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 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. 




Aug 062013

Heal:  From the Old English hælan, meaning cure; save; make whole, sound and well. 

Then to mend from a significant loss is possible.  The pain that comes with the loss can not be ignored, but must be unraveled, met, knit into new form.  The new form must be put on rather than put away because it is undeniable part of you now.

Reading the literature of grief there is a strand that seems to say, “You will always be broken now.”  This message doesn’t invite me to heal.  I want:

You have been cracked open and through these cracks the light will enter.  Some day you will be whole again.  No, not as you were before, but in a new way.

I hold a vision that I can heal after my loss:  the death of my partner John in a car accident last November.  This journey to wholeness may take the rest of my life; healing may not be a goal with an end point, but a continual process.  Still I seek it as a worthwhile destination.

The Tarot is a guide for me on this journey.  My years of study and play with the cards and their symbols offer me ready access to the world’s wisdom’s traditions.  They stimulate my ability to see signs in the natural world, find meaning in images, and pay attention to synchronicities out there in the every day world.  They help me find new patterns when the pattern I thought was in place fell apart.

I want to share some stories from my experiences with these healing images.  Perhaps it will help you to see how images can be part of your healing journey.

I could start the story in many places, perhaps talk about all the years of daily practice, of Tarot workshops, of developing a relationship with the Tarot, but to align with my theme of image I’ll start with something concrete.

I’ll start with a naughty necklace.

The Naughty Necklace

For my 40th birthday John gave me a present:  Tarot wise woman Rachel Pollack.  Well, what he really gave me was a private class with her. We went over to Rhinebeck and I had a deep dive into the four worlds of the Kabbalah and worked with her Shining Tribe deck (a long time favorite and spiritual practice deck for me).  At the end of the session, Rachel brought out some of the necklaces she was starting to make with pendants picked up on her travels.

I was attracted to the necklace with a pendant from the Danish National Museum, even though it was one of the plainer ones.  I didn’t really know much about the Viking symbology of the pendant.  Were they bird people?  But I was attracted to them; they could have been on a card from the Shining Tribe, which draws on indigenous and ancient imagery from across the globe.

Naughty Necklace Wide

I bought the necklace and wore it frequently. Until it broke.

I was standing in the coffee shop and for no apparent reason, the beads suddenly streamed down around me.  I gathered them up.  This happened just a few weeks before Readers Studio, a Tarot conference that Rachel and I both go to.  Rachel said to bring the necklace along.  She took it home for a few days to her necklace workshop and it was repaired in a snap.

All was well until a few weeks before the next Readers Studio when, once again, the beads streamed down for no apparent reason.

I began to think that this naughty necklace wanted to spend time with Rachel.  It had a personality of its own and the ability to make very direct communication.

I was amused.


The police officer at the end of the telephone line said, “He didn’t make it.”

Thirty-six hours later I was on a plane to Montana where John had been living while working on a project for the Biomimicry Institute.  I was going to claim his body, do a memorial circle with his co-workers, see the crash site, deal with the car, and clean out the apartment where he’d been living.  I had five days.

I’d grabbed my Shining Tribe Tarot before I left the house for the airport. I didn’t have a plan for the Tribe, but I just wanted it with me.

In the middle of those days of pain and pressure, I found a few moments of meditation.  I couldn’t ask the Tarot a clear question.  I just said, “Help,” and pulled the Six of Birds.

Six of Birds

I felt an immediate sense of relief.  I didn’t have any intellectual understanding of the card.  I just received this image as a gift of solace coming from the Greater Than.

Later that day, my sister and I went to the crash site.  One of John’s co-workers lived near by and guided us there.  She took us the long way around so we could see that the last images John saw were of the Bitterroot Valley’ beauty.  As we came over a hill and started down, a red-tailed hawk rose up and seemed to lead the cars for a while.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the hawk.  He eventually turned east, veered toward the Sapphire Mountains, blended in with the dark horizon.

Words of understanding for the Six of Birds came to me then.  I saw the red sleeping woman as John in death – when I’d seen his body it was so like he was just a sleep and could be shaken awake – and the bird as his Soul taking flight.  No longer in the body, he could go where he needed to go.

I had a feeling of John going “home.”  Though home was no longer a physical place we would share, this comforted me.  It helped me to leave Montana and head east, to come home to Massachusetts.

