Pondering grim cards

When I was at the North Star Tarot Conference, I got the Orbifold Tarot. The pictures in this deck are abstract patterns of colored circles. The number of circles depends on the number of the card: six circles for the Lovers and the Sixes, nineteen circles for the Sun. The cards are colored depending on the elements involved. It’s a great deck if you habitually consider numbers and elements in your readings, but the patterns mask the emotional impact of a card. For instance, the Three of Cups is often seen as a positive card of friendship and celebration, while the Three of Swords depicts grief and sorrow. In the Orbifold Tarot, however, the Three of Water and the Three of Air have identical patterns of three circles, the former in blue and the latter in yellow.

Three of Water and Three of Air from the Orbifold Tarot

Despite their reputation, I like the Swords, not because I adore misery, but because Swords are the rational, logical, intellectual suit and that describes a lot of my approach to life. I love the tarot, but I’ve never been thrilled at how the Swords have been saddled with a large number of dread-inspiring cards when that hasn’t been my experience of rationality and reason. Also, my favorite color is yellow, frequently associated with the element of air and the suit of Swords. So imagine my reaction to a deck with a beloved suit all in my favorite color,* and the higher the number, the more yellow on the card. The Orbifold Tarot’s Eight, Nine, and Ten of Air are…pretty.

The Eight, Nine, and Ten of Swords from the Thoth and Waite-Smith decks, with the Eight, Nine, and Ten of Air from the Orbifold Tarot between them.
Top row: Thoth Tarot. Middle row: Orbifold Tarot. Bottom row: Waite-Smith Tarot.

It hasn’t been easy for me to leap into reading a deck without concrete illustrations. I’ve needed to think to recognize the cards. Between the lack of familiar illustrations and my unexpected reaction to commonly dreaded cards (“ooh, nice!”), I started wondering about a few things. Like, are the Eight, Nine, and Ten of Swords innately grim—that is, the combination of number and element mandates grimness—or do we think of them that way because of how they are illustrated in the most influential decks?

The pictures on both the Waite-Smith and the Thoth decks do lead one to think of unpleasant things, as do the card titles. In the Eight of Swords (“Interference”), the two vertical swords in the Thoth deck are willpower and firmness, but they’re under siege from all the problems symbolized by the other six swords. The woman in the Waite-Smith deck cannot make much progress either, being bound, blindfolded, and hemmed in by swords.

The Nine of Swords? Ah, “Cruelty.” In the Thoth illustration, nine swords drip blood. Those lighter-colored drops? Poison. Meanwhile, over in the Waite-Smith illustration, in addition to the sleepless figure clutching their head in the night, notice that the scene on the bed frame is of someone running a sword through a seated victim. Good times.

And the Ten of Swords—”Ruin.” Personally, I love the color scheme of the Thoth Ten of Swords, but it’s not peaceful and calming. (Also, never trust jagged, sharp background patterns in a Thoth card.) Still, bright colors, no dripping blood or poison…things are looking better than in the Nine of Swords, right? Well, those ten swords form the Tree of Life. While you can’t really see it in this photo, nine of the swords are breaking the tenth sword, the one with a heart on its hilt. The heart is at the Tiferet position on the Tree of Life—the Tree is losing its heart. This is not good. And the Waite-Smith illustration is of someone who’s been stabbed ten times. In the back.

It’s not that life never delivers situations this serious. But there are situations not nearly as harsh as the illustrations in these cards suggest which are Swords/Air situations, yet not easily described by the more moderate cards in the suit. The Orbifold Tarot and its emotionally neutral cards led me to consider if there were less dramatic ways to interpret these cards in any deck while staying within range of the common meanings.

One theory is that the higher the number on the card, the closer it is to manifestation. Cards early on in the suit are more like ideas and inspirations, but as the numbers increase, the situation becomes more fixed and committed, harder to change. Traditionally, water and earth are said to be more comfortable in the higher numbers than fire and air, so the Nines and Tens look a lot more positive in the Cups and Pentacles than they do in the Wands and Swords. Another approach is that the Nines are the culmination of the suit, while the Tens go overboard. When you’re at the Ten, the situation has developed as much as it can—it may even have gotten a bit stuck—and it’s definitely time to end this cycle and start a new one. Keeping these two approaches in mind, here are some thoughts on what the Eight, Nine, and Ten of Swords/Air might mean if they show up in a reading when the end of the world is not nigh:

Eight of Air: Constraint. If you make a commitment, you’re constrained. If you have things to do at work, you’re constrained. Planning to keep to a schedule today? Drive at the speed limit? Cross things off your to-do list? You’re constrained. It may not be fun, but it’s necessary. Often, that schedule or to-do list or those laws are mental/intellectual creations, which is why I see this as fitting for Air/Swords. Many people have pointed out that the woman in the Waite-Smith Eight of Swords could free herself if she tried. Many times, the only force holding you to your commitments is yourself. Is it wise to do so? Only you know.

Nine of Air: Lost in thought. The Waite-Smith picture suggests that if your mind is racing in the middle of the night, it must be because of horrible thoughts. Not necessarily. Me, I’m more than capable of lying awake working out some interesting idea or thinking about something intricate and fun. But this late in the suit, at the level of the Nine, things should be manifesting, becoming real. In the Nine of Air, they’re not. This is one of the downsides of Air: keeping everything theoretical and perfect** instead of making the commitment to earthly, flawed reality. Do something.

Ten of Air: Bringing something to an end, letting it go. Which can be painful: just one more edit, okay? Let me just tweak this one thing, proofread one more time, redo this one bit here, it’s not ready… In the Ten, the idea has become reality, and now there’s no denying that it’s not as perfect as the original inspiration was back at the Ace. On the other hand, it at least exists, which is more than can be said of that first idea. You can’t really commit to new projects if you never bring the old ones to an end. Even if it feels like killing something, say “The End” and move on.

*To be accurate, the ten pip cards have yellow designs on white backgrounds and the King of Air (Air of Air) has a yellow circle on a yellow background. The other Air Court Cards have yellow backgrounds with circles of different colors for the other element in the card: a green circle for the Page of Air (Earth of Air), a red circle for the Knight of Air (Fire of Air), and a blue circle for the Queen of Air (Water of Air).

**”Perfect” could mean perfectly horrible. Nightmares of how awful something could be are no more rooted in reality than the beautiful fantasies of how wonderful it could be.


North Star Tarot Conference 2018

Two years ago, I went to my first North Star Tarot Conference and figured I’d be back the following year. That didn’t happen, but I was able to make it this year.

Structure- and schedule-wise, not much changed. The conference started on Friday evening and wrapped up on Sunday around lunchtime. I got there in that liminal period between when I could check into my hotel room and the beginning of the conference, and ended up watching vendors set up. Indeed, I bought my first tarot deck of the weekend (of two) before the conference even officially got going.

The Orbifold and Arcanum Tarots, with sample cards.
New decks! The deck on the left is the Orbifold Tarot; on the right is the Arcanum Tarot.

