Eight Useful Tarot Spreads Day 5: Snowflake spread

Today’s reading uses Evvie Marin of Interrobang Tarot‘s Snowflake spread from her ebook, Eight Useful Tarot Spreads for Times of Change and Resistance. This is the fourth spread in the book, so we’re half-way through this little tarot challenge I’ve set myself!

I did this reading for myself. I’ve had a challenging couple days (which is why you didn’t see this blog post yesterday!) and I’ve been feeling a bit down on myself. I’m “too emotional.” I’m “too busy.” I’m “too focused on my work.” I’m “too stressed out.” I “don’t have good boundaries.” And on and on and on – all these stories about myself that come swarming in when I’m low on spoons and high on stress.

I opted to draw all of these cards, rather than intentionally selecting any of them, though I can definitely see the benefit of doing this spread with a chosen card, too.

Image description: A seven card spread. At the centre is the Queen of Cups. Clockwise from the 12 position are: Three of Wands reversed, King of Wands, Wheel of Fortune, The Lovers, The Hermit, and Two of Wands. The deck is the Steampunk Tarot.

The positions, as described by Marin.

0. My Center: How is the weather in my core?

  1. I Spy: A pet weakness. Something I perceive within myself as troublesome or flawed.
  2. I Listen: What does it have to tell me? What is the hidden strength in it?
  3. You Spy: A trait others see as one of my weaknesses.
  4. I Adapt: How can I best adapt and turn this into a strength? Is it truly a weakness at all?
  5. Vulnerability: The nature/expression of my softness and vulnerability.
  6. Power: The nature/expression of my fortitude and personal power.

I laid the cards 1-6, and then 0 at the centre last, but I flipped them 0-6. (I was also, for some reason, so trepidatious with this spread! Even though I always approach tarot from the perspective that if it feels wrong, we can add cards, flip cards, switch cards – it is our story, and tarot helps us tell it. I don’t believe that the cards ever force us into a story that feels wrong or bad for us, though I do believe that often the cards invite us to consider things from different perspectives. Anyway, despite that approach, I still felt hesitant. Afraid that the cards would confirm everything my insecurities have been telling me over the last couple days.)

So, 0. The weather in my core. Queen of Cups. I am feeling all my feelings. Yes. Indeed I am.

1, my weakness. Three of Wands, reversed. What am I trying to do? What are my plans, what are my goals? Why can’t I see through the fog? In this deck, the Three of Wands is looking out across a foggy bay, three lights to illuminate the gloom and a spyglass to help map out next steps. Upright, this card is so adventurous, optimistic, hopeful. In fact, I pulled this card earlier today, upright, and it felt like a lovely invitation to plan! But pulling it reversed here, I absolutely recognized my own belief that my lack of “good planning” is a weakness. If I just had the right plans, I would have solved my financial insecurity. If I had the right plans, I would have a more balanced life. If I had the right plans, my chronic pain would be better managed and my health would be solid. Although I bring an awareness of systemic and structural issues into my therapy work and my activism, there is a persistent intenralized belief that I am somehow creating all my own problems by not planning well enough.

2, the hidden strength. King of Wands. In all my anxiety about not having “the right plans”, I obscure the fact that I am accomplishing a lot regardless. The fog may be heavy, but I’m still moving forward. In the guidebook for the Steampunk Tarot, the quote for this card is, “If only we’d stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time.” – Edith Wharton. And the core meaning is: “Someone who is driven by will, inspiration, and passion.” I may not have all the plans, but I do have will, inspiration, and passion.

3, what others perceive as a weakness. Wheel of Fortune. This one gets me right in my insecurities. The idea that people see me as flighty, fickle, unreliable. Flailing around – up today and down tomorrow.

4, adapting, turning this into a strength. The Lovers. Embrace my passionate self (echoing part of the King of Wands), and also trust the people around me, trust the connections that I’ve cultivated. I am a passionate person. I do spend a lot of time deep in my feels. It’s true that I can be up today and down tomorrow. But is that actually a weakness, or is that part of my hidden strength? The Lovers suggests that with the right people, it’s a strength. And those are the people I want to have in my life, and the people I want to be working with.

5, my softness and vulnerability. The Hermit. Too much time alone and I end up lost in anxiety, self-doubt, spiralling out into catastrophizing. The old stories about “always ending up alone” creep back. Too little time alone and I also end up lost in anxiety, self-doubt, and spiralling thoughts, dealing with newer stories about “always ending up a failure.” I need time alone. I need to bring softness to my solitude. And I also need to be aware of the difference between solitude and isolation, and my own vulnerability to old narratives about loneliness and rejection.

