adding spirit

tarot is built on four suits, each representing an element that shapes who we are and is central to the world around us. heart, mind, body, and soul – each suit in the minor arcana explores the highs and lows of our experience as humans on this earth. my course this week is all about exploring these elements within my cards, and connecting them to each other and to me personally.

while beth has a number of exercises for us to follow this week, i want to include this five element spread from the wild unknown, allowing me to add in the major arcana and connect more deeply to the various elements in the deck.

1. earth

six-of-pentacles

this card represents my foundation, my home, and my sense of stability: the six of pentacles. though there is darkness around, this branch is flourishing, finding a way to grow and blossom even after difficult times. i may not have all resources available to me all the time, but making due with what is present is something that gives me courage, strength, and pride. there’s beauty in both giving and receiving, and it’s important to me that i don’t simply take and take and take without paying things forward. i feel the most grounded when i am able to give back, help friends, be strong for those that need me. and while my career is never going to make me wealthy (and may never fully support me financially, which keeps me incredibly humble when i compare my earnings to those of my husband), doing something that i love and believe in helps me to flourish personally in ways beyond riches.

 

 

2. water

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the three of cups represents my emotional self, my relationships, and my creative and spiritual flow. as someone that’s fairly private and doesn’t always trust others immediately, this is a lovely card to see and an important reminder – i may not have a wide circle of friends, but those i do have know me truly, allow me to be myself completely, and will stand by me through thick and thin. my relationships keep me centered and healthy, and when i remember to rely on my friends and family, when i gather my strength and trust them with my pain and my darkness and my secrets, i’m always better off. it’s not a weakness to ask for help or admit when i’m overwhelmed. and while it’s not easy to ask for support, i need to be better about doing it.

 

3. fire

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this card represents my sense of self, my soul, that inner spark that keeps me moving and motivated. the seven of wands is a card of independence and strength, a light in the darkness, a bold flame that knows what it’s burning for. i’ve always been different, rarely fit in or feel normal, but this card stands fiercely and proudly. it reminds me that knowing who i am, and not being afraid of what makes me different, is an important part of growing up and being strong. this little flame may stand alone and apart, but she’s sure of what she wants, knows she cannot be silenced, believes in her calling. when i stay true to myself, even if i’m alone, i am always stronger. my inner spark is often restless, feeling that i should be burning brighter or harder or larger – i have trouble being present, acknowledging where i am with calm and purpose. but this card feels so still, though the flame is crackling and lighting up the darkness.

 

 

4. air

daughter-of-swords

the daughter of swords is straightforward, intelligent, and embraces simplicity: an inspiring card for my air element, representing my relationship to change and inspiration. i love to travel, love to explore, love challenging myself to grow and learn in new ways. but i don’t like a lot of fuss – i always prefer to keep things drama-free. and while my scorpio nature means that i keep a lot of secrets, enjoy mysteries, and am often hard to read, when it comes to travel and adventurous i like to know what’s going on. i’m currently on vacation with my husband and his family, and the lack of planning and communication, the utter disorganization, the clear differences in the purpose of the trip, are driving me a little bit crazy. i want to know where i’m going, want to experience as much as possible, and don’t want to waste any time trying to organize those that refuse to be organized. i really identify with this child of the air: let’s not make this any more complicated than it needs to be.

5. spirit

the-empress

i’m a bit surprised to see the empress in this final position, representing my relationship to spirituality and the infinite. my birth card is the high priestess, a card i love and admire deeply for her intuition and spirituality, but the empress is far more grounded. she’s deeply connected to nature and the earth, embraces her senses and her body, understands the world around her on a visceral level. she is nurturing and wise, strong and kind, always extending open arms and caring words to those in need. and while i’m not sure that this is who i truly am, in this very moment i’m feeling extremely connected to the world around me. i’m in a beautiful place, craving time in nature, wanting to enjoy food and the landscape and everything around me with all of my senses. i just want to be, which is not always easy for me. california always feels like home to me, and i want to soak it in for as long as possible, enjoy this feeling of freedom and peace.

