Jan 292017

Art of Change Tarot is shape shifting into Soul Path Sanctuary in 2017. All of my new activities will be happen at the Sanctuary and soon all of Art of Change’s content will be migrating there.

I am not really changing my work, but was finding I needed a bigger umbrella to hold all of the threads being woven together.

Please visit me at Soul Path Sanctuary!


Oct 312016

Around the time of the new moon, I post these readings as a prompt for contemplative practice and noticing the more cosmic patterns of life as you attend to the lunar energy in a solar world.

October New Moon – Sunday, October 30, 2016 at 1:38pm ET in the USA

Releasing the last air moon & Welcoming the new water moon – Amidst the first days of the Celtic season of Samhain which marks the start of the new year and a time to honor the ancestors

flaming-tree-heartHere in New England, we have arrived in late fall, which straddles the beauty of the leaves’ last fire and the stark revelations of tree’s essential form.  Observing the drama of the shape shifting, we can be inspired, too, to tune into our essential selves. Perhaps we will follow the guidance of Rumi (from Mafi and Kolin’ Rumi’s Little Book of the Heart):

The time has come to turn your heart

into a temple of fire.

Your essence is gold hidden in dust

To reveal its splendor

you need to burn in the fire of love.

And as the growing world’s green recedes, the usually unseen invites us to connect. Secretive birds show themselves. The ancestors and beloved dead beckon. With distractions stripped away, we answer the call to remember and connect in communal and private ways through the spiritual (Samhain, All Saints  & Souls Days, Day of the Dead) and secular (Veterans Day) holidays with a heart open to messages from nature or loved ones gone.

This time of growing dark can be a challenge but reflection and ritual can support us to find the gifts in this season and cultivate our essential selves. I hope this moonth’s reading supports you in this time

ESSENTIAL SELF EMERGING: What of your essential self is emerging in this season?

UNSEEN REALM OFFERING: What of the usually unseen world wants to offer support to this essential self emerging?

UNITING:  How can I best respond to the essential and unseen to weave their gifts into my life?


News on Art of Change Tarot Shape Shifting: I am in the process of shape shifting my practice from Art of Change Tarot to Soul Path Sanctuary. Really this has been going on for a number of years as my work evolved to be a weaving of Tarot wisdom, nature awareness, ritual observations of the seasons, and inspirations of the mystic word. I am finally just changing the name under which I do the work. In November, we will be a shift in the website to and spreading the news about the sanctuary’s first offering of an e-retreat for the Solstice-hinged seasonal ritual of Descent and Return of the Light. More details to come soon.

Note on this Moonth’s E-readings: I hope you will enjoy doing this e-reading on your. My slots to do these readings during this busy moonth are all filled by those who signed up for the annual package.

Sep 262016

As the last new moon reached the end of its cycle, I post these readings as a prompt for contemplative practice and noticing the more cosmic patterns of life as you attend to the lunar energy in a solar world.

2nd/Blue September New Moon – Friday, September 30, 2016 at 8:11pm ET in the USA

Releasing the last earth moon & Welcoming the new air moon

Oak Wisdom Reading

Gaian four-earthAlthough we think of spring as the time for seeding the new, each season has its seeds. In the fall, these seeds are the nuts of long-growing trees and bulbs of perennial flowers. They spend more time in the dark gestating to emerge for a longer life than the spring’s pansies and annual crops.

Their time of retreat is the beginning of their emergence.

The tree’s growth cycle reminds us about the value and potential of the dark for bringing forth the deeper, larger, higher dreams. These so often need time to be gestated and loved into life by the dark.

RETREAT: What wisdom can I glean from a recent slowdown, set back, or disappointment?

ENERGY EMERGING: What new energy is bursting into the void of my slowdown, set back, or disappointment?

GESTATING:  What might I birth from gestating this emerging energy?

