Sunday 31 May 2009

Yes, they are that demanding.

And yes, of course we will feed them. We love them that much. Besides, if we don't feed them before we die, they will eat our eyeballs before the undertaker gets there. It's a well-known fact.

Saturday 30 May 2009

What is a Poem?

"[A] poem is a window that hangs between two or more human beings who otherwise live in darkened rooms."

--Stephen Dobyns

Friday 29 May 2009

Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate

Carol Ann Duffy, Britain's first woman Poet Laureate, is a Scottish lesbian single Mom who is one of Britain's most accomplished and popular poets. She has won many prestigious poetry awards and is Director of Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.

I've only read one of her books -- The World's Wife (1999). Every sardonic (or occasionally angry) poem is written from the viewpoint of some famous man's wife or female relative. For example -- Mrs. Midas, Mrs. Aesop, Mrs. Faust, Queen Kong (!), Mrs. Lazarus, Frau Freud and Elvis's Twin Sister.

Here's one of the shorter poems in the book. In five apparently innocuous or even silly lines, it sums up every awful thing we know about women's historically overlooked contributions to, and devalued participation in, human intellectual progress:

Mrs. Darwin

7 April 1852.

Went to the Zoo.
Said to Him -- 
Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you.

Thursday 28 May 2009

Finally, a Woman Poet Laureate in Britain!

For nearly 500 years, Britain has appointed exclusively male Poets Laureate, starting with Ben Jonson in 1617. Some of the greatest British poets have been appointed to this post, including John Dryden, William Wordsworth, Alfred Lord Tennyson, John Masefield, Cecil Day-Lewis (father of the marvelous actor, Daniel Day-Lewis) and Ted Hughes (husband of Sylvia Plath).

But there has never been a female Poet Laureate. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was considered for the post, but in the end Alfred Lord Tennyson was chosen over her. And after Tennyson's death, the post was deliberately left vacant for years rather than appoint a woman poet. Eventually Alfred Austin (who?) was named Poet Laureate. Today he is reviled as the worst Laureate ever -- but better him than Christina Rossetti was the logic of the times.

But the long drought is finally over! At the beginning of May, Britain appointed Carol Ann Duffy as Poet Laureate. More about her tomorrow. In the meantime -- another glass ceiling broken! Hooray!

[This photo is Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey where many of Britain's greatest poets are buried or memorialized by plaques, including some Poets Laureate of course.]

Wednesday 27 May 2009

This Made Me Laugh

Yes, we are all humbled by the lego Stephen Hawking!

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Duomo di Orvieto Infiltrated!

Secret Goddess Agent "L" has raised the bar for all of us who work in Her Divine Secret Service by infiltrating a second cathedral during her trip to Italy! The magnificent 14th century cathedral (duomo) in Orvieto (between Rome and Florence) now has a small figurine of the Great Goddess of Willendorf within its walls, making the entire church sacred to the Divine Feminine. In a daring act of infiltration, Secret Goddess Agent "L" placed the Goddess inside a sculpture of a house topped by Jesus wearing his crown of thorns.

Her work complete, Secret Goddess Agent "L" came home to Edmonton to well-deserved accolades and admiration for her stellar work. She is a true Daughter of the Goddess!

[photo courtesy of Secret Goddess Agent "L"]

Monday 25 May 2009

Vatican Infiltrated Again!

With her masterful espionage skills, Secret Goddess Agent "L" had no difficulty evading detection as she infiltrated the Vatican. She made her way swiftly to the central bronze canopy under the dome of St. Peter's. A huge marble statue of Pope Leo X caught her eye, surrounded as it was by saintly female goddesses or goddessy female saints, depending on your interpretation. Either way, she knew it was the perfect spot! It was there that Secret Goddess Agent "L" hid a small figurine of the Great Goddess of Willendorf and successfully reclaimed the Vatican for the Divine Feminine.

And at that precise instant, the earth shifted ever so slightly on its axis and a cold chill ran down Pope Benedict's back . . . . 

But was Secret Goddess Agent "L's" mission finished? No, she was just getting started! Details tomorrow.

[photo courtesy of Secret Goddess Agent "L"]

Sunday 24 May 2009

Mission Accomplished!

After a few weeks without any word from Secret Goddess Agent "L", I admit I was worried about her top secret mission to infiltrate the Vatican. Had something gone terribly awry? Did she make it past the ever-vigilant Swiss Guards? Were Cardinals waterboarding her with holy water in some secret Papal dungeon? And then this week, word finally arrived -- mission accomplished! Goddess be praised! Stay tuned for a full report!

