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. 


May 182015

The freedom in walking lies not in being anyone; for the walking body has no history;  it is just an eddy in the stream of immemorial time. Frederic Gros

seeker spread full verticle

The Wisdom Wander focus of Walking the Ways of the Summer Light begins next Monday, May 25, 2015. Suggestions for your carrying out your own weekly Wisdom Wanders follow, and if you are interested in joining a tele-circle for sharing and deepening your experience with fellow seekers those being on June 1. 

The purpose of the these Wisdom Wanders in the whole Walking the Ways seasonal ritual is to gather the questions that matter most deeply to you now. There are no rules for a Wisdom Wander, but this flow is offered as a jumping off point for your own designs. But remember to follow your feet, your heart, and where ever your senses lead you.

Selecting Your Place: You don’t have to go anywhere special for a Wisdom Wander. Your backyard might provide all the wonder you need.  But to vary your views, you might seek out places that put you in touch the weekly elemental focus. A place where you can touch bare ground or stone for Earth. A hill or mountain top to feel the Air and be close to birds, and a windy urban avenue could do the same. If you can, traveling to a large body of water or the ocean in the Water week would be appropriate, or just wander on a rainy day. The Fire week comes during the period of longest days so anywhere on a sunny day will do, or build a bonfire to contemplate its flame.

Separating From the Everyday: You may want to enact a small ritual of leaving behind all your responsibilities, worries, and cares. You could visualize putting them into a box. If any critical voices start to speak, just assure them you’ll be back; you are only going for a walk.  Can you leave your cell behind? Or at least put it into airplane mode.

Travel Light But Bring What You Need: Remember to take care of you body: water? sun screen? good shoes?. Remember any ritual or creativity needs: tiny notebook and pen? drawing materials? camera? And, of course, cards from your Tarot or oracle deck.  Bring it all on one Wander. Bring nothing on another.

Set an Intention: An overall intention of these Wisdom Wanders is to seek out and be open to the questions that speak to our souls, that will focus the more directed pilgrimage journey that is part of July’s Walking the Ways of the Summer Light.

Invite / Select / Welcome your Way Showers / Inquisitors / Guides for the Day’s Wandering:  Because the language of nature and the elements is not immediately apparent to us humans, we can ask for help from the Tarot or oracles.  You may have a relationship with a wisdom figure(s) represented on a card and want to select it.  You may let who ever needs to come emerge from a face-down draw. Spend some time meeting the one(s) who emerge to travel with you. I often work with 4 or so guides / cards in a wander.


  • Be open to whatever draws your attention and spend time there. Pause. Look. Listen.
  • If you would like to engage with an area or a plant, greet it, ask its permission to approach and receive its response. If allowed to approach, do so respectfully; engage your sense to receive the messages and questions offered.
  • You might select one of your guides – by chance or choice – to come and be with you in the places of pause and contemplation. Consider how the place and the guide fit together.
  • When you have finished, don’t forget to offer gratitude before you move on.  You might leave a strand of your hair as a gift. Or perhaps you have planned ahead and brought a small natural object to leave as a sign of gratitude.

Be Open to Creative Urges: The earth is busy creating in cooperation with the summer sun.  How might you mimic this creativity to learn its magic? Bring out your notebook or artists tools. Gather loose elements of the earth (rocks, fallen petals, twigs, feathers) and arrange them into an earth altar. Your guides might like to be placed within your creation. You might want to document with a photo that becomes your memento… and then let all the elements return to lie on the earth as they were.

Return:  Notice when and where you are passing from your place of wandering into the more human world. You might pause, offer some gratitude, or say a prayer at this point.

Reflect: You may want to just sit or to journal or draw.  Let the experience seep into you.  Let some insights emerge.  Connect with your guide; have a chat about what you experienced together.

