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. 




Jun 012015

This is the second Wisdom Wander of the Walking the Ways of the Summer Light series. The focus is on the element of Air. In these weekly posts, I offer inspirations for your walks as well as examples from my own Wanders. They expand on my general suggestions that you may want to review for orientation. The first Earth Wisdom Wander also contains more detail on the process of preparing for and beginning the Wanders. These are only prompts for your own creating and modification.


Take a moment to ponder your connection to and understanding of the element of Air. What do you know about the air? How have you encountered air before in your life? What lessons might the air offer you? What might you receive from some time spent with air? What gifts can you offer to air?  Just let ideas float through your head. No need to be comprehensive, but your insights here can inspire your choice of location for your Air Wisdom Wander.

Connect to Air. My back yard is surrounded by trees which I often watch sway in the wind so I just stepped out my back door and stood there for a while. I’d stopped on the walk right before a large leafed hosta plant and could see its leaves quiver in the slight breeze. I saw how it received and moved with the wind. I closed my eyes and felt the wind on my skin, ever so slightly lifting my hair. The breeze stopped, and the hosta and I stood still. The wind returned in a bit from a slightly different direction. I closed my eyes to feel air again on my skin in new places. I couldn’t see anything of this element so touch and feel became the sense bridge connecting me to Air This day the air was soothing, but I have also watched the tree branches in my yard whip and break during storms. The direction and intensity of Air changes and so our encounters with it, too, are changeable.

Invite your Way Showers / Guides / Inquisitors / Translators for the Day:  If working with a Tarot deck, you may want to pull your cards from just the suit of Air / Swords or some combination of the Air suit and the Major Arcana. As I see each Major Arcana as an image of Wholeness, I work with the idea that each individual Major card contains the power of all the elements.

To gather my guides and translators, I pulled 3 cards from the Oracle of Initiation as guides for my Air exploring:  Collaboration, Sustainability, and Embarking To match the 3 Oracle cards I pulled 3 cards from the Shining Tribe Tarot’s Major Arcana and the suit of Birds (this deck’s suit connected to the element of Air) to point me toward Air’s lessons for me: Two of Birds, The Emperor, and The Magician.

guides and lessons 5.30.15


What belongs to the air? What belongs to other elements? You won’t need to and won’t be able to ignore the presence of Earth, Water, and Fire. All the elements mix to make our dynamic world. But you are invited to tune into what seems to you to be most elementally Air while out for the Wander (and maybe continuing through the week. From my preparing, I found my way toward paying particular attention to:

  • Directionality. The air can come from any direction, but your place on the planet might determine the more usual direction of its winds toward you.  Then when the wind shifts into unusual directions, the trees and plants, the place where you live, your body experience the unexpected. Winds can also come in from different directions at the same time. You then become the meeting point and are ruffled by the intersection of winds.
  • Flow.  What facilitates the flow of air and what inhibits it? I live in the shadow and protection of Mt. Tom, a small but old mountain that often takes the brunt of storms. Recent climate chaos activity (a hurricane in New England) have spared my home town, and last year a micro burst traveled the ridge of the mountain taking down a wide swath of trees, but it dissipated before entering too much of our populated areas. Starthawk in The Earth Path suggests that city dwellers go to their financial district to be amidst tall buildings and feel the wind channeled with intensity through its narrow space and then contrast that with more open parts of the city, a park perhaps, to learn about the flow of wind.
  • Intensity. The slight breeze and the edge of the storm are obviously different. As the intensity of the wind changes, what happens to the relationship between the physical world/your body and the air?
  • Creatures of the Air. Birds and flying insects have an intimate relationship with Air. They fly in and with the wind, must adjust and work with the changing nature of this element. They have their own behavior that inspires. In the still dark morning, the birds begin their calling in my back yard. They fill the sky with sound and the light returns. Their sounds later in the day are more subdued. Their relationship to daybreak is special and invites you to attend this time of transition as well.
  • The Invisible and Hidden. We are such visual creatures, but we can not see the air. We see birds, but often they are hidden behind leaves. Morning song seems to come from an invisible source.  As I started this Air Wisdom Wander, this phrase rang in my mind: the hidden all around me. I carried it with me in the wind.

And as you are exploring, pay attention to your skin and your breath. How does it feel when walking into the wind and then out of the wind? What changes when you no longer feel the movement of air?

On my Earth Wisdom Walk, I received a message that seemed as if it was for the collective as much as for me about paying attention to the stresses on the bee population. This week I had an even stronger sense of receiving two different messages: one more personal and the other more collective.

The cards and inspirations that came to me on the personal level were a continuation of last week’s message about communication between the seen and unseen realms and the continued connection I have to my late partner John. Once again there was a dragonfly, cards that I in some way associate with John, and if I’d been too dense to catch those things hidden all around me, the word LOVE was spelled out in stones at the bottom of the Mill River.

love in water

Though this appearance of Love emerged in the thread of my personal message, there is certainly a collective dimension to it. The earth loves and provides us with renewing gifts. The unseen ancestors love us and send their messages of support our way.  And partnered or unpartnered, there are still streams of love from others that run through your life. Direct your attention there, nurture these connections, and our awareness of Love can only grow.