6, my fortitude and personal power. Two of Wands. The guidebook suggests asking, when this card comes up, “What feels bold? What ignites your passion? What connects to you to your spiritual roots?” Even when I’m not sure how to see the way forward, I’m able to access the bold, enthusiastic, passionate will that is such a strong part of me.

I found it interesting that the top half of the spread was all wands, the bottom was all majors, and that big cups energy in the centre. (Back when I was tarot blogging just for myself, I was over at Queen of Cups.) This tells me there’s a lot of movement and energy in my life right now, and a lot of that energy has to do with big, foundational changes. And I feel uncertain and off balance – which makes sense! This is a lot happening all at once.

I appreciate that this spread offers me a way to reframe what has felt like a weakness (my inability to handle all this swirling energy) into a strength (the ability to ground myself in connection and rely on my passion and inspiration). It’s storming out, but I’ve got plenty of fire.

Eight Useful Tarot Spreads Day 4: Toolkit spread

Today’s post is a review of the Toolkit tarot spread from Evvie Marin’s Eight Useful Tarot Spreads for Times of Change and Resistance.

I stayed with the theme of navigating despair and discouragement. The spread is meant to help the reader recognize, utilize, and uncover tools and resources.

So let’s jump into the toolkit and see what’s available to help us build our way out of the discouragement.

First of all, I really love this spread. I appreciate all the variations that Marin’s post offers, and I love the way it brings three separate spreads together and allows for reading them together or individually.

I also loved this reading. Sometimes the deck is just so gentle and helpful. I hope you find some help (and some hope) here too.

Image description: A nine-card spread, laid out in three rows of three. The top row is Page of Pentacles, The Emperor, Five of Swords. The middle row is Five of Pentacles, Six of Swords, Six of Cups. The bottom row is Two of Cups, Knight of Cups, Four of Swords.

The top shelf (row) of the toolkit:

To Fix: Page of Pentacles. We can mend our sense of hopeful movement towards stability and a more just material world. The Page of Pentacles here invites us to repair and renew our curiousity, our willingness to try something new, and our enthusiasm for resisting injustice and building something better.

To Break: The Emperor. Oh, how my heart loves this. Break that pattern of imperialism, colonialism, patriarchy. Break the habits of control and power being privileged over justice. Break the systems of privilege that harm us all.

To Measure: Five of Swords. Assess where we are at risk, where we are under threat, where we are in conflict. And also assess where we are not. Where we can resist conflict, where we can choose collaboration.

The middle shelf (row) of the toolkit:

A Talent: Five of Pentacles. The Five of Pentacles is about scarcity, material lack, necessary resources that feel out of reach. For those of us on the margins, struggling with despair and discouragement and with scarcity and lack (especially the intergenerational poverty faced by Black and Indigenous folks), we have been learning how to live within scarcity our whole lives. We are able to weave safety nets out of the thin threads available to us, and that’s magical. But I also think that this points to a talent for seeing things as they are. We can recognize where the scarcity is artificially imposed.

A Resource: Six of Swords. This position in the spread is about external resources, and this card is also about accessing help and external resources. Other people (other communities, other folks within our communities, perhaps even accomplices outside of our communities), may be able to help us build our way out. Who has insight we could benefit from? Who has energy, time, space, or material resources that could help us? This card invites us to ask.

A Skill: Six of Cups. We have such deep roots in our communities. We have strong connections to our joy and our dreams. Holding onto those dreams is a skill. It is something we have had to develop over time. Every survival strategy, every coping mechanism that we have cultivated over our lives, has roots and we have tended to those roots. We have built these skills. And now we can draw on them to help us build our way out of discouragement.

The bottom shelf (row) of the toolkit:

What’s Hidden: Two of Cups. There is connection available to us. Balanced, wholehearted, joyful connection. Relationship. Friendship. Community. Sometimes it’s hidden – despair and discouragement leave us feeling isolated and alone. The connection available to us sometimes ends up hidden. And I think that sometimes call out culture contributes to this, too (and ties this card to the Five of Swords).

How to Unlock It: Knight of Cups. We can unlock that connection and community by going after it, pursuing it, turning our focus on it and keeping it as a goal for ourselves. Fight the isolation of discouragement by actively pursuing connection.

Where to Apply It: Four of Swords. Ah, friends. Can we rely on our communities to enable us in resting and renewing ourselves? Wow. What a beautiful invitation. Working together, leaning on each other, feeling safe together – it can allow us to access peace, rest, renewal.

I love this spread.

And I really love reading tarot.