Gathering Questions: While on the Wander or just afterward, you might just blurt out or free writing all the questions that surface.  Spend some time with your guides listening with your imagination to the questions they would ask you if they could speak aloud. Contemplate your memento as if it were a Tarot card and let it offering you questions. Sometime later in the week, you might want to hone and shift through your questions.  This can be like the process of creating questions to take to a Tarot reading. Here are the prompts I send to people ahead of my Tarot consultations to get their questions percolating:

  • Questions that yield the most freedom and possibility most often include HOW and WHAT. For example:  How can I ….?  How have I ….?  In what ways ….?  What do I most need to pay attention to now?  What will support me to …?
  • Questions that can be fruitful in specific circumstances often include WHY, WHERE, and WHO. For example:  Where in my life have I ….?  Who can best support me in doing …?  Who is challenging me ….? [Be open to the answer not being a human that you know!]  Why am I really doing this (i.e. what is underneath the surface)?
  • WHICH limits you to particular options already determined. If you are still in an early stage of decision making, it is probably too early for a WHICH question.  If you have been working seeking an answer for a long time and feel clear that a decision rests between a set number of options, then WHICH may be fruitful.
  • YES / NO questions are not generative. But if you are burnt out on generating ideas and are ready to trust the message that comes through the cards, this just might be the kind of question that you need.

Cultivate Patience: Each Wisdom Wander is an invitation to step out of the demands of time, and the whole flow toward the Solstice extends an invitation to be free of knowing the answers but instead opening to the questions. The words of the poet Rilke cheer us in this work:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved

in your heart and try to love the questions themselves

like locked rooms and like books that are written

in a very foreign tongue.

Acknowledgements:  This process is most directly influenced by my work with Joanna Powell Colbert and her Gaian Tarot and Mellissae Lucia and her Oracle of Initiation. James Wells’ wisdom on question generation inspired the question asking prompts.

Apr 282015

Although I didn’t hear the Hanged One invoked consciously, this wisdom figure hid in plain sight, worked a special magic, and invited our souls to go deep at this year’s Readers Studio, the annual gathering of the Tarot tribe organized by The Tarot School.


I’ve written before about how the Tarot’s Hanged One exults what is usually lowly – the hard working feet are closest to heaven in this upside down image –  and invites our higher consciousness to be directed downward – the head as container for the mind is brought closer to earth. A surrender to a different way of being is shown in the image.

Each of the main stage presenters danced with and embodied the Hanged One, showing us an archetype come to life and modeling wisdom moving in our mundane world.

TiamatEllen Lorenzi-Prince took to the main stage wearing a pendant made from her Dark Goddess Tarot card for the Hanged One, Tiamat, the Babylonian Goddess who reminds us:  What has been lost lives in hidden places.

During the introductory interview for her session, I heard Ellen give the most wonderful definition for what the Tarot really is: A modern practice for encountering ancient stories. The Tarot from its conception to today tells stories in pictures of our perennial seekings: of love and death, tricksters and saints, the gods and the goddesses. Ellen’s latest deck, The Minoan, brings to life an ancient culture, and as I contemplate its images in serious in playful ways I am engaged in a practice that brings me the wisdom of that culture.

During her presentation Ellen brought our heads and our consciousness close to the earth as we explored the elements. We did not look at the symbols of wand, cup, sword, and pentacle, but rather imagined the actual elements of fire, water, air, and earth. Through meditations we centered ourselves in the power of the element moving from the holy place of the ace to the fulfillment of its potential. We encountered the compassion, test, invitation, challenge, and blessing of each element. There were waterfalls and tornadoes, bonfire and stone.

Ellen surrendered to the wisdom of the elemental earth.

Theresa Reed, the Tarot Lady, told us she was going to teach us How to Read Tarot Under Any Circumstances.  When her technology would not cooperate she then showed us how to give a stellar presentation under any circumstances. I don’t know how she felt as people scrambled to bring up her power point and the screen behind shifted and changed, but she was calm and, even more impressive, the 200+ of us seated in the ballroom were calm. I never doubted that we would get the information that we needed.

gaian 12-treeMy favorite section of her presentation was on how she brings her yoga practice into her Tarot work. Here are just a few of gems:

  • Do grounding meditations before readings.  Plant your feet on the floor. Breathe deeply down to your abdomen. When you exhale complete imaging a grounding cord wrapped around your waist. The cord goes into grounding earth and touches into the fiery center. With this down, Teresa told us: Know that you are grounded, centered, supported, and ready to serve.
  • Mirror your clients breathing and then you can help them to align to calm breath.  We did this with a partner touching knees and we felt powerfully connected. I kept doing it for my readings throughout the weekend.
  • Soft gaze. Let your eyes float around the cards and let your intuition draw you to the focal point. Begin from there and keep your attention coming from the cards (not your mind or ego or needing to please your client).