You can order this as an e-reading for $22. Here is a sample of how I do these readings in a collaborative intuitive format. I have slots open after the week of October 3rd

Sep 192016

dark love faceEach season offers different gifts and challenges, flows with its own rhythm and mystery.  When we tune our awareness to the offerings and energy of the season, we can better receive its wisdom and be supported in our spiritual exploring, divinatory seeking, and/or creative vocations.

The turning from October to November is a threshold time in many traditions. In the Celtic tradition, both from its earth-honoring origins and later Celtic Christianity, these days were a time to prepare for the coming dark, gather in circle to share stories, and remember the ancestors.

This year’s theme of Dark Flow invites us to release that which would inhibit our crossing the threshold of darkness and receiving its gifts of ancestral wisdom, healing, gestational creativity, and the love that flows even between the worlds.  

During this mini-retreat, we follow in the footsteps of tradition and do our own listening to the land at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton, MA to find the wisdom that speaks to our hearts and souls at this time.

In our time together, we will:

  • Greet each other and the season.
  • Take a Wisdom Wander. No matter the weather, there will be an invitation to connect with the land and creatures at Arcadia in some way.
  • Through a ritual of stones, we will release heaviness we carry that might inhibit us from connecting with dark nurture or our Beloved Dead.
  • Create an altar for the Beloved Dead and Ancestors.
  • Leave with “rainbow in the dark” sticks that represent what light the dark will nurture in us and that you can unwrap in spring. (Thanks to Mellissae Lucia for this concept.)
  • Eat a simple lunch highlighting local vegetables and fruits (vegan and gluten-free friendly).

You are invited to bring any, all, or none of these things:

  • Clothing appropriate to the weather and shoes for walking around on well-laid out trails. (OK, clothing is a requirement at this time of year. Not really optional!)
  • A journal, drawing pad, piece of paper, pen, and/or colored pencils.
  • A Tarot or oracle deck.  If you don’t have one, there will be decks for sharing for use at the retreat.
  • A picture of or object that represents one of your Beloved Dead or Ancestors. Additional pictures or objects are welcome though they might not be talked about.
  • A camera for contemplative photo receiving.

Registration is now closed for this gathering. 


Sep 192016

In March, before the Equinox, and as the moon opened to fullness, I had an experience that is basically inexpressible because of its power and because of its commonness. I sensed the moment the seasons shifted as the moon rose over a river filling with spring’s ice floes.

To convey a glimpse into the mystery of that moment, I’ll say I encountered Persephone, the Goddess of Greek myth who is kidnapped by Hades to serve as the Queen of the Underworld, welcoming the dead, and mourned by her mother Demeter, whose grief brings winter. Persephone’s seasonal visit to her mother awakens Demeter’s joy and brings the bounty of spring and summer. Most often Persephone is depicted as a beautiful maiden either being kidnapped by her husband or returning to her mother.

But the Persephone I encountered was a weathered woman climbing and clawing her way out of the Underworld through the dirt of earth. She used her Underworld crown as a plough and carried in her pockets letters from the Dead to their beloveds still living. (You can read more in my March newsletter.)

Persephone’s secret story is the story of her as Traveler and Messenger, the one who twice yearly, millennia after millennia, makes a journey between the worlds when the night and day stand in balance.


Fall Mandala with Persephone from the Dark Goddess Tarot

In each world, she has loves and responsibilities. She must prepare for both departure and arrival at this time of year. She sadly says goodbye to some while anticipating reunion with others.

What calls Persephone from one world to the next? How does she know when to begin her preparations? Last Friday as I stood under the September harvest moon in an orchard watching Goddesses Descending, it came to me. Of course. The moon is Persephone’s signal and guide.

In spring, the days of the growing moon from new to full closest to the Equinox set her on her journey back to earth. The days of harvest moon’s descent invite her to depart.

We are in the days of Persephone Descending. As the moon moves from full, through the Equinox, and into the dark moon days at September’s end, Persephone prepares, Persephone descends.

