So in the past few months there has been a lot of talk about diversity in the world of tarot. A lot of people have been arguing as tarot readers we can do better, we can have more diverse decks and such. Well, the progress, I believe, has been steadily coming through. Decks by Carrie Paris, the Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert, and many other are really becoming more of a representation of the people who are readings and designing tarot art. I saw this deck and I felt like this is even more of a step in the direction of diversifying tarot. So let's get into it.
Here is a little bio provided by the artist: "Courtney Alexander is a recent graduate with her Bachelor’s in Studio Art from the University of South Florida. In her past work she dug into issues of duality, hyper sexuality, and self-awareness; a much more personal dialogue which served to create vulnerability and explore the complex nature of her existence. Her paintings and sculptures are abstract and experimental, allowing for a more tactile sensory experience. The Dust II Onyx Tarot Deck is her largest project to date."
-How did you get into tarot?
"My interest in tarot grew over time. I was initially very weary of it. When I began to explore my spirituality I felt comfortable just staying within the realm of crystals meditation. There was woman I trusted (and still do) in regards to receiving readings. Then I began to get readings with friends and so that helped me to be less afraid of the cards. I also began using tarot apps. It took the dark mysteriousness out of it and helped me see them as a very valuable tool.
Now I own 3 decks: the Aquarian, Crystal, and traditional RW tarot decks. I also own one word angel cards that I pair with my readings. Tarot has helped me understand myself so much more. I'm very intuitive but I'm also an intellectual. So my brain gets in the way of me hearing what i need too. So instead of fighting my brain or making it sit in the corner like a child, tarot helps me include it in my readings. It speaks to my ability to recognize patterns while also triggering my higher conscious to speak to me."
“Dust II Onyx was created from my desire to make artwork that resonated with my soul, and now has become a work I want to share with others. I consider it an honor to create this deck and I look forward it being a tool for beautiful and transformative experiences for each and every reader.”- Courtney Alexander
-What is your philosophy on tarot?
"I don't prefer to use tarot to predict. If I read for anyone or myself it is always with the premise of empowering the receiver. There is no system of divination that can overpower my ability to make decisions or manifest in my life. It can not replace my free will. All it can do is tell me what the forecast. From there I always have the power to make decisions that align with my soul growth. It is an informant of sorts. So with the philosophy in mind it keeps me from falling into the trap of believing tarot has some special power to control my life. That's how many who read or go to readers are disappointed. However, when we see tarot as a teacher we are in a much better place to receive the lessons we need to learn."
-What inspired you to create "Dust II Onyx"?
"I had the desire to create a deck for several months. When a friend invited me to be a part of an art show I saw it as a perfect opportunity to begin. I've spent a lot of time looking at so many different decks and none of them deeply resonated with me. My first deck was the Aquarian and I was definitely drawn to the Art Deco. The Crystal tarot is beautiful and is reminiscent of the style of one of my favorite artists, Gustav Klimt. Even still, the cards don't hit me in deeply powerful ways quite yet. They have been great to learn with.
The deck I've wanted is one that felt truly connected and bonded to me. So creating a deck is certainly a way to make that happen. I also wanted a deck that featured POC. The decks that do exists were either not created by us, and/or they were laden with stereotypical themes that didn't appeal to my personal spiritual journey.
Once I decided to create a deck it didn't immediately come to me. i sketched a few ideas but nothing stuck. Then I went on with life. Within the span of a few weeks I had two dreams about these beautiful black portraits. They became the inspiration for the art. As for the actual process of creating the compositions, I work intuitively. I look at basic symbolism and meaning of each card, but otherwise I let them speak for themselves. I trust the deck to be what it wants to be."
-What is the message you hope to send with this deck?
"My desire is for people to see themselves in this deck. To have a kindred connection. To see the mirror reflecting who they really are. It's about deep, impactful transformation. That's the energy I put into them and hope resonates with each user. Whether you're an enthusiast or a reader, the work is meant to stir within you on the soul level."
Want to be part of the awesome Kickstarter for the deck?! Click here.
If you want to learn more about this deck, check out the links below:
I saw Ashley on the tarot scene and I loved her spirit and energy. She is an absolutely delightful person and I loved how she used Tarot as writing prompts! So I suggest you get to know Ashley too, because she is super cool.
How did you get into tarot?
Tarot has been on my radar since I was a child. I have always been interested in witchy, occult, magic things, (as problematic as it can be, Charmed was and still is one of my favorite witchy shows) but growing up in a strict Christian household I was never able to do anything more than look at cards or books if they happened to be in a store.
Fast forward to January 2015, I was at EarthBound Trading Co. (I know, I know....don't judge me too harshly please) and there was a Rider Waite Colman Smith deck next to the register. I picked it up and bought it right then and there. No second guessing. I posted a picture on Instagram and asked for advice to get started, the rest just fell together wonderfully.
How and when did you start with your spiritual practices?
This is a tricky one! I am actually still trying to sort out and develop my practice. I believe that I am constantly evolving so my practices have to reflect that as well. Right now it's a lot of daily tarot, taking my favorite crystals out (clear Quartz and obsidian), and journaling.
How and when did you start using the tarot as a writing prompt?
After taking Beth's Alternative Tarot Course, I almost immediately began using tarot as a writing prompt. In her course there is an exercise that asks you to lay out all the majors in order and write a story based on The Fool as she journeys through each card. It was so fun! I just kept doing it to help me learn the cards.
Eventually, I started developing my own spreads to help me with my current novel that I'm working on.
Do you have any specific methods for coming up with stories?
Most of the time I have a character in mind, maybe even already a particular scene. But to help me flesh it out more, I developed a couple of spreads to help me get to know the characters. Carrie Mallon has a wonderful three part series that I used around NaNoWriMo!