 

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this is a spread i want to revisit again and again, as it seems to give a really lovely insight into where i am right now, and how the elements can speak to my current state. these cards all feel calming and affirming, reflecting my current feelings of independence and solitude in the face of community, a desire for action and directness during this long and emotionally draining trip, and a craving for nature and exploration in the last days of our vacation.

i’m a bit behind on my week two exercises, but plan to do another spread tomorrow. if you’re following beth’s course too, please let me know how it’s going!

 

aces & elements

a little bit of sleep has offered some clarity, and i’m ready to dive into week two of my tarot course and focus on the elements in the minor arcana. first exercise: aces!

ace-of-cups

the suit of cups is one i talk about a lot in this space, both because as a scorpio i’m deeply connected to water but also because they tend to pop up for me frequently. the ace of cupsĀ is colorful and beautiful, overflowing with light and possibilities. this card represents the beginning of something emotional, a new relationship or connection, the start of a personal, perhaps spiritual journey. cups speak to matters of the heart, whether we’re dealing with others or with ourselves. water ebbs and flows, can be calm or rough, is soothing and restful but can also quickly become overpowering without warning. it’s easy to get ourselves in trouble with this suit, since emotions that start as beautiful and intriguing can quickly swirl out of control – passion can turn to hate, love can turn to obsession, anger can turn to rage. water resists control, has a mind of its own, is heavy and strong and difficult to contain, can sneak in through cracks and tight spaces to take us by surprise. i’m always reminded to keep an open heart when i see this card, to remember that all emotions have value and that it’s important to stay receptive to whatever may come, but also to hang on and try not to get swept away.

ace-of-swordschanneling knowledge and mental clarity is the element of air, represented in tarot as the suit of swords. this suit is for the intellect, the power of facts and justice and communication – everything that takes place in our minds. the ace of swords is both powerful and terrifying, with its strong blade and illuminating bolts of lightning. the sword cuts to the truth of the matter, revealing what is inside with unerring certainty. this is a difficult suit for me, as i’m prone to depression and self-harm, but sometimes this kind of harsh clarity can be necessary. it’s easy to get lost in the tangle of our own minds – to become so focused on our own version of events, our fears, our desires, our insecurities, that we lose sight of what is really true. air is clear and strong, and can often be taken for granted, but when we abuse it or pollute, it quickly becomes difficult to see through and can be impossible to see our way forward. we must respect the power of truth, the wisdom that comes from experience, the necessary but difficult certainties that shape who we are. and as this ace can show us that a burst of clarity, a flash of brilliance, a bit of unflinching honesty are all on the horizon, it reminds us to be ready to see what’s real.

ace-of-wandsfire, passion, inspiration, power – the suit of wands represents the element of fire, and the ace of wands is one of the most brilliant, energetic cards in the deck. this card speaks to a flash of brilliance, a fresh new idea, a spark of energy that pushes us forward into an exciting opportunity. this is the ace i see the most, full of fire and creativity, but often stresses me out with its expectations and drive. the suit of wands speaks to everything that moves us, to motivation, projects, ideas and sparks, but also of burnout, overextending, pushing ourselves too hard and too fast. fire can burn low and slow, all sizzling embers and quietly glowing coals, but can quickly rage and flame into something that’s impossible to control. it can burn fast and hot, cutting through everything in its path and leaving behind a wasteland – or sometimes, space for something new to grow. this ace is a spark, a flash, and gives us the energy and power and passion to push forward, to do something that speaks to us deeply. wants speak to what defines us, what makes us unique. fire is our soul.

ace-of-pentaclesrepresenting the element of earth, our bodies, careers, homes, health, and the world around us, is the suit of pentacles. everything sensual and physical is wrapped into this suit, that which grounds us and keeps us connected to the material world. the ace of pentacles speaks to growth, to resources, reminding us to be practical, methodical, and consistent. unlike some of the other suits, earth is firm and strong, not easily changed or altered. growth takes time and energy, requiring patience and strength and foresight. this ace speaks to prosperity, reminding us to commit to the process and put in the work to achieve our more worldly, physical goals. whether it’s seeking a new job or building a family, finding a safe home or staying healthy or developing a new craft or seeking healthier habits, pentacles encourage us to care for ourselves in a material sense. so often we overlook resources, ignore what’s right in front of us, or get so caught up in dreams and relationships and knowledge that we forget our physical selves. pentacles are a beautiful reminder to take a walk, to reconnect to the world we live in, and to take pleasure in our senses and our bodies.

