The Goddess Major Arcana: Estsanatlehi/Fertility

One of my favorite aspects of The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr is the way in which it incorporates Goddesses beyond the Western canon. Alongside the Goddesses one might expect from the Norse, Greek, Roman, and Celtic pantheons, Waldherr has included Goddess from Africa, Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and Indigenous North America. (I fully recognize the problematics of glossing all these images as Goddesses, but even with that I appreciate a deck that doesn’t just contain White, European images.) Waldherr also does this with her Goddess Inspiration Oracle, another of my favorite tools. I like to see Goddesses which are new to me, and I especially appreciate the way Waldherr has made sure to treat these figures in a way that avoids a lot of the weird cultural appropriation that can so easily happen in occult and spiritual contexts.

For her rendition of The Empress, that embodiment of fertility and sensuality, Waldherr chose the Dine (Navajo) Goddess Estsanatlehi, sometimes known as Changing Woman. Estsanatlehi is both the guardian of the Earth’s bounty and the embodiment of that bounty and fertility itself. She is the force that causes change — and not just change, but renewals. In this way, Estsanatlethi watches over the cycles of the Earth, and is invoked in puberty rights marking menarche as well as rituals and rites around childbirth and life changes. She is the spark that renews growth in the Spring, and to whom the plants and animals return in the Fall and Winter.

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Fertility/Estsanatlehi from The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr. Permission to use the photo of the card generously granted by the author.

 

I appreciate this rendition of The Empress because it moves the focus beyond human sexuality and human reproduction. While The Empress is so much more than that, it can be easy for us to focus on Her as the pin-up or sex kitten of the Major Arcana. And while there is a place for that, such reductionist views undermine her power — not unlike the ways in which Venus/Aphrodite were stripped of their primal power in interpretations of their myths that instead portray them as highly sexualized, jealous, and obsessed with male attention. Re-envisioning The Empress as Estsanatlehi shifts the locus from purely carnal power and fertility to the essence of Fertility — all the ways in which things can fertilize, grow, and renew.

When Fertility/Estsanatlehi shows up in a reading, she still carries with her the messages of the more traditional Empress. She calls upon us to focus on and honor our physicality, sensuality, and sexuality. She invites us to be present in our bodies and to care for them, to honor their possibilities and their limitations. She can certainly indicate a pregnancy on the horizon, or the birth of something new. She most definitely calls upon women and femmes to step into their Goddess power, to remember that they are Divinity embodied on Earth.

But I feel like this rendition of The Empress goes even further. Estsanatlehi invites us to see ourselves as one with the cycles of Nature, the cycles of our bodies (regardless of sex, gender, or physiology), and the cycles of Life. She tells us that the key to stepping into our power is to own our own Sacredness, our own place is the great round of life. I also feel like Estsanatlehi also invites us to examine what in our life is in need of fertilizing, so that we can nourish it, as well as to recognize the places in our life where we are abundant, so that we can give gratitude. In this way, she comes dancing into our readings to remind us not just that we are sacred, but that we are part of the Sacred Whole.

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A Journey Through the Major Arcana: The Empress

 

Ah, The Empress.  Expansive, fertile, quintessentially feminine. The Empress is the third card of the Major Arcana, and She represents a real departure from the first three cards (The Fool, The Magician, and The High Priestess). These first three cards are, to me, about the spiritual, the numinous, the ethereal. Even The Fool, with its energy of stepping out in faith and adventure, is about Enlightenment and the spiritual quest. And then, in comes the Empress — embodied, sensual, firmly rooted in the physical world. How can it be that we should spend all that time tapping into our spiritual power, exploring our Shadow, leaving behind the expectations of society, only to turn back to the physical and mundane world?

In the Rider-Waite Tarot, The Empress is associated with Venus — both the planet and its namesake Roman Goddess of love, sensuality, fertility, and sexuality. She is also associated with the zodiac signs of Taurus, for her Earth Mother qualities, and Libra, for Her ability to bring balance.

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The Empress from the Rider-Waite Tarot

Who is The Empress?