Also, I find that each deck I have inspires a different kind of story. My RWCS has a very contemporary feel to it, which is weird given how old the deck is. My Hidden Realm is very magical and has lots of layers to it.
You call yourself a moon witch. For the rest of us who don't know what that means, could you explain?
Oh, yes! Thank you for asking! Basically it's just my fancy way of saying, I follow the Moon Cycles for my practices and rituals.
For the New Moon, I do a lot of journaling, tarot, and bubble baths. New Moons are super heavy for me, much like the Full Moon is for others, so it's very mellow and full of self care.
Full Moons I usually sit by the window and just stare at the Moon. Sometimes I do like to leave out water under the Full Moon and use it to make my coffee or tea in the morning.
I'm going to start bringing in some candle magic too to help me home that moon magic.
You are very opened about mental illness and being a queer person. Does this play a big part in your tarot practice?
Thank you! I do try to be very open about those things. They play a huge part in my every day and they definitely play a huge role in my tarot practice.
I have a couple of go to spreads that I use when my anxiety and depression gets real bad. Most times though, the best practice is setting the cards aside. If my emotions are too over the place, I can't get a good enough read. But going to my cards every day, just to pull one, helps keep my emotions in check before they get too overwhelming.
As far as being queer, I am becoming more aware of queer representation in tarot decks and oracle decks, in how I interpret cards for myself and others, particularly the court cards, and the wording I use when reading.
The LGBTQIA community has a special place in my heart, as I personally know how difficult it can be to navigate the waters of sexuality and gender. It is a goal of mine to make sure that I am incorporating my queer values in my practices and readings.
Want to know more about Ashley? I thought so. Check out her links below:
I have had the pleasure to make internet friends with a lovely woman named Tara. We shared some mutual loves: tarot and Bob Marley!She is a tarot reader living in Kingston, Jamaica and I got to thinking of what her experience is living in the Caribbean reading tarot. It definitely would be an interesting perspective to explore! So lets dig in:
Resident in Jamaica, Tara Nikita is an intuitive consultant and Tarot reader. She helps people to access the wisdom of their own higher minds in daily living and decision-making. Her work ranges from teachings on planetary consciousness evolution, energetics and spiritual awakening, to one-on-
one Tarot consultations.
How did you get into tarot?
I’m still wondering about this myself! I literally got up one day and said, “I’m going to do Tarot now”, and that was it. Within two months I was giving readings. I did, however, have some signposts along the way, and I think my Higher Mind was giving me clues which I was yet to really understand until
much later. When I moved to London to do my Masters (in postcolonial studies and global public policy), the first thing I did was buy a Tarot deck from the Waterstones in Piccadilly (as well as book on state politics in Africa!). I had absolutely NO time to work with the cards or study because a full-time masters is SO demanding. I COMPLETELY forgot about Tarot and went on to do other things. Then, when my masters finished, and after the dissolution of a particularly important relationship, as well as a very significant psychic-intuitive-soul reading from my counsellor and mentor, things kind of came full circle for me. The tarot came back into my life to give me a platform and a vehicle to express my talents, and to be my authentic self. It became part of my awakening to who I really was.
How did you start your spiritual practice?
I don’t know. I think I was always “spiritual” in the sense of being attuned with and aware of intangibles, and being deeply drawn to spiritual-esoteric literature. But I did go through a very intense period of awakening where I realized that I had been living a life which muted my authenticity. I did have friends and a decent social life, but I always had this sense of not really being
totally comfortable. Something didn’t feel quite right. In more than one sense I was covering who I was – and my friendships and relationships reflected that. So my spiritual practice is very much connected to coming out of the closet with who I am, and having the courage to do that. And my work with the Tarot is very much a part of that.
Did you have any spiritual teachers that helped you along the way?
Certainly. Physical and non-physical! There are so many bodies of knowledge from “spiritual teachers” that have helped me. For example, connecting with the energy and teachings of a collective of beings from the Pleiades has helped me tremendously to be “spiritually intrepid”. To dare to determine what I am available for in my own reality and experience of life. This is what I try to bring across to my Tarot clients – that they are the master weavers of their realities. There’s also so much channeled material available that has enriched my journey – Bashar’s material through Darryl Anka, the Hathor material through Tom Kenyon, the collectives who come through in
Micheila Sheldan’s work. Regressionist Mira Kelly’s work is another example of material that has really helped me. So I’d call these people and entities “spiritual teachers.” My own guides have also been present ushering me through my unfolding. There’s also my own psychic-intuitive mentor and
counsellor, Jody Staley, who has been instrumental in giving me the clues to awaken to my soul, and has passed on her knowledge of the Tarot to me. There are also the people in my life who brought me to my knees, and brought out the strength in the core of me that perhaps I never knew I had. I’d consider these people spiritual teachers who have helped me awaken to my purpose, and who (perhaps indirectly) brought me to my current work with the Tarot.
Living in a country that boosts as having one of the biggest Christian populations, how are you being received locally and do you get any push back with your spiritual practices?
Great question, and such a loaded one! Well, the first thing is that I don’t go waving a flag with my “spiritual practices.” These are personal, and I’m not here to proselytize or convert. So in my day to day life, I’m not experiencing a lot of push back. I’m aware that a lot of people around me (including
family and friends) have different belief systems, and that’s okay – people choose the beliefs they want, and I choose mine. My day to day interactions with people in Jamaica are just about us being Jamaicans, and doing the things that Jamaicans do (such as using delightfully colourful language).