Saturday 23 May 2009

RS09: Lights! Arcana! Action!

In addition to RS09's Master Classes, there were several optional workshops to chose from, which were led by various tarot experts. I chose "Lights! Arcana! Action!" taught by Thalassa, founder of the Daughters of Divination. Thalassa also produces the annual San Francisco Bay Area Tarot Symposium (SF BATS), which is the world's oldest continually-produced tarot event (first held in 1991). According to her website, Thalassa has "mad schemes for global domination through divination-centred events."

Two things in particular struck me as interesting and useful in Thalassa's workshop. One was her "Black Swan, White Swan" method of further illuminating any action or outcome suggested by a spread. To gain more information, the querent picks two more cards. The first card (the Black Swan) reveals something which the querent should let go or release. The second card (the White Swan) reveals something which the querent should move toward or embrace.

The second interesting thing was Thalassa's big bag of giveaway cards. She always carries a large draw-string bag full of miscellaneous tarot cards -- cards from decks where one or two cards have been lost, cards from decks she no longer uses, stray cards from wherever, etc. The cards are all mixed together in a jumble in her bag. She lets people reach in the bag and pick a card to keep as a special way of ending a reading or starting a conversation or "just because." I thought it was a fun idea and a neat way to interact with people.

The card I picked was the Page of Wands from . . . the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, of course! Am I starting to resonate more with it, after all these years?

Friday 22 May 2009

RS09: Tarot Readers as Entertainers

A very interesting "Lunch 'n Learn" presentation was given by Valentina Burton, a professional tarotist from Dallas, Texas. She reads in her own store, but also reads in bars and at a lot of parties. The purpose of the tarot reader in such venues is strictly to be "the entertainment," she says, so you'd better be entertaining! For that purpose, she dresses in often outrageous costumes and projects a very flamboyant personality. To ensure that no one will have a distressing tarot experience, she also removes all the "troublesome" cards from her reading deck (Death, the Tower, the 10 of Swords, you know the ones!)

She had several practical tips for dealing with drunks and obnoxious clients in a professional but firm manner. Valentina has a male assistant working with her at these events to handle the scheduling of querents and other details. I suspect he's also her "muscle" in case things get ugly due to out-of-control party goers. Valentina also cheerfully admitted to breaking many tarot rules -- she will read to predict the future, she will read to answer a question about someone other than the querent, etc. Valentina was a bit of a refreshing change from the standard tarot reader persona of counsellor, psychologist, spiritual advisor or life coach.

Thursday 21 May 2009

RS09: James Wanless

James Wanless, the creator of the Voyager Tarot, is a powerful motivational speaker. His emphasis is always on action -- don't just dream it, don't just talk about it, do it! Pick a card every day to identify a small, specific, concrete action to take in fulfillment of your plan and then actually do it that day. His Master Class got everyone very pumped up. The most interesting reading tips that appealed to me were:

* If you're asked to do a reading on a very specific area (say, finances), an effective way to get the most powerful and direct answer is to separate the relevant suit from the deck (in this case, pentacles) and do the reading using only those cards.

* A three-aspect reading can be done from a single card. Notionally divide the card into three areas (top, middle, bottom) and read one aspect per section (for example: past, present, future / spiritual, emotional, physical, etc.). Of course, this works best with cards like the Voyager Tarot that are densely packed with symbols spread over the entire surface. If you try it with the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, you'll end up interpreting lots of blue sky with maybe a bird or a cloud in it!

* If you have a spare Voyager deck, cut off the borders of each card and then cut the card into four square pieces. Each one of these mini-cards will have a couple of symbols on it. They can be drawn randomly by a querent to enhance the interpretation of any given card in a spread.

Wednesday 20 May 2009

RS09: Geraldine Amaral

Geraldine Amaral is the co-author of Tarot Celebrations: Honoring the Inner Voice (1998). I read this book when it first came out and loved it, so I was very excited to see her at the Readers Studio. Her Master Class also concerned honing our intuitive abilities. With a partner, we did an intuitive reading of our soul cards (or DNA cards, as she called them). One thing that struck me in particular was the series of steps she always uses to prepare herself for any kind of tarot reading:

1. Breathe -- Take a few moments to focus on deep breathing because "spirit enters through the breath."

2. Affirm and Protect -- Call on your spiritual ideal for wisdom and protection.

3. Ground and Centre Yourself -- Feel your connection to the earth through your feet. Do not cross your arms or legs while doing so.