The Empress is the embodiment of The Goddess or the Divine Feminine, especially in her Earth Mother aspect. When the Empress appears in a reading, it’s a sign that all is well with the world. She often heralds the birth of something — sometimes a literal child, but also of new phases of life, new cycles of growth, successful projects, and more. The Empress embodies the fecundity of the Earth and encourages us to do the same.

As third step on The Fool’s journey, The Empress reminds us that our spiritual gifts and inherent power need to also be manifest in the physical world. If we are doing the internal work but not bringing it into our outer lives, then we are only living half a life. All the knowledge and wisdom we gain through connecting with The Magician and The High Priestess is only truly valuable if we apply it to our material circumstances. The Empress also reminds us that “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals” — that, contrary to the narrative pushed by much of Western culture, self-abnegation and asceticism are not necessary for spiritual growth. We need not deny our embodied, sensual, physical nature as we quest for growth and Enlightenment.

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A gathering of some of my favorite Empresses. From left to right they are The Wild Unknown Tarot, The Goddess Tarot, The Rider-Waite Tarot, and The Fenestra Tarot

The Empress is a particularly powerful card for women and femmes, as it encourages us to stand in our power — a power that is often denigrated for not conforming to the “masculine” ideal. (Readers of this blog know that I often eschew such binary language and ideology, but it works when we’re talking about The Empress, as long as we don’t conflate it with assigned sex.) When The Empress shows up in a reading for a woman or femme, I read it as telling her to own her Goddess power — perhaps even to connect with the Goddess through ritual or meditation. It’s also an encouragement to honor the body as a way of claiming power, to allow for sensual and physical pleasure and delight and recognize those acts of self-care and self-love as, in the words of Audre Lorde, “an act of political warfare” in a culture that seeks to keep women and femmes in their “place.”

The Empress signifies fertility in all its forms. When She appears, it is time to recognize that a cycle is either beginning or ending — or perhaps both — and to honor the ways in which that which is empty becomes full again, just as what its born will die and be reborn. She can be a message to connect with the cycles of the seasons, of death and rebirth, and of our own bodies (regardless of gender or physiology).

This aspect of The Empress is brought forward in The Goddess Tarot, where she is re-envisioned as Fertility, embodied in the Dine figure of Estsanatlehi, or Changing Woman. Come back tomorrow for an in-depth exploration of this vision of The Empress.

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The Empress as Fertility/Estsanatlehi, from The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr. Permission to use the photo of the card generously granted by the artist.

 

 

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New Moon in Leo Oracle Reading

The Sun is finally in Leo, Fellow Travelers! I know the past few months have been challenging for many of us — so much deep internal work, so much healing, so much introspection. The Priestess herself has been struggling with the work she’s been called to do on healing old trauma and removing old blocks, and I know many of you have also been navigating deep and sometimes treacherous waters. Cancer season  calls us to face our Shadow in stark terms. As we move into Leo season, the sunlight floods back and dispels the darkness so that we can take what we have learned and move it out into the world.

This Oracle card reading is meant to help you focus as you take all the work you have done internally during Cancer season and manifest it out into the world under the bright Leo Sun. I used the Gaia Oracle by Toni Carmine Salerno, which I’ve been working with since mid-June. This is a lovely, gentle, inspiring deck that contains a lot of deep wisdom. I especially appreciate that every card comes with an affirmation to help focus your energy while you work with the message.

Take a look at the cards below.

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Close your eyes and take a deep breath.

Let your intuition guide you to the card or cards that hold your message for this New Moon.

Breathe…..

Breathe…..

Reveal

If you chose Card #1 (far left), you have received The Message. This card is all about positive news and positive outcomes.

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The Message assures you that at troublesome situation will soon be resolved, and in your favor or highest good. You should be alert for messages — whether from someone close to you, from far away, or from Spirit. A positive outcome is on the horizon for an issue of major importance to you. This card encourages you to rest easy in the knowledge that all is well, and you are surrounded by unconditional love.

The Affirmation for this card is:

I thank the Earth and the stars for every blessing

I give thanks for the the love that fills and surrounds me

I am loved unconditionally by a benevolent universe

My mind is full of light

My heart is forever grateful

 

If you chose Card #2 (center), you have chosen The Eternal Dance. This card’s message is about movement, the Wheel of Life, and the path of least resistance.

