All About Love: A Meditation on The Lovers

by Marianne in , ,


If you've been here before, you probably know that when it comes to writing, I like to follow my whims. If it's been quiet on the blog front, which it has, it's because at the moment I'm mostly sharing my writing in my occasional email newsletter (that's where this piece originally appeared). If you'd like to keep up with my latest tarot musings and news, you can sign up here

The Lovers from Tarot in Space! and The Wild Unknown Tarot.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about love. In a little over a month, it'll be a year since my last relationship ended, and throughout that time, I've thought a lot about what place love ought to have in my life. I also wonder what it means to love well, not just your lover, but your family, your friends, your community, your clients and colleagues, your work.

I recently devoured bell hooks' meditation on this subject, All About Love, and it left me with a lot to ponder. hooks borrows her definition of love from the psychiatrist M. Scott Peck (who in turn follows the work of psychoanalyst Erich Fromm), who describes love as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." I haven't yet managed to fully understand and integrate that as a definition, but suffice it to say that lightbulbs are going off in the deep recesses of my mind! I hope this idea - one that seems simultaneously obvious and world-shaking - gives you pause, too.

hooks draws on Peck further, quoting that "love is an act of will - namely both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love." Again, this seems both obvious and revolutionary. What if we didn't think of love - in any of its forms - so much as a feeling that steals over us as a course of action we willed ourselves to undertake?

As it turns out, the trusty tarot already has this idea well and truly covered. Our friends in the Major Arcana, The Lovers, are all about helping to guide our choices. We're all familiar with the Rider Waite Smith Lovers, the union of a woman and a man presided over by an angel, but unless you're Marseille Tarot savvy, you may not have noticed that earlier iterations of this card depict a man, struck by cupid's arrow, choosing between two women (see Rachel Pollack's excellent book, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, for a more extensive history of both these cards). The notion of choice, particularly in matters of love, has always been at the forefront of this card's meaning.

The Lovers from the Smith-Waite Tarot Centennial Edition and the Tarot of Jean Noblet.

Here we have a marriage, ordained by spirit, freely entered into, of opposites, complements, chosen loves. Of course, when we look at the Rider Waite Smith's imagery, we must acknowledge that not everyone is straight, not everyone believes in marriage, not everyone sees their gender represented. As we get better at listening to each other and seeing each other's unique identities, we know that this isn't the best way to represent the choice to love and to commit. Nonetheless, the ideas here remain powerful. This is love in service of spiritual growth and inner unity, and when we draw this card, we're being invited to choose that path.

While this card is usually associated with romantic love, its lessons about choice have a much broader application. Just as The Lovers must choose the right partner if they are to reap the spiritual benefits of an angel-blessed union, so too must we choose what and whom we love, and choose again and again to love well so that our spirits - and the spirits of the people and places and projects we love - can grow and flourish.

What does this mean, practically speaking? I don't think bell hooks wants to make a prescription, and for my part, well, I'm still figuring that out. For now, though, let's chew on this idea that when we love well, we're striving to nourish each other's - and our own - spirits. And that it's through our will that we make this commitment. Every minute we get to choose to love, or not, and choose again.

What are your thoughts on The Lovers - or on love in general? Love it? Hate it? Been there, done that and bought the t-shirt? Leave a comment below or share your thoughts on Twitter. I'd love to hear your perspective!


Further Reading, October 2016

by Marianne in


Another month gone by, another collection of excellent reading! Here's what got my mental and spiritual juices flowing in October.

Around Here

Things have been a little quiet on the blog of late. I oscillate between being furious at myself for not writing at all, and permissively accepting of fallow periods where nothing gets done. Some middle ground would be nice, but oh well! C'est la vie, and all that. I did manage to dive into why the Seven of Cups was appearing so frequently in the Weather Report, which yielded interesting results, and to answer 10 Questions Every Tarot Reader Should Answer about my approach to the cards. 

October was also an exciting month for new decks arriving in the shop. The Mayhem Tarot is keeping things creepily cool, while Tarot in Space! ticks all of your retro futurist boxes. The Small Spells Tarot has impressed me to no end with its clean lines and thoughtful symbolic cohesion, and of course, I'm besotted with Mary Elizabeth Evans' new oracle deck, Iris (pictured above). Also, after a period of absence, Vessel is back in stock. Huzzah! Watch this space, because there's more goodness coming soon. 

