Nature and writing project: An update

So I’ve had a busy few months and whilst I’m pleased I’ve still been blogging, my nature and writing project has been paused.  A combination of going to Stanmore for three weeks, resting and recovering, and also getting used to having a lot more care.  With this in mind, I put my nature and writing project on hold – it had a summer holiday!

This means I will start getting back into it now that the summer holidays are over and the school year has begun again!  Expect more tarot and animal spirit posts as well as I’m planning – long term – to work through all my animal allies cards, my animal totem tarot cards with a focus on the animals.  I’m also planning – very long term – to work through all the tarot cards, having been inspired when I started with the ten of swords.

There are so many directions to take the nature and writing in and I think this is partly why I’ve not done much recently.  I was really clear about the different topics for the different months and now I’ve covered a lot of these, or at least touched the surface of them, and I don’t know whether I want to return to a topic or go with a new one!  So many choices and so little restrictions!  I think that’s why I’ve been doing the tarot and animal allies posts because then I’m not having to decide what to focus in on!

Animal Allies wise, I have the following to look into:

  • Bighorn sheep
  • Boar
  • Canary
  • Coyote
  • Mountain Lion
  • Opossum
  • Rat
  • Skunk
  • Squirrel
  • Turkey

As well as looking forward, I wanted to look back. I’ve been retired for over two years now and whilst I retired in May 2016, it was the September when things finally started to fall into place so I could have a life.  I decided that September 16-17 would be a bit of a ‘gap year’ for me.  I was overwhelmed at retiring, at having lots of things I wanted to do with my life and unsure what and how much I could actually do if I wasn’t destroying myself working.  It felt like there were so many directions I could go in and yet I didn’t want to commit to just one.  In the end, the gap year involved a good mix of things; art, Saturday classes at the university, writing and reading.  It was January 2017 when I started on my animal spirit posts and it was from there than I formed my nature and writing project.

I had a feeling before but now I know for certain that I am a lot happier when I have projects like these which are long term but with smaller short term chunks (the entire deck of oracle cards but also each individual post).

I have also finally found the kind of writing that comes naturally to me at this stage in my life.  As a child I wrote a lot of stories and created magazines and newspapers for fun.  As a teenager I wrote an awful lot of (probably quite awful) poetry.  I was a prolific poet and it just streamed out of me without much thought or effort.  As an adult I have tried to recreate the stories and the poetry but its felt forced and definitely didn’t flow as it once did.  This year whilst I was reading and writing and learning, I came across the term creative non fiction and it felt like a validation that my posts about animals, about nature, are creative and they do count as creative writing.  Because they are non fiction I had essentially dismissed the creativity in them.  And because they weren’t in a voiceless, facts only style I had dismissed them as non fiction. It wasn’t until I found the term creative non fiction that I was able to figure out what my writing is and from there I can learn more about the style and how to improve and explore different techniques.

There have of course been lots of other realisations and discoveries in the past year of my nature and writing project but the thing I am most proud of is that despite having 6 months of being incredibly ill, I didn’t give up.  I had to change goal posts and I had to instil patience in myself because I wasn’t physically able to do what I wanted.  I also had to spend my energy fighting for help when I wanted to be doing my nature and writing project instead.  But despite this, since I started it last September, I have written over 165,000 words and 186 blog posts.  I have carefully researched the topics I talk about and have done some really interesting reading and watching of documentaries to fuel what I am writing about.  For a year which involved six months of starvation (literally… I couldn’t swallow much food…), I’m pretty proud of myself.

I couldn’t possibly chose a favourite topic or post but the one I find myself telling people about more than any others is the post I did in October about the very real and very serious cases of animals in court on trial.  If you read nothing else I’ve written (except obviously some of this post to reach the link…), read that.

Illustration from Chambers Book of Days depicting a sow and her piglets being tried for the murder of a child. The trial allegedly took place in 1457, the mother being found guilty and the piglets acquitted.

Armadillo – Animal Allies


The armoured armadillo clearly talks to us about personal boundaries – its name even means “little armoured one” in Spanish. In this sense, some of what I’ve covered about the turtle, crab and snail will be relevant – the Aztec’s actually called armadillos ‘rabbit-turtle’.  Unlike these though, the armour is made from several bony plates.

The armour can offer protection from predators but apparently armadillos often chose to run into thorny bushes instead of relying on this, that said, the armour does protect against the sharp thorns!  Like the pangolin, the armadillo asks us how we react when you are threatened.  We should also consider what makes us feel uncomfortable and, just as importantly, what makes us feel comforted.

The armadillo’s armour can be a line that is drawn between it and the world, as an impenetrable barrier, as a way of keeping things out and thus we need to consider whether we are letting the wrong things in or keeping the right things out.

Whilst many people believe that all armadillos can encase themselves in their shell by rolling up, it is actually only the three banded armadillo that can (I’m thinking this is the nine banded armadillo).  Often in life we react to pain by retreating fully inside our shell, the armadillo is here to remind us that vulnerability can be a helpful response.  Yes it can hurt, but it can also be beneficial in the longer term.  Brene Brown talks about vulnerability hangovers which can be a great way of feeling into that awful exposed feeling you get when you are vulnerable.

Another way we can consider the idea of personal boundaries is with regards to privacy and there is a importance to having your privacy and respecting others.  I think considering whether you are honouring your privacy or whether you are being (unnecessarily) secretive or guarded.  This is something I discussed when I was looking at the fox from the wild unknown oracle card as it was also pictured on the seven of swords tarot card.

Not being fans of the cold – they can die from poor weather – these animals live in temperate and warm habitats.  In fact other than to mate, the only time armadillos socialise is to keep warm.  Most species dig burrows and sleep in them for 16 odd hours a day.  They forage in the early morning and evening for bugs and insects using their keen sense of smell to compensate for their poor eyesight.  They are especially fans of ants and termites and are equipped with strong legs and huge, sharp claws that can dig into nests.  Their long, sticky tongue also comes in useful for getting the ants and termites out of tunnels.

There are physical aspects of the armadillo that remind me of the badger – the strong claws, the burrowing and underground life.  With this we can see the armadillo as being grounded, as earth medicine and as digging for something (or away from something).  Digging burrows means that armadillos define their own space and also creates a space which (hopefully) feels safe and secure.  We all have different things which make us feel safe and secure and armadillo is encouraging more of these into your life.  Armadillos are a bit picky about where they live and prefer a particular type of soil which again I feel is about valuing and considering the important of your environment.

Tied in with having a safe space and time alone is the idea of withdrawing from the world, temporarily, to recharge and to recuperate.  The armadillo sleeps for most of the day in order to do this but for humans this isn’t all that healthy… We do need to ensure we get enough high quality sleep and this will vary from person to person but sleep should not be the only time we relax.  How else are you taking time out?  How else are you engaging in everyday acts of self care and self compassion?

The nine banded armadillo has, unsurprisingly, nine bands!  And if you’re into numerology you might want to look into this.  In tarot, nine cards are about compromises, the final struggle and endings.  You’re almost there and you might need a bit of an extra push to make it to the goal or you might need to let go of such an exacting idea of what the outcome looks like.  What I find really helpful in understanding the armadillo is to think about it alongside the hermit card from tarot which is the ninth card in the major arcana.


“I find solace and growth in quiet reflection, and I honour my need for solitude”
Jessi Huntenburg

“I think human beings must have quiet to survive.  And we have to go inside ourselves to find peace”
– Bob Roth

The hermit is about sacred solitude and going within to find clarity.  There is power in retreating from distractions and opinions of others to determine your own truth and ideas.  Meditation, stillness and pausing are ways of finding this with introspection, searching inwards and processing being more active ways.  Questions to consider include:

  • Where is my retreat?
  • How do I connect with my inner truth?
  • Is your solitude driven by a drive to sit with yourself or as a defence mechanism?
  • How are you making time for yourself?

protection * boundaries * defence * environment * personal space * relaxation * withdrawing * retreating

Monkey – Animal Allies


I am fairly certain that this is a capuchin monkey which was the species used by the organ grinder and I’m going to look at these specifically as well as shorter look at monkeys more generally.


