The Art of Pamela Colman Smith

More works from the artist who made the Waite-Smith tarot a possibility. Arthur Edward Waite may have conceived the cards, but Pamela Coleman Smith brought them to life, and it is her artwork we stare at every day.

Mary K. Greer's Tarot Blog

Pamela Colman Smith never became well-known as an artist and, without the Tarot deck she illustrated, she may have fallen into total obscurity. Stuart Kaplan, president of U.S. Games, Inc. says he could have made her a millionaire.

The only comment from Pixie Smith about the creation of the tarot deck was in a letter to her mentor Alfred Stieglitz (click on the letter to see a larger version).

You can see much of the artwork of Pamela Colman Smith at these sites (thanks especially to Roppo and Holly Voley for their efforts to make Pixie’s work available to the rest of us):

• All the card images from Holly Voley’s first edition deck (“Pamela A”) and from The Pictorial Key to the Tarot at the Sacred Texts site

• Roppo’s The Works of Pamela Colman Smith – page 1

• Roppo’s The Works of Pamela Colman Smith – page 2

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The Queen of Cups

Wonderful insights on the Queen of Cups!

Tarot & Divination Decks with Robert M Place

This article is an excerpt from my new book, The Tarot, Magic, Alchemy, Hermeticism, and Neoplatonism, which can be preordered now. It will be here at the end of December and I will be mailing out the preorders on the last week of December and the first weeks of January, 2018.

The book is an updated and expanded version of my book, Alchemy and the Tarot, and my book, The Tarot, History, Symbolism, and Divination, which the American Library Association said may be the best book ever written on the Tarot. (The new book will be covering more than twice as much information as both books). It will contain numerous chapters on ancient magic and mysticism, updated information on alchemy and the history of the Tarot, and it will cover The Alchemical Tarot cards, but also The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery, the Waite Smith Tarot, and…

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A Real Wiccan

I randomly came across a book for the Wiccan collegiate. It described a fictional character, perhaps focusing a little too much on her attire, on her “coming out” day–the day she decided to “come out of the broom closet” as they say, wearing her pentagram necklace openly in public. (The pentagram represents the four elements–earth, air, fire, and water, with a fifth element–spirit–on top.) The character wore dark make-up and had black nail polish, along with dark attire, and was a little too cliche for me. At least the author didn’t say anything about “perfectly arched brows.” It made me think about real Wiccans–not to say the young, attractive, slightly goth Wiccan doesn’t exist or shouldn’t be represented (and celebrated!) But she gets all too much attention, and in the mean time, the many quiet, less out-going Wiccans go unnoticed. So here is my response, an introduction to a pretty typical Witch:

Genie looks out her dorm room window. It’s a Friday night, which means the noise of crowds and music waft through her window. She watches as students coalesce; some chatting casually, others laughing raucously, and all eventually dispersing and heading to respective parties. Many Greek houses have their front doors open with music and the reflections of flashing lights pouring out onto their front porch.

A warm breeze caresses her face, but Genie feels a strange chill around her shoulders, which is why she is wearing a cashmere sweater over her T-shirt. It’s out of place with her baggy jean shorts and sandals, but it’s warm and soft, and smells like her mother. Her short, blondish, light-brown hair sits in a shapeless blob on top of her round face. (She discovered, just recently, that her hair doesn’t cooperate well with a short, edgy cut.) Small earrings, which she made from shells found on a beach trip, dangle from her ears. Peering out onto the Campus lawn, she sips lavender tea.

The noises of a warm Campus weekend night are comforting and jarring at the same time. The old familiar conflict begins to bubble up in Genie’s head: to go out, or not to go out–that is the question. On one hand, she feels connected to all those people. Other than students she sees on a daily basis, just being at university together makes her feel a sense of belonging–as though they are all bound on the same journey. Even kids with whom she shares zero interests face similar struggles: classes, social drama, stress from family. But then, she also feels incredibly isolated. She could put on a face and go have a decently nice time at a party. Many kids could be inviting–the artsy kids especially respond well to Genie’s strange collection of clothing, obscure interests, and laid-back attitude. But there is some part of the Genie that has always longed to be embraced, one which she has kept hidden away. Watching the crowds thin as students are drawn indoors by the sound of music and promise of beer, she feels an old pang and deep loneliness. Suddenly, the camaraderie fades and everyone seems a million miles away–on a different planet, living a totally different life.