Just as the personal contained a collective dimension, my collective message became clear because of a personal connection.

My Wander ran through my whole day. I did my preparation in the morning and then went off to some regular schedule activities that included time at the Forbes Library. The library art gallery included a show called Airborn (what kind of synchronicity is that!) in which the artist made pieces using the fabric of a parachute brought home from World War II. Sustainability made her first appearance of the day under the artist’s clouds created from parachute fabric. There were even tacks included in the piece to support Sustainability for a quick clandestine picture.

sustainable and parachute cloud 5.30.15

Sustainability waited until toward the end of the walk to appear again. I came upon a gathering of silvered dandelions and by chance pulled the card from my pocket. While arranging my photo I noticed how similar the look of the figure’s and the dandelion’s head were. Dandelion, scorned as a weed but containing healing properties, had a message of sustainability to offer. Perhaps through the profusion of its seeds and the way they are carried on the wind to reach the next place of their growth.

sustainability dandelion 5.30.15

To further ponder dandelion’s message I thought I would turn to science and Googled dandelion seed dispersal. One of the first sites to pop up was Ask Nature, which contains strategies from nature to help humans design in collaboration with the direction and flow of nature, and yes, is the last project that John worked on. Ask Nature says of the dandelion: “The seeds of dandelions are efficiently dispersed on the wind thanks to tiny discs of radiating threads that act as parachutes.” Dandelion can help humans learn from nature how to maintain community and health ecosystems through effective seed dispersal. The application for this strategy suggests mimicking the parachute-like attachments to seed to agricultural amendments (like fertilizer) without the use of toxic inert ingredients.

There is an earthy message from these ideas about the dandelion. Seeds that travel find new and fertile territory in which to grow. They diversify and enhance the places where they land. Healthy ecosystems are diverse ecosystems.

As we are in the element of Air which in the Tarot is connected to the mind, I can see the seeds as ideas. We might think of them as simple like the dandelion or as coming from unexpected and humble sources like a lowly weed. Perhaps it is not the experts in specialized fields but those living simple lives attuned to the needs of their community and the earth around them that can offer common sense solutions to the lack of sustainability in our current systems.

We may just need to pay attention to the natural processes hidden all around us and take them as our teachers to create more sustainability in our communities and, ultimately, for the planet. If we start doing this without waiting for a leader to save us, we won’t stop things like climate chaos that is already in motion and needs a globally coordinated effort, but we might slow its progression and make a softer landing (like one supported with a parachute) for ourselves. We’ll also be putting into practice the necessary solutions so when those “in charge” realized they don’t have the answer there in the center, they will turn to the edges for the needed innovation.

In The Earth Path, Starhawk explores how systems – natural and human – want to maintain themselves. Change doesn’t come from within, but when a system’s equilibrium is disturbed, the system does respond to try and right itself.  The corrective to system is often at the edges. In nature this is the ecotone where two different systems touch: the field and the forest, the shore and the rocky coast. In the human world, this can be where people have stepped out of institutional systems and into alternative ones, including, to name just a few examples, Goddess spirituality, crowd funding, #blacklivesmatter and Twitter as news source, and the Tarot community. The seeds from these places can travel between systems and movements to bring new diversity.

So if you think you are not doing enough with your own sustainability efforts – whatever they might be – think again. The small and the humble are the seed of the change waiting to take hold.


In keeping with the Tarot’s idea of the element of Air relating to the mind, and, also then to traditions that pass on spiritual and philosophical ideas, this week’s suggestions for gathering in your questions turns you toward the wisdom and writings of the deck(s) you took with you on your Wander. Deck creators share their interpretations of the meaning of cards and sometimes offer questions to ponder. You can borrow their questions and also look to turn statements into questions for diving deeper.  Here are my examples from the Oracle of Initiation.

The introduction to Collaboration offers a juicy question:  Who are you called into sacred collaboration with now?

Embarking’s write up includes: “You are guided and protected by wise allies as you set out to discover your greatest gift yourself.” This invites questions like:  How can I open to these wise allies? What will I discover when I connect with these allies?

Sustainability’s admonition of what to investigate is easily transformed into a question: What is essential for me to live sustainably?


As you wander you may receive messages, either for you as an individual or for the collective. You may receive images that speak louder than words. You may experience a sensation that isn’t easily explained. You may feel called to share what you receive. Perhaps the Air will share a message through you. Please do that sharing in what ever way feels right; tell a story to a friend, post on Facebook, write something for your blog, whisper some to the moon. Social media mavens, you may want to use hash tags of #wisdomwander #air for tracking. Your comments here on the blog are welcome as well.

Wisdom Wanders continue next week with a Water post on Monday.

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.