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.