Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hangin’ With the Empress

One of the fun questions at the recent Reader’s Studio 2010 in New York was, “Do you know your birth cards?” Somewhere in my tarot travels I had run across this, calculated it and determined myself to be Hanged Man/Empress or, as one RS10 attendee corrected me, that’s Empress/ Hanged Man, thank you! Empresses are like that. You understand.

I was actually initially uncomfortable with the idea of birth cards or even a significator card at all. It’s a kind of “don’t fence me in” thing for me. Some readers will select one of the cards from the deck to represent the sitter. I don’t. It’s a matter of personal choice. When I first started reading tarot in high school, I identified with the High Priestess. I mentioned before I like the HP because she’s the library lady/nerd of the tarot, the guardian of mysteries. When you’re in high school reading tarot, you probably think of yourself as guarding mysteries. Now that I’m older, I’m glad to find a mystery with both hands. I think I do find them more often now but I’m a lot more comfortable with them than I was when I was in high school. I think that’s the process of unfolding knowledge anyway. There are some advantages to being older. But it’s interesting to me that the next card after the High Priestess in the tarot is the Empress, my birth card. My assignment as the High Priestess apparently was a temporary position on my way to my real job.

This works for me. I’ve always been interested in the creative urge in arts, writing, needlework, landscape, even computer programming. And I always wanted to foster creativity in others rather than guarding it from the everyday world like the HP. Fostering creativity is a very “Empress” thing to do.

Not to badmouth the glorious corn and soybean fields of central Illinois, but when I lived there years ago, I craved any shift in the landscape. I stalked creativity with all the ardor of a hunter after its quarry, a cat after a spider. I found it too. There was a terrific dinner theatre in the biggest barn I’d ever been in, good food and good fun. I bought cheap season tickets to the theatre at the private college near my house. I chased the small town festivals in the summer and found my favorite local artist, Gerry Erley. With my usual lack of self-restraint, I bought many of his pastels, telling him, “Gerry, you make Illinois look like someplace someone would want to live!” This, of course, says more about me than about Illinois, since there are plenty of reasons to want to live there. But his landscapes are transformational, evocative. One of my favorites is a view of a pond and a barn that has a sort of aura about it. Gerry patiently explained to me that pastels often have this quality and this was actually a view from his friend’s backyard one morning when he had a tremendous hangover. What ended up in the picture was so much more ethereal than an aspirin or hair of the dog. Gerry used to list me as having a “major collection” of his works. I was a patroness of the arts.

When I learned my birth cards, though, I was a little surprised to find I had two. Besides the Empress, there is also the Hanged Man. I loved Rachel Pollack’s discussion of the Hanged Man at BATS 2009. She talked about the choice the Hanged Man makes. When the card is right side up, the Hanged Man has consciously chosen to follow his own path, even if it separates him from society; upside down and he’s given up his own path to conform to society.

It was during that discussion that I realized that the bird that I use as my icon is a representation of both the Empress and the Hanged Man. The bird is the female of her species and she is hanging upside down, looking at the world her way. And I recognized that that’s the difference I see in myself, something I like about me, something about the creative, intuitive and actually, in the truest sense of the word, synthetic way that I approach just about everything. The Empress/Hanged Man has grown comfortable in her own upside-down skin.

This evidences itself in so many things I do. Today, I noticed it when I was cooking.

So first off, I didn’t really mean to cook today. I thought my husband was going to do that. He likes to cook and we talked about recipes and ideas the night before. I thought I was fostering the creative process. I found out this morning that I was actually doing the creating. He had invited a friend of ours over to pick up baseball tickets and actually had something of a tea party brunch in mind. One thing that happens when two extraverts marry is that they make the often erroneous assumption that the other person has expressed themselves fully. We then are confused to find out that a detail or two might have been omitted. For instance, the detail today was that I was doing the cooking. After we got that figured out, I sent him off to the market and stood looking at the open recipe book. And the Empress/Hanged Man took over.

I like recipe books. I think of them as interesting suggestions on what to cook. They are just a little too linear for me to feel comfortable actually following the directions in a recipe, especially when I’m doing this on a Saturday morning as an unexpected activity. And just about anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a lot better at following suggestions than directions. A fine point, I admit.