This year, knowing there’d be a swap table, I remembered to bring a few things for it. They mostly disappeared, and I feel much better about setting them free in the world rather than slipping them into a recycling bin. In return, I’ve acquired a laminated card of tarot keywords. Do I need one? Not particularly, but I’m interested in how other people summarize the cards, and it’s not like it takes up a lot of space. Perhaps I will set it free on another swap table someday.

It must be traditional for the conference to start with a beginners’ program and a session on tarocchi running concurrently. I still have minimal interest in tarocchi, so off to Nancy Antenucci’s beginners’ session I went. From a handout of statements, we chose ones that described our daily lives and the current themes in our lives. We then pulled the cards that were linked to those statements and read those cards to a partner. It was a flashback for me, because the statements were taken from Gail Fairfield’s Choice-Centered Tarot, which was one of my first tarot books back in the ’90s. The evening continued with the opening Imbolc ritual. Unlike two years ago, at least I managed to stay awake through it! I would dazzle you with stunning photos of the altar piled with blue cloths (to be blessed by Brighid), but I’d left my phone back in my room and was camera-less. After that was “Late Night Tarot Hoopla,” which I must leave up to your imagination as I went back to my room after the ritual.

Every year, the conference features one or two cards from the Major Arcana as its theme, and this year, the cards were Justice and the High Priestess: “Speak the Truth You Know.” On Saturday, Jeannette Roth from the Tarot Garden gave a talk on the evolution of the Justice card. I enjoyed the talk, and the pictures of how the design of the Justice card has changed over the centuries were fascinating, but, um, well, the card still doesn’t appeal much to me aesthetically. Still, the discussion brought up interesting points: should Justice have wings or sit between pillars? How about the name of the card? Is “Justice” good, or do you like Crowley’s “Adjustment” better, or maybe something else? Where does karma figure into this? (Does it at all?) After lunch, Michael Foster discussed ethics and tarot reading: what do you do when the cards say one thing, but you’d prefer to advise the querent to do something else? He shared a spread he’d created that evokes the essence of Justice to distinguish between the two. The third speaker of the day, James Wells, explored “How to Be a Priestess of Justice.” I’m glad this had handouts that I can review in my own time, because it involved some thinking and writing, and needed more time than the schedule allowed. Saturday night’s programming was a movie night with games, but again, I headed back to my room.

On Sunday, we were back to two options in programming, with Chuck Boe doing an introduction to Lenormand cards and Melani Weber doing something that sounded artsy-craftsy. Since I know Chuck and I wanted to see his presentation, that second track remains a mystery to me. Chuck started with the story of Marie Lenormand and the invention of the cards. He then led everyone through a brief introduction to the Grand Tableau.* I assume the presentation was a success: at least one person at my table sounded interested in learning more, and perhaps acquiring a deck. (Plus I hear the Tarot Garden sold lots of Lenormand decks.) After that, there was a reading practice session from Nancy Antenucci and Michael Foster, and a final ceremony that closed the Imbolc ritual from Friday night.

Besides the tarot decks, I got a nice door prize. It was a two-parter: a blank book with a Temperance card printed on the front cover, and Your Tarot Your Way: Learn to Read with Any Deck by Barbara Moore. A book by Barbara Moore I haven’t read yet: cool!

A blank book with the tarot card Temperance on the front cover, and the book Your Tarot Your Way.

*The Grand Tableau is a layout that uses all 36 cards in the deck. (This is less scary than it sounds.) If you’ve studied tarot, you know that the Celtic Cross spread is included in almost every introductory guide, even though it’s not the easiest spread for a beginner. Well, it’s the same thing with the Grand Tableau and introductory Lenormand guides.

Trying the Kipper cards

For all my love of divination, I’m a bit limited when it comes to reading cards. Tarot was my first love, and it was the only sort of cards I read for decades. I wasn’t interested in learning cartomancy, and the oracle decks I tried usually didn’t work for me. Not that I’ve felt restricted, given how deep and meaningful the tarot is. I probably could’ve stuck with it forever, but a few years ago, I discovered I could read Lenormand cards as well. Now I’m trying a third kind: the Kipper cards.

FdSKipperLate last year, I learned that Ciro Marchetti had done a Kipper deck. I’d heard of Kipperkarten, but the few pictures I’d seen hadn’t attracted me, and most of the material I’d found on them was in German, so I didn’t know how I’d learn them even if I got a deck. What I saw of Marchetti’s Fin de Siècle Kipper did appeal to me—no surprise there—and I figured there’d be a little white book or the equivalent, so I got it. Yes, there was a book (neither white nor all that little), and yes, I can read them (!).

First impressions? Like the Lenormand, Kipper cards feel better suited to practical, “mundane” readings, rather than the more psychological readings I get from the tarot. It feels like doing a reading with a deck that’s mostly Court Cards. Which is a slight exaggeration on my part: the people cards make up only about a third of the deck. It’s hard to tell with the Fin de Siècle deck, though, because some cards that were people cards in German have become situations in English (30-Gerichtsperson (“court person”) became Judication—given the awkwardness of the literal translation, I see why) or vice versa (24-Diebstahl (“theft”) became Thief). People cards appear to be both people and representations of the situations they’re in, i.e. 8-False Person is both a deceitful person and the qualities of deception and treachery.

Unlike Lenormand cards, Kipper cards don’t have playing card inserts. Can’t say as I miss them. Many Kipper cards also have more literal names. I suppose you could have a Lenormand reading in which 2-Clover referred to a patch of Trifolium repens, the white clover, but it usually means luck. For this to make sense, you have to know about four-leaf clovers and how finding one is supposed to be lucky. On a similar theme, the Kipper card 26-Great Fortune means…great fortune.

A standard Kipper deck has 36 cards, like the Lenormand. Marchetti has added three cards and I’ve kept them in the deck.* When I try to think how the same idea might’ve been shown if I’d left them out, it seems like the idea could be misunderstood. With 36 cards trying to cover most of human experience, there’ll be some thin spots in coverage, if not outright gaps, but these look like they’ll help. They add some balance. For instance, there are three Kipper cards that touch on financial gain: 11-Sudden Wealth, 26-Great Fortune, and 27-Unexpected Income (13-Wealthy Man may also count). Certainly cards like 24-Thief and 32-Despair can hint at financial strain, but Marchetti’s 37-Poverty tackles it straight on. I’m not sure that 38-Toil & Labour is needed when the deck already has 34-Occupation, but I’m willing to wait and see if there’s a clear difference between them in readings. And Marchetti has a point: there’s no traditional Kipper card that overlaps with 39-Community.

I’m delighted to see a range of ages represented: the very young (18-Child), young adults (12-Privileged Lady, 13-Wealthy Man), older adults (5-Mature Man, 6-Mature Woman), and whatever age the querent is, I suppose, for 1-Main Male and 2-Main Female. Age representation doesn’t bother me much with the Lenormand because 28-Man and 29-Woman are generic as all get-out, but I’ve wished some of my tarot decks had better age diversity.

