Derbyshire Tarot Circle – 11th October 2018 7:30pm

I am so thrilled to be able to welcome you all to Derbyshire Tarot Circle! We meet for the first time on October 11th at 7:30pm and everyone is welcome.

I have set up the Circle for tarot readers, collectors and those interested in learning more about the cards to meet up in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Our venue is the warm and welcoming Hop Inn in Openwoodgate, Belper DE56 0SD. The family owned pub has open fires, a huge range of beverages including over 30 gins, fresh Illy coffee and snacks. There is step free access and dogs are welcome so do bring your canine familiar too!

All are welcome, whether you’re a beginner reading the cards, want to meet up with readers and find out what it’s all about or are a seasoned pro. It’s free to attend but you will want to buy something to drink, I’m sure!

Back in Time Tarot Book – Janet Boyer. Derbyshire Tarot Review.

Yesterday I took one of my regular trips to London to refill the magical well and restock the bookshelves. There is a downside to such days out in that they can be horribly expensive. A poetry book fair and only two book shops yesterday and I came home with half a dozen volumes and two new tarot decks.

In an effort to help us all save a bit of money and make good use of what’s available for free, I started working through Derbyshire Libraries’ collection of tarot books this summer. There is rather more than you’d expect and first up was The Back In Time Tarot Book by Janet Boyer.

The Back In Time Tarot Book by Janet Boyer


The method Janet uses involves choosing cards and overlaying them onto stories and in doing so, gaining deeper insight or understanding of both the cards and events. She demonstrates the method with personal stories from other tarot readers, significant political or cultural moments and popular films and stories as examples.

In connecting cards to life events, the reader builds up a collection of very personal associations with the images and characters represented. The Back In Time method has the valuable assets of hindsight and choice attached to it. Everything is, of course, always so much clearer when we see it from some distance and choosing the cards gives us a level of control that we might not always have had at the time we were sick or lost our job or a relationship ended.

What the tarot offers is a new window to look through. When we receive a tarot reading, we are shown what is, what was or what could be. There is a risk with this method we reinforce the stories we tell ourselves even if they are not objectively true.Though there is always interpretation of course, by creating our own very particular meanings for the cards based on a subjective vision of our history, we run the risk of not allowing the cards themselves to speak their truths.

I find the method of translating significant public or political events into tarot is very helpful for seeing bigger patterns and I think this might be where the strength of the approach lies. I was a little fed up by rather stodgy retellings of film plots, it has to be said, but I could see the value in such a thing as a workshop exercise.

You can find Janet and her many tarot creations at her website

Back in Time Tarot is now back in the stacks so do take time to borrow it and let me know how you get on.

Bess of Hardwick – Nine of Pentacles

A very fine lady turned up today. The Nine of Pentacles is one of my favourite cards, displaying a smart, independent, and skilled woman. She is the mistress of all she surveys, having created a world and a life for herself. Calm and organised, this woman would appear to be the opposite of the Fool and his risk taking. But no-one gets anywhere without taking a few risks at some point on the journey, do they?
Nine of Pentacles – Gilded Tarot
A local heroine of mine, Bess of Hardwick who was born in 1527, shows herself to me in this card. A shrewd, clever and business-minded woman, she took risks a-plenty and navigated her way through legal wrangles and the politics of the Tudor court keeping both her wealth, her position and perhaps most impressively for the time, her head.
Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury by Rowland Lockey, 1592
Commemorative Plaque to Bess of Hardwick in Derby City Centre


Derbyshire is spoilt for choice when it comes to impressive stately homes and houses and a fair number were either owned, built or lived in by by Bess and her family, including the resplendent Chatsworth House. For most of last year I worked in a church just a stone’s throw from Hardwick Hall. An incredible Elizabethan pile now owned by the National Trust, it was built by Bess next to the now ruined Old Hardwick Hall where she was born. Now owned by the National Trust, Hardwick Hall is filled with the most immense and intricate tapestries and textiles, an art form that Bess herself was skilled in.

Stumpwork embroidery in Hardwick
Hardwick Tapestries


Bess was incredibly wealthy. With four husbands and many children, Bess had built for herself not only a vast coffer and a reputation that she was not to be messed with, but also a lasting legacy. Highly respected by Queen Elizabeth, Bess and her fourth husband, the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury were entrusted with the care and imprisonment under House arrest of Mary, Queen of Scots. Bess and Mary were companions for many years and worked on tapestries and textiles together, many of which are on display in Hardwick Hall. They are carefully kept after Bess instructed that they be looked after in perpetuity as a historical collection. As much as her great buildings and business acumen is impressive then, if we’re looking for Bess’s creative heart, I think we’re likely to find it in the threads and fabrics which hang on her walls.


