From the Old Notebook: High Priestess

Howdy! I’m reviving notes from my first tarot study group in 2008. For more of an intro, click here. Original notes in black, new notes in purple.

*I think the references to Solomon’s Temple check out, but I am no expert. If something is incorrect, please let me know.

Pamela Coleman Smith High Priestess

High Priestess–keeper of records

Name–origin, Egypt (see below)

Throne–at doorway to Solomon’s Temple (veil kept commoners out.) Slightly hidden (guarding mysteries!) made of stone (permanence. tradition.)

Pillars–pillars in temple of Jerusalem & temple of Isis. Duality: Spiritual/Physical, Female/Male.

White Pillar–Jakin, positive energy, mercy, action, consciousness

Black Pillar–Boaz, negative, severity, passive, mystery
(Remember that “negative” here doesn’t mean “bad.” Think of it as the act of receiving, or as a void, a vessel, depths, subconscious.)

(Also remember that, esoterically, Masculine energy is outward, pursuing. Female energy is inward, receiving. These are archetypes–themes–and don’t mean actual women and men.)

Lotus Buds on Pillars–Egyptian–potential & virginity

Scroll–Torah. Ancient knowledge, not easily available

Dress–looks like a waterfall. Stream of consciousness.

Water in background–unconsciousness, truth & secrets, depth

Veil–mysteries of life & death.

Pomegranates–desire, creative energy, fertility, abundance

Palm Leaves–Victory (Someone once told me they were traditionally used as an offering or blessing.)

Cross–uniting female/subconscious (horizontal line) with male/conscious (vertical line)
(Also, physical expression of time meeting spiritual expression of growth)

Moon crown–phases of the moon, wisdom and virginity

Thoughts from the future! (aka today.)

The High Priestess guards the subconscious, and our oldest secrets. These secrets are written in our DNA. The dream world, the collective subconscious, and unconscious habits all effect us constantly–every day–but we don’t see them. Our past lives, the history of our race, the history of the cosmos, all locked in those mysteries.

On one hand, I think certain information should be difficult to get to. I think there should be secrets. On the other hand, the information is always there. Just like a cave or a deep ocean–if you dare to enter.

On a personal note, I have always had an intimate relationship with the subconscious. I’ve had episodes of deep depression my whole life. In adolescence, I experienced intense apathy (sounds like an oxymoron, right?) It was intense because it took over all my senses. It was like I was in a bubble–nothing was real.

Because I ended up in the depths of my subconscious with no understanding and no navigation, it was all very bizarre and it effected me in negative ways. When I started learning the arcane, it was the only thing that ever made sense to me. Mainstream religions, “common sense,” and institutions could do nothing for me. This is because they operate on the conscious level, in the light, with masculine energy. They don’t truly dive down to the depths (I understand there are exceptions, but work with me.) They don’t embrace the darkness, the void, the feminine.

So that’s where I’m at. Not to bash any religion or anything… just to recognize that there is a whole part of our existence we ignore; a HUGE part. And the High Priestess is the door-lady. She might just let you peek behind the curtain into the endless depths.

Tell me what you think!
Till next time,


From the Old Notebook: The Magician

Hi! These are notes on the Magician Card from my ancient-ass notebook (from 2008!) For more info, click here. Original notes are in black, additions and annotations are in purple.

PCS 01 Mag

Cup–water, emotions, chalice, vessel, womb

Sword–air, thoughts, studies, knowledge, symbols, language

Wand–fire, enthusiasm, energy, growth, spirit, instincts

Pentacle–earth, material, money, finances, time, results

The Magician–transformer, takes elements and produces something with will, creates

Stature–drawing down, channeling energy, “as above so below”

White headband & wand–concentration, single focus

Wand, two-headed–drawing energy from both physical and spiritual
(This is interesting to me. We often think of the Magician being all about bringing his/her desires into the physical. But we don’t usually see a relationship between the Magician’s physical and spiritual experiences–both effecting each other.)

Belt–transforming of old traits, shedding (hence, snake. Ouroboros.)