“If monkey has swung into your view, consider how you could add a little fun, play and harmless mischief making into your days.  Are you taking yourself too seriously? Let monkey inspire you to let your fun loving inner child out to play”
– Animal Allies

Monkeys in culture are often cast as the joker, an entertainer and a prankster.  They show us the value of play, of messing around and that there is a time and a place for humour and fun and even good-natured mischief.

Being closely related to humans, they are seen as clever and resourceful and are often held up as being excellent examples of tool makers/users and problem solvers despite there being many other creatures that are just as, if not more, intelligent (although animal intelligence is a hard thing to measure or even define).  For example, pigeons, not the obvious clever bird (a title that normally goes to corvids like crows), have excellent spatial intellect which is exactly what they need.  I feel like labelling monkeys and primates as clever is a way of boosting ourselves – if we acknowledge and focus on the pigeon as a clever bird, by association we are (or could feel we are) saying that our intellect is nothing special.  Thinking about this from a self reflection point of view, are you boosting yourself by belittling others?

We can also think about the resourcefulness and ask ourselves if we have the resources within us that we need or if we have the tools to solve the problem that we’re facing.  Thinking about the cleverness of the monkey and see if we need to make more use of our minds in our lives right now.  A less obvious thing to ask ourselves though is what happens when our intellect goes unstimulated?  For me, that’s a quick slide into depression and I am very mindful of this.  I make sure that every week I do at least one thing that challenges my mind and almost always do much more.  I have to be careful because when I am ill or my pain is high etc and I’m not able to do much more than stay in bed I’m not really up to doing things like crosswords or reading non fiction or watching documentaries.

Interestingly, whilst monkeys in general are considered clever, capuchins are considered the most intelligent of the New World monkeys so messages around intelligence are particularly relevant here.  Indeed, it is this intelligence that led to monkeys being used by organ grinders.

Other areas of monkey lives that are interesting to explore include the group dynamics of non solitary species such as what kind of hierarchy do they have, where in this are you and how do you feel about this, how do you bond with other group or family members, how do you display compassion and how do you communicate with them.  If you’re looking at a monkey oracle card that isn’t an animal allies card I would encourage you to explore the species featured as this may shape your interpretation.

Capuchin Monkeys

But now for Capuchins!

Capuchin monkeys are black and white and if you’ve read a few of these posts, you’ll know by now that black and white often means dualities, dichotomies, yin and yang, light and dark.  With the monkey, we have the intellect and the playfulness.  The joker and the carer.

Let’s have a look at where the name comes from.  Capuchin monkeys were discovered by explorers to the Americas in the 15th century and the particular type of capuchin they found resembled friars from the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin who wore brown robes with large hoods covering their heads.

Capuchins live in groups ranging from about 10-35 members, generally with a single male at the head of the group although white headed capuchins (which I’m fairly certain the pictured capuchin is) are led by a lead male and a lead female!  As a feminist I love this and I think that as well as the duality of colour, we see in this card a duality of masculine and feminine (NB, not male and female but the stereotyped traits) and how these can balance each other, come together and create harmony.

Group dynamics and bonds are reinforced through grooming and complex communication including facial expressions and gestures as well as calls.  We are asked to think about how we relate to those around us, how we communicate and what our body language is saying.

Different groups also engage in or ‘invent’ other behaviour which helps to make bonds and also tests relationships.  This includes hand sniffing, eye poking and sticking fingers in each others mouths as well as the more violent rock throwing… Some of these behaviours become local ‘traditions’ which are passed from capuchin to capuchin and which are localised.  This creativeness and inventiveness around bonding puts me in mind of the 5 love languages.  It’s about finding what works for you and those you are relating to and part of that is understanding how your partner expresses their love and what they see as love.  For example, some people value quality time more than anything else and feel that if someone loves them they will show it by spending quality time with them.  Others may feel the same about words of affirmation or physical touch and part of relating well to another is around understanding this potential difference.

Research has suggested that capuchins favour unselfish behaviour.  The experiment involved humans being helpful or unhelpful to other humans and this third party interaction appears to show that capuchins will then respond differently to the helpful/unhelpful human.

Whilst some of the local behaviours of the capuchins have clear evolutionary purposes, such as how to get fruits out of shells, others do not – such as biting of chunks of fur and holding it in the mouth whilst the other monkey tries to get it back.  These local traditions tend to last about ten years or so and then, like human trends, they fade away.  Traditions are important but, the capuchin is teaching us, so is being flexible.  Some awful atrocities are carried out and explained away in the name of tradition so whilst we may value traditions, we should still be open to questioning them.

dualities * dichotomies * balance * intellect * tradition * communication * bonding


I was pleased to see the badger card in this deck as I’d already been planning on writing a post about these shy yet fierce woodland creatures.


Left to right: Animal Allies, Medicine Cards

Nocturnal and elusive, the badger is generally a social creature.  That being said, Jessica Swift who created the deck views this particular badger as “a bit of a loner, preferring to deal with others indirectly rather than directly.”  I looked into this and it turned out be a geographical difference as I am in the UK and she is in the US.  As I am writing from the UK, I’m going to look on the badger as a social creature.  If on the other hand, you’re from the US or the solitary badger has more pull for you, do go away and read about it.

Badgers are goddesses of underground living.  They create complex, long lasting burrow systems which are built by both male and females. They evolve and develop over time and are regularly being added to.  They are active spaces which can last generations.  This means they become a key part of the landscape and can be there for hundreds of years.  A cete of badgers (the correct term for a group) will have a number of setts in their territory with extensive tunnel networks with multiples exits for safety.  These are also at various heights which ensure good ventilation.  The badger home is not a haphazard guess but rather the result of years of hard work and reminds me of the beaver in that respect.

As I was looking online to see how people view badgers as spirit animals and what the associated characteristics tend to be, tenacity and determination came up a number of times as did the idea of needing to put in hard work to ensure something is a success.  If I was going to allocate the badger a suit from tarot it would be the pentacles and not just because they are earthy creatures but also down to their work ethic.  There feels like a slow and steady, putting in the effort, type approach from these creatures that chimes with a few of the pentacle cards.

Returning to their subterranean world, we find an animal that is grounded, down to earth and has a deep affinity with the land and mother earth.  If the badger has appeared as a medicine, you may want to explore your connection to the earth whether it is standing barefoot on the grass or exploring growing your own food etc.  They are also often ascribed healing powers and I have come across quite a few references to root medicine or magic including medicine men and women using a badger’s paw in healing ceremonies to ‘dig’ the disease out.

Another way you might interpret their underground and overground lives is by leaning into the idea that our world sits atop a fairy or magical realm, such as the irish Tuatha Dé Danann.  In this metaphor, badgers could be seen as messengers, bringing us secrets or ideas from a different world.  Perhaps this could be extended to an invitation to see things from a different perspective?  Their underground homes could also be about seeing below the surface, looking deeper and getting beyond the superficial.

Digging deep may also be felt into as a metaphor.  Because they can dig deep, it is hard to keep a secret from the badger, they can uncover things which perhaps even you don’t yet knoe about yourself.  This could be a call to spend some time trawling through your mind and tuning into your feelings and, if badger magic is working for you, you may find this to be a healing process.

Badgers’ diet varies throughout the year.  They enjoy apples, earthworms, roots and insects to name a few of the items on the badger menu.  They are omnivorous and whilst they really do like worms, they can switch to other food making themselves very adaptable to seasonal change.  Are you, like the badger, keeping your options open?

Somehow I’ve made it this far through the post without exploring the iconic colourings of the badger.  Their black and white stripes on their face direct attention towards their intensely strong jaw and sharp teeth – their key defences – and highlight their powerful defence.  Courage and strength are often associated with badgers which combined with perseverance creates an animal you want to keep on side.  Related to this, Jessica Dawn Palmer says:

“Once badger has bitten into something it won’t let go.  It would die rather than give up, so badger teaches us how to stick to a project and see it through to its completion.”

Whilst this is an admirable quality, do be careful of holding on tightly to the wrong things.

The black and white markings could also suggest a polarity which is akin to that which we saw with the bear; both a fierce and strong warrior but also a loving family orientated creature.  Interestingly, whilst the badger is known for being black and white, it’s body is actually grey.  Having just been on a three week pain management programme which included elements of CBT, I am viewing this as a reminder that life is not black and white and that black and white thinking is normally unhelpful in life.  Instead we can look towards the more nuanced grey, the inbetween, the compromise, the middle way.