Eight Useful Tarot Spreads: Day 3 Emotional Arrow

Today’s review is of the Emotional Arrow tarot spread from Evvie Marin’s Interrobang Tarot ebook, Eight Useful Tarot Spreads for Times of Change and Resistance. I drew this spread for all of us on the margins who are currently experiencing despair and discouragement over the economic, political, and ecological climate.

This group of despairing humans includes me – I have been following the pipeline debate in this land currently called Canada, where colonial governments are colluding to force Indigenous nations to allow the pipeline in their unceded land… it is a collision of economic, political, and ecological issues that leaves me, and many people in my communities, feeling more despair than usual. And in other places on this hurting world, there are other sources of despair and discouragement. And across all of these spaces, the long shadow of white capitalist colonialism stretches.

So, today, as I came to my table and my tarot and my weeklong review of Marin’s generously shared spreads, I thought – perfect. Let’s see if the cards have any wisdom for this experience of despair and discouragement.

This spread is for us, all of us who are witnessing injustice and oppression, and feeling hopeless.

Image description: A tarot spread, showing the reversed Ace of Pentacles, The Hanged Man, reversed Seven of Cups, reversed Ace of Wands, The Empress, and the Six of Pentacles. The deck is the Steampunk Tarot.

First, I named the emotion: despair and discouragement. Marin suggests not using this spread while you’re in the grip of an intense emotion, so I set my intention early this morning but I didn’t actually pull the cards until this afternoon, after I’d spent some time outside, and after I’d had a good meal.

The source (what prompted this emotion? what lies at the root of it?): Two of Pentacles reversed. When I flipped this card, all I could do was sigh. Yes, of course. This despair and discouragement does come from the lack of balance. Wealth inequality. Power inequality. Racism and white supremacy. Ongoing colonialism. Capitalism. There is no balance here – there’s no honouring of Indigenous sovereignty and land rights, there’s no honouring of marginalized lives and knowledges, there’s no respect, there’s no balance.

The impact (how is this emotion effecting us now?): The Hanged Man. We feel stuck. Helpless. But I also think that this card references the way witnessing these injustices, which are consistently denied and dismissed by people in power or people who are invested in maintaining the current power structures, seems to flip the world upside down. Sometimes this can feel like we’re crazy – the kyriarchy (that complex web of intersecting privileges and marginalizations that impacts each of us) does a good job of gaslighting anyone who tries to speak about injustice. But The Hanged Man here is a reminder that we are seeing things clearly – we are just looking at them from a different angle. We have our Social Justice Goggles on, and it gives us a whole new perspective on the world we are inhabiting and witnessing. Our despair leaves us feeling strung up and stuck, but it also has the effect of opening our eyes.

How to navigate this emotion (how can we better harness, navigate, and channel this emotion?): Seven of Cups reversed. The Seven of Cups can be about wishful thinking, too many choices, confusion. There is a lot of wishful thinking when it comes to economic, political, and ecological despair. The idea that we can “positive think” our way out of intergenerational poverty or the eroding social security net. The myth of bootstrapping ourselves into prosperity. The lie that racism is a thing of the past, or that equality has been achieved. In our despair and discouragement, it can be so tempting to wriggle out of the uncomfortable Hanged Man clarity and dive into all those promising, lying cups. But we can resist that. We can let those cups pour out on the ground, and work towards something better, something more true and more real and more just.

The message (what is this emotion trying to tell us?): Ace of Wands reversed. We don’t get a clean slate. We don’t get to start fresh. There is no shiny new beginning. In our despair and our discouragement is the awareness that we bring our baggage with us – that as we move forward through these difficult times, and as we challenge and resist these many injustices, we will also bring forward the echoes of our own existence within unjust systems. We will bring our internalized bigotry, our toxic narratives, our histories of complicity. But knowing that, we can resist, we can unlearn and relearn, we can change. No clean slate, but that doesn’t mean no growth.

The target (best outcome/goal of working constructively with this emotion): The Empress. The best outcome of our working through (and with) these emotions is renewed creativity and growth. I love the way this works with the reversed Ace of Wands. The Empress is not brand new energy – she’s grown. She knows herself, knows her power, is connected to her creativity. And although I think the naming of this card is a warning – how will we challenge injustice, which is tied to imperialism, when the best available outcome is The Empress?! – I also think that we can queer this card (link is to an article on Little Red Tarot by Cassandra Snow about queering the Emperor and Empress). If we allow ourselves to feel our despair and our discouragement, and we allow these emotions to motivate us to seek change – to use our power to challenge and resist injustice (maybe even to look to women rulers who have resisted anglo imperialism, like Lakshmibai, who resisted British rule in India) – we can connect to our creative, generative power. We can make a difference. We can build something better.