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The Eternal Dance reminds us that sometimes the best way through life is to dance through it, rather than muscle through or force it. This card encourages you to connect with the flow of life and with Nature, and to find a creative way to surmount an obstacle. If you are finding your path all uphill, perhaps there is another way. Allow yourself to be more flexible, knowing that you can be flexible while still being firmly rooted in your principles. Also honor cycles — beginnings and endings, transitions, the seasons. These are the Eternal Dance in which we are always engaged.

The Affirmation for this card is:

I accept change and the new possibilities it brings

I am flexible and open to new ideas

I create pleasure in my life

I look at life from a balanced perspective

I celebrate life and dance my way through it

If you were drawn to Card #3 (far right), you have chosen the Ocean of Eternal Love. This card’s messages are all about healing, creativity, and love.

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The Ocean of Eternal Love is here to tell you that all the hard work you have been doing healing yourself is about to come to fruition. Matters that have been weighing on your heart are now resolved. What was barren becomes fertile, and a new creation awaits. The seeds you have planted have germinated quietly in the dark of the Earth and are ready to spring forth and reach for the Sun. Expect a vibrant, fertile, and creative time to come!

 

 

The Affirmation for this card is:

Love heals.

Love brings resolution

Love conquers

Love creates

Love is eternal

 

I hope you find this reading helpful as you enter Leo Season! May the vibrant Sun chase away the shadows!

 

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The Goddess Major Arcana: Sarasvati/Wisdom

The High Priestess is, as I’ve said, my favorite card in the entire Major Arcana and in fact in the entire deck. I so fell in love with the idea of Priestesshood when I first encountered in through Tarot that I became a Priestess myself!

While the High Priestess is envisioned in a way that particularly evokes ceremonial magick traditions, especially in the Rider-Waite deck and decks directly inspired by it, I see Her as being about more than institutional authority or power granted by rising through the ranks of an initiatory tradition. The High Priestess to me is about the deep well of wisdom that we can access when we learn to explore our own unconscious, to move between worlds, and to descend into the darkest parts of ourselves. Like the Magician, the High Priestess represents power, but she also represents that ability to know when to receive as well as when to manifest. She is a repository of great knowledge, but also of great wisdom — and those two are not always the same.

This is why I love the rendition of the High Priestess in Kris Waldherr’s Goddess Tarot so much. Waldherr has chosen to reinterpret the card as Wisdom, and has chosen the Hindu Goddess of knowledge, art, music, and spirituality as the core image. Sarasvati — “one who leads to the essence of self-knowledge” — floats on her lotus, playing the sitar, embodying all the beauty and wisdom in all the realms.

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Wisdom/Sarasvati from The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr. Permission to use the photograph generously granted by the artist.

I love this vision of the High Priestess card. When the High Priestess arrives in a reading, I typically interpret that to mean that the querent is being asked to deeper their knowledge of themselves. This might be through spiritual pursuits — I particularly see this card as calling for Underworld or Shadow work. This might also be through arts, music, writing, or other activities which awaken creativity and encourage us to use our imaginations and connect with Spirit. In Waldherr’s discussion of Wisdom/Sarasvati, there is the added dimension that the querent is on a teaching and learning path — it may be that a wise teacher is about to appear, or that the person themselves is being called upon to be the wise teacher of others. On my own Priestess path, Wisdom/Sarasvati has shown up in my reading when it was time for me to level up in my Priestess work, by hosting open rituals, by offering classes online and in person, and even in starting this blog!

Wisdom/Sarasvati is a card of initiation for me, but not initiation within a formal structure. Rather, this card appears when there is going to be a significant breakthrough or move to the next level. Sometimes this means letting go of what no longer serves us, which can be difficult. However, Sarasvati assures us that we are moving on to a higher level of wisdom and self-knowledge, and that we will be surrounded by all the beauty, all the wisdom, and all the wise teachers we need in order to thrive on this next level.

