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!


My Five Desert Island Tarot Decks

by Marianne in


If you spend a little time in the tarot community on youtube, you may already be familiar with the gauntlet that Kelly Bear recently threw down before those of us with healthy (i.e., large and ever-growing) tarot collections. Kelly challenged her viewers to name the five decks they would use if they could only work with five decks for one year.

Although I don't have youtube channel, I just couldn't resist answering the question. You may notice, though, that although I said "recently" above, the date on that video is actually March 24th. This lil' post has been languishing in my drafts for that long because this question is TOUGH, y'all! The struggle is real. 

I'm no stranger to tarot deck overwhelm. I have a big collection, and even though my working decks only form a small proportion of that collection, I often feel like my attention is spread too thinly. This is particularly true now that I have decks in my shop, as I try to give a little airtime to all the tarot and oracle decks I carry in the store. Of course, having the means to build a large collection of tarot decks is hardly something to complain about, and I am gratefully that I'm able to pursue my passion in this way. Sometimes, though, all these deck options can feel like a double-edged sword.

Periodically, I think about using a single deck for all my work for one month... and then I break out in a cold sweat and try to pretend I never had the thought. Different decks serve different purposes, and each deck brings its own unique sensibility to a reading. Not to mention, at different phases of one's life - even different seasons - some decks feel more resonant than others. Decks that I thought essential to my tarot practice two years ago now don't speak to me at all. Decks that I thought would never ring my bell (like the Sakki Sakki Tarot) are now at the top of my reading rotation. 

Having said all of that,  it's a hypothetical question, so calm the heck down! But it does seem valuable to ask the question - what is essential to me in a tarot deck? Even if it's just at this moment that the answer resonates. What do I need out of a deck? And out of a group of decks, what sensibilities and styles would I want to capture? 

Ok, quit stalling. If I were going into tropical exile for a while, which decks would I choose to take with me?

Five_Desert_Island_Tarot_Decks

1. The Spirit Speak by Mary Elizabeth Evans

Regular readers won't be surprised to see the Spirit Speak tarot at the top of my list. It's one of my favourites - deeply intuitive, deceptively simple, supportive, clever, clear to read with, and its images have a kind of bendable quality that really encourages personal interpretations. Something about the stark, symbolic style of the deck allows me, as a reader, to be more receptive. I like having those blanks to intuitively fill in!

(By the by, the pictured second edition of the Spirit Speak Tarot is on the way out, but Beth over at Little Red Tarot still has some copies in stock!)

2. Dame Darcy's Mermaid Tarot

It wouldn't be a desert island exile without the mermaids! Once again, if you're a regular around these parts, you'll know how I feel about Dame Darcy's Mermaid Tarot. It sticks quite closely to the symbolism of the Rider-Waite-Smith, but with sailors and mermaids and hot, seaside babes of indeterminate genders. It reminds me of the riot grrrl zines I loved as a teenager, so fresh and raw and beautiful. If any of that makes it sound like it's not a practical deck to work with, don't be fooled - these mermaids read well! And hey, if anyone is going to help me get back to civilisation (and the rest of my tarot collection), it'll be these seasoned sailors.

3. The Sakki Sakki Tarot by Monica Clio Sakki

I mentioned above that the Sakki Sakki Tarot was a slow grower for me. When I first became aware of it a few years back I was immediately certain it wasn't for me, but when our paths crossed more recently, something about it just clicked. Perhaps it's the emphasis on creative practice (this deck includes an additional trump, The Artist), which is increasingly what I use tarot for in my own life, or perhaps my taste has just lightened up, but I love this playful, colourful, and sometimes-abstract tarot deck. It has a kind and slightly silly vibe, and always gives supportive and practical readings. Definitely essential for lightening the mood when one's desert island exile is getting one down!

4. The Wild Unknown Tarot by Kim Krans

At this point, The Wild Unknown Tarot doesn't require much of an introduction. It's one of my workhorse decks, ready to take on any and all types of queries, treading a perfect balance between the practical and the esoteric. I use it for clients and for myself, and thus far haven't read for anyone who didn't respond to its nature-inspired images. Somehow, The Wild Unknown never seems to run out of juice! Handy if we're spending a year together, trapped on an island.