The menu had solidified itself enough in my mind last night that I had slept well. We had determined that my favorite salad (mixed greens heavy on the arugula, onions, sliced red pears, walnuts and bleu cheese with a vinaigrette dressing), plus some egg frittata-cheesy-thinger, plus, the “snails” we jokingly promised our friend, which turned out to be the forbidden fruit of Pillsbury’s orange rolls would be just enough. If you put those orange rolls on a pan and turn the outside tail out, you get a roughly snail-shaped roll covered in that yummy orange frosting that cannot be good for your blood sugar. But now I was faced with that egg thingamajig.

So, in true Bippety Boppety Boo Empress/Hanged Man fashion, I made up a recipe and, if I must be forced to brag about my own cooking, it was really good! I wanted quiche but I didn’t have time to make a crust, and felt a little guilty about a crusted item when I was already planning for the all-too-sinful “snail” rolls. So I improvised. If you try it, let me know if you like it! Also, I’m pretty sure you can make this in a much more healthy version than I did with Egg Beaters, turkey bacon, lowfat Swiss cheese, and skim milk.

Marcia’s Crustless Quiche

8 eggs

8 slices of bacon

½ cup of diced green onion

¼ cup of chopped fresh parsley

6 oz. shredded Swiss cheese

3 cups of half and half

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

¼ tsp of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray glass 8”x8” baking dish with release agent (e.g., Pam). Cook bacon until crispy; blot and crumble. Line bottom of baking dish with crumbled bacon so that entire bottom of dish is covered. Cover the bacon with 6 oz. shredded Swiss cheese. Using a wire whisk, beat eggs just until mixed. Add half and half and beat until well mixed. Stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg, parsley and onions. Pour egg mixture over bacon and cheese. Cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour until top is puffy and slightly browned. Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes.

Serve with salad and sweet rolls for and elegant easy brunch. Also serve with Brook Bond tea with cream and sugar. Add friend and her fascinating stories about her recent trip to Viet Nam. It is a recipe for delight!


Want to know how to find out your tarot birth cards? Here’s a site that will calculate yours for you at The Tarot School. Thanks, as always, to Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone and their always fascinating insights to Tarot!

Best wishes!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Still Time to Sign Up for Tarot Basics Workshop June 6, 2010

Tarot Basics Workshops 2010: I will be teaching four workshops on tarot in 2010. To enroll, you may contact me at 707-235-4211 or Angel Heart 4 You at 707-745-2024.

Angel Heart 4 You
501 First St.
Benicia, CA 94510

Tarot Card Basics Workshop


Air - Thinking Tarot. An Introduction to the 78 Cards - Sunday, February 28, 2010

Earth - Touching Tarot. History, Myth and the Tarot - Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fire - Inspired Tarot. Collecting, Writing and Creating Tarot - Sunday, September 19, 2010

Water - Feeling Tarot. Beginning Reading - Sunday, November 14, 2010

TIME: 3:00pm - 5:00pm


Touching Tarot. History, Myth and the Tarot - Join me for a fun romp through the history and myths about Tarot.  Answer burning questions like:  Is it OK to sleep with more than one tarot deck under your pillow?  Where did tarot come from?  What do you mean, tarot is a game?  Enrich your own readings with this deeper dive (with floatation device) into the mysterious and amazing world of tarot.

Class members are encouraged to bring their own decks if they have them. If they do not already have a deck, they can borrow one during the class but they are encouraged to obtain their own deck of cards for further study. AH4Y has some decks available for purchase.

Note: This is a class on tarot, not oracle cards. While oracle cards and other types of cards will be discussed in the second class, the focus of these classes will be on tarot. We will be reviewing both the major arcana (22 cards) and minor arcana (56 cards), the complete deck of 78 cards.

Price per person per class is $35

Best wishes!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

At Long Last, Love

I knew a man, but not so very well,

His secret he could to no one tell,

Until his kind and fluffy wife did expire

Then would he choose to show himself entire.

He bought the finest fitted outerwear

And traveled freely first class everywhere

In pent up rage, with once-hidden love aglow

And a well-formed paid companion in tow.

Cancer. In vanity he could not bear to endure

Disfigurement that might have meant a cure,

He learned almost too late his family’s devotion,

Fortune spent, neither nature nor choice the magic potion.

Truth will out, often with a sharp blade at its side.

Closet’s closest friend, the mirror, hangs outside.

The fragrance of the violet is forgiveness’ scent.

Oh spring up gently towards us, twig, when you are bent.

It was not the secret that swordlike ran us through,

But the fury aimed at all his own when he at last was true.