Perhaps you feel the weight of this time as she grows heavy. And if you feel it, too,you might consider your heaviness in another light, a lunar light. This heavy time brings a dark gift of attuning to the Divine, to the eternal cycles. The trees know this as they let down their leaves in fluttering surrender. Perhaps you may take the tree as your spiritual director.  

And as our perspective on this descent time shifts, we can open to opportunity, have a more expansive view. Recognize that our loss of Persephone brings a boon for the Dead. She is their Queen and comfort who loves them. She is the Traveler who has been away but now returns with new stories and gifts.

You can help Persephone make her reunion with the Dead. You can send gifts and stories along with Her. You can write letters to the Dead.

It may seem strange. You may doubt your letter can travel such a long distance. But just the act of writing and sending the letter might heal your heart.

I am writing letters in these days and offer these ideas to spark your own letter writing rituals. You might consider:

  • Who do you want to write to? Joining in conversation with the boundaryless there is no limited to the possibility. You can write to those you knew in life and those you didn’t. Your beloved dead. The ancestors. A long-dead writer who inspired you. Your departed pets. Make a list.
  • How will you send the message? An aerogram. A drug-store card. Leaves of petals to send without words but infused with love. You might match your form to speak most deeply to the one with which you want to communicate.
  • When will you send it? You can send your letters along as you write them or wait for the dark moon days of September 28 and 29. Any of these days as the moon moves from full to dark are the times of Persephone Descending.
  • How will you send your letters? Burying your messages in the earth is appropriate. Persephone can gather them up as she makes to the Underworld. But follow your inspiration. Maybe there is another story of life’s cycles that inspires you so you use a method that aligns with that wisdom. If water beckons you, send your notes on streams down to the sea. Light your letter on fire and watch the spark rise to heaven. Let leaves lift it into the all surrounding air. You can’t do this incorrectly.
  • How will you thank your messenger? Don’t forget to express your gratitude to Persephone or the One who helps you deliver your letter. You might say a prayer of praise, make an offering, or dedicate a positive action to their name.  

Will you receive a reply?  Well, the universe is full of echoes and all kinds of communication. I have received messages from the Dead and I’m not the only one. Your letter is unlikely to be returned as a letter so you might tend your openness to different kinds of communication in ways such as these:

  • Take time away from the demands of the living. It’s noisy here in the living world so just as you would step with your cell phone out of a crowded room to better hear the person on the other end, step out of the daily. Dedicate some time to ritual, communing with the dark, walking in nature. Sometimes go alone This gives you a better chance of hearing. But remember to walk in balance along this path; you do still belong in the land of the living.
  • Honor the communal celebrations of the Dead. The first half of November brings sacred and secular remembrances of the dead: Samhain, All Souls and Saints Day, the Day of the Dead, Veterans Day. The shortest days of the year as the Solstice approaches invite us to Wait with the Dark and in the quiet hear the numinous. Or perhaps you have to wait until Persephone Rises again in spring, bringing letters from the dead in her pockets.
  • Remove this waiting for a response from the work of the rational. What you are going to do is not rational and is outside the bounds of all we can assert with certainty here in the earthly world. Don’t try to make your listening fit inside these walls. You don’t have to give up the rational as you live your daily life- we need it – but you don’t apply it to your waiting for a response to your letter.
  • Listen slant. The poet Emily Dickinson said “tell it slant,” counseled that messages of Truth if too bright can blinds us. The Dead no longer speak as we do, perhaps are even forgetting the way of language with all its limits. They will reach out to you in unusual ways, in slant ways. Through a song that plays on the radio when you are thinking of them. Through the things they left behind found just at a moment that gives meaning. Through a revelation of hawk or cat or rainbow. From a rational world perspective you can never be sure from where the message comes, but when inspiration moves your heart, always take the gift it brings.  


If you are looking for support for your listening, my Winter Solstice-hinged seasonal ritual begins with Waiting with the Dark at the end of November. Be sure to sign up for my list to receive the latest news about how this ritual can support your seeking.  

