While it can often indicate something as mundane as a good business partner or a best friend, it can also indicate a deep romantic and sexual relationship.

THREE OF CUPS

Three women dance together, chalices raised in mutual salute. Sex is not necessarily a central theme in this card but it’s a possibility because the central theme is PARTY!!!!  This is a card of joyous celebrations so why not sneak a little whoopee into the celebration? May also indicate a happy three way relationship.

THREE OF SWORDS 

A heart pierced by three swords.  This can often indicate a monogamous relationship in which one of the partners has decided to be not so monogamous.  He or she may be screwing around and it’s breaking the partners heart.

THE EMPRESS

An Earth Mother type of woman reclines on a couch holding a sceptre loosely in one hand.  Again, The Empress is not exclusively about sex but it’s definitely included in her vibrations.  Unlike her sister card, The High Priestess, who appears to be a little prim and proper, The Empress is openly sensual.  She reclines comfortably on her couch, legs slightly spread with a definite, “come hither,” look on her face. If you’re involved with The Empress, expect a good time.  On ALL levels.

THE HIEROPHANT

An individual who looks like a pope sits stiffly on a throne between two pillars while two monks bow down to him.  The Hierophant is mainly about organized religion and dogma, so it may seem strange to include it in this post. The point, though, is that The HIerophant is about CONVENTIONAL religion rather than spirituality.  In that sense, if this card shows up in a reading about a relationship you can expect it to be a very CONVENTIONAL relationship with very CONVENTIONAL sex. In other words, always the missionary position, probably with the lights turned out and only when the kids are fast asleep.  If you’re into sex toys and trapezes in your boudoir, RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY . . .

THE LOVERS

A nude man and woman stand in a Garden of Eden setting while a snake climbs a tree next to the woman and an angel hovers over them.  As the name indicates, this card is about love and not JUST love but triple whammie hit in the head with a sledge hammer love. These two people are absolutely thunder struck and there WILL be sex.  Really good sex.

THE DEVIL

This is obviously the same couple from The Lovers, only they’ve been driven out of the Garden of Eden and are now sporting horns and tails while a demon hovers over them instead of an angel.  There is a very strong element of sexuality here but it’s not what you’d describe as happy sex. Instead of joy we find pain and enslavement. It can indicate sexual addiction, BDSM games that have gone WAY too far into pain and humiliation,  or the sexual element of a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. And, to me at least, it’s a sad card: it’s taking one of life’s greatest joys and turning into something sick and twisted.

So there you have it.  When you see these cards in a reading think about sex.  Or think about it anyway – it’s always fun.

Angels, Spirit Guides, and the Tarot

We seldom see the Tarot referred to as, “a Spirit Guide.”  Which is weird.

There are many, many online courses about contacting your angels and spirit guides.  Thousands of videos online telling you how to do it and/or how to maximize your contact with your spiritual helpers.  Dozens and dozens of books on the subject.

So . . . it’s pretty widely accepted that (a) there are benevolent, loving beings out there who want to help us; and (b) we can learn how to be in touch with them.  But, curiously, the Tarot isn’t usually included in those discussions.

A part of that, of course, may stem from the fundamentalist christians horror of all things occult.  We’ve seen the ghost hunter shows on television where a couple of little girls are playing with a Ouija board and two minutes later thousands of creepy demons and ghosts are whizzing out of the kitchen cabinets.  Tarot decks have been painted with the same brush for decades despite the fact that the images in them are chock full of angels. (See my previous post, “The Angels of the Tarot.”)

Another element is that most people who read the Tarot don’t really THINK of it as a means of getting in touch with our angels or spirit guides.  We just think of it as, “Asking the Tarot for advice.” Of course, that begs the question of who or what is giving the advice. Is an inanimate deck of cards somehow capable of cogitating about our problems and giving us the best insight and solutions?  

In one of the better online courses about contacting your spirit guides and angels, Roslyn Light suggests journaling as a means for receiving messages from them.  There are some people among us who are able to be in direct contact with higher beings and see them and hear them. Others may receive guidance through synchronicities and so-called coincidences that occur in their lives.  A book falling out of a shelf and opening to a certain page with a pertinent message, for instance. For others answers and solutions may appear in the writing they do in their journals.