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each of these aces is so powerful, filled with promise and opportunity and passion, and connecting them to their elemental energies has certainly opened my eyes to the depth of each suit. there’s a richness to tarot, layer after layer of new meaning and promise, and i love the feeling that i may not ever fully master this – tarot will always be teaching me.

reverence & gratitude

it’s been a truly incredible few days. my letters were received with love and kindness, and now i can proudly say that i am out to my entire immediate family. it’s been years in the making, and i feel such a profound sense of relief, release, and rest. i was able to celebrate my first pride weekend with the knowledge that i’m living honestly and truly.

the-empresstoday’s card is nurturing, holistic, and compassionate: the empress. and she’s a beautiful reflection of the energy i feel today.

i love this card. the ultimate earth mother, she is creative, gentle, strong, warm, sensual, comforting, and free. she’s completely unapologetic for being herself and taking up space – there’s such an easy confidence about her. the empress knows her value and her worth, is sure of her place in the world. she gives of herself, openly and honestly, and thrives when she can comfort and nurture others around her. unlike the high priestess, that lives in mystery and shadows and stillness, the empress is utterly grounded, deeply connected to nature and the world around her. she is filled with love and generosity of spirit, with no rules or expectations or judgements. she is a warm embrace, a long walk through a beautiful forest, a cozy spot by a roaring fire.

the empress embodies the strengths and spirits of all four mothers in the deck: the fierce determination of the mother of wands, the insightful tranquility of the mother of cups, the experienced and wise perception of the mother of swords, and the patient compassion of the mother of pentacles. she pushes us to use all of our senses and abilities, to open ourselves to possibility, and to step fully into opportunities. but because she also represents sensuality, fertility, and cultivation, the empress can remind us to be aware of what we’re nurturing, and who (or what) is nurturing us.

after pushing myself hard to be open and honest with those i love, the empress speaks to me of peace, rest, and contentment. today is a day for love, calm reflection, and kindness, of nurturing myself.

passing time

after a hectic and challenging week, along with a running race that i was certainly not prepared for and a busy weekend of planning several upcoming trips, i’m now facing a very quiet few days. only one shoot scheduled, editing finished, nothing major on the agenda. it was no surprise to draw a card that so often symbolizes confusion, procrastination, and choices: the seven of cups.

IMG_0338this card pops up a lot, both in my daily readings and also in my thoughts. it’s beautiful and confusing, a colorful, entrancing illusion, often pointing to tangled feelings, deception, temptation, or the power of dreams and decisions. sometimes we get so caught up in a fantasy that we lose our grasp on what’s actually in front of us; other times we’re simply dazzled by all of the lovely options in front of us and paralyzed by choice. in my case, a sudden end of my work to-do list leaves me with endless options for how to spend my week. my personal tendency to disappear and lose time can often take over, and since i’m still considering how best to compose coming-out letters to family members, my brain feels like a jumbled mess. i’ve been relying on my work to keep me busy, but now that everything is completed i need to come to terms with the best way to communicate.

i don’t mind mystery or challenges, but this card can point to so many things that i often pull a clarifying card along with it to give me a direction to consider. in this case, my card is much more grounded and clear: the mother of pentacles. whenever i pull this card i feel that it’s reminding me to care for mother-of-pentaclesmy husband and family, to use my energy and resources to help them however possible. with extra time and energy this week, it seems like a perfect opportunity to offer assistance, get organized, and be a kind and compassionate caretaker. my husband is very overwhelmed these days and while i can’t solve any of his problems (my first instinct when things are going badly for anyone), i can listen, offer empathy, and do what i can to lift other small burdens around the house. i’m not always good with words, preferring to express affection and love through actions or gifts, but in this case my energy can be focused on a way that it will have true impact on the ones that need it.

