31 Days of Tarot 2022 – The second week

Day 8: Share one of the new things you learnt about Tarot last year.

Last year, I focused on studying geomancy, Kipper, and ancient astrology. I certainly did tarot readings, but my brain was at capacity for taking in new information with those other practices. If we expand this question to oracle decks, then I learned the Master Method for reading Kipper cards, which is one way to differentiate between Kipper and other systems like Lenormand and tarot.

Day 9: The top decks on your wish list now.

  • Yarn Tarot

(If a list has only one item on it, is it a list?) I’m not sure I’ll be able to read with the Yarn Tarot, but as an avid knitter and occasional crocheter, I feel I ought to have it in my collection. As for other decks, well, I’ve done a quick flip-through of the Lo Scarabeo and U.S. Games Systems catalogs for 2022, and nothing in the forthcoming releases jumped out at me. But hey, if 2022 is like 2021, I will fall in love (or at least in strong like) with several decks on Kickstarter, decks that I have no idea yet even exist.

It’s not quite the same thing as a full deck, but I’ve heard that the creators of some of the decks I own are planning expansions. Those, if they become available, are definitely on my wish list.

Day 10: Your top underrated Tarot decks.

Uh, who’s rating them? How, exactly, do you rate a tarot (or oracle) deck, when liking or not liking a deck is such a personal, individual reaction?

Day 11: How can you put a positive spin on the Death card?

A positive spin is going to have to come from context. If I’ve got an issue that I’m thoroughly sick of, Death might be a sign that the blasted thing is finally going to move out of the forefront of my life, and I’d probably see that as positive.

Day 12: Describe how tarot plays a meaningful part in your practice.

A tarot reading—or an oracle deck reading, a rune casting, a geomancy reading, using the I Ching, interpreting a horary chart—any of these are divination, and they function as a way I communicate with divinity (be that my unconscious, Higher Self, the Universe, and/or one or more deities). It’s a way to look for a different perspective on an issue than what I’ve consciously come up with.

Day 13: Tarot decks that you want to work with more in 2022.

And this is before anything I wind up acquiring this year.

  • Minchiate Tarot
  • Seventh Sphere Tarot de Marseille
  • Tarot of Mystical Moments
  • The Urban Tarot

Day 14: Oracle decks that you want to work with more in 2022.

I consider this a non-binding list. Who knows what I’ll actually reach for when I want to do a divination.

  • Girls Underground Story Oracle
  • Journey Oracle (I’m referring to the deck, but I’d like to use the tokens more too)
  • Oracle of Mystical Moments
  • The Seed & Sickle Oracle Deck

Day 15: Do you have any Tarot self-care rituals for your personal practice?

99% of my readings are for me, so they pretty much all end up as self-care. I suppose this might be different if I read for other people frequently. The daily tarot draw or the passel of divinations I do around my birthday are as close as I get to ritualizing these readings.

Day 16: Have you ever turned someone from a Tarot non-believer to an enthusiast?


Day 17: What is your “go-to” Tarot book and why?

Not just one. I have a bookcase of tarot and oracle deck books. I think of them as a form of bibliomancy: the book(s) I feel moved to look a card up in is a part of the divination in its own right.

That said, some books get gone to more than others:

  • Tarot for Beginners: A Practical Guide to Reading the Cards by Barbara Moore. The core meaning for each card is set apart with white type on a gray background, but there are longer explanations if wanted.
  • Tarot: Your Everyday Guide by Janina Renee. The meanings are phrased as advice.
  • Learning the Tarot: A Tarot Book for Beginners by Joan Bunning. I like the balance between keywords and longer explanations.
  • Tarot for Magical Times by Rachel Pollack and Johannes Fiebig. This book only for pages 59-98, where Pollack talks about each card against the background of the “interesting times” we’re currently going through (the book was published in 2011).
  • Keywords for the Crowley Tarot by Hajo Banzhaf and Brigitte Theler. Definitely my go-to book for the Thoth Tarot: a little bit of everything—meanings, explanation of symbolism, advice—succinctly condensed into a chart for each card.
  • Untold Tarot: The Lost Art of Reading Ancient Tarots by Caitlín Matthews: My go-to book for the Tarot de Marseille, although Yoav Ben-Dov’s The Marseille Tarot Revealed: A Complete Guide to Symbolism, Meanings & Methods might take its place. We’ll see.

31 Days of Tarot 2022 – The first week

The very thought of posting for 31 days in a row is exhausting. Instead, I’m going to bundle posts together, which will not only be less daunting, but will let me glide through the topics on which I don’t have a lot to say. So here goes Week 1 of 31 Days of Tarot 2022:

Day 1: What Tarot goodies did the holidays bring?

I received a lovely box to hold a tarot deck (haven’t yet decided which deck). You pull on the tab to slide the decorated panel out, revealing your deck, complete with a ribbon you can use to lift it out of the box. The slit at the top (or would that be the back of the top?) can hold a card upright.

Tarot box and the Seed & Sickle Oracle Deck.

The Seed & Sickle Oracle Deck is a present to myself. Hats off to Liminal 11 for another impressive job of packaging: there’s a fully decorated second box inside this fully decorated exterior box, plus two plump guidebooks, one for the Dawn interpretations of the cards and one for the Dusk. And the 55 lovely cards themselves, of course.

Day 2: What are your top Tarot decks of 2021?

In alphabetical order:

  • Majestic Earth Tarot
  • Naturescapes Tarot
  • Tarot of Mystical Moments
  • The Urban Tarot

Day 3: What are your top Oracle decks of 2021?

Also in alphabetical order:

  • Girls Underground Story Oracle
  • Journey Oracle
  • Rainbow Kipper
  • Starcodes Astro Oracle

Day 4: What Tarot books did you read in 2021? Would you recommend?