And, for some of us, the very best way to get in touch with our guides may be the Tarot.  Which makes a lot of sense when you actually think about it. It’s said that beings from the higher planes communicate with us in symbols and images rather than verbally.  There is probably no other source on earth that is richer in images and symbols than a deck of Tarot cards. In other words, it speaks their language.

Indeed, it seems entirely possible that this is exactly what the Tarot was designed to do.  It may well be a tool conceived by minds far greater than ours to allow us to have direct communication with the higher spiritual realms and the beings who dwell there.

And all we have to do is ask.

The Fool – Alone but not Lonely

In the first (or the last, depending on your perspective) card of the Major Arcana we see The Fool starting off on his Spiritual Quest, a dog barking at his feet, his eyes turned toward the heavens.

And he’s very much alone.  But maybe not lonely.

What starts us on a Spiritual Quest?  It’s certainly not because things are going swimmingly.  Sometimes it just a chronic, nagging feeling that something in our lives is just not quite right.  Sometimes it’s a sudden flash of insight that’s like the first rolling stone that starts an avalanche.

Frequently it’s some life event that knocks us ass over teakettle and forces us to look at the fact that our assumptions and beliefs have been wrong all along.  That what we took for granted isn’t worth a bag of spit. The death of a loved one. The suicide of a coworker. Surviving a crash or a deadly disease.

Even then, many people will embrace what might be called “a pseudo-quest,” or perhaps, “an aborted quest.”    Shocked and shaken right down to their toes by some near catastrophe they respond by pulling the covers over their heads and crawling into the safe, warm womb of organized religions.  Like the men kneeling in front of the pope in The Hierophant card they look to others for spiritual truth rather than seeking it in their own hearts.

The person on a true Spiritual Quest is there because he or she HAS to be.  The choices of pretense, dull lassitude, and being a comfortable member of the herd no longer exist for them.  They have a burning desire to know – or at least seek – the truth and that desire can’t be ignored.

And, yes,  that can feel lonely at times.

For one thing most people aren’t really very interested in looking at the verities of Spiritual life.  The next time that you’re at a family gathering just casually mention that everyone in the room is going to die sooner or later if you don’t believe me.  You may not be invited back and, if you are, I guarantee no one will want to sit next to you at Thanksgiving Dinner. People actually seek out toys, money, meaningless sex, and anything else they can think of to AVOID talking about death and they don’t appreciate it when someone puts the subject right up in their faces.

A second factor, though, is that your Spiritual truths are YOUR Spiritual truths and not necessarily anyone else’s.  As you tread your way down the path of The Fool you will discover certain things that you know in your heart are true but the people around you, even your loved ones, may think that you’re out of your mind.  Or very much a Fool.

I remember when I first realized that visualization actually causes the things we visualize to manifest in our lives.  And I don’t mean just reading about it or acknowledging it as an abstract idea. I mean actually sitting my butt down, doing the visualizations and having them actually manifest.

I was blown away.  “This,” I thought, “is magic.  Real, honest to goddess, freaking magic!”

And that realization was followed by a whole series of other realizations.  If my thoughts and emotions can cause things to manifest in my life, then my life is . . . a manifestation of my thoughts and emotions.

Which means that I made this mess.  Not my parents, not my environment, not my culture, not random circumstances.  This thing I call my life is . . . ME. My thoughts. My emotions.

Which means that I’m responsible for it.  It’s my karma that I made. BUT . . . it also means I can change it.  And, man, that’s not just magic . . . that’s freedom!

It was a major turning in The Fool’s Path and I was tremendously excited about it.  The people I tried to share it with . . . not so much. My New Agey friends sort of yawned and said things like, “Oh, yeah, I think I read something like that a long time ago in Ram Dass.  Or was it, ‘A Course in Miracles?’ Maybe it was, ‘Codependent No More . . .”

My more conventional friends either edged slowly away or their mouths hung open for a moment before they changed the subject.

I realized eventually that it was MY Spiritual truth.  It was a result of my Tarot readings and my studies and my meditations and it fit perfectly at that exact moment in MY life.  The fact that other people didn’t understand it or know it or really, really dig it in their own hearts didn’t matter. What mattered was that I had found one of my truths.

And there’s a Spiritual truth in that realization, too.  Just because you’re alone in your beliefs doesn’t mean you have to feel lonely.  In all likelihood the people around you don’t share or understand your truths because they haven’t done the work that you have or they just don’t care.  That doesn’t diminish what you know by one little bit. Every truth that you find along the path is a jewel to be treasured and uncovers a little bit more of who you really are.