The Hawk and The Crow

A friend brought a packet on grief to John’s memorial circle with a helpful list of normal signs of grief.  Along with the signs that might come more quickly to mind (crying, wanting the person who has died back), there were less obvious reactions including being angry with the dead -around any unresolved issues or even just for dying.

Anger was not the first place I visited on my grief journey, but it waited patiently for me, digging down deep into my body.  I might have let that anger fester if it hadn’t been for my Reiki sessions at Groundings.  Not only did the sessions move my energy and surface the hidden, but they also invited me into a trance-state where I dreamed without sleeping and images from photos, from Tarot cards, from the natural world mixed together, moved with purpose, and invited me come with them and see that my grief story could evolve.  Birds again came as helpers.

Hawks are fierce hunters, but the caw of the crow has its own power.  One the day that we scattered John’s ashes, a hawk circled high up in the clear April sky.  We watched without a word.  In the silence, a crow swooped in to harry the hawk.  The hawk flew higher and higher toward the sun. The crow pursued, keeping up the cawing.  We thought she was protecting her nest.

In a Reiki session I felt myself become crow chasing John as hawk.  I cawed and scratched and chased.  He circled.  This went on for weeks.  We had it out up there in my imaginal sky without the words and actions that would have moved us through our rift if he had been alive.  I couldn’t ignore this hurt, but had to figure out a way to go – or should I say fly – through it in some way.

And then we rested.  These were moments of truce but not yet resolution. I drew the Two of Birds multiple times in those weeks.

Two of Birds

We stood back-to-back.  The snake around our legs gave me hope.  The snake is a symbol of transformation. Sooner or later, it will have to shed its skin.

Return of the Naughty Necklace

One Sunday morning I lay in my bed as the sun rose.  There was a steady quiet that comes only late at night and early in the morning on my busy street.  A rasping caw broke through and there was fluttering in the leaves outside my window.  A crow sat just outside my bedroom window – chest extended, beak up – calling out.  There were no other crows around.

Crow was calling me?

I looked down at my bedside table to see the naughty necklace.  I hadn’t worn it since before John’s death.  The first birthday that were together John had given me a necklace with a little amber pendant.  I’d put it on to go to Montana and had worn it ever since.

But now I was looking at the black shining beads and the two birds on the pendant facing each other, embracing.  Some clicked inside and it came to me,

I can put this on.  We can face each other. The love between us – inerasable from the past, eternally present, feeding the future – can flow again.

Naughty Necklace One

Thinking around the grief process has shifted from stages to tasks to be circled through.  An ultimate goal is to find a new way to relate to the lost loved; a way that both keeps a connection and allows the griever to move forward in their own life.  My journey with the help of the healing images has allowed me to change integrate, release, and re-form through working in the realm of the imagination.

I was surprised to find this change manifesting on the outside as well.  Soon after I started wearing the necklace again, a new acquaintance admired it and asked, “Is that an owl?”  Hmm, when I let go of my idea of there being two figures, I can see the owl eyes.  There is no longer separation.  The two are one.  And I am now the one who moves forward in wholeness.

And Finally, Rubies

The second time the Naughty Necklace broke, I lost some beads and Rachel added rough rubies into the pattern.  Little points of red break up the lines of black beads.

The red of the ruby carries a whole host of meanings.  Red is the color of life-giving blood and when there is prick or a break you bleed.  Red is the color of love and when you love there is both joy and the possibility of loss.  Red is the color of the base chakra, the energy center that connects you to and grounds you in earth.  Red is flow and stability, a gift and a risk.

The breaks changed the necklace.  John’s death changed me.  But we are not broken now.  We are just today different.


[Note:  If you have experienced the death of a loved one or major loss and need support for your own grief process, I am trained as a spiritual mentor.  Sessions can be arranged where you tell your story and I listen with the “ears of my heart”.  The storytelling and listening are central, but additional supports used in session include questions, Tarot work, stories from ancient traditions, nature awareness, and writing/art making prompts.  I choose the word mentor because it implies not an expert, but one who is out a little bit ahead of you on a particular path.  I’ve been on the path of creative morning since November 2012.  Please contact me with your questions, we’ll see what fits your needs, and figure out payment possibilities.] 



Jun 262013

Rachel Pollack will be visiting Western Massachusetts on September 21 and 22 (Equinox weekend!) and participating in 2 special events:  a Massachusetts Tarot Society presentation and a Tarot Retreat with Carolyn Cushing.