With the Tarot, a lot of what happens is that a lot of people don’t know what it is. (Someone asked me recently, if it was “palm reading”). And yes, because of the architecture of Christian-based values that underpins life in Jamaica, some people are reticent about Tarot. Much of this has to do with not knowing what it is, and not understanding that is a metaphysical tool for healing and connecting with one’s own inner wisdom. So it’s a constant process of educating people about the applications of the Tarot. Having said that however, there are a lot of people here who “get it” and who want to
connect with spiritual guidance, and these people find me. Thankfully!
Do you feel like your formal education adds to you practice?
Definitely. I think academic training helps me to dissect the information that a client gives me. It also gives me the tools to get the heart of what they are asking. The Page of Swords always comes to mind for me here – the ability to use the intellect and analytical mind to cut through the brush and get to the kernel of truth that a client needs. Sorting through the load of information that a client sometimes gives, and understanding what is relevant to their questions is assisted by my academic training. A client comes in, all ‘5 of Wands’, with a lot of different things going on at once. Part of the
practice of tarot is to get to a more ‘Ace of Swords’ kind of place, so that we can start the reading with a semblance of a clear question or inquiry.
What is your philosophy on Tarot?
Essentially – that the Tarot is a tool to communicate with one’s own inner wisdom, to communicate with one’s own Inner Being and Higher Mind – that part of ourselves that can give us guidelines for right action because it knows why we are here, and what we are here to do; it has the mountain top view. It knows the blueprint of our soul. The Tarot provides portal access to that part of ourselves. So even though a client comes to me, my philosophy is that I am not the one giving advice. Essentially I am helping to facilitate a dialogue between their conscious minds and their Inner Being.
What do you want people to most get out of your readings?
The single thing I want people to get is a sense of feeling empowered to influence their experience of their lives with the quality of their thoughts. I want people to understand and feel that they are not powerless, and at the mercy of external conditions, but they can be bold enough to choose what
they are available for.
I want to thank Tara Nikita for sharing some insight into her world.
Here is where you can find her on the web!
I took a month off from blogging and in that month, one of the things that happened was I became a Shamanic Apprentice (yay!). So this edition is about woman named Nokulinda, who is Sangoma (a South African shaman) and she told us a bit about her practice and let me ask her some questions. Her perspective is real and raw and I really LOVED interviewing her. I think you will enjoy her too.
*Note: I use the word "sangoma", which is the way I found to spell it when I was researching, Nokulinda uses the word "isangoma" and "izangoma" to describe the practitioners, which is probably the right way.
How did you become a sangoma?
To become isangoma, firstly, one must be called to it. It’s a vocation and the spiritual gifts of plant medicine healing, divination and clairvouyance are passed down in your blood line. One is born with the calling to ubungoma (the practice) and there is a process of apprenticeship that one has to go through (ukuthwasa) in order to be initiated as isangoma.
For people who don't know, what is the role of the sangoma in the community and what type of issues do people come to you with?
iSangoma plays the role of a healer, counsellor and mediator. They provide more than just spiritual guidance for clients; they are also called upon to mediate in family and community issues, provide psychological support and counseling, as well as intercede between the physical and spiritual worlds, connecting people to the ancestral realms and higher realms to provide clarity, guidance and healing.
People visit izangoma for virtually all life issues, from professional, spiritual, personal, inter-personal, psychological and even physical health (but in terms of pyshical health issues, people also ttend to use western medicine in conjunction with the medicine from izangoma, much to the chagrin of doctors and nurses.)
There is a debate about the legitimacy of caucasian sangomas. What is your opinion on the argument?
I believe that Caucasian people may be called to divination and healing work within the contexts of their own histories, beliefs and spiritual practices of their ancestors. I don’t believe that they can articulate that calling in the context of ubungoma because that is a very culturally specific. I don’t believe that there is an authentic Caucasian sangoma, unless they are saying they have an African ancestor who bestowed the gift and calling upon them.
It is possible for a Caucasian person to go through the motions of ukuthwasa and on that basis be regarded as isangoma. White privilege allows for white people to infiltrate, consume and appropriate the beliefs, practices and cultures of people they have no ancestral, social or even political connection with.
Many people interrupt being a Sangoma as being some type of witch, how would you explain the difference between the two of them?
Off the top of my head, I understand the general, colloquial definition of witch to mean a woman who practices dark arts and sorcery. I know of course the patriarchal, misogynist and religious roots of such a derogatory and violent definition. A similar connotation exists for izangoma as well. The colonial, racist term has been witchdoctor and it has long been normalized and accepted as the English definition of isangoma.
The similarities between the practices of izangoma and witches is that they are nature centred spiritual practices.
A defining characteristic of the practice of ubungoma is the connection with the ancestral realms to provide guidance, protection and clarity. Izangoma channel messages from ancestors and spirit guides using different methods. I throw bones. Others use a mirror, others are guided by audible whistles which they translate, others use a bowl of water – there are so many methods, and they depend on the cultural and familial practices of the sangoma.
With the rise of fake sangomas in South Africa, how would you tell people to be able to tell the difference between a real and fake sangoma?
There is no real way to discern a “real” sangoma from a “fake” one because virtually anybody can go through the motions of ukuthwasa, even if they don’t have a calling to ubungoma. It is possible to go through the motions of ukuthwasa because there are a wide range of ways in which people can thwasa, and there is a lot of “creative license” around the practice of ubungoma.
A lot has been lost over generations because of urbanization, assimilation into Christianity and other eurocentric influences, so the relegation of the practice to the realm of superstition and myth by colonization, has created huge grey areas that people can and do exploit.
We tend to view our practices and beliefs from a colonial perspective that says our ways are subjective, primitive nonsense, so we can do whatever we like; as opposed to viewing them as structured, ways that are underpinned by ancient principles and order.