You can do a Grand Tableau with Kipper cards, same as you can with the Lenormand. I haven’t dared try yet. Mind you, I rarely do the Grand Tableau with the Lenormand. I have my favorite Lenormand spreads, but I haven’t found ones I like for Kipper yet, even though they can probably use the same ones.

The decks are not identical, but they have several similar cards between them. Sometimes this is obvious: 13-Child (Lenormand) is pretty darn close to 18-Child (Kipper). Sometimes it needs a bit of thought: 17-Stork (Lenormand) looks to have a lot in common with 9-Change (Kipper). And there are cards like 33-Key (Lenormand) and 25-High Honor (Kipper) which appear to have no equivalents in the other deck.


I don’t know if I’ll stick with the Kipper cards. The Lenormand complements the tarot nicely, what with one giving me pragmatic readings and the other more psychological ones, but do I need two pragmatic decks? But there could very well be differences between Lenormand and Kipper cards that I’m not aware of yet, simply because I’m still at the very beginning stages of learning how to read Kipper cards. So, we’ll see.

*Marchetti also added cards to the Lenormand deck, but they weren’t included in the first edition of his deck. I have the revised edition, but haven’t tried reading with the new cards. By now I’m used to the standard set of 36; I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to others.

Mercury through the Minor Arcana

And on to Mercury, the second fastest planet in the Chaldean order. In Roman mythology, Mercury was the god of commerce, communication, travelers, and thieves. He also guided souls to the underworld. In a natal chart, Mercury represents the conscious mind, communication, and perception. It doesn’t show how intelligent someone is in the sense of an IQ test, but it’s the main indicator of how someone thinks (concretely, in intuitive leaps, focusing on the details, etc.).

Eight of Wands (Mercury in Sagittarius)

Mercury in Sagittarius is energetic as all get-out. All three fire signs are associated with creativity, passion, and enthusiasm, but in addition to that, Sagittarius is mutable. The mutable signs are adaptable and flexible, but also restless and scattered. As a result, Mercury in Sagittarius has more energy than focus and may end up trying to do a gazillion things at once.

Eight of WandsMost Minor Arcana cards depict a situation, such as the aftermath of a battle (Five of Swords), walking in a garden (Nine of Pentacles), or a family celebrating together (Ten of Cups). In the Waite-Smith deck, the Eight of Wands is one of the only Minor Arcanum without people in it.* To me, because there are no people acting in this card, the emphasis is on movement and speed rather than any specific action. The Golden Dawn name for this card is Lord of Swiftness, and most standard meanings for this card don’t stray far from that concept. While some decks show the eight wands shooting towards the sky, Smith’s illustration shows them descending. They’re finishing their journey, and that’s also in keeping with Mercury in Sagittarius. Like the arrows of Sagittarius, it’s time to retrieve them and prepare them for their next launch. They’re like the arrows of Sagittarius.

Three of Cups (Mercury in Cancer)

When Mercury is in Cancer, thoughts and perceptions are shaped by feelings and instincts. Cancer is a water sign, and the water signs are emotional, intuitive, and subjective. Cancer is associated with nurturance and protection. It’s a sensitive sign, and Mercury in Cancer is attuned not only to the literal meaning of what’s being said, but to the tone in which it’s being said.

Three of CupsFriendship and celebration are obvious meanings of the Three of Cups. Three women dance together, in a clear patch ringed with fruits and vegetables, appropriate for the Golden Dawn title for this card, Lord of Abundance. The joy and celebration in this card are clear, but it’s a private party. Note that the women are facing inwards, almost entwined in each other’s arms. If anyone else were in the area, they would find it difficult to join in unless the women chose to let them in. Cancer’s sensitivity and protectiveness can lead it to take care only of those it recognizes as family, as part of its tribe. In the Three of Cups, the women support each other, but they may only support each other.

Six of Swords (Mercury in Aquarius)

Mercury is comfortable in Aquarius, an air sign that supports its natural inclination to be detached and approach life rationally and intellectually. But Mercury’s natural home in the air signs is flexible, mutable Gemini. In fixed Aquarius, Mercury becomes more committed to seeing ideas through to the end instead of flitting away to the next interesting thought. That can mean it’s open to hearing new ideas, but won’t necessarily change its mind until it’s rationally convinced that it should.

6SThe Six of Swords is another one of those cards that differ noticeably between the Waite-Smith and Thoth decks. Smith’s image shows two people being ferried away by a third. Their destination may be a better place than where they came from, as there is calm water between the boat and the far shore and turbulent water between the boat and the viewer. There’s a feeling of sadness in the card, though. The adult passenger sits hunched over, shrouded in a cloak, the sky is gray, and that far shore is gray, not green with life and vitality.** One possible inspiration for this scene is dead souls being ferried across the Styx in Greek mythology. While that was Charon’s role, not Hermes’ (Mercury’s), this card does reflect Mercury as the god of travelers at the very least, and possibly in his role as psychopomp. The Golden Dawn called this card Lord of Earned Success, but I admit that’s not what comes to mind when I see this card. Common meanings for the Waite-Smith Six of Swords include  travel (especially by water), sadness, and moving on.

Six of SwordsIn the Thoth deck, the Six of Swords is called Science. Science goes well with Mercury in Aquarius’ intellectual focus, and the general meanings for the Thoth Six of Swords reflect this: intelligence, curiosity, insight, progress, perception, and rational thought. Honestly, these sound like the general meanings for Mercury in Aquarius. This is pretty much as positive as the Swords get, and Crowley describes it as “the full establishment and balance of intelligence with humanity.”

What the two versions of the Six of Swords have in common is the idea of progress and improvement. Mercury in Aquarius symbolizes innovative thinking, which is often associated with science. Less obviously, to make a complete break with your past and set off to an unknown future, as the passengers in the Waite-Smith Six of Swords are doing, also requires innovative thinking.

Five of Pentacles (Mercury in Taurus)

Mercury is even more stabilized in Taurus than in Aquarius. Earth, after all, is solidity and permanence, and fixed earth, symbolically, is as immovable as you get. All this immovability is counter to Mercury’s mobile nature, and in the tarot version of this combination, it’s mired.

Five of PentaclesAs Mercury is “trapped” in the material world, so are the people in the Five of Pentacles trapped in poverty and illness. In Smith’s picture, they trudge through snow, one barefoot, the other on crutches. They’re moving, but like Mercury bogged down in Taurus, they can’t outrun their problems. The Golden Dawn called this card the Lord of Material Trouble, and it’s Worry in the Thoth deck, both names doing a fine job of capturing the essence of this card. Are the two people even communicating (Mercury) with each other? They’re looking in different directions, lost in their own thoughts. They’re also cut off from anyone who might be inside the building and who might be able to help them; here, Mercury’s perception fails.