Ooh, books! In the order I read them:

  • The Geomantic Tarot Spread Brief Companion Casebook by Anthony Louis
  • The Marseille Tarot Revealed: A Complete Guide to Symbolism, Meanings & Methods by Yoav Ben-Dov
  • Ancestral Tarot: Uncover Your Past and Chart Your Future by Nancy Hendrickson, foreword by Theresa Reed
  • Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Tarot Journey to Self-Awareness by Rachel Pollack
  • Tarot for Change: Using the Cards for Self-Care, Acceptance, and Growth by Jessica Doré

Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom was a reread for me; while I’ve looked cards up in it for years, I hadn’t read it cover-to-cover since I first got it in the 1990s. It’s a more thorough exploration of the symbolism of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck than most books out there. I’d also recommend Ancestral Tarot, assuming you’re interested in the topic in the first place. The author is a genealogist as well as a tarotist, so the book has practical suggestions for the real-world research you may need to do to learn about your ancestors. She focuses on tarot, yes, but supplements that with astrology, pendulums, rituals, creating a mandala, and journaling.

Day 5: What was your best/worst memorable 2021 Tarot moment?

Acquiring a copy of the Majestic Earth Tarot when I thought I’d missed out on it.

Day 6: What card stalked you in 2021?

Anyone who’s looked at my other two blogs may have noticed I adore putting my hobbies into spreadsheets. Tarot is no different. I was recording my daily card draws in Google Sheets, and it occurred to me that it could be tracking how often I got each card. So I can tell you precisely that it was a tie between the Star and the Five of Wands, each appearing 13 times in 2021. In addition, I got the Empress and Death 10 times each, which I find significant because they tied for first place in 2020.

At the other end of the range, I never got the Magician, the Emperor, or the Knight of Wands in daily draws in 2021.

Day 7: Your most worked with Tarot deck in 2021, and why?

The Thelema Tarot, because this is the deck I use for my daily card draws. For all the other tarot readings I did in 2021, I used the Tarot of Mystical Moments the most. I got it shortly before the #embracethemagical challenge started on Instagram, so I used it for one week of that and realized that it really clicked with me. Which is pretty much how I choose any deck to use over and over again.

The missing amethyst

Given the number of lost item posts I put on this blog, it is entirely possible that readers think I spend a great deal of time losing things and then trying to find them. No, but lost items are really good things to practice divination on. It’s never an abstract exercise—I want to find the item, so there’s an emotional tie to the question. Plus, lost item divinations are so wonderfully definite: either you find the item or you don’t, and if you do, either it’s where the divination said it would be or it isn’t.

What I’d lost this time was my Jupiter remedy. The topic of planetary remedies is bigger than I want to get into here, but my super-short definition is that they’re talismans used to strengthen the influence of a planet in your natal chart. I carry an amethyst in my pocket as a Jupiter remedy, and last Tuesday, I put my hand into that pocket and realized the amethyst wasn’t there. I looked for it off and on for the rest of the day at work, and when I didn’t find it, hoped I’d somehow left it at home. But I didn’t find it there either, and so I turned to divination.

While I don’t enjoy losing things (ack!), they do provide me with opportunities for divination practice. A few months ago, I took a class in geomancy. There are ways to use geomancy to find lost items, and since geomancy combines nicely with astrology and I’d be using horary astrology anyway to try to find this amethyst, it was a chance to practice both a new and an old(er) skill. This time, I also altered my standard question. Usually I ask, “Where is my [lost item]?” But I’ve been reading the sensible observation that it doesn’t really matter where the lost item is if you never find it, so this time I added that to the question. Yes, that puts two questions into one chart, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

Will I find my Jupiter remedy, and if so, where is it?


While there are multiple ways to use geomancy to find a lost item, I went with the one described by John Michael Greer in The Art and Practice of Geomancy: Divination, Magic, and Earth Wisdom of the Renaissance. I was more familiar with it, which mattered because I was in a hurry to get an idea of where the amethyst might be—I was about to leave for work, and wanted to know if I should bother to look for it there.

This method is fairly straightforward. From a list that he provides of the twelve houses and what kinds of items are associated with them, choose the house that corresponds with your lost item. Cast your geomancy chart and the figure that appears in that house will describe the item’s location. It seems to me, though, that there are an awful lot of things you could lose that aren’t on that list. Greer states that you should use the 4th house for anything not listed. I’m guessing that comes from horary astrology, where the ruler of the 4th house is often used as the significator for lost items. But I’m a librarian by trade: categorizing things is literally my job, so I decided to pick a house for my amethyst. While Greer only lists “wills and anything inherited” for possible lost items of the 8th house, in his general description, he writes “Magic, performed by the querent, or on his or her behalf, belongs to this house.” That describes a planetary remedy, so I chose the 8th house.

The figure in the 8th house was Fortuna Major. Greer says: “[the item] is in a rugged or forested area, a government or military building, or some other inaccessible place.” I also checked the 4th house, because, hey, I could be wrong. The figure there was Puella: “a bedroom, upstairs room, or attic, in a workshop or factory floor, or on the side of a hill.” Neither description was terribly specific, unfortunately. As for the first part of my question, about if I’d even find the amethyst, the Judge for the chart was Acquisitio. That figure usually means a positive answer, and meaning-wise, gain is literally the opposite of loss, so I was encouraged.

Horary astrology

First, the chart:

None of the considerations before judgment apply to this chart, so off we go. My significator is the ruler of the 1st house, which is Mercury in Libra in the 2nd house. The significator for the lost amethyst could be the ruler of the 2nd house of movable possessions (Venus), the ruler of the 4th house of buried treasure (Jupiter), or the planet that best describes the lost item, which I figured was Jupiter, since it’s a Jupiter remedy. Really, Jupiter sounded like the best choice.

In this chart, Jupiter is retrograde in Aquarius in the 6th house. Although it’s way out of orb for a trine to Mercury as measured by degrees, I’ve been experimenting with whole sign aspects while studying Hellenistic astrology, and the two planets do form a trine by sign. I was happy to see that Jupiter was retrograde, because I remembered reading somewhere that that’s a good indication that your lost item will return to you. The trine between Jupiter and Mercury was also a good sign of its return. And while I didn’t take the time then to double-check with my books, I decided that Jupiter being in the 6th house confirmed that the amethyst was at work somewhere.