The Moon shows but one face to us from up above.

How far must we all travel until, at long last, love?

For him and for those who loved him, who are dear to me.
Best wishes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Lady in Her Garden

My friend Ruth sent me a snapshot of my old house in Illinois today. It was like seeing an old friend, catching up. I mean the house. I miss Ruth and her partner Tana, too. Ah, but the house! There are children’s toys scattered outside and the neighbors must have cut down the enormous maple tree that encroached on my backyard property line, shading the entire back yard. It brought back memories of things that almost worked out.

I had landed a job as a programmer with a major insurance company making more money that I had ever thought possible. It wasn’t a king’s ransom. It probably qualifies today for assistance. But then it was wonderful. And I was so tired of living in apartments where the noises were other people’s noises and the parking was uncertain. I wanted a place of my own. Finding one was a bit of a challenge, but I did. It had been a very rainy year with some of the worst flooding in years and I had found out the benefit of looking for houses in the worst weather possible. I could tell which basements were dry. When mold is not your friend, this becomes important. The guy I was dating at the time was a landlord with a creative eye for, well, eyesores that could be turned into something livable with a little effort. This old house was going to be my old house.

The house had been built in 1896 or 1897, a gap in recordkeeping making it uncertain. It was built by a single man who later married. By the time I came on the scene, all the cute Queen Anne gingerbread was replaced by “sensible” aluminum siding, all the leaded glass windows had been replaced by “sensible” plain glass and all the lovely hardwood floors had been covered in various hideous carpets and linoleum. And it was worse than that. The house had been divided into two apartments, an upper and a lower. In order to fit a bathroom where no bathroom had ever been intended, some handyman had sawed through a supporting beam to make way for the toilet plumbing. This resulted in the awful suspicion that each time you sat upon the throne, you were headed through the second floor all the way to that dry basement. But it had high ceilings, separate furnaces for a sort of “zone heating” option, lots of space, and a mature although neglected yard. It was very easy to convert back to a single family home by the removal of one door. It was a Victorian monstrosity in my price range. It was, in short, perfect!

Buying an old house is a lot like a second marriage. You realize your sweetie has been around the block, but you don’t always know which blocks until you really get to know them. You’re prepared to ignore or work around the past as long the present and future are headed in the right direction. But there are surprises.

For one thing, I found out rather quickly what will and will not grow under maples, mulberries and chestnuts. Violets, yes. My whole front yard was full of violets. Some poor fool came by one day and offered to take out all those violets and replace them with grass; he left quickly with the verbal equivalent of cat scratches. Spring bulbs, yes! I filled the back yard up with spring bulbs, taking advantage of the early spring sunshine when trees are bare. I had jonquils, scilla, tulips in every color, hyacinth, snow drops and grape hyacinth completely covering the back yard. What a show! By the time the mulberries and maples leafed out, the show was over and what meager grass grew in near-total darkness shared its space with several varieties of hosta for a jungle-y feel. The Breck’s catalogue was my candy store. I found out you work around maple trees, especially ones that are too big around to hug and have foliage so dense you needed a flashlight on a summer day. So that meant, tomatoes, no. But wait! There was one little patch in the back yard, my sunbeam, capable of sustaining tomato life. But it moved. I planted my tomatoes in pots and put them in a little red wagon. When the sunbeam moved, I moved the wagon. Perfect!

And I found myself in the curious and possibly never to be repeated position of actually having too much space. There were rooms I didn’t go into for a week at a time because, well, because I didn’t. Even when my father shipped me a vanload of antique shop leftovers, I still had the downstairs turret room with nothing in it but the stereo, a drop-leaf table and a couple of chairs. It was in this room I had my most startling paranormal experience. But it wasn’t the first one in that house.

I was in the downstairs kitchen (remember, two apartments, two kitchens) which I considered THE kitchen one early evening. I was happily sautéing some liver and onions, a private indulgence I can share with few others, and playing with my then-new puppy Rusty. Rusty was a bouncy Cardigan Welsh corgi and he loved playing with a tennis ball. All was quiet besides sauté and happy dog noises when I turned around to find a puddle of liquid in the middle of the kitchen floor. “Naughty Rusty!” I thought, putting him in his crate to keep from making a small problem worse.