Overkill (how does this emotion mislead us? how might it take us too far?): Six of Pentacles. But our despair and discouragement might mislead us, too. Might have us begging for scraps from the people who already hold too much power. The source of our despair is the lack of balance, and if we try to survive these feelings of scarcity, lack, and precarity by appeasing those in power and hoping they’ll share some of their wealth… well, we’ve tried that. And it doesn’t work. And it always leaves the most vulnerable more vulnerable.

Our despair is real, and valid. What we are feeling is based in a true experience of injustice, and we despair because we want justice – we want balance and a more fair world. Our despair can leave us feeling trapped, unable to move forward, but it can also motivate us to create new ways of being. We don’t have to beg for scraps from systems that have always been built to oppress. We can build something better.

Eight Useful Tarot Spreads Day 2: Balancing Action

Image description: A tarot spread, using the Steampunk Tarot. The spread includes Strength, The Moon, The Sun, the Queen of Pentacles, the Ace of Wands, and The Star.

This is the second in my series of posts reviewing/trying out the eight spreads in Evvie Marin’s Eight Useful Tarot Spreads for Times of Resistance and Change. Today I’m trying out the Balancing Action spread.

This is a six-card spread designed to help us figure out which of our actions are helping and which are hurting, and what we should move towards and step back from, as well as balancing cards to help bridge those polarities.

love the design of this spread, and I am looking forward to using it many times. (I am in the middle of a year-long collaborative art project, the Tender Year, and every Sunday our prompt is to “challenge the binary.” You can read about that project here. I think that this spread will be a brilliant addition to my binary-challenging Sunday tools!)

Lately (a long lately), I have felt so far out of balance when it comes to my work life. Even now, I am writing this post rather than having the bath I had promised myself earlier today. I feel like I am constantly overwhelmed, constantly exhausted, constantly running on fumes.

So I came into this spread looking for some clues to point me towards balance in my work life.

The top row, left to right, is “Helpful effects of my actions: Strength,” “Balancing energies: The Sun,” “Harmful effects of my actions: The Moon.”

The bottom row, left to right, is “Where to step up: Queen of Pentacles,” “Balancing energies: The Star,” “Where to step back: Ace of Wands.”

The first thing I noticed was all those majors. Four out of six cards, just like yesterday’s spread! And the fact that the Sun, Moon, and Star all made an appearance.

Here’s how I read it for myself –

I am making progress, and I am resilient. My actions (this constant forward motion I find myself in) is not all bad – I am developing my strength, my ability to sit calmly with the monsters I face, my compassion in the presence of pain. Since most of my work is with marginalized communities and trauma recovery, this was encouraging.

But on the other side, the more challenging aspects of The Moon – hopelessness, a sense of feeling lost and unsure, confusion. I’m not taking enough time to rest, and it is leading me to dark places.

I can balance this with The Sun (the goth in me hisses at this thought, haha). Focusing my efforts on things that renew and energize me, and balancing the despair of that Moon with the resilience of Strength. I also think I should go outside more often. It does help.

Then, where to put my energy.

Step up to the Queen of Pentacles. Step back from the Ace of Wands. I saw these two cards and immediately felt the whoosh of affirmation – I do need to focus on building sustainability into my work (I need to start charging for my work, which is a running theme in my life lately). Step up to the challenging necessity of assigning monetary value to my labour (without falling into violent capitalism! Sliding scale will always be present in my narrative therapy and group facilitation work). And step back from taking on more projects right now.

And how to balance those? The Star. Have hope. I don’t need to keep adding new work to my plate – I can stay focused on what I’ve already committed to, and trust that I’ve chosen wisely. I can balance my fear of stepping up to material stability and my fear of stagnating, and just let myself sink some roots down into that pentacle energy and let that frantic desire to always be starting something new slip a little further to the back.


I can think of so many other situations where a spread like this will come in handy. This evening I facilitated a discussion for the bisexual/pansexual/asexual community group that I run, on the topic of The Closet in all its nuance – as a place of oppression, safety, choice, pressure; coming out as liberation and as frustrating expectation. It was a really great conversation, and also fits with this idea of balancing action.

You can find this spread, as well as the entire delightful book, on Evvie Marin’s website, Interrobang Tarot. And she just added a PDF download option, making it even more perfect!

I’ll be back tomorrow with another post, trying out the Emotional Arrow spread.


Book review: Eight Useful Tarot Spreads for Times of Resistance & Change

Image description: A tarot spread on a wooden table. There is a London Fog in an octopus mug in the top left corner, and The Steampunk Tarot deck in the top right. In the centre of the photo is a six-card spread including the reversed King of Wands, The Sun, The Moon, The Magician, the Eight of Swords, and The Lovers.

