Oct 262016

On November 8th, like so many other people, you will go into the polling place, hold your nose, and vote for the next President of the United States. Depending on how much of a personal compromise that is, you may then wander off to the nearest bar to get okay with your choice through the aid of adult beverages. Or perhaps your self-soothing mechanisms lean more toward the blanket fort, cocoa, avoid human contact variety. Whatever you choose to do, as a concerned, informed citizen, you will exercise your right to vote and you will find a way to get okay with the outcome.

Knowing this was coming has not made it easier to accept. On the Fourth of July I set up an altar to Columbia, the personification of the American Spirit. I gave her a potted plant and faced her toward Washington, D.C. I also gave her a bowl of M&Ms thinking they were a nice representation of the people of the US. You know, the whole melting pot thing. All those candies were all different colors but basically the same inside. This did double duty as the altar is in my living room and the candy dish let it all hide in plain sight.

Columbia close up

Within a few days the M&Ms were crawling with ants. That was distressing.

I thought about the meaning behind that while I tossed the candies into the trash. Once the candy was gone so were the ants. They didn’t go anywhere else. There weren’t any stragglers looking for other food. They were just gone. That seemed more symbolic than mundane.

Around the same time I had a conversation with my husband on a completely unrelated topic. He said, “One cockroach in a bowl of cherries ruins the cherries but one cherry in a bowl of roaches doesn’t improve the roaches.” Not a perfect analogy but insects ruining otherwise fun snacks made symbolic sense to me. I know that most people are in fact decent and capable of being wonderful. I also know that most of those M&Ms were fine but the association with the ants is what made them unacceptable.

The ants came to be an emblem of the corrosive attitudes and rhetoric surrounding this election. Their presence made me aware of the subjective perceptions we have about each other and the people vying for public office. Right then I sharpened my focus. The ritual became about an outcome that is in the best interest of the USA and no longer about my candidate winning at all. (I realize that this election has worldwide implications but family first.)

I propose a group ritual every day from October 31st to Election Day itself, November 8th. That is nine days. Care to join me?

Nine is the number of completion. There is solidity and balance to it and it’s a sacred number in many spiritual practices and faith traditions. My suggestion and personal practice this time around is informed by the Catholic practice of the Novena. This is nine days of focused prayer to either petition the Lord or express gratitude. It’s a solid practice with a long history and adapting it to you personal beliefs is simple.

I will leave the details up to you. Make this as simple or complex as you feel you need to. The objective is focused prayer/ritual/practice/meditation toward the goal of having the election outcome be in the best interest of the USA. Pick a time each day that works for you. I prefer the morning, other people I know prefer working at night. Every day, at the same time each day, light a candle and pray or perform a full sacred petitioning ritual, starting October 31st and ending on November 8th.

When Election Day comes vote however you see fit; that is the mundane action required of this ritual, but the ritual itself is not for a particular candidate to win. It’s bigger than that. There is a power in the universe that has a longer, fuller view of things than we do. Let those powers that be know we give a shit about more than our own personal choices.

The outcome may not be what you personally wanted but trust that what is for the best will come to pass and it will be easier to accept our new president.

Jul 012016

In the 18th century it was common for European countries to use Latin names when referring to themselves and each other in formal contexts. The names were held over or at least inspired by the names used by the Roman Empire for the countries in question. (Britannia for England, Caledonia for Scotland, Gallia for France, Iberia for Spain…) Almost as a joke, in The Gentleman’s Magazine in England in the 1730s, the name Columbia was used to refer to the colonies in the New World.

By the time of the American Revolution, Columbia became a poetic name for America and was embraced by the colonists. She became a personification of the American identity and took the form of a classical goddess. Her image appeared in art and sculpture and her name was invoked in poetry. As America grew she morphed and never really settled on one image though she is always female and goddess-like in appearance. She is usually dressed in a long gown reminiscent of Classical Greek and Roman deities. Occasionally she wears a laurel wreath or a Native American headdress, and sometimes a Phrygian Cap. Her name is on universities, rivers, cities, movie companies, recording companies, ships, and a space shuttle.

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s almost The United States of America’s birthday. In honor of what she was intended to stand for I created an altar to Columbia: the original American identity and the ideals of Liberty, and Freedom she personifies.

