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January 2011

Why I Don't Use Significators

Hez Queen Rods 250 For those unfamiliar with the term, a Significator is a card that represents the querent. Often based on Astrological Sun Sign, hair color/gender, favorite card or other preference, this card is consciously removed from the deck prior to a reading, and often put somewhere on the table or at the center of a spread, face-up. This Signfiicator supposedly serves as a “focal point” for the reading.

This ridiculous practice eliminates one or more cards from a reading. It’s like searching Google, but filtering some of the responses. How in the world does this benefit the client? And, if a reader needs a Significator to “focus”, how good can they really be? I mean, the client is right in front of them! THEY are the focus! Why must a card be taken out of the mix just to say, “Here, this card represents you.”

Hez King Swords 250 The only time a client would truly benefit from a consciously drawn card would be as a psychological exercise for the querent. It’s more than valid to use Tarot consciously (that is, face-up) for client empowerment; in fact, I feel it’s the greatest unexplored territory with the cards. Having a client drawing a card to reflect how they think or feel can be a quick, accurate indicator (and revelation) for both querent and reader.

But to merely remove a card from a Tarot reading just to have it represent the querent?

Congratulations, you’ve just hobbled the Universe in getting across a message.

Can a card do double duty? Absolutely. No reason why the 2 of Cups couldn’t substitute for The Lovers in a pinch…or the 6 of Wands doubling for the Ace of Coins in terms of a raise.

Hez Page Coins 250 However, based on the other cards drawn, the complex nuances of a “double duty” card may get lost or misinterpreted. After all, The Lovers card doesn’t NOT equate with intimacy and the 2 of Cups does NOT necessarily indicate commitment (or a ring on the finger).

So next time you’re tempted to draw a Signficator before a reading, ask yourself: “Do I really want to do this? Will it help the client for me to remove one of the cards?” If you’re really attached to using a Signficator out of tradition or spiritual focus, then at least select it from a different deck…not the one you’re using for the actual reading.

Otherwise, you may very well be making it harder on yourself to perform an accurate, empowering reading…not to mention possibly missing an opportunity for an unexpected, illuminating revelation that could have occurred had you not removed that unique card from the deck.

Card images from the gorgeous Hezicos Tarot by Mary Griffin. Click here to get your copy!

-- Janet

Four Elements in the Tarot

Four elements text 175 The four elements and their respective symbols, which are often on the table (or in the vicinity) of The Magician card, are the Cup (Water), the Wand (Fire), the Coin (Earth) and the Sword (Air).

The four elements are rich and fascinating exploration, especially since the Aces embody the elements and the Minor Arcana suits reflect how they play out in everyday life.

From my experience and perspective, the associations and issues connected with the four elements and suits are:

Water WATER - Cups, Chalices, Bowls, Hearts, Vessels or other receptacle for holding. It is considered feminine/passive in nature. Colors often used in Water cards are deep blues, aqua and, in some cases, gold (in terms of cup color and preciousness) and pink. WATER/CUPS connects with relationships, feelings, dreams, values, moods, the unconscious/subconscious, psychic phenomena, empathy, compassion, forgiveness and matters of the heart. Its energy is often slower in nature--steeping, stewing, and gently flowing. In ancient Tarot de Marseilles style decks, the CUPS suit was associated with the clergy. In the four-humor model, WATER is sanguine. In terms of Jungian function, WATER is Feeling and Introverted.

Earth EARTH - Coins, Pentacles, Disks, Crystals, Diamonds or other round object. It is considered feminine/passive in nature. Colors often used in Earth cards are greens and browns, sometimes gold (in terms of money). EARTH/COINS connect with the physical realm, such as material possessions, money, job, health, land, food, home and environment. Its energy is usually quite slow—
cautious and methodical. In ancient Tarot de Marseilles style decks, COINS suit was associated with the merchant class. In the four-humor model, EARTH is phlegmatic. In terms of Jungian function, EARTH is Sensing and Introverted.

Fire FIRE - Wands, Batons, Staffs, Sticks or Clubs, its phallic shape connects it with the masculine/active. Colors often used in Fire cards are red and orange, sometimes bright yellow. FIRE/WANDS connects with passion, energy, enthusiasm, courage, gumption, vocation, career (as opposed to actual job), and many issues related to the "self" (as in, "self starter", “self esteem”, "self propelled", "self possessed", etc.). Its energy is sudden and sometimes explosive. In ancient Tarot de Marseilles style decks, the WANDS suit was associated with the peasant class. In the four-humor model, FIRE is choleric. In terms of Jungian function, FIRE is iNtuition and Extroverted.

Air AIR - Swords, Blades, Arrows or Spades, its shape is also phallic, and thus masculine/active. Colors often used in Air cards are powder blue, gray, white and at times, yellow (especially pale yellow). AIR/SWORDS suit connects with the mental realm of thoughts, communication, decisions, beliefs, judgments, opinions and so on. Some people believe that thoughts cause suffering, not situations. Thus, the AIR/SWORDS suit is often attributed to arguments, hostility, anxiety and suffering. In ancient Tarot de Marseilles style decks, the SWORDS suit was associated with nobility. In the four-humor model, AIR is melancholic. In terms of Jungian function, AIR is Thinking and Extroverted.

Different authors sometimes associate various functions to the elements/suits, but these are the ones that make the most sense to me. And, you'll get a whole range of associations with seasons, too. For me, what makes the most sense is:

WATER/CUPS: Summer (Pool! Sunshine! Drinks!)
EARTH/COINS: Fall (Harvest time; A slowing down)
FIRE/WANDS: Spring (New life sprouting; New energy)
AIR/SWORDS: Winter (Cold weather; Clarity; Sharpness)

Of course, those are Northern Hemisphere associations.