4. Soul Connection -- Place your hands (palm down) on the querent's hands (palm up). Close your eyes and breathe. Through the energy conveyed by your palms, try to tune into the querent's vibrations and make a soul connection.

5. Speak Name -- Have the querent speak their name three times. Tune into the name's spoken energy and vibration.

6. Open the Gate -- Imagine a door opening to your intuitive mind, which is "an altered state of consciousness -- the place where synchronicity is produced." With your eyes still closed, imagine yourself walking through that door.

7. Neutrality and Scribble -- Open your eyes and scribble all over a blank notebook page, while silently saying "I release. I release." This is to free you from your own prejudices, hang-ups and preconceived notions so that you can be neutral and unbiased while doing the reading. The scribbling physically enacts this release.

8. Now You're Ready to Read!

Geraldine also recommends "closing our intuition portals" at the end of each reading by thoroughly shuffling the cards before putting them away. A tarot reading imposes order on chaos and on completion, the cards need to be returned to chaos again. This shuffling also ensures that the querent's energy does not remain with the cards.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

RS09: The Power of Silence

The first Master Class at the Readers Studio 09 was "The Power of Silence" with Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone. They run the Tarot School of New York and organize the Readers Studio every year. Their book Tarot Tips (2003) is one of the best books I've ever read for practical tips and advice on how to read tarot.

The purpose of the class was to increase our intuitive reading skills. First, one must relax and be open. The best way to do this is to close your eyes, breathe deeply, relax your shoulders and smile. Smiling is crucial because it creates a positive atmosphere. The Amberstones recommend the practice of darshan -- silent communication with another being -- as a way of increasing intuitive skills. Darshan can also be done with things that are wrongly classified as inanimate, Wald said. So we practiced with various items on our tables. I tried darshan with my coffee cup.

The intuitive skills of darshan can ultimately be used to communicate with tarot cards to produce a deeper and richer reading experience.

And, oh yeah -- my coffee cup says "hi!"

Monday 18 May 2009

Send Her Victorious, Happy and Glorious

Happy Victoria Day, everyone! Long may Queen Victoria's illustrious heirs reign. Hee hee!

Sunday 17 May 2009

Teh Ten Commanments of Ceiling Cat

An Ceiling Cat say: Mozus, I be too lazyz to be rytin on stownz so yooz hamerz my wordz on da stownz. So Mozus cut stownz an brung dem in hiz pawz in da morningz up da litter mount. Ceiling Cat got dere ina clowd and meowed hiz own name reel lowd. He floated in fronta Mozus meowin: Ceiling Cat is nice, slow ta growl, gives lotsa cheezburgerz, chillz out an duzzint sweat da small stuff. But, he gives da lazer eye to bad peeps kittenz, litter after litter. Watch yer bak! An lissen up: dese are teh Ten Commanments of Ceiling Cat --

1. I iz Ceiling Cat.
2. Ceiling Cat comz 1st.
3. Don' lissen to Basement Cat.
4. Don' use mai name to do eveil tings.
5. Remember Caturday n keepz it lazy.
6. Drive ur hoomin as crazy as possibl.
7. Don' kill. Unless hoomin makez u dress up.
8. Don' cheat n hook up wit crazy kitteh down teh street.
9. Don' lie. Unless u has to.
10. Don' steel. Jus take stuff wiffout permishun an put it back b4 they kno.

[Compiled and adapted from various sources on teh interwebs. Blessed be da teechins of Ceiling Cat.]

Saturday 16 May 2009

My Tarot Journey, Part 5

I feel that it is time now for me to move on from Morgan-Greer and to start using a new tarot deck. Ciro Marchetti has created a new deck called the Legacy of the Divine Tarot and I bought a copy at the Readers Studio. It is a darker, more fantasy-based deck that nevertheless appeals to me greatly. Ordinarily I'm not a big fan of fantasy art because it's usually very sexist -- lots of big boobs, tiny waists and scanty clothes: fantasy women to fuel some adolescent boy's wet dream. But the Legacy of the Divine Tarot is pretty respectful of women, although it still does not have a lot of diversity of race or body shapes. With that shortcoming noted, I intend to use it as my new reading deck. It will mark the start of the next part of my tarot journey. Because of course, tarot is a life-long journey, as those of you who read tarot know perfectly well!

Next week I'll be starting a five-part series on what I learned at the Readers Studio 09. But for the next couple of posts -- it's time for something completely different!