Going back to the tarot though, we’re back with the nines again. There is something missing for this lady, as perhaps there was for Bess of Hardwick. There is a sense in the card of ‘almost there, but not quite’. This element of the card is often interpreted as loneliness or a sense of isolation and I wonder if for Bess we might see in this card her many personal losses. She was widowed four times and lost two children in infancy and we might also mention the execution of Queen Mary, someone with whom she had a complex relationship.
As I write this, I am around five minutes walk from the tomb of Bess of Hardwick which is now in Derby Cathedral. As I have done on many occasions, I shall light a candle for her immortal soul and pray that I might have as much determination as she did in her life. It might also do to keep in mind that the Nine of Pentacles shows us that having ‘made it’ by achieving the material trappings of a successful life is most certainly not the end of the story.
If you’d like to learn more about the tarot, remember there is a beginners course in Belper on 29th September. All are welcome!

Uh Oh! Magician Playing Tricks?!

I’m so excited to meet those of you who’ve booked onto the Beginners Workshop on 29th September! But it looks like the Magician might be up to some tricks for one or two of you. If you’ve struggled to use the website to book, and been in touch via the contact page, please be sure to check that you gave me the right email address! Jennifer, I’m looking at you if you’re reading!! You can always drop me a note on Twitter too @DerbyshireTarot.

Spaces are still available, so if you haven’t booked already, click here and get yourself on the list. For those of you in a Bake Off mood, I might add that cake is provided on the day!

The Magician, for those of you wondering, is ruled by Mercury, a trickster who delights in hoodwinking potential punters and twisting technology into tangles and knots. I’ve found him to be fairly benign though, so if you’re trying to make contact, give it another go – the Magician might be in a less mischievous mood!

magician robin wood
The Magician – Robin Wood Tarot

A Walk in the Woods

Woodland, whichever bit of it you happen to be in, is a magical place. This week I have been to Idsworth and the very ancient Markwells Wood. I went with a seasoned traveller of that strange place who led me through the yew, beech and pine to places which were so far off the beaten track that I arrived feeling like I had crossed into another dimension. What magic took place amid those trees is private, but it took a whole chunk of sorcery for me to get there in the first place.

I used to be a confident walker, but injuries and falls during my youth made me cautious for many years to take any step that might lead to another mishap. There’s nothing quite like a dislocated knee to discourage bold leaps across crags or even a walk down a gentle slope. All told, the walk through Markwells was about four miles of flinty, chalky and uneven woodland floor and brambly paths. Following on from a lot of private magical work, and some help from a splendid physiotherapist, I am beginning to make strides – pretty grand ones – into new territory. The ground I’m covering both physically and spiritually is very much the Fool’s energy. I am no longer afraid and instead trust my body to hold me up and take me where I need to go. There is a splendid fearlessness which goes with this card that appears to belong to the start of the deck, but in truth belongs everywhere and nowhere. Nowhere is off limits for the Fool.

The Fool – Pamela Coleman Smith Smith Commemorative Deck

Markwells Wood is so very clearly its own entity and so my stepping between the trees and across the strewn rocks could be seen as taking rather a liberty. In fact, with the Fool as your guide or perhaps inhabiting you, the very idea that anyone could own the land or the woods or the river strikes one as ludicrous. The Fool walks lightly across the ground, with a holy hope that he will be held and supported and welcomed by the spirits of place whose earth he treads on. The Fool believes that he won’t so much as turn his ankle even on the rockiest of surfaces.

Incidentally, it occurs to me that there is a conversation to be had about how the Fool might speak the words of Psalm 91 (echoed in Matthew 4 where Satan tempts Christ):

For he will command his angels, concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

But that, as they say, is probably another story!

Nine of Wands

The suit of Wands is turning up a lot at the moment, and with this stifling, energy sapping heat, it’s not surprising. Wild fires and hot tempers crop up in equal measure and we crave the coolness and blessed relief of shady trees and streams. We can’t be far away from the weather breaking and when it does, the Nine of Wands here isn’t offering us sweet breezes, but a powerful climax.
Nine of Wands – Pictorial Key Tarot from Lo Scarabeo
With the Nine,the suit of Wands is starting to burn out its energy, reaching the end of a cycle, and yet it still has one last hurrah. Nines are cards where we ask ‘are we done yet?’ and the answer is ‘just about’. The nine offers strength, power, completion, and yet there is a circumspect energy about the chap we see. He is contemplating what this ending means, because each ending heralds the beginning of something new, or a restarting of the cycle. Are things going to play out as we planned? We’re asked to be cautious here. There is a lot of energy out there and though this is a time to be optimistic, we’re asked to direct our power carefully lest we inadvertently set fire to the parched land around us.