With modern technology and modern medicine, do you find the practice of going to see a sangoma has increased, decreased or stayed the same? Do you still feel like people have the same desire to connect with the spiritual world to help them through life?
I am not sure if there has been an increase or decrease in the desire to seek out spiritual guidance, but I have observed that people are no longer afraid to be open about their spiritual quests and explorations.
Perhaps the desire for spiritual guidance may increase as the grip of white supremacist capitalism tightens. The myth of meritocracy has people believing that their poverty, oppression, exclusion and suffering are due to some individual, magical or spiritual interference or issue. So people seek out spiritual guidance to understand the structural realities that govern their lives.
Also, people are realizing that there is really more to life than their limited sense of self and the Eurocentric obsession with individualism, so they are seeking other world views and frameworks through which to understand their humanity.
Her mom blog: www.homiematrimony.wordpress.com
Patreon Page: www.partreon.com/noksangoma
A few month ago I discovered a very cool tarot site called Little Red Tarot. I started to read a lot of the blog posts and loved how Beth Maiden (the creator and tarot reader) related and almost translated the tarot for the LGBTQ community. I mean, me being a heterosexual cis-female, I had never had to think about how some of the images and meanings of the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith tarot might not reflect the experiences of a gay person or a transgender person. I loved the phrase she uses, "queering up the tarot". So I was excited when Beth let me interview her so we could find out a bit more about how she "queers up the tarot" and her experiences doing so.
How did you start reading tarot?
Honestly, until I had my first reading in my mid-20s, I was such a cynic. I paid no attention to ‘spiritual stuff’ and I’d never even seen a deck of tarot cards. Then this wonderful woman offered my friend and I each a reading, and it blew me away. My friend got a deck of cards, and we used to do a lot of readings together. Then, when I was having a tough time, I turned to my cards and really threw myself into using them to process what had happened. That turned into journaling, which turned into a blog…and then people started asking for readings…and it just went from there.
One thing that is awesome about your blog and many of your posts represent a faction of the spiritual community that is unrepresented in many ways, but also write in a way that anyone (like this straight black girl over here) can read it and get a lot of from it. You talk about "queering up the tarot" (love that phrase by the way). What does that mean to you?
I’m so glad you find my work accessible Ashley! I do regularly write from a queer perspective, but I want to build a tarot learning community that is welcoming to everyone. It’s those diverse voices within tarot, the many many different ways people interpret their cards based on their life experience, culture or beliefs, that make it all so fascinating. Tarot is a mirror of life, so it changes each time someone new picks up that mirror.
‘Queering up tarot cards’ is the way I describe the never-ending process of taking a traditional tarot card meaning, and reinterpreting it through a queer filter. For example, the Ten of Cups - let’s say that’s all about emotional fulfilment, and on many cards, it shows a man and a woman and a kid or two, often a cute little house or whatever. That’s so far away from my idea of emotional fulfilment, I can’t even tell you! So let’s challenge that image and all of its connotations and open up our ideas when we see this card. Or take the relationship language used, there’s this talk of ‘the opposite sex’, which is a) heteronormative (fancying the ‘opposite’ sex is the norm so that’s all we talk about) and b) binary-gendered (sticks with the idea that there are two genders and that’s it). I want to challenge that language, write articles that include the possibilities of different kinds of love, different kinds of identity. Another way I try to do this is by mixing up gender pronouns, e.g. et’s not always describe The Magician as a ‘he’, we can say ‘she’ or ‘they’, too.
Queer as an identity is more than just ‘gay or bisexual’. It’s political, too. It’s a subversive word, a protest word - it’s intended to be challenging and provocative. For me, queer politics is about understanding systematic oppression, working to challenge the norms, which are harmful to so many and benefit so few. So for me, ‘queer tarot’, or ‘queering up my cards’ is another way of protesting heteronormativity, patriarchy, white supremacy, abelism - all that messed up shit.
I also host an awesome guest post series by Cassandra Snow called ‘Queering the Tarot’ - I’m so grateful to her for writing this series as I learn so much from each post she shares. In each post she takes a card or two, and looks at how you might interpret it differently for queer folks, whether that’s people questioning their gender identity, people in polyamourous relationships, people with variant sexualities… it’s great.
The bottom line is, it’s a discussion. Every post I write is intended to provoke discussion in the comments, and over in the Alternative Tarot Network we have a queer tarot forum where issues get discussed in more depth.
You developed your own unique tarot course, The Alternative Tarot Course. When someone is learning tarot, why do you think it's important to develop your own approach to reading as well as using traditional meanings?
Well - you can read a book of tarot card meanings, memorise them, and then when you turn over cards in a real-life reading, you can come out with that learned meaning. No judgement on that - that’s how most of us start, right? But personally I feel like the way to give truly amazing readings is to develop your own relationship with the cards. So you’ve experienced each card as something that happened in your own life, a feeling you’re familiar with, a situation you recognise. Instantly that’s more memorable and meaningful. And from there, you continue the process. Maybe you hear a song on the radio one day and it’s like ‘wow! That’s exactly what The Hanged Man sounds like!’, or a friend calls you up to describe how stuck she’s feeling and you recognize the Four of Cups in it.
It’s all about tying the cards to real life - for some that might mean departing from traditional meanings, for others that might mean the traditional meaning is spot on, it just becomes more relevant to them. In the Alternative Tarot Course we do loads of activities designed to shake up the way you think about a card, and also to build that personal relationship. My aim is that after the eight weeks, you have this whole new connection to your deck, the cards feel like your friends, you can converse with them. I believe that this makes you a better tarot reader, and more confident reader when you’re reading for other people - and that’s definitely the feedback I get from people who take the course.
How has Tarot changed you?