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A Journey Through the Major Arcana: The High Priestess

The High Priestess is, hands down, my favorite card in the entire Tarot deck. Perhaps it’s because I’d never even heard of a High Priestess before I started reading Tarot, and 25 years later I am a Priestess. But She’s held a fascination for me ever since I first saw her in my brand-new Rider-Waite deck when I was 17. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rendition or interpretation of Her that I haven’t immediately loved, even though I do have my favorites. When Rose at The Bliss Institute asked me to join in her series on the Tarot, writing about the High Priestess was the part I immediately looked forward to.

If the Fool represents the first steps in faith on the road to Enlightenment, and the Magician encourages us to use our power and our resources at hand to catalyze transformation, then the High Priestess invites us to go deeper. Rose’s beautiful entry on the High Priestess is a great source of information on the card and the archetype. There is so much in this card!

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The High Priestess from the Rider-Waite Tarot

Who Is the High Priestess?

The High Priestess represents the willingness and ability to dive into the deep waters of our own unconscious, to explore matters of spirituality with our whole attention, and to claim our own Inner Goddess (regardless of our gender). The High Priestess, like the Magician, is aware of Her own innate power, and She has stepped into it fully. She has the ability to move seamlessly between realms, and has journeyed to the Underworld to bring back not just knowledge but wisdom and insight. She is able to sit in stillness at the gate between the worlds and serves as a guide for those of us who are traversing those liminal spaces.

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A coven of lovely High Priestesses! From left, they are The Wild Unknown Tarot, the Goddess Tarot, the Rider-Waite Tarot, and the Fenestra Tarot

When the High Priestess appears in a reading, She is inviting us to go deeper, to pay attention with our whole being, to be open to messages and omens. In particular, the High Priestess may arrive to tell you to pay attention to your dreams, to pay special attention to your surroundings, and to dedicate yourself to the pursuit of occult or arcane knowledge. She has this in common with the Magician, but the High Priestess asks us to take this knowledge and power a step beyond manifesting our personal dreams and wishes — She invites us to step into the role of guide or teacher, to bring knowledge and wisdom back from the deep dark places and share it with others. She may appear when you are about to meet a teacher who will catalyze your next transformation — of when you are being called to play that role of wise teacher for another. The High Priestess invites you to honor and pay attention to your intuition, and may in fact indicate that it’s time for you to pursue intuitive practices such as Tarot, oracle cards, pendulum work, and the like.

The High Priestess often appears when a major change is on the horizon. More often than not, this change is of the internal rather than the external variety, representing a kind of initiation into the next phase of life or spiritual growth. I typically see the High Priestess as a positive card, though the changes She heralds may not be comfortable or easy while they are occurring. But they are necessary. The High Priestess heralds a new phase of wisdom and growth.

In fact, in the Goddess Tarot, the High Priestess is re-envisioned as Wisdom and embodied by the Hindu Goddess Sarasvati — one of my all time favorite interpretations of this card! Come back tomorrow to go in-depth on this vision of the High Priestess!

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Wisdom/Sarasvati (The High Priestess) from The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr. Permission to use the photo generously granted by the artist.

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The Goddess Major Arcana: Isis/Magic

The Magician is perhaps the most iconic card in all of Tarot (though Death can probably give it a run for its money). This card of pure power and potential is the second step on the road to Enlightenment, and is a call to acknowledge our own power and self-sufficiency, our ability to bend and shape reality. The Magician is usually the first card I look at in a new deck, simply because it has always held a fascination for me ever since I got my first Rider-Waite deck, in its classic yellow box with the Magician as the cover image.

In the Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr, the deck I read with most frequently (at least over the last decade), the Magician is reinterpreted as Magic, which is represented by Isis. I love this reimagining of the card, which I think brings in a whole new set of nuances while also staying true to the message of the Magician in more classic decks. In the classic Tarot, the Magician is a message to stand in personal power, to draw on our own abundant inner resources, and to know that we can catalyze the transformations we want most. Magic/Isis goes further by asking us to be aware, perhaps for the first time, of the magic inherent in the world around us.

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Isis/Magic from The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr. Permission to use the photo generously granted by the artist.