(Plus, this election cycle has already gone on too long and the worst part is that one of those horrible people will win)

Columbia Altar

This is a replica of the Statue of Freedom that stands atop the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia). 🙂  I bought this statue years ago from the U.S. Capitol Historical Society. The marble used to create her was taken from a staircase in the wing occupied by the House of Representatives. Every member of the House, between 1865 when they were installed and 1995 when they were removed, has climbed those stairs and the marble they trod has been crushed and combined with resin to make this statue. That is why I chose her for this altar. She is a physical piece of the Capitol building and the image of Columbia.


Here’s hoping she still has some juice.

Jan 012015

I took an online class the other night with Briana Saussy about prayer and blessings. She spoke about the nature of prayer and it’s expression in the many different faiths and religions of the world. As she was speaking and explaining prayer I was remembering my own experiences and how my current expression of the practice is completely different from what I was taught as a child.

I was raised Roman Catholic. I remember being taught basic prayers as a child and having a hard time with them. I had a hard time remembering the exact wording and in religious education class, in Catholic school, that mattered as did the proper placement of commas and capitalization. I don’t know if the teachers thought it mattered or if they were mixing a grammar lesson into our religion class. What I do know is that it sent the message that there is one right way to pray and it is complicated. There was also a threat in there that doing it wrong would put you in disfavor with God.

That didn’t make any sense to me.

I exasperated more than one teacher/priest/sister with questions about prayer and God. Very few of them took the time to give me a thoughtful answer. Most of the time I was shushed or given a pat, dismissive answer that didn’t satisfy me.

“If God is the father, who is the mother?”

“If I’m a child of God why can’t I just talk to Him?”

“If God is so powerful that he created everything why is he so angry with his creation? Couldn’t He just do it over again?”


By the time I got to high school I was adept at tuning out of religion class. I knew I wasn’t going to learn anything new because the previous years had all been a rehash of each other. I also had given up any hope that my questions would be properly answered. I paid enough attention to be able to parrot back the information on a test. The rest of the time I doodled, counted ceiling tiles or watched the critters outside the classroom window.

I distinctly remember one day watching the squirrels play on the school grounds and Sister So-and-so was having us recite a particularly obsequious prayer. The tone of that prayer always annoyed me; still does. I remember thinking that it must irritate God to hear this drivel. If someone were to talk to me, ask me for something, even just to thank me and they did it in this toadying manner I would be disgusted by them. I have always wanted people to stand up in themselves, face me square on and have a respectful conversation. At the time I remember thinking I was only a fourteen year old girl, if it irritated me to be spoken to that way what must it be like to be God. What must it be like to be the creator of heaven and earth, and have people speak to you this way all the time. It felt manipulative and insincere. It felt wrong and insulting. Then and there I stopped doing it.

I played along for the rest of my school career; the grades mattered. In my private moments I had conversations with God instead of reciting rote prayers. When I was sitting in church I played along there too but I was actually meditating and observing. The ritual and space are meaningful and when I studied the practice of ritual and sacred space I learned a new appreciation for the Catholic Mass, but the experience of going to mass as a child and teen was always hollow. As I got older it became harder and harder to pretend there was anything there that connected me to the Divine. It actually interfered with my experience of God and by the time I graduated high school I understood why that was:

They had made God too small.

The God I was introduced to as a child served a purpose for the child and the Church. As I grew and matured the explanations of God did not grow and mature with me so I left them behind and sought my own answers. The God I’ve experienced since is so much bigger than I can explain and the prayers of childhood are even more woefully inadequate. During Bri’s class the other night she included my favorite quote from Kierkegaard:

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”


I have found that the most profound and sincere prayer is one of gratitude. We go through life taking things for granted that are, in fact, quite miraculous. The gratitude doesn’t even need to be directed to a deity for it to transform you. It’s the mindset and practice of gratitude that does the work.

The way I recommend starting when I am asked by friends and clients is a simple walking meditation. There is no heavy preparation needed. There is no limit on the time spent doing this. It is actually a simple, straight forward activity that becomes meditative in the doing of it.

Woman walking on the sandbeach

It’s walking.

It’s walking with a purpose.

With each foot strike you alternately say “Thank” and “you”; left foot “Thank”, right foot “you” or vice versa. Do this from your car to your morning train; while walking to get the mail; while looking for groceries; while taking your dog out for a stroll.  Do it deliberately as part of your daily exercise. Do it for a week and see what changes it makes for you.

May 2015 be a healthy and happy year for you.

May 072013

Friday is the official start of Readers Studio and every year it opens with a ritual, interviews of the master class instructors and the famous Foundation Reading. The Foundation Reading is what it sounds like: the first reading of the weekend. It is a baseline. You partner up with someone, read for each other and make a record of the reading. Then on Sunday, after you’ve taken all the classes, you meet back up with this same partner, lay out the same reading and reinterpret it using your newly learned skills.