It’s helped me to understand and articulate concepts I had no awareness of previously, or felt on a deep level, but had no idea how to verbalize or use. Concepts such as integration - understanding that all parts of my life make me who I am and contribute to the whole world. Learning about the four suits and the four elements has given me a language to describe what’s going on for me at different times, in different parts of my life.
I feel more empowered and self-directed now than I did before I was doing tarot. Tarot forces you to face what’s going on in your life, and to take responsibility where you need to. There’s no burying your head in the sand or being a powerless victim where tarot is concerned - here’s your way forward, here are your choices, here’s how your behavior is impacting, here’s what’s blocking you. Now go fix it, or change something, or whatever the hell you need to do to move forwards in the best possible way. I love it! My whole belief system about tarot is that you already have the answers you need, before you even get your cards out or request a reading. The cards will prompt you to dig out those answers - which is really empowering.
You have something on-going and awesome called The Queer Tarot project? Can you tell me a bit about how you came up with the idea for it and why you think it's important?
Yeah! The Queer Tarot Project is a contributory art project where LGBTQ-identified people can share stories of how a tarot card represents part of their journey. It’s an extension of the ‘queering tarot’ and the ‘taking a personal’ approach stuff I just mentioned - it’s both of those things in action! If you take a look at the site, you’ll find a lot of really beautiful stories of people have wrestled with their sexuality, found pride in themselves, battled for acceptance, come to understand their own gender, experienced oppression - all kinds of things that are part of the collective queer experience. Talking about those experiences via the medium of a tarot card gives those stories a framework - perhaps tying an individual experience to a universal archetype (such as The Tower) or understanding a powerful element of yourself that’s reflected in one of the court cards.
I plan to re-launch the project properly very soon - at the moment it’s just a small collection of people who have participated so far and I’d love for this to be much bigger and way more diverse.
You write a lot of great blog posts about productivity, business and being a professional tarot reader. What is your best piece of advice to someone who is trying to go pro?
Aw man, this is a pet topic for me! But I’ll keep it short. The most important thing if you want to make this work is that you think of it as a business. Don’t faff around being a hippy about it and pretending you’re not doing it for the money - you can absolutely do tarot for love but if you’re going pro, then you also want an income stream. So get serious. Get a decent website. Show up. Deliver the goods. Charge properly. Stuff like that! Theresa Reed at The Tarot Lady is the place to learn about all that - her no-bullshit approach to running a ‘mystical business’ is practical and motivating.
You live on a boat, how awesome is that?
Very awesome! I live cheaply and simply - there’s no room for “stuff”, heating is from a small fire, and I’m really aware of the resources I use - water, gas, wood and coal - because I have to physically get it into the boat in the first place! I love that. When I moved aboard, I sold or gave away almost all of my possessions. I used to be a real hoarder, a junk shop junkie. Now, I’m just not so interested in ‘things’.
My boat is called Empress - in the summer I love the swans and geese that hang around my doorway, in winter, I love lying in bed while a windy storm bumps and rocks her. It’s wonderful being on the water. I’ve had some really fun adventures sailing this boat - and my old boat, Swallow - with my partner Em. We have some big plans for our future home (she’s a builder, so the world feels like our oyster!) but for now, I’m content living simple and small, with just the basics.
I want to thank Beth for letting me interview her and everyone should go and check her out on the web! Links Below!
Little Red Tarot Website
A few weeks ago I was at Odunde, a huge street fair in Philadelphia, and I had the pleasure of meeting Ashleigh ( I knew I liked her because she had a great name). I got a natal chart reading from her and it was fantastic! I knew I had to interview and learn more about her specialty, business astrology.
Me: How did you get into astrology?
Ashleigh: I got into astrology as a kid really. I was a bit of a bookworm so I was always read stuff. I have been reading [book] since I was two. So I happened across horoscopes in papers and magazines and I figured out I was an Aquarius. I would always read it and of course as a kid it didn't make sense to me. Over time I started to look more into it and I got more serious about it. A couple years ago, around 2010 or 2011 I started going to an astrologer. The first time I got a natal chart reading I was just like "Oh my God, this is everything!". It really got me, it was just really interesting. I kept getting readings and I kept wanting to know more but I didn't want to bug my astrologer to death, so I started to learn stuff on my own. I've always been a very "do-it-yourself" type person, I started to learning how to read my own chart. Then I started reading my friends charts, the charts of guys I was dating, and my friends were having me read charts of guys they were dating to try to figure stuff out. And it just kind of blossomed from there.
Me: What is it about astrology into particular, more than anything else really attracted you to it?
Ashleigh: I'll start with the fact that I am an Aquarius, my sun and moon, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter and Ascending are all Aquarius in the first house. So I have a lot of Aquarius energy going on and I always wanted to understand it. Actually Aquarius rules astrology. I think what drew me to Astrology is that I've always been on a quest to figure out who I am. Because Aquarius is very much all about individuality, being original and being yourself. But you need to figure out who that is. You know, you got to try stuff out. So I think for me I love Astrology because it is a really good tool for self-mastery. It's so unique and individualized to you, there is no cookie cutter way to read someone's chart.. Even if you were born the same day as somebody, your chart may be totally different than theirs because the rising sign of the ascendant changes every two hours. Depending on what time you were born, you have a completely different chart than someone else. So I just like that Astrology is so vast, and there is so much still to learn. I mean, there are astrologers who have been doing this for 30, 40 years and they are still researching, still working, I mean, it never ends.
Me: You mentioned before you really enjoy astrology because you are looking to find more out about yourself. How has astrology really achieve that? How has it helped you from the time you started to now? How has it helped to learn more about yourself?