Beginners Tarot Reading Workshop

I am so happy to be sharing with you details of my coming Tarot Card Reading Beginners Workshop 

On Saturday 29th September 2018 you are all welcome to join me for a session where we will get to know the tarot cards and start to read them for ourselves and others.

The session takes place at the Strutts Centre in Belper, Derbyshire from 10am. Refreshments are included as well as take-home resources to help you deepen your intuition and to remember keywords and meanings. There will be opportunities to view and handle lots of different decks of cards as well as discounts on readings and future courses.

All are welcome! – though this is a course for beginners, if you’ve got some experience, please do come along and take the opportunity to refresh your knowledge and meet new people with shared interests.

I can’t wait to meet you all and explore the secrets of the tarot and the incredible ways that the cards can help you in your life. The workshop costs £35 per head but use the code EARLYBIRD10 to get a 10% discount if you book in July or August.

Book haul

Last Saturday took me to London. Though town was filled with its usual mix of exchange students and protesters, I managed to avoid the crowds and swung by Watkins Books on Cecil Court. I usually visit with a good friend, and somehow we always manage to time our arrival with that of a Harry Potter walking tour. They were there again and as ever it was hard to resist the urge to barge in somehow, perhaps if only to redeem Divination as a subject. I’ve never quite got over Hermione’s dismissive ‘…such a woolly discipline’.

Tarot cards on bookcase
Tarot shelves at Watkins Books


Despite being confronted by the image above, somehow I managed to avoid a new deck purchase – it’s actually easy to feel overwhelmed by the choice at Watkins – but I don’t think I have ever left the shop without buying something. Instead I found myself with a very heavy tote bag of books right at the start of the day.

Robert M Place, long term tarot reader, writer and creator, released last year a doorstep of a book.  His The Tarot, Magic, Alchemy, Hermeticism and Neoplatonism came home with me, along with Lo Scarabeo’s Tarot Compendium and Tarot Beyond the Basics by Anthony Louis, published by Llewellyn.

None of these is your beginners guide to the Tarot, but the Place book is certainly very readable so far. I am now at the stage where I want to delve deeper and connect the threads between diverse religious and esoteric traditions within the framework of the cards and all of these volumes offer ample opportunity to do just that. Reviews will follow once I’ve ploughed through around two thousand pages!

Six of Wands – The Wild Unknown

The Six of Wands in the Rider Waite tarot can be tricky to relate to. Our victories, no matter how hard won, don’t often come with a homecoming on horseback, banners and cheering crowds. The tarot, as we are used to seeing it, has a number of images like this which can be hard to pin down in our modern, workaday lives. Looking at and working with other decks then, with the re-imagining of ideas and imagery to express the same universal truths, can help us unlock cards which seem closed or worse, irrelevant.

Six of Wands – Coleman Smith Centenary Deck
I recently bought the Wild Unknown tarot. I know I’m a bit behind with this purchase, but having wanted to spend a few years really cementing my relationship with Coleman Smith images, I was avoiding scattering my attention too much with other decks. I also admit to being uncertain about the lack of human figures in the cards figuring that surely, if we are relating the cards to our human experience, it helps to have people int he pictures.
Interestingly enough though, I have found the lack of human figures encourages a much more symbolic relationship with the deck and a chance to listen to and explore the bigger picture of our existence or things which are difficult to express.
The Six of Wands is an interesting one for me. A beautiful blue-green butterfly rising out of the depths of tangled and rather menacing undergrowth is all about victory over the inherent conditions of our life. The butterfly must metamorphose and it must become itself if it is to live and reproduce. This isn’t about some job well done and a medal at the end, rather a deeper more essential success – I have survived! I live!

It is interesting personally though because I have a rather long-term phobia of butterflies. It is quite specific, as I fear them most when they are inside, out of their proper environment. I have been at a loss at to what this means or where it comes from, but perhaps this card suggests that a fear of failure coupled with the fear of success might keep one trapped in the pupae stage. Whatever it is, the Six of Wands shows that development, growth and moving out of the fear and conflict that we find in the Five of Wands is not only possible, but indeed essential and inevitable.