On the Bookshelf

As ever, I had a few books on the go throughout the month, but standouts include We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (who can pass on gothic familial horror about murderesses? Not I), and King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes. The latter was recommended to me as part of a truly excellent tarot reading from Jessa Crispin, and although the book served a purpose in my life last month, I think what I'm actually recommending here is a reading from Jessa, because she's great, and because the one thing I love more than a helpful tarot reading is a a thoughtful book recommendation, and she offers both. Book a reading with Jessa here (seriously, do it!).

The Best of Elsewhere

Ahh, the thorny question of questions! Sometimes I think half the battle of reading tarot is figuring out what you want to know and how to ask for it, so naturally I loved Hilary of Tarot by Hilary's suggestions for asking the cards good questions (you can also see my take on this topic here).

It may surprise you to know that I'm not overly fussed about rituals and consecrations of my tarot cards. When I get a new deck, I'm usually too excited to bust it out of the packet and play with it to worry too much about full moon charging or smudging or whatever. I like to think reverence and sacredness accretes with use! With that said, I'll always stop and listen when Mistress of Ceremonies, Briana Saussy, has something to say, and her guide to blessing a tarot deck is no exception. 

Sarah von Bargen's blog is filled with gems, but I particularly enjoyed these 37 blogging and business tips Sarah shared for her birthday. Whether you're curious about blog formatting or writing practice or networking, this list will have you covered!

Ever since Krista Tippett interviewed my most beloved poet, Mary Oliver, On Being has been one of my favourite podcasts. This week's episode is an interview with the Irish poet Michael Longley, and it had me laughing and crying in equal measures. 

Artist and deck creator, Rebekah Erev, has just launched Hebrew Priestess TV, where she'll be talking about, among other things, her beautiful and unique oracle, the Moon Angels deck. What can I say, I just love Rebekah's thoughtful, spiritual, and zero-bullshit approach to practically everything! You can buy the Moon Angels cards from Rebekah, or from right here at Two Sides Tarot

That's what I've been reading and loving. What about you? Leave me a recommendation in the comments, or come say hi on Twitter!

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Further Reading, July 2016

by Marianne in


It's that time again - time for this month's reading roundup. I've been devouring books and music this month, as well as interviewing some amazing deck creators and inviting new versions of old favourites into the shop. Here's what I loved in July!

Around Here

I was so honoured to share a forecast for Scorpio as part of Siobhan Renee's legendary collaborative Tarot Scopes. This project is so cool - not only do you an awesome scope every month, you get it in a new and different voice each time. It's such a wonderful little slice of our community! You can find forecasts for your signs this month here.

I wasn't able to blog as regularly as I would've liked this month, but I did manage to post the next instalment in my now very sporadic series on the Wooden Tarot, on the court cards from the suit of Plumes. Birds and arrows ahoy!

I was also blessed with two wonderful guests on the blog this month. Rebekah Erev kindly shared with us a little more about her Malakh Halevanah/Moon Angel cards, and I swear every word that comes from this wonderful, powerful priestess artist wizard is gold! You can find the Moon Angel cards in the shop here

Art Nouveau artist Matt Hughes also stopped by to talk about his hopefully forthcoming Ethereal Visions Tarot. The Kickstarter for this deck is in its final days and still needs a little nudge, so if you like pretty, pretty tarot decks, do consider backing it!

In shop news, the reversed edition of the Spirit Speak Tarot landed this month, and it. is. delicious. Y'all know I'm a big fan of the original, but folks, I may even like this version of it more. It's so dark and rich, fit to lose oneself in! If you're so inclined, you can read my interview from a few months ago with this deck's creator here.

On the Bookshelf

I read greedily in the month of July, so there are too many books to list in detail. The standout favourite was The Lonely City by Olivia Laing, one of those indefinable pieces of non-fiction that might be memoir, might be art history, might be cultural studies, but is actually all those things at once and more. This book felt like spiritual food so rich it almost hurts to eat it! 

