Tarot reading: winter solstice 2018

Disclaimer: my posts have links in them. I haven’t figured out how to get them to show up as a different color in this theme without hovering over them. If I mention a name, website, or product, try moving your mouse over it, because there is probably a link there.

Second disclaimer (This applies to any readings I share, but stood out as extra necessary as I was writing this post): I’m a femme, heterosexual, cisgendered woman in my early thirties, born under a Venus-ruled sign, and this is a reading I did for myself, about my life. I pulled two of the most traditionally feminine cards in the deck, and in this post I pretty much exclusively focus on their ultra-traditional meanings because those meanings are applicable to my life to the point of not really needing to consider other options. If I were reading for someone who didn’t fit any or all of the above self-description, the cards would take on different meanings, and by not discussing all possible interpretations here I’m not in any way suggesting these meanings are universal; I’m just focusing on the interpretations that apply to the querent, which in this case is myself.

Last night for the Solstice, my cat and I decided to get a little extra with our tarot reading. I have more than one familiar, but this one in particular loves to read tarot with me. You can tell by her coloring she’s a High Priestess of the Moon.

We used the Pagan Otherworlds tarot with the solstice spread The Van Mystic posted on Instagram:

I wish this deck used more modern representation–everyone is white, the pages and knights are all male, and the gender presentation is all pretty traditional–and at times I miss things in the imagery because of the muted (albeit gorgeous) palette. Otherwise, I find it to be a powerful, intuitive deck and it’s currently my go-to.

The guidebook, which is sold separately, is presented in a thoughtful storytelling format and includes detailed information about symbolism within each card. My interpretations will be influenced by having read the guidebook cover-to-cover, but they’ll also all incorporate intuition, prior tarot knowledge (including things learned from other sources), and the context of the reading.

I’ll mention if something is uniquely learned from one particular source (to the best of my ability–if I read it in a book 15 years ago or something, I probably won’t remember), specifically based on the context, or otherwise in need of a credit.

I don’t always use a signifier, but when I do, it’s a jumper.

Actually, with this deck I actually do always use a signifier, since it comes with the extra card The Seeker for that purpose and also includes gorgeous moon phase cards*. But in this case I added the Queen of Pentacles to the mix because she hopped out of the deck while I was shuffling.

*I don’t know why I used the first quarter moon instead of waxing gibbous; I think it was the first waxing card I saw when I pulled out the deck and the roughly same-sized obsidian and selenite I was using made me feel drawn to it.

The overall theme of the reading can be summarized as movement, transition, shadow, and light. Through that lens, let’s look at the Queen of Pentacles, whom I like to think of as the Queen of Love and Beauty.

Not everyone identifies each court card group (page, knight, queen, king) with the same elements; maybe some people don’t identify each group with an element at all. I view their respective order as earth, air, water, fire, as taught by Lindsay Mack, who does a deep-dive series into each group of court cards on her podcast, Tarot for the Wild Soul.

As far as I know everyone does identify each suit-element pairing the same way (other than using different names for the suits in some decks): wands-fire-passion, swords-air-intellect, cups-water-emotion, pentacles-earth-physical.

So the energy of the Queen of Pentacles is water (emotion) and earth/ (physical), which to me is obvious when you look at the card:

The signifier, representing me and the overall theme of the reading: The Queen of Pentacles

Her feet are in direct contact with the smooth earth; she holds one man-made symbol of the earthly realm and one natural one; her dress is silk, which epitomizes the sumptuousness of earthly pleasures and physical touch, but is cool and rippling like water; she has one breast exposed, which can suggest physical empowerment, sexuality, comfort in her surroundings, and breastfeeding. Sex and breastfeeding, of course, are both deeply intimate, physical acts in which life may be created or nurtured and sustained through transmission of fluid. She is crowned with a ram’s head and corseted with foliage; her reign is intimately interwoven with the earthly realm.

She is a queen of bountiful pleasures, ruling over a prosperous material world while flowing with emotional awareness and benevolence. Her realm is one of great beauty, gifts, and generosity, and I’m excited that she’s invited me into her energy and will be holding the space for this season in my life.