How do you see the four elements correlating with the Tarot? How might my correlations--or yours or others--inform specific Tarot cards? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

-- Janet Boyer, author of Back in Time Tarot

4 of Swords and Painful Thoughts

The human mind is plagued with “stinkin’ thinkin’”. From overthinking to overidentification, personalizing to demonizing, our thoughts and beliefs are the root of all emotional suffering.

4 of Swords 250 In numerology, the number 4 indicates stability, foundation and boundaries. Coupled with the Swords suit of the mental realm (which includes communication, thoughts and assumptions), the 4 suggests mental rest and recuperation. The 4 brings quiet and calm to our head space. It’s quiet here—a bit like the atmosphere around the sarcophagus we tend to see in Rider-Waite styled versions of this card.

In this tomb-like womb, we’re insulated from electronic gadgets that beep, vibrate, scroll, ring and chatter. We are unplugged from the squawk box, the internet, the cell phone and the mp3 player.

It is here we can finally disentangle from the endless stream of information, cultural “standards” and peer expectations. We can breathe deeply here. We meditate. And contemplate. In this stillness, we find that our OWN thoughts shake loose. The sieve of quietude helps us separate our deeply held values from those external assualts. And then, we can recalibrate the internal compass to our True North.

Every time the 4 of Swords comes up in a reading, it’s an indicator that my client writhes in the clutches of negative self-talk or some other type of stinkin’ thinkin’.

At these times, which happen more often than not, I know to recommend the simple, yet profound process of inquiry called The Work. Taught by Byron Katie, The Work encourages us to investigate all thoughts, judgments and beliefs that cause suffering.

4 Swords Alch 250 Just as with cognitive therapist Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotional Therapy (RET), Katie asserts that it’s never a person, situation or discussion that causes suffering, but rather the stories we tell ourselves ABOUT such issues.

In Ellis’s ABC model:

A represents a circumstance or person
B represents the story we tell ourselves about A
C represents our reaction

According to RET, most people jump from A to C. For example, if A represents your mother-in-law and C represents your irritation at her behavior, you would likely say that your mother-in-law (A) causes your irritation (C).

Not according to Ellis, or Byron Katie.

Rather, it is B, the “story” you tell yourself about your mother-in-law that causes your reaction (and hence, conflict and suffering).

Consider individuals like Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel, Rosa Parks, Dr. Ben Carson, Chris Gardner and others. What caused them to shine and thrive where so many succumbed to despair and helplessness?

Stilts If you were to ask behavioral therapists like Albert Ellis, they would likely affirm that each of these extraordinary individuals held very different perceptions than their peers, which then resulted in very different conclusions about life, ability and humanity.

Take self-talk for example. In the face of challenging event such as the loss of a job, one person may spiral in despair, concluding that he is a worthless human being. In Ellis’s model:

A Job loss
B I must be worthless
C Despair

This is why another individual, in the same situation, may see the job loss as a “blessing in disguise” or “an opportunity to finally enroll in college” or “a closed door always means a window will open”.

For both individuals, job loss occurred. Yet, the reactions varied greatly. In fact, the “story” that engendered feelings of worthlessness hinged on “taking it personally”. One of the Four Agreements (yet another brilliant model for confronting painful thoughts and alleviating emotional suffering) is “Take nothing personally”.

Perspective That is, when something difficult happens, why must it always be “about you”? Why the jump to conclude that you are incompetent, worthless, unattractive, stupid, lazy, boring, bitchy or [insert your favorite pejorative]?

When studying resilience and happiness, proponents of Positive Psychology discovered the power of re-framing a situation. They discovered that youth were much more resilient when they didn’t take failure personally, and this resilience resulted in resourcefulness and increased well-being.

4 Swords OSHO 250 Take a look at the woman in the 4 of Clouds card from the OSHO Zen Tarot (the equivalent of the 4 of Swords in most Tarot decks). She can choose to look at the landscape before her as multi-hued, vast, alive, welcoming and pregnant with opportunity. Or, she can choose to place a more dour frame on her perspective, assuming that the landscape before her is gray, barren, hostile and dangerous.

So it is with each of us.

We can choose what to look at and what to look for.

What we focus on gets bigger. (Hint: if you’re seeing certain behaviors or types of people “everywhere”, you may want to check the prescription on your perspective glasses.)

And, like a car at the mercy of a driver’s gaze (and steering!), we can choose where we’re headed—and how much we’ll enjoy the journey—by examining the direction and content of our thoughts.

So when you see the 4 of Swords show up in a reading, don’t be thrown off by images of a stone coffin or a figure laying in repose. No one is going to die. But, if you want, you can put to death those stories that cause you to thought at a time.

Compass Enormously helpful books for neutralizing “stinkin’ thinkin’” (and yes, I own them all and recommend them highly):

Loving What Is by Byron Katie
I Need Your Love: Is That True? by Byron Katie
Why Your Life Sucks by Alan Cohen
What You Can Change…And What You Can’t by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.
Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.
Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
Women Who Think Too Much by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D.

Websites: Dr. Martin Seligman (includes great self-tests) and Byron Katie's The Work

4 of Swords images from the Universal Waite Tarot and the Alchemical Tarot Renewed by Robert Place. 4 of Clouds image from the OSHO Zen Tarot.

-- Janet Boyer, author of Back in Time Tarot

Crystal Visions Tarot - Interview with Jennifer Galasso

Jen Janet: Hello Jen! Thank you for taking time out to share the good news with the Tarot Gals readers and answer a few questions about your deck! 

Jennifer: Hello Janet! Thank you for taking the time to interview me about the deck!  

Janet: First, let's begin with your big announcement: you've signed a contract with U.S. Games Systems, Inc. to publish your Crystal Visions Tarot. How wonderful! So how do you feel?! Are you heading to Disneyworld? ;o) What is the timeline--any ideas when we'll be able to get our hands on your deck? 