  • On Saturday, 9/21, Rachel will present at the Massachusetts Tarot Society’s monthly meeting on How Does the Tarot Mean? from 1pm to 3pm. Cost:  $20.
  • Sunday, 9/22, brings A Day in the Tarot with Rachel Pollack and Carolyn Cushing, a full day workshop experience to dive deep into the stories and shapes of the Tarot.  See below for more details.

The preferred payment method is Pay Pal.  Send the fee to carolyn [at] artofchangetarot [dot] com.    Here are the fees:

  • $20 for MTS Session on How Does the Tarot Mean?  [Walk-ins will be possible that day.  Just send Carolyn an e-mail (carolyn [at] artofchangetarot [dot] com) so we can save a space for you.]
  • $95 for A Day in the Tarot with Rachel Pollack and Carolyn Cushing  [Registration due by Tuesday, September 16th.  After that call Carolyn at 413-529-9759 to see what might be possible.]

There are not an infinite number of slots.  Secure yours by sending in your payment.  And let me know your questions.  I’m always happy to answer questions!

Here’s the in depth program details on both events.  First the retreat and then the MTS session.

A Day in the Tarot with Rachel Pollack & Carolyn Cushing

Shining Tribe Speaker of StonesSpeak the things that must be spoken. Leave nothing out.

These words, woven from the poems of the Speakers of Stones and Fire in the Shining Tribe deck, define what we do as Tarot readers. We speak what we see in the cards, we tell the stories they reveal to us—stories of our (and querents’) lives, stories of imagination, stories of the Tarot’s wisdom and its deep traditions. Today we will explore how the cards reveal their stories and inspire our own. We will begin by examining the Tarot as shape shifters, exploring the many forms the cards can take, with such starting points as the Fool’s Journey, the Tree of Life (as in the famous ten points of Kabbalah, but as a living flowering tree as well), and Circles that guide us to integrate all parts of ourselves to step toward Wholeness. We will seek the life energy within these forms, the energy that enables us to speak and be heard.

Come join us for a long awaited event.

Date and Time: Sunday, September 22 from 10am to 4:30pm

Location:Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, 127 Combs Road, Easthampton, MA (perhaps you’ll even have time to listen a little to the Sanctuary’s wonderful wild stories)

Cost: $95 also includes a lunch made from local ingredients (vegan and gluten-free friendly.

To register: The preferred payment method is Pay Pal.  Send the fee to carolyn [at] artofchangetarot [dot] com.  [Payment Policies: Payment must be received to secure your spot and spots are limited. If you have to withdraw before August 15 and you send this in writing via e-mail to Carolyn, your payment will be returned, minus any fees. After that time, the policy will be not to give refunds.]

Massachusetts Tarot Society Presentation on Saturday, 9/21

“How Does the Tarot mean?” with Rachel Pollack.  Rachel will lead us through an exploration of the Tarot’s many meaning systems.  There will be wisdom and sharing and fun in our usual 1pm to 3pm meeting slot!  Socializing will follow.

Date and Time:  Saturday, September 21 Session from 1pm to 3pm followed by refreshments and conversation ending by 4pm

Location:  The Social Room of the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence at 220 Main Street in Northampton.  Enter through right-hand, side door.  Parking available on street and city lots; the Round House lot is right behind the UU.

Cost: $20.

How to register:  The preferred payment method is Pay Pal.  Send the fee to carolyn [at] artofchangetarot [dot] com.  [Payment Policy:  If you have to cancel before August 15th, we can refund a check in full and a PayPal payment minus any fees fee.  After that date, you can check in with me about refund, but it might not be possible.]

For more information / Questions: Call Carolyn at 413-529-9759 or e-mail her at carolyn [at] artofchangetarot [dot] com.

More about our presenters:

Rachel Pollack is considered one of the World’s foremost authorities on the modern interpretation of the Tarot. She is also a poet, an award-winning novelist, and a Tarot card and comic book artist. Her numerous Tarot publications include 78 Degrees of Wisdom (Thorsons, 1998), considered a modern classic and the Bible of Tarot reading; Tarot Wisdom (Llewellyn, 2008), a rich compendium of her 30 years of Tarot experience; and The Shining Tribe Tarot Deck (Llewellyn, 2001). Her ability to marry common sense, wide-ranging knowledge, and esoteric awareness has inspired many tens of thousands of readers worldwide to a deeper knowledge of the Tarot.