A voice from beyond the veil might have whispered to me in a dream, for I now forget how Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner found its way onto my radar. I was even puzzled when I received a notification from my library that it was ready to collect, as I couldn't even recall being familiar with the title, but I'm so glad it has made its way into my life. Another gem from Virago's Modern Classics range, Lolly Willowes is a funny and biting novel about women's independence, life in the country, and, naturally, witchcraft. 

It's been a long time coming, but I finally picked up a copy of The Raven's Prophecy Tarot, by Maggie Stiefvater. I'm a huge fan of her books, and although I finished it months ago, thoughts of The Raven Cycle continue to destroy my heart on the daily, so I thought it fitting that it spread its tendrils into my tarot work, too. I'm still in two minds about whether I'll trim those orange borders off. We'll see!

I've also been listening to a lot of, of all things, Tori Amos. Every moment of my life from ages 16 to about 21 were soundtracked by her music, but she's not an artist I've needed much in the last decade or so. Until now, apparently! It's nice to be reminded that From the Choirgirl Hotel remains one of my most-beloved albums, even if I haven't heard it in years. 

The Best of Elsewhere

Perhaps because I've been greedily reading books, I haven't read all that much online this month. A few gems, though: 

It isn't new, but I return to this post about an amor fati approach to life and magic by Carolyn Elliott again and again. It's a long read, and each time I revisit something different piques my interest. 

This interview with the editor of the forthcoming Asian American Tarot. This looks like a really amazing project, representing Asian American experience and exploring mental health struggles and self-representation. You can back the Kickstarter for this deck here.

I've already shared my undying love for the Tarot del Fuego by Ricardo Cavolo, so no surprises, I'm loving seeing it pop up more and more in the community. Paloma's deck interview takes a look at what it's like to work with this weird and wonderful creation.

I really enjoyed Ten Questions Every Tarot Reader Must Answer over on Dana's blog, Lavender Moon. It really got me thinking about how I define myself as a reader, what's important, what isn't. Expect more on this in the future!

STOP THE PRESSES, this is amazing (and I haven't even tried it yet!). Jeanna of Girlboos Woo has, as usual, outdone herself with this tarot spread for content planning. Essential reading for all internet mystics, and on my weekend schedule to test out!

Ok, that's it for me this month. What have you been reading? You know I love a recommendation! Share yours in the comments, or come say hi on Twitter!

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On the Bookshelf: The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin

by Marianne in


It's been a while since we've had a book review around these parts, but I think Jessa Crispin's The Creative Tarot deserves a mention because of its unique approach to the cards, and because, unlike many a tarot book, it kept me reading from cover to cover. Supporting creativity is a big part of the work I do with clients (you can even order a reading specifically for your creative projects!), and something I'm almost constantly thinking about in my own life. Naturally, I would be gripped by a book that promised to fuse these two fields in a new way.

Crispin's new tarot book first came to my attention when one my un-tarot-y friends (is it wrong to refer to them as my muggle friends, I wonder?) sent me a link to its write-up in the New Yorker. It might be unusual for a tarot book to be reviewed in The New Yorker, but it isn't a surprise to see an author with such literary chops as Crispin's snagging real estate in what is probably the world's most beloved literary magazine. A long-time critic, writer, and creator of the lit culture website, Bookslut, Crispin is having her moment to come out of the broom closet and say yes, smart people with many degrees and prestigious careers respect and use tarot. 

Of course, around here we knew that already, and I do admit to issuing a blinding eye-roll when I read The New Yorker's chosen headline, "Making Tarot Literary Again." Remind me, when wasn't it? After relishing my moment of snark, though, I thought, ok, I better find out what this is all about.

As you'd expect from the title, The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to the Inspired Life examines the tarot in terms of its application to creative practice. This has always been a subject of great interest to me, both as a maker of things and as a tarot reader, so once I regained my post-eye-roll vision, I got a little excited. Most readers know how powerful the cards can be to shake up stale ideas and offer support in moments of creative crisis, but this book goes above and beyond in championing that as a practice.

The book offers a moderately good introduction to the art of tarot, as Crispin tries (successfully, I think) to engage both total newcomers and more experienced readers. Crispin kicks off by sharing a little bit of tarot history and her own tarot origin story. To settle in the cautious beginners (ie, all those sceptical New Yorker readers), there's a Q&A about what deck to use, whether you can read for yourself, and what to do if you're an atheist (spoiler alert - don't panic!). The author reassures that no crystals and incense are necessary to reap the benefits of self-reflection with the cards (note that the only reason a piece of clear quartz appears in the above photograph is because that's what actual mystics have on hand to hold an uncooperative book cover closed).