5. The Dreaming Way Tarot by Rome Choi and Kwon Shina

The Dreaming Way Tarot is an old favourite of mine. In fact, it was one of the first decks I bought back when I started getting serious about tarot, and unlike some of the decks I've worked with over the years, the shine has never worn off. Like The Wild Unknown, it's a workhorse deck that reads well under practically all circumstances. Perhaps there won't be wifi on my desert island so I may not be doing many client readings, but this is one of the decks I use most frequently when reading professionally because it's very accessible, even to the casual user. And don't get me started on the outfits! With this as my inspiration, I'll be carving out a fine silhouette in my Ariel-style sail canvas island attire.

I ummed and ahhed over this list for weeks, knowing that whatever five decks I decided upon would be subject to change at a moment's notice! Who knows what five decks I'd deem essential in a week, a month, year?

For now, though, these are my picks. What are your five desert island tarot decks? I'd love to know! As ever, leave me a comment below or come and give me the lowdown on Twitter.

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Balance and Harmony: Reflections on the Autumn Equinox

by Marianne in


Here we are, practically at the end of March. Is it just me, or is time moving at a more rapid clip than usual? I'm definitely experiencing that long days, short years feeling! Last time I checked in with our position on the Wheel of the Year, we were at Lammas down here in Sydney, and I must admit it was a challenging one for me to grapple with. Those cross-quarter days can be subtle, and I had difficulty connecting with Lammas this time around.

Not so for the Equinox! Just look at that gorgeous Autumnal light! This quarter day - the Autumn Equinox for us down here in the South, and the Spring, or Vernal Equinox for those folks up North - falls on Sunday, 20th of March, and I can definitely feel it. The days are growing shorter. It's darker when I wake up, and there's barely any twilight left when I return home from the bookshop during the week. After weeks and weeks of stifling humidity, the week leading up to the Equinox has been cooler - not cold, we're still in Sydney, after all! - and overcast with rain.

There is the sense of something being introduced back into the palette of the days. The mono-tonal heat and brightness of the warmer months has started to be tempered with cooler air and darker nights. The scales are tipping back into balance, as we're beginning to access a broader spectrum of shades, temperatures, ambience, and emotion. 

Perhaps I'll have to make it a full turn through the year before making any such pronouncements, but I'm discovering that my experiences often feel in opposition to where we are on the Wheel. As we're turning back towards the darkness, there's meant to be a feeling of drawing in, closing down, wrapping up, as the joys and labours of the hotter months and harvest season come to a close. It might be the extreme lethargy brought on by the heat of Summer in this part of the world, but rather than packing up as we move into the cooler, darker months, I feel like I'm gearing up! My year has finally started, energy once sapped by the long, steamy days of Summer is returning and bringing with it focus and productivity. 

The Equinox marks the day of the year when day and night are of approximately equal length. We find ourselves at these points of the year moving away from extremes and coming back into the middle path. Balance is often the theme, as these two opposites, darkness and light and their attendant correspondences, fall into alignment with each other. In the past when using this day for reflection, I've focused on the idea of balance and let that guide me. 

This year, I feel a subtle distinction is in order. The word "approximate" seems pertinent. On the equinox, day and night are the closest they come to being of equal length, but they're not precisely equal. Balance seems like a soothing and stable concept, where two parts - of life, of the psyche or self - receive equal energy, resources, air time. In reality and in nature, though, precise, 50-50 balance is not what we find. What feels balanced and stable for each of us in our individual circumstances is often a little more fluid.

I thought about choosing the Justice card to represent the Equinox. With its equally weighted scales and attitude of fairness and balance, it does seem on-theme. Something didn't feel quite right about that, though. Instead, enter my friend, Temperance. It's no secret, I love this card. Temperance is the alchemist of the tarot deck, the one who combines two opposites and blends them into something new. To me, this card symbolises not moderation, but creativity. This is not about restraining our extremes, but using them to fuel a new path. Rather than demanding that day and night sit in precise, minute-to-minute parallel (which they don't!), we have an invitation to throw them both into the pot, stir them around, feel those opposing essences combining, and see what comes out. 