The Star Tarot Card – Ishtar, The Dalai Lama, and the Re-Emergence of The Goddess

Just who is the mysterious woman in the Tarot card, “The Star?”  She’s one of what I call, “the astronomical cards,” that are grouped together at the end of the Major Arcana:  The Star, The Moon, The Sun, and The World.

For some reason it seems easier to relate to the other three cards today.  Perhaps it’s because they are so intimately interwoven with our daily existence.  We live on and with Mother Earth/The World. The Sun makes us happy and marks out our seasons.  The Moon controls the tides and is strongly connected with women’s fertility and men’s insanity.  

But what about The Star?  What comes to mind? Anything?  Not much?

The first known examples of the Tarot emerged 1500-ish.  We know that most of the natural philosophers (they didn’t have scientists, yet) were still using the Greco-Roman model of the universe at that time.  The Earth, of course, was the Center of the Universe because we are SO important. Then extending all around the Earth there was a great circle of a sphere which contained space and the moon and the sun.

The latest, most up-to-date thinking at that time was that stars were actually holes in the sphere that surrounded us and that the light they radiated was heaven shining through the holes.  Which is why heaven is, “up there,” even today.

BUT . . . there were also stars that moved around.  We call them planets now days but the thinking back then was that if they moved around, then, by golly, they must be alive because that’s what living things do and that’s what dead things don’t.

Now, it’s interesting because the Greeks (and their intellectual suck ups the Romans) decided that if there were magical, celestial beings whizzing around in space then most of them must have penises.  Yes, I know . . . there’s poor lonely Venus and she’s a female, but every other, “living star,” was a male. Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Mercury, Pluto . . . not a vagina in the whole lot of them.

The rest of the world took an entirely different approach, however.  In most cultures there was no doubt that if stars were living beings they were definitely females.  And that’s what showed up in the Tarot, which we are told was a product of medieval Europe and which was still going by Greco-Roman thinking.  A woman. Odd, isn’t it?

In, “The Alphabet Versus The Goddess,”  Leonard Shlain makes a very strong case that all early civilizations were Goddess-based cultures.  And we can posit that Star Goddesses played a prominent role. The Sumerian/Babylonian Star Goddess Ishtar is portrayed here as her symbol, an eight pointed star:


And here we have an early Tarot deck version of The Star, with . . . ahem . . . an eight pointed star hovering over the Star Woman.


Or take the example of Tara, the Hindu Goddess who crossed over into Tibet.  She is portrayed with seven eyes – two in her hands, two in her feet, and three in her head – because she sees all of our suffering .


When the Buddhists arrived in Tibet they announced that Tara was actually the feminine counterpart of the bodhisattva (“buddha-to-be”) Avalokiteshvara and came into existence from a tear of Avalokiteshvara, which fell to the ground and formed a lake.

Right.  Another example of a man giving birth to a woman.  We know that happens all of the time.

Tara is thought to be the oldest still worshipped Goddess in existence and she was in Tibet a LONG time before Buddhism arrived.  Tara actually means, “Star,” so we can guess that Tibetan society was originally a matriarchal culture centered around the worship of a Star Goddess.

If you want a clincher for that, the term, “Dalai Lama,” literally translates as, “High (or exalted) Mother.”  If the original Dalai Lama didn’t have breasts it would have been a damned peculiar title.

When a Tibetan Buddhist wants to talk about compassion and pure, unadulterated love, they use the the example of the love that flows between a mother and a child.  Several of them that I’ve run across – such as Tulku Thondup who wrote, “Boundless Healing: Meditation Exercises to Enlighten the Mind and Heal the Body,” – expressed frustration in trying to convey that concept to Westerners because we tend to have such screwed up relationships with our parents.  Mother EQUALS love in their culture, if not in ours.

So we can perhaps begin to cobble together a picture of who the Star Woman actually is.  She is a Goddess. A mother. Unconditional love. Compassion. Always there, gently shining down to guide and protect us.  The blessing of feminine energy.

And perhaps, as the Goddess archetype continues to re-emerge in the world, that image and that feeling will once again seem as normal to us as The Sun, The Moon, and The World.

Let’s hope so.