  • Some things from the guidebook that weren’t obvious to me: the ram’s head symbolizes strength and leadership; the medallion is woven from natural materials, entwining humanity with the natural world; she is glancing down at a small, black rabbit (I didn’t see it behind the rock until I read it).

So with Queen of Pentacles energy flowing through it all, my reading goes:

  1. Where have I had the most growth over the last season? The Empress
  2. What do I need to walk away from as I move into this next season? The eight of pentacles
  3. What is the best intention I can set as I step into the light of this cycle? The knight of swords
  4. How can I best manifest that intention? The six of wands
  5. What shadows in my life are now coming to light? The fool
  6. How can I best integrate these shadows into my life? The sun
Where have I had the most growth in my life over the last season? The Empress

The empress is the queen of all queens and the mother of all mothers. She is fertility incarnate and is a loving, benevolent ruler–but still unquestionably a ruler. The symbol of Venus, a goddess of love and pleasure and feminine power, is upright and stable in the Empress’s relaxed hand: she is master of her works, and doesn’t need to strain herself to keep her realm running right.

I’ve always been drawn to the concept of fertility outside of its reference to human reproduction. When messages of fertility come up in my readings, I think of them in terms of nurturing my garden, my creativity, my spirit, my loved ones, and myself.

Lindsay Mack has discussed thinking of herself as her own daughter to remind or convince herself to engage in self-care (the idea being, it’s easy to neglect your own needs, but you wouldn’t not feed your child; think of yourself as your child, and take care of your child). To me that’s a big part of Empress energy: you are the mother right now, but you are also in need of the mother’s discipline, attention, and nourishing gifts. Even if she pops up in a position that seems to be very externally focused, suggesting it’s time to send out Empress energy, I always think it’s important to pause and examine where I’m also in need of receiving that energy. Being an Empress ain’t easy; there’s no one to look up to and rely on for nourishment, so you have to nourish yourself.

I think of the Empress as having been the Queen of Pentacles before ascending to her current position (because they are both benevolent, maternal, sensual queens), which tells me that even though this card reflects my growth over the last season, she’s not leaving me yet, though her focus will shift a bit.

Let’s talk about this Empress, the Empress of the Pagan Otherworlds, whom in my opinion is life goals for days. Isn’t she just beautiful? The serene confidence of her gaze, the feral regalness of her style, her poise in repose… she is self-assured, able to relax in her power, paying careful attention to her realm but not from a place of anxiety or fear; she is the HBIC and she knows things are thriving under her control. Her calm, firm, direct gaze also suggests she is ready to hear you out and fully consider your requests, but she is no pushover. I just love her.

She’s so poised and professional, with her bound hair and full garments and muted tones, but she’s also a hot-blooded young queen, and you just know when the workday is done she takes out her braids, slips into something more comfortable, and indulges in mead and food and deep belly laughs and other pleasures with her inner circle or lover.

This Empress is so earthly, with her rock throne and horned crown and natural color palette and sensible shoes and…

….her branched orb staff. She’s basically carrying a mounted scrying globe as her scepter.

The earthly wood and crystal (glass, according to the book, but I see selenite or rose quartz) ball are of the natural world, and the fact that it’s a staff emphasizes her regal authority and can create a literal connection between her body and the ground, but that is a tool of mystery. And right now she has it raised, hovering above the earthly realm, receiving the mysteries of the Otherworld and using that wisdom as she runs her empire.

There’s nothing mysterious about her in a shady way; her posture is relaxed, her gaze is even and calm, she is ready to interact with any subjects who approach, and she has nothing to hide. And the tool is utilitarian–it’s her requisite symbol of power and can be used as a walking aid, or to write in the dirt, or even as a weapon–but it also has a function that suggests deeper power. Like the earth or the ocean, she has no need to be deceptive, but she still holds secret depths.