Ten of Pentacles (Mercury in Virgo)

Given a little wiggle room, Mercury’s outlook improves noticeably. Like Taurus, Virgo is an earth sign, but it’s mutable earth, with the flexibility that suggests. Mercury does quite well there: grounded, yet mobile.

Ten of PentaclesHere we have the opposite of the Five of Pentacles: the Golden Dawn name for the Ten of Pentacles is Lord of Wealth. Given the Golden Dawn’s distrust of materialism, however, this card isn’t necessarily entirely positive. Ever since I read Rachel Pollack’s explanation of the Ten of Pentacles in Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, I’ve been wary of the apparent abundance of this card. I tend to read it as “money can’t buy happiness.” Certainly everyone here is better off than the people in the Five of Pentacles, and yet in Smith’s illustration, they’re just as disconnected, not looking at each other. The only exception is between the old man and the dogs. Still, they’re all close enough to touch each other; they’re not nearly as isolated as the people in the Five of Pentacles. Plus, the pentacles aren’t “in” the scene as they are in most of the other cards of this suit. They float between the viewer and the scene in the form of the Tree of Life, suggesting a spiritual meaning in the most material of the Pentacles cards.

*The others are the Aces, the Three of Swords, and the Four of Swords. Although the Four of Swords does have a human figure in it.

**Well, it’s gray in the Universal Waite Tarot, anyway!

KonMari Project 5.1: Komono (kitchen equipment)

The fourth stage of the KonMari Method is when you tackle komono, which is Japanese for “miscellaneous items.” Ideally, you’ve sorted through your clothes, weeded your books, and gone through your papers. You’re not ready for your sentimental items yet, but now it’s time to tackle Everything Else. But that’s a lot of stuff.

I get why komono gets one amorphous step to itself.  Kondō could assume that most of her readers owned clothes (!), books, and paperwork. And most people have sentimental items: the trick with those is the emotional attachment more than the items themselves. But everything else in someone’s home varies from person to person. Instead of being one small volume, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up would have to be a set of encyclopedias to cover all the different kinds of things that people own. Best, from the author’s standpoint, to give general tips and then stand back and let people work their own way through this. As taking everything I owned that wasn’t in one of the other categories and piling it in the living room wasn’t remotely feasible, I decided to break it down into broad categories. After all, I classify things for a living: this is second nature to me. I’m working through them one by one, and we’ll see how it goes. While I may very well revise my list as I get further into this, my first set of categories (to be tackled as the spirit moves me) is:

  • Kitchen equipment: cookware, bakeware, and the dishes and silverware
  • Audio/video: CDs, DVDs, cassettes, and the equipment to play them on
  • Bed and bath: towels, throws, sheets, and other things that lurk in the linen closet
  • Crafts: yarn, fabric, magic markers, and anything else that I may have been creative with
  • Everything else: (to be further subdivided when I get the first four out of the way and see what’s left)

And with that, I took on the kitchen.

Let’s start with the results. I did the main kitchen purge on July 4, and then went to CONvergence two days later. When I got back, I was a bit pressed for time, so I didn’t do major cooking. I just threw together a few ingredients and called it lunch for the following week. So it was almost two weeks before I did serious cooking in my newly-weeded kitchen. I opened the kitchen gadget drawer to get a strainer and was totally stunned by how easy it was to retrieve it. That drawer used to be so jam-packed that stuff would catch on the drawer above it and I’d have to work my hand in through a narrow opening and try to unsnag everything. Now opening the drawer was effortless and since the things in it were only one layer deep, I could easily see everything at a glance. This was so noticeable an improvement that it lifted my mood for the next half hour. So yes, totally worth the time spent pulling the kitchen equipment together and going through it!

Random thoughts from the kitchen

I started with the equipment I rarely use nowadays. I don’t use large skillets any longer, now that I have a sauté pan that I like, and anyway, the 12″ (30 cm) cast iron skillet was too heavy for me to handle safely. Eating habits have changed, and while I still adore layer cake with buttercream frosting, I rarely make it anymore, not even to take it into work for parties. I didn’t get rid of all the cake pans, but I tried to hold on to only the basics and only the specialty ones I fully expect to use within the next year. I need two 9″ round pans to make a layer cake, but I don’t need two Bundt pans when you only use one for a recipe. And it was time to accept that even if it improves the flavor noticeably, I’m not going to grind my own spices. Not enough to justify giving space to a spice grinder, anyway. I do grate fresh nutmeg, but I can use the grater for other things. The spice grinder was single-purpose and a lot larger.

If I couldn’t identify the item or it looked too dangerous to use, it went. Rationally or not, I’m convinced that the onion holder was a tetanus shot waiting to happen, not so much when it was in use but when I was washing it afterwards. My wariness of sharp blades and points is why a mandoline slicer has never made it into my kitchen. One of the reasons I prefer baking to cooking is that you don’t need to use knives nearly as much in baking.

Odd kitchen gadget lying on table and being held.
It took me half an hour to remember what this blue thing was (you use it to protect your fingers while slicing or grating food).

Often, one thing led to another. I’ve moved a pair of pie plates—not sure why I had two of them in the first place—from one apartment to another for years. Never mind that I haven’t made a pie in at least 12 years. So the pie plates went. And if I’m not making pies, then I don’t need to keep a pie keeper/carrier. Nor do I need pie weights, nor do I need a pie crust shield. Gone, gone, gone. I did keep the rolling pin—if it’s been at least 12 years since I made a pie, it has to be closer to 20 since I made pie crust from scratch—but that’s because I use it occasionally to crush cookies and the like into crumbs.

I got rid of most of the “cute” equipment. I think there’s a perception that if you’re single, you need smaller quantities of food, like casseroles with only 2 servings. But here’s the catch: it takes almost as long to make a small amount of something as a regular amount. Think about it: why would it take twice as long to dip a 1-cup measure into flour and level it than it does to dip a ½-cup measure? So while I kept the bread maker that makes small loaves because they’re good for potlucks, I got rid of the tiny baking pans and other pots and pans that were only large enough for one or two servings. I like to bake, but I don’t like to cook all that much, so I prefer to cook regular size amounts and eat away at it over a week. It helps that I have a really high tolerance for leftovers.

It’s hard to get rid of anything when there’s a little voice whispering But everyone needs a skillet. How can you not own a pie plate? But what if you want to make waffles some day? I had more trouble with the “what ifs” with kitchen equipment than with the other things. I have a lot of specialized kitchen equipment. If I got rid of the waffle maker, I couldn’t easily substitute something else if I decided I wanted a waffle one morning. Whereas with the clothes, if I gave away one shirt too many, all that meant was that I couldn’t wear that shirt, not that I’d have to go to work naked. And that’s why I still have the waffle maker, at least for now.

Kitchen equipment piled on the floor.
Some of what departed.

End result: about 80 pounds (36 kg) of kitchen stuff went off to Goodwill or to interested friends. Oh, my hypothetical future movers, you don’t know how I’m making your lives easier.