Ashleigh: Well I think it initially helped me achieve certain things because I... well in 2012 I visited Cleveland which is where I live now, and, I fell in love with the place. And I couldn't figure out why. I've always had this thing about being lead by my intuition, but I also know it's important to use my brain and use logic. So my decisions are usually a combination of the two. But that gut feeling has to be there. So then I consulted with my astrologer, and he introduced me to astrocartography, which is laying over certain lines and aspects of your natal chart over a map of the world and figuring out what areas of the world affect you different. Some places my be great for you professionally, but they may suck for your personally. There are places that are good for you to have children, places that would be good for you to network, places that would be good got you to have children, places for you grow and so on. As it turned out, the Mars line for my career was almost directly over Cleveland. So he said, "This would be a great place for you to start new and get your career going." That kind of gave me confirmation. I kept thinking, "Why am I so into this place?" and after that it made perfect sense. Coming to Cleveland has allowed me to really grow as a woman and a professional and has really gotten me to where I needed to be. Since I got here I held a director position and now I have started my own business, and that is within two years of being here. So astrology has served in a way... to find the logic behind my instincts. Sometimes we have these thoughts, and these things we want to do and these desires, and we don't know where they come from. But it is all within us. One of my favorite Astrologers, her name is Anne Oretelee, one of her phrases is that "if it's in your heart, it's in your chart".
Me: That's so cute!
Ashleigh: It is, but it's true! We have to determine whether these things that we truly desire and want are things we really deep down truly want or if it is something someone told us. I find that a lot of my clients are looking for that confirmation, looking for that validation. I want to make sure I'm on point.
Me: One really interesting I found about you is that you do business astrology. I had never heard anything about business astrology, I didn't even know people did that. If you could explain a bit about it, because I don't know if a lot of people know about it and it's just so cool.
Ashleigh: Business astrology is... most people call business astrology financial astrology, or electional astrology. The electional part comes from planetary trends that that affect the stock market and things like that.That I don't do much of but... doing astrology for businesses and companies themselves, as if they were an entity and then reading the chart that way. Business astrology is more of a 20th century thing. What peaked my interest in it was a quote from J.P. Morgan that said "Millionaires don't have astrologers, billionaires do". That really peaked my interest. It has helped me tremendously in my own business. It's like a little cheat sheet. For example, I'm actually doing a blog post about Chipotle. Chipotle as a business actually has a Virgo ascending, and that is the sign of health and agriculture... and Virgo is also very into systems and order, so you notice when you go into Chipotle, they mostly look the same and have the same aesthetic and you know exactly what your gonna get when you go to Chipotle. Also, in a business chart, the owner is reflected in some way. and I was looking at the founder, Steve Ells has a lot of Virgo placements in his chart including his Sun so he is very part of the business. When you lay out his chart and Chipotle's chart together, it's very interesting. That's what I love about Business astrology, it helps you run your business better. You can know when to launch something, when to hold back, when to brainstorm, when to strengthen your networking, when to ramp up your marketing, how to market, who to market to, it can get really granular.
Me: It's so amazing how involved you can get with all of these things, especially in business. The last question I have is what kind of advice would you give to someone who wants to know more about astrology?
Ashleigh: I would say learn the basics. Learn the planets, the qualities, the modalities, the elements, and you know all that good stuff. And use your chart, practice with your own chart, and try to be as objective as possible. It's easy to look at other peoples chart, but it's quite another to look at your own. I would definitely suggest getting a natal chart reading and get it from a couple different astrologers. You don't have to go to the same person, everyone is different. Go where the specialty lies. Like, I'm good with business, and someone else might be good with relationships.Try different people out and see what vibe you get from them. Also, read the charts of people in your life... especially your parents. it will definitely help you to see them differently. Lastly, don't be afraid to challenge yourself. Astrology is a lot and there is a lot to learn, but do one thing at a time. You never gonna know everything. Every astrologer is still learning, still growing and still figure it out.
I want to thank Ashleigh D. Johnson for taking some time to sit down with me and if you would like a business reading, here is where you can get in contact with this lovely lady:
So skimming my Facebook newsfeed a few weeks ago, I saw someone talking about the "Triumph of Life Tarot Project". Because I am a naturally curious person, I started to look into it. What I found was a thriving group of tarot artists and creators on Facebook.
This Triumph of Life Project is the brainchild of Andrew McGregor, owner and tarot card reader at The Hermit's Lamp in Toronto, Canada. The goal of this project is for 78 different artists to come together to make a tarot deck, and then donate to proceeds to charity. I got to interview Andrew and learn a little bit more about him and the project.
Me: How did you get the idea to come up with this project?
Andrew: About 2 1/2 years ago my Godmother passed away from cancer, and the next week there was a big shooting in the States at one of the schools and I was trying to deal with all that emotion and that grief, and thinking about how messed up the world is. Then I thought, You know what? Life needs us to help it. That's what life needs. The god things, the positive things, the blessings, whatever you want to call it, life needs our support. And I thought, you know what? Let's raise money to fight cancer and lets send a message that is hopefully inspirational to people in the world.
Me: Ok that's great! So how long have you been reading tarot?
Andrew: About 28 years.
Me: How did you think to link tarot with helping the world? How did you think of making a deck to be the thing to "help life out" as you said?
Andrew: Well, I mean for me, I've been through a bunch of heavy stuff, in my life, people dying, friends dying, siblings dying, you know, all sorts of heaviness. And I spent a lot of time thinking about how to we change peoples consciousness, how do we help people through grief and loss, how do we move things forward? And when I see conversations around reading the cards sometimes I see some really great ideas around that, and sometimes less so. and I wanted to create a deck that also helped people understand how to work with tarot to choose the consciousness of the person that they're with to help them move through whatever they are dealing with.