I wiped up the puddle and could not help noticing that it actually wasn’t a “Rusty puddle.” It was just water. I looked everywhere for a leak, including going upstairs to the balancing act bathroom, turned things on and off, checked the ceiling for dampness, with no result. There was no dried trail from under the sink, no drip, no splash. It had just been a puddle. Shrugging it off and with Rusty safely snoozing in his crate, I resumed my work at the counter to fix dinner. Only a few minutes had passed when I turned around and, you guessed it, there was the puddle again. I checked everything again, my L&O growing cool and unappetizing by the minute. Finally, after wiping up the puddle again with no apparent origin, I said loudly in a verbal To Whom It May Concern, “OK, you guys, stop scaring people!” It never happened again.

Later that year, my father, with all good intentions of clearing out his own house, made me take home my golf clubs and bag. I say “made” because in truth I don’t golf. Good walk spoiled, the whole shebang. After the 6 hour drive home from Dad’s house, I dragged the bag and clubs into the house and leaned them against the wall next to the front door, dashed upstairs to see what havoc the cats had wreaked in my absence and settled in front of the TV. All of a sudden, I heard a crash, like glass breaking, like someone driving into the house, something bad. I dashed downstairs to find my bag and clubs lying on the floor against the far wall of the living room, some 20 feet away from where I had left them, doors still locked, windows still closed, but strewn at the end of the living room.

To Whom It May Concern, “OK, I’m putting the golf clubs away now!” And I put them in the closet. No further flinging of objects occurred after that. Crud, I thought. Just my luck to get some neat-freak ghost.

My last experience, as I mentioned, was the most startling and was in the downstairs turret room. It was winter, one of the bright white days after a snowfall. The afternoon sun streamed into the tall turret windows and warmed the room. I was standing in the closet doorway realizing that some well-intentioned person had first filled the archway in the wall at the back of the closet once connecting the turret room to the dining room with a simple painted bookcase. I was happy with the bookcase since I always have too many books. But later someone had built a very flimsy wall out of chipwood paneling, installed two sets of sliding doors and a rod across the length of it to make a closet. I hated that closet and that awful paneling. I stood there in mental renovation and determined that the result of taking out that paneling had a cascade effect that would result in…tearing out the ceiling in the living room. Ack!

It was at this moment of deep contemplation standing in the bright afternoon sunlight staring into the problem closet that I realized that there was, in fact, someone standing next to me. He too stared into the closet with consternation. He was about 5’6”, very slim build, with very thin light brown hair, a round head, steel-rimmed glasses, a long-sleeved white cotton shirt with sleeve garters to hold them up accountant-style, rust-brown coarse-woven wool pants and I never got to his shoes because I was so flabbergasted. He never looked at me. He just rubbed his chin and looked irritated at the closet. And then, he was not there. No Star Trek sparkles, no wispy dematerialization, no Cheshire cat smile. Just gone. And me with no camera. Alone, except for misbehaving animals, all of whom were a-snooze elsewhere in the house. The “holy grail” of paranormal experiences and I can’t prove a thing!

I lived there almost four years before moving to California to a new life and new adventures. It took a long time to sell the Money Pit and finally went for the price of a pretty good, not very good car. Yet I missed my house. It was a house of compromises, of dreams almost fulfilled, of space shared with the unseen. It was my “fixer-upper” life. While I lived there, I was pretty sure I was well on my way to becoming the Cat Lady in the neighborhood. My friends at work could not understand why a single woman would want to live in such a big, old, crazy house in the first place.

“Because I can stretch out my arms and not touch anything,” I told them. “Because I can make ‘rug angels’ in the awful shag carpet downstairs and no one will care but me.” But mostly, like the 9 of Pentacles, the Lady in Her Garden, having built my funny little world around me, it was mine.

Thanks, Ruth!

Best wishes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Incompleat Workes of Beth the Jester

Oh, wow, I’m breathless! I just received my latest Beth Seilonen decks, among them, the Tarot of the Red Jester. And I also just received the originals of a deck not otherwise published, Owls in the Night. Beth lives and breathes art and tarot in Maine. I would like to say I’m one of her oldest fans, but I think there are people older than I am who love her work too. At least I hope so.

I first saw mention of her work on Aeclectic Tarot where some of her other fans were oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over her decks. I had to see what the fuss was about. And what a delight! Now, I know that there’s a time and place for those bite-you-in-the-neck-scream-and-swoon decks; I have those too, trust me. Even the relentlessly optimistic have a dark side. But Beth’s work fills a gap in the whimsy department like no other tarot artist. So I’ve become one of her frequent patrons of the arts.