Crispin then strikes out into the meatiest section of the book, her card-by-card index of meanings, associations, applications. The Rider-Waite-Smith is her chosen deck for this book, and the meanings are based on the traditional lexicon of that deck. Crispin does stress, though, that her suggested interpretations needn't be applied only to work with the RWS, and in her image descriptions, she gives some leeway for non-traditional card depictions. For each card, we get a general description of the card image (as well as a picture taken from the RWS), some ideas about the story each card tells, and then that story's application to an aspect or aspects of the creative process.

Then, the best part - that application is illustrated with an example from an artist's biography, a nugget of popular culture, or a myth or fairytale. For example, Crispin uses Nikolay Gogol's burning of half of his opus, Dead Souls, to illustrate the destructive fear and anxiety of the Nine of Swords. Temperance's blending of opposites to create a new path is exemplified by David Bowie's genre- and gender-bending period in the 70's. St. Teresa of Avila's fevered holy visions demonstrate the lightning bolt inspiration of the Ace of Wands.

For me, this was the juiciest bit of the book, and I surprised myself by reading this part of it from start to finish. These days, it's unheard of for me to read a book of card meanings from cover to cover, but I was seduced by Crispin's storytelling and eager to see how her unique vision would interpret the next card. Not to mention, I'm a total studio voyeur - I can't get enough of stories about the work practices of creative people (FYI, if that's your kind of thang, see Daily Rituals by Mason Currey). 

Having said that, I didn't agree with all of her interpretations and correspondences (e.g., she associates Cups with spirituality, which has always been a fiery Wands trait in my book), but I came to appreciate that as one of the book's strengths. The interpretations offered may not always be traditional, they may not always resonate with my approach, but they're so obviously born out of many years of direct work with the cards in the context of creative practice. Crispin has a clear and unique voice that shines through in her approach to each card and the deck as a whole. There's plenty here to spark consideration and debate for seasoned readers. 

Wait - did I say the stories of creatives was the best part? I think I was wrong. The best-best part has got to be the recommended materials that Crispin offers for each card. An inspired idea! For the Eight of Coins, we're dispatched to view Chuck Close's Self-Portrait, for the Page of Cups, to read Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil. The Queen of Swords can be found in the works of Diane Arbus, and The Hierophant in The Essential Rosa Luxemburg. Films, photographs, paintings, and books are presented as a means to deepen our understanding of each archetype. It's a tactic I've employed myself, and more than anything, I think its value lies in teaching us students of the tarot to pay attention, always. Mythologies and their attendant lessons lurk around every corner!

After working her way through the deck, Crispin offers a series of thoughtful spreads to address quandaries and questions that might arise at different points in the creative process. Each spread comes with a sample reading, so you can see her interpretations in action. She also keeps those anxious atheists on board by offering some advice for how to start doing your own readings (look for patterns, look for the story, be calm and trust yourself when you're starting out). To wrap up, there are some tips on how to choose a deck, keeping a journal of your readings, and how to read for someone else. 

The Creative Tarot strikes a good balance between being a gentle introduction for beginners and offering new ideas and substantial-enough content for readers who have been around the block a few times. While I wouldn't recommend it as the sole resource for a total tarot noob (bitch please, that's always going to be Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack - accept no substitutes!), there's more than enough here to get you started. Certainly, if you're a tarot reader looking to expand your creative practice (or that of your clients), this will be an invaluable resource. 

In the weeks since I picked up the book, I've seen it pop up all over the tarot instagram-o-sphere, and also in some unexpected places - for example, artist and creativity guru Austin Kleon has posted about it. There's no doubt that the popularity of tarot is on the rise, and if more people come to use the cards to enhance their earthly experience, all the better. The inimitable Brene Brown cautions that "unused creativity is not benign", and if that is the case, then it would behove both readers of the tarot and readers of The New Yorker to put it to good use! To that end, Jessa Crispin is a great cheerleader to have in your corner, and The Creative Tarot a great resource for your bookshelf. 

Are there any readers of The Creative Tarot in the crowd? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this book, and on supporting creativity with tarot in general! Drop me a line in the comments.

