Jun 302011

We come to the end of June and I, for one, am happy to see it go. It wasn’t a terrible month but it was challenging and irritating and a bit frustrating. The Wildwood Tarot will retire as our deck of the month but before he goes I had a question: What was up with June?  This is the answer I got

This is the spread I use when I don’t know which spread to use and it’s one I learned from Donnaleigh de LaRose. The four positions are from left to right: the current situation; the challenge; the advice; and the likely outcome of following the advice. Interesting, no?

The third of my five children graduated from highschool last weekend. Now what? It’s a new beginning for her and for us too(Ace of Arrows). We have more children out of school than in. She will be starting college in the Fall and that’s part of the new beginning as well. This card brought to mind the quote from Kahlil Gibran. In The Prophet he wrote: “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”

The challenge (Seven of Stones) reared its ugly head just as May ended. The same daughter was on the Senior Class trip to Disney World and she had a severe allergic reaction to something. She broke out in hives that came and went the first day there. The second morning she awoke with her tongue and all her extremities swollen. She had trouble breathing, couldn’t dress herself or get her shoes on. Thankfully the school nurse was on hand to help her, treated her right away with some medication and rushed her to the nearest Urgent Care center. Several trips to various doctors, an allergist included and we’ve discovered she is allergic to sunscreen. Specifically parabens. Do you know how many things have parabens? This card, Seven of Stones, is about healing and it’s also assessment. It’s about checking in with yourself and seeing what needs healing. Aside from the allergy there was stress making everything worse.

It’s emotional graduating from high school and it’s a bit frightening too. Life is getting real and all your insecurities stand up and say hello. There is tremendous pressure put on high school students and it’s not only unnecessary it borders on cruel. Almost no one knows what they want to do with the rest of their life when they are seventeen or eighteen but the faculty and staff at the school act as if these kids should know. The pressure to choose the right school is treated like a life or death decision. As if the wrong school is inescapable and will ruin the rest of your life.  Then there are students who seem to have it all figured out. They’ve made decisions and are following them through. Good for them. Everyone celebrates those kids but if you aren’t one of them you feel as though you are a failure. That’s not good at all. Many of the kids my daughter graduated with she won’t see again until some high school reunion ten or twenty years from now. She has no way of knowing what they will really end up doing. Of all the college graduates I know only one who is working in their field of major study. One! No one really has it all figured out even at forty-five years old let alone seventeen. But these kids don’t have that perspective and the adults at the school have other reasons for pushing them into college that have more to do with the high school than the child’s future. All of that aside, she did graduate and is going to college but her head is still spinning with all sorts of wrong ideas. I think this is where the Three of Stones comes in.

The figure in this card is a Green Woman with her legs turning into roots and her hair is leaves. The thing that struck me about her is that she is grounded and she draws her strength from there. She seems to have lowered her center of gravity which improves her balance and she is centered between the upright stones. The keyword is Creativity which will be required to help my daughter see things more clearly but the groundedness and centeredness of the woman in the image really speaks more to what my daughter needs to get back to. Without the constant barrage from classmates and teachers regarding grades, graduation and college, I think she will relax back into herself. As the distance from highschool increases I can see her gaining the perspective she doesn’t completely have right now. Which brings us to the Stag. Here is an adult hybrid. He is half man, half animal and fully himself. He stands tall and looks you right in the eye. He holds a shield that is emblazoned with a tree like the Druidic tree of life and in the other hand has a double-headed ax. He is balanced. He is brave.

Looking at the cards left to right I can’t help but notice the posture of the figures. The arrow and the two Green Women are looking up but more level with each card. The arrow is higher than the healer who is looking up higher than the woman between the stones. Lastly the Stag is looking right at us. This too tells me that this month was about getting out of our head and into the world. For my daughter it was getting away from other peoples ideas and finding the inner guidance we all have so she can grow into that Stag and stand tall as who she really is.

Jun 062011

I woke up just past four o’clock this morning. It was unintentional. One moment I was sound asleep and the next moment I was wide awake. Not that ‘I just woke up’ sort of awake but the ‘I’ve been up for hours’ kind of awake. It’s annoying when this happens.

All my life I’ve been a sound sleeper. One night, when I was about twelve and living on Staten Island, we were hit with a nasty hurricane. The winds were fierce and powerful enough to uproot a sixty year old sycamore tree in my across-the-street-neighbor’s yard. It fell toward my house, blocking  the street, pinning another neighbor’s car and the top of the tree landed on the porch roof right outside my bedroom window. I slept through the whole thing.

