Sunday, March 25, 2012

Enjoying Mercury Retrograde?

For me, one of the most incredible parts of astrology is seeing it in action. I tell my students and friends that astrology is great for understanding the people and situations around us. Take, for example, Mercury retrograde. This current Mercury retrograde has been a pain in the ass. 

Even people who don't normally follow astrology become concerned when Mercury goes into retrograde. They might not know or understand anything else about astrology but they definitely get more agitated. 

As an aside, I find it funny that people who don't even believe in astrology wonder how Mercury will affect their lives. It's like when I read tarot cards at 13 Magickal Moons of Occoquan, VA (yes...I'm their biggest fan! What's it to you? :) ) and people are afraid to come into the shop or touch anything in it because they might CATCH THE WITCH or something. But they're willing to sit down with...ahem...a Witch (the pentacle should be a big giveaway!) who hardly knows anything about you and let him tell your future. Somehow, everything else around you is BIZARRE? Yeah, right. You're just not ready to accept it all yet. But I digress. 

This Mercury retrograde has been bitchy for many reasons. Here are just a few of the bizarre, Mercury-related happenings:

  • I have been getting more traffic on this blog--THANK YOU!!--and I haven't posted for nearly a month. 
  • People in my life have either been talking too little or too much. I have been trying to contact people who have dropped off the face of the planet since the retrograde began, but I've also had to tell people to talk less. There's just no happy medium right now. 
  • I've pulled the Magician tarot card--who represents Mercury--twice in my daily tarot readings in the past few weeks and he's come up a lot more for my clients. 
  • I ran out of business cards, an important communication medium, and had to order more because of an upcoming conference. Hopefully this won't come back to bite me in the ass; just watch and half the words will be cut off. [To Mercury: THAT IS NOT A REQUEST!]
  • I almost did a major Mac operating system upgrade that had failed miserably before. Luckily I did a quick tarot reading--there should have never even been a question of my doing it, folks, if I'm following my own counsel--and it told me in no uncertain terms to let it go (The Hanged Man) and just walk away.

To top it all off, this is the SECOND time I posted this blog! It was up earlier today and everything was fine until I decided to add "astrology" as a category. Blogger DELETED THE WHOLE POST!! I was so irritated, but not surprised. 

[PS: If anyone got an email copy of that post, please email it to me at and I will thank you profusely, and then re-post it here. I wasn't smart enough to keep a copy during Mercury retrograde. Who's the fool now??]

How have you been doing with this retrograde? Anything happen? Put a comment at the bottom and let me know--assuming Blogger doesn't decide to go all Mercury retrograde and delete this one, too--how you've been faring. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review of "Tarot Decoded" by Elizabeth Hazel

Tarot Decoded
Elizabeth Hazel
Weiser Books, 2004
ISBN: 1-57863-302-8

One of the many factors that separate amateur tarot students from the more serious tarot reader/scholar is the use of dignities (the relationship of cards in a tarot spread) and correspondences (relationships of tarot cards to other disciplines). Elizabeth Hazel’s Tarot Decoded does an excellent job of marrying the tarot with astrology primarily, but also discusses numerological influences of the cards as well.

Hazel’s discussion of the elements should be required reading for any metaphysical student regardless of specific discipline. Her descriptions are almost lyrical and poetic in nature, and they capture the essence of earth, air, fire, and water brilliantly. In many works, these don’t receive much treatment; I suspect that many authors rush over these in an almost “yeah, yeah, yeah, you know this but I have to say it anyway” sort of way. Hazel takes the amount of time required to really explain them, so that neophytes will not be lost but that advanced metaphysical students will take some knowledge away as well.

While you don’t need to be a professional astrologer to use this book, you will most definitely increase your knowledge of astrology here. Hazel links it up seamlessly with the tarot. You’ll want to bookmark the charts in the book, too. I would recommend having this book handy for that reason alone.

For me, where this book really shined was in how it left no stone unturned. Hazel really does a thorough job of exploring all of the areas where astrology and tarot meet: the elements; the modes (cardinal, fixed, and mutable qualities of the various signs); and correspondences with the astrological signs themselves as well as with the planets, showing in some cases both traditional and modern linkages (under “zodiacal dignities”, Scorpio’s ruler is listed as both Mars and Pluto, for example).  This is especially important for the outer planets of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. The Golden Dawn correspondences are referenced primarily, but other systems such as Thoth are also mentioned.

I especially enjoyed the numerological associations. Personally, I don’t take advantage of this aspect of the tarot as much as I should, and Hazel provides example interpretations for the different numbers, and for good measure adds the major arcana numerical associations to round it out. I never considered an overall interpretation if I draw all four tens in a reading, for example; Hazel’s explanation of “Total collapse of current life path, leading to rebirth in a new form” for this situation gave me a new perspective that I found refreshing.

You’ll also like the spreads and the demonstrations/interpretations throughout the book. I’ve been working with an astrological house spread for some time, but Hazel’s “Zodiac Spiral Spread” just blew me away. Her brief but clear analysis of the spread helps to internalize it more quickly.

The only “problem” you will have with this book is that there is so much fantastic information here that you’ll want to tackle all of these different types of dignities and correspondences right away. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a few different sets of flash cards—or an app for your smart phone—to start making them a permanent part of your tarot practice.