Finding the item

I’d like to say that armed with this knowledge, I walked into my office and immediately located the missing amethyst. Ha. I kept an eye out for it throughout the day, but didn’t see it. Nor did any of my coworkers mention finding a pretty rock. I didn’t find it until just after lunch. I’d eaten in my office with the door closed, and as I was getting ready to clean up, I took back my mask which I’d hung from the door handle so I wouldn’t forget to put it on. I glanced down as I did…and there was the amethyst, on the floor under one leg of my desk, totally blocked from view from any angle except the one I just happened to be at for that moment. I still have no idea how it managed to work its way out of my pants pocket, fall on the floor, and somehow slip under that leg, all without my noticing.


Home again, with time to do research, I delved into the readings further. On the geomancy side of things, choosing the 8th house and Fortuna Major worked. My office is in a government building, and while we’re open to the public, the building is more inaccessible than many. But Puella, the figure in the 4th house, wasn’t wrong. Of all the location descriptions, “a workshop or factory floor” is the closest the list gets to the modern office, and it happens that our building is built into the side of a hill. I suppose the locations associated with each figure are derived from their general meanings. For instance, Fortuna Major means lasting good fortune that may begin with difficulty. Perhaps “difficulty” translates into a difficult-to-access place when reading a chart for location.

In the horary chart, like I said, Jupiter was retrograde in Aquarius in the 6th house. Its house and retrogradation seem to have been more relevant to the amethyst’s location than its sign. The 6th house is one of the cadent houses, and when a lost object’s significator is in a cadent house, the object is far from home and difficult to find. While the amethyst was practically underfoot whenever I was in my office, that office is miles from my home, which is where I was when I asked the questions. If the significator is in a cadent house, the object may be hidden behind or within something—hard to see—and because “cadent” means “falling,” the object may have fallen to its current location. The amethyst had almost certainly fallen out of my pocket, and it was hidden behind/under the desk leg, making it difficult to find even when I was only a couple of feet away from it. I’m glad I didn’t have to rely on Aquarius to tell me where it was. Maybe Aquarius meant the amethyst was near modern electronic equipment: my computer is on my desk, and the amethyst was under them. The air signs often signify that the item is up high, which definitely didn’t apply here. Okay, Anthony Louis says that it may be “near things related to the calves, shins, and ankles”—does the desk leg count? 😄

As for the question of whether I’d find the amethyst, John Frawley writes, “The strongest testimony of recovery [of a lost object] is an applying aspect between the object and the querent, or between the object and Lord 2 (if the object is signified by something else), showing it returning to the querent’s possession.” In this particular chart, because I was using whole-sign aspects, Jupiter was forming a trine to and retrograding back towards both Mercury (the querent) and Venus (Lord 2). Basically, everything worked, and I have my amethyst back, safe and sound.

We don’t talk about that: the “bad” houses in astrology

A system that describes the entirety of life will account for the parts that aren’t fun as well as the peaks of human existence. One way astrology does this is through the houses. Most of the houses cover matters that are neutral to pleasant, such as the self (1st house), pleasure and creativity (5th house), and hopes and goals (11th house). But there are three houses that cover “bad” topics: illness and inequality (6th house), death (8th house), and self-undoing and hidden enemies (12th house). It can be tempting to think of these three houses as being bad themselves. Admittedly, that doesn’t sound right. Lots of people have planets in these houses—does that mean they’re fated to be unhappy?1 Isn’t it healthier to view all of life’s ups-and-downs with equanimity?2 Aren’t labels like “good” and “bad” limiting? And perhaps there’s suspicion that this division into good and bad is another vestige of traditional astrology that is best left to fade away entirely.

Well, yes. And also no, because modern astrology isn’t totally divorced from its traditional roots. It has inherited some of the dread of the “bad” houses, although somewhere along the line the rationale behind them was generally forgotten. Which also means that the reason for some houses being “good” has also been generally forgotten.

Aspects, modern and traditional

Modern astrology sees the relationships between planets in terms of the aspects (angles) between them. There are five classic aspects used from traditional days to the present:

  • The conjunction: 0°(neutral)
  • The sextile: 60° (easy)
  • The square: 90° (difficult)
  • The trine: 120° (easy)
  • The opposition: 180° (difficult)

Because they see aspects as based in geometry, modern astrologers may also use other aspects that they find meaningful, like the quincunx (150°), the quintile (72°, or ⅕ of a circle), the septile (51° 26’, or ⅐ of a circle), and so on. Because two planets are rarely in a perfect angle to each other, there’s some wiggle room with those measurements, called “orb.” Different aspects have different orbs, and generally the classic aspects have wider orbs, i.e. more wiggle room.

Confusingly, traditional astrology uses the same terms as in modern astrology, but based in a paradigm of vision rather than geometry. Much of the traditional astrological symbolism around light and vision didn’t really make it into modern astrology. For instance, orb wasn’t a property of an aspect, it was a property of a planet, and brighter planets like the Sun had larger orbs than dimmer planets like Saturn. That analogy of what is easy to see and what is harder to see has a lot to do with house meanings.

Lines of sight

Imagine someone standing in the 1st house, the house of self, the strongest house in the chart. Anything (any planet) in the 1st house with this person is easily seen by them because it’s right there (the conjunction: 0°). So the 1st house is a strong place for a planet to be. This 1st house person has a clear line of sight to the 7th house, directly across from them (the opposition: 180°). The 7th house is also a strong position for a planet to be in because it’s so clearly seen. It rules equal relations: the spouse, the close friend, the business partner, but also the nemesis and the open enemy. This person in the 1st house can also see the 4th and 10th houses, 90° away (the square), and again, these are also strong houses for planets to be in. Here is your private life, heritage, and home (4th house), and your public life, career, and reputation (10th house).