Genie isn’t the only pagan on campus, of course, and she had met and hung out with a few others. But there is still this disconnect between her and everyone else, even her family and childhood friends. She loves the Craft, and it has brought her not only joy, but a sense of self and peace of mind. It’s the reason she came this far–the thing that, in recent years, helped her navigate mixed messages from society, her family, her various desires and doubts, and the turmoil of teenage emotion. When she’s stressed about her schedule, she can meditate. If she’s worried about a certain decision, she can divine the future–at least to some extent. And when she really needs to make something happen, she does magic. Mainly this entails putting her intention into the Universe. It’s as though her intent creates a vortex in space and time that will lead her to the desired result. Sometimes it’s like climbing uphill, and other times everything falls so easily into place. This is done in lots of little ways, and is only grand or dramatic when the situation calls for it (which is very rare. In fact, there are only a couple times she can remember taking urgent magical measures with dramatic results.) The thing that kills Genie about hiding magic, though, is that magic is everywhere.

Even when she was sitting in the Administration office waiting to sign up for orientation, a task usually tedious and entirely boring, Genie saw magic in the codes, laws, and processes. Someone had created all this, she thought; a working system which keeps things running smoothly and perpetuates tradition. Because someone, or a group of people, decided something and put it to paper, they made it real. And even though she didn’t like sports, when dragged to a soccer game with her friend, she saw a microcosm representing a macrocosm: a small group of people playing a game representing the glory of battle and victories of nations. That was magic to her; a ritual in its own right.

All these things are awe-inspiring to Genie, but she can’t share them with anyone. Even the other pagans she has met–two, to be exact–call her optimistic (as an insult, though Genie doesn’t see it that way) and wishy-washy. She sighs, pushing negative thoughts out of her mind. Closing her eyes, she takes a long, slow sip of tea. She decides it’s time for some solitary magic–and something more caffeinated.

In just a few minutes, the kettle is whistling. Genie was able to get her own apartment on campus, for which she is very thankful. She has her own kitchenette, living room, and small bedroom. The limited counter space in the kitchenette has much standard bachelor fare: a small wooden stand holding stone-wear mugs, a note pad, and various small appliances. Less common is her stack of wooden boxes with hand-written labels, her porcelain tea pot, and jars of herbs. Despite the wooden boxes labelled things such as “psychic tea” and “bedtime tea” she opens the cupboard and pulls out a store-bought bag of jasmine.

Across from the kitchen area is a rather useless space, not quite large enough for a table, but awkwardly between the kitchen and living room. Here stands a narrow dresser, usually out of place in a kitchen. The drawers hold smaller containers with various supplies: candles, trinkets, silk cords, pieces of paper, among other things. Stooping slightly, she removes a long white cord, a white candle, and a little purple bag. She closes the door and, with tea and supplies in hand, moves into the living room.

Other than a small entertainment center, she has an antique coffee table, a cow-print rug (which was a miraculous thrift store find,) and a cerulean blue couch. She sets her supplies and tea on the table, figuring the gods will forgive her for bringing a drink to the ritual space–especially if she shares.


She gets up and goes back into the kitchen, retrieving some dried fruit and nuts, putting them on a saucer, and adding a tiny cup meant for espresso. After setting these things on the coffee table as well, she clears the area, cleaning up clutter, and pulls the table away from the couch. Sitting on the floor facing the table, she takes a moment to meditate. A calm focus descends upon her. It is quieter outside now, with only a few lingering souls, and the warm breeze continues to grace the room. The students, once again, all feel miles away, but this time in a comforting way. Genie has her own space–her magic space.

Moving slowly, she stands and walks around the table with the cord, creating a visible circle on the floor. She feels a shiver run down her spine–the circle is complete. She lights the candle and opens the bag. It carries seven stones of various color: blue, green, yellow, orange, black, purple, and clear. She makes a circle with these stones around the candle and once again sits back to meditate. She hums lightly–one long note, similar to “ohm” but in different pitches. Starting at a low pitch, she raises it a note every minute or so. These notes correlate with the chakras. When she is finished, she takes the espresso glass and dips it into her own tea, setting it on the saucer with the dried fruit. This is her offering.

“God and Goddess–” she starts. Genie doesn’t feel extremely connected to the idea of an actual God or Goddess. However, she imagines the feminine and masculine forces of the universe; the infinite vacuum of space, the blazing suns exploding inside of it, and how, together, they created life. Many rituals call for some acknowledgement of a deity, and Genie finds her own ways to accommodate this. Besides, something about offering food makes her feel grounded. There is something humbling about it, and for all she knows, there could be some conscious being who has helped her all along. Who is she to deny them? She does feel like she has some sort of guide or higher self. It gives her messages, helps her realize truths, and is a comforting presence.