Karmic Re-Set with the Nine of Swords

I remember the last time I pulled the Nine of Swords in one of my personal readings.  I had a very spiritual reaction, which was, “Well . . . shit.” Swiftly followed by another, which was, “Why me?”

It probably wasn’t one of my better days.

The Nine of Swords absolutely screams, “karma.”  The individual is lying in bed with his head in his hands, a perfect image of someone who has just awakened from a screaming nightmare.  The quilt on the bed is covered with astrological symbols showing past incarnations in different signs of the zodiac. The swords behind him seem locked together like the bars in a prison cell.

There can be no doubt that this is someone who has just realized that he’s accumulated some terrible, terrible karma and is going to have to pay a serious price for it.

There’s another way of looking at it, though.

If you’ve spent any substantial time in spiritual exploration then you’ve had that, “Ah HA!” moment when you realize that you are a co-creator of your life.  It goes something like this:

I control my thoughts.  My thoughts cause my emotions.  My emotions cause my energy vibrations.  My energy vibrations, through the Law of Attraction, determine what’s going to manifest in my life.  Therefore, I control (or create) what’s manifesting in my life.

To put it more succinctly, if I’m broadcasting a lot of negative vibrations I’m going to attract a lot of negative crap into my life.  If my vibrations are positive, positive things will flow into my life.

There’s a real rush that goes along with that revelation.  We feel very liberated from random circumstances and from people victimizing us.  We realize that all of this isn’t being done TO us, we’re making it happen to ourselves, which means that we can change it.

But there are a couple of, “Well . . . shit,” moments that go along with that.

The first one is, “Well . . . shit . . . I made this.  This is MY karma. I’m totally responsible for this mess.”

It wasn’t our abusive fathers, or our crazy ex-wife or husband, or the country or culture we grew up in, or the opportunities we did or didn’t have, or anything OUT THERE.  We manifested all of it into our lives or we chose to NOT manifest something better. We made it.

Well . . . shit . . .

The second appallingly scary moment happens when we realize that it means that we’re also creating what happens next.

Alcoholics Anonymous and the other 12 Step Programs have a saying:  “You can start your day over whenever you want to.” In other words, if you’re having a terrible day you can always take a deep breath, reconnect with your serenity, and change how your day is going.

Tibetan Buddhism embraces the concept that we can start our karma over whenever we want to.  No, we can’t escape the unfolding of consequences from our previous actions but we can make those consequences a lot better by starting to live our lives with love and compassion and the creation of good karma.

And when we realize – truly realize – that we are creating our lives right now, right here, with the choices that we’re making, that we’re starting over,  that’s a pretty heavy responsibility.

For one thing we have to get really clear on just what we DO want.  What are my values? What do I want in my life? Peace? Serenity? Happiness?  Family? Sex? Money? What do I want to create in my life? If all of this isn’t just stuff that’s happening to me, if it isn’t just things that people are doing to me, if I’m MAKING my life . . . what do I want it to look like?

And if we’re going to choose to consciously create our own lives – and we don’t have to, we can stay unconscious – then we have to consciously choose, every day, every hour, to control our emotions, our vibrations, and our manifestations.  

And that’s not easy.

Well . . . shit . . .

The Temperance Card, FaceBook, and Donald Trump

No one is born a racist.

When we see very young children of different races playing together there are no feelings of inferiority or superiority based on physical appearances.  True, there is a natural, childish wonder that they bring to everything they encounter.


“Why is your skin brown?”

“Why is your hair yellow?”

“How come your eyes turn up at the corners?”

Children wonder about everything because it’s all shiny and new to them, but they don’t judge what they’re encountering.  Racism is a judgement that’s added into their naturally innocent minds by adults who are too stupid to know better.

And, “adding in,” is what the Temperance card is all about.

When most of us hear the word, “temperance,” we automatically think of moderation or even abstinence.  If you’re from the United States you may think of the temperance movement and Crazy Carrie Nation rampaging through saloons, destroying liquor bottles and barrels with her hatchet.  

Another, alternate definition, however, is, “to mix together in the proper proportions.”

An example of that is the tempering of metals, in which other metals are added to the original metal to increase it’s flexibility or strength.  And that is clearly what the angel in the Temperance card is doing. She isn’t abstaining from something or being moderate; she’s mixing two things together.  And that, of course, brings up the question: “What two things?”