This 1st house person also has good lines of sight, although not quite as great, to the 5th and 9th houses (trine: 120°). The 3rd and 11th houses are also good (sextile: 60°).

Fine art!

Out of sight

That’s it for the classic aspects, but there are still four houses unaccounted for, and three of them are the supposedly “bad” houses: the 6th, the 8th, and the 12th. Because they don’t aspect the 1st house, these houses contain things that symbolically can’t be seen. Because the 1st house person can’t see these houses, they’re ignorant of what’s there, they don’t understand it, they can’t manage it. So consider the things associated with these houses in terms of ignorance, misunderstanding, and denial. They’re often things we’re not comfortable discussing and that we were taught it’s rude to ask about.

  • 6th house: illness; situations of inequality, especially involving work
  • 8th house: death, occult (literally means “hidden”), loss, fears and anxieties
  • 12th house: secret enemies (if you knew who they were, they’d be in the 7th house of open enemies), self-undoing (think any psychological issue that’s interfering with your life but which you can’t see clearly)

And when you’re uneasy talking about something and you’ve picked up on a lot of messages telling you to not bring the matter up, it’s not long before it feels “bad.”

The 2nd house

Given what I just said about the houses that are out of sight and their connection to Things We Don’t Talk About, you may already have worked out how the 2nd house fits in with the other three. The 2nd house rules movable possessions, material comforts, wealth, and resources. At first glance, this is a desirable house, one of the “good” ones—who doesn’t want a good salary, a nest egg, to be out of debt? But consider: it’s often considered rude to ask how much money someone makes or what their net worth is. Pay gaps such as those between men and women or between people of different races may be associated both with the 2nd house and with the 6th; either way, they’re a point of contention. Many people aren’t comfortable managing their own money, or only for everyday expenses, while taxes and investments overwhelm them. Possessions themselves can be a sore spot: think of clutter and its big bad sibling, hoarding. How many people are reluctant to have people over because they’re ashamed of their messy homes? Modern psychological astrology acknowledges the monetary wealth part of this house, but often writers sound more comfortable assigning self-esteem and resource management to it. We may say that all [people] are created equal, but poverty definitely doesn’t have the cachet of wealth.

None of the above dictates that you must treat an astrological house as either good or bad. Certainly they vary from one chart to the next, and people can have negative experiences with apparently positive houses and vice versa. But it helps to know why a system is the way it is when figuring out how to work with it.

1 I hope not: I’ve got planets in all three of these houses.
2 Good if you can manage it. Usually I can’t.

Inauguration 2021

Every now and then, my interest in mundane astrology flares up. I can pretty much guarantee that an inauguration will do it. Four years is a length of time I can wrap my mind around, and an inauguration chart doesn’t involve the amount of speculation that, say, the founding chart of the United States needs. Since the Twentieth Amendment sets the time and date for Inauguration Day at noon on January 20, you can look at the event chart ahead of time. This time around, I figured I’d write my thoughts down.

The chart overall

The planets1 in the 2021 inauguration chart are packed into only four houses. Visually, the chart conveys focus, but also limitation. In many charts, some planets aren’t prominent and while interpreting them adds detail, they’re not usually crucial. With every planet in this chart in that grouping, none of them really fade into the background or hide out in dusty corners of the chart.

The elemental emphasis is on earth (green) and air (yellow), but there are only two planets in water (blue) and one in fire (red). This is a time for pragmatism and rationality. The country will be going into problem-solving mode, figuring things out and remaining detached and analytical in the face of crisis. It won’t be a good time to try new and exciting things that don’t look immediately useful. The national mood won’t be all that enthusiastic or optimistic, and people won’t have a lot of energy left over for frivolities (low fire). They’re likely to be feeling insecure, and may criticize what they see as clinginess, sensitivity, and dependency in others because it reminds them of their own vulnerabilities (low water).

I don’t have color-coding for the modalities, but there are six planets in fixed signs, which is above average. Once we decide what we’re going to do and commit to it, we’ll stick with it and give it our all, and given how much needs doing, that’s probably a good thing. But fixed energy is, well, fixed. It’s hard to get going, there’s a lot of resistance to changing course, and there’s inertia to spare. Plus, when there are a lot of planets in one modality, there aren’t many in the others. This chart is low on mutable energy. That suggests a general unwillingness to compromise as well as unwillingness to adapt to changing circumstances and attempting to make the world change instead. (And does this surprise anyone? Probably not. Just that swearing in Biden and Harris will not miraculously fix this.)

Multi-page post: scroll down for links to the other pages.

Burning Mars retrograde

Once upon a time, it was mainly astrologers who kept an eye on Mercury retrograde, alerting their friends, families, and clients to back up their computers, postpone signing contracts, think twice before sending a critical email, and verify what they think they heard. Nowadays, Mercury retrograde has gone mainstream. Non-astrology-minded friends mention it on social media as easily as they talk about the full moon and the weather (“So weird at work today! Is Mercury retrograde or something?”).

As people have become more familiar with Mercury retrograde, other planetary retrogrades are starting to get some recognition. I admit I don’t pay that much attention to the retrograde periods of the planets from Jupiter on out. They spend months in retrograde, from about 4 months a year for Jupiter to nearly 6 months for Pluto. I figure, when a planet is retrograde that much of the time, their retrogrades feel almost as normal as their direct motion. However, their stationary periods—when they appear to slow down and stop before changing direction—are more noticeable, but that’s another post for another day.

That leaves Venus and Mars, which like Mercury, go retrograde for comparatively brief periods. They’re not as well-documented as Mercury, so it’s harder to look them up and get examples what their retrogrades are like. But looking at what the planet is associated with is a starting point. As Mars is retrograde as I write this, I’m focusing on it for now.