Jennifer: I am SO excited about signing on with U.S. Games Systems, Inc. I can’t even describe the feeling! It is sort of like being at Disneyland! :D Those I’ve dealt with to this point have been so wonderful and supportive. With the experience I’ve had so far, and with the company’s stellar reputation, I’m confident they’ll do a great job with the production, marketing and distribution of the deck.  As far as the release date, that is sort of dependant upon me, and finishing up the last of the cards. I hope to have the deck completed by the end of February, 2011, and then I should have more of a production timeline.   

CV Emperor Janet: Now, let's talk about the name: Crystal Visions Tarot. Why that particular title for your first deck? 

Jennifer: Well, as a few people have already guessed, the name was inspired by lyrics from Stevie Nicks, as well as her box set that came out right around the time I was planning the deck. I fell in love with her music in my early teens, and I attribute my growing interest in the spiritual realm to her haunting voice, ethereal nature and poetic lyrics. I also love crystal balls, and knew I’d be incorporating many into the artwork, and although Tarot and scrying are different forms of divination, “Crystal Visions” is sort of a double entendre in that it can also mean clear visions, which I thought was very appropriate to the Tarot.  

Janet: On your website, I read this with interest:   Originally, she thought she would try and let the ideas flow, painting each image as they came to her. It was a nice thought, but not very practical for such a big project. She decided to change her course of action, and tackle the project from a decisive point of view.   When did you realize you were "over your head", as it were, and merely allowing inspiration to take over your paintbrush wouldn't be enough to complete this project? 

CV Hermit Jennifer: Soon after I finished the first two paintings. I realized I wasn’t in love with them, and I was unable to move forward with the deck. I waited a while, hoping inspiration would strike, but I was too hung up on not liking the first two paintings that I couldn’t move forward. Painting a deck was something I’d wanted to do since I took an interest in the Tarot in my teens, and on some level I was afraid of messing up, or being disappointed in my deck after its completion. I think that fear was paralyzing me in some ways.   It wasn’t until I painted my series of Birthstone Fairies that I realized I needed to change my approach. In painting the series of twelve fairies, I planned them all and sketched them out, so that they would all look cohesive, before painting them. I realized then that planning was what I needed to do with the Tarot, and so I started to research, plan and sketch out the cards. I had most of the cards planned in various stages before picking up a paintbrush.   

Janet: I love that you (mostly) paint your deck one suit at a time, with some Major cards interspersed. That makes a lot of sense, especially if you're immersing yourself in a particular energy of a Minor Arcana suit--so you can stay with that unique energy, color palette, symbolism and so on. What Minor Arcana suit seemed the most daunting to envision? To paint? Did you have any life circumstances reflect a particular card or suit you were working on? (I find this sometimes happens with artists!) 

CV 4 Swords Jennifer: Oddly enough, I thought I would have the hardest time painting Swords, yet Swords ended up being the first suit I worked on. I started painting them last year around this time, so it could have been the gray skies and stark trees of winter that lent the inspiration. Cups weren’t as easy as I thought, although I wouldn’t say they were difficult. I think I just had a little hang up because Cups were the two cards I painted in my first deck, and subsequently discarded.

Wands came very easily, once I picked up the paintbrush. It is a more masculine suit, and I paint a lot of feminine characters, so I was a little unsure how the suit would unfold. I am a Sag, though, and respond positively to the reds and oranges I used in the suit’s color palette, so once the paint hit the canvas, I was in my element. Pentacles have been the most challenging, just as I suspected. I’m not sure why—I just had a tough time envisioning where I wanted to go with that suit, and so it’s unfolding itself to me slowly, but I’m getting there.  

The two main cards that really reflect my life circumstances would have to be the Knight of Cups and the Blank Card. I always thought of the Knight of Cups as sort of a Prince Charming card, and always associated it with my husband, who, when I met him, was a twenty something, blond, light-eyed Pisces (or the Knight of Cups.)  The Blank Card is something that not all are familiar with, but I encountered it early on when I bought my first Hanson-Roberts deck. I actually bought the deck for that image, which was the cover card, and upon getting the deck home, realized it was a Blank Card, or the card of things not yet meant to be revealed. I’ve always loved that card, and always said that I would include one in my own deck one day.  

CV QP Janet: On your website, I notice that you associate ambition with both of the masculine suits--Swords and Wands. In your view, how does ambition manifest differently in each of these suits?  

Jennifer: I think I attribute ambition to being both a physical and mental challenge and therefore associate it with Wands and Swords. One thing I find appealing about the suit of Wands is that, to me, it is a more active side of the suit of Cups. Intuition, creativity, and emotions are still very much a part of the suit of Wands as they are Cups, however, Wands lend the fire aspect of, “grabbing the brass ring,” so to speak.  Action, focus, struggle and conflict, creativity, and hard work are all important to seeing ambition manifest. I guess, in that sense, Pentacles could also be associated with ambition, however, to me, Pentacles represents a more, “slow and steady wins the race,” sort of way of reaching one’s goals. Not to say that approach isn’t ambitious; I guess it’s just more cautious, and to me ambition is also about taking risks.  

Janet: Will the Crystal Visions Tarot have a border around the imagery? Have you created the back design yet? 

Jennifer: I have a back design that I just completed. It incorporates symbols from all the suits and is non-directional. I don’t plan on having a border around the images, and hopefully, if the publisher decides to use one, it will be unobtrusive.  

Janet: What is your greatest hope for your deck once it reaches publication? 

CV AW Jennifer: I hope that people will love the imagery—that is always the first step for me in identifying with a deck. I hope that it will read well, and easily for professionals and novices alike. I also hope it gets translated into other languages and stays in print for a very long time.    

Janet: What is the greatest compliment someone could give you as an artist? As a person?