So, instead of balance, let's talk harmony.

As we reintroduce shades of the new season - whether Spring or Autumn - into our days, let's consider how we might shift and embrace the palette of our lives as it deepens in complexity. How can we be alchemists, like Temperance, and blend these opposites into a new colour, a new creation? 

We have many opposites at our disposal - rest and work, intuition and action, receptivity and manifestation, solitude and companionship, spirituality and mundanity, Temperance's water and fire - and all the shades in between. The Equinox offers us an opportunity to work with these polarities, but not just to hold them apart. Let's not expect that all these facets of our experiences are binaries forever set apart. At this time on the Wheel, we have the chance to draw them closer together, to dwell in the twilight where they meet. 

That's what I'll be ruminating on in the coming days. How about you? How do you work with the energy of this time of year?

P. S. As ever, if you're looking for some support as you explore balance and harmony in your life, you can book a reading with me here.


Tarot Decks Have Landed!

by Marianne in ,


The day is finally here! We're under the Aquarius New Moon, the perfect time for declaring dreams and visions, and I'm so excited to announce that some of the best independently published tarot decks in the known universe are now available to peruse and purchase at Two Sides Tarot!

I'm so pleased and proud to say that my humble store is now home to such unique creations as The Wild Unknown Tarot and Dame Darcy's Mermaid Tarot. I feel I am in illustrious company!

I've been hinting at this new direction, and outright counting down for it for a while now. In truth, the notion has been months - maybe even a year - in the making. In the last year or two, it's been glaringly obvious that the most interesting and innovative work in the tarot world has been coming from enterprising artists, self-publishing and crowd funding. Without wishing to impugn to the wonderful works and illustrious histories of the big esoteric publishing houses, in my opinion, it's been many moons since a new deck from a traditional publisher has really pushed the artistic or philosophical envelope. Instead, we've been blessed with the outsider works of Kim Krans, A. L. Swartz, Dame Darcy, Mary Elizabeth Evans, Danielle Noel, to name but a few, and what blessings they have been! 

Some months ago, I had the thought, "Wouldn't it be great to collect up all these wonderful decks so they could be browsed all together? Wouldn't be good to make a little hub for great tarot art down here in Australia? We don't have anything like that! Don't as many people as possible deserve to have access to all of this amazing work? Shouldn't readers from all over the world be able to find the creme of modern tarot all in one spot? Shouldn't Australian tarot readers be able to enjoy local, or even free shipping for once in their damn lives?!" Of course, I immediately dismissed the idea as crazy, and got on with my life. 

Obviously, that niggling inspiration never went away, and my desire to do what I could to spread the word about all this unique tarot art only grew. After months of constantly recommending obscure or indie decks to my bookshop customers (that I then couldn't supply), to my friends and fellow readers, strangers on instagram, I thought, enough! Let's do this! 

So, here we are. I can't tell you how happy I am to see Dame Darcy, Kim Krans, and Mary Elizabeth Evans sitting side by side, in my little shop! I said a few weeks back that my vision for Two Sides Tarot is for it to be a conduit for goodness. I've been offering readings here to many happy clients for over two years now, and I'm so glad that the Two Sides Tarot goodness portal is now a channel for you to access some of the truly groundbreaking and beautiful tarot decks that I love to use in my practice. 

Head over this-a way to find The Wild Unknown deck and guidebook, and this-a way to find Dame Darcy's Mermaid Tarot. I'm excited to say, too, that my beloved Spirit Speak Tarot is coming soon, along with Mary Elizabeth Evans' intriguing new oracle deck, Vessel! Yay! So much yay. 

