Further Reading, March 2016

March has been a great month for content in my world - books, videos, blog posts... All sorts of enriching fabulousness has crossed my path, challenged my perspective, and flicked switches in my brain this month (not to mention sunsets! Autumm like FTW, y'all!).

There have also been some good reads, if I do say so myself, in these waters at Two Sides Tarot! Don't miss Cameron from The Tarot Parlor, who stopped by to talk tarot and creative writing, The Collective Tarot, and tips for tarot pros and beginners. I also got up close and personal with The Empress in the poetry (well, a poem) of Allan Ginsberg, and ruminated on balance and binaries on the Autumn Equinox.

Of course, there was plenty of goodness to be had elsewhere in March, too! Here's what I've enjoyed this month - 

On the Bookshelf

Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron could actually be the only manual for living that one might ever need. The practices in this book are truly transformative - and "practices" really is the key word, because the whole book is stuffed with transformative exercises that can be put into action, day after day. Pema is a spiritual radical, in the best kind of way!

The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits was my most-relished novel of the month. Ostensibly a caper about rival psychics, Julavits' real interests are death, absence, presence, and mothering. For comparison, I'd say Tartt-meets-Wes-Anderson-meets-a-tiny-bit-of-David-Foster-Wallace - delicious from start to finish.

Always good to have a little poetry on the go, and Black Mesa Poems by Jimmy Santiago Baca is my current fodder. Baca is yet another wonderful American poet championed by Denise Levertov and published by New Directions, so I knew this would be great before I even opened it, and I was not wrong. The American Southwest holds a special place in my faraway, antipodean heart, and this collection is like a little astral gateway to it. 

Around the Internet

An oldie but a goodie from Kelly-Ann Maddox, on ten common dilemmas faced by spiritual business owners. I love it that the advice in almost all instances asks us to come back to our intuition, and let that be the guide for making decisions (with a bit of good sense thrown in, of course!).

Oh, Kickstarter, you tricksy desire machine! There are so many cool decks coming out of the crowdfunding movement right now, and forthcoming Wisdom Oracle Deck by Sophia Wise One is no exception. 

Robert Place shares his tarot origin story (spoiler alert - it is COOL).

I gave a little cheer when I read this pair of blog posts by Hilary Parry and Theresa Reed about part time vs. full time tarot. Like Hilary, when I first started out in tarot business I felt self-conscious about being part time, as if it meant I was less serious or professional. These days, I feel confident in all my different vocations and don't mind saying so, but I still found it so encouraging to be reminded that we're all different creatures and so our businesses and aspirations and commitments are necessarily different. It's all a rich and delicious tapestry!

Evvie Marin of Interrobang Tarot celebrated her one-year blogoversary by sharing a great post on why it's a great idea to keep a tarot blog. If you've been thinking about dipping a toe into the tarot blogging pool, or you're already a blogger and need a little passion refresher, this post will sort you right out! Evvie is also a brilliant artist with a tarot deck in the works. I can't wait for the Black Ink Tarot to make its way into the world, it looks so gorgeous so far!

An interesting article over on Brain Pickings about a new book on intuition (among other things). Obviously, tarot readers don't need to be reminded of the value of this skill, but the book excerpts do offer some interesting perspectives on it. I particularly liked the stress the author places on intuition as being an ability to be developed - newcomers to tarot are often fearful of not being intuitive, when really, intuition is a muscle you strengthen, and not a trait you do or do not possess. Looks like the book could be an interesting read!

Tammy Strobel always brings the goods, and I really loved these reflective prompts that she shared in her weekly link roundup. 

I loved this post over at Siobhan's Mirror about tarot and money (part of the Spring Equinox blog hop - do follow that loop, if you have time, there are some other gems on it!). I've also really been loving Siobhan's posts over at Little Red Tarot.

And speaking of Little Red Tarot, this post from 2014 just popped onto my radar again. It's fair to say that almost everyone in the tarot world owes a debt of gratitude to Pamela Colman-Smith, and Beth's loving tribute is a beautiful celebration of her work.

Always a great reminder - 12 ways to stop feeling jealous on the internet. I've consciously set the intention to approach my time on the internet in the spirit of collaboration rather than competition, so I try to be as aware as I can of any creeping feelings of resentment or envy that might come to mind when sailing the internet sea. Such emotional tides are good chances to check in and see what's really going on (surprise surprise, it's almost never about the object of one's jealousy!). This post has some great suggestions for addressing those feelings in a self-loving and community-nurturing way.