Jennifer: The greatest compliment someone could give me as an artist would be to say that they really respond to my work, or a particular work in general. Striking a chord with people on some personal level, or moving them to feel something positive is really such a motivating aspect of being an artist. Of course, you always run the risk of stirring up negative emotions in someone, but I think any sort of reaction to an artwork--the ability to make someone feel--is the greatest thing about any art form.  As a person, I really value independence and perseverance, among other things, but these would be two of the greatest compliments someone could give me. I’ve been called unconventional, strong-willed, relentless and stubborn also, but I count those as compliments just the same. :D   

Janet: Tell us a bit more about the "personal" Jennifer. Do you paint to music? To silence? What do you like to listen to, to watch, to read? What is a "perfect" day in Jen's world? 

CV KSW Jennifer: My favorite music to paint by is, surprise surprise, Stevie Nicks, or Green Day’s American Idiot. Every song on that CD is great and so I never lose my momentum—it seems to grow with each song.  Sometimes, though, I just want to be in my head, so I either paint in silence, usually when I’m fixing an issue, or adding the finishing touches, or turn on the television, basically for a little company and background noise.  Perfect days for me seem to vary in the moment, but from an artistic standpoint, I guess a perfect day would be to start painting after my daughter goes to school, make really good progress until around 1:00 or so, take a little nap, and then stay up late painting after my daughter goes to bed. I really enjoy painting at night, but because I have to get up pretty early, I’m unable to stay awake most times unless I have a break in the afternoon.  

Janet: What is the most important lesson that you learned last year? What are looking forward to experiencing this year? 

Jennifer: The most important lesson I learned is that lots of work, perseverance, and a strong vision along with listening to your inner voice, instinct, or guides, (whatever you’d like to call it), is all essential for anyone facing a goal or a huge project. It’s always so hard to take that first step, but with each effort you gain confidence and the journey gets easier.   I learned much more about the Tarot, too, throughout the last year, and in fact, my process was a lot like the Tarot in many ways; I sort of took a Pentacle approach to creating the deck–slow and steady with lots of planning.

CV Wheel I did have to stay focused and motivated, which was a mental challenge, so therefore Swords came into play. I needed to tap into my creativity and vision for the project, and needed to feel passion for what I was creating, which insisted on the suit of Wands.  Lastly, I needed to incorporate a bit of myself into the cards in order to make them my own, as well as keep my emotions in check when it came to introducing them to the world at large as well as the publishing industry, hence the suit of Cups. The first cards in the deck began with the Fool, (me jumping in blindly), and hopefully the deck will end with the World.   This year, I am looking forward to finishing the deck and holding the actual cards in my hands. I am looking forward to beginning new projects I’ve put on the back burner for a while, as well as starting the initial planning of a possible new deck.   

Janet: Thank you so much for your time, Jennifer, and best wishes!

Jennifer: You too, Janet! Thank you!  

You can visit Jennifer Galasso's Crystal Visions Tarot website at this link. Follow Jennifer on Twitter here and fan her on Facebook here. Jennifer's main website is (and you can order gorgeous prints and figurines there, too!)

-- Janet Boyer, author of Back in Time Tarot

The Chariot - Individuation and Ambition

Chariot 250 When I see the number 7, including Trump VII The Chariot and the Minor Arcana 7’s, I think of options, variety, choices, strategy, evaluation, imagination, exploration and experimentation. In addition, I see the 7’s as possessing a “lone wolf” energy and Life Path numerology bears this out. Interestingly, The Chariot and all the Minor 7’s in the Universal Waite Tarot deck feature a solitary figure.

Yet, The Chariot card isn’t called “The Charioteer”, which leaves us wondering: what, exactly, does this vehicle represent? And what are those two sphinxes sitting in front of the stone chariot in the Universal Waite Tarot? In the Sharman-Caselli deck, The Chariot shows two high-spirited horses—one black and the other white—pulling the rider in opposite directions.

One could speculate endlessly about what those two creatures could represent, but one thing is for certain: the charioteer isn’t going ANYWHERE in that buggy unless those two cooperate (unless, of course, the charioteer prefers to walk)!

Chariots SC It is a fun, and revealing, exercise to contemplate what type of tension those two creatures might represent in our OWN lives. While The Chariot is often considered an archetypal force since it’s a part of the Major Arcana, the truth is that archetypal patterns don’t happen in a vacuum. In other words, scholastic theorizing about abstract symbology might make for good mental masturbation. However, when the rubber meets the road that our Chariot travels upon, what does the card mean for US? For our clients?

According to Carl Jung, when a person becomes aware of how their personal consciousness (the sum of their experiences) integrates with the collective unconscious (the universal archetypal realm common to all), a state of individuation—or wholeness of self—can be achieved.

In her book Jung and Tarot, author Sallie Nichols makes an interesting observation:

Jung tarot “…as a person gains the independence to be a nonconformist, he also gains the self-assurance to be a conformist. As Jung has often stressed, an individuated person is not the same as someone who is individualistic. He is not driven to conform to custom, but he is equally not driven to defy it. ”

Individuation is a seeker’s process, and often a painful one. Before we can obtain this state on the hero’s journey, though, each of us must go out into the world and “find ourselves”. That is, by experimentation, exploration and choosing (the numerological traits of the number 7), we discover our personal values and preferences. Eventually we realize (perhaps only unconsciously) that when we live out of alignment with our core values, we feel off kilter—much like a careening charioteer.

Chariot DCT At the same time, we one day realize (sometimes to our utter chagrin, particularly if we happen to be one of those lone wolves!) that we are not islands. Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm note of The Chariot (from the DruidCraft Tarot companion book):

“The Chariot suggests the control needed to develop the personality and to master difficulties and circumstances…the personality has been forged to work well in the world, and progress can be made.”