I recently discovered Interrobang Tarot, Evvie Marin’s website, and I am so excited about adding her blog to my regular reading. (Her most recent post is an in-depth interview with Krystal Banner, the creator of the Kaleidadope Tarot, so you know the content is going to be quality.)

This post is the first in a series of eight, which will all combine to be a comprehensive review of her ebook, Eight Useful Tarot Spreads for Times of Resistance & Change. This was originally going to be just one post reviewing the book and diving into the WTF?! spread, but as I got into the writing I realized two things:

  1. It’s been a while since I did a tarot challenge, and since I’m still getting over being sick and I’m struggling with this neverending winter and with some feelings of hopelessness and despair over the state of our economic and political and ecological climate, eight days of tarot for times of resistance and change is exactly what I need.
  2. It will be good practice for me, and since I’m going to be opening up the shop for tarot readings soon, that’s perfect!

So tonight is just the beginning of a mini journey that we can take together, tarot friends. If you want to come along for the ride, consider finding me on Facebook or Instagram and sharing your own results in the comments!

Now, the overview/intro review.

First of all, this is one of the most user-friendly online books I’ve encountered. It’s easy to navigate, with links on each page to get you where you need to be, and simple buttons for moving through. (I do wish there was a PDF version, but that’s mostly because I like gazing at my ebook collection sometimes when I’m procrastinating. I find it almost as soothing as looking at my bookshelves.)

The book is described as:

A collection of eight tarot spreads that lend themselves towards introspection and self-care in times of difficulty, resistance, and rapid change.

It delivers.

Even though Marin says that the book won’t include much 101 information, each spread is written in a welcoming, encouraging, and educational tone. There are little tidbits about how you might interpret certain types of cards in certain positions, without coming across as dogmatic and prescriptive. It feels like a book that has something to offer brand new readers or folks with more experience, and that’s just a lovely thing.

My favourite part about the beginning of the book is the way that Marin clearly positions herself and the book within capitalism, while also resisting and undermining capitalist expectations. The book is available for free for any solo tarot practioners (with an option to make a donation to support her art, writing, and other work), and if folks will be using the spreads with clients (like I will be, I hope!), we are asked to pay for it. I love this model, which is both generous and acknowledges the role of capitalism in our lives.

I also really appreciated the Doom and Gloom section of the book, which acknowledges that these spreads might bring up difficult feelings for folks, and normalizes those strong responses without shaming or minimizing them. Giving people explicit permission to step away from a tarot spread if it starts to feel too intense is so important, especially when we’re intentionally working with difficult topics.

I’m going to be going through the book over the next week, trying out each of the spreads and writing them up.

This evening I tried out the WTF?! spread, and I found it really helpful! I’ll try this spread again later this week, and write it up in more detail, but tonight’s summary is this:

I have a lot of energy, but I feel like I’m spinning my wheels and failing to make progress (The Sun crossing the reversed King of Wands). There is magic, intuition, new paths for me to walk here, but it’s complex, challenging, and hard to decipher (The Moon). Relying on myself and refusing to ask for (or accept) help is making it hard for me to see the way forward (The Magician, and the Eight of Swords). I can ask for help, find more stability by allowing myself to lean into my connections, and I can also invite more pleasure and comfort into my life, which is always hard for me when I am feeling the pressure to “be productive” (The Lovers).  Lots of big energy in this spread, which makes sense because I really have been feeling an intense amount of “wtf?!” lately. Four out of six cards are majors! Big energy, for sure.

Tomorrow, I’ll post the Balancing Action spread!

Tarot and Self-Care: Elements Spread

One of my favourite spreads is the 5-card elements*. I use it often, but I use it particularly when I need tarot as self-care. Tarot as self-storying. Tarot as an invitation into a gentler moment with myself. When I use it this way, I am not asking about outcomes or directions for movement – I find that those spreads are valuable and helpful, but when I am in a low moment, I need tarot that meets me in that low moment, I need tarot of the sunken now. Then, once I’ve met myself in that moment, I can think about how to move forward.

This post is a bit of a “how-to” and a bit of an introduction to my tarot reading method. It can be important to know how someone approaches tarot before you trust them with your questions!

First, the spread itself.

Image description: A lined sheet of paper. At the top the spread is labeled: 1 in the centre, 2 at the top, 3 to the left, 4 at the bottom, 5 to the right. The position meanings are described as below.

As with almost all of my tarot readings, I approach this one with some flexibility and an openness to conversation between the cards and myself (or the cards and my querent). What that means in practical terms is that I make choices about which cards to draw after shuffling and which to intentionally select, and when I am drawing after shuffling, I make choices about which cards to lay out first. I’ve numbered the positions in this spread in ascending numerical order, but that’s just for ease of communication.