Carolyn Cushing is a Tarot consultant, poet, and teacher. In addition to working one-on-one with seekers, she has recently led meditation sessions and a study group at The Tarot School’s Readers Studio; served on the facilitation team of the Spiritual Life Center’s Pathways Program, taught and facilitated Tarot classes and groups at Groundings in Western Massachusetts; and been a guest teacher on the Gaian Tarot Circle.

For more information / Questions: Call Carolyn at 413-529-9759 or e-mail her at carolyn [at] artofchangetarot [dot] com.

What to Bring: A Tarot deck. A notebook. Hiking shoes if you want to add a walk around Arcadia into your day.

Sep 252012

*** Due to illness and death, the events of this weekend are postponed.  I’ll work with those who have signed up for the workshop to find a new date.**

The weekend of November 17th and 18th, Rachel Pollack will be here in Western Mass presenting at the Massachusetts Tarot Society on Saturday (details are here) and doing a retreat day with me.  I’m very excited!  Here is the information about the retreat.


A Day in the Tarot With Rachel Pollack & Carolyn Cushing

Speak the things that must be spoken. Leave nothing out.

These words, woven from the poems of the Speakers of Stones and Fire in the Shining Tribe deck, define what we do as Tarot readers. We speak what we see in the cards, we tell the stories they reveal to us—stories of our (and querents’) lives, stories of imagination, stories of the Tarot’s wisdom and its deep traditions. Today we will explore how the cards reveal their stories and inspire our own. We will begin by examining the Tarot as shape shifters, exploring the many forms the cards can take, with such starting points as the Fool’s Journey, the Tree of Life (as in the famous ten points of Kabbalah, but as a living flowering tree as well), and Circles that guide us to integrate all parts of ourselves to step toward Wholeness. We will seek the life energy within these forms, the energy that enables us to speak and be heard.

We will each use the cards to discover our own path and intention for the day within these various possibilities. Using the cards we will also explore the secret history of the Emperor (part of a series Rachel is doing to discover the lives and hidden tales of the Major Arcana). We will seek out the Tarot’s mysteries and travel to its hidden worlds to ask the essential questions that “must be spoken.” “Who am I? What is my purpose?”

Come join us for a thrilling event.

Date and Time: Sunday, November 18 from 10am to 4:30pm

Location: Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, 127 Combs Road, Easthampton, MA (perhaps you’ll even have time to listen a little to the Sanctuary’s wonderful wild stories)

Cost: $95 also includes a lunch made from local ingredients (vegan and gluten-free friendly

To register: Sending a check is preferred. Make it out to Carolyn Cushing and mail to 143 Main St., Easthampton, MA 01027. Pay pal payment possible by sending fee to carolyn [at] artofchangetarot [dot] com.

For more information / Questions: Call Carolyn at 413-529-9759 or e-mail her at carolyn [at] artofchangetarot [dot] com.

What to Bring: A Tarot deck. A notebook. Hiking shoes if you want to add a walk around Arcadia into your day.

Payment Policies: Payment must be received to secure your spot and spots are limited. If you have to withdraw before October 17th and you send this in writing via e-mail to Carolyn, your payment will be returned. Requests for refunds made between October 18th and November 11th, will be refunded by 50%. After November 11th, a refund will not be possible. PayPal refunds will not include the PayPal fee.

Rachel Pollack is the author of 34 books, including 78 Degrees of Wisdom, described around the world as “the Bible of Tarot readers.” She is also an award-winning novelist, a poet, and a visual artist, creator of The Shining Tribe Tarot.

Carolyn Cushing is a Tarot consultant, poet, and teacher. In addition to working one-on-one with seekers, she has recently led meditation sessions at The Tarot School’s Readers Studio; served on the facilitation team of the Spiritual Life Center’s Pathways Program, taught and facilitated Tarot classes and groups at Groundings in Western Massachusetts; and been a guest teacher on the Gaian Tarot Circle. She is a co-founder of the Massachusetts Tarot Society.

Jun 182012

This post was original published on July 1, 2009 following  Readers Studio that year.  I’m re-posting it because it seems that the memory of Robert Desnos has something to say to us right now.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a poem about the events described below and last Friday Celia Alario, PR publicist for people and the planet as well as a spiritual activist, is bring up his wisdom as well in this great post on the Spirituality and Health blog: “As God is My Witness and Buddha is my Publicist.”