So while we balance the fluctuating states of our personality within us, we must, at the same time, deal with external distractions and demands. Sure, we can thumb our nose at society—but at what expense to our personal growth? Alternatively, we can cave in to the expectations of family and culture—but then how would we come to know (and shine) the unique expression of our soul?

He who dies Ah—this is but one dilemma presented to us by The Chariot. Other issues arising from this card include achievement, single-minded determination, will, focus, speed and force. One question that The Chariot asks of us is “Does the end justify the means?” I’m reminded of the bumper sticker that reads “He who dies with the most toys still dies” (a wry take on the popular phrase “He who dies with the most toys wins.”)

To be sure, The Chariot can run roughshod over people to get what it wants. Some push their bodies to the limit (and then some), while others might trample anyone that gets in the way of a particular goal. And, ironically, this rigidity limits options rather than opens them.

FT Chariot But is there anything wrong with ambition in itself? I don’t think so. After all, Mother Teresa surely had ambition to help the poor, relieve suffering and offer compassion.

There can be balance with both tension and paradox; in fact, the charioteer is probably safer with two horses trying to pull in separate directions than if they’d both make a hard right into a ditch!

Hard force and steel will can be beneficial when we’re training for a race, for example. And most women who have had natural childbirth (that’s right, no painkillers!) will tell you that pushing, straining and struggling are a part of the birthing process.

Succeeding doesn’t mean that someone else must fail.  In fact, I feel that a scarcity mindset pervades our culture where many believe that there isn’t enough to go around, and that if someone else “wins”, they must “lose” or vice versa. Authenticity and creativity can fuel forward movement without the need to disempower others. We can shine brightly without trying to snuff out the light of others…or to attempt to “prove” our strength or worthiness by denigrating someone else. Likewise, the victories of others in no way have to diminish ours.

Return Marianne Williamson says in A Return to Love that "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." Our “playing small”, or hiding our light under a bushel, doesn’t serve us—or humanity—either.

So as you’re traveling down life’s road in The Chariot of your psyche, consider that you can strive for a win-win situation for all involved—and that an enduring sense of self isn’t dependent upon the approval, nor the rejection, of anyone.

-- Janet Boyer, author of Back in Time Tarot

Chariot images from the Universal Waite Tarot, Sharman-Caselli Tarot, DruidCraft Tarot and the Fairy Tale Tarot


Snowland Tarot

Snowland Tarot Banner 500 
I'm happy to announce that Ron's working on the art for several more cards as a part of our Snowland Tarot proposal!

Ace_of_Pentacles_Snowman 200 He surprised me with a whimsical Ace of Pentacles painting as a Christmas gift, but we never thought of turning it into a deck.

Until my wheels got to turning...

One publisher is already interested in seeing more, so Ron just completed the sketch for the Strength card, and then will be doing The Hermit and another Minor Arcana card. We're so excited!

Earlier today, I created a Snowland Tarot Facebook Fan Page so interested folks can keep tabs on Ron's progress (I've already uploaded the Strength sketch, in fact!). You can become a fan by clicking here.

Please come join and us spread the news!

-- Janet

Non-Fiction Book Proposals - 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Pencil Before you even think of pitching a non-fiction book proposal, ask yourself:

1. Has it been done before?

If yes, how does your book differ? What does your book offer that others on the topic do not? You must provide unique, useful and desired material for an agent or publisher to consider at a book that's similar to others in the market.

2. What's the market?

Is your book really "for everyone"? Or is likely for a targeted market? If the latter, which niche market? Don't say "it's a little bit about everything". Those types of books are almost impossible to sell. If need be, narrow your focus.

3. Can I encapsulate it in an elevator pitch?

In other words, summarize your book in one sentence (preferably including how it reaches your target audience)…in the time it would take for an elevator ride.

4. What's your platform?

At the very least, you must have a website in today's market, even if it’s just an engaging blog. Even better if you have a frequently used Twitter presence and Facebook page. Don't have those yet? Start now. It's never too early to begin laying a foundation for your platform. In fact, the more solid the platform, the more confident you (and your potential agent/publisher) will be when it comes time to dive on launch day. Consider registering your name as your primary website URL (for example,, or your book title. The former will give you more flexibility should you publish additional material, however. And, should a publisher sign your book, they may change your proposed title anyway.

5. Who are you pitching to?

Open book If you're pitching to an agent, what other non-fiction books has she sold? What non-fiction authors does he represent? If you don't know, find out. You don't want to send off half-ass queries, pitching your non-fiction proposal to, say, an agent that's only interested in representing literary and YA fiction. If you're pitching directly to a publisher, Google them if you haven't already. Read past catalogues. Discover what, and whom, they publish. Read the Submission Guidelines on their website. Does your book fit in with the publisher's front list? Does your topic match past published genres? If you're still at a loss, then go get the most recent edition of Writer's Market which comes out every summer. And for crying out loud, get the name of the agent or acquisition editor right…and use it! (In other words, don’t even think of writing “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madame”).

If you've decided to self-publish:

Ask yourself the first four questions. If you want to be competitive, then you'll need to know the answers to those questions to effectively market your book. If you don't know the answers to those four questions, how do you expect to convince readers to plunk down money on your book? For the perceptive reader, self-published books are a risk because of their reputation for sub-par quality.

Speaking of quality, here are some additional questions to consider before self-publishing:

1. Are you willing to hire an editor?

You will likely need a content editor or a copyeditor or both. Even the best writers find it difficult to organize or edit their own work, especially for cohesion and for grammatical or spelling errors (that MS Word doesn’t catch).

2. Are you a graphics wiz?

If you can’t create an attractive book cover, hire someone who can. "You can't judge a book by a cover" simply isn't true, especially when it comes to self-published works. Almost every time, I can spot a self-published book by its (ugly) cover.

Books Moon 3. Are you social media-challenged?

