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.  

Dec 082014

Each week I pull Tarot cards to inspire practice that cultivates soul wisdom for readers of the blog as a group using the Gaian Tarot.  (If you want to read more about the process, check out Sacred Practices of the Gaian Tarot: The 3 P’s).You are invited to use the cards below to inspire your practice, and, if you like, share your reflections in the comments.  You are also free to draw your own cards and share them in the comments.

gaian 12-treePATH:  Use Pile 1 / Majors and Aces to pull a card for the question:  What path would it best serve us to walk this week? THE TREE  invites us to walk this week on pathways of  …

  • Sacrifice that opens us to our deep soul purpose.
  • Surrendering to what is.
  • Holding on to what offers essential support.
  • Inaction on the external level but deep movement on the inner level.

Gaian four-earthPRACTICE:  Use Pile 2 / numbered cards for this question:  What practice(s) will best serve us to move along this path this week?  FOUR OF EARTH  invites us to practices such as …

  • Building a cairn to serve a sacred purpose. You can create a simple gratitude cairn in your backyard or on a walk by saying something you are grateful for as you place each rock. Or you can participate in a communal activity such as the Life Cairn Project that creates large cairns in public places to honor extinct species and draw attention to the impact of climate change chaos.
  • Explore squirrel wisdom by observing those that live around you and learning more about their symbolic meaning and guidance.
  • Emboding your prayer or divination by taking the stance of a Tarot figure or taking a Wisdom Wander. There is a luscious tele-series coming up in the new year to inspired embodied divination so if you are called to this practice check it out!

gaian-elder-airPOSTURE:  Use Pile 3 / People cards for a question such as:  What attitudes and behaviors will be most helpful to undertake this practice and walk with path?  ELDER OF AIR  invites you to follow your path and practices with attitudes of …

  •  Calm and clarity
  • Aligning your best skills with the world’s deepest need to take action.
  • Dedicating your actions to planetary peace and healing
  • Feeling the connection and support of the ancestors
  • Knowing your individual song blends into the Whole in a beautiful and important way.

OVERALL MUSINGS: To paraphrase Frederick Buechner: Surrender to the place where your joy and talents meet the world’s deep need, and take action in a real and physical way to make positive change. You may not see a result or your vision realized, but the ripples will reach to places you can’t even imagine in the moment.


Oct 262012

It’s a strange season.

Last week, the leaves blazed red and yellow, reached up for the blue sky.  Today as I walked to work under dull clouds, browning leaves drifted down on the slight breeze to pile up on the sidewalk, fill up the yards. Quiet was all around, except for the crunch of leaves under my feet.

In fall, leaves stop producing food – that process causes them to be green – and turn their true colors.  After a few weeks of brilliant shine, they release and fall. The falling happens slowly.  The top leaves go first and bottom ones can hang on for a long time.  It’s a mix of brilliance and decay.

Really?  I thought life was supposed to be about progress.  If we show our true colors, we’ll immediately be rewarded.

Although that message is a strong one in our society, there is some Tarot wisdom to help us through the realities of our life that are so often not about linear progress.

The 12th Major Arcana card is The Hanged Man who turns upside down, suspended, waiting.  In the Gaian Tarot, Joanna Powell Colbert makes a direct connection to the leaves I see falling in my yard with The Tree.

The process of living or creating or just being has these kinds of pauses.  They can come after a success or be a quiet time that lengthens out uncomfortably.  They don’t have the release of moments when you know something is gone or dead.  They just leave us hanging around with our thoughts, our uncertainty, our stuff.

The Tarot offers the helpful knowledge that, too, is part of the journey.

Nature in my neighborhood is certainly in this strange limbo state.  Let’s take it as an invitation.  In the summer and autumn season that is passing, what of your true colors did you try to shine that just didn’t take hold?  Instead of criticizing or worrying about this, look at if from a different angle.

  • What has this taught you?
  • What gifts did you receive any way / internally even if no one else saw them?
  • How does this all bring you closer to the earth?  And message does the earth have just for you?