Think of it this way:  we’re all born with a particular nature which we call, “being human.”  Arguments between philosophers and (later) psychologists have gone back and forth about exactly what that means.  How much of, “being human,” are we born with (our nature) and how much do we acquire or learn from our parents and culture (our nurturing?)

The nature versus nurture debate remains pretty open ended.  We’re still finding out that some components of our behavior are learned, some spring straight from our instincts, and some are instinctual but with learned components added on to them.

We don’t really have to get into that debate for the purpose of discussing this card.  Let’s just grant that there is a basic human nature that most people are born with and that as we grow and age we learn additional things, acquire new skills, and gain more knowledge.  Nothing controversial about that, right?

But, again, the question is, “What’s being mixed?”  What’s being added to our basic natures as we go along in life?

There are, of course, elements that our parents, relatives and teachers add to us before we’re really old enough to make rational decisions about whether or not we agree with what they’re adding.  And that pre-rational programming can really sabotage us later in life. Psychologist Gay Hendricks was born to a single mother in a small, Southern town. His mother abandoned him soon after his birth and he was reared by his grandparents.  While he was financially secure growing up, his grandfather was extremely distant emotionally and seemed to hold Gay in some way responsible for his daughter giving birth out of wedlock and ruining her reputation.

It wasn’t until much later in life that Hendricks realized that he was manifesting older, emotionally withholding, critical authority figures in his life and career.  Basically, he was playing out the script that had been implanted in his subconscious when he was far too young to judge whether it was valid: old men judging him and finding him lacking.

So, yes, it’s very important to figure out what may have been, “added to us,” when we were young.  But there also comes a time, if we are fairly evolved people, when we consciously CHOOSE what’s being added to our basic natures.

I have friends who get on FaceBook every single day of the week and post endless streams of news stories about what a rotten, despicable, corrupt, son of a bitch Donald Trump is.  And I agree. BUT . . . I don’t want Donald Trump in my head all day. (Hell, I don’t even want him in my universe for one minute.) And so I CHOOSE to acknowledge that reality – yes, the Cheeto King is one twisted sister – and then LET IT GO.  I don’t want to internalize that kind of poison.

And that seems to be the deal:  we can’t choose what’s out there or control what other people are doing or saying.  But we can choose what we internalize and make a part of ourselves. Burying your head in the sand and pretending that people like Trump don’t exist not only isn’t the answer, it’s downright irresponsible.  As Louise Hay said, “You can’t clean the house if you don’t see the dirt.”

Going back to the analogy of mixing different metals to temper them, we can consciously ask ourselves: “Does this make me stronger and more flexible, or does this make me more rigid and brittle?  Do I want to add this to my Self and make it a permanent part of me, or do I simply acknowledge it and let it go?”

We can consciously seek out the positive and look for things that will make us grow and evolve.  Maybe read that book on Buddhism or try that class on mindfulness meditation or take a few minutes to watch that YouTube video on Spirit Guides.

At the end of the day we are our own alchemists.  We get to choose what ingredients we’re going to put in the magical, mystical potion called life.  And that’s called Temperance.

The Death Card – Signs, Symbols and Candles Burning Bright

“Mortality is not kind, and do not let anyone tell you it is; if there is such a thing as wisdom, and I have serious doubts about its presence in my own life, it lies in the acceptance of the human condition and perhaps the knowledge that those who have passed on are still with us, out there in the mist, showing us the way, sometimes uttering a word of caution from the shadows, sometimes visiting us in our sleep, as bright as a candle burning in a basement with no windows.”

James Lee Burke – “Robicheaux”

I love that sentence, not just for the incredible poetry of Southern writing, but especially for the last part:  “as bright as a candle burning in a basement with no windows.”

If someone you loved intensely dies you know that feeling of being in a basement too well.  Suddenly they’re . . . gone. All of their magic, all of their thoughts, their words, their touches and glances, have disappeared forever.

No matter what your spiritual beliefs may be – and I personally believe very strongly in an afterlife – the physical body, the material presence of the person you loved is gone.

There is, I think, a natural reaching out which most of us do after a death.  Trying to somehow contact the other person, to imagine them and how they are. Are they confused and disoriented?  Are they blissful and satisfied? Are they finally out of the pain that they were in and experiencing peace? There’s just that burning need to touch them, to feel their spirit one more time.