Aug 312016

As the last new moon reached the end of its cycle, I post these readings as a prompt for contemplative practice and noticing the more cosmic patterns of life as you attend to the lunar energy in a solar world.

1st September New Moon – Thursday, September 1, 2016 at 5:03am ET in the USA

Releasing the last fire moon & Welcoming the new earth moon – Looking forward to the Equinox

Ground Your Fire Reading 

sunflowers some fadedAs we move from the extreme of summer’s light to Equinox’s time of balance here in the Northern Hemisphere, fire and fiery achievements must shift to move into deeper development.

Sunflower sees the dark soil and lets wilted petals and seeds find their rest. Milkweed explodes its flower and pod into silken seeds swept up in the wind. Root vegetables reach deeper now and wait for frost’s kiss to sweeten their flesh.

There is ample green and still growth, but the frenzy of summer’s height is falling, and we are invited to do the same. It’s time to ground our fire. 

If summer has brought us progress, growth, or an achievement, we can deepen the gifts by varying our pace, shifting our perspective, taking the work into the dark where something not yet imaged can gestate to add richness and texture to what already exists.

I’m sad to see the sunflowers go. I gaze at them all summer and feel this gaze returned. Their loving looks feed my soul. I will miss them, maybe even mourn them for a little while. And at the same time, I sense the pull of dark love’s dawning in sunflowers surrender to earth. They are going where they must go and even invite me to find a way to follow that, too, feeds my soul.

 What fiery (i.e. passionate, creative, inspirational, or authoritative) part of me matured this summer?

SHIFT:  What do I let go of from this successful maturation so it can shift into new form?

GROUND:  What do I ground and let deepen out of this successful maturation?

You can order this as an e-reading for $22. Here is a sample of how I do these readings in a collaborative intuitive format. I have slots open after the new moon / Labor Day weekend

Aug 302016

It is no surprise that a collaboration between Rachel Pollack and Robert Place creates a powerful deck for divination and they are working together again to create the Raziel Tarot. This spring,  I had the good fortune of exploring the deck and doing a wisdom reading with Rachel using the Raziel. It follows as an example of what the Raziel wants to teach us. Be sure to pre-order the deck so you can do your own wisdom readings. 

A note: Wisdom Readings are one of Rachel’s many innovations with the Tarot in which we use the cards to ask not just personal questions, but also to explore collective, philosophical, and spiritual questions. We pulled cards from the Raziel as a response to what is fate, destiny, and fortune. We also pulled support cards for each area. Rachel calls them Teacher cards. I tend to think of them as the deeper foundation that influences the meaning of the primary card.  

A Wisdom Reading for Fate, Destiny, and Fortune

Our fate is Death.

Our Destiny is to stand before something greater than ourselves.

And our Fortune is not ours at all, but the interaction, collision, and alignment of forces and events beyond our control.

Our Fate is Death

death razielLike Moses who stands on the mountain top seeing the Promised Land he will not enter, we are all fated to die.

We don’t have a choice about Death’s place in our life, but we do have a choice in the relationship that we make with Death. So much of the language of Death is filled with the metaphor of battle, but when we make Death our enemy we will fail. We will never conquer Death.

Making Death our enemy closes us off to the generativity that we might learn from its dark transitions. Each card in this reading had a deeper teacher card below, and The Empress in the form of Miriam of the Waters flowed below this Death card.

Miriam is Moses’ sister who saves him from Death by hiding him at the water’s edge when the Pharaoh orders all infant boys of the enslaved Hebrews be killed. When the grown Moses succeeds in leading the Israelites out of enslavement in Egypt, she raises her timbrel to lead a victory song that may be some of the oldest text in the Bible: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.” Here Miriam’s waters are not always gentle; sometimes they bring Death. Miriam herself dies as the Hebrews wander in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, but from the place where she is buried a spring of life-sustaining water opens.

empress razielLife and Death are intertwined in Miriam’s story. She saves the infant Moses from Death but celebrates the deaths of the Egyptian forces that would have re-enslaved her people. When her death comes it gives rise to water in the dessert. She flows with cycles of Life-Death-Life, and her example invites us to these forces are linked together. Death can feed Life. Life serves Death.