Red–passions & desires

Robe–personality that covers spirit within

White Undergarment–innocence, purity, divinity

5 Full Roses (along the top:) 5 senses here to educate us

Red Rose–again, desire. Also, magic, intent, and manifestation due to its relationship to the pentacle.

Lilies–knowledge of the universal laws and one reality. Subconscious. Intuition.

4 Lilies–four elements
(Not sure about this one. I suppose the Lilies do represent a reality that already exists, one that we can interact with, but that we can’t claim ownership of. Interesting how the Lilies and Roses are all tangled up in that case.)

Table–holds mental tools (more on this later!)

Lemniscate/Infinity Symbol–highest self, eternal life, Christ as a nature

*performing magic in nature

Notes from the future!

Something I would like to note is that the Magician first and foremost transforms himself. Look at how he holds the rod up to the air, like he might catch lightning, and then points his hand toward the ground. This means, for the energy to pass from above (the realm of possibility) to below (the realm of physical reality) it has to go through the Magician. And, did you know, getting struck by lightning can change you? Mind, body, and soul?

I was also thinking about the table. I do remember us discussing it way back when I took these notes, but I haven’t found an authority on the symbols along the side. The squiggles look like a mountain range. There seems to be a bird on the end, specifically, the dove from the Ace of Cups. The blog in between could be a lounging panther? Or perhaps a lion?

It occurs to me that if these images are snippets from other cards, it’s like all the experiences the Magician has had or will have in the journey through the tarot. And, because this is the table that holds the Magician’s tools, perhaps his knowledge and power are held up by experience.

Maybe these symbols aren’t super profound. Maybe the table is the mundane. After all, the mundane is where we exist, where things happen, and where we see the fruits of our efforts.

If you have found any theories on this table, send some links my way! I’d love to find more on this.



A rant about intuitive astrology

Rant Time!

Hey ya’ll, it’s not very often that I get on here and just open up, especially about Tarot and other Divination Arts. But I have SOMM.

Many people think of these arts as very technical. Like any art, there is a technical side, but in essence it’s still a creative exercise. A reader’s style might veer more toward a text-book approach, or be totally free-form. Because it’s an art and not a science, there isn’t really a wrong way to do it.

Perhaps of all the popular Divination Arts, Astrology is the most daunting (Ok, maybe the I-Ching gets beyond that, and the Enochian Tablets but… you know what I mean.) People look at it and go “Math! Awww.” But I was just thinking about how you can (and should) still feel your way through Astrology. Especially nowadays when the agreed-upon structures keep changing. There’s sidereal versus traditional, Vedic versus Western, etc. And within Western, there are old meanings versus new meanings and added planets.

I feel like people want quick answers on several different levels:
1. The student just wants someone to tell them the “right” way.
2. The believer wants answers about their own lives… without doing their own work.
3. Skeptics want you to either prove it or dismiss it. (I love it when skeptics have approached me to get me to admit it isn’t real. Yep, I dedicated my life to tarot for no reason… )

But the answer to all of these is… it’s not that simple. The student must find their own way. No one can hand you all the answers, and often there is no right or wrong–just different. For the skeptic, even if I had a magic trick I could show you, you’d explain it away. And for the believer, well, sometimes you can get very straight-forward answers from Divination. But even so, without a background of introspection, those answers won’t mean much.

Don’t get me wrong. Personal exploration shouldn’t be an alternative to learning the technical, but rather a way to learn it. I love the technical aspect of the arcane! (I’m also really big into math, so that part of astrology just adds to the fun.) But I also feel that the whole point of a Divination Art is to feel it out. After all, isn’t intuition a very important aspect of Divination? This is how I got started into tarot. The fist classes I took were just about how to connect with the cards. For my learning style, if I hadn’t taken that step first, I might not have had the patience to then go and learn the history and the symbols. And when I did, it was learning within a group, through both books and conversation.

So, what do you think? Do you think these arts should be stringent to-the-book practices? Or an exploratory art form? Or both? (The old saying goes: ¿Porque no los dos?)

Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading!


From The Old Notebook: The Fool

This is my series on the Major Arcana of the Rider-Waite-Smith. I took these notes back in 2008 when I was a spry young thing. For a little intro, click here. These notes are verbatim; partially for novelty, partially for preservation. I will add annotations in purple (and in parentheses.)

0 Fool

White rose–purity, clarity of purpose
(Clarity of purpose probably comes from a rose being related to the pentagram, which represents one’s intent. White represents purity. Hence, pure intentions.)

Red feather–Truth, victory

Dog–guidance, enthusiasm, pay attention to inner self
(I also relate this dog to the white horse in Death and The Sun. A different form, perhaps?)

Button (on the bag)–all-seeing eye, divine, holy spirit, watchful eye
(I thought this was over-analyzing, but didn’t want to omit anything.)

Eagle (also on the bag)–objectivity, soaring spirit

Posture–soulful, inner child

Zero (number on card)–unlimited potential, the unknown

Laurel Wreath–classic symbol of victory, finding Divine in nature, following one’s own nature.

White Sun–actions guided from above

Cliff**–stepping into physicality, accepting a possibly painful experience
(**more on this at the end!)

Staff–willingness, action, directed power
(though I note it is in a passive position, perhaps he doesn’t even realize what it is!)

Black (color of staff)–unlimited potential

Circles on Jacket–10 circles, Tree of Life, Wheel of Fortune, journey of life. Circles could also be full moons and stars–child of the divine.
(I really think they are pomegranates to symbolize the High Priestess, more on that below! Also I don’t know where Carl got 10 circles from… there are like 13. The eight-pointed star inside each circle could also be the Eight-fold Path of Buddhism.)


Notes from the future! (Aka, ideas I had just now.)

The Dog: I mentioned relating the Dog to the White Horses in Death and The Sun. (If you are unfamiliar, look it up!) What if the white animal were a spirit guide, or even more so, a spiritual purpose? Imagine the character in the card is Jesus and the white animal is the Holy Spirit. How would this change from the Fool to Death? How does the dog versus the horse change the relationship to the spirit?

Relation to Other Cards: It is said that the Fool is moving through the Tarot and gaining knowledge and experience. But the Major Arcana can also be circular. So, after coming to full realization and reaching The World, you start over as the Fool again.  Many have noticed aspects of other cards in the Fool: the pomegranates I mentioned on his dress, the mountains in the background, the laurel wreath and red feather on his head, and others. I get this notion the Fool has just gone on this whirlwind journey. He has seen everything, been to the deepest depths of mystery, and now here he is once again, frolicking on a mountain. But there are these hints that suggest all those experiences are still with him (also kind of a nod to reincarnation.)

The Cliff: I was staring at the card, thinking of how you could over-analyze anything, even the weird lumps in the ground. I’m sure someone has already suggested the ground the Fool stands on looks like recently-cooled lava. I imagined; what if the ground is forming right beneath his feet as he walks?

Ha! In making fun of myself, I came up with a new idea.

This reminds me of a podcast called “On Being.” Krista Tippet was interviewing Brother David Steindl-Rast and he talked about old religions or traditions and how they grow too rigid. He said, in their early development, they are like a volcano, with hot fire bursting through and new ground forming. Then, in later years, these traditions become like solid old mountains. He said you wouldn’t even believe these mountains had ever been volcanoes.

The Fool is dancing in that fresh lava; freshly-poured earth. And the old, rigid mountains of yore are only a distant backdrop for him. They are small from his perspective, and he can see them, but he is more concerned with his current experience.



From the Old Notebook: Rider-Waite-Smith

old notebook fool

I am dusting off my very first tarot journal from TWO THOUSAND AND SEVEN (sorry, had to be dramatic,) when I was 19 years old. I have all these old notes locked away: original layouts, ideas, philosophies, and notes from classes, that I always wanted to publish.

I want to start with my detailed notes on the Rider Waite Smith Tarot. Some friends and I created a study group where we picked apart every card in detail over the course of several months (This was actually late 2008.)