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Trimming Borders, New Acquisitions, Podcasts, and More

by Marianne in ,


Today, I thought, rather than posting a lengthy reading or tarot-related article, I'd just stop in and say hi. Hi! I hope you're well. In case you were wondering, and I know you were, here's what I've been up to this week!

I've discovered a favourite new hobby - trimming the borders off my tarot decks! I've long loved the way borderless cards look, but it wasn't until this past week that I had the right gear (and the courage) to give it a try myself. Look out world, I am addicted! Actually, I've only trimmed down two decks so far - a misprinted edition of the Wildwood Tarot I had, and my old copy of the Cosmic Tarot - but it's through sheer force of will that I haven't taken the knife to every deck I own! They just look so good freed from their borders! The art really opens up. Before I inflict it upon any other decks though, I will spend some time reading with these and see if I still like the borderless vibe. Stay tuned!

In case you're wondering, I bought a small photo trimmer from a craft store to do the bulk of the cutting, and I ordered one of these from ebay to round the corners. I did also wind up using a pair of very small, very sharp craft scissors to tidy the edges, because the trimmer was never totally accurate. It isn't a particularly difficult task, but I would urge caution if you are a perfectionist! It seems almost impossible, to me anyway, to get the trimmed cards 100% matchy matchy. I found that a lot of the images were actually printed slightly crooked on the cards, so trimmed down they do wind up being a little different in size. Also, the backs of the Cosmic Tarot don't match up with the images on the front, so do be mindful of that if you are considering trimming a deck and you think it will bother you. I'm not too fussed, but I can see that one more picky than I might drive themselves mad with it! If you are interested in taking the plunge, Seven Card Spread has an excellent tutorial here

In other news, last week, I added a new acquisition to my collection - the Japaridze Tarot. Ooooh! So pretty. I must admit, I was super excited to bring this one home, but I haven't had a chance at all this week to take it out and play. My week ahead is looking far less busy and social than the week just gone, so I look forward to more quiet evenings at home with the cards. I also have two other decks winging their way to me from overseas. Fingers crossed they make land soon and I can start using them all! 

In book reading news, I haven't dedicated as much time to reading as I would've liked this week, but I am slowly making my way through Phenomenal by Leigh Ann Henion. It's probably unfair to say since I'm only halfway through, but so far the book isn't quite adding up to more than the sum of its parts. It's interesting enough though, and if you like reading about faraway places, it's fun. I will say, too, that her writing about Hawaii, and the experiences she describes with the volcanos, are delightful and moving. If you have any interest in... shall we say, spiritual travel, I think it's worth picking this one up for that chapter alone!

What else has been filling my head? The excellent first episode of the Modern Mystic Podcast - seriously, GET ON THIS TRAIN RIGHT NOW! These gals are major magical babes, and you want to hear what they have to say! I also super enjoyed listening to Elizabeth Gilbert on the Robcast, and I've been epically binging on the inimitable Kelly-Ann Maddox's youtube channel. It's pointless of me to recommend her, because I'm literally the last tarot enthusiast in the known universe to get on board with her amazing, playful, smart, and informative work, so you must know her back to front already. On the off chance you're from some other, as-yet-undiscovered planet, get some Kelly-Ann Maddox in your ear immediately. She's the bomb.

Finally, the last thing rocking my world this week is the Alternative Tarot Network - the most supportive, interesting, and fun tarot community in town! This incredible network is the work of Beth from Little Red Tarot, and I cannot thank her enough for creating this space! THANK YOU, BETH! As far as I know, at the moment the community isn't open for new members, but if you subscribe to the Little Red Tarot Bits and Bobs mailing list, you'll be notified when the doors open again. Trust me, it'll be worth the wait! Plus, Beth's newsletter is great, so you'll want to subscribe anyway!

Before I sign off, I just want to remind you that I am now taking questions for my advice column blog series! If you have a pressing question and want to throw your hat in the ring, drop me a line, and you could score yourself a free tarot reading on your dilemma, right here on the blog! Don't be shy, friends! 

What's rocking your world right now? I'd love to know. Share, if you feel so inclined, in the comments!

Oh, and remember, you can summon me straight into your inbox, so you never miss a post! Subscribe here.