Friday 15 May 2009

My Tarot Journey, Part 4

After using the round Motherpeace deck for a few years, I wanted to use a rectangular deck so that the positions of Upright and Reversed would be unequivocal. That's the problem with a round deck -- the lack of clarity about reversals can make reading more difficult. The Rider-Waite-Smith deck still didn't do anything for me, but I found a RWS clone that I really liked -- the Morgan-Greer deck. It has bright colours, no borders and nice artwork (although some find it a bit cartoonish). I've been using Morgan-Greer for the past decade or so.

My private tarot studies continued, albeit rather sporadically. However, I was not doing a lot of reading for other people. But over the past year, I've been making a real effort to do more readings in order to keep up my skills. Part of the strategy for improving my reading ability was to attend the Readers Studio 09. Although I do not have any ambition to be a professional tarot reader, I want to have the same skills as one!

Thursday 14 May 2009

My Tarot Journey, Part 3

In 1993, I started to study tarot seriously. I took a 9-week course from a respected Winnipeg tarotist to learn how to read tarot using the Motherpeace deck. The Motherpeace emphasis on women, feminism and Goddess spirituality made it the deck for me! In addition to using the book Motherpeace: A Way to the Goddess through Myth, Art, and Tarot by Vicki Noble (one of the creators of the Motherpeace deck), my teacher also taught us from the works of Mary Greer and Angeles Arrien. The course was wonderful and I learned a great deal. In the years following, I continued tarot studies on my own, reading lots of different books and taking notes. Occasionally I would read the cards for family and friends. But a major aspect of tarot's attractiveness to me during this period was its lessons on spiritual growth via The Fool's Journey.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

My Tarot Journey, Part 2

My tarot journey really picked up steam in 1990. I was just starting to walk the Goddess path and had joined a circle called the Lesbian Spirituality Group. It met once a month at the Winnipeg Gay and Lesbian Resource Centre and was led by an ex-nun who was now a lesbian activist. She introduced us to the Daughters of the Moon Tarot -- the original edition, which was black and white. You were supposed to colour all the cards yourself and then laminate the deck for use.

The cards fascinated me! I wanted to know more about the Goddesses they portrayed. I finally understood that there was spiritual meaning behind tarot cards, which had not been apparent to me from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. I wanted to know more about mysterious tarot concepts like "major arcana" and "minor arcana." I was hooked.

(Incidentally, the second edition of the Daughters of the Moon now comes already laminated in vibrant colours, ready for immediate use. I guess the whole "colour it yourself" idea didn't really work out in practice. My Rare One bought me a second edition deck a few years ago, so I feel like I've come "full circle" now with the DOTM deck).

Tuesday 12 May 2009

My Tarot Journey, Part 1

Before going into more detail about new tarot tips and teachings that I learned at RS09, I thought perhaps people might be interested in hearing a bit about my own tarot background and history. So in true self-centred blogger fashion, here's a five-part series on that very topic! As always, thanks for your patience.

My first tarot deck was, of course, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. It's the standard deck that probably everyone first encounters. Someone gave it to me as a birthday present in the late 1970s or early 1980s, if I remember correctly. It came as a boxed set with 3 small paperback books which were extremely unhelpful, being basically just a list of contradictory and confusing keywords for each card. My sister and I tried to read for each other a few times and then gave it up. I didn't find the cards particularly attractive or intriguing. Clearly my tarot journey was off to a slow start.

Monday 11 May 2009

Readers Studio 09

The Readers Studio was great! I learned some new techniques which will deepen my reading skills. But the most wonderful thing was meeting so many people who love tarot:

Men, women, young, old, professional readers, amateur readers, those who have been reading for 30 years and those who just started a few months ago.

Those who have written the definitive books on tarot, like the legendary Mary Greer and Rachel Pollack, along with other notable tarot authors like Geraldine Amaral, Corrine Kenner, Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone.

Those who have created amazing tarot decks, like James Wanless (Voyager Tarot), Ciro Marchetti (Gilded Tarot), Emily Carding (Transparent Tarot), Robert Place (Alchemical Tarot), Joanna Powell Colbert (Gaian Tarot), Ellen Lorenzi-Prince (Tarot of the Crone), Sage Holloway and Katherine Skaggs (Mythical Goddess Tarot).

Those who must struggle against negative judgments by family and friends because of their interest in tarot and those who are exuberant gypsies in their celebration of all things tarot!

Dreamers, artists, bellydancers, wiccans and goddess worshippers! And yes, a few blowhards and attention seekers too.

RS09 had them all!

[RS09 poster by Ciro Marchetti]