Theresa surrendered to the chaos of the now and transformed it into a power that made her point about being able to work under any circumstances.

shiningtribe12 Hanged WomanCarrie Paris began her presentation with a confession. She’d intended and even worked hard on a presentation focused around her Magpie Oracle. It would have been a very logical choice and helped her sell her “product”. But she kept being called to something else and what I experienced was a soul-centered presentation with words of inspiration, beautiful visuals, music, soul gazing, and Tarot process that worked with the Minor Arcana, little trinkets, and poetry prompt words. I can’t fully describe it – you had to be there – but the reading moved with this flow:

  • SPIRIT: Get inspired.
  • HEART: Feel and love.
  • MIND: Listen to the knowing one inside.
  • BODY: Become

Looking at the image she created for this (a snake swirled around circles with these words) awoke me to the presence of the Hanged One. Because in the Handed One the Heart is above the Head/Mind as shown here. It is not a hierarchical relationship, but rather one that directs the flow of meaning making that becomes the guide for the action of becoming.

Carrie surrendered to the call of the soul.

And then we went out from Readers Studio back into the world with its beauty – spring at last in the Northeast! – and its evils – another black man killed by police, violence in Baltimore. What does the Hanged One point us toward around the return to the world, around the reality of evil?

Evil; it’s such a strong word. The way we have used it has us thinking we can just push that which we label as evil into a dark closet. But I am realizing I learned a Hanged One definition of evil from The Woman’s Theological Center (WTC). The WTC’s mission to nurture liberation invited a different definition of evil: the heart can not express its goodness and so evil results.

The Hanged One surrenders to what is and dares to look at it fully. Then Spirit / The Greater Than / The Unity of the Divine is the guide who speaks first to the heart. Here we might let our hearts break open because of the injustice and inequity that exists and explodes from these killings and their aftermaths. We don’t have to have the answer first. We feel first. Then we can listen deeply to those most impacted, to the truth of our history, to new perspectives. We may hang out here a while so we don’t rush into patching things up.

Because we no longer want to patch things up if we have truly danced with the Hanged One, We want real change. We want Death.

We think we lose when we face Death, the card that follows the Hanged One, but what really happens is that we are transformed. This weekend I worked with Mellissae Lucia and her Oracle of Initiation, a messenger of how to create rainbows in the dark; how to turn death, your greatest pain, your loss into beauty and new life. The Oracle’s #23 is Sacrifice – Sacred Surrender, and in the companion book Coleen Renee writes of this card: A true sacrifice is an act that makes everyone and everything more sacred.

Even if we have to give something up, we can sacrifice white privilege or silence around a history of injustice. Death always claims takes something away from us and keeps it for Itself. But then we will be lighter, able to float as freely and serenely as the Hanged One.

Sacred surrender to the real, to the now, to the heart is possible. I know because I saw at Readers Studio this weekend.

[Images are from (in order of appearance): Marseille, Dark Goddess, Gaian, Shining Tribe.]

If you like this post, I invite you to subscribe to my e-newsletter that comes out around the new moon each month.

Apr 282015

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 9-hermitPATH: 
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 HERMIT  invites us to walk this week on pathways of  …

  • A time of solitude and silence that supports connecting with inner guidance.
  • Spending time alone to shift through and integrate learnings and wisdom gleaned from time with others.
  • Befriending the dark-time gifts of dreams, Mystery, moon rhythms, and the animals who sound in the night.
  • Communion with the natural world rather than the human world.

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

  • Go on a Wisdom Wander by taking your Tarot or oracle cards out with you on a walk. Stop periodically to contemplate a spot in nature and pull a card to receive another layer of insight.  You might want to plan to do this periodically through the summer and join in my seasonal ritual of Walking the Ways of the Summer Light.
  • Commit to a special place in nature and visit regularly to commune with its gifts, shifts, and teachings. My special place is Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary of the Mass Audubon Society (and this image always reminds me of Arcadia). What special place is near you?
  • Find a fallen log and contemplate how its death is giving birth to new life.

gaian explorer-firePOSTURE:  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?  EXPLORER OF FIRE  invites you to follow your path and practices with attitudes of …

  • Moving with great energy.
  • Openness to whatever comes. It’s not really that you are fearless; it’s that you feel the fear but harness that energy to do what you want.
  • Recognizing that you have great creativity and can use it move through life.
  • Stepping into your passion fully.