PlanetHow often retrogradeHow long retrograde
Mercury3 times a yearAbout 3 weeks
VenusEvery 1½ yearsAbout 6 weeks
MarsEvery 2 yearsAbout 2-2½ months

The Lesser Malefic

At its core, Mars is about taking action. It shows how we go after what we want. It represents willpower, how we assert ourselves, and how we express our anger and aggress.1 Its qualities are traditionally masculine: courage, initiative, violence, independence, brutality, conflict; the symbols for Mars and for male are the same: ♂. Not surprisingly, the planet named for the Roman god of war rules warfare. War is conflict on an international scale, but Mars rules smaller competitions as well: sports, political races, contests—those events where there are winners and losers, victory and defeat. (If you’re interested in compromise and the possibility of win-win scenarios, you’ve moved into Venus’s territory.) Mars also rules the people who participate in these activities: soldiers, the police, athletes, first responders, surgeons. Mars is not an utterly malignant force, but there are elements of pain and danger in many of its rulerships, qualities that earned it the epithet of the “Lesser Malefic” in traditional astrology. In a war, those elements are obvious, but they’re in Mars’s other rulerships as well. Sports often carry a risk of injury, sometimes of death. Even in a democracy, people may live and die by who wins a political contest, even in another country. Surgery—deliberately injuring someone in order to help them—saves lives, but patients die both on the operating table and afterwards.

So if Mercury retrograde has a reputation for misunderstandings, mistakes, travel plans gone awry, and glitches, what happens when Mars is retrograde? We get used to how a planet behaves when it’s in direct motion. By contrast, during its retrograde period, what that planet rules often feel unbalanced, unpredictable, and “off.” When a planet is retrograde, it’s physically closest to Earth, suggesting that it’s stronger than usual. While there’s nothing inherently wrong or bad about a planet’s retrograde period—it’s different, not broken—often the things that we experience and do during a retrograde don’t go the way we’d planned. With Mars, sometimes that can hurt, but it can also feel as though it has stalled out and there isn’t enough drive and focus for your usual activities.

During this retrograde, Mars is in Aries, one of the signs that it rules. This is a comfortable position for Mars. Signs shape how a planet expresses itself, but since Aries shares many characteristics with Mars, Mars gets to act almost as purely “Martian” as possible. So we have the planet of action, assertion, and brutality, strengthened both by being in a sign that reinforces its essential nature and its proximity to Earth, at the point in its cycle that can be discombobulating because we’re not used to it.

The 2020 wildfires

This year, Mars is retrograde from September 9 to November 13, 2020. As of this writing, we’re about two-thirds through this retrograde period. Thinking about what’s been in the news lately that seems particularly Mars-like, the wildfires out west come to mind. Yes, there have always been wildfires and the 2020 wildfire season started before Mars went retrograde. But the fires have been unusually widespread this year, even by modern standards. In early September, just as Mars went retrograde, the media was focused on how there were wildfires not only in California but also Oregon and Washington, even possibly threatening Portland, Oregon. This is when Mars would’ve appeared to have been slowing down, stopping, and then starting up again in reverse: that stationary retrograde period that can make a planet more noticeable.

Just to take one of the better-known wildfires as an example, the El Dorado fire has Mars symbolism in its origins. This fire was accidentally started during a gender reveal party. The Ascendant is in Scorpio, also ruled by Mars, a sign associated with secrets (such as the baby’s gender), and ruling the Ascendant makes a planet more prominent. The baby was apparently revealed to be a boy—again, Mars and “male” share a symbol.2 The announcement involved setting off a pyrotechnic device of some kind, which ignited dry grass in the park where the party was held, starting the fire. Explosives are a Mars thing, even when they’re not meant to kill people. The party was on September 5. This was a few days before Mars turned retrograde, with it less than 1° away from its retrograde degree 28° ♈︎ 08′), in that crucial stationary retrograde period. The act of putting a fire out is called “firefighting,” and like explosives, fighting is a Mars thing. This particular fight, like many of the wildfires, has been challenging, but that’s in keeping with Mars retrograde.

El Dorado Fire event chart: September 5, 2020; Yucaipa, CA; 10:23 AM PDT.3

To the best of my knowledge, as of this writing, the El Dorado fire is still burning.

Comments, sources

  1. Yeah, that’s a verb. It’s obsolete, but I figured it would be fun to use. And it fits the sentence grammatically.
  2. After Gender Reveal Celebration Sparks Fire, Some Say The Parties Have Gotten Out Of Hand – WBUR (September 9, 2020)
  3. A pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party sparked one of the California wildfires, burning over 8,600 acres – CNN (September 7, 2020)


Fire photo by Little Visuals on Pexels.com. Mars symbol and retrograde symbol are in the public domain from Wikimedia Commons. I threw them all together.

Gideon the Ninth through Lenormand

(Contains major spoilers for Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, so if you’re planning to read it, you may want to come back later. Also, this post will make more sense if you know what happened in the book.)

I’d been hearing positive buzz about Gideon the Ninth for several months before it came out. Although the descriptions were catchy—”Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!”—I was having a hard time figuring out what the book was actually about. And while the cover was dramatic, it didn’t give me much of a feeling for the book, except that there would be skeletons involved. But friends were singing ecstatic (spoiler-free) praises of it, so I decided to take a chance on it. And because it was obviously about death and skeletons, I saved it for October.

Reading the book was slightly more planned than doing a reading about it. I’d done a story reading a few years ago for The Lord of the Rings, and it worked so impressively, I’d pretty much never dared another one. I’ve also used this layout for stuff I was writing. But I’d never tried doing a reading on a book before reading it. When I did this reading, I only knew what I could glean from the dust jacket summary. But even though the reading was pretty “accurate,” it’s not the sort of thing you get spoilers from.

Deck: Seventh Sphere Lenormand by Tina Gong (click to enlarge).