Unlike his sister, the place of Moses burial is a mystery according to the Bible. The rabbinical literature fills in this gap with the story that inspires the Raziel’s image of Death. Here as he approaches his death, Moses stands in the embrace of the Shekhinah, the Divine Feminine. He faces the unknown and takes a step toward it held and supported by the Shekninah’s wings. In one version of the story, Moses is kissed by the Shekinah and his body lifts away. There was no burial; Moses ascended on the wings of the Divine as a reward his faithful service to God and his people.

Moses’ face is serious. He is looking into the unknown with a certain watchfulness. He doesn’t know what to do next, but he is paying attention to what is coming so he can meet it. While we are unwise to make Death our enemy, we don’t know Death well enough to make It our friend. We know our friends so can be familiar with them. We won’t know Death until we cross Its threshold. Moses attitude in this image shows a way to make that crossing: by paying attention to the unknown coming so that It can be give a proper greeting.

Our Destiny is to stand before something greater than ourselves.

high priest razielIn this card to of Destiny, Aaron as the first High Priest is shown with the Ark of the Covenant, which was created from instructions given by God to hold the 10 Commandments, the Divine law. The Ark becomes a physical representation of God’s presence and the High Priests play a special role in to tending this treasure.

The Hebrews gave God a name that could not be spoken to recognize God’s greatness beyond measure. Other traditions have given the Divine evocative names: Ra, Shining Ones, Qian Yin, Aphrodite, Green Man, Jesus, Spider Woman. Each culture reaches toward its own naming of what is unnamable. And as we humans strive to find that name to call out to, we also connect with practices, places, or objects that help us meet and stand in relationship with something of the Greater Than in our individual lives.  Not everyone believes in a Deity, but the forces of that natural world are awesome, too, and in the end we all stand before Death. Like Aaron before the Ark, our Destiny is to stand before something greater than ourselves.

When we talk about Destiny, we are often referencing a specific role that we believe we are called to play. Aaron in the image stands solidly in his role as High Priest. When stepping into a role we have sought, we may feel our destiny is achieved. But what about what about those areas in which we do not realize our visions? What about the inevitable failures that come along with any life?

sun razielThe deeper teacher for Destiny is The Sun. Here youthful innocents arise from a broken jar, which represents the inherent brokenness of the world. But each child – each one of us – brings a unique light into the world and can play a part in its repair.  This repair is known as tikkun olam, which in its earliest meaning called for religious practices (repair of the soul) and now is equated popularly  with contributing to social justice (repair of the physical world and its institutions).  In neither meaning is a specific role required to participate in tikkun olam. In fact, the nakedness of the Raziel’s children is a symbol of their freedom from roles that so often comes with prescriptions on what to wear and how to appear.

As we move through our lives standing before the Greater Than, we will step into certain roles that can be a container for the expression of the important work we are called to do, our destiny. But The Sun as the deeper teacher reminds us that even when those roles fall away, we still have that light of being to be offered to the world as a contribution toward its repair.

And our Fortune is not ours at all.

tower razielWell, the Tower is an alarming response to the question: What is Fortune? The bursting flames of this image show us Fortune as chaos.

With chaos as a central feature of Fortune, this card is a wake up call for our ego-protecting selves with the reminder: we are not in control. The writer Annie Dillard says it this way: “We are most deeply asleep at the switch when we fancy we control any of the switches at all.” When we fall into such a sleep Fortune wakes us.

The Raziel Tarot shows us the wakeup calls that came to the Israelites when their temple was destroyed not just once but twice (586 BCE and 70 CE) . And each destruction was connected to a period of exile for the Israelites. The human and physical destruction was enormous. Descriptors such as chaos and tragedy are not exaggerations for these historical events.