In practice, if I feel particularly untethered from my solid foundations, I might lay Earth first as an anchor, and if I feel lost in heartbreak, I might lay Water first to honour that. I might put the elements down in the order that I feel most connected with them, or in the order that I feel I most need help connecting to them. And the Core card also works well as both a first or a last card. (Narrative tarot, like narrative therapy, is all about welcoming a diversity of responses and experiences.)

The five positions are:

1 – The core. Sometimes this can be the person that the spread is for, sometimes it can be the situation that they’re asking about, sometimes it can be the primary challenge facing them, or the skill, knowledge, or resource they’re relying on to meet the challenge. This card can be drawn after shuffling, or it can be intentionally chosen. Sometimes choosing this card intentionally can be a way to bring agency into a moment of sadness, discouragement, anger, fear, or other distress. Other times, allowing the card to select itself can give the reader an opportunity to respond dynamically to what presents itself. I also consider this card, even more than others in the spread, to be fluid. Sometimes what presents itself here, even when it’s chosen, takes on a different meaning after reading it in relation to the other cards, and it can be a meaningful act of self-authoring to change this card after the reading is complete.

2 – Air / mental / conceptual. What are you thinking about the situation? How is your mental or conceptual self engaged here, and what might help you feel more at ease in your mind? I think about this card in relation to intellect and thinking, but also in relation to overarching concepts – it might be a card about the metaphors that are at work in the situation, or the plan we have made for ourselves in the situation.

3 – Fire / spiritual. What is fueling this situation, or your response to the situation? Where is your passion, your creativity, your spark in this situation? This position doesn’t need to reflect any kind of metaphysical spirituality – it can also simply reflect spark/passion/creativity for secular readers.

4 – Earth / physical / foundational. What is grounding this situation, or your response to the situation? This can be about the physical self, but it can also be about the material context (finances, housing, food security, health), or about the foundations (history, social context, community).

5 – Water / emotional / relational. How are you feeling about the situation, or your response to the situation? What sorts of social connections do you have, or need? How is your heart in this situation?

When I’m reading, I look for where the elements show up in the cards, and whether there are patterns, interesting interactions, alignments, or opportunities for the cards to inform each other. As an example, I’ll show you the reading I did for myself this morning!

* I first learned this spread from Beth at Little Red Tarot, and she expanded it to a 9-card elements + bridges “Full Circle” spread when she did a reading for me. (She has included that spread in her book of 21 original tarot spreads, and I highly recommend it. You can get it here.)

Tiffany’s ‘Elements on a Tough Morning’ Self-Care Spread

Image description: The five card spread described above. In the centre is the Chariot reversed. Air is the Three of Pentacles, Fire is the Father of Wands, Earth is the Mother of Wands, Water is the Daughter of Pentacles. Around the spread are two small crystals and a small sprig of flowers. All cards are from the Wild Unknown Tarot.

I woke up sad. I hadn’t slept well, I am feeling lonely over here in Australia for the narrative therapy intensive, and I’m anxious about many aspects of my life. I felt untethered from a solid sense of myself. It felt like a good opportunity to use myself as a case study for how tarot can be used in a self-care practice. So, I got up and did this spread and spent quite a bit of time with it before I checked my phone, logged in to facebook, or even looked at email. Tarot can, sometimes, be a way to set a small boundary around a block of time and connect with our own experience of ourselves, not mediated through the news, the memes, or the world outside. It can make space for those conversations with ourselves that allow us to reconnect.

I shuffled and drew all of this – no intentional card choices.

I laid them all facedown to start with. (Sometimes I flip as I go, but this morning I wanted the whole thing revealed at once.)

In the centre, at the core, The Chariot reversed. Oof. I felt this one right into my bones – the sense of enthusiasm and passion, the desire to move forward, the energy, all present but blocked. In the Chariot, especially this Chariot, I see so much of the kind of forward movement I want. This Chariot is grounded – that pentacle on the horse’s chest is so prominent! Not rushing forward and about to skid out, she’s got some solid grounding to push off from. And she’s connected to the moon, which always feels so right for me. She’s not rushing forward without any intuitive understanding or openness to new insight – she’s got that crescent on her forehead, allowing her to learn and adapt. Everything I want for myself! But blocked. Reversed. The gut-punch of an answer that feels so accurate.

Then Air, Three of Pentacles. (I drew it reversed but turned it upright when I flipped itWhy? It just felt right to flip it, just like the Chariot felt right reversed.)

Fire, Father of Wands.

Earth, Mother of Wands.