I like the Seventh Sphere Lenormand, but the card titles can be difficult to read. Here is a text-only version of the layout:

18-Dog, 31-Sun29-Anima, 24-Heart1-Rider, 7-Snake
15-Bear, 12-Birds23-Mice, 27-Letter6-Clouds, 10-Scythe
14-Fox, 11-Whip28-Animus, 8-Coffin32-Moon, 17-Stork

The Card Pairs

18-Dog, 31-Sun: Common keywords for the Dog include loyal and friend. But in this deck, the dog pictured reminds me more of a guard dog than a household pet. Paired with the Sun, I read this as a good servant as well as a good friend, and with that, I think of the cavaliers generally. The idea of the good servant comes up again and again in Gideon the Ninth as we meet the necromancers and their cavaliers. Obviously, we see a lot of the prickly relationship between Harrow and Gideon. The Third and Eighth Houses also have tense relationships between their necromancers and cavaliers. But other Houses show more amicable (or at least less fraught) pairings: the military hierarchy of the Second House, the happily married couple of the Fifth House, strong friendships in the Fourth and Sixth Houses. There’s even the hint of the long-ago loyalty of the cavalier Loveday to then-necromancer Cyntherea. And at the end, Harrow agrees to serve the Emperor as a Lyctor, even though her world has just fallen apart.

29-Anima (Woman), 24-Heart: Our protagonist, Gideon Nav. And yes, that was my first thought upon seeing this combination, knowing only that Gideon was female. I figured the Heart showed that she was passionate about things, like, say, getting away from the Ninth House. That wasn’t wrong, but in reading the book, I realized that Muir specifically mentions Gideon’s heart:

  • Gideon had never confronted a broken heart before. She had never gotten far enough to have her heart broken.
  • Harrow’s dark eyes were on Gideon’s, past the blade pointed at her skull. “Oh, I have hurt your heart,” she said.
  • “Harrow,” said Gideon, “if my heart had a dick, you would kick it.”

Only at the end, do we hear of Harrow’s heart, after she has absorbed Gideon: “If it had been possible to die of desolation, she would have died then and there: as it was, all she could do was lie on the bed and observe the smoking wreck of her heart.”

1-Rider, 7-Snake: The Lenormand can be wonderfully efficient. I see two meanings for this pair. To begin with, the traditional meaning of the Snake is betrayal and deception, often by a beautiful and intelligent woman. So I see this primarily as Cyntherea, for pretty much all the reasons spelled out by the end of the book and her final confession. The Rider? Well, one definition of cavalier is “a gentleman trained in arms and horsemanship.”* Cyntherea is Cyntherea the First, suggesting that she’s a cavalier of the First House. So Rider + Snake—the cavalier who’s a clever, but untrustworthy woman.

The second meaning? Gideon the Ninth is not lacking in intelligent women. Consider Ianthe Tridentarius. Ianthe betrays (Snake) Naberius Tern, her cavalier (Rider), in order to become a Lyctor.

15-Bear, 12-Birds: I did have some trouble with this pair. I see the Bear as the Emperor, but how did the Birds fit in? My best guess is the short but pivotal conversation between Harrow and the Emperor which sets up the next book in the trilogy.

23-Mice, 27-Letter: Between Gideon and Harrowhark lies the summons (Letter) from the Emperor. It began nobly enough. The Emperor tells Harrow, “I intended for the new Lyctors to become Lyctors after thinking and contemplating and genuinely understanding their sacrifice—an act of bravery, not an act of fear and desperation. Nobody was meant to lose their lives unwillingly at Canaan House.” But the summons brings them to the decay (Mice) of Canaan House, and the Emperor’s plans are corrupted (Mice again) by Cyntherea. Many die unwillingly, and the Emperor’s two new Lyctors are created through an act of fear and desperation (Harrow) and a murder (Ianthe).

6-Clouds, 10-Scythe: Traditionally, what the Scythe points at, it cuts through: in this case, the confusion of the Clouds. This pair was fairly easy to interpret, although that doesn’t mean it was less important to the story. Gideon the Ninth is in great part a mystery, and Clouds + Scythe is the characters trying to solve the mysteries.

14-Fox, 11-Whip: Another pair that is proving challenging to interpret. I’m tempted to say it represents another aspect of Gideon. This would be more physical and less psychological: she’s red-haired (the Fox can represent redheads), she’s practicing deception on Harrow’s orders (pretending to have a vow of silence, pretending to be the cavalier primary of the Ninth House), and she has been training regularly with the longsword, and more recently with the rapier (the Whip can mean repeated activities, such as physical exercise). That would put her in the reading twice, but of course the book is called Gideon the Ninth.

28-Animus (Man), 8-Coffin: Harrowhark Nonagesimus. No, Harrow isn’t a man. But I’ve noticed that the Man and Woman cards don’t necessarily represent literal men and women. Here, with the Anima already in use for Gideon, I think the Animus means “significant other.” Animus + Coffin oppose Anima + Heart across the reading, as Harrow and Gideon are opponents for most of the book.

The Coffin has a couple of meaning in this reading. First off, this is closest the Lenormand gets to representing necromancy. Putting it next to one of the people cards means that that person is a necromancer. But also, the Coffin represents the deaths of the children and teenagers sacrificed by Harrow’s parents to ensure Harrow would be born a necromancer. As she puts it, “I am exactly two hundred sons and daughters of my House, Griddle—I am the whole generation of the Ninth. I came into this world a necromancer at the expense of Drearburh’s future—because there is no future without me.”

32-Moon, 17-Stork: Transformation, especially emotional. The Moon may be the second most emotional card after the Heart, and the Heart has already been used in this reading. Harrow is now physically a Lyctor, and immortal, but she’s also emotionally not the person she was at the beginning of the book. At another level, it’s also a change (Stork) in her “career” (Moon): she’s gone from being the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House to being Harrowhark the First.

The Lines

Unlike that first reading for The Lord of the Rings, I haven’t been able to find additional meanings in all the lines of this reading. But here are a few.

Center vertical: Gideon and Harrow are unwillingly paired and opposed in order to answer the summons to Canaan House.

Center horizontal (rearranged): The conversation with the Emperor clears up the final mysteries that came from the summons to Canaan House.

Upper left to lower right diagonal: The most powerful servants are summoned to Canaan House to win transformation.