A number of times at a recent Tarot happening, The Readers Studio, I had occasion to tell the story of Robert Desnos, the French surrealist poet, who in the 1940s was arrested by the Nazis for his work with the Resistance.  One day in the concentration camp, he was loaded with a bunch of men into the truck that went out each day but from which no one ever returned as its destination was the gas chambers. Both guards and prisoners were silent.  Death was inevitable.  But when the men were being loaded off the truck, Robert Desnos grabbed the hand of one man and read his palm.  Using the stream of consciousness gift of a surrealist poet (because I don’t believe he was a palm reader), he began to tell the man of his long life and the children to come.  He read other palms showing great futures for his fellow prisoners and the guards began to wonder.  They packed everyone back on the truck and these men survived the day.

hand image

I remember vividly reading that story in an Utne Reader article sitting in the Lilly Library on a warm day.  It gave me goose bumps so I vividly and bodily remember the moment.  Of course, I couldn’t remember the year!  But through the great labyrinth of knowledge that is the Internet I found that Susan Griffin had written it and an on-line version of the article can be found at .

Re-reading the whole article reminded me of Griffin’s main point, that the imagination has the power to make change.  The story Desnos told from his imagination shifted consciousness and allowed people to question what was inevitable.  He transformed the group’s beliefs and their futures shifted.

But can just anyone do that?  Wasn’t he a specially gifted person? Perhaps, but I think that what he really had going for him was practice.  The surrealist poets would give performances of their stream of consciousness poetry and Desnos was especially adept in his performances.  Reading palms – whether he actually was training in this or not – came easy as his consciousness shifting muscles were limber and strong.

And this is where tarot cards can help us.  Over and over this past weekend, the presenters lead us into the imagination.  We looked deeply into one card to see how it showed us past, present, and future through images all on that one card (lead by Geraldine Amaral); we picked a central teacher or DNA card and then entered it to see and hear what advice a figure in it had to give us (under the guidance of James Wanless), and we took on personas of exotic fortune tellers with mysterious origins to free our voices of prediction (with the always imaginative Rachel Pollack). I think Robert Desnos would have jumped right into this last activity!

We can be as imaginative as Desnos with a little working out and tarot practice is a tool to help with this.  We need this imagination to move forward out of these times into a positive future.  Our major institutions of finance, government, industry, media, and religion are breaking apart.  We can put band aids on them, but the deeper underlying problems will remain and the fix won’t last long.  We must work hard at imagining this new world.  Time is of the essence.

Before I close, I must note that time ran out for Robert Desnos.  He died of typhus a few days of the liberation of his camp.  The larger circumstances of his life closed in on him.  But what of the other men?  Surely some survived and perhaps inspired by their palm readings believed they could have a better life, find love, have children.  This “cheap fortune telling” gave them hope and changed their lives.

Mary Greer has written about the value of hope and tarot readings on her blog at and I think she might write something on this as well.  Always good to check out what Mary is writing.

Jan 072012

This week the Tarot of Marseille image of Le Pendu captured my attention as I prepared to journey with The Hanged Man.  Sally Nichols in her Jung and the Tarot pointed me in this direction.  Unusual directionality is the key feature of the Hanged Man and as you might image journeying with the card offered twists and new perspective.

In the Marseille image a man is suspended by one leg from a cross bar held up by trees with their branches cut.  The other leg hangs bent at the knee.  Hands are hidden but it is easy to imagine that they are tied behind his back.  The facial expression is enigmatic, but not the look of someone who is suffering or in pain.  This Hanged Man almost looks comfortable in this new position.

The detail that sends internal sparks of excitement flying for me is that he is dangling into an opening in the earth.  His head is below the level of the earth’s surface.  I see him as being received by the earth and his hair (or in the Rider-Waite-Smith card a halo) is reaching down to the earth.   This reaching invites me to think of this card as indicating a time for the consciousness of the human to commune with the consciousness of the earth.

This is a new perspective, particularly for us in Western culture where the head has been the location of consciousness and higher thinking, abilities that set us apart from all else on the planet.  The Celts saw the head as the place of the soul.  In the Tree of Life of Jewish mysticism’s Kabbalah, the top or Crown is closest to God and the bottom brings the limitless energy into earth form. The Tree of Life can be traced upon the human body with the crown at the head and feet at the bottom.

We have been oriented to keep the superior part of ourselves pointed toward the sky or heaven and away from earth.  In the process, earth has become less than and many aspects of Western religious belief and tradition has fostered a split between the spiritual and the earthly.