Isis is essentially the Queen of the Egyptian pantheon. While there are many powerful Goddesses in that pantheon, Isis reigns supreme. (In fact, some scholars hold that all Egyptian Goddesses are just faces of Isis, but that’s a discussion for another day.) Isis is the Goddess of Life and Death, even conquering death to conceive Horus. She is the patron of medicine and healing as well as of magick and spirituality, and much else of great import to Egyptian society. As such, she holds the pure potential of the Universe within her, and rules supreme over herself and all that she surveys. In this way, Isis as the Magician/Magic reminds us that we have the ability to be our own sovereign. We possess with us all the power and magick we need to affect change. And yet part of realizing our own inner magick is seeing that the entire world around us is embued with magick and power.

When Isis/Magic shows up in a reading, she is reminding us to own our power, to step into our authority. It may be a call to explore magickal teachings and spirituality in a literal sense. But I find that this card is more than that. Isis/Magic reminds us that we are magick and that we have the right to be seen and treated as the holy mystery we are. When we are aware of how full we are of magick, of the magick we bring to the world, we are able to act on the highest level and with the most self-regard and respect for ourselves and others. And this is truly a catalyst for the changes we seek.

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A Journey Through the Major Arcana: The Magician

Once The Fool begins his journey into the unknown, the next step on the road to Enlightenment in represented by the Magician. The Magician — sometimes called the Magus — is perhaps the most recognizable card in Tarot; it’s even the cover image on the classic yellow box for the Rider-Waite Tarot, which is the first deck for many readers. Most renditions of the Magician feature the symbols of all the suits, which are classically grounded in ceremonial magick or alchemical practices. Associated with the number 1, the Magician is a card of pure potential and pure personal power.

In the classic Rider-Waite (or Rider-Waite-Smith) deck, the Magician looks like this:

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The Magician from the Rider-Waite Tarot

Who is The Magician?

It’s worth taking a moment to ask exactly who the Magician is. In contemporary Western culture, we often associate the title of magician with stage magic, sleight of hand, trickery, and even what is dismissively called “magical thinking.” (Note: I use the spelling magick to denote occult and spiritual practices, and magic to indicate stage magic and sleight of hand.) From this perspective, it’s easy to see the Magician as a card of delusion and self-deception. However, if we think of the Magician within the occult tradition in which Tarot is grounded, we get a very different view.

The Magician in this view and worldview is truly the master of all — he has the tools at his disposal and the knowledge to use them to bend the Universe to his Will. This is great power and comes with great responsibility, as is so often the case. The Magician invites us to recognize that we hold within us all we need to manifest our highest ambitions and our fondest dreams. It also reminds us to wield that power with discernment — a key aspect of any magickal practice is knowing when not to wield magickal power as well as when it is appropriate to do so. The Magician is ultimately self-reliant; he is able to draw on his own inner resources, skill, learning, and external resources to create reality. He is a wealth of arcane knowledge. I like to think of the Magician as more John Dee than David Blaine, if you will.

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Some of my favorite Magicians. From left to right: Fenestra Tarot, Goddess Tarot, Rider-Waite Tarot, and The Wild Unknown Tarot

When the Magician appears in a reading, it is a message that it is time to find your inner power and draw on that infinite well. You have everything you need to make the life you want or to transform the situation. The Magician often shows up when we are feeling unsure of our power, or when we are breaking free from old stories about what we should or should not be or do. The Magician may also show up when it is time for you to “level up” in some ways — to move from novice to initiate or initiate to adept, whether in a literal hierarchy or in a metaphorical sense. The Magician can also be an invitation to look at creative ways to solve a problem, and is an affirmation that you are doing everything just as you should — all is falling into place because you are doing the next right thing, then the next, then the next.

Finally, the Magician is an invitation for you to see the magick in the world around you. This might mean literally taking up spiritual, occult, or magickal studies. It may also be the cards encouraging you to look at the world around you with fresh eyes or to approach your life with what in Buddhist philosophy is known as “Beginner’s Mind” — a sense that everything is a new experience that has something to teach us, no matter how many times we may have engaged in an activity before. This perspective speaks to me, and is perhaps why my favorite rendition of the Magician is from Kris Waldherr’s Goddess Tarot, where the Magician is re-envisioned as Magic/Isis. (Come back tomorrow for an exploration of this version of the Magician!)

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Magic/Isis, from The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr. Permission to use photo of the card generously given by the artist.

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