Another common theme that has popped up many times in my research has been the link between badgers and storytelling.  I have yet to find out why but for now I am hypothesising that it is down to their intensely strong jaw which could then be taken as being a powerful communicator and then, although it feels tenuous, a great storyteller.  Another (less feasible but rather sweet) image that has popped into mind is of a badger family all sitting around in their sett on a cold winter’s day listening to wise elder badgers telling stories.

As storyteller, the badger “was keeper of history in the form of legend and lore.  Badger knows both past and future while maintaining a firm grip on the present” (Parker).  Regardless of why, this association does give us some interesting areas to explore.  We can think of storytelling as a social activity that connects and binds a group.  We can think of the personal stories that we tell ourselves about who we are and who we should be and who others think we should be.  These stories are powerful and can affect how you view yourself but they are stories so if they aren’t helpful, change the narrative.  I know building self esteem and self confidence isn’t as easy as that but it is one tool in your tool box.  Maybe think about the stories that you’ve heard over the course of your life and why or how some of them have been important or made a lasting impression.

On the topic of stories, let’s have a quick look at fictional and folkloric badgers.  According to Wikipedia, “authors of fictional works employing badgers have often emphasised their natural reclusive privacy and their ferocity and courage when protecting themselves”.  Personally, I was a bit stumped when it came to thinking of fictional badgers.  There is of course Mr Badger from Wind in the Willows and the badger which Beatrix Potter created.  For anyone of my generation there was the badger in The Animals of Farthing Wood but then I got stuck.

Interesting, in contrast to Wikipedia, John Dougherty wrote in the Guardian that “badgers in stories are usually wise and kindly animals”.  It seems that, like their black and white stripes, badgers in fiction find themselves cast in two polar opposite roles.

“The roles played by the badger in folklore fall basically into three categories: that of vengeful transformer, grateful friend and roguish prankster”
Violet H. Harada (PDF)

Turning from fiction to folklore, we find the Chinese and Japanese badger is a shapeshifter.  Not only can this creature appear human, but they can also shapeshift into inanimate objects such as fence posts.  Really, anywhere you go there could be a badger hiding right under your nose!  This could be quite unfortunate as badgers were also thought to be able to predict death… They could not only see into the future, but they could also see the past lives of people meaning that as well as changing shape, the badger has a fluid relationship with time as well.

Moving round the globe to North America where badgers (US badgers obviously) are portrayed as hard working, protective parents who will attack when necessary such as when something that matters to them is threatened.  We also find the element of divination with a rite involving badger blood and what is essentially mirror scrying to see the future of the diviner.

We actually find a strange but true relationship in North America between coyotes (another of the animal allies cards) and (American) badgers – whilst the majority of their interactions are fairly neutral, they have been seen hunting together but also sometimes coyotes eat badgers and sometimes badgers eat coyotes.  Whilst I’ve not yet looked at coyotes, this feels like it could be an interesting area to explore, especially if you draw them both in a reading.  This relationship gets yet more complicated when we learn that the coyote waits until the badger has made a nest and then steals it for himself.

And now, back to folklore, we cross the ocean to Europe.  Medieval folk thought that badgers worked together to dig tunnels under mountains in quite a coordinated fashion – some badgers did the digging, some had soil pilled on top of their tummies and some then dragged these soil laden badgers out of the tunnel in order to move the soil out the way.  I’d love to know more about how this idea came about!

Other beliefs are comparatively more reasonable…  The badger was associated with the coming of spring.  In Ireland, the badger was thought of as unclean and known for biting, yet a gambler who put a badgers tooth in his pocket was said to be unbeatable…Badger hair was an ingredient in a potion which protected you from witchcraft and their skin was made into bridles so that the rider would have magical powers over horses.  At the other end of the spectrum, to see a badger was bad luck.  These mammals are a complicated mixture of contradictions.

Badger culling is a topical, controversial issue and casts the badger as a scapegoat.  It is also an issue which gets very heated and emotive and singles out the badger despite other actors being involved.  If we look again at the idea of storytelling, here we have a badger cast as the leading villain and taking all the blame for a crime that was committed by many.

Sadly their poor treatment doesn’t end there.  The phrase “to badger”  apparently comes from the custom of badger baiting (badgers have had a rough time of it regardless of which generation they are from…) and means “to persecute” or “to annoy”.

I feel like the badger, more so than most of the animals I’ve looked at, is a bit confusing.  There are many ways to lean into the meanings and I do think it’s one you’ll have to feel your way into by yourself.  I hope this post has offered some signposts for further exploration and that you can find your own path through the contradictions!

Wheel of Fortune

Whether it’s depicted as the Wheel, the Wheel of Fortune, the Wheel of Time or the Fates, this card brings with it change and cycles and uncertainty.


Each Major Arcana card is associated with a suit, in this case the wheel of fortune is a fire card and knowing this can help us lean into the meaning.  Without knowing anything else, we get a fast, sparking, energetic vibe, this is not a card about staying still.

Different decks

I’m posting this from a hotel room and can’t remember the name of the tarot deck for the small card or the one on the bottom row to the right… I will update when I’m home with the boxes…
Top Row; Lumina
Bottom Row; Wild Unknown, Tarot of the Pagan Cats

Rider Waite Smith

“The Wheel of Fortune promises that change is the only thing you can rely on.”
– Michelle Tea

The Rider Waite Smith image involves a lot of symbolism.  There are many layers to this card and we’ll get a sense of that as we start to unpick things.  You can take the image at face value without knowing what the symbols mean, less so for the RWS but this is easy with some of the other decks.

With the RWS symbolism, from the little I know and have read, we have alchemical symbols which correspond to the suits of the tarot, zodiac signs depicted in the four corners and so on.  In terms of the zodiac, there is a Scorpio eagle, Leo the lion, Taurus and apparently Aquarius – all of which are fixed signs if you know anything about astrology you might want to ponder this.  The wheel itself seems to be resting on the back of what might be a devil and the wheel has a sphinx? On top and a snake to the left.

According to Michelle Tea, the snake is Typhon, a murderous monster in a downward spiral – he has had his time on top but no longer.  What I think looks like a devil is apparently Anubis (half jackal and half human) who is protector of the dead, who guides souls and brings new life.   The sphinx is indeed a sphinx who is enjoying her time up top.  There are a lot of different ways we can relate to this card through the different depictions and we will all, at one point or another, be each of them.

Rachel Pollack instead says the snake is set, Egyptian god of evil and bringer of death into the universe.  In some stories, Anubis is set’s son and so the decline of set gives space for Anubis to step into life, the cycle of death and rebirth is played out – “psychologically, only the death of the outer self can release the life energy within” (pollack).  The sphinx represents Horus, god of resurrection and so symbolises the triumph of life over death.

Pollack also notes that the wheel originally symbolised both the mystery of nature and the human ability to take part in that mystery through a ritual sacrifice.  This may sound sinister to our 21st century ears but sacrifice could just be about letting go of that thing which is no longer relevant, that belief which is no longer appropriate or that idea you have of how things should be.  She goes on to point out that the important thing about change is the reaction you have to it.

Do you embrace change?  Do you struggle against it?  Do you drain all your energy trying to fight it?

The Tarot of the Pagan Cats

Where the RWS wheel is spinning by itself, albeit with the influence of gods and such, the wheel in pagan cats is being spun by a cat herself.  We still have the four suits and the symbols which indicate the degree to which the cat cannot control the future.  Combined, these elements show an approach to destiny and fate which is in partnership with the reader of the cards.  The LWB says:

“The wheel of life is spinning and where it will land is uncertain, those who are centered will feel the effects less than those who cling to the edge. R. running away from fears or responsibilities.”

I find this interesting given the cat is clearly on the outside of the wheel, here she will feel a greater impact of change, and perhaps experience greater change because of that resistance to throwing herself at the centre.

Instead of just select astrological signs, the pagan cats wheel includes all the zodiac symbols and the planets.  Having observed this, I’m now mulling over what I think it might signify but am not feeling anything obvious – I’d love to hear from you if you have thoughts!

Wild unknown

This particular wheel of fortune card is one that I’ve leant into in a deeper and deeper way the more I’ve learnt about tarot.  The card shows a complicated web of rainbow treads, weaving in and out and getting tangled in branches and ultimately creating a circular wheel akin to a dreamcatcher.  The top half is in darkness with a crescent moon and an owl and the bottom half is light.  Things are a bit topsy turvy right now.