When I do sleep now I still sleep pretty soundly but over the last five or so years I’ve been waking up for no good reason in the middle of the night. It was unnerving at first. So much so I asked my doctor about it. He said it was hormones. (As an aside to all the doctors out there, when you tell a woman that her problems are because of her hormones back it up with something concrete. Men have been dismissing women’s feelings and ideas for years by chalking it up to female hormones and it’s downright disrespectful and irritating. You may be 100% correct that her issue is hormone related but without some serious backup you will piss off your patient and lose some credibility. Guess how I know.) After storming out of his office and discussing this with some friends my own age I have learned that I’m not alone in this. Not only that, it’s not anything to worry about. My favorite explanation was from Joanna who said that we wake that early because the dawn has secrets to share with us. I like that.

Being who I am, I did some research. For most of human history nighttime was dark. People didn’t stay up watching TV or reading by artificial light. Shortly after the sun set people went to sleep and they also generally woke up with the dawn. Many of them didn’t sleep straight through. They would experience an hour or so of wakefulness about four hours after they went to sleep. Sleep studies and sleep historians seem to agree that getting up for an hour or so in the middle of the night is perfectly normal. It is called a biphasic sleep pattern. Pre-industrial people used to refer to it as early sleep and late sleep. I like that, too.

Reading all this research was really quite relieving for me. I prefer to sleep soundly for the whole night and am still a little annoyed when I get up four hours after I fall to sleep but at least now I’m not worried about it. After I got over my irritation with my doctor I started to make note of when I woke like this. (He could be right. It has happened on occasion)  I’ve tracked it for ages now and I can’t find a pattern. If in fact it’s tied to my hormones I’d think it would coincide with other things on the calendar. It doesn’t. It may be because I’m in my forties or it may be something else entirely. I’ve decided not to stress about it and just accept that this is how things are now.

 So, when I woke at four in the morning and it was just me and the birds, I decided to do the Morning Pages exercise. It’s a wonderful use of the time and Joanna was right. About halfway through the Dawn revealed her secrets.

Jun 012011


For years my default reading deck was the Druidcraft Tarot  in part because of the artwork of Will Worthington. I learned a few months ago that he was the artist for the Wildwood Tarot, Mark Ryan’s reworking of his previous deck The Greenwood Tarot which is now out of print and way out of my price range. I was thrilled. Mr. Ryan, with input from John Matthews has created a potent and beautiful deck that captures the primal energy of the wild wood coupled with the Wheel of the Year.

While the deck does keep with the basic tarot structure of  twenty-two Major and fifty-four Minor Arcana totalling seventy-eight cards, there are some changes from the traditional cards and their meanings. The suits are Stones, Arrows, Bows and Vessels instead of Pentacles, Swords, Wands and Cups respectively. Each suit keeps the standard elements we’ve come to know and love but with an added seasonal energy. In the book Mr. Ryan provides a graph describing the Wheel of the Year and each card’s placement therein. To better understand this for myself I recreated this graph with the actual cards on my bed.

Should you buy this deck I suggest you give this a try. It puts the cards in perspective and their relationships to each other and the seasons become much more clear. The center of the wheel is made up of the Major Arcana. Around the outside of the wheel I laid out the minor cards from Ace to King in a clockwise direction because that is the way the dates work out. It seemed wrong at first because it reads right to left instead of the default left to right I’m so used to. Mr. Ryan suggests this as a meditation exercise to get acquainted with the archetypes found in the quarter and cross-quarter days. “Often the most vivid and clear insights come from following the natural current of the Wheel in this way.” (page 27 The WildWood Tarot)

There are many differences between the images in this deck and the RWS that has become a sort of standard. Some of them are subtle and some seem at first to be a large departure. For example let’s look at the Hanged Man. The Wildwood Tarot has separated the meanings of this card and spread it over two cards. The Mirror which is about the surrender of will and the insights gleaned from meditation and dreams

and The Blasted Oak which combines the unexpected destruction of the Tower with the sacrifice and discomfort of the Hanged Man.

The artwork is stunning and in many of the cards it is quite powerful.  All the cards are fully illustrated and the backs, as you can see from the top photo, are solid forest green with a thin white border line. The Court Cards are all animals and relate to the element of their suit, ie: birds for air. Each Minor Arcana card, from Ace to Ten has a keyword next to the title. The Court Cards have the name of the depicted animal next to the title of the card.

The accompanying book is interesting. There is a foreward from each of the authors and a twenty page introduction to the deck written by Mark Ryan which includes the above Wheel of the Year exercise. Each Major Arcana card receives a two page explanation. Each Minor Arcana card receives one page with the exception of the court cards which each have their own page but only a few sentences explaining them and a few more defining them in a reading. The cards are all depicted in black and white on their own pages.

On the title page of part one of the book, Mark Ryan writes “The best advice I ever got about Tarot was: ‘Read the book, meditate with the cards, then put the book away and do your own thing!’ ”  I think that is excellent advice.

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