Rhonda was my partner. She’s an amazing person. She did a reading for me and as soon as I saw the cards I got emotional. The 6 of cups reversed, The World reversed, 9 of swords, 2 of cups reversed it was all about losing my dad and the emotional waves and ripples that has sent through my life. Rhonda didn’t know about Dad and was trying to find a way to gently ask some questions. I let her off the hook and gave her a synopsis. We were both weepy and agreed that this loss is coloring everything I’ve been doing for the last few months and will be an influence for months to come. We also agreed that any readings I received all weekend would probably touch this subject. I decided right there to just stick with my few close friends instead of table hopping just to keep from having to share this over and over with new people. I had no trouble reading for other people, which is good or I don’ t know how much I would have gotten out of the seminar.


After a lunch buffet on Friday, the lovely and talented Nancy Antenucci took the stage. As you may remember, I love her book, so I was really looking forward to her class. She did not disappoint. We did several exercises to get out of our heads and into the moment. The most interesting for me was when she had us all mill about the ballroom and interact with each other wordlessly. We were to walk around as if everyone was our friend, as if no one was our friend, as if one of these people was the chosen one, as if one of these people had a special message just for us. It was remarkable how differently we responded to each other because of the underlying thinking we were doing.

The quote from Nancy that stuck with me is “Honor the human in you and let it go … for now, so you can go deeper.”

Saturday is the busiest day of Readers Studio. There is an optional breakfast class, two master classes, a costume banquet, several evening classes to choose from and the socializing that gets tucked in and around those classes. You could be going from 7am to 11pm before spending hours in the lobby or the bar with your friends.

Major Tom Schick taught the first master class on Saturday. He is a very nice guy, the creator of Major Tom’s Tarot of Marseilles, and he knows his stuff. After half an hour in his class I was getting nothing but agitated. Sorry, Tom. I actually packed up my bag and made as quiet and inconspicuous an exit as I could. Other people stayed for the whole class and you can read James Wells’ blog about it here. I met up with a few other people and we spent an hour in the readers’ lounge doing a Mary K. Greer tarot circle.

After lunch Ferol Humphrey took hold of that ballroom/classroom and didn’t let go. Her class was fast paced and kept us on our toes and moving through the cards. We went around the table as quickly as possible finishing sentences like “I accept…/I reject…” We worked at speed and then we went deeper into the cards. I’ve been a member of her Living Tarot group on Facebook for quite a while and her posts always get me thinking and doing. To do those Living Tarot exercises in person is a much different experience. It’s not better or worse; it’s a different level.

The banquet was fun, as it always is. There was entertainment provided by the more theatrical and musical members of our group which included some truly funny moments. Then there was Ciro Marchetti’s farewell. He is retiring from tarot work after ten years as a deck designer and moving on to other kinds of artwork. He showed a video of his new career in Las Vegas, which was, of course, a joke. He then followed it with this stunning computer generated compilation of his tarot work. I am sorry to see him go. No one tells a bad joke quite the way Ciro does. I wish him and his lovely and patient wife, Maria, all the best.

After the banquet I took a class lead by the amazing James Wells. He had us really get into the cards in a meditative way and we practiced with one card. I chose the Knight of Swords because it had been coming up in readings all weekend. I’ve been reading tarot on and off for almost thirty years and his class and this practice shifted my perception of the Knight of Swords and the knights in general. It was powerful.

Sunday, the final day of the conference, started with another Breakfast Roundtable discussion. We then met up with our original foundation reading partners and re-read that spread using the new skills we had learned. There was one last round of classes and I chose to learn from Carrie Paris. I’ve long felt that the online reading experience is lacking something and her class not only addressed this issue and identified exactly what was missing but gave me a bag full of tools and ideas to round out the enterprise and make it more satisfying for both myself and my clients.

There were warm good-byes throughout the day as people left to catch flights home. We were given our certificates and had some great conversations over lunch and during the more unstructured afternoon. At one point we were talking to Barbara Moore and she handed me a copy of her soon to be release Book of Shadows: So Below  tarot deck as a gift. It’s a very nice companion to the first volume Book of Shadows: As Above. After I have played with it a bit I’ll post a full review here.

All in all it was great. I have yet to come away from Readers Studio feeling like I wasted my time and money. Quite the contrary. It’s wonderful energy to soak in all weekend and now, a week and half later, I’m still processing it all. And yes, I’ll be going back next year.