Mostly these notes consist of breaking down symbols or small details in the card. The leader of the group, Carl, gathered information from various sources (which unfortunately I did not write down) and put them all together for us. I’m going to publish these notes mostly verbatim, starting with the RWS Major Arcana. I might add some annotations and I’ll make it clear when I do.

From there, we’ll see where we end up! Maybe I’ll do all 78 cards, or maybe I’ll cover the minors with some broad strokes.

As a side note, for anyone who wants to start their own study group, after we all wrote down the meanings of the symbols, we took turns discussing the following:

  1. What the card meant to each person, and
  2. If the person had a memorable read on that card in the past (e.g. “The 8 of wands always comes up for me when the internet is involved.” or “I pulled this card for a lady who later found out she was pregnant.”)

I hear a lot of people say, even after many years of practice, there are cards in the Rider-Waite-Smith they just can’t connect to. After breaking down the symbols in each card, I was finally comfortable with the entire deck. I almost never got stumped. And if I did, I picked one tiny detail that was speaking to me and focused on that first. Piece by piece, the entire picture would fall together. So perhaps these notes can be helpful to others, too.

Anyhoo, cheerio! Onward and outward!


Tarot Prompts

Day 30! The final day!

Hi folks! I hope you all are finishing up the last of your 50,000 words today, unless you already did earlier in the month!

For today’s post I want to do a pretty simple one card prompt.

Raziel tarot the Moon

Deck: The Raziel Tarot (click to see more cards!)

Card: The Moon

Co-created by Robert M. Place and Rachel Pollack.

This tarot deck is based on old Jewish tales and Jewish mysticism. Robert’s explanation of this card is “Samael and Lilith guard the path.” Unfortunately I don’t own this deck and book set, so I don’t know very much about the story behind the card. After a quick read of this article and just using my intuition, here is what I came up with:

Guarded secrets.

Parts of ourselves we deny.

An outcast.

A haven amongst monsters.

Is anyone guarding secrets in your story? How dire are these secrets? And what lengths will your character go to in guarding them?

Is there a part of your character that they are denying? Locking away? Trying to obliterate?

Is anyone in your story an outcast? Why? Where do they find their haven?

This is my last tarot prompt for now! I had so much fun with this and it kept me inspired all month. More tarot projects are sure to come. In the mean time, I will try and post some of my story for Nanowrimo. Cheers everyone! And happy writing!

Tarot Prompts

Day 29: Cosmic Horror

Hello Writers!

Today’s post got a bit complicated (heh, heh.) I had an idea to combine the Necronomicon Tarot with the Quantum Tarot for a Cosmic Horror prompt. (Initially I was thinking Sci-Fi Horror, but it turns out the Quantum Tarot has more of a cosmic/mystical feel.)

So I pulled three cards from each deck. Below is a brief description of each card, and at the end I’ll give you the story I came up with! Of course, this is here to inspire you, so use this post like a playground. Jump around, pick out what grabs you, or read the whole thing. It’s up to you!

The Necronomicon Tarot was conceived by Donald Tyson and illustrated by Anne Stokes. Along with two accompanying books, this tarot derives themes, characters, and events from various H.P. Lovecraft stories. Take a moment to soak in the pictures.

Necronomicon 3 card

9 of Disks: The Necromancer, with the aid of a ghost and a ghoul, digs up some hidden treasure.

3 of Cups: Three people seem to be having the time of their lives, but the lady in black looks very mischevious. What schemes hide behind those dark-rimmed eyes?

Yig (The World): A giant serpent clutches the Universe, twisting it around counter-clockwise: against the Sun, awakening a dark vortex that spreads chaos ACROSS THE GALAXY.

The Quantum Tarot, authored by Kay Stopforth and illustrated by Chris Butler, blends scientific theories, cosmic constellations, and classic tarot symbolism. Check out these gorgeous images, and click the names below for larger pictures!