If you are overwhelmed by the idea of blogging or Tweeting, then hire someone who can translate your concepts into relevant, fresh web material. Read blogs you admire, follow Tweeters you find fascinating, fan writers who shine on Facebook—and then politely ask them whom they use (or if they can recommend someone who does similar social media marketing).

While hiring an editor, graphics designer and social media maven won’t guarantee book sales, these investments will at least elevate you to roughly the same playing field as traditionally published authors.

If you’ve decided to try the traditional publishing route, answering the first five questions concisely, accurately and sensibly will help you stand out in the minds of agents, publishers and readers.

Janet Boyer is the author of Back in Time Tarot (Hampton Roads) and Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer Books, 2012). A prolific blogger and reviewer, as well as a social media maven for publishers and authors, Janet’s main website is

New Releases in Tarot 1/11

There's an unbelievable amount of new Tarot books and decks that have entered the market the last few months, as well as ones that have just now become available...or will soon be.  I'm pleased to share with you the first edition of the Tarot Gals New Releases in Tarot, which spans from about September 2010 to February 2011.


While these last four aren't technically purely Tarot, you'll probably be familiar with their past connection to the cards based on the author name.

-- Janet Boyer, author of Back in Time Tarot 

Sukkwan Island - Free Novella from David Vann

Sukkwan David Vann, the author of the upcoming Caribou Island (one of Book Beast’s most anticipated books of 2011) has a free e-novella that is available as of today. 

The novella, entitled Sukkwan Island, recently won France’s prestigious Prix Medicis award for best foreign novel and was originally published in the U.S. as part of a collection called Legend of a Suicide

Caribou island To celebrate, and to give people a taste of David’s breathtaking writing in advance of the release of Caribou Island, HarperCollins is giving it away along with an excerpt of the new book. 

You can downloand your free copy of this novella from Amazon, Sony or Kobo.  It is also available in the iBookstore for Apple products, and should be available for the Nook shortly.

Isn't that cool? This author is new to me, so I'm looking forward to sampling his rave-reviewed work.

-- Janet

Aces of Tarot

Seeds Here it is, the cusp of a new year…and a perfect time to explore the Aces of Tarot!

The four Aces are all about potential and new beginnings. They are seeds, gifts from the Universe (or gifts from raw material, should you want to remove a Designing Intelligence from the equation).

Like an actual seed, however, this potential for “biggerness” requires action, decision, openness and risk in order to grow and unfurl into full-blown life. In fact, nothing “new” can happen in a New Year unless those four traits are applied to any and all potentials.

AW The Ace of Wands offers us the baton of passion, enthusiasm and vigorous vocational pursuits. This Ace presents the fuel to kickstart grand plans, adventures and courageous acts. By grabbing this baton, we can increase our chi, which is another word for prana or life force. How you “grab” the Ace of Wands will likely be as unique as your personality, but this reaching for something faster, hotter or more dynamic requires some type of movement on your part. In other words, light the match to that stick, baby!

AC The Ace of Cups offers the cooling, soothing waters of spiritual communion, abiding friendship and profound emotion. This Ace presents the opportunity for new friendships, deepening bonds, expanding compassion and cleansing forgiveness. How you choose to drink from the Ace of Cups will also be unique to your temperament, but receiving the refreshing, rejuvenating and healing waters from this vessel will require a willing heart and an open hand.

ASW The Ace of Swords offers the sharp, honest blade of truth. This Ace presents us with the gift of clarity, analysis, strategy and severance. How you choose to wield the Ace of Swords will determine what you will cut from your life, how you will draw protective boundaries and when you will say NO or ENOUGH—and will require an objective eye, loosened tongue and balls of steel.

AP The Ace of Pentacles offers a sturdy platter filled with material opportunities, including environmental comfort, physical well being, possessions and food. This is where the “rubber meets the road”, to use a cliché, and how you choose to take care of your planet, your body, your surroundings and your resources often affects the other three Aces in ways you may not realize. We may be “spirits having a physical experience”, but this vehicle we travel in requires maintenance and care. In fact, the other three Aces may not express themselves fully when we do not value or tend to the Ace of Pentacles. How you choose to “spend” this coin will require mindfulness and present-moment awareness.

So tell me: how do you plan on approaching the gifts offered by the Aces in 2011? Is there any particular Ace/s that you'd like to work on? What Ace is the most intimidating to you...and the most welcoming? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

-- Janet Boyer, author of Back in Time Tarot

Tiny Flake Card images from the Universal Waite Tarot, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

The Face of Anxiety

Janet Snow Crop Med When you look at my face, what do you see?

Someone cheerful? Bubbly? Confident? Excited? Fulfilled? Content?

These are all true, yes.

But what you may not see is someone living with General Anxiety Disorder, or GAD.

Although GAD can affect anyone, women are most susceptible. The onset is gradual, and often begins to exhibit in a person's 30s. Symptoms may include nausea, IBS, tension headaches, irritability, excessive worry, pounding heart, muscle spasms, dread, restlessness, panic and a feeling of being disconnected from the body.

Continued stress can cause it, as can genes.

For years--perhaps decades--I lived with GAD, but didn't realize it.

After three trips to the ER over a 10-year span--thinking I was having a heart attack and having extensive tests proving my pumper was A-OK--an amazingly astute and compassionate intern said to me: "I think you have anxiety. You were experiencing a panic attack, not a heart attack. Here's a prescription for Lexapro. Please try it."

That doctor changed my life.

Gone are the daily bouts of diarrhea, stomach spasms and heart palpitations. Gone are the obsessive pleas to my husband to feel my breasts every single night...not because I was horny, but because I was convinced my fibroid lumps were breast cancer.

What caused and exacerbated my anxiety was certain life challenges (that I'd rather not air), the year-long diagnosis/suffering/death of my first husband of 7 years at the age 29 from, and the troubling behavior/diagnosis of my son on the Autism spectrum.