All the feelings

I started with the kitchen equipment because of all the komono, I figured I had the least sentimental attachment to it. Which was technically true, but there were feelings anyway. With much of the stuff I’ve gotten rid of, it’s because I’ve outgrown it, like weeding most of my books on Wicca because I’m no longer Wiccan and because I’ve learned much of what was in the books and don’t need to refer to them as often. But I still like to bake. (Cooking, not so much.) Some of the baking equipment went because it was reminding me that I don’t get to bake as much as I used to, and the reminders were kind of sad. Am I still a baker if I don’t bake all that much? Is it all right to bake when most of the baked goods I like to make are on one naughty-no-no list or another? Will I bake much in the future? I catch myself scheduling my favorite recipes to make sure I cover as many of them as possible: vanilla pound cake for a potluck later this week, something easy to carry for the family reunion next month, chai-spiced pound cake or maple cake for a potluck in September, and definitely gingerbread and Grandma’s pumpkin bread for sometime this fall. But in trying to make sure all the favorites get covered, there are fewer chances to discover anything new, and I enjoy that as well.

Melancholy aside, remember those great results I got with just the kitchen gadget drawer. And I no longer have to offload every baking pan I own onto the floor just to get to my 9″ x 13″ pan (22 x 33 cm). I’m sure I’m not conveying how thrilled this makes me, but I’m downright ecstatic every time I go into a manageable cupboard or drawer and easily retrieve something. I’m definitely pressing on with the KonMari Project. I don’t know what I’ll be dealing with next, but I continue to inch ahead. More later!

KonMari Project 4: Papers

The third discard stage of the KonMari Method is getting rid of papers. After the long, drawn out process of weeding my books, I figured this stage would be quick and easy. I like books; most papers don’t generate nearly the same interest, much less warmth and affection. And since you can say that for most people, this stage uses different criteria. We keep most papers for legal reasons, financial reasons, and information. So this stage is a matter of coolly evaluating the papers you’ve got and asking yourself if you really need to keep them. (Pointing out the obvious here: if most people, myself included, could coolly evaluate anything we own, decide if we really needed it, and follow through on getting rid of the unneeded, Kondō’s books wouldn’t be international bestsellers.)

I hope most people who read Kondō’s books realize early on that you can’t follow the program unthinkingly. Kondō says “My basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away”—trust me, that was tempting—but she’s writing for Japanese readers who have to deal with Japanese rules about hanging onto documentation. Only a few sentences later, she writes, “…I recommend you dispose of anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely.” The tricky part is figuring out what’s needed.

File box and file cabinet.
The destination and the starting point.

Generally, my papers fall into four categories: knitting and crochet patterns, owner’s manuals and warranties, tax returns and financial papers, and interesting articles and clippings. The whole lot filled a two-drawer file cabinet. I’d love to get rid of that file cabinet. It’s attractive, but the drawers are a few millimeters too narrow for standard hanging folders (?!), and I don’t want two drawers worth of papers in my life. Where it sits makes it difficult to get to the air conditioner, but there’s no better place to put it. A file box would work just as well and I could push it under the desk or into a closet.

The easiest papers to toss were the patterns. Most of them were working copies and I didn’t need them any longer. I prefer to work from PDF patterns, and I keep pattern notes on the knitting blog and Ravelry nowadays. Owner’s manuals and warranties were a bit more of a struggle. I have a hard time tossing them, even when it’s obvious how to use the device and the warranty runs out in 90 days. (Yes, I have kept IKEA assembly instructions for furniture that will never be disassembled until the time comes to throw it out!) But as Kondō says, if you really need them, you can usually find them online.

Financial documents don’t spark joy, but that doesn’t mean they don’t generate emotional energy. I had no real feelings about my personal tax returns and was content to shove them into the back of a closet. But I was also storing the tax returns for two estates, and I loathed them. They reminded me of a miserable time in my life, and I felt forced to give them space in my home, which is pretty much the opposite of what the KonMari Project is about. But even though the last estate had closed 14 years ago, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was going to be in big trouble if I threw them out. So in the past, I would come across the estate tax returns when looking for something else, feel powerless to do anything about them, and then try hard to forget about them entirely. This time, buoyed by the success of getting rid of clothing and books, I made myself ask my tax preparer about them. The best way I can explain why I hadn’t asked earlier is that if she’d said I had to keep them, it would’ve felt even worse than it already did. I’d have known I was powerless. Ugh.

Turns out I could toss them. 🎉

Including other confidential papers I had weeded, I ended up lugging about 12 pounds (5.4 kg) of paper away to be shredded. It was absolutely delightful feeding the papers into the collection unit. I felt both literally and figuratively lighter.

That leaves the articles and clippings. I’ve halved the collection, but what remains is stubborn (I know, I know: it’s that I’m stubborn about keeping them). I need a different way to store them. All that filing them accomplished was to hide them from view and allow me to forget about them. Keeping them in notebooks is a possibility, although most of them are on acidic paper and are already turning yellow. I don’t care if they disintegrate after I’m done with them, but they need to be readable for as long as I choose to keep them. I’m stuck with the file cabinet until I figure out what to do with them, which is excellent motivation to keep working away at the problem. The fight goes on!

Lost and gone forever

It is satisfying as all get-out to interpret a Lenormand reading and/or a horary chart that accurately describes the location of a lost item, and then find the item. But sometimes a lost item stays lost. So when you ask where a lost item is, are you asking only for a description of its location? Or are you also asking if you’ll find it, even if you don’t say that in so many words? A reading I did a few months ago suggests the latter.

My friend J. has a friend who had lost a set of keys to a home safe. J. asked me about the keys on her friend’s behalf. The Lenormand reading and the horary chart both gave meaningful answers, but as of this writing, the keys haven’t been found. And even if they do turn up someday, for all practical purposes, it’ll be too late. J’s friend was going to have new keys made. Once that was done, the original keys may as well stay lost.

The Lenormand reading

I took my “usual” approach to doing a lost items reading. (“Usual” meaning I’ve done this maybe three or four times now: so much experience!) I choose a card ahead of time as the significator of the lost item, shuffle the deck, look for it in the deck, and lay out the card before it, the significator itself, and the two cards after it. The one card before would show the past; it’s the equivalent of “When did you last see the keys?” The two cards afterwards should show the present/future location of the lost item. Choosing the significator was easy: lost keys cry out to be represented by 33-Key.

It never occurred to me that the Key might be the last card in the deck. Which it was.

Garden and Key Lenormand cards

Here’s that issue I was talking about. I’d asked where the keys were. The most straightforward reading of this was that the keys had no present or future location. (The past location, 20-Garden, which suggested they might’ve been in the garden or at a gathering, didn’t help any.) It was possible that the keys had been destroyed, and that would answer the explicit question Where can she find her missing safe keys?. But the keys only needed to be permanently lost, nothing as dramatic as utterly obliterated, if the reading was answering the implicit question Will she find her lost keys? No “future” for the keys: the answer is No.