Water, Daughter of Pentacles.

All Wands and Pentacles! Fire and Earth. Creativity and grounding. Spiritual self and material self.

Reading them together, I was able to see a picture of myself within this feeling of sadness, loneliness, restlessness, anxiety about financial and professional sustainability and success. I am a passionate and creative person – Mother and Father of Wands in Fire and Earth, fueling my actions and also grounding me. The Mother here is so protective of her creative projects, and that protectiveness is something I can lean on. I do protect my work.

In her blog series exploring the cards in the Wild Unknown Tarot, Carrie Mallon writes about the Mother of Wands, “Although she can be kind and warm, she is fierce and loyal, and not afraid to stand her ground. She holds her values dear to her heart and isn’t afraid to live in a way that lines up with her moral code. She doesn’t do anything halfway – she’s in it to win it. She pours all of her love, originality and unique energy into everything she does.”

That’s me. That’s the foundation that grounds me. And the Father of Wands with his fierce determination and courage, he fuels me. The creativity, commitment to my values, and determination that I bring into my work is present even in this moment of soft sadness.

Then the Pentacles in my Water and Air. The work that I do in my mental and emotional self-care to keep myself grounded, because otherwise I’m at risk of drowning or floating away. It felt very encouraging and validating to have Pentacles in both these positions – an invitation to recognize how much work I do to keep myself tethered, rooted, connected.

The Three of Pentacles reminds me that I am not alone, and that I have a strong community around me. Even when I can’t feel that connection, I can think about it and know that it’s present and real. In this ‘conceptual’ position, it also reminds me of the work I’ve done to plan my life out, and the fact that I am following through on that plan. I’m launching this tarot business, I’m working on my Master of Narrative Therapy degree, I am acting on the plan. I’m not just floating aimlessly through life hoping to bump into success – I am approaching this intentionally, from a position of forethought and insight, and I am standing on solid ground in my communities.

And then the Daughter of Pentacles. Soft. Vulnerable. Gentle. But also curious, eager to explore, and living under that rainbow – I love how this deck reflects back to me my queerness, lets me see my queer self as valid and present. My heart is a Daughter of Pentacles – ready to step out into the world and explore, still soft and willing to learn.

After the reading, I realized that The Chariot didn’t need to stay reversed. All those feelings of being blocked and unable to access my forward movement didn’t feel as relevant after being reminded of my strong grounding and the fire that keeps me going. Things are moving forward slowly, but they’re not stagnant, and I’m not stalled.

So I flipped that card, and I felt a lot better.

Image description: The same spread as above, but with The Chariot upright. Onward!

A Spread for Moving Within Grief

There are a lot of things I hope to offer with Fox and Owl Tarot.

Trauma-informed tarot.

Queer tarot.

Trans tarot.

Non-binary tarot.

Polyamorous tarot.

Tarot for grief.

I designed this spread for myself, and this post is about the spread, with an example of how I interpreted the cards that I drew for myself.

So, first, the spread.

I was wondering how we can move within grief, which can often feel like such a mountain to climb, an ocean to drown in, a swamp, a fog, an endless road – our metaphors for grief acknowledge the ongoingness of it, the immensity of it.

I was thinking about my own current and specific grief when I drew the cards for myself, but I was thinking about grief as a larger and more inclusive experience when I designed the spread. We grieve many things – we grieve our lost futures and selves when chronic illness, disability, or socioeconomic insecurity reduce our physical or social mobility; we grieve lost relationships with friends, with lovers, with family members, and we grieve even when these relationships are lost because those people rejected or hurt us; we grieve the deep loss of ecological destruction; we grieve our role in the violence of colonialism, grieving our complicity as settlers, like I am, or grieving the harms done to generations of colonized peoples; we grieve large and small losses and those griefs are valid. And we grieve the dead and the dying.

Tarot can help with this process.

Grief is often an act of storying – as we grieve, we tell ourselves (and ideally we are able to share with others) the story of the lost love, the lost self, the lost future, the lost friendship, the lost parent, the loss. Wrapped up in the story are all of our hopes – the ones we realized before the loss, the ones we couldn’t – and our longings and our hurts and our fears. Grief stories are deep, complex, multilayered narratives.

This spread is shaped like a mountain, because we climb it and it is impossibly steep. And it’s also shaped like roots coming down into the earth, because our grief runs deep and we are able to pull nourishment up from there.

You can work with this spread in a few different ways – you can select cards intentionally, you can draw them all after shuffling, or you can do a combination of both.

Image description: A sheet of lined paper, titled A Spread for Grieving. Numbers 1-7 are arranged like a mountain. The spread positions are described as below.