As with the previous cards, change is a key element here.  We are asked to be the change or to feel into how change is showing up for us.  How are we responding to those changes – are we clinging on for our lives desperately trying to be in control of the change or are we going with the flow?

The tangledness of the image reminds us of how intertwined life is.  It is a visual representation of the interconnectedness of all of us and how everything is connected and united with everything else.  However random events in your life may feel, they are connected somehow, just in a way that us mere mortals can’t see.  Life is messy and it may not feel like things are going as they should but have faith that the universe is keeping you on your path, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Related to the idea of life as messy, we can use the card as a reminder that life, like a tangled ball of wool, only becomes untangled with time and patience and making a bit more mess first.


“Intentionally move the spinning wheel of You to the beat of your own heart’s guidance”

Where the phases of the moon were hinted at in the wild unknown, they are explicit with the lumina tarot.  A feminine figure stands at the centre of 8 arms, each reaching for a different moon phase.  Above sits the moon and she stands on the sun, echoing the wild unknown.  Etched into the moon is the symbol for Jupiter which I’ll look at a bit later on.

The centring of the figure suggests she is at the centre of the wheel of fortune; she is moving with the flow not resisting change.  Fighting it makes no difference to what happens, just how you react to it.

The moons in this card speak to me of cycles – the lunar cycle, the way tides flow in and out, the way a year moves through seasons and the cycle of life that we all experience.  Everything changes and everything passes.  We also cannot skip a stage of the cycle.  You cannot go from new to full moon without passing through the crescent moon on the way.  Works of Literata expands on these ideas around cycles and phases in a post about the wheel of fortune.

Other decks

In the Simplified Tarot, the wheel of fortune shows a wild looking woman turning a crank to spin a wheel with 6 of the zodiac signs on it – Pollack suggests that this is saying in a direct way we make out own luck.

The Chrysalis Tarot has a somewhat different image to most of the other decks I’ve looked at.  In this deck, the wheel of fortune appears as though it could be burning.  I wonder if this is saying we can take control of our fate?

The Herbal Tarot illustrates this card with slippery elm, something which doesn’t take much leaning into to feel appropriate for the wheel of fortune.

Finally, in the goddess tarot, the wheel of fortune is represented by hindu goddess Lakshmi who is associated with fortune and prosperity, the generosity of the universe.

I find these different versions of the wheel of fortune reflective of the different types of change we all experience, the different ways we move through change and the different levels of control we have over changes.

General thoughts

“Like the wheel of life that never stops turning, the longer you cling on and try to stay where you are, the more out of flow with life you get, life is not linear, it is cyclic.  A boundless journey of transformation. Of highs and lows. Of contractions and expansiveness.  Of birth and death.  Of wins and losses.  Change is a sure thing.  Our ability to surrender to its natural rhythms is our greatest tool”
Rebecca Campbell

“I walk with life’s ups and downs. Sometimes I’m ahead, sometimes I’m behind. This too shall pass”
Jessi Huntenburg

  • What is changing? How am I responding?
  • How can I stay centred?
  • Have you checked out of your life in some way?
  • Are you struggling to trust that the future will unfold as it’s meant to?
  • Who is spinning the wheel?
  • Where on the wheel am I?

Keywords for the wheel of fortune:

Destiny, change of course, life is messy but have faith that the universe is keeping you on your path, change, luck, karma, fate, turn of events, turning point, movement, action, brief glimpse of the world card, taking control of your destiny,


Fixed zodiac signs

As we saw with the RWS card, the fixed astrological signs come into play here.  These are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius and Café Astrology says:

The fixed signs are not as interested in manipulating their environment as their Cardinal brothers and sisters- they are happy to concentrate on personal matters and will resist outside attempts at trying to change their lives. They tend to hang on to the past, which is their biggest weakness, but they are strong in their stability.

In the context of the wheel of fortune, these signs feel like they should be more resistant to change and to the turning wheel so I’m finding it a little strange that they are highlighted.  I’d be interested to hear other people’s ideas about why the fixed signs in particular are used on this card.


Previously I’ve not really explored the symbolism of the associated crystals but I love amethyst and as a pisces, it’s my birth stone and it’s been with me for over 2/3 my life in different ways so I felt compelled to find out more about it.

Firstly, it’s quartz so let’s start there.  Quartz comes in many varieties and formations and is the most abundant mineral on the earth’s surface.  There is, when you put it like that, nothing special about quartz.  But it is special.  I have a lump that I picked up as a child and whilst I don’t know where it is, I can picture it as clearly as I can my teddy bears.  It was raw and full of character and as I write this, I’m upset that I can’t think where it is.  I know I didn’t get rid of it but I’ve moved house so many times…  Anyway, back to quartz.  It’s clearish and if you look back in time, it was used to heal sickness and wounds and is generally thought of as a basic go to crystal if you are into crystal healing.  If you don’t know where to turn, grab some quartz.

So, amethyst is a type of quartz.  It’s purple colour is down to manganese and iron in the crystal, so really, not only is this quartz, a really common crystal, it’s also impure.  And yet, it is so beautiful!  I feel this really chimes with the message of the wheel of fortune – things don’t need to be neat and tidy to be valuable, messy and impure have their own rewards.  If you start to look at how amethyst is used, you’ll find it’s a magnifier, it enhances the qualities of other crystals and like quartz is a bit of an all rounder.  More specifically, it’s allegedly good for protection, balance and interestingly purification… It is supposed to calm eg nerves and environment, and echoing its use as enhancing other crystals, it’s supposed to enhance self esteem, spirituality and meditation.

A further note on the idea of enhancing or magnifying, on a trip to Mexico Danielle Dorsey found herself dealing with a number of challenges and repeatedly drawing the wheel of fortune.  She writes:

“The Wheel of Fortune continued to appear, gently reminding me that while these misfortunes might seem temporarily magnified, it was up to me whether I would allow them to define my trip.”

When we are in the middle of change, we often experience it more intensely that it is.  Spinning around, feeling out of control, amplifies all the other areas in life where we feel untethered.


In the lumina tarot, we saw the symbol for Jupiter.  This was echoed in another deck which featured Fortuna on the wheel of fortune (Jupiter is said to be her father).  We also find oak associated with this card and again, that brings us back to Jupiter and his counterpart Zeus.

Aside: Zeus is linked with oak and when I was looking at plant associations for the wheel, oak was one of them.  If this feels intriguing or relevant you might want to explore this further.

As a planet in astrology, Jupiter is about expansion and growth and is excited about new things which could be seen as a very healthy attitude towards the wheel of fortune and change.  Traditionally Jupiter has been seen as the planet of luck and good fortune so perhaps we should or could see future change as a positive opportunity instead of a negative, external imposition.


Top, left to right: Animal Allies, Animal Dreaming
Bottom, left to right: Medicine Cards, Wild Unknown Animal Spirit


The owl on the wild unknown card is showing herself to be wise enough to step back and observe and adapt, she is not trying to hold onto the wheel or hold back the changes.  She looks from the darkness, the unconscious and flows with the cycles instead of struggling against them.  She teaches us to adapt and to make the most out of what is coming as it will come regardless of whether you like it or not.


Ten of Cups

Cups/ Water

Having looked at the ten of wands, swords and pentacles, we are now turning towards the ten of cups. This suit, associated with water, is to do with emotion, intuition and matters of the heart. It is where we find creativity and imagination as well as fantasies and dreams. Cups deal with relationships and love and in the water we find reflections and can see into our inner worlds. The water in these cards often reflects our feelings and thus make for interesting readings.


If you want to read more about tens, check out the other posts. The only thing I want to add here comes from Rachel Pollack:

“As the highest number, the Tens signify being filled with the quality of the suit… in cups we find joy and the wonder of life spread across the sky.”

Different decks



The Rider Waite Smith deck depicts the ten of cups as a normative family – mum, dad, son and daughter – rejoicing under a rainbow of cups. The parents have their arms around each other and the children are dancing. This is clearly intended to be a picture of harmony and a happy, loving family. A river and the green green grass suggest abundance and wealth, but remember we are with cups here so this is different to pentacle style wealth, this is emotional fulfilment and stability. The house is pictured but instead of being a physical asset that highlights security, here it signifies the feeling of clan – it is people who make a home.