I admit I didn’t trust my intuition. And I hadn’t realized that there were two questions involved; I was only thinking of the explicit one. Since it seemed unlikely that the keys had been destroyed, they should be somewhere, so I took the first two cards from the top of the deck to find out what that somewhere was. The first card was 23-Mice. One interpretation of the Mice is that the keys had been stolen; another was that they were permanently lost.

Garden, Key, Mice, and Fish Lenormand cards

Eventually, I do figure these things out. Especially when the cards are practically hitting me over the head with an answer. 🙄

The second card was 34-Fish. It suggests the keys were near J’s friend’s financial materials, which makes sense given that they were the keys to one of her home safes. But as they do seem to be permanently lost, we’ll never know. The Mice may have been the absolute end of the reading (“Look,” the cards grumbled, “we told you they had no future, and then we told you—again—that they were lost. How much more of an answer do you need?!”), and it wouldn’t matter what the next card was.

The horary chart

To make this post easier to read, I’ve separated the Lenormand reading from the horary chart reading. But at the time, I was going back and forth between them, so I hadn’t reached that conclusion about the Lenormand reading before I’d started working on the horary chart.

Astrological chart.
“Where can [J’s friend] find her missing safe keys?”

Choosing the significator

This was one of the times I went with intuition when choosing the significator. I could have used derivative houses, but it was turning into a long chain. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the best I can say here is that it didn’t feel right. Mercury is the natural ruler of keys, and like choosing 33-Key in the Lenormand, it seemed much more reasonable to use it as the significator of these keys.

The considerations before judgment

First off, let’s see the general condition of the chart:

  1. Radical Ascendant? Check.
  2. Void-of-course Moon? Yes. Hmm.
  3. Saturn in the 7th house and/or the ruler of the 7th house afflicted? Yes to the latter: Mars is the ruler, and isn’t comfortable in Taurus.
  4. Moon in the Via Combusta? No.

Void-of-course means that the Moon (or a planet) will not make an exact aspect with any other planet before it moves into the next sign. It may still be in aspect to one or more planets, approaching and separating, but nothing else will match it exactly before it goes into the next sign. The tag line for the void-of-course Moon is “nothing will come of it.” Whether that’s helpful or not depends on the question asked. I wouldn’t say it’s all that encouraging in a lost items question, not unless you wanted the item to stay lost.

Among other things, the 7th house represents the astrologer who’s interpreting the horary chart. (That’s me.) Saturn in the 7th house or an afflicted ruler of the 7th suggests the astrologer will have problems with the chart or suffer a delay in understanding it. Or, in my case, be a bit oblivious to her own intuition.

And the chart says…

Mercury is at 29° 49′ Aries. That’s right at the end of Aries (each sign has 30º), and horary texts have explanations for significators that are right at the end of signs and what that means for lost items. But in this chart, Mercury is also void-of-course. See everything above about about the VOC Moon, and apply it to the keys themselves. Mercury isn’t connected to anything, symbolically, so the keys aren’t connected to anything or anyone, including J’s friend. They’re in a void somewhere, not to be found.


No keys. No future for them, according to the Lenormand reading. No ties between them and anything else according to the horary chart. It’s good to know that these readings can tell you if you’re ever going to find a lost item, but I wish the problem had had a happier answer.

Advising imaginary people: a tarot reading for Tara Abernathy

Quite a few years ago, I read a couple of books by James Ricklef: Tarot Tells the Tale: Explore Three Card Readings Through Familiar Stories and Tarot—Get the Whole Story: Use, Create & Interpret Tarot Spreads. In both books, Ricklef demonstrated spreads by doing readings for fictional characters as if they’d consulted him for help about the problems in their stories.

Yesterday, I wanted to do a reading, but I didn’t have any pressing questions of my own. I remembered Ricklef’s books and I’ve been meaning to try this for a while, so it seemed like a good time. I’d just finished rereading a fantasy novel called Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone (and I highly recommend it, but that’s another post). It was fresh in my mind, so I pretended that the main character, Tara Abernathy, was asking me to do a reading for her. Since unlike Ricklef’s examples, I’m using a book that many people won’t be familiar with, I’ve added a few notes for clarification.

Warning: major spoilers ahead for Three Parts Dead.

Imagining the question:

I’m a new associate at the Craft firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao. I’m on probation, my boss is sticking her neck out for me, and if I fail, my career and possibly my life are over. It’s my first case, and opposing counsel is the guy who got me thrown out of school—from about a thousand feet up in the air. I want to beat him even more than I want to win the case. Can we win? Will the firm keep me on? And will we defeat Alexander Denovo?

Since I was practicing techniques, I started with the First Operation (not shown). Although the Knight of Wands doesn’t appear in the spread, it seems like a good significator for Tara. She nearly gets herself killed twice in the early part of the book through good intentions carried out enthusiastically without considering all the ramifications. The Knight of Wands appeared in the fourth (earth) pile, so I tried to take a pragmatic, results-oriented approach to the reading.

That done, I reshuffled the cards and did a Celtic Cross spread:

Celtic Cross spread for fictional character Tara Abernathy.