Position One – Where I come from in this grief. The roots of the lost relationship/self/hope. If this grief is a complex or conflicted grief, particularly if it’s a grief related to losing someone who was harmful or hurtful to you, it might help to choose this card intentionally. The Three of Swords might help validate your experience of betrayal, heartbreak, or pain and also your resilience and ongoingness, for example. The Five of Wands might validate your experience of conflict. Or you can choose a card that validates the aspects of the relationship that were meaningful for you even if they weren’t recognized or honoured by people outside of the relationship. This can be an opportunity to intentionally counter any gaslighting or self-doubt, any external invalidation or invisibility, by selecting an origin card that speaks to your experience in the relationship, whatever that needs to be.

Position Two – How I can receive connection in this grief. This card speaks to where you might be able to find community and social support, and it’s important because grief is often so isolating – especially complex grief, disenfranchised grief (meaning grief that is not socially acceptable or supported – this is particularly true for someone grieving the loss of a polyamorous relationship, the loss of an affair partner, the loss of an abusive parent, an early miscarriage, or a grief that lasts “too long” and has become uncomfortable for the people around us).

Position Three – How I  can receive comfort in this grief. Experiencing comfort within grief can feel selfish, wrong, bad, ungrateful, or otherwise not allowed. I included this card because I think that we suffer enough, and that comfort is allowed. I also think that comfort is complex, just like grief can be. This is another card that might be helpful to select for yourself, especially if you struggle with allowing yourself to feel comforted within grief (this can be particularly challenging if we feel guilt or shame within our grief). Maybe the Six of Cups could give you permission to return to childhood pleasures for a reprieve from the pain of grief. Maybe the Empress can offer you an invitation to engage in some art or creativity. Maybe the Hermit can open a door to some quiet time alone.

Position Four – The loss. This card represents the loss itself, and is another one that works well for choosing for yourself, or allowing the deck to offer up a card.

Position Five – How I can offer comfort in this grief. First, we take in what we need – find our roots, validate our experience, lean on community, allow ourselves comfort. Then, cups more filled, we pour out. Offering comfort to others who may be grieving (sharing our own specific grief or dealing with something else) can be part of the healing process. I also think that this card can show us how to offer comfort to ourselves if we are still in need of that.

Position Six – How I can offer connection in this grief. An invitation to build bridges to community, particularly after we’re starting to heal.

Position Seven – What new roots will grow in this grief-soaked soil. How will we grow as a result of this? What can we dig our toes down into in order to once again feel grounded and solid? Grief is such a destabilizing experience and can leave us feeling like we will never be grounded, rooted, or solid again. This card is an invitation to imagine a future that doesn’t erase, invalidate, or abandon the grief, but also continues to move with the grief rather than staying stuck. This is another position that welcomes an intentionally chosen card.

I hope this is helpful if you find yourself grieving! And if you’d like to do a tarot reading with me using this spread, let me know!

Here is how I used this spread for myself, in dealing with a specific grief that I am struggling with right now.

Image description: A notebook in the upper right with the spread description from above. The Wild Unknown Tarot deck facedown in the upper left. Seven cards (described below) arranged according to the described spread.

1 – The roots. Nine of Wands. Inner strength and stamina, but also work. The work that never seems to end, the ladder that is always almost there but never quite reaches. I didn’t select this card myself, but in my journalling earlier in the morning, I had been writing about how the relationship containing this grief includes this shared experience of work, of striving, of often feeling just at the edge. This was a lovely validation of shared experience.

2 – Receiving connection. Three of Cups. Friendship. Support. Those corvids sharing stories and secrets on that branch. I see my little coven of tenderqueer wonder witches in this card, and I know that it’s true. I also see my many friendships represented here.

3 – Receiving comfort. Five of Cups. Oh, Sad Horse. There is comfort in allowing the grief to be felt. There is comfort in a good cry. There is comfort in looking at the loss directly, and not immediately jumping to find a silver lining.

4 – The loss. This is the only card I intentionally selected. I chose Death. Death means many things – transformation, closure, necessary endings. Sometimes it means physical death.

5 – Offering comfort. Mother of Pentacles. I love this card for her practical engagement with material needs, her ability to recognize and validate her own needs and the needs of others. She’s an interpretation of offering comfort that isn’t entirely outward-focused – she invites me to be sustainable in my work. I see my narrative therapy work in both this card and the next, and I find that very comforting.

6 – Offering connection. Mother of Wands. My creativity and passion can help me build and sustain connections and community.

7 – Judgement. This card came up in a reading I did yesterday within the relationship holding the grief. It feels powerful here. Forgiveness. Renewal. Reawakening.