I also think that’s a Star of David on her crown, though it’s a little small/loosely drawn to be certain, which is of course connected to pre-Christian (Jewish) wisdom, the Seal of Solomon, and the esoteric mysteries of the Kabbalah. This Empress is earthly af, but she has done the work to get to where she is, in this world as well as the Other.

I have been feeding my spiritual and creative gifts more consistently this past season, through participation in the amazing Briana Saussy‘s Spinning Gold course and use of Sarah Faith Gottesdiener‘s Many Moons Workbook; through making an effort to make art somewhat consistently for my own pleasure; through getting back to my yoga practice; and, just before the season ended, through starting this blog (largely thanks to Briana, who pulled my birth card The Hierophant during our one-on-one session a week or two ago and told me I’m being called to take my gifts more seriously).

What do I need to walk away from as I move into this next season? The Eight of Pentacles

The eights are traditionally linked to strength, boundaries, and overcoming obstacles, while the pentacles again represent the earthly and material realm. I have to admit this is one of the less intuitive cards in the deck to me, but since I’m familiar with the eight of pentacles already, I know it to be a card of craftsmanship and skill development.

In most cases I think of this card as advising caution, asking me to slow down, do the work, and not rush headlong into things without the necessary skills and preparation. But given its placement as something I need to walk away from, and since the very next card–the intention I need to set–is one of the most active cards in the deck, I interpret this message to be: stop worrying about perfecting things; put your work out into the world.

  • This is a card where the earthy colors and deeply artistic concept make it hard for me to see the intended meaning in the image itself. According to the book, these are handwoven medallions that have been grafted to a tree, creating a living totem that is part man and part nature. Since pentacles are the earthly/material suit, they’re connected to man-made things but also the natural world. So pentacles on a tree don’t inherently read as woven and grafted to me, and the natural colors don’t convey that human element strongly either.
  • The book builds on this interpretation by asking you to consider the intent and the effect of the work; was it done just for show? Has the tree been irreparably damaged?
  • I think this representation and interpretation are gorgeous and create a rich understanding of the layers this card represents. I also think without the explanation it still gets the card’s idea across; I saw it as a tree that is growing strong and beginning to bear results, but isn’t in its fullest state yet.
  • So it works, but it’s definitely one where the authorial/artistic intent would have been lost on me if I hadn’t read the book description.
What is the best intention I can set as I step into the light of this cycle? The Knight of Swords

The knight of swords is double air: he embodies pure intellect. He charges forth, sword at the ready, riding so quickly but appearing to almost lounge on his horse. He’s like lightning; intense movement is so much his nature that he remains utterly relaxed and in his element on a wildly charging mount. There is so much movement in this card: aside from the knight and his horse, the grass is bent as though there is a strong wind (blowing against the direction in which the knight is moving, but he presses tirelessly on); birds soar above; even the clouds have an appearance of movement.

The book has such a poetic description of this card, I want to share it in full:

“All Romantics ride this horse. Untamed, untranslatable. Their spirit soaring into the unknown. That place just over the hill where truth and beauty awaken, unfold, and unite spirit, nature, and flesh under lacy, jagged clouds. It is the profound experience of our own being felt and moved. An internal and external embrace of our wilderness. Earthy. Animalistic. Fire, blood, stars, and air.”

Tarot Notes From the Pagan Otherworlds, Fourth Edition; Linnea Gits, Uusi Press

To me, in the context of intention-setting and on the heels of shedding the eight of pentacles, the knight’s message is loud and clear: just go for it.

I like to think I’m heeding that advice by starting this blog.

How can I best manifest that intention? The Six of Wands

What a beautiful scene the six of wands creates! I’ll jump ahead to a book reference, because the three keywords it assigns are victory, celebration, and peace, which are exactly the words this card conjures for me. The wands are decorated with a wreath of laurel (that age-old symbol of victory), and peace-white ribbon appears to actively swirl through on a gentle wind, dancing celebratorily among the wands, which all stand upright and seem to reach into the sun’s energizing rays.

The landscape is bright and fertile, with rolling hills of fresh green and ancient mountains of deep blue. How many victorious V’s hide in this image? The book confirms at least one (the two center wands) is intentional, but I count at least ten.