But the Hanged One brings us a prophetic message for these times of global climate chaos and the message is given through his body.

In the center of the picture, we have an absence of hands.  Hands are the most frequently used parts of the body in symbolism according to The Dictionary of Symbols by Hans Biederman.  From Paleolithic cave paintings to modern Freemasonry, the hand appears to represent humanity and the individual, postures of supplication and healing, and our ability to act and create.  They are the powerful doers and shapers of human culture.  And they are absent, perhaps even tied up, for the serene Hanged One.  It is a time to give up doing and striving, to surrender to a different rhythm.

While the hands are missing, the feet are in the exulted position.  There is no entry for feet in The Dictionary of Symbols nor is there any information in my Dictionary of Dreams.  The feet that connect us to earth, that carry us faithfully, that most of us take for granted don’t seem to merit much mention.  But for the Hanged One the feet are freed from their usual work to commune with the heavens.

The crossed legs are reminiscent of the Marseille Emperor, but contrary to the Emperor’s posture the right leg is now crossed behind the left.  The conscious, willed action of the Emperor here gives way to a more intuitive and accepting approach.  In her book on the Haindl Tarot, Rachel Pollack writes, The Hanged Man “sacrifices the Emperor’s desire to dominate the Earth, and he reverses his previous beliefs.”  With the world turned upside down, there is no longer a need to maintain what seemed important under upright rules and structures.

The head, of course, is now surrounded and received by the earth.  And with the Emperor energy of building and domination at rest, the crown can open up to receive the wisdom of earth.  Heaven is no longer the ultimate goal, but rather a deep listening to the earth we walk over every day.

I’ve been having a little Facebook conversation with James Wells on his Tarot for Manifestation page about how the Tarot’s nature is integrative and keeps calling us to pay attention to our whole selves.  The Hanged Man teaches us this integration through inversion and the subsequent re-orienting of perspective and importance.  It is a bit of trickster way of teaching that Tarot so frequently offers us.

Dec 292011

I’m appreciating how the cards of our Journey into the Tarot sessions are aligning with the energies of this season.

We journeyed to meet the Hermit on December 14th on one of the longest nights of the year, the nights still descending into lengthening darkness.  The glow of his lantern was most welcome and reminded us that even as we take time out to be in stillness and the dark, we will be called to return and share with others the light found there.

On Solstice eve, the 21st, the Wheel was a most appropriate theme for the turning of the sun back to lengthening days.  Although most of the guided visualizations for Journey into the Tarot are inspired by Marcia Macino’s Rider-Waite-Smith focused meditations, the image of the Gaian Wheel opened a way for a visit to the Sacred Grove that Exists in Time Out of Time.  The old was released and new visions invited.

Now we have arrived at the last week of the year to find Justice waiting for us.  Although the central imagery focuses our immediate attention on balance, the law, and cause and effect, there is an invitation below these foreground themes to seek greater self-knowledge and step into greater responsibility for the course of our lives.

At the end of the year, I undertake an annual review, looking back through my Sacred Journey Journal to identify patterns, goals achieved and left undone, and the surprise gifts of the unexpected.  I’ve blogged about my experiences here before and in the past few years I’ve been adding things to my process inspired by Joanna Powell Colbert and Chris Guillebeau.

This year I am recognizing this as the work of Justice in that foundational sense of increasing my self-knowledge and taking responsibility for what I am creating.  This is the underpinning for creating an ever more balanced and integrated life in 2012.

As is quite usual for me, it is Rachel Pollack who is a source for this deeper thinking about the cards.  In Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, she writes:

“The Wheel of Fortune represents a vision of a person’s life: the events, who you are, what you are made of yourself.  Justice indicates an understanding of that vision.  The way to understanding lies in responsibility. …  [W]hen we accept that every event in our lives has helped to form our characters, and that in the future we will continue to create ourselves through our actions, then the sword of wisdom cuts through the mystery. 

Further by accepting responsibility for ourselves we paradoxically free ourselves from the past.  Like Buddha remembering all his lives, we can only get loose from the past by becoming conscious of it.  Otherwise we repeat past behaviors.  This is why Justice belongs at the center of our lives.”

I began my year with visions and goals.  In these days of my annual review, I seek the assistance of the sword of truth to assess my progress, to learn about myself through the successes and challenges of the year; and prepare the way for what will come in the new year.

May Justice provide for you, too, guidance and insight at the end of the year.  What does she invite you to do or reflect on in these last days of 2011?