OVERALL MUSINGS:  I am just back from one of biggest gatherings around of the Tarot tribe, Readers Studio. I found great soul nurture and wisdom in this year’s offerings and want to write more about it so I am grateful to see the Hermit inviting me to spend some time alone.  How ’bout you? Have you had lots of group activity and might create some balance in your life with time alone, writing or out in nature? The long winter here in the Northeast does appear to have ended and the 10 of Earth and Explorer of Fire invite us to get out there walking the ways and dancing with new energy.

These cards are also most aligned with the energy and wisdom of the delightful Mellissae Lucia who headed into the desert alone after the death of her husband to initiate herself with ritual, body painting, art creation, and listening to her divine guardians. She shares that wisdom with us through her Oracle of Initiation. And she’ll be here in Western Massachusetts this upcoming first weekend in May. On Saturday, the 2nd, she’ll be leading the Mass Tarot session and on Sunday, we’ll be doing mini-retreat that will include wild wanderings (if the weather cooperates that will be at a place like Arcadia and if not in our inner wilds). You are invited to join us!  

Apr 062015

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-5-teacherPATH:  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 TEACHER  invites us to walk this week on pathways of  …

  • Being open to learning and wisdom coming from surprising, unexpected, or humble sources.
  • Connecting to the deep wisdom that you have to share with the world.
  • Entering into the mysteries of the Earth, lead by its wise masters: the plants, the animals, the insects, the weeds.
  • Knowing you are supported by and stand on the wisdom traditions of the ancestors.

gaian ten-waterPRACTICE:  Use Pile 2 / numbered cards for this question:  What practice(s) will best serve us to move along this path this week?  TEN OF WATER  invites us to practices such as …

  • Contemplate the life cycle of the salmon.
  • Investigate the Celtic symbolism of the Salmon.
  • Do a simple ritual where you symbolic release an emotional burden into a stream or river near your home
  • Remember and honor water as the source of life with a simple gesture or internal word of thanks for a day – or 10 days, if you can! – every time you take a sip of water or bathe or swim.

gaian-guardian-firePOSTURE:  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?  GUARDIAN OF FIRE  invites you to follow your path and practices with attitudes of …

  • Taking time to nurture your own inner fire.
  • Coaxing the gifts that might be hidden more deeply to emerge
  • Compassion for others and for yourself
  • Courage to stand in the dark and call forth the light.

OVERALL MUSINGS: I hear the Guardian inviting us to slow down and look deeply into the current sparks of passion and longing in our lives. Let these sparks become your teacher. What do they need to grow? How will you respond to their lessons? What emotions do they unleash? What flow  do they invite you to enter?

And speaking of teachers …. I am delighted that Mellissae Lucia, creatrix of the Oracle of Initiation, will be coming here to Western Mass the first weekend of May. On Saturday, the 2nd, she’ll be the teaching at our Mass Tarot session and then on Sunday, we’ll be doing a Wisdom of the Seasons Mini-Retreat journeying with themes of Crossroads, Guides, and Trust. The Early Bird Price of $42 for the Mini-Retreat ends today (or when I update date the site).


Mar 302015

At this cross roads of solar year, we’ll honor the rainbows we created in the dark and prepare ourselves to receive gifts from the sun-kissed expansiveness of summer. We’ll gather for a mini-gathering of creative exploring of inner and outer landscapes as the season truly moves us into the light.

Best golden gratitude with flowers

From one of Carolyn’s Walks with Mellissae’s Oracle of Initiation

The weather will determine if we will be making imaginal/meditative journeys or actually being active in the natural world. Either way we will include symbols, oracles, and sacred practices of walking, wandering, and altar creating in our exploring of the themes of:

  • Crossroads – What is the dark you are emerging from? What waits to initiate you into the next phase of your journey? What path will you step upon?
  • Guides – What allies and guides are calling to you from the threshold of light? How can you connect with them, listen to them, cooperate with them? What messages are emerging from them?
  • Trust – How to follow in trust and love what the light that comes from within is guiding you to?