Me: Awesome! Also, how did you get the idea to... instead of having a deck where you have one artist, to have a deck where you took artists from everywhere because it seems like, looking at the group, there are people from everywhere contributing to this deck which is so cool. How did you get the idea to have one person do each card instead of creating one inspirational deck?
Andrew: It's hard for me to remember the timeline exactly, but I think at that point, I had already been involved in the Allura tarot project, which is a deck that came out of Allura, Ontario [Canada], a town not to far from where I live. I had sort of jumped in and created a card for that. So I think at that point I had already been part of a collaborative effort. Ultimately for me, all my creations work towards that idea some way or another probably. But I wanted to have different peoples voices, different peoples experiences, I wanted to create a deck that could more than likely could speak to everybody in the world to some extent, I mean, obviously that's super ambitious and not entirely possible right?
Me: Hey, why not try right?
Andrew: Yeah exactly right?
Me: Exactly! So I know you asked everybody [in the group] to have an image that "get us from a place of loss and suffering to a place of joy and remembrance". It seems like for this deck, each card is going to be someone's person journey through something.
Andrew: Well yeah, peoples journeys or something to inspire people. I can talk about my card...
Me: Yeah! Please do!
Andrew: I'm making the 5 wands [which represents] struggle, strife, difficultly, conflict, you know, take your pick. So for me, in Canada, there was this guy, Terry Fox, some people know him, some people don't inside of Canada, but Terry Fox had cancer, he lost his leg to it, and he set out to run across Canada to raise awareness for cancer. This was back when I was a child, back in the 70's. So he ran, and he didn't make it because he died from cancer, his cancer came back. And out of his story and out of his legacy, people and children around Canada do this Terry Fox Run. When I was in school, we would do these Terry Fox runs, and you know, you got to think about this guy: he had cancer, he lost his leg, and he ran a marathon everyday until he was not well enough to continue. So my Five of Wands... and the other part of his legacy is that now I have kids and they do the Terry Fox run, and when you go to an event, you will see these people around wearing red shirts. These people are people who have fought cancer and continue to be here. There is a sort of struggle with him, you know, in his life, he did not win. Not his personal fight. But there is this legacy that has come from his effort, you know, his fight. So my card is going to show Terry Fox running, along the streets, and the wands will be the lamp posts shining the light towards the future. And on the sidelines, cheering him on will be all these people in red shirts representing all the things that have come from his legacy.
Me: That's neat! Do you know what charity the proceeds are going to?
Andrew: They are going to the Terry Fox fund.
Me: Oh ok, that's great! This is just something I noticed, and I know we just touched on this but in the [Facebook] group, it seems like everyone who creating a card is literally like... it's like therapy in that group. It's so neat. It's like, everyone is creating their cards and putting up their artwork and showing everybody, but they are also telling their stories. So by creating this deck, you not only doing something great for a cause, but your doing something great for everyone who is creating this deck and everyone in the group. It has become such a supportive little community on Facebook now.
Andrew: Yeah I think their is a lot of magic going on in that group. I've seen people post comments on threads saying, "this conversations is changing lives". Which is like... how wonderful is that? And that's also why I would encourage anyone who is interested in deck and interested in the process to come join the Facebook group. Hang out with the artists, share the stories, be part of the creation, because there is a lot of magic going on. Obviously, some of it will end up in the cards but the actual dialogue is somewhat transitory.
Me: Is there anything else about the project you want people to know?
Andrew: I would just say, like I just said come join the group, come cheer us on, and help spread the word.
Having a tarot deck that is giving something back to the community is wonderful and I'm so excited to see this deck when it is produced! I want to thank Andrew McGregor for talking with me and I want to thank all the artists and other people working to make this deck happen!
Come join the conversation at Triumph of Life Facebook group.
Visit The Hermit's Lamp website to learn more about the project, Andrew and The Hermit's Lamp.
To learn more about the Terry Fox Foundation visit the website.
Being raised Catholic myself, I was very interested when I started reading the blog of Lauren Fein, the Catholic Cartomancer. She has found a unique way to incorporate her faith into her Tarot practice, something which I found very interesting. So I caught up with her and ask her about how she combines Tarot and her faith.
Me: So How did you start with Tarot?
Lauren: I started the systematic study of Tarot in 2010- so only about five years ago, in my mid-forties. Before that time, I had a few decks that I played around with- but without really knowing anything about "Tarot"-it's history, the cards meanings, etc. I became curious and decided to begin a more formal study of the subject.
Me: So did you do reading before that or you just started doing readings once you started really studying the background of tarot?
Lauren: I did readings for myself intuitively but not for anybody else. I only started reading for others after I began studying, and at first, only in a classroom "practice" setting.
Me: Ok interesting! So you when did you start feeling like you had a strong intuition?
Lauren: I have no idea! I think it just grew on me gradually. In high school, my friends would always call me "the great philosopher"! But I think that was because I was always questioning everything, always searching for the deeper meaning of things.
Me: Ahhh that's wonderful. So you call yourself the Catholic Cartomancer. How do you incorporate your faith into your spiritual practice?
A: That also just happened for me over time and with contemplation of myself, my background, and my love of the cards. I had been away from the Catholic Church for a long time, for all the obvious reasons, but over time, returned again on my own terms. By the time I returned to Catholic forms of prayer, I had been practicing Tarot for a few years, so the two just naturally combined for me. I should also add that when I walk into a Church, it often feels like I'm stepping into a living Tarot card- and when I use the cards, it often feels like a "moving Church." I decided over time that my tradition-of-origin was a gift, and just because I disagreed with official Church policy didn't mean I couldn't use the forms of prayer I had grown up with and which had become a part of me.