Tarot Decoded is an instant classic, and has become an important tool in my development as a tarot reader and an astrologer. I use it so much that it doesn’t make it to my shelf very often!

In short, I can’t think of a more comprehensive, well-written, serious book on tarot and astrology than Tarot Decoded, and I can’t recommend it enough for tarot students who are ready to take their individual practice to the next level. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mercury in Retrograde--Again? Already??

Yes, already. It's "re"-trograde, which means you "re-think", "re-vamp" and "re-do". 

Mercury is a personal planet in astrology. It's close to us and affects our day to day lives. Mercury rules communication matters and anything involving a computer; you would be hard-pressed today to find many areas of our lives that are NOT ruled by computers. As such, Mercury retrograde has a tendency to throw things out of whack. 

What am I talking about specifically? Here are a few examples of things that can happen more frequently during Mercury retrograde:

Missed emails, text messages, or voicemails
Miscommunication of all kinds between people
Problems with paperwork--lost, misplaced, re-routed, etc. 
Unexpected delays or cancellations of meetings or get-togethers
Computer problems of any and all stripes but usually minor ones

Mercury must slow down before it changes direction and the deceleration is called the "storm". Problems seem to occur more frequently during this time, which happens before the planet turns retrograde and the moment it starts turning back to its normal direction after this period is over.

Anyway, the storm begins tomorrow, March 7, and goes through Monday, March 12, when the retrograde begins. It will slow down again on April 4 when it enters its storm again. We should be right as rain by April 11, just in time to file your taxes
How do you deal with Mercury in retrograde? Very carefully. Here are some tips:

DO NOT upgrade computers or install any software or hardware unless absolutely necessary

Back up all computer data 
Check all travel plans--hotels, airlines, car rentals, etc.--before you leave
Confirm that meetings are taking place 
Read the fine print on every document you sign and try NOT to sign anything during this period if you can help it
Ensure your messages are being sent and received
Don't start new projects; "new" things that are started now usually have to be re-done
Finish up old projects and tie up loose ends
Be understanding of others' problems communicating or showing up late or not at all; likely it is not their fault
Speak carefully

Good luck, everyone. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"What's wrong with my soul?"

I've been reading tarot for over 20 years, and I'll admit that I've had my share of interesting questions from friends, family members and clients. When I say interesting I really mean offbeat, oddball, or otherwise goofy. And that's understandable--a lot of people don't know what how the tarot works so you can expect some of it. 
This one, I must admit, really threw me for a loop. How in the hell to you answer "What's wrong with my soul?" in a way that doesn't belittle the client and isn't dismissive or condescending? 

If you read tarot you may come up against this problem at some point in your practice. Here are a few things I did to turn this potentially uncomfortable situation into a positive one for the client. But it started with changing the question.  
On the surface, there's an assumption in this question. It implies that there IS indeed something wrong with the client's soul. So let's begin there. This particular client placed him or herself into a very dangerous situation with it. A charlatan or crook may have tried to say something like, "Oh yeah. I see it from here. Your soul is as black as coal, and to make it pure again you will have to sacrifice $3000 in hundred dollar bills to me, and I will buy the supplies and perform the spell to do it." Anyone who uses psychic ability to harm others and/or for their own personal gain in any way is a person for whom I can have NO RESPECT. So luckily the client was safe from that. 
Without giving away any details of the person's reading, I can honestly say there was nothing  that indicated that the client's immortal soul was in danger. Considering that in all my years I've never seen a set of cards that made me fear for a client's soul, I thought that was a pretty safe bet I wouldn't come up with that.

Just consider this fictional exchange: 

Client: So, Johnnie, what's wrong with my soul?

Me: Ummm, you have your affairs in order? Because your soul is in grave danger and I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow you were in Baal's throne room, bowing down to him while writhing in everlasting agony.

Client: Oh CRAP! Can I pay you next week?  

Anyway, back to the question. After seeing the first card I realized what to do. I treated the reading as a general overview and told the client what I saw, focusing on overall spiritual ideas that may help in the coming months. I'll admit that I improvised on that one. It was at the beginning of my professional practice and I probably could have handled it better, even though the client went away very pleased.

If this happens to you, then it's time for some questions. What is the client expecting to know? What is most important to him/her? Once you get some answers, you can pick the right spread and get to reading. But take the time to interview the client a little bit. 

Occasionally, clients will not want to tell you what is going on. It's kind of a test. They want to see how good you are, so they'll provide no other information other than the occasional yes or no. While I really don't like this game, do your reading and tell the client what you see. That tactic ends up hurting the client in the long run because the more they share, the more likely they will go away with the insights they desire. But there are always skeptics.

The bottom line is the more you focus on the question and get at what the client really wants to know, the more effective the reading will be and the more the client will be satisfied with their reading. On the reader side, the more spreads you know, the easier it will be to customize something for a client with very specific needs if necessary, so it's important to know a whole bunch and have easy access to a whole lot more. I usually have a spreads book called "Power Tarot" when I read just in case I want something different and/or exotic. 

The question defines and shapes the response, so it's imperative to pick the right one when you're starting out. And try to do your best for the client, no matter how odd the question may seem.