Quantum 3 card

Queen of Cups: Andromeda is the name of a constellation and a galaxy–the spiral galaxy closest to our own, in fact. In the myth, Andromeda is chained to a rock as a sacrifice to Cetus, a sea monster. She is saved by Perseus.

8 of Cups: Ok, so, this is one of the more dense concepts. If you’re not familiar with the science, see what you get from these words: Nuclear Decay. Alpha Particle. Nuclear=energy. Decay=death. Alpha=beginning, Particle=small part of something. Basically we’re talking about when atoms break apart and cause nuclear poisoning or even cancer. Kay brings this around to someone or something (Neutrons and Protons) wanting to break away or escape (they escape from the nucleus of the atom where they belong! And they fly off by themselves and cause all kinds of problems!)

The Tower: Quantum Foam! That’s just a fun term. Imagine: underneath the seeming order and stability of all you see around you, even smaller than the smallest known molecules, is a bubbly, chaotic substance where matter blips in and out of existence; where teeny tiny black holes are created and then dissolve! THIS IS WHAT EXISTS UNDERNEATH ALL YOU CAN SEE. Ok sorry, got carried away.

My take on it all. First, I want to point out that we have one major card from each deck: Yig, and the Tower. And they kind of match. The images both feature stormy lightning, and the cards themselves represent chaos. Then we have the goddess chained to a rock, the deviant party people, and the sneaky necromancer digging up treasure.

Here is what I came up with. The world of sense, reason, and order is a thin mask on bubbling, frantic chaos. Underneath our civilized society are seething hoards of primitive desires just waiting to take over. Now, a dark cult has locked away the goddess of reason and compassion. They’ve buried her treasures in the forgotten wasteland. With her out of the picture, a giant chaos monster wraps its coils around the sun, causing an endless night, both in the physical world and in the hearts of the living.

The cult quickly start to spread their influence on anyone they can lay hands on. But each action has an equal and opposite reaction. When the realm of reason fell, it sent a huge burst of energy into the universe, which compressed into a giant lightning bolt and struck an unsuspecting man. He finds himself jettisoned out of the weird acid trip everyone else seems to be living in, wondering what kind of hellhole he woke up in. He once had an interest in dark magic, but now he must use it, along with the aid of unlikely friends, to find the treasures of the goddess so that she can break free of her chains and restore good sense to the universe.

Hope you like it. Happy writing!


Tarot Prompts

Day 28: Surrender.

Today’s post has some adult themes.

I’ve been thinking and reading about the feminine and how it is repressed or comes out in harmful ways in many peoples’ lives. And that brought me around to how we are or aren’t nurtured throughout our lives, and how that can ruin our understanding of nurturing as adults. I know nurturing isn’t strictly feminine, but we are focusing more on the feminine aspect of it. We are talking in archetypes here, so work with me, people.

Yes this is still a writing prompt! I asked four questions and drew a card for each using the Goddess Tarot. Pause for a moment and come up with your own answer before reading mine. In the first two questions, remember the differences between what we need, what we seek, and what we receive.

1. What kind of nurturing does your Character seek?

Goddess Tarot Ace of Wands Kris Waldherr

Romance writers! I really shouldn’t have to say anything about this. Ideally your character would seek the Ace of Cups, the ultimate feminine/receptive/comforting for the nurturing/healing. Instead they seek the Ace of Wands, which is the ultimate masculine, if you catch my drift. It’s a penis.

2. What kind of nurturing does your Character receive?

Goddess Tarot King of Swords Kris Waldherr

The King of Swords is tough, critical, and maybe even abusive. He is harsh, doesn’t take time to suss things out emotionally. What kind of nurturing would you receive from such a person? Oddly, a lot of people look for harshness in their nurturers because they want some form of abuse or criticism. Obviously this has a BDSM feel to it (not to compare BDSM to abuse. It’s just a question of is this sought out in a healthy way or no?) He would give your Character, er, a spanking, whether mentally or physically. Or both.