The Two Sides Tarot goodness portal ships to anywhere and everywhere - even the astral plane! Just kidding, although I'll do my best to transmit your purchase to you energetically. My fellow Australians, domestic shipping is free! Head over to the shop, have a stroll, take a look around, make yourself a cup of tea. You might find something you like!

Questions? Comments? Seen a great deck you think I should stock? Drop me a line, or leave a note in the comments below!


An Almost-Summer Solstice Tarot Reading

by Marianne in ,


Last week I wrote about observing and trying to understand the changing season, the arrival of Summer that we're currently experiencing where I live. It's been an interesting process, because the weather doesn't always do what one expects, and whatever it does do is almost certainly different to what is described in traditional pagan texts that come out of traditions in Western Europe. 

There's no doubt, however, that Summer is here today. Let me ham up my Australianness for you and say it is bloody hot in Sydney right now! I actually wore loose pyjama pants to yoga this morning because the thought of leggings was unbearable! I also just ate my first apricot of the season - yay, stone fruits! So many things are available year round, but apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, and nectarines have somehow avoided having their growing season flattened out by the demands of supermarket chains. It always feels like an extra special Summer treat when they do appear in the shops. 

Since it feels suitably summer-y, and I do have a few moments before needing to dash out for my next appointment of the silly season, it's time for me to post my own reading with the spread I shared last week. Let's get to it, shall we?

Card 1: Context. What part of my life would most benefit from receiving the outwardly directed energy of this season? XX Judgement

Big card, straight out of the gate! It seems that right now, I really ought to be directing this energy into my calling - both my spiritual path, and my vocation as a reader and, in my other working life, as a bookseller. Judgement is always a summons, and this card is asking me to listen, and find out what it is I am being called to do. My divine purpose, if you wish to call it that, is asking for some attention!

Card 2: Action. What steps can I take in order to best put this energy to use in that part of my life? Eight of Pentacles

All this talk of divine purpose is a little abstract, but the Eight of Pentacles brings it right back down to the micro. Put it simply, I need to do the work. I need to keep growing my skills, expanding my tarot work, keeping busy and putting the time in to create something equal to Judgement's grand calling. Interestingly, this is the first of two Eights in this spread, which suggests that this period of the year has the potential to bring some quite transformative energy into my life. Eights are all about getting ready to change and mature into a new phase, so I think what I'm working on could undergo quite a shift!

Card 3: Reflection (remember, this one is optional, so if you're not feeling it, skip over it!). During this time of high energy, what are my opportunities for growth? Four of Swords

The Four of Swords, I think, is a lesson about learning when to work and when to take it easy. Given that it follows right of the back of the busy Eight of Pentacles, I don't think this card is straight up telling me to have a lie down. There's shit to do! However, I could learn a little more about how much rest I really need, and how much work I am capable of. Certainly, taking time out will be part of this season, but I suspect the Four of Swords is not about doing it more so much as doing it more effectively. 

Card 4: Self-Care. How can I regulate and replenish my energy stores during this intense period, so that I can stay happily in the flow of this season? Eight of Swords

I like to think of the Eight of Swords as a bit of a bitchslap from the universe. This card says, "Oh come on! You're not really stuck! Stop sticking your head in the sand, you dingbat, and start seeing yourself for the majestic, liberated creature you are!" I will definitely keep that cosmic smack at the forefront of my mind as Summer wears on - a reminder that I can be resourceful if I choose to be, and I'm not really stuck at all! 

Well, that was interesting indeed! I didn't consciously plan this, but I can't help but notice that I wound up doing this spread under the Sagittarius New Moon. With Saturn's strict and structured energy floating around, it seems no surprise that this spread would be all about work, divine summons, and efficiency!  If you suspected from this reading that there is something bubbling away behind the scenes at Two Sides Tarot, you would be correct. I'm busy, busy, busy, cooking up something interesting for the new year, and I'm really happy to see how aligned this reading is with what I've been working on. Of course, it's all a secret right now, so you'll just have to wait and see! 

How are you channeling this upcoming Solstice energy? I'd love to know! Feel free to try this spread out for yourself, and let me know what you find in the comments!