“God and Goddess, I present this offering to you. Thank you for all of your blessings. To my spirit guide, thank you for your continued guidance.” The tone changes now, and she speaks as if talking to a friend; “Classes are going well, a little stressful, but I am coping. There is this guy in Chem who harasses me a little. He picks on me, I guess? But I’m concerned it’ll get worse and I don’t know how to react to him. Please give me patience and understanding.” After casually discussing her current concerns, she sits back to meditate. After 15 minutes, she feels her mind change. Her focus increases, her senses sharpen, and there is a sense like a dull hum in her mind. Several things suddenly occur to her, as if they had been obvious all along: Tyler (the guy from Chemistry) might have a little crush on her, he may not have been taught how to handle delicate feelings, he may have many conflicting emotions, and he may not have had the most loving or supportive parents. Genie opens her eyes and stares for a long moment.

“Holy shit,” she whispers.

She sets about gathering up her supplies, putting the stones back into the bag, and raveling the rope up into a neat bundle. The only thing left is the candle, still lit, and the food offering.

“The circle is closed. Thank you for joining me in ritual today. Merry meet, merry leave, and merry meet again!” She throws her hands in the air, taking deep breath, and then moves them in wide circles–more to stretch out her muscles and get her blood flowing than for any symbolic reason. After putting the supplies away, she grabs a leather-bound journal and starts recording every detail of the ritual, including any thoughts or emotions she encountered.

Genie thinks back to feeling antisocial just an hour ago. She doesn’t always feel confident in public–it comes and goes. But here, in her home, in her circle, with the candle still burning gently and the dried fruit a reminder of her magic, she is perfectly content in herself; truly confident. The rest of the world, perhaps, would not understand her if they knew everything she thought and did. But Genie knows herself, and that is all that matters.


This time and the next time and the next


This is a tarot card. I have, in fact, received it in a reading recently, but even if I hadn’t, I would have chosen it to describe the last couple of weeks.

Every now and again, life takes a big turn, a curve. It’s not something I plan–rather it is part of my cycle. We all have cycles. We go in spirals, not straight lines. Everything in flux, “up in the air,” as they say, kind of like unstable atoms flying around, not yet deciding what chemicals they will form.

I am reinventing myself.

First, I visited my sister in California. She is going through a lot–health problems, emotional baggage, a change in living situation. We talked about something we almost never do–our past. It’s a shaky subject. But we discussed it peacefully, and worked out some of our disagreements. We talked about our childhood and our mother’s mistakes. The thing that disturbed me after all was said and done was how unhappy some of the people in our family are; how much growing and healing they still need to do. At heart, I am the caretaker. I just want everyone to be ok. I realized this about myself, and I realized it is flawed because everything will never be ok. Life keeps going, shit happens, the boat gets rocked again. We are all on this journey and we are never done fighting. So that’s part of what this card is about.

Then, just a couple of weeks later, I felt my own winds turning. I woke up and realized some things about myself–ways in which I was lying. I cut off some activities and behaviors that no longer serve me, and took on some new ones. In phases like this before, I have ended relationships and sometimes lost friends. I have moved to new locations and made new friends. So, this time, I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. Part of this card is keeping your balance amidst the chaos, amidst storms and changing waters, if you’ll excuse my excessive imagery.

Even the weather reflected my inner moods–big storms with strong winds blowing through night after night. We would walk outside and watch as the wind picked leaves up off the ground and carried them high into the sky. The clouds above were these weird, fluid bumps. My boyfriend said they were some word that basically meant “breasts.” I found it trite at first, but then amusingly appropriate. Those bumps are formed by turbulent winds up above. The feminine does include a certain inner unrest, a desire to explore and discover.

Like the figure in the card who balances on one foot, juggling this chaotic state, I believe I did keep my balance. There is a wonderful calm today after the storm. The sun was bursting through the clouds this morning, lining their deep grey with yellows and pinks, the sky behind them a vibrant teal.

Times, they are a-changin. Everything is in flux–forever. I am at peace now. At some point things will get shaken up again. Such is life. I hope you win your own balancing act, this time, and the next time, and the next.