Me: So do you read for a lot of Catholic or Christian clients? And how are you received in your community?
Lauren: I read for people who often come from the same kind of background- brought up Catholic or Christian but not necessarily practicing or orthodox anymore. I go to a very liberal-minded Catholic Church in manhattan, which is very close to the town where I live. I don't really discuss Tarot in Church- as I am there really for the group prayer called Mass. But if it came up, I certainly wouldn't shy away from a respectful discussion.
Me: Do you ever get any push back from the pagan/occult/esoteric community because you are a Catholic Cartomancer?
Lauren: I know how to avoid that- I just steer clear if the conversation gets too anti- Catholic, anti-Christian, etc. People have a perfect right to their opinions- and many people have been deeply hurt by their experiences with organized religion. They have a right to their feelings and conclusions. I just don't want to get "drawn in" necessarily. My decision was to incorporate my Catholic prayers and beliefs into my own unique practice, while others may decide differently.
Me: So what deck do you like to use?
Lauren: Oh, I'm a Waite-Smith girl all the way. That's the deck I first learned with and I still love it so much! I have a whole collection of decks though-like many Tarot enthusiasts! I wanted to add- if you grew up Catholic, you might recall having and collecting "Holy Cards"- not such a far cry from tarot cards when you think about it.
It is very different style and the different people that we have in the Tarot community is what helps the world go 'round. I want to thank Lauren Fein for letting me interview her and I hope you all enjoyed reading the interview!
If you want to read more about Lauren, check out her blog at the Catholic Cartomancer.
I want to start a little section of my blog called "Dreadlock Culture Shock" (can you tell I love phrases that rhyme?). Here I'm going to talk about how Tarot (and possibly other forms of divination) are seen across the world. I believe that the more we learn and understand about each other, the closer we become as a global community. So let us start off with a piece about my home, the good ol' US of A.
I myself live in the Northeast of the United States in a lovely state called New Jersey. I'm surrounded by major cities like Philadephia to the west, New York City to the North and Washington D.C. to the south. These are very liberal areas (including New Jersey) with tons of religious and cultural diversity. You don't get a ton of backlash for having New Age beliefs and I find reading Tarot here has not gotten me kicked out of any places or discrimated aganist too much. So I started to wonder what it must be like to have to read Tarot in an area where it is predomintly Christian, and not just Christian, but Evangelical Christian. Being one of the many factions of Christianity, this is a group of people described by the Insitute for the Study of American Evangelists as "...all Christians who affirm a few key doctrines and practical emphases. British historian David Bebbington approaches evangelicalism from this direction and notes four specific hallmarks of evangelical religion: conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross". Evangelical Christianity is a tradition that is alive and well in the United States and has been very big since the end of World War II. While the US remains a predominantly Christian nation, there are areas that are much more conservative and and have a high concentration of very religious Christians. I interviewed Mark of Grounding Force Tarot about his experience living up in very conservative Christian Central California.
How did you get into Tarot?
I happened across my first deck while browsing at the Haunted Bookshop in Arizona. It was the Thoth, and I purchased it almost as an immediate reaction. I’ve been a student ever since. I saw tarot in various imagery, including record covers growing up. I’ve been fascinated with everything metaphysical or dubbed, “occult” for my entire life.
Have you come out to your family and friends? How were you received?
My father is a retired minister and Vietnam veteran. He not only finds them interesting now, after much explanation and massaging of the concept, but he even flipped through one of my decks and appreciated th artwork.
Do not underestimate the capacity for growth and acceptance amongst those who truly care for you. We must help one another evolve if possible, and that takes becoming both honest and a bit vulnerable.
Have you gotten any backlash from your community or family and friends?
I have a tattoo on my chest of a tarot related symbol and one woman screamed at me that I was a witch, but I got the general impression that she would use that term with anyone who didn’t fit into her paradigm on a daily basis. Light joking aside, my family is quite accepting and numerous people have participated in a reading for barter or as a paying client. Most people are fascinated due to a relatively minimal amount of exposure in the area, although some do balk or exhibit nervousness. This simultaneous fascinating mixed with fear is indicative of how important it is for Tarot to have a presence in the central valley of California.
Do you have a lot of religious clients?
No, but I serve a lot of the Hispanic community and what I would call “recovering catholics.” Mostly children, 18 and over of course, of more traditional religious families. They often approach with some fear and a vast amount of misconceptions. But that is part of the work involved, not only opening them up to channels within themselves, but improving the overall understanding and appreciation for art, non-customary methods of growth and interpersonal exploration.
Have you encountered any interesting situations with clients having to do with the fact that you live in such a conservative Christian area?
I serve remotely people from Turkey to Chicago, from Cuba to locally. The interesting situations to mention is really the fact that, despite being in a heavily fundamentalist and conservative region of the west coast, receptivity is high. People appreciate the process. I think that is noteworthy observation; I encourage anywho who wants to venture into tarot in any capacity to do so regardless of their local climate, so long as they ouwit those who oppose them.
Do you communicate with other spiritual professionals in your area?
A few in my area, but more online. I have a small but reliable support network considering my personal study and use of tarot is more predominant in my life than business is. Then again, without maintaing my own connection to the process I would not be of much help to others.
What do you see as the future perception of tarot in your area?
It will continue to grow and improve as exposure increases and the region grows larger. There are local bookstores such as barnes & Noble, as well as independent new age shops, that sell a considerably impressive amount of tarot decks in the area. This will only expand in the future based on my estimates, due to the fact that there is plenty of room from growth.
I want to thank Mark of Grounding Force Tarot and you can read more about Grounding Force tarot at GroundingForce.net.
A place of fun, learning and exploring the awesome world of Tarot.