A couple of weeks ago, I was at Half Price Books. (Someday, I will get it through my head that if I don’t want so many books in my apartment, I should stop going into bookstores.) I investigated the writing reference section, where I found a chunky little book called The Literary Book of Answers by Carol Bolt. I figured it was a collection of answers to common questions about writing. It turned out to be a volume for bibliomancy, probably better shelved in the divination section than in reference.

The front cover of The Literary Book of Answers by Carol Bolt. The cover also says "Got questions? All you have to do is ask..." and "Let great books guide the way."

Bibliomancy is the practice of divining with books. Basically, you choose your book, and then, with the book closed, concentrate on your question. When you’re ready, open the book at random. The first passage you focus on is your answer. The Bible is a popular choice, but it’s not mandatory. Presumably any book would do in a pinch, although a cookbook or owner’s manual might be challenging to wrest useful answers from. (“Should I marry Harold?” Bake at 375° F for 25 minutes until crust is golden brown.) To simplify this process, Bolt’s book has only one sentence per page. The book is “literary” because she uses quotations from famous books.*

I was amused and a bit intrigued by The Literary Book of Answers, but I have lots of divination tools at home already. So my first question was obvious: “Should I buy this book?”

FORWARD!—Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Heh. Perhaps it was tired of being at the bookstore.

Bolt instructs the reader/diviner to ask closed-ended questions—a change from most of my divination tools which work better with open ended questions. But if I wanted a system that could answer only yes or no questions, I could save both money and shelf space and just flip a coin. To see what it would say about a more complicated issue, I asked another question. Without going into too much detail, I’ll say that I’d been trying to decide what I should do regarding a certain awkward situation: talk to someone about it—which would get me more involved with the situation—or leave it alone. I’d been planning doing a tarot reading on the matter, but why not try this hardcover version of the Magic 8 Ball? So I concentrated, then opened the book where it felt “right.”

THAT DEPENDS A GOOD DEAL ON WHERE YOU WANT TO GET TO—Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland


The book came home with me.


*Bolt also wrote The Book of Answers, which uses generic statements, and The Movie Book of Answers, which uses lines from well-known movies.

The Moon through the Minor Arcana

Astrologers recognize that the Sun and the Moon aren’t planets, but since they share so many functions with the planets, they’re usually grouped with them. The Moon is the fastest “planet” in the Chaldean order. In astrology, the Moon represents the emotions and instincts. Its placement in your natal chart shows what you need to feel safe and where you feel the most at home. Unlike the other planets, the Moon visibly changes shape in a regular cycle. By extension, the Moon is associated with cycles, and its related tarot cards often have meanings related to growth, loss, and change.

Nine of Wands (Moon in Sagittarius)

In any suit, the Nine is the next-to-last stage of development. By this point, the Wands project has been developed, tested, assessed, reworked, and tested again. The Nine of Wands—called Lord of Great Strength by the Golden Dawn and simply Strength by Aleister Crowley—has survived all its trials, but it’s showing some wear and tear. Sagittarius, the mutable fire sign, is not all that concerned with its personal safety when it’s pursuing the Truth, and the headlong rush shown in the Eight of Wands has resulted in a few injuries and the wisdom of experience. The Moon is not sure all that fiery passion is safe (it isn’t), and safety is one of the Moon’s primary concerns. So the man in the Nine of Wands is on the lookout for the next threat. Unlike the wands flying free in the Eight, eight wands of the Nine have been turned into a defensive line, while the ninth is at hand to be a crutch or a weapon as needed. The man shows an injury, but he’s alert and on guard against whatever might happen next. The tension between the Moon’s need to protect and be safe and Sagittarius’s need to be free to explore may not make the Nine of Wands quite the “bad card” that Waite calls it, but it’s not restful.

Four of Cups (Moon in Cancer)

The Moon rules Cancer and is at home in that sign, usually happier than when it’s in other, more exciting signs. Cancer is the cardinal water sign, and has a lot in common with the Moon: a focus on nurturance and care, a need for safety, and so on. And yet the Waite-Smith Four of Cups is not a happy card. Here, the Moon’s love of security and the rigidity stability of Four has produced a closed system in need of a little fresh air. This is the card of “familiarity breeds contempt:” often we don’t see the beauty in what we’re used to, taking it for granted. Pamela Colman Smith’s illustration shows a young man who has three perfectly good cups and clearly doesn’t care for any of them. The fourth cup is identical to the others, but why it hovers is magical…and totally wasted on him, since he’s too wrapped up in his discontent to notice. Think Dorothy Gale and how she had to be whisked away to Oz before she could really appreciate Kansas.

For the Golden Dawn, the Four of Cups was the Lord of Blended Pleasure, perhaps suggesting that there was some happiness to be had in the familiar, even if you were mostly bored with it. In the Thoth deck, this card is Luxury. In some respects, things are still good. The water flows between the cups and it’s clear. The cups are a bright, shiny gold, and the structure of cups and flowers looks stable. And yet, there are hints that things are starting to stagnate. The top two cups are resting on lotus blossoms, but they’re so heavy, the flowers have been squished flat underneath them. The water on the “floor” of the card is rippling and the sky is gray, as though a storm is gathering. The Moon in Cancer may be unwilling to change even as a situation begins to deteriorate, but change is likely to happen anyway.

Two of Swords (Moon in Libra)

The Moon symbolizes the emotions, and so it’s always at least a little at odds with its placement when it’s in a mental/intellectual/verbal air sign. That said, the Moon in Libra is not in a hostile setting. Libra, the cardinal air sign, desires balance and harmony. Calmness isn’t the same thing as security, but it’s far more soothing than the rambunctious energy of Sagittarius, and Libra gives the Moon a moment to collect itself, perhaps inspiring the Golden Dawn title Lord of Peace Restored and the Thoth title Peace.