  1. You: Page of Swords. This card represents you right now as you’re asking for this reading. The Page of Swords is clever, good with words (and Craft), and devious when the situation calls for it, but she lacks practical experience. I’d love to be able to tell you to take your time and learn at your own pace, but you’ve described a tense situation, and cards like the Eight of Wands and the Knight of Swords hint that things are moving quickly. So see how watchful and aware the Page looks? Stay alert and be careful.
  2. Situation: King of Wands. Fire of fire, this card most likely represents the fire god Kos Everburning, whose death is the reason you’re in Alt Coulumb in the first place.
  3. Challenge: Five of Wands. Struggle and conflict: the court case, the various creditors fighting over Kos’s debts and obligations, dealing with Shale, the Blacksuits…need I go on? Kos is the reason you’re here; this is the fight that being here involves. I know you want to hurt Denovo, but watch yourself: it can be easy to lose yourself in the fight and let anger overrule your better judgment.
  4. Foundation: Eight of Wands. It’s all coming at you at once: your new position and how much rests on your proving yourself, settling the matter of Kos’s death before his obligations come due at the dark of the moon, the murder of Judge Cabot and hiding the gargoyle, facing Denovo in court, tracing Kos’s private dealings. Everything is top priority.
  5. Recent Past: Four of Wands. A card here shows something from your past that’s over with but which influences your current situation. I’d say that’s your recent graduation from the Hidden Schools. That’s where you learned the Craft, where you met Alexander Denovo, and where you received your job offer (sort of!) from Elayne Kevarian. Ordinarily, the Four of Wands is a positive card, but since you said your graduation was promptly followed by an execution attempt, this is an ambiguous card at best in this reading. [Although not floating in the air, the castle in the background could represent the Hidden Schools.]
  6. Attitudes and Beliefs: Two of Pentacles. All that stuff I mentioned back at the Eight of Wands—the Two of Pentacles shows you’re concerned about keeping on top of it all. Reading in a vertical line from bottom to top, there are all those problems coming at you in the Eight of Wands, and you as the Page of Swords don’t have a lot of experience handling all this. Communication is vital, but you need to figure out what to say to whom to strengthen your position—and when to keep your thoughts to yourself. The Two of Pentacles shows you trying to manage all these issues. This whole situation is testing your ability to adapt to changing circumstances. It won’t be easy, it’ll stretch you to your limits, but the man hasn’t dropped those pentacles, which suggests you’ll manage.
  7. Near Future: Six of Cups. The Six of Cups is one of those cards that references the past, even when it’s sitting in a future position, as it is now. We just saw that the part of your past relevant to this reading is your time at the Hidden Schools and your graduation from there. I read the Six of Cups here as showing someone from your past offering you a gift. Maybe someone older than you, since the boy in the card looks older than the girl. The person who best fits this description tried to get you killed, so I’d be really careful about taking any favors from him in the future. Notice how the little girl isn’t reaching to accept the flowers that the boy is offering her.
  8. You as You See Yourself: Knight of Swords. You’d like to show your boss, the firm, and Denovo that you’re qualified, capable of winning, and, well, right. You wield the Craft and your knife [see book cover] as the Knight wields his sword. Remember, though, you don’t have a lot of experience yet. Focus, choose your battles, and prioritize—don’t charge at everything and everyone or you’ll waste your energies.
  9. Environment/How Others See You: Six of Swords. You were thrown out of the Hidden Schools, you fled Edgemont one step ahead of a mob, and your position with Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao is conditional on your performance in this case, which is a lot of pressure. It’d be nice if you could break with the past and make a fresh start, but what with the Four of Wands and the Six of Cups appearing in this reading, it looks like you need to wrap up some unfinished business first. The river crossing shown on this card symbolizes a rite of passage. It’s difficult, but notice how the water is rough on one side of the boat but smooth on the other. Make it, and things will probably settle down, at least for a while.*
  10. Hopes and Fears: The Emperor. You dream of becoming a respected, powerful Craftswoman. However, you know powerful authorities are either waiting to see how you’ll do (the senior partners in the firm) or are actively working against you (Denovo).
  11. Outcome: Death. Given that your field is necromancy, Death may be more literal here than for other people. This card generally means transformation, and in your case, it may be saying that yes, you stand a chance of being a bona fide Craftswoman (necromancer) at your firm, assuming everything else goes well—remember, there are a lot of opportunities for everything else to fall apart! Winning the case counts as beating Denovo, correct? [In Denovo’s case, death was literal. Also, Kos Everburning comes back to life, an option for gods, perhaps signified in this card by the (fiery) sun rising on the horizon.]

Oh, that was fun! I should try this again sometime.

*Tara Abernathy is also in Four Roads Cross. I haven’t read it yet, but its mere existence suggests that her life will become unsettled again.

Venus through the Minor Arcana

Venus went direct yesterday, after about a month of being retrograde. The timing is appropriate for this post, as we’re up to Venus in the Chaldean order. We’re past the halfway point now, and the planets are speeding up. Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Similarly, in astrology, the planet Venus represents love, beauty, pleasure, and relationships. The five Minor Arcana cards associated with Venus do say something about relationships and/or pleasure, although sometimes what they show is the downside or how these can go wrong.

Four of Wands: Venus in Aries

Aries is primarily a solo sign. Not that Aries shuns people, but it’s self-centered rather than other-oriented. It’s cardinal fire, a combination that initiates action and is high-energy. So it’s essentially compatible with Mars and the Sun, planets that are associated with action and personal identity. Venus, however, is other-oriented, the part of us that creates relationships, and that focus on relationships is at odds with Aries’s focus on the self. The combination suggests creating relationships mainly to see what’s in it for you. Traditionally, Venus in Aries has been viewed as being in a contrary environment, and not acting at her best.*

Four of WandsWith that kind of background, you’d think the Four of Wands would depict selfishness or a reluctance to be with others. Instead, the Waite-Smith card shows people celebrating together. Perhaps this is about the completion of a project or task, since the Golden Dawn name for this card is Lord of Perfected Work and Crowley called it Completion. One keyword I use for the Four of Wands is community, and that’s the antithesis of this textbook description of Venus in Aries. Now, sure, there are other ways to interpret the combination of Venus and Aries. Perhaps this scene of dancing outside on a warm, sunny day shows Venus’s sociability fueled by Aries’s energy. Dancing itself—beautiful, done for pleasure, often done with other people—has a lot of Venus to it, and as physical activity, could draw on Aries/fire energy.

Two of Cups: Venus in Cancer

Two of CupsLike Aries, Cancer is a cardinal sign, but its element is water, and cardinal water suggests that Cancer takes action emotionally. Already this sounds like a more compatible environment for Venus. Cancer has been traditionally considered friendly to the Moon (the emotions) and Jupiter (benevolence), but Venus, too, seems more at home here than in Aries. Cancer’s focus is on nurturance, which is necessary when something has just been “born”—a baby, a project, a relationship—Cancer’s energy shines at the beginning of things.

With the Two of Cups, we have the most romantic presentation of Venus in the Waite-Smith deck. Not surprisingly, the Golden Dawn called this card Lord of Love.  I don’t think it’s stretching to see the Two of Cups as the beginning of a relationship. Twos are towards the start of the Minor Arcana, suggesting an early stage. Beginning a relationship is in keeping with the symbolism of Venus in Cancer—it’s that taking the initiative in emotional matters.

Seven of Cups: Venus in Scorpio

From one water sign to another: but Scorpio is a fixed sign rather than a cardinal one. Instead of starting something, fixed signs are about continuing and maintaining what already is. Positively, Scorpio is emotionally steadfast and reliable, but if used poorly, planets in Scorpio become stubborn and obsessive. The Seven of Cups pertains more to Venus as a symbol of desire and pleasure rather than relationships. The drawback to Venus being in Scorpio is that Scorpio doesn’t necessarily restrain Venus’s desires. Its fixed nature suggests that once Venus in Scorpio decides it wants something, she will continue to want it, which can bring out Scorpio’s obsessive side. So like Aries, Scorpio is traditionally viewed as encouraging Venus’s less appealing traits.

Seven of CupsThe Seven of Cups is one of those cards that differs noticeably between the Waite-Smith and Thoth decks. In the Waite-Smith Seven of Cups, the card is about being presented with a number of options and needing to choose one. The figure in the foreground faces multiple delights: riches, glory, power, and more. But the card is called Lord of Illusionary Success, suggesting that none of them will bring him true happiness. In pursuing one or more of them, will the man overlook genuine, if not nearly as flashy, happiness close at hand?