the mother of pentacles feels like the opposite of self-care; rather, she devotes her time and resources to those she cares about. i can use my energy for them today, and find a way to help myself tomorrow.

beauty & balance

of the four suits in tarot, pentacles are the one i draw the least – by quite a lot. i relate deeply to the emotional cups, love delving into the mental space created by the swords, and seek out the crackling, fiery energy from the wands – but those earthy, grounded pentacles rarely come up for me in readings. today’s card is one of the few in the suit i’ve drawn before: the two of pentacles.

two-of-pentaclesstrong and bold, with large, beautiful wings balancing two pentacles, this butterfly is powerful, open, and full of stable energy. the most obvious interpretation here is balance, with her asymmetrical wings and those pentacles delicately sitting on her massive wings. the rainbow lemniscate connecting the symbols adds the only touch of color, but keeps everything tied together beautifully. but this card can also indicate inevitable change, as the butterfly herself goes through a complete transformation in order to acquire those glorious wings. she may look fragile, but is much stronger than she appears – she’s able to quickly change direction, catch a slight breeze and use it to her advantage. there’s an unexpected strength along with easy flexibility that makes her unique, dynamic, and able to balance change in a beautiful way.

pentacles are tied to work, home life, possessions, finances, and earthly matters, so i can’t help but consider my career prospects whenever they come up. i have a busy week, packed with a variety of shooting gigs – live music for a singer/songwriter friend, my regular work with restaurant menus, a queer women’s cocktail event for pride, and social media images for a catering business. i love weeks like this, that push me to constantly adjust my style and perspective, forcing me to grow and adapt as a photographer, but they can also be challenging – every day is more different than usual, and it can take more energy to do everything well. this card can remind us to stay flexible, prioritize what matters, and embrace changes that may come along the way.

of course, this card could also be speaking to other types of change – perhaps a new job opportunity is coming, or another move is on the horizon. but it feels to me that balance is the message today, remembering to honor all of my commitments and approach every task with purpose, flexibility, and creativity.

finding resources

i’ve been hesitant to return to tarot for the past few days, after drawing such strong, intense, dramatic cards on my last reading. i’m still not sure what steps forward to take, what kind of transformation i should be seeking, but i’m continuing to ponder these lessons, and have reached out to a much-admired reader for a personal reading to offer more clarification. in the meantime, i don’t want to stay too separated from my cards. i don’t want to withdraw into fear, or refuse to listen, or ignore what other wisdom my deck has for me.

with that in mind, i was pretty tentative in my drawing today, and received a lovely and welcome gift: the mother of pentacles.mother-of-pentacles

calm and strong, alert and aware, kind and supportive, this mother is nurturing, loving, compassionate, practical, resourceful, and confident. she knows who she is, what she’s capable of, and how she fits into her world. her child rests against her, completely at peace, and while she’s watchful of any danger, she does not look afraid – she is simply doing her job, caring for her family, and ready to tackle any issue that arises.

while i find all of the mothers particularly strong and admire each of them in different ways, there’s something so empowering about this queen of the earth. she knows that she has rich resources and powerful tools at her disposal, and is so deeply connected to the world around her. there’s no doubt, no stumbling, no indecision – she can handle anything that comes her way, and can care for those around her as well as her own personal needs.

i find this card both encouraging and challenging today. i have reached out for additional help in seeking my next steps, both by continuing to see a therapist that i really trust, and by looking for answers and insight from a more experienced tarot reader. i’m trying to rely more on my friends and family, being open with my fears and struggles rather than pretending everything is fine. but i can always do more, both for myself and for those around me. my partner is struggling deeply with his work, my friends need support, my family deserves the truth about some difficult issues – and i do have the strength and the resources to help, even if i can’t always see it. i can be better, stronger, more resilient. i can care for those around me in a more honest, compassionate, practical way, while still finding ways to care for myself.