Being the consummate information hound, I did Google my symptoms. Often. Although "anxiety" kept cropping up, I always gravitated to the cancers. I just knew I had it, and I knew I was dying.

But I wasn't. I just felt like it.

Hurricane One of the reasons I didn't want to even consider anxiety as an explanation for my symptoms and behavior was because of the stigma associated with "mental health issues". Not only that, my minor was in Psychology and I had been a practicing counselor. I thought I could "fix" myself with cognitive therapy. psychological strategies, meditation and biofeedback.

These helped for many things, but not the anxiety--because this condition was now (or perhaps it had always been) inextricably connected with my body chemistry and responses.

Lexapro, a SSRI, has been a blessing for me. It is not a tranquilizer, nor is it an anti-psychotic. It merely helps keep necessary serotonin--a brain chemical responsible for feelings of well being--from being used up too quickly.

I'm not a zombie and I'm not tired. I haven't gained weight and I don't feel "medicated". What I feel is...myself.

I'm still enthusiastic, but I'm not manic. I still love to express my creativity via words, but I'm no longer feeling an invisible push to always be working.

I am now able to be present. In the moment. I can watch a movie without thinking of my to-do list. I can read a book without also brainstorming my next project. I can actually sit outside in my glider, without a book or notebook beside me, and just breathe in nature for its own sake.

I can now be with myself, by myself, and with others--without the restlessness, irritation and moodiness.

If you think you might have anxiety, please check out these symptoms. You are not alone, and you're not crazy. We don't demonize a diabetic for needing insulin or a cancer patient for having chemo. We don't have to feel that an SSRI is an excuse to avoid life or a remedy for madness. It's not.

So what is the face of anxiety?

It is mine.

-- Janet Boyer

Daily Blogging Motivation - WordPress Issues a Challenge

Light Over the New Year, WordPress issued a challenge to its bloggers: make a post daily (or weekly).

Seem like a tall order? Maybe.

But for those of you who have resolved to blog more in 2011, using the Daily WordPress Challenges may be the impetus you need for creating thoughtful, interesting and unique posts.

You can sign up for the daily or weekly prompts, or follow @postaday on Twitter.

Another benefit? You don't have to be a WordPress blogger to use these daily prompts.

Happy blogging!

-- Janet

Four of Swords Action Versus Inaction

As I was pondering the 4 of Swords from the book Tarot and the Tree of Life by Isabel Radow Kliegman, I considered her take on inaction.

Vamp_13 Here's what Kliegman writes about this card:

"There is another important aspect of the Four of Swords to which we may now direct our attention, and that is the difference between action and activity. If someone calls you and asks, 'What did you do today?' and you say you had a busy day, you probably don't mean that you spent it meditating. You probably mean 'I was running a lot of errands. I visited a sick friend, then I had to pick up the dry cleaning and drop a book off at the library before my doctor's appointment. Later I had a hairdresser's appointment, and then I had to bring some soup to my mother. And of course I always do my charity work on Tuesdays...' That's an action-packed day. It is also a passive day...Activity and action may be seen to be in the same dichotomous relationship as ego and soul: the ego can use activity to distract from the soul's purpose, but when the soul takes action, it may appear from the perspective of our ego that we're not doing anything. 'Oh, I just had a lazy day. I was reading and meditating.' Yet that is not a lazy day; it is just a quiet day. Although the Four of Swords is an image of inactivity, it is a card of taking action in our lives."

Tarot tree What are your thoughts about Kliegman's observations on the Four of Swords? 

Personally, I'm a bit confused as to why Kliegman calls that action-packed day "passive".  She admits this card isn't about death, but about "withdrawal and rest", as Gina pointed out. And, Kliegman also observes that, since this is a four, it is stable and thus, lacking dynamism.

So I'm trying to figure out how, in her opinion, the Four of Swords can be both "restful" and "taking action". And how is "soul" action different from "physical" action?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

-- Janet 

Card image from the Vampires of the Eternal Night Tarot by Davide Corsi.

Asparagus Swiss Quiche

If you assume you don't like quiche, you may want to think again after you try this Asparagus Swiss Quiche! This melt-in-your-mouth gem made my husband a true believer!

Asparagus Swiss Quiche

Quiche 10 bacon strips (cooked), diced
1/2 cups chopped onion
1 lb. asparagus
1 cup (4 oz) shredded Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2/ teaspoon pepper
1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inch)
3 eggs
1/2 cup half-n-half cream

Cook bacon until crips; remove. Saute onions in dripings. Cut 8 asparagus into 4-inch spears for garnish. Cut remaining asparagus into 1 inch pieces. Boil in small amount of water until crisp-tender. Drain. In a bowl, toss everything but the eggs and cream. Pour into shell. Beat eggs and cream. Pour over bacon mixture. Top with asparagus spears. Bake at 400 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

The last time I made this (a few minutes ago!), I tried pre-cooked bacon that can be found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, and it worked out great. To give the onions a bit of the bacon flavor, I diced two slices of the pre-cooked bacon and sauteed it with the onions. Also, if you use a deep-dish glass pie pan, you may need to add a bit more eggs and cream, depending on your taste.

-- Janet

Tarot Major Arcana Archetypes

Magician Cropped 300
The Magician from the Snowland Deck
You’ve just put down yet another Harry Potter book, relishing the time spent among wizards, house elves and boggarts. Or maybe you’ve had the privilege of watching Criss Angel’s live show, BeLIEve, at the Luxor in Vegas, or reserve a front seat on your couch every week to watch his TV show Mindfreak. Alternatively, you may be a fan of the beloved Oz books by L. Frank Baum, or an avid devotee of the Wizard of Oz  starring Judy Garland.

Guess what? You’ve just spent time in the presence of the Magician archetype.