Seven of CupsCompared to the Thoth Seven of Cups, however, the Waite-Smith card is all sweetness and light. Crowley and Harris’s depiction of the Seven of Cups hits you over the head with what happens when pleasure goes bad. The card is called Debauch. It has the Thoth deck’s standard symbol set of flowers, cups, and liquids, but here the liquid is fluorescent green glop, likely poisonous—really, would you want to touch it, much less drink it? True, the lilies look healthy and none of the cups are broken: things are not as bad as they could be, but that’s not saying much in this card. Here is a particularly nasty manifestation of Venus in Scorpio: pleasure going well beyond the point at which it’s pleasant and sliding into debauchery. As the Thoth Six of Cups is called Pleasure, the path from pleasure to debauchery to indolence (the Eight of Cups) is a theme of the Cups suit.

Five of Swords: Venus in Aquarius

From fixed water to fixed air as we consider Venus in Aquarius. Instead of maintaining things in the emotional plane, Aquarius maintains them in intellect and communication. Although the combination of Venus and Aquarius is not traditionally considered negative, there’s a bit of a conflict here. Venus wants relationships and pleasure. Aquarius is an air sign, and up for communicating with others, but that communication is mainly going to be intellectual. Ditto for pleasure: Venus may want a good bit of sensual self-indulgence, but Aquarius is likely to be more interested in a new book than physical delight. Venus in Aquarius has a reputation for loving the human race, but not doing that well at loving individual human beings.

Five of SwordsIf there’s a relationship in the Five of Swords, it’s that between the victor and the vanquished, and the only pleasure is the pleasure of beating others. The Golden Dawn called this card Lord of Defeat, which pretty much sums up the Waite-Smith picture. Indeed, any existing relationships between the three people in the picture may be the casualties of this battle. The victor has control of the swords, and seems happy, but in a card with Venus as its astrological correlation, it’s probably not good that he’s cut himself off from the others in the picture. For that matter, the two who lost are turned slightly away from each other. They aren’t going off together to console each other or plot revenge against the victor, but are alone in their misery.

Nine of Pentacles: Venus in Virgo

Virgo is the mutable earth sign. Earth is the element of the physical world and the practical, logistical approach to life. Mutability neither gets things going as cardinal energy does or keeps them going as fixed energy does, but changes and adapts what is. Virgo’s awareness of its circumstances makes planets in Virgo sensitive to imperfection and drives them to correct it in a practical, tangible way. Customarily, Virgo is considered another sign that’s at odds with Venus. That need to continually improve things can be harsh on relationships, and it’s difficult to thoroughly enjoy something when you’re constantly aware of anything that isn’t quite right about it.
Nine of PentaclesThat said, the Nine of Pentacles doesn’t appear to be about pickiness and perfectionism any more than the Four of Wands was about selfishness in relationships. The Waite-Smith Nine of Pentacles shows a woman in a vineyard, alone except for the bird that she’s holding and a snail on the ground. Cards with just one person in them are common in this deck, but except for this card and the Seven of Cups, the Minor Arcana associated with Venus show people in relationship. Like the Seven of Cups, the Nine of Pentacles portrays the pleasure and enjoyment side of Venus rather than the relationship side. The Golden Dawn title of Lord of Material Gain reinforces the idea that the focus here is on earthly pleasures. But in this card, Pamela Colman Smith shows pleasure in moderation to be a good thing. The woman’s body language is relaxed: her hand rests lightly on top of a pentacle and she trusts the other eight to be there. Compare this with the Four of Pentacles where the man clutches one pentacle to his chest while pinning another two down with his feet. Venus and Virgo combine to show contentment in the Nine of Pentacles. Perhaps this is Virgo’s acute awareness of the material world: the woman knows what she has, knows that it’s enough for her, and knows how to appreciate it.

*And yes, this is a textbook description of Venus in Aries. Real people with Venus in Aries—or any other sign—will live it in all sorts of ways, and there’s more to a person than just one planet/sign combination anyway.

KonMari Project 3: Books

It took a while—almost a year—but I’ve wrapped up the second stage of the KonMari Project: books. This was definitely more challenging than sorting through my clothes. I suspect that Marie Kondō doesn’t feel about books quite as strongly as I do. From what I can tell from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy, books seem to be more like objects to her than, you know, books. Perhaps I am being unfair. It’s just that she made it sound a lot easier to weed books than it proved to be. But I’m determined to finish the KonMari Project this year, so I declared the books stage completed on February 20, and am moving on to the third stage, which is papers.

I will say, I now have a much better idea of why I’ve held onto so many books. Of course, I have my favorites. These are the books that as I looked at each one, I distinctly experienced a feeling of fondness for it. For fiction, I might remember a scene or two from the book. Nonfiction triggered memories of an argument the author made or an insight I got while reading the book. These were definitely books to keep. But I realized that I’ve kept a lot of books out of habit. Whether or not I’d read them, I got so used to them just being there that I no longer saw them, like wallpaper. Heck, I moved them from one apartment to another on autopilot. These were the books that were easy to discard using Kondō’s recommendations, because when I focused on each of these books individually—took it off the shelf, held it, and really saw it—it dawned on me that I felt no real connection to them anymore. Many of these books were ones that were important to me in an earlier part of my life. I let go of many knitting books because I’m experienced enough now not to need them. Having a lot of books on Wicca was right for me when I was Wiccan, but my Paganism has wandered far enough away from Wicca that it was time to let them go.

I erred on the side of keeping books. Lots of them weren’t my absolute favorites, but still made me feel happy when I saw them. It was also easy to justify keeping a lot of astrology and tarot books because they’re out of print. I may not have referred to them recently, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that if I get rid of them, I’ll need one again some day and won’t be able to get a copy of it. After all, astrology and tarot books aren’t all that easy to find in public libraries. But I’m proud of myself for getting rid of some books that I had mixed feelings about. I had a lot of books on Japanese, from studying it years ago. But I haven’t had the time to return to it, and anyway, Latin is calling to me now. It was tempting to keep them, promising myself that I’d use them someday, but I acknowledged that when I see them, they don’t spark joy. They spark feelings of obligation, a bit of guilt, some frustration, regret. This is exactly what Kondō is saying that you don’t want from the stuff you keep. So I thanked and released them.

Realizing that many of you may not be any more familiar with empty space in a bookcase than I am, here’s what it looks like.

So there have been some bittersweet moments, but generally, weeding the books has been a good thing, and probably something I wouldn’t have done to any great extent if I hadn’t been prodded by Kondō’s books. I’m enjoying seeing open space in my bookcases. Mind you, it looks unnatural to me. I’ve bought bookends (gasp!). I’ve never needed them before because every shelf was packed. So far I’ve only bought plain black utilitarian bookends, with the exception of one set of bright yellow ones because I love the color, but if I become someone who always has space in her bookcases, maybe I’ll get some fancy ones. And I’ve opened up about ten cubic feet in my storage unit by removing several boxes of books. It’s definitely an improvement to open the door without fearing that a mountain of boxes is about to topple over on me. On to papers!