What gems have you been reading or watching or listening to this month? I love a recommendation, so please do leave me one in the comments!

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The Empress's Coffee Pot

Lately, I'm seeing archetypes everywhere. Tarot has been such a big part of my life for years now, but in recent months I've felt our connection deepening and deepening. More than ever before, cards are making themselves felt in my everyday life, sometimes whispering a subtle notion in my ear, sometimes whacking me over the head with an epic solution. Maybe it's the Pisces season, making everything all soupy and psychic, mixing connections and brewing relationships?

Speaking of brewing (stay with me here), I've recently come back to reading poetry as a devotional exercise, something which I haven't done in months. Poetry can be such a gorgeous distillation of divinity, a perfect way to invoke, or awaken, or transmit an idea, a feeling, a vibration. When it feels right, just reading a poem - whether aloud or silently - is all I need to open up a sacred moment. 

When I revisited my poetry shelf, the collection I dragged out was A Book of Luminous Things, an anthology edited by Czeslaw Milosz. After opening it at random, I found myself in the garden of The Empress, with Allen Ginsberg. This impulse to marry up a tarot archetype with a beloved poem has seemingly come out of nowhere, but I must be tapping into that ol' collective unconscious, because Siobhan, of Siobhan's Mirror, has also recently written about exploring tarot and poetry side by side. Siobhan, in turn, linked to a wonderful strategy for creating poetry-inspired tarot spreads over at Alexis J. Cunning Folk's blog. There's obviously something in the water right now! 

I can't say I'm particularly familiar with Ginsberg's oeuvre, but this poem, I love. It's just heaven! When I came upon it again, that heavenly feeling conjured to mind the third trump of the Major Arcana, the mother goddess, The Empress. 

A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley

All afternoon cutting bramble blackberries off a tottering 

brown fence

under a low branch with its rotten old apricots miscellaneous

under the leaves,

fixing the drip in the intricate gut machinery of a new toilet;

found a good coffee pot in the vines by the porch, rolled a

big tire out of the scarlet bushes, hid my marijuana;

wet the flowers, playing the sunlit water each to each,

returning for godly extra drops for the stringbeans and daisies;

three times walked round the grass and sighed absently:

my reward, when the garden fed me its plums from the

form of a small tree in the corner,

an angel thoughtful of my stomach, and my dry and love-

lorn tongue.

(from Collected Poems 1947-1980, Penguin UK, via The Book of Luminous Things, Harcourt, 1996).

Something about this poem just seizes me! I don't know what. The simplicity? The gentle tension between sorrow and salve? The boon of finding a useable coffee pot in the bushes of a new home? When I first came across it I read it many times over, and again and again The Empress made her presence known in my mind. 

Wet daises and bramble blackberries are the natural territory of The Empress. She speaks to us of the bounty of nature, the fecundity of a garden left to overrun. She also reminds us that natural things must run their natural course - those apricots won't stay ripe if left on the branch.

She also gives insight into any structure - physical or otherwise, natural or man-made - that we inhabit, or call a home. Moving into a strange new place demands the ritual of enrooting. Tidying, clearing, repairing, making our mark. The Empress allows us to make our nests upon her, and in doing so, we make a sanctuary for sore hearts and love-lorn tongues. 

Not only a space for us to nest in or a bounty for us to nourish ourselves, The Empress is also a persona we can adopt when needed. The act of watering the garden, clearing the rubbish, harvesting the fruit may allow us to reap the ultimate benefits of The Empress, but it also allows us to embody her, too. We are both the nurtured and the nurturing. Offering water and attention, receiving plums and vessels for a strong morning brew.

This small verse captures so perfectly how we can experience The Empress in our lives. As a garden, rich and overgrown. As a home we make for ourselves. As the labour of maintaining and nurturing the world around us. As a place that offerings us succour - for our bodies and our spirits - when we need it most. As the hidden blessing of a good coffee pot, discovered in the vines by the front porch.

Where do you find The Empress archetype in everyday life? And, hey, in Ginsberg fans in the house? What should I read next?

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