3. What relationship did your Character have with their mother?

Goddess Tarot Prince of Pentacles Kris Waldherr

The Prince of Pentacles is kind of a pampered young person. In the case of a Mother, it could be that the Mother pampered and spoiled her child. Or it could be that the Mother herself was kind of pampered and spoiled, and her child/ren didn’t respect her.

4. How does your Character look for nurturing in his/herself? (I will just say “she” for this paragraph.)

Goddess Tarot Prince of Cups Kris Waldherr

So the Prince of Cups is interesting because you have a character with a very broken sense of nurturing from her parents. She looks to sex to fill that gap. And she looks for a very stern and controlling male presence to make up for the parenting she didn’t have as a youngster. But there is a funny power play in BDSM (I’m just fully committing to this analogy now) where by submitting, she is giving herself power. And by submitting, she is, in a way, nurturing herself by allowing herself to go through trials and tribulations and possibly come out a more developed human being.

The Prince suggests youth and innocence. It’s interesting that both daughter and mother are Princes. But the daughter (Prince of Cups) has fully realized her emotions and is vulnerable in a nurturing way, while the mother (Prince of Pentacles) was immature in a narcissistic and selfish way.

What a story! I hope you found some inspiration in there somewhere. Oh! And someone else wanted to pop up and say hi.

Goddess Tarot 18 The Moon Diana Kris Waldherr

It’s Diana! Moon Warrior/Huntress! She blends masculine strength with feminine intuition. She is a nurturer AND a leader. I see her in this story as like a Cupid, but instead of giving the Character true love, she gives them a series of trials that will make them stronger and find the feminine warrior inside.

This deck was conceived and illustrated by Kris Waldherr.

That is all! Happy writing!

Tarot Prompts

Day 27: Food for Thought

There are certain superficial aspects of story-telling that I tend to forget. One of those things is food. I just don’t think about food. I often include some kind of coffee because it’s like a ritual for me, so I like to imagine my characters enjoying that same ritual. With Harry Potter, the food is kind of already provided but this might be a cue for me to get more creative with it.

For some people, food is a heavy subject. Whether due to an eating disorder or a diet they aren’t thrilled about, food isn’t all about joyful consumption. For me, food brings up a lot of concerns. Where did this come from? How does the company treat its employees? Are they eco-conscious? At the end of a long road of careful decisions, I can sit down and enjoy a meal. But this deck, with it’s bright colors and fun illustrations, strips all that away. In this deck, food is fun and also meaningful.

As far as writing goes, what does food mean in your story? Is food brought up very much? Are there foods unique to your story? Or is it all familiar fare? A reading with this deck could be very telling because what your characters eat–and what they don’t eat–says a lot about them.

Here are two three-card spreads: The top three cards are what your character LIKES. The bottom three cards are what they DISLIKE. Read these separately or come up with some creative combinations. Salad + ice cream = waldorf salad???

Candied carrots on a sundae perhaps?

It’s funny that we have two healthy meals and one very indulgent dessert. This person knows where to put all their bad decisions.

Looks like a three course meal to me!

Strange for one to like banana floats but not sundaes. Perhaps it’s just not ENOUGH without bananas? Does wine hurt their stomach? Does it make them think of haughty parties they don’t want to go to? I can’t imagine what someone would have against Chinese take-out. Perhaps they are allergic to MSG. Perhaps they are a real stickler for home-cooked food. OR they used to have obnoxious roommates who ate it all the time and left a mess, and the smell makes them feel panicky and they compulsively clean everything.

Deck: Food Fortunes

Author/Artist: Josh LaFayette


Happy writing!

Tarot Prompts

Day 26: Enterprising Spirit

Today we’re just going to do a nice simple one card prompt from the Universal Waite Tarot.

CardThree of Wands

This card is related to the Sun and the Zodiac sign Aries. The Sun is all about the self, so this character is thinking about their own wishes and desires. Aries likes to shoot first and ask questions later. So this is the moment when your character is ready to take action on what they want, or who they are meant to become. It is an enterprising moment.

How does this card make you feel? Which character in your book is experiencing this energy? I would love to hear from you in the comments! Happy writing!