Set in darkness

I have some deep, dark fears lurking in the shadowy corners of my mind. Like Cristian said, I ignore them most of the time. But I have been trying to carefully, gently, shed more and more light on these issues so I can deal with them and grow. The one thing I never want to be is monotonous. Stagnant. This post really spoke to me today.


From Dawn till Dusk

When you write in short bursts, change and rearrange some segments, and patch them together, you sometimes end up repeating or contradicting yourself. I’m going over my draft of The Foreigner, still patching some things together and smoothing over the bumps, and sometimes I run into hilarious contradictions.

In the chapter I’m looking at, the character is on a train and I go into a lengthy description of the sunrise and the morning air. After what I specifically describe as a short ride, he watches as The last light of the sun burns bright orange on the horizon, soon becoming blood-red, fading into russet, and finally the dark, velvety blue of the night sky, now twinkling with stars.

Hmm… that was a short day.


True Love

People used to tell me, “Lower your standards.”

“Get out more.”

I’d tell them, “I’d rather be single than compromise.” But that was in my twenties–when I was more confident.

As a young girl, like any other girl, I wanted more attention from boys. Actually, I wanted ANY attention from boys. There were certain limits to what I would do; like wear pink, bat my eyelashes, etc. But I was extremely awkward and very uncomfortable with myself and romance and boys.

One Halloween, while I was in high school, I was late choosing a costume as usual, but I HAD to have a costume because I live for the stage (though I am never on one–ah, life is a stage, and I dress appropriately.) Browsing the over-priced selection at Party City (this was before the Spirit days,) I figured I had to get something from the adult section because I was tall for my age. It didn’t occur to me that there is one goal to contemporary main-stream Halloween costumes: Sex appeal.

So I got a really neat-looking “mummy” outfit because I didn’t want something hella cliché like a witch or a pirate wench. It had leggings and arm-warmers, which I was really excited about. Not until I was dressed and at school did I realize how short the skirt was. I’m surprised I didn’t get kicked out.

But something happened to me that never happened before.

I got hit on.

Buy a guy.

Actually two different guys in the 15 minutes since I’d arrived.

“Oh,” I said, “I get it now.”

I ended up going home and changing, because I felt uncomfortable, but after that I played around with dressing more saucy: Shorter skirts, tighter jeans, etc. And I attracted some guys, but they were the WRONG guys. So I realized I was putting off the wrong messages, that these messages were not true to my desires, and I went back to dressing like good old normal dorky me.

Over time, I became more and more comfortable with myself. I learned the difference between being attractive and being “sexy.” I learned to be true to myself and wait for someone who would love me for me.

Ten years after the Halloween debacle I found the love of my life.

It was worth the wait.

Inspired by Daily Prompt.


Na… Blo… Po…. Mo….? National Blog Posting Month!

I discovered Nanowrimo thanks to a youtuber I used to follow called Frezned, kind of tried it in 2009, and then succeeded (50k words!) in 2013 (hence, this is where The Foreigner came from!) I was all geared up for another raucous, caffeine-infused, hair-pulling month of frantic writing but November 1st has rolled around and I have … NO idea what to write.

So I heard about NBPM about a week ago and it sparked my interest. Or rather, it called to me. This blog started as a random project and has become a discipline, an inspiration, and a link to a really awesome community. I think Nanowrimo sounds a little too ambitious considering that I completely failed to prepare any idea, prompt, or, heaven forbid, an outline relating to what I might focus my 50K words on. I have a lot of unused blog ideas, so NBPM sounds… just right.

This blog needs to be spruced up.

NEW TITLE? My sister, who writes regularly for Art Practical, asked “What is the name of your blog?” I winced with my response, “Exploring worlds through words?” She honestly and candidly said, “Elgh! That’s awful!” I nodded sadly. “I can’t think of anything else!” And it’s kind of grown on me.

NEW LAYOUT? I threw the presentation of this blog together because I really just wanted to start writing. I like the colors and the simplicity of it, but the font is HUGE and very limited. I might need a more flexible layout for different projects.

GOALS! I would like to add more media to my blog: pictures and videos. If pictures don’t go well with my normal posts, I could have some posts based around photography, or using pictures for writing inspiration!


Tree in the Sunshine

Any part of the tree within reach was obscured by a tangled mass of vines, but just above her the thick trunk shot up, covered in pale flaky bark, glowing serenely in the evening sun. Far overhead, the leaves were chattering in their constant, soothing rhythm. And then she watched one tiny brown leaf make its long journey down to the Earth, where it lay now, among the dirt and pebbles.