Timing: Sunday, May 3rd from 1pm to 5:30pm

Where: Easthampton, MA. We’ll have both in-door and out-door options to work with whatever the weather delivers.

Cost: $50 – But register before April 6 for the Early Bird Price of $42.  Price includes some oracle cards you will be able to keep, ritual materials, and some yummy snacks.


Carolyn Cushing of Art of Change Tarot is a passionate change maker and Tarot practitioner who loves to work with people to make life transitions, grow spiritually, and develop creatively. In addition to working one-on-one with seekers, Carolyn has led meditation sessions and rituals at Readers Studios for many years; taught and co-facilitated Tarot classes and retreats throughout Western Massachusetts; and been a guest teacher on the Gaian Tarot Circle. She is a graduate of the Spiritual Life Center’s Spiritual Direction Program and a co-founder of the Massachusetts Tarot Society.

Mellissae Lucia is an artist and adventurer, having spent over two decades immersed in Norse, African, and Native American sacred traditions, cross-cultural divination, indigenous dream-work, and archetypal psychology. She is the creator of The Oracle of Initiation divination deck and the accompanying book, Oracle of Initiation: Rainbows in the Dark which includes contributions from twenty-two cutting-edge visionaries including Mary K. Greer, Marcus Katz, Carrie Paris, Joanna Powell Colbert, Lisa De St. Croix, and Luisah Teish. In 2015 she will be presenting at the Women of Wisdom Confrence, Northwest Tarot Symposium, and Readers Studio Tarot Confrence. She teaches workshops online and in-person, offers readings and Spiritual Initiation Counseling with the Oracle, and sells her decks and prints on her website. She is currently designing a set of creativity cards about the Muses with an accompanying book.

  • Oracle of Initiation deck:
  • Blog:
  • Subscribe to Mellissae’s YouTube Channel for UnOrthOdox Oracle fun:



Sep 292014

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.

gaian 15-bindweedPATH:  Use Pile 1 / Majors and Aces to pull a card for the question:  What path would it best serve us to walk this week? BINDWEED  invites us to walk this week on pathways of  …

  • Meeting the shadow (, i.e. the parts of ourselves that we reject and don’t want to acknowledge) as a first step toward integrating it more fully into your understanding of yourself.
  • Acknowledging where you are stuck and then holding that place with compassion.
  • Attending to the places inside you that feel dark or heavy. You can offer them attention, perhaps listening for the wisdom being offered from here, before you try to fix them.

gaian nine-airPRACTICE:  Use Pile 2 / numbered cards for this question:  What practice(s) will best serve us to move along this path this week?  NINE OF AIR  invites us to practices such as …

  • Grief work for both individual and planetary losses.  Joanna Macy‘s Work that Reconnects is a wisdom resource for deep work here.
  • Work with Mellissa Lucia’s Oracle of Initiation, where guardian beings of light and of earth show us “the way to our rainbows in the dark, the paradox of our greatest gifts hidden within our shadows.”
  • Releasing your difficult emotions into the Earth. I’ve experienced Starhawk‘s meditations  where she tells you that you can send all your difficult emotions through into the Earth Mother because She composts it; can transform all things. Starkhawk offers a meditation in which a grounding chord sent down from the base of your spine allows you to release all your grief into the earth.

gaian-guardian-firePOSTURE:  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?   GUARDIAN OF FIRE invites you to follow your path and practices with attitudes of …

  • Coaxing the gifts that might be hidden more deeply to emerge.
  • Compassion for others and for yourself.
  • Courage to stand in the dark and call forth the light.

OVERALL MUSINGS:  As I was preparing the practice suggestions, I was struck by how many deep and wise resources there are to support us in times of difficulty and grief.  We are supported no matter how challenged we feel.  This wisdom is built – unconsciously, or perhaps this is better said as serendipitously – into the Bindweed card. Although Joanna Powell Colbert designed the birds to be starlings and represent a problem of invasive species, numerous clients and people who work with the deck have seen these birds as protectors who are always there whether they are seen or not. The appearance of She Who Watches in the 9 of Air reinforces this message. The spirit figure in the clouds is She Who Watches over all offering love and compassion.