[Note:  The Hermit and Justice are from the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot and the Wheel is from the Gaian Tarot.  Used with permission.]

Oct 212011

As I continue the Journey into the Tarot sessions on Major Arcana cards, I am dipping each week into a few favorite books with commentaries on the cards.  This has me returning to one of the very first books I bought from a used bookstore: Rachel Pollack’s companion book to the Haindl Tarot.  The book is a rich exploration of both the art work and the many systems that Haindl connected to the cards.  Each Major Arcana card has an astrological, Hebrew letter, and Scandinavian rune correspondence.

This week we journeyed with the Hierophant, Major Arcana number 5, who is the upholder of tradition.  His Hebrew letter is Vav meaning nail and Rachel writes about how a nail joins things together just as tradition unites a culture and allows for its tranmission to future generations.

The rune is Radha which means Wheel and Rachel writes of how this rune represents ritual which is a key to upholding traditions.  But this rune turned my thoughts to the Tarot’s own Wheel, which brings us through periods of light and dark, decay and renewal, and ever churning circle of life.  This unavoidable movement presents the key challenge for tradition and this card’s archetype.  The Hierophant is about maintenance of what is so change, that necessary renewing energy, can seem threatening.

I love how Rachel plays with ideas and systems and even math to make interesting connections.  I started to think about The Wheel as number 10, which is created by the multiplication of the 5 of the Hierophant with the 2 of the High Priestess.  When the Hierophant is stuck and rigid in his thoughts, he needs to turn to the receptivity, mysticism, and feminine wisdom of the High Priestess.

Just as we saw the Emperor and Empress needing each other to create then channel creativity in a repeating process, the Hierophant needs the High Priestess for renewal.  Once her energy is integrated the Hierophant can be the channel for preserving and passing on her wisdom.

Right now I’d say that we are in a period when the Hierophant represented by the leaders of so many institutions – religion, of course, but also government, media, medicine – are holding onto to how things have always been done.  But below the surface there is a receptive searching for something different.  Many people are open to new spiritualities and ways of healing themselves, are looking for new ways to deal with money, and are curious about the world beyond their own culture or comfort level.  There is a desire to be initiated into the new.

And here is a sure sign of hope for the Hierophant. The Hierophant is also about initiation into new phases or levels of a tradition.  He has lead many people through this threshold-crossing process and has many the examples of how to come into new being.  If he can but turn his eye, ear, and heart to the High Priestess, she is willing to hand him the Vav/the nail that connects the old and the new, the masculine and the feminine, the stated teachings and the mystery traditions.  Something new and dynamic may yet be born to pass on to the generations to come.

[Note:  Haindl Tarot Hierophant is published in the US by ® US Games Systems, Used with permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.]


May 122010

I lead monthly Tarot meditation sessions where we journey into the cards to meet the wisdom figures there.  This month we focused on the Hierophant and this figure was offering surprises.

 As the card in the Tarot most connected with rules, assigned roles, and established teaching or principles, the Hierophant is not the usual suspect for surprises, but such are the times that we live in that this figure, too, might be breaking out of its box.   As you can see from the Rider-Waite-Smith version of the card, the Hierophant is a figure of authority who works within institutions to pass on established knowledge.  His students listen and receive the information as it is passed to them.  The Hierophant has brought us the gifts of the wisdom of our ancestors, but also has a shadow side of control and domination that limits personal development and insight.

But in recent meditation experiences, the Hierophant seems to be coming in different forms.  In my own meditation, this wisdom figure came to me as a little girl.  (For more on children as wise ones, see my post on Children in the Tarot.)  She laughing led me to a temple hidden in a hillside, really a cave with a light source at its peak.  Another meditation participant had a most unusual figure appear.  The outstanding features were wings and it was hard to discern any kind of body.   In fact, it was impossible to tell if this figure was animal, human, or something else.  But it floated and led her to a temple to complete the work of the meditation.

After the mediation, I began to think about how nearly all of our society institutions are in crisis and flux:  the economy, religion, and the media may be the most obvious examples.  I work with people who do communications for grassroots justice organizations so I hear from them about how the “old” ways (from 10 years ago!) of getting out their messages and reaching the media have absolutely changed.  Newspapers are reduced in size and impact while social / new media has emerged a vital way to reach people. 

We live in Tower times!  And when the old structure is no longer providing societal support, the traditional Hierophant is limited.  He is not a figure to help us to make the leap to the new.

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