A people do not emerge from such an experience unchanged. In religious life, the rabbis, who were the religious teachers, became the spiritual leaders replacing the High Priests after the second destruction. This shift led to an emphasis on study of the Torah and Jewish law rather than Temple practices and political governance.  Midrash, which are stories told by rabbis to fill in the gaps of the Torah, became a lively practice and gifted the world with a rich wisdom tradition.

The pain of the destruction Fortune brings is often enormous, at times seems unbearable. But once the structures destroyed by Fortune have fallen, we are invited to work with what has changed, to find the new gestating in what remains.

hanged man razielThe deeper teacher of Fortune is the Hanged Man. Here the fallen angel Sheimhazai continues an ongoing process of descent. First, Sheimhazai surrendered being an angel to become a man, then he surrendered his place on earth as an act of repentance to save humanity from the great flood. But the flood came any way. He is falling still, but if you look at the image, you will see that, at last, the ropes that tie him are loosening. He is surrendering to the falling and failing, and it seems as if this is what will set him free.

The Hanged Man invites us to surrender to the losses of Fortune, and when we do, we shift our perspective to see what new light that can liberated from destruction. In the image, the menorah remains in front of the Temple. Although the nine-branched menorah is better known because of its modern use at Chanukah, the original menorah was seven-branched. Seven is number of alchemical transformation that turns the base and most difficult realities of destruction into powerful new creations that liberate us from what limits us.


Remember you can pre-order The Raziel today. Thanks to Bob for letting me use these glorious images in this post and to Rachel for all her wisdom offered in her words and works and laughter. Even before I met her, she was my Tarot teacher through her books and since then I have been able to study with her in-person. Let me tell you, it is a treat. I’ve absorbed a lot from her, and all the wisdom that flows through the word above have some source in what I’ve learned from her … though she might deny it as she rather likes to be the anti-guru.

And, FYI, in the fall there will be some shifts to the site and the work I am doing – including more explorations like this of Tarot as wisdom images. You can keep up with the shapeshifting by being one my list if you like.  

Jul 302016

As the last new moon reached the end of its cycle, I post these readings as a prompt for contemplative practice and noticing the more cosmic patterns of life as you attend to the lunar energy in a solar world.

August New Moon – Tuesday, August 2 at 4:44pm ET in the USA

Releasing the last water moon & Welcoming the new fire moon – Amidst the first days of the Celtic season of Lammas which brings a time of harvest and the first hints of tipping back toward the dark half of the year.

Surrender to the Depths Reading

gaian four-waterAugust days are full of beauty at height of summer season but there often also begins a strange undercurrent of emotion coming from somewhere. Perhaps it is a message from our soul selves.

The soul isn’t easily defined so metaphor is the way to discover meaning. Our souls are like the late summer pond. The murky mystery of our depths makes the beauty that we show in the sun. So in this season, it makes sense to tend both.

Before doing this reading, you may want to imagine yourself as the woman in the Gaian Four of Water and spend some time looking inwardly to see what your emotions are.  You might visualize a pond or well and imagine traveling down from surface to depth and seeing emotions at different levels. Don’t worry about understanding them all. Just open yourself to them.

 What message is coming from your soul through your deep emotions?

SURRENDER: How to surrender to this message?

REVELATION: What will be revealed when you do?

I am going to be tending my soul depths on vacation during the first two weeks of August! I am only doing readings for those who have signed up for the full lunar year before I leave. But if you do want this reading and can wait until after August 16th, you can order this as an e-reading for $22. Here is a sample of how I do these readings in a collaborative intuitive format.  

Jul 252016

gaian 9-hermitA container to support writing, shaping, or editing of a project with Tarot-inspired processes to tune into your intuition and learn more about your own process as a writer. Group sessions at the end of each day provide structure to the weekend while most of the days are open for participants to work on their own projects.