“The Ten is the grand finale of the Cup’s emotional ups and downs; this couple has been together through some crazy twists and turns, yet they have wound up here, enjoying a pretty day.”
– Michelle Tea

Michelle notes that it is a simple scene and yet that is what makes this card so wonderful – finding fulfilment and inspiration and magic in the everyday. Take time to pause and breathe and enjoy the peace and abundance around you.

Tarot of the Pagan Cats

Unusually, this pagan cats card is notably different to the RWS version. These cats are inside the home, playing with a rainbow flag draped in the background. We still have the two adult cats and two kittens but because it’s cats and not people, we side step the heteronormative image.

The LWB says the following, which feels a little strange to me:

“Happy home. R. Presenting a false face to the world.”

Normally the reversed meaning of a card hints more to the opposite meaning whereas here we seem to be dealing with two slightly different interpretations of the ten of cups. Neither feel wrong but they don’t seem to gel very well. It’s almost as if on one side we have the head of a 10p coin and then we flip it and suddenly we’re looking at the tail of a 2p…

Leaning into each meaning separately, I think we can see that the happy home side of things fits very well with the traditional RWS version – note that they’ve used home and not house here, we are looking at those relationships and meanings and feelings that make up a home. The reverse meaning, presenting a false face to the world, makes me think that the cats are less happy and fulfilled and more focused on ‘keeping up with the jones’s’, something we all know does not lead to a happy ending.

I wonder if this reversed meaning is leaning more to an inauthentic experience of the happy nuclear family from the RWS and how actually, it’s better to feel fulfilled in whatever way is right for you, even (and arguably especially) if it doesn’t look like the rest of the world’s idea of happiness. Tied into this you could read the rainbow as the flag of the LGBT movement – perhaps this card is validation that your own version of family is just as worthy or legitimate as the stereotypical man, woman and 2.4 children.

Wild Unknown

I think I’ve said before that I like the way this deck doesn’t include humans. It’s all much freer in it’s ideas about what we should do and what society expects us to do. Because there are no humans, or animals, in this image, we can think more widely about the concept of home and family that we saw in the other cards. Here we can be thinking about found family and the homes that we create for ourselves which may not actually be buildings. We create communities online and they are just as valuable and just as much your home and family as the bricks and mortar that you might have grown up in.

This card shows a beautiful symmetry, with the top cups, or outer cups filling the bottom, or inner, cups with light and love and rainbows. Just as white light is made of all the colours of light, so too here, joy and love is made of all the different aspects of the rainbow, or aspects of life. Whilst the other cards have featured rainbows, it feels as if here we have a much stronger reminder that rainbows are the union of sun and rain, of love and pain. Light and darkness are depicted in what feels like equal amounts. This version of the ten of cups is not saying that when you reach this point in life, you will be trouble free. It is much more about having the inner and outer resources to cope and get through the harder times.


Magnetic fulfilment. Abounding love.

Comparing the imagery for the wild unknown and lumina, we find in both a symmetry. Where the cups from the wild unknown represent both the inner and outer worlds, the butterflies in the lumina do the same. The inner reflects the outer and the outer reflects the inner, they are beautifully entwined. In the wild unknown it is the rainbow which unites them and we will see shortly that the butterfly has a similar role in that the butterfly effect highlights the interconnectedness of the world, and of our inner and outer selves.

The guide for the lumina tarot suggests we pause, take a breath and notice that we have reached the place we were striving for. Our live is full and, having trusted our path and our intuition, we have found our destination. This is a card of abundance, of love, of gratitude and joy. A card which feels like all our loved ones, our made or found family, are holding us in their arms. We are safe here and we are both loved and loving. It also says that “you are a guiding light and an inspiration for what it is to step into your power and truth and become who you know you are”. This is not an easy journey. To become who you are, regardless of what the world says or does to you, takes immense strength, you must face challenges with courage and work through the hard times. But the reward will be so sweet if you do.

On the flip side, maybe this card has shown up for you because you are not following your path, you are not carving your own way and are letting the world push you in a different direction. It is so easily done but to follow other peoples plans and expectations will not result in happiness. Perhaps you are on the career path and are automatically climbing and climbing, seeking prestige and money, when actually the job you most enjoyed was two rungs down. This may be a time to look at why you are making certain decisions and what it is that truly sets you aflame, that inspires your heart and your soul and brings you to life. Often this is not what the world expects from you, but that is ok. At the end of the day, if you are doing what you love, your friends and found family will see that and love you for your courage and honesty and you will set something alight in them too.

General thoughts

For a very different depiction of the ten of cups try the Mary El Tarot, it definitely doesn’t portray a nuclear family! Beth also shows us a number of other interpretations for this card which may chime with you more than the RWS version.

Key words in my little white book include:

happy ending, contentment, alignment, radiating energy, overflowing, positivity, excitement, light, flow, love and support, relationship harmony, emotional fulfilment, wholeness, connectedness and interconnectedness, you do you, go for what makes you happy, live honestly, acknowledge who you are and what you love

Questions to ask yourself might include: what does family look like to you? What does home look like? What does the good life mean to you? What does success look like for you?


Mars in Pisces

The astrological correspondence for the ten of cups is mars in pisces, a fiery planet infusing watery pisces with energy. This suggests strong and powerful emotions are at play and mars can lend energy to Piscean imagination and compassion.

Pisces is a mutable sign and, especially in the wild unknown card, we can see the dance between pulling in energy and putting it out into the world, a dance between the inner and outer that helps to align both worlds. The balance of giving and receiving and the reward of being and feeling authentic when your outer self aligns with your inner self.

A low expression of mars in pisces can be going with the flow and not taking any initiative yourself – this might be the case if the card has shown up reversed or if you are following other people’s idea of your life path. Not knowing what you want can be another characteristic of mars in pisces and if you don’t have an idea about where you are going it’s going to be pretty hard to get there. Perhaps this card has shown up to encourage you to dip into that mars active energy to help you set a goal or figure out what you want.

Alyssa Trahan uses the analogy of white light being made up of all the other colours being equivalent to pisces being made up of the other signs. Given the rainbow symbolism it felt relevant to mention this.

Butterflies and Moths

As well as considering butterflies, I’m going to look at moths as they are so similar but also because I think considering them together sheds additional light on both of them.


The mother butterfly essentially exists for her potential children. Once she has emerged from her chrysalis, she is very focused on mating and then laying her eggs in the perfect place. She will die before she sees her children but that doesn’t stop her loving them intensely. She looks for a spot where her babies will have the best food and the best chance in life.

Often the butterfly card brings with it a message around change but in the context of the ten of cups it feels more like we have been through the painful process of metamorphosis and we are reaping the rewards. Earlier cards in this suit depict the pain and suffering and turmoil necessary to reach this amazing, fulfilling place. You have been on one hell of a journey and now you get to pause and enjoy the benefits.

Butterflies are associated with joy and happiness and seen as wish carriers and dream bringers.

“Butterflies live so deeply in the moment of being that they can conquer time itself”
– Matthew Oates


Where butterflies give us to positive side of the ten of cups, the moths show us the shadow side.

Moths are drawn to light but unnatural lighting is drawing them away from their path just as consumerism and capitalism can draw us away from ours. We search for something which will fill the hole in our soul and end up trying to fill it with materialistic possessions that we use to declare our status. Think back to the idea with the pagan cats of keeping up with the jones’s…

Spend some time with the moth and the butterfly as you reassess what you want from life, where you want your own unique path to go. Refind your sense of self, rediscover your passions and your values.

Pause, breathe and be aware of burning out because you are living someone else’s life.

Ten of Wands

Wands and Fire

Wands are associated with fire and with the hot, passionate energy that comes with it.  This is a suit of ambition, ideas, creativity, the sparks that excite us and brings us alive.  They are inspiration and electric.  A person who can fire off a thousand exciting ideas is one expression of fire energy.  Because of the intense nature of fire, burn out is a real possibility with this suit.  Other things to be on the look out for are impulsiveness, illusions and not following things through.