Besides those two new arrivals, my collection of Beth’s work is, to my mind, small: Another Way, Arcana Cats, Fishy Tarot (true, I’m a fish-nut but I love these fish), Foxy Arcana, Funky Lighthouse, the incomparable Isabel Snail, the Pink Arcana, Purple Penguin, Home Sweet Home, Split View, Tree Women, Watchers, Whimsy Tarot, Witches II and Jester’s Tarot (not to be confused with Tarot of the Red Jester). It is by no means a complete collection! Yet to be snagged are The Maine, Sun Conure, Symbolically Simplistic, Hues, Sails, Baby of Thine, well, good grief, you guys, just go look at all this lovely stuff!

Beth’s decks aren’t just whimsy and color. Her trees bear messages of the harm we do to the environment, the preciousness of our earth, the delight of life and the enormity of circumstance as viewed by the individual. Take a close look at her Watchers and you’ll start looking over your shoulder. Her Tree Women have deep roots. Even bouncy little Nestor the Jester in the Pink Arcana shows the emotion and ambiguity of the tarot much deeper than his pink rolly-polliness may at first glance convey. The Jester makes us laugh, but stay a moment because he (or is that she?) makes us think too. The Jester plucks the conscience of the king as Shakespeare might suggest. Even slow-moving, unsuspecting, gentle and delicate Isabel Snail can ooze up to rest on the wrong golf ball of life with dire consequences. As in that funny-but-true song, “Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug.”

Beth’s limited edition decks are easy to read with but personally, I don’t usually want to take the risk of ruining them with shuffling and use. I do like to get them out to admire and meditate. Isabel Snail’s Tower feels just like October 2002 for me. I can still feel that *whoosh* of the wind I caught just before life hit me right square in the snail shell. The Foxy Arcana “Yearn” shows we all have dreams, the fox and the chickens: If you have sweet little dreams, you sleep; if you have obsessive dreams, you’re up all night.

Just this past weekend, though, I broke my own rule about reading with Beth’s cards. Owls in the Night is so tiny (most of Beth’s decks are “normal” playing card size, but the Owls deck is a bit smaller) that it easily slips into my purse along with what seems to be several hundred pounds of other stuff in there (the Hubs swears this is where the missing Mr Hoffa may be…gotta love those vintage Dooney & Burkes for durability). I read for a private party, some delightful ladies, one of whom had been the successful bidder on my silent auction offering at the Benicia Vallejo Humane Society’s Barkitecture fundraiser. Our hostess plied me with the always-welcome endless glass of water and a glazed donut, plus treated me to a break between readings with a walk in her backyard full of roses and a glorious view of the Carquinez Straits. As a special treat, each sitter got to pick an owl’s card as their closing message for the day. It ended what might have been a “heavy” session on a light note.

Each of Beth’s decks has come with its own hand-decorated box and usually a little drawstring pouch. They are generally laminated, numbered, signed and easy to hold. Beth’s note cards are nearly as much fun as her decks. And, with Beth’s permission, I wanted to share some examples here with you.

The best news of all is that Beth appears to be nowhere near the end of her creativity with tarot. Her Red Jester comes in two alternatives, true to her tailored to the customer’s wish, in its limited edition. For those who want only to be guided by the image, there is the choice of having the card interpretations printed on additional cards supplied with the deck. For those collectors who want to preserve both her images and words together on each card, there is the choice to have the Red Jester “with interpretation.” In addition, there’s a silk cloth, 11” x 11” in choice of 4 colors. I picked “with” and red, being subtle in my collecting.

I’m quite pleased to note that we have available to us here the (happily) Incompleat Workes of Beth the Jester, a whimsical Maine artist and mom, with wonderful new visions of the funny, scary, angry, sad, joyful and loving world of tarot. Encore! Encore! May your inks and watercolors never run dry!

You can find Beth’s decks through this website:, on Etsy, on eBay and if you’re really nice, she’ll accept your friend invitation on Facebook. Please write to her to encourage her to come to this year’s BATS (Bay Area Tarot Symposium) too!


Psst! Registration for BATS just opened and they accept PayPal. The dates are August 28-29, 2010 in San Francisco. It’s loads of fun for tarot enthusiasts and always features fabulously informed experts and a luscious marketplace. For more information and registration, go to

Best wishes!