WHO is it for: Writers who are working on a project and want to move it to the next level. Participants will come with a body of work that would benefit from some concentrated time and attention. We won’t be doing craft work so the genre doesn’t matter. No Tarot experienced needed; we’ll be working with our intuitive responses to images and special meaning keys I’ve developed from writers. The group is limited to 7 people.

WHEN: September 23 – 25. We will start with a session on Friday night from 5:30pm to 8pm and conclude with a session & optional reading on Sunday at 3pm.

WHERE: Easthampton, MA in our meeting room for sessions but at other times you can write where it will be most productive for you. The coffee shops, shops, and natural beauty spots around town might be the places to inspire you. There will also be optional meal sharing.

HOW does it work?:

#1: You write RETREAT on your calendar for that weekend, and when people ask you to do something then, you reply, “Oh, drats, I can’t I’m on retreat that weekend.” And you smile.

#2: You prepare to arrive with a one sentence statement of what your work is about, and also some reflections on these questions:

  • Why am I compelled to write this work?
  • Why I am I the one who is right to write this work?
  • Who might this work best serve / inspire?
  • What stage of work am I in?
  • What do you know (if anything) about what works well for you when you at this stage of writing?

#3: Gather on Friday with snacks to meet each other, share an overview of our work, do a Tarot Mandala to get advice for focus for weekend (I have decks for everyone), and leave with an intention set for what to accomplish over the weekend and on Saturday.

#4: Write wherever you want. My studio in Easthampton will be open for those who want to write here in companionable silence with others.

#5: Gather in from 5pm to 7pm on Saturday (more snacks) to share our progress and receive tarot support for working with the demons and angels who help and hinder us in our writing.

#6: Return on Sunday from 3pm to 5pm for a reading (7 minutes max per person), structured/brief feedback, assessment of progress, and next steps. All with Tarot support.

What will it COST:

$90 plus a snack assignment. Pay in full now with Pay Pal to secure your spot.  

Checks sent to Carolyn Cushing, Box 33, 1 Cottage St., Easthampton, MA are also accepted. Just send me an e-mail when you pop it in the mail so I can hold your spot.


Jul 182016

This is the fourth and final post on pilgrimage as part of the seasonal ritual Walking the Ways of the Summer Light. The pilgrimage posts began with Departure from the Threshold , continued with Journey, and reached The Center last week. 

The final practice of pilgrimage calls you to wait for a while in the place where you are no longer at Center but not yet home. You are still returning. Here you reflect on what has happened and start to name how you have been changed. You consciously accept the gifts and the challenges of pilgrimage. You invite transformation to take hold; you plant the change in a place where it can continue to grow. Then you return home.

In the Tarot, each of the elemental suits progresses through the single numbers. The ninth card is most often recognized as the culmination or achievement of the elemental journey while the tenth card is considered to be one of transition. The Tarot’s 10s guide you in your returning.  Any deck can serve, but the images of Rachel Pollack’s Shining Tribe Tarot struck me as telling a particularly relevant story about the pilgrimage return.

10 of stonesTen of Stones – Memory and Meaning:
What always captivates me about this image is that human footprints go into the stones laid on the path while the bird prints come out. The journey changed us. Remembering what happened on the journey is the first step in meeting and integrating that change. As we recount and order the pieces, a whole picture emerges that helps you find the greater meaning – and sometimes remaining mystery – of the pilgrimage time.

To tend memory and meaning, you might answer through journaling, working with Tarot cards, or creating of art questions such as:

  • What are the moments that shine in your memory? How did they open your eyes? How did they blind you?
  • What the moments that are dark in your memory? How did they make you stumble What gestated there?
  • What are the encounters with others you will never forget? What did they teach you about humanity and community? What did they teach you about yourself?
  • What were the surprises? What amazed you? When did you touch mystery?
  • How did you come to know the Greater Than that journeyed with you? What Face were you shown? What invitations did you receive?
  • What insight did you gain into your focus question? What remains to be discovered?
  • How were you changed? How did you become more yourself?