As you’ll read below, in some decks the wands are referred to as branches, sticks, staves and batons, all of which bring with them particular connotations.  The first two feel to me like they are viewing the wands as something which is growing and reaching out and the latter two feel more like something static to hold onto.  Both make sense in the context but do give the reader a different angle with which to lean into the cards.  The former feels like a flame flickering and getting bigger as ideas and inspiration come and the latter feels more like a steady, strong flame.


As we saw with the ten of swords, the tens are about endings and beginnings, the natural conclusion of the suit.  If we look to the five of wands in the wild unknown tarot, we find a card with very similar imagery; again there is darkness and scattered wands although with the five it feels more like they are falling and in the ten as though they have fallen.  This gives the five a bit more hopefulness – there is the chance to regain control, to catch the falling pieces and gather yourself up.  In other decks, the five depicts people using the wands to fight with; there is a struggle but there is a chance of winning. tells us that the five and ten of wands are reinforcing cards and its clear to see why.

Another ten to consider is the ten from the Major Arcana, that is the Wheel of Fortune, another card about starting again, about turning the wheel, about moving forward.  As I’ve said already, I’ll probably be doing a post about the Wheel of Fortune at some point so we might find a bit more light shed on the ten cards then.

Left to right: Tarot of the Pagan Cats, Wild Unknown, Lumina

Different decks


“My shoulders hurt just thinking about this card.  The figure clutches a cumbersome bunch of wands in the most awkward way possible, limping painfully into their future.”
– Michelle Tea

Tea goes on to ask why the person is insisting on carrying them so awkwardly, why aren’t they using a cart or asking friends.  One theory she posits is that the person felt they knew best and got themselves into a difficult situation and are too proud to ask for help or admit that other people might have known better.  Perhaps this person is a martyr, insisting on doing everything for himself and possibly moaning about it as well – I’m sure we all know someone like that!  There are different reasons why someone might act that way – they might struggle to ask for or accept help or they might think they are the only person who can do something or do it right.  In fact, there are very few things where you are irreplaceable.

This idea of being irreplaceable is one that our culture likes to encourage.  The idea that we are all so important that no one can do what we do or at least not as well as us.  But for me, the realisation that this is a myth, really freed me up.  I would martyr myself, struggling to work through intense pain, because I believed this myth.  I believed that it mattered that I was in work every day and that if I wasn’t something terrible – no idea what – was going to happen.  The reality is that very few of us have roles which are so vital.  And whilst this can feel like a harsh lesson, it also shows us that we don’t need to break ourselves trying to chase after the goals of a consumerist society.  We don’t need to buy into the idea that being busy all the time makes us good human beings.  This card is asking us to look at our motivations.  Why are we doing x,y or z?  Can we do things differently?  Are other people perhaps more suited to the task or might have valuable insight that can help us?

Tarot of the Pagan Cats

The LWB says, of the ten of wands:

“Carrying a large or many burdens.  Reversed: Being overwhelmed by burdens.”

Whilst the imagery is similar to the RWS deck, the cat seems to be struggling significantly less, in fact a case could be made that the cat is handling her burdens with grace.  The house she is approaching is not too far away and there is a clear path for her to follow.  This suggest that the cat has thought things through a bit more than the character we find in the RWS deck.  She has accepted her burden but she has set things up in such a way as to minimise the impact and she is heading towards home where help may lie.

Wild Unknown

The Wild Unknown card for the ten of wands shows a pile of wands, tangled and messy, against a dark, almost rainy background.  This is chaos.  Where the RWS and pagan cats showed the reader in control or at least handling their burdens, this version shows the struggle to corral them and what happens when you drop them all.  It feels a bit like herding a group of cats or taming wild horses.  It is hard to see what move to make next.

Perhaps you have too many things on the go or are overextending yourself, maybe you are afflicted with too many ideas or your enthusiasm and zest has imploded.  One of the downsides of wands is that the passion and inspiration can come without structure and the process to see things through.  This card could be calling you to create a plan and clarify your goals.  Add some good thinking air energy and so practical earth energy to your endeavours.  This might look like getting other people in to help or it might be about channelling different aspects of yourself.  Whatever it looks like, you probably aren’t going to get far if you just rely on wand energy.

“Do one thing well”
Beth, Little Red Tarot

Look at how you manage your workload, break things down into smaller tasks, prioritise, let things go, look at how and where you are leaking energy.  And look after yourself as well.  You can’t do the work you are here to do if you are burnt out and exhausted.


As with previous card explorations I am going to discuss the fox symbolism a little later and see if it adds any specific insight into this card.  In the meantime, for the ten of wands, the lumina deck tells us to accept the support of others.  I don’t feel that the imagery here really conveys this as strongly as I find in other decks but we have already seen that carrying burdens can become difficult alone.  We can have so many ideas and wonderful visions but sometimes we need the support of other people to share the workload or to bring in different talents and expertise.  Carrying everything can lead to burn out and the spark of the wands that once excited us goes out.

As a ten card, the ten of swords reiterates completion and the cumulation of work resulting in achievement.  As a wand card, it is full of energy and you may feel inspired and excited about the future, about the next project.  But you may also experience overwhelm from the choices ahead of you.

I sometimes see the fox on this card as coming across a little smug.  He is sitting on his pile of wands, proud of his achievements and bolstered by them.  But he cannot leave his previous projects to start gathering new ones without leaving the old ones.  Are you stagnated by your success?  Are you holding onto what you have achieved, feeling rightly proud but also tethered to the past?  It feels to me a little like an artist who has accumulated a number of works of which she is proud but her attachment to them, and to the approach and style she completed them with, is holding her back and preventing her from trying out new styles and ways of working.

General thoughts

In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, my little white book also says that the ten of wands could be about:

Not feeling at peace with yourself * success that has little reward, for example something that has material gain but spiritual loss * how can I see the bigger picture? * see the support around you, let people in, be vulnerable * take responsibility * immaturity * a failure to understand one’s place in the world

I recently purchased Rachel Pollack’s The New Tarot: Modern Variations of Ancient Images which has examples of tarot cards from a multitude of decks.  One in particular caught my eye with its illustration of the ten of wands.  It was ‘A Poet’s Tarot’ from Jesse Cougar and the wands are referred to as sticks and her ten of sticks includes what Pollack describes as “a sense of fantasy in the snaking branches”.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find the image online to link to but it is of a forest with intertwining trees and twisting branches, hinting towards a similar meaning as the wild unknown card.  I found the word fantasy interesting here and with everything else we know about the card, I feel this maybe referring to an element of self delusion.

Something that Beth from Little Red Tarot suggests is that feeling burdened is not necessarily the same as being burdened.  We often take on other people’s issues and burdens and forget that we can put them down. For women in particular there is this feeling that we need to smooth everything over, make everything ok for everyone else and this can be a heavy weight to carry.  If this chimes with you, you may want to read about emotional labour.  Compassion fatigue and activist burnout are also areas which may be applicable to your current situation.  Know that you are not alone and you cannot support others if you do not first support yourself, even if this means you have to put down other people’s burdens.

“Sometimes, to become empowered, we have to reach a dark rock bottom first, and sometimes we have to acknowledge that for all of our radical power, we too are human and flawed.”
Cassandra Snow

Alongside this idea of emotional labour and compassion fatigue come the words I must/ I should/ I have to/ it is my duty and so on.  We are conditioned to feel a sense of duty, particularly as women, but these are pressures which come from outside ourselves.  Beth talks about this in her post on the ten of wands and discusses the idea that we don’t HAVE to.  Instead we can reframe things.  Turn I should into I could and suddenly a statement becomes more of a question.  If you are saying I need to or I have to all the time, experiment with what happens if you change it to I am excited to or I want to.  These are not indulgent ideas, they are crucial for preventing burnout.



Let your self-loving breath reignite your fire.


Saturn in Sagittarius

Helpfully this week in In The Stars, we’re looking at Saturn and I have Saturn in Sagittarius so I’ve been able to reflect on this quite personally and in more detail that I might have otherwise.  Basically put, we have a planet that tends to be association with constriction, with discipline and a zodiac sign which is about expansion so we have a bit of an uneasy combination here.  We could also view this as finding a balance between freedom and commitment, between new ideas and following through with existing plans.