You can reflect on these questions as you walk in your neighborhood or draw some cards to see what is offered.

Next week is the holiday of Samhain, more popularly know as Halloween, where we move more deeply into the dark time and death takes hold.  Before that, the Tarot invites us to be with that mix of soft light and surrender, to see both the bare branch and the few persistent leaves that cling to low down branches.  We might find some wisdom there.

Jan 312012

So happy to be picking up the Tarot Blog Baton from Barbara Moore at and the 6 bloggers before her.  Find out more about the Tarot Blog Hop at

 February offers me the gift of an enticing light.  I want to be a candle lit from its flame.

Today we are on the cusp of Imbolc, the Celtic festival that marks the start of spring and is dedicated to Brigid, who is venerated as both Goddess and Saint. As Goddess, her realm is fire and she is inspirer of poetry, healing, and smithcraft.  As Saint, she and 19 of her nuns tended a sacred flame and she served as abbess of a double monastery of women and men.  As an expression of traditions’ creative and fertile mixing, Brigid speaks to me of a shared well feeding our search for the sacred and the potential this well offers for the healing of rifts between groups.

Inspired by Brigid and the hint of lengthening days, I usually am ready to rush over the threshold of winter and into spring.

But there is something different this year.

I have been spending time with the “dark” cards of the Tarot these past few weeks as part of the Journey into the Tarot.  The Hanged One, Death, and the Devil have been recent companions and their lessons have been about the necessity, the healing, and even the nurture of the dark, the challenging, the shadow.  So before I light my candle I need to make sure that I’ve really soaked in and honored the dark.

My usual way to check in deeply on such matters is to combine Tarot with guidance from nature.  I asked the Tarot some questions for this threshold time (see below) and received the message to go outside and honor winter, the Cailleach or Old Woman in the Celtic Tradition.

So I walked in my neighborhood.  The wind was sharp though the ground was without the usual January snow.  The sun was bright on the dark limbs creating patterns of branches reaching to the sky in beautiful symmetry.  Well, for the most part.  Because there were also sharp breaks and branches left dangling from the pre-winter October snowstorm that damaged so many trees and left much of Massachusetts and Connecticut without power for days and even weeks.    Like our current lack of snow, our all too early storm and its damage are a sign of the chaos caused by climate change that can not be ignored.

When the trees leaf out in spring this damage will be hidden, but I’m called to bring their wounds with me into this time of returning light.  I can only embrace the joy of spring when I remember the shadows shown in winter.  I’ve been coming to know this balance as a message of The Sun.

This melding of joy and shadow is seen so wonderfully in the Gaian Tarot’s Sun.

Our eyes are drawn, of course, to the brilliant sun, the flowered landscape, and the radiant woman.  But this picture also includes her shadow.  Her dark outline is, in fact, the foundation on which she stands.

So I will light my candle.  And I will honor the dark.  I will seek to be a better candle of dark wick and bright light.  I will hold this whole.

Winter into Spring Spread

Card 1:  What winter / dark work do I need to complete before moving into spring / the light?

Card 2:  What is a lesson learned in the dark time that I can take as a gift into the light?

Card 3:  What can help me cross the threshold from winter into spring?

Card 4:  How can I be a better candle?

Card 5:  What are the gifts of the light that may unfold for me in this season?

I’ll post my reading in the comments and you are invited to do so as well.

Continue the Tarot Blog Hop by visiting Inner Whispers at

Jan 072012

Feet –

Card 1:  What is some aspect of your life you’ve taken for granted that it would be beneficial to honor at this time?

Card 2: How can I do that honoring?

Legs –

Card 3:  In what area of my life have I been applying will and domination to meet challenges but need a different approach for the good of all?

Card 4: What new approach could I take to this challenge?


Hidden Hands:

Card 5:  What do I just need to stop doing to advance on move forward on my journey?

Card 6:  What can help me to stop?


Head in the Earth:

Card 7:  How does the earth receive me?

Card 8:  What message does earth have for me at this time?

Card 9:  How can I continue to commune with the earth?