10 of birdsTen of Birds – Final Challenge: Change, even when we seek it, is scary. We wanted to emerge as the bird, transcendent, but now that we are in flight, the view is not what we imagined.  In the Ten of Birds, a woman stands with back to us and ominous birds in the sky above her. We can’t tell if she is looking at the birds or shielding her eyes. (If she is not looking, might we be seeing her imagination creating scarier creatures than are even there?)

One of the bird figures is actually a winged snake that Rachel identifies as the Aztec God Quetzalcoatl  and describes as “an instinctive energy, a force we cannot name or rationally identify has taken wing, has risen into consciousness, or a kind of pseudo-consciousness, where we sense a fear or mystery we cannot really explain.”

We are standing before something greater than we could have imaged when we began our journey. We can’t explain it or control it, and this is perhaps what we fear the most. And our final test is to accept this force as now existing in our lives. When we realize that we don’t have to overcome it or even be friendly with it, we move out from the final testing of pilgrimage and on to the path that leads us home.

The woman’s dress is green and the door of the house in the distance is green. Green is the color of the heart and of new life. Through this color, the woman and the home are linked. And the birds do not actually block her path. She can walk below them. She can make her return.

To complete your final challenge of pilgrimage, reflection on your fears and final challenges is helpful. Then you might want to step from the logical and intellectual to the magical. You may want to do something like create a fith-fath, the Gaelic practice of creating a shape shifting spell for times of danger or vulnerability. I heard about this practice from Celtic teacher and songstress Caitlín Matthews, and was inspired to write one of my own:

I ask to resound with the life thrum of cicadas,

their surface-sound sureness of life.

I ask to move with the elegance of egret,

who slides over pond’s murky silk undarkened.

I ask to feel what the mushroom feels,

the deep down of dirt holding me steady,

reminding me always

I belong to the earth.

10 of treesTen of Trees – Echo of the Call: This card shows a most unusual Tree of Life.  The branches are green joyful figures. In the Ten of Birds, you chose to wear the green dress and go through the green door despite the unknown and feared forces. By these actions both the challenges and the gifts of pilgrimage are accepted and integrated into who you re now. A whole new world opens up both within you and in your view of the wider world. You are not only enlarged but your understanding of and connection to the Whole is now more expansive and inclusive.

Here we might return to reflect on the original call that brought us to the pilgrims’ trail. What was its personal dimension? What did you hope for yourself? You can take a look at that call an hear now how echoes in the expanded universe within. How has the call changed? How will you share it with the wider world? How do you answer the call to serve the Whole?

10 of riversTen of Rivers – Home: Then you go home. You return to the house in which you dwell and greet those you left behind.  But there is a trick to this image. As much as they could be waving in greeting, the figures could also be waving good-bye. Once home you say good-bye to the pilgrimage journey even as you say hello to the home that awaits you.

As we once stood on the threshold of departure, now we stand at the threshold of return. This is the place for gratitude. Offers your praises and prayers to all who made the pilgrimage possible and guided you along the way. This gratitude will remind you that these helpers and guides have now become part of who you are and will not leave you. Offer your praises and prayers for all that has remained for you to return to. Speak your gratitude for this steady support.

The figures stand in a river and as Starkhawk reminded us in the week of the Water Wisdom Wander: “All water is one – one whole, one awareness. All water is continuously aware of all the other waters in the world.” So all our journeys are one. The pilgrimage and the homecoming. The seeking and the discovery. It is all part of the vast ocean of our being where we meet the glimmer of the surface and are surprised some times by the pull of the depths. And we flow on. The pilgrimage ends. It has just begun.

This concludes the seasonal ritual of Walking the Ways of the Summer Sun. In November I will begin the Winter Solstice focused ritual of Descent and Return of the Light. Subscribe to my e-newsletter to be notified of those happenings and receiving nature- and Tarot-inspired offerings to tend your soul all year long.