Sagittarius is a sign that’s looking to learn, to expand, to move forward – it’s symbolised by an arrow after all – but we have the discipline of Saturn here which guides that arrow to a more focused place.  Instead of trying to master everything all at once, Saturn in Sagittarius suggests that focusing on one thing at a time might be a better option in this situation.  Instead of clumsily carrying all the wands and dropping them (as has happened in the wild unknown card), maybe picking up one at a time will be a more helpful approach.  Saturn also brings structure to Sagittarius, perhaps you need a routine or a project plan to help you achieve what you want.

Another way of reading the symbolism of Saturn in Sagittarius with the ten of wands is around meaninglessness and loss of ambition.  There can be self doubt which becomes paralysing and if Sagittarius is not allowed to expand and head forward, they can become disheartened and frustrated and feel a sense of pointlessness.  Whilst you might not be able to do ten things at once, make sure you’re doing one thing and do it well.


The Thoth tarot calls this card Oppression and indeed, the heavy burden being carried can be read to be oppressive but perhaps here we are also looking at the burdens we carry because of society such as the emotional labour mentioned above.  This is not an individual burden, instead it is one shared by oppressed groups.

I went looking to find out if the associated plant or crystals etc would shed any further light on this card but the only associated plant I found was Prickly Ash Bark which I’ve never heard of.  That being said anything which is prickly feels appropriate here!  This card is filled with ideas that can be difficult to handle and challenges which can potential rip through us and shred us.


_20180704_191934 (1)

Left to right: Animal Allies, Medicine Cards, Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Cards

We have three very different looking foxes here.  The medicine card fox is skinny and feels to me like it belongs in a desert.  The wild unknown fox is glowing and seems sure of himself to me, possibly with an edge of conceitedness.  And the animal allies fox is looking us in the eye and knows how good looking he is and what fantastically bushing and vibrant fur he has.  It is almost as though we have the fox in three different life stages – the medicine card fox is young, the wild unknown fox is a teenager or in early adulthood and the animal allies fox has the confidence of a fully grown adult who knows his place the world and is sure of himself.  With this in mind, it feels like the foxes are illustrating the journey that the ten of wands is inviting us to take.

We start off young and naïve, sure of ourselves even when we shouldn’t be and inevitably we overdo things and that shows in the unsure eyes and the skinniness of the young fox.  He has been overly confident and now is questioning that.  Having experienced that and learnt to ask for and receive help, the teenage fox is basking in the glow of his successes, achieved because he took on board those lessons.  He asked for advice and support from those around him and because of it he saw things through but it seems as though perhaps he isn’t confident sharing the limelight here, he isn’t ready to say that he needed help or that he couldn’t have come so far alone.  Earlier I said that in my own LWB I have written “a failure to understand one’s place in the world” and whilst I can’t remember why I wrote that in my book, I do feel as though the adult fox has worked through his stuff and come out the other side understanding the interconnectedness of the world and through that, his own place.  He has matured and grown as he has taken on board the lessons of the ten of wands.

Mira Sol Wisdom says, of the ten of wands:

“Where once there was momentum moving forward with a goal, this is a time where one has really slowed down and starting to feel the burden of their own creation. This is right about the time where pushing through is most necessary. At one time of immaturity it would have been easy to give up at this point.”

It is this journey of growing up that we see with our three fox cards.  The excitable energy of youth, flitting from shiny toy to shiny toy slowly becomes a more sustained interest in seeing things through and basking in the glory and over time, we may come to realise that it is the team which should be receiving the recognition and that drawing attention to team achievements does not negate our own involvement.  We can say the team did well and not lose our own place in the world or the project.  Indeed, in my own experience, being acknowledged for work done as part of a team can feel more authentic and enjoyable.

Another way to lean into the fox imagery on the ten of wands is as a medicine to the situation.  The fox is often considered to be quick witted and cunning, thinking about what is coming.  Perhaps channelling this energy will help you to be more decisive and become better at planning the next move.  The wild unknown fox is part of the earth suit so may also be able to offer some groundedness to the excitable fire of the ten of wands.  It could steady the flame and reduce the risk of burn out.

The Japanese folklore about shapeshifting foxes echoes the potential for illusion and delusion with this card and one of Aesop’s fables shows the fox to be prideful, something we definitely see in the ten of wands.

To complete the series, I’m going to take a look at the ten of cups and then I will get onto the long promised, and much mentioned, Wheel of Fortune card.

10 of Swords, part two


Part one looked at the meanings of swords, tens and considered a few portrayals of the ten of swords.  Today I’ll be looking at a few things associated with the ten of cards, including the symbolism of the buffalo and vulture which we see in the wild unknown and lumina decks. Consider this to be the equivalent of a person’s clothing. They do not dictate or change a person, but instead they are another way they can express their personality and are a way of an outsider seeing inside a person. These aspects are taken secondary to the areas discussed in the previous post but certainly they add depth to our reading and give us more to ponder and to question.

The ten of swords associations

Now I’m going to be looking more widely at who the ten of swords is, using the four cards I’ve already described. Once I’ve done this, I’m going to return to the Wild Unknown and Lumina and see what else we can gleam from them by looking at what the featured animals represent.

Whilst the cards all portray the idea differently, we clearly have a pattern of bleakness, of pain and of devastation in one way or another.

Sun in Gemini

The ten of swords is associated with the sun in gemini and this chimes very nicely with the idea of the play and telling, performing or watching stories. Gemini is the storyteller, the communicator and with this we are given the creative gift to retell or repaint our lives and stories. Where the card itself is bleak and dire, we have the tools to make the light shine. We just have to chose to. We can keep retelling our misery to ourselves, or we can start to tell new stories about who we are and who the world is.

Another way of leaning into this association is that because gemini is a quick sign, has lots of ideas and interests and sees lots of sides to a situation, you can end up overthinking or getting stuck in idea overload unable to make a decision. You can be so busy thinking and learning and perceiving that you can’t concentrate on one thing, your mind and eyes get caught by something interesting over there…


Somewhere along the way I wrote Ephedra in my little white book next to the ten of swords along with a note about how it’s a plant which has defied extinction. I don’t want to go into too much detail about a plant you’ve probably never heard of but…

It’s been around for a very very long time – at least since the early cretaceous period (145 million years ago – 100.5 million years ago) but it nearly went extinct around 66 million years ago (when the dinosaurs were wiped out) but escaped. Based on fossil observations, it’s thought that this group of plants saved themselves by shifting from predominantly insect pollination systems to wind based systems.  The plant shows us the need to keep changing, evolving, adapting and moving forward.

Unrelated interesting, at least to me, Ephedra, as the name suggests, gives us ephedrine, a compound which can be used to treat asthma, narcolepsy and respiratory conditions although ephedra plants have been used to treat illness as far back as 5000BC.  What medicine does the ten of swords gift you?

The Buffalo and the Vulture

The Buffalo


Left to right: Animal Allies, Medicine Cards and Wild Unknown Animal Oracle

The Wild Unknown Animal Oracle Guidebook tells us that the buffalo is grounded yet heavenly, practical yet spiritual. When this medicine is in balance it is trusting, pure presence. When out of balance it is restless, lacks gratitude.

The buffalo is a symbol of abundance and being grateful for what you are receiving.  They are strong yet gentle, sturdy and grounded but is also spiritual.  Because they provided for the indigenous population of america, they were a way of attaining security.  They used all the parts of the buffalo and thanked them for their gift, because of the generosity of the buffalo they were seen as sacred, sacrificed.  How are we treating those who sacrifice for us?  Are we thankful?  Or do we react by exploiting their offerings?  In the context of the ten of swords, I am wondering if a kind ear has become over used as we recite every hurt we’ve ever received?  There is a time and a place for that and it is a valid way of healing but don’t abuse the generosity of others.  And don’t take without giving.  Share your abundance as well as your pains.

The medicine card buffalo is associated with prayer and abundance, again it is the giving thanks for what we have and what we receive.  Instead of listing our woes, perhaps we list the things that we are grateful for.  Again, I want to stress, this doesn’t mean you can’t feel your hurts or process your worries, but we privileged negativity over positivity and they can co-exist.  Just as the buffalo is both grounded and of the heavens.

“Buffalo… You bring us, the gifts of life. Hear our prayers, smoke rising, like phoenix, we are reborn, within the scared words.”
Sams and Carson

The Vulture


For the vulture, the Wild Unknown Guidebook has the keywords guardian and purifier and notes that it is essential for rebalance. When in balance this medicine clarifies and reveals wisdom. When out of balance, it is dramatic and aggressive.