As a part of your spiritual path, devotion to Kwan Yin, Mary, Gaia, or other goddess energy may guide and comfort you. Or, perhaps you are called to nurture others and disseminate compassion to the world—or are drawn to others who live this example.

You are in the presence of the Empress, or Mother, archetype.

Maybe you’re intimately acquainted with addiction, either as a counselor to, or a relative of, one who is addicted. Drugs, food, sex, gambling, spending, porn or video games—perhaps you’re the one caught in the web of addiction.

This is the realm of the Devil archetype, the energy of bondage.

An archetype is a template, a universal pattern recognized in virtually any epoch and in every culture. When I wrote “Magician”, “Mother” and “Devil”, an image of some sort immediately came to mind—whether via a movie, story, character or personal experience.

Justice Cropped 300
Justice from the Snowland Deck
If I were to convey “Lovers”, “Death”, or “Justice” to any person—whether through word, art, music or film—most, if not all, would have a point of reference to identify with these universal themes, regardless of age, social standing or country of origin.

This is the power of archetypes—to transcend the specific to the collective, from the individual to the world. And because archetypes are a common language, wisdom, meaning, feelings and teachings are conveyed through these “larger than life” molds—reinterpreted by writers, artists, and sages for fresh application. Still, no matter how many spokes on the proverbial wheel emanate from the stories among us, the hub remains the same: the universal realm of an archetype.

One extraordinary vehicle containing a myriad of these “wheels” is a picture book called the Tarot. Disguised as a pack of 78 cards, the Tarot contains universal stories that map and reflect the twists and turns, joys and sorrows, of life here on Earth. From the naiveté of The Fool, sometimes portrayed as the Puer/Puella Eternis (the Eternal Boy/Girl that never “grows up”) or the clown, to the World (often depicted as a globe or the Earth as seen from space), the first twenty-two cards of the Tarot are known as the Major Arcana, or “larger secrets”.

Some Tarotists contend that the twenty-two Major Arcana, also called Trumps, portrays universal archetypes while the forty Minor Arcana cards shows how these archetypes play out in everyday life via relationships or feelings (Water/Cups), communication or conflict (Air/Swords), drive or vocation (Fire/Wands) and the material world—money, health and physicality (Earth/Pentacles). The sixteen Court Cards of each of the four suits show how particular people and personalities affect and modify each. For example, the energy of the Knight of Swords (“racehorse”) is different from the Knight of Pentacles (“plow horse”).

For those who are unfamiliar with the Tarot, here is a list of the Major Arcana cards, as well as some familiar patterns reflected in their archetypes:


Fool Cropped 300
The Fool from the Snowland Deck
0 Fool - Clown; Court Jester; Magical Child; “Beginner’s Mind”; Idiot
 I Magician Wizard; Illusionist; Shaman; Snake Oil Huckster
II High Priestess Psychic; Witch; Crone; Grandmother; Librarian
III  Empress Mother Earth; Pregnancy; Gardening; Mommie Dearest
IV Emperor Father; CEO; President; Principal; Government; Dictator
V Hierophant Organized Religion; Clergy; Tradition; “Shoulds”; Moral Authority
VI Lovers Marriage; Contracts; Garden of Eden; Choices; Mergers
VII Chariot Cars; Speed; Will; Focus; Merkaba; UFOs; Tanks
VIII Strength Courage; Poise; Hero; Warrior; Survivor; Bully
IX  Hermit Sage; Loner; Scholar; Solitude; Isolation; Teacher
X Wheel of Fortune Lady Fortune; Luck; Fate; Vagary; Roulette
XI  Justice Scales; Judge; Legal System; Earthly Laws
XII Hanged Man Crucified Christ; Odin; Suspension; Sacrifice
XIII Death Transformation; Grim Reaper; Butterfly; Crypt; Skull
XIV Temperance Mediation; Blending; Middle Path; Yin/Yang
XV Devil Scapegoat; Pan; Satan; Addiction; Materialism; “Evil”
XVI Tower Disaster; 9/11; “Aha” Moment; Shock; Sudden Obliteration
XVII Star Hope; Optimism; Fame; Renewal; Highest Good; Aquarian
XVIII Moon Dreams; Monthly Cycles; Feminine; The Unknown
XIX Sun Birth; Sun God; Masculine; Children; Vitality; Risen Christ
XX Judgment Harvest; Karma; Hearing a Call; NDE; Annunciation
XXI The World All That Is; Humanity; Totality; Completion; Unity; Brotherhood

Of course, the fact that these are archetypes means that their manifestation and permutation in myth, art and life take myriad forms. For example, a variation of the Devil archetype would be Voldemort (“He Who Shall Not Be Named”) from the Harry Potter novels. It’s no coincidence that the parsel-tongued villain  is associated with Slytherin and represented by a snake; after all, in Christian mythos, a serpent embodied “the devil” when tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden story.

Train Croppe 300
The Train (Chariot) from the Snowland Deck
From Ben Hur to Speed Racer, The Chariot—and the “need for speed”—is yet another archetype imbedded in our consciousness. The star-crossed Romeo and Juliet aptly portray The Lovers, while blind Lady Justice, King Solomon and Ma’at exemplify Justice.

Archetypes surround us, often appearing in our own relationship dynamics, emotional reactions and career choices. By becoming familiar with archetypal patterns, we can better understand the world, others and ourselves. Through this increased awareness, we can then take a “big picture” view of circumstances, inviting fresh perspectives, compassion and equanimity.

While many utilize the Tarot for divination or even fortunetelling—especially in terms of random selection—these mystical cards can also be used consciously for meditation, contemplation, problem solving, brainstorming, spiritual nourishment, journaling, dialogue, creative writing, inspiration, affirmation and manifestation.

When you immerse yourself in the realm of archetypes, your world will become richer--and the Tarot remains one of the most reliable (not to mention portable!) tour guides around.

-- Janet

Card images from the Snowland Deck