But calmness really isn’t the same thing as security, and despite the titles, there’s tension in this card. The Moon is changeable by nature and the emotions it rules can be wild and messy. Libra’s sense of beauty and harmony can be more like a still life, perfect and unchanging. In the Waite-Smith deck, the woman is consciously seeking Libran peace and quiet. She has turned her back on the (changeable) moon and the rippling water. She has put a blindfold on—is it perhaps also covering her ears? Having cut herself off from the world around her, she can focus purely on her thoughts, for better or worse. However, the swords she holds look heavy, and she will have to put them down or drop them soon. The moon will eventually set, the sun will rise…the peace she has created cannot last.

Seven of Swords (Moon in Aquarius)

With the Seven of Swords, the Moon finds itself in the fixed air sign of Aquarius. Aquarius isn’t a congenial home for the Moon. The Moon’s need for emotional connection is at odds with the cool intellectual detachment of Aquarius, and the Moon is stranded in a cold, sterile environment. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the Golden Dawn named the Seven of Swords Lord of Unstable Effort, implying ambiguity. In the Waite-Smith deck, a smiling man runs off with five swords, leaving two behind; off in the distance, silhouetted figures seem not to notice the theft. There’s a sense of unfinished business with the Seven of Swords.

In the Thoth deck, the Seven of Swords is named Futility. Six swords, bearing the glyphs of the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are aimed at a much larger, nicked sword with the glyph of the Sun. (The Sun holds the solar system together in astronomy and it dominates the Moon and the other planets in astrology.) Whether the six weaker forces try to appease the stronger one, or a once-great force is slowly worn down by smaller ones, there will be no great and honorable victory here.

Six of Pentacles (Moon in Taurus)

Back at the Four of Cups, the Moon was at home in Cancer, the sign that it rules. But it was so much at home that this was a bit too much of a good thing. Like lounging around at home wearing any old clothes you feel comfy in, the Moon in Cancer tends to only do what feels good. With the Six of Pentacles, the Moon is in Taurus, the fixed earth sign. Cancer, a water sign, did nothing to stabilize the Moon’s changes, but Taurus is all about the stability. Now it’s less like lazing around at home by yourself and more like being a guest somewhere where you’re having a good time and you’re loved, but everyone expects you to get up, get dressed, and be ready to go every morning. Taurus’s stability tied Mercury down (Five of Pentacles) and its fertility was wilted by Saturn’s austerity (Seven of Pentacles), but it brings out the best in the Moon, leading to the Golden Dawn title of Lord of Material Success and the Thoth title Success. In Taurus, the Moon feels safe. And feeling secure, the Moon is willing to help others. In the Waite-Smith Six of Pentacles, a rich man gives coins to two beggars. The scale he carries suggests several different ideas: that he’s only giving the beggars what he thinks they deserve, that he’s making sure not to give so much that he impoverishes himself, that he’s giving what’s fair. He is successful, and in his prosperity, he reaches out to others.

For other posts in this series, see Astrology of the Minor Arcana.

31 Days of Tarot 2019: Days 28-31

It’s been a fun month, but it’s time to wrap this up. Generally, I’m pleasantly surprised I made it through to the end. Let’s go for the grand finale tonight!

Day 28: What is your ‘go-to’ Tarot book and why?

Which deck am I using? It’s difficult to say one book works for all decks, when the meaning of a card can change noticeably between decks. The Six of Swords in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck (moving on, leaving troubles behind) isn’t the Six of Swords from the Thoth deck (perception, insight, science) or the Marseille (harmonious communication). So, for each kind of deck, my go-to books are:

  • Tarot for Beginners: A Practical Guide to Reading the Cards by Barbara Moore (RWS). Does a good job of getting to the core meaning of the cards without a lot of extra material. Mind you, I love extra material, but not when I’m just looking for some help with a particularly confusing card in a reading.
  • Keywords for the Crowley Tarot by Hajo Banzhaf and Brigitte Theler (Thoth). Even more pared down than Tarot for Beginners, and that’s just fine. It’s also a guide to the symbolism in the Thoth deck, which is really helpful.
  • Untold Tarot: The Lost Art of Reading Ancient Tarots by Caitlín Matthews (Marseille). Without scenes on the pips, or even the suggestions of mood and situation that are in the Thoth deck’s Minor Arcana, it helps to have a guide with a neutral flavor to its meanings.

Book covers: Tarot for Beginners, Keywords for the Crowley Tarot, Untold Tarot

Day 29: How do you feel about Tarot deck modification? Do you draw on your decks? Trim the borders or is it a no go for you and why?

I myself am not a modifier of tarot decks. Twelve years of seeing “PUPILS to whom this textbook is issued must not write on any page or mark any part of it in any way, consumable textbooks excepted” in my textbooks has permanently turned me off the idea. I have a hard time even adding marginalia (in pencil!) to books I know I will own for the rest of my life; cutting or drawing on a tarot deck would feel like sacrilege. Admittedly, this makes my tarot-reading life a smidgen harder than it has to be. I have small hands, and most tarot cards are uncomfortably large and difficult for me to shuffle. But aesthetically speaking, I usually prefer cards to have borders. Certainly performing borderectomies would make large decks easier to work with, but it wouldn’t improve their appearance for me. Also, if I did trim a deck, it would have to be machine-perfect. As I’ve discovered, I can now sense a difference of less than a millimeter between two knitting needles. Imagine how I would fixate on every imperfectly trimmed card.

That said, if you want to modify your own deck, you have my blessings, for whatever they may be worth. Make your deck truly yours!

Day 30: Do you carry out predictive Tarot readings? Yes, no, why?

A daily one-card reading is usually predictive. And there’s often a predictive spot or two in my spreads, positions like “near future” or “possible outcome.” But I rarely do a reading of more than one card only to find out what might happen. If it’s a major issue, I want to see what factors created it (positions about the past) and what is currently going on and what’s on my mind (positions about the present). A purely predictive reading usually isn’t full enough for my needs.

Day 31: What question/s do you most often ask the Tarot? (for yourself and for others)

I need perspective on X. Which is how I end up using those spreads that do more than just predict outcomes.

Prompts: Ethony’s 31 Days of Tarot YouTube Community Challenge and 31 Days of Tarot 2019 * Prompt Walkthrough