Religious people will tell you that they’re in heaven having pancakes with Jesus and, by golly, they have REAL maple syrup in heaven, not Mrs. Butterworth’s.  Spiritual people will tell you that they’re on, “the other side,” and dancing on rainbows or cruising through the astral plane. Psychic mediums may be able to give you very detailed descriptions like, “She’s in the garden and she’s wearing a white lace dress and your dog Skipper who died twenty years ago is there with her.”

And it’s all very comforting and sweet, all of those well intentioned words and Hallmark cards, but what we really want is to be able to see our loved ones for ourselves.  Instead, it’s like we’re, “in a basement with no windows.” We can’t see up and we can’t see out. We can’t see them.

If you actually talk to people who are grieving a death you’ll find an amazing number of them HAVE felt or seen some sort of a contact from their loved ones.  Maybe a pair of earrings suddenly appear on a bedside table, or a long lost note from them falls out of a book, or the lights flicker on and off whenever the dead come to mind.  There are signs and signals from them and, yet, we can’t quite get through to them. No matter much we miss or desire that contact we just can’t touch them.

It feels, of course, like a great big Cosmic Door has been slammed shut.  We’re on one side and they’re on the other. We may hear a faint murmur of their voices but we can’t get past the door.

Oddly, though, Death can be the start of a journey that will take you to much greater heights than you could have ever imagined.  Getting through that goddamned door can become a Quest.

The Sioux tribes believe that people who are grieving over Death are closer to Spirit World than normal humans.  That the veil between the two worlds is thinner for them, that the Spirits hear them more clearly, and that their prayers have greater powers. Certainly deep grief feels that way.  It’s as if you exist in a world apart from ordinary life and you see and feel things that others who are aren’t grieving can’t see and feel.

In other words, people who are close to Death – either their own or a loved one – are existing in a Sacred Space.  There is no other time when we are more likely to ask the right questions and get the right answers than when we are in the presence of Death.

Death leaves clues and symbols for us that point to a higher, Spiritual realm. What we do with them is up to us.  We don’t have to understand them at first, we just need to acknowledge that they’re real.  Yes, those earrings DID appear out of nowhere. Yes, it IS odd that a note from my husband fell out of a book just as I was thinking of him.  Yes, the lights DO flicker on and off for no reason when I talk about my dead child.

And, yes, it’s entirely possible that our departed loved ones are still here, “as bright as a candle burning in a basement with no windows.”

The Hermit: “For What Does It Profit a Man to Gain the Whole World But Lose His Soul?”

I am fortunate enough to live in one of the most beautiful places in the United States, the Trinity Alps of far Northern California.  There are gorgeous rivers and streams and lakes, mountains, two national forests, a plethora of eagles, hawks, ravens, bears, trout, and salmon.  And there are only 13,000 people living in the entire county so you can still actually spend hours walking in the woods or sitting by a river by yourself.

We have thousands of tourists come through every summer and a sizable minority of them are just plain miserable.  It’s either too hot or it’s too cold, there aren’t enough cashiers in the grocery store, the ATM wasn’t working, the water in the river is too cold to swim in, it’s too quiet, it’s boring, the internet isn’t fast enough, etc., etc., etc.

It’s kind of sad.  These people have spent thousands of dollars to go to a beautiful, tranquil place to get away from their problems for a few weeks and it turns out that the main problem they have is . . . them.  They’re just not happy people. And they brought themselves with them.

Like the old cliche’ says, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

The Hermit is about a period of withdrawal from the world.  About getting out of the stream of time and events for a while so that you can either figure out or remember who you really are.  But, as we can surmise from the unhappy tourists in Trinity County, there’s a little more involved with that than just running away from home.

A researcher named Marsha Sinetar wrote a fascinating book on the subject called, “Ordinary People As Monks and Mystics, Lifestyles For Self-Discovery.”  She put ads in several papers across the country seeking out people who had chosen to withdraw from everyday life and based the book on her interviews with them.

Several things become obvious as you read through the book.  The first is that these people experienced a massive reordering of what they considered to be valuable (also known as, “their values.”)  At some point in their lives they simply decided that the new car, the big house, the fancy computers, the pay raise at the job, and yes, even the marriage to the, “perfect spouse,” and 2.5, “perfect children,” were all bullshit.  All of the things that we might ordinarily consider important and satisfying and fun had become unimportant distractions to them.