This is a beautifully executed card that truly, in my opinion, gets the message across without any need for explanation. But the final line of the book description isn’t something I naturally picked up on, and it actually is the idea that makes the card fall into place in the context of this reading:

“There is the sense that events have been arranged to come together in fulfillment of a shared goal, but one whose ultimate meaning and success will lie further down the line.”

Tarot Notes From the Pagan Otherworlds, Fourth Edition; Linnea Gits, Uusi Press

Pulling a card about victory and celebration when asking how to go about manifesting a goal feels like skipping a step: yes, I’m looking for victory and things to celebrate, but I’m asking how to get there.

The passage I quoted clicks it into place, and also does become obvious in the imagery once I read it: this space is set up for a celebration, but right now, there’s no one here. And the scene definitely suggests a communal celebration, with the multiple wands and dancing imagery.

Rush toward victory, knight of swords, but form some alliances along the way; you’ll need collaboration on this journey, and the crew you build or join will help guide you to this sweet spot.

What shadows in my life are now coming to light? The Fool

The Fool is such a joyful, exciting, innocent card, my eyebrows shot up in surprise to see him come up as shadow. But it immediately made sense, especially in connection with needing to move out of the Eight of Pentacles: I have to let the Fool out of the shadows so I can move into the next, more advanced phase of my journey and begin to grow.

This Fool depiction is pretty traditional, albeit with flavors that will set the tone for the deck, and it’s such a well-known/deeply analyzed card, I don’t feel a need to write a ton about it. Especially because this is the energy that has been staying in my shadows but is ready to come into the light and transform into something more.

I can summarize this one with a quote from a beloved musical:

“Too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep; it’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap!”

“Defying Gravity,” Wicked, Stephen Schwartz
How can I best integrate these shadows into my life? The Sun

Using the Sun to integrate my shadow is so obvious it made me laugh. Shadows are illusions that the Sun creates; a shadow doesn’t exist without sunlight, and it’s the Sun’s position that determines where the shadows go and how much presence they have.

The Sun is a funny card for me. A lot of people think of it as overwhelmingly positive, because it’s all about energy and warmth and success and manifestation. But in some decks, the imagery makes me want to put on sunscreen and crawl into the shade. It can come across as too much, too hot, too bright, too close.

I’m sure some of that is my own subconscious resistance; after all, my sun sign is luxuriant, earthbound, steadfast, and infamously resistant to change. I actually love change and defy that Taurean stereotype in general, but when change comes in the form of growth, which of course is a process that relies on the sun’s energy, I do tend to plant my bull hooves. I want to laze about and enjoy earth’s pleasures! I’m happy to spontaneously try new pleasures or explore a new place; I have no qualms about moving pretty unexpectedly across the country; but when it comes to changing myself and enduring growing pains, I’m a Taurus to the core.

Anyway. This sun card does not freak me out. Look at that triumphant baby, awash in golden light! The childlike innocence adds a needed balance to the ferocity of sun energy, the rocks and horse offer rest on the energy-fueled journey, the flowers reflect the sun’s bright yellow and thrive in the rays, a beautiful banner of victory waves (my six of wands celebration must be just around the corner from this scene!), and above all (literally), look at the sun itself.

I’ll say herself, because that sun has a feminine face that looks down, watchful and proud like a mother over this child, calling back the energies of the Empress and the Queen of Pentacles.


I am stoked about this reading, which seems to promise, “be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

The overall message and the individual pieces feel so clear and consistent, with all of the cards literally and figuratively falling into place and calling back to each other (look at the sun-baby looking up at the Empress! look at the Knight of Swords facing the Fool head on! Look how the Fool and the baby symbolize how innocence and joy can mark the beginning and the victory when fueled by the benevolent energies of the Queen of Pentacles!), and it has deepened my love of the Pagan Otherworlds tarot. The seamlessness of how these cards talk to me individually and talk amongst themselves is too good. You get the sense that you really are in the Otherworld, that these characters exist in one complex realm where they interact and affect each other.