What BECAME important to them were, oddly, the things that used to be part of the human birthright but which many of us have lost in modern life.  Time alone. Time to think. Time to meditate. Being in nature. Reading. Silence. Contemplation.

And – again, oddly – claiming  these simple things which used to be free to every human being actually, “cost,”  them a fair amount. Most of them had to walk away from the high paying jobs and start doing part time jobs and learn to live on less money and with fewer possessions.  They walked away from the social status and from the concept that they were, “important people,” as defined by others and walked toward the concept of being, “important people,” as defined by their own hearts.  

Some of them became alienated from their families who refused to accept their new lifestyles.  “Why are you living out in the woods with a dog instead of finding a good husband and having kids?  What’s wrong with you?”

These are mainly seen as sacrifices by people on the outside looking in, though.  To the participants in the study they were very small sacrifices to make for having the luxuries of time and solitude.  

“Time, not money, seemed to be the element most coveted for their new life. . . they didn’t have to be financially secure, they just had to FEEL secure . . .”

And that was one of the biggest takeaways for me from this book.  Modern life, as most of us know it, is a thief. It steals our TIME and in doing so it steals our ability to think about who we are and why we’re here.  In exchange it gives us, “things,” – toys, computers, cars, houses, money – and then it hypnotizes us into thinking that those things are actually us, actually the life that it just stole from us.  

The Hermit is about throwing away the trinkets and finding the gold.  Taking back your time and your Self and your Soul.

Getting Real – The Hanged Man

I said in my original definition of The Hanged Man that having this archetype blow through your life is a lot like getting hit in the face with a two by four.  It involves an experience that is so painful, so truly devastating that you have to totally reevaluate how you relate to life and the souls around you.  

In other words, you have to have a new framework for your existence.  

We tend to focus on the central figure of The Hanged Man – the individual hanging from one foot with his hands tied behind him – and not see the background of the picture which includes the frame from which he is hanging.  The frame, though, is every bit as important as the person.

A.E. Waite chose to design the frame in a shape which is very much like a cross and evocative of Jesus, but that’s not how the frame was shown in the older cards.  It normally consisted of two living trees, one on each side, with a beam laid across their tops. It wasn’t a cross and had zippity doo dah to do with Jesus.

We can, perhaps, get a better grasp of what the inventors of the Tarot were getting at if we look at The Hanged Man from the old Marseille deck.


The name is Le Pendu, the hanging one.  It’s related to a slew of our modern words such as pendant, pendulum, dependent, and depend.  The commonality is that they all describe something that hangs from something else.

We all have a central point that our worlds (as we perceive them) hang from.  You might call it your, “identity.” Or perhaps your, “social fabric.” It’s made up of a myriad of factors that, blended together, make up the way that we see the world and our places in it.

“I’m a conservative hispanic catholic from New Mexico.”

OR

“I’m a liberal jew from Marin County.”

OR

“I’m an african american wiccan from Alabama.”

There are literally millions upon millions of variations, with each of us picking out and identifying with the things that make us feel unique and influence the way we perceive the world and our lives.  “This is who I am.”

The Hanged Man has had a forced realization that everything he believed in, everything he thought of as, “myself,” was an illusion.  Maybe it was a divorce that caused him to see that. Maybe it was the death of a child. Maybe it was an illness. Whatever it was he KNOWS that his previous life wasn’t real.

No, you aren’t your sports car because that can be taken away from you.

And you aren’t your house.

Or your brand new computer.

Or your family.

Or your religion.

Or even the color of your skin because, in case you haven’t noticed, you’re not taking that with you when you leave this beautiful world.

The Hanged Man has had that kind of a shocking realization.  That none of it’s really REAL. Everything he dePENDED on can vanish in the blink of an eye.  Everything he hung his identity from was an illusion. He’ll never see the world in the same way again.

And now he has to put himself back together, only this time in a way that IS real and that can’t be taken away from him.  He needs to reclaim his soul.

When you look at the trees in the old Marseille card it’s obvious that the branches have  been cut off. Everything that was once his life has been pruned away. BUT . . . the tips of the branches also look very much like buds in the Spring.  Full of life and ready to grow again.

Here’s how Eckhart Tole put it:

“Ego is no more than identification with form, which primarily means thought forms . . . What a liberation to realize that, ‘the voice in my head,’ is not who I am.  Who am I then? The one who sees that.”

The Hanged Man.