It can be hard to see why we should like a vulture, but if you look closely enough and give it time, you can find that they are fascinating and vital to our planet. Perhaps when we think of the ten of swords then, we are creating space to find a silver lining. To reach it, you need to work though some dark and heavy preconceptions, complex emotions, an unfounded hatred perhaps but this work that you’re putting in, that is what will make the reward feel so much more powerful. You will gain wisdom if you seek to know the vulture.

Change, like the vulture, has a bad reputation.  But both can be important to cleaning up, to cleansing and purifying the self and the environment.  The vulture cleans up after others and keeps our planet, and us, healthy.

Although the vulture only appears on one of the ten of swords I looked at, it feels appropriate for a sword card.  The belief that they have excellent eyesight means they have been thought to be able to see into the future.  With all the thoughts, imaginations and worries of the swords, this suit can also, if they wish, peer into the future, although they may find themselves dwelling on the past instead…

With the vulture, and the ten of swords, we have a theme of death and rebirth, hitting rock bottom and moving forward.  There is an aspect of renewal to both. However painful and difficult the death is to experience, it will allow something new to come into being.

Linked to the idea of birth, the vulture is associated with mothering and given how tricky the ten of swords can be, this is certainly a time to take care of yourself.

Whilst there is so much I could say about the ten of swords, I think it’s important that you find your own relationship with the cards and I hope that something in what I’ve written will chime with you and set you off on your own path.  Different ways in work for different people but once you’ve found your own, there can be an amazing journey ahead of you.

I’m going to leave you with two links, both about tarot and poetry that I couldn’t resist including:

Animal Allies – Beetle

Note, I’ll also be doing a post specifically about scarab beetles.

“Beetles comprise the order with more members than any other in the animal kingdom.  Scientists have catalogued more than 350,000 species.  Like most insects, a beetle has four wings.  What makes the beetle different is that he front pair are no longer useful for flight, instead they have evolved into tough sheaths that conceal the functional hind pair when the beetle is at rest.”
Gordon Grice

From an imagery point of view, these protective sheaths are full of juicy metaphors.  We can turn to some of the ideas from the crab, the turtle, the ladybird and the snail as they provide a shell or armour of sorts.  I find it interesting to think about how they were once wings – the beetle stopped flying and in doing so it needed to create this extra layer of protection.  Is there something there about how vulnerable we become when we don’t step out of our comfort zone?

The protective shell can come in an array of colours including beautiful iridescent rainbows, perhaps you identify with a particular type of beetle that has appeared to you recently, or maybe you want to take a look at local species for a more intimate connection.  If you do, take a moment to think about the colour of that beetle and what it means to you.  Here I don’t mean look up colour symbology but of course do feel free to, what I mean is probably best explained with an example: my granma almost always wore a particular shade of greeny blue and thus if a beetle appeared to me with that colour I would react differently to a black beetle.

The protective side of the beetle comes up when we turn to ancient Egypt.  Whilst the scarab, or dung, beetle were considered sacred, other beetles were also important.  Throughout their history the ancient Egyptians held insects in special reverence.  A predynastic grave was found to contain jars filled with wood boring beetles.  Metallic wood boring beetles were important as amulets and were used before the use of scarab beetles.  Click beetles were also important to the ancient Egyptians and shields were often the same shape as the prothorax of them. Protection is such a big part of what the beetle asks us to think about.

Moving around the world to native American mythology, we find a story of a water beetle which dove into the water and brought back mud to make earth and a tale where an Eleodes beetle was in charge of placing the stars in the sky.  Through a mix of arrogance and carelessness, the stars were dropped and became the milky way.  The beetle was so ashamed of what he’d done that even today, he hides his face in the bird when approached.  We’ll see this a bit more when we turn to the scarab, but there are ideas here of building something so much greater than yourself.  We have a small beetle creating earth, placing the stars and with the dung beetle, making a ball of dung that is comparatively huge compared to the beetle.  Size doesn’t matter.  We find this echoed loudly in the Hercules beetle which is one of the largest beetles and which can lift 850 times its own weight.

Strength takes on different forms and whilst the bombardier beetle can’t outlift the Hercules beetle, it can survive being eaten.  When attacked by a frog they will squirt boiling chemicals out their anus which make the predator vomit, one study showed that the beetles survived regurgitation in 43% of cases and there is no way that frog will make the same mistake again!  Survival is an important trait for beetles.

We also find with the beetle a vulture like cleaner which turns waste into value, turns negatives into positives.  This may also parallel the dichotomy on how we view beetles; some are seen as pests and others are used as pest control.  There are angles and ways of looking at things which can transform how you see them.  Perspective matters.  You might also be called to consider how you recycle ideas and resources, how you make new out of old.

Returning again to the idea of looking at local beetles, stag beetles are Britian’s largest beetle. They spend 3-7 years underground as larvae and then emerge for six weeks as adults to reproduce.  Males enjoy a spot of sunbathing to gather strength then patrol the same area repeatedly in search of a mate.  There is a suggestion here about the importance of waiting, letting ideas or plans percolate a while before jumping into them.  Put in a bit of work in the preparation stage so you don’t waste your strength and energy when you get to the action.  I think the image of the stag beetle patrolling an area has some intriguing metaphors in it.  On the one hand it could be a case of impatience, of going over the same ground and expecting different results but on the other hand, in repeating the same flight path, the beetle is intimately getting to know his immediate surroundings, something which chimes heavily with the work I’m doing around nature and writing.

There is just one more aspect of the beetle that I want to think about here and that is their antenna.  Different species use them differently but on the whole they are used for sensory perception and can detect movement, smell and help the beetle feel their way round their environment.  There is a very physical connection to your surroundings here.  It is almost like the beetle is shouting at us to get out and touch a tree, feel the grass, stand bare foot on the dirt.  Get intimate with the world immediately around you.  Feel the earth and allow yourself to experience how grounding it is to connect with nature and our planet.

Animal Allies – Alligator

I’ve already written about crocodiles, cousins to the alligators but to refresh, let’s look at the differences:

Crocodiles Alligators
V shaped snout U shaped snout
Teeth are visible when mouth is closed Teeth not visible when mouth is closed
Saltwater Freshwater

Having pointed out the differences, they are incredibly similar in terms of biology and behaviour so if you’ve pulled the alligator card I’d strongly suggest looking at the crocodile as well.

The What

Alligators are ancient predators who have stalked around this planet for millions of years, they are living dinosaurs who have successfully adapted to surviving in this world.  They are primitive, armoured crocodilians.

So, with that in mind, it might be time to listen to your gut, trust your basic instinct right now.  Don’t overthink things, instead follow your intuition.  And whilst most water cards are about emotions and delving into ourselves, the alligator is protected by its thick skin.  There is a time and a place for shields and this might be that time.  The crab card has a lot to say about armour and shells if that is something you feel is chiming for you today.

The Where

As we’ve seen, alligators live in freshwater and there are two living species – the American alligator and the Chinese alligator, both living exactly where their names suggest.  They lurk in the shallow waters of creeks, rivers, lakes, everglades and swamps with their bodies just below the surface.  Continuing the metaphor of water as our emotional realm, we are just taking a little look at our feelings, we are glancing at them but not truly engaging with them – remember we’re wearing our armour as well.  This feels like perhaps we’re taking an academic look at our emotions and unconscious which has its place in the world.  This is a stage of analysis rather than immersion.

One really interesting thing about alligators is that they can survive in freezing temperatures – they stay just below the surface with their nostrils about it and can live even when ice freezes around them!  This seems to echo the idea of a detached look at emotions.

Wherever they are found, alligator holes tend to increase plant diversity and provide habitats for other animals, especially during droughts.  This is an important function in terms of maintaining ecological diversity as well as a reminder about the interconnectedness of life.  Even though the alligator may not be especially interested in most of the flora and fauna they give life to, they are making a difference to the community they live in.

The How

Probably the most well known thing about alligators is that they have incredibly powerful jaws which snap shut with brutal force but which are hard to open.  They use this to kill and eat prey including fish, frogs, snake and mammals but they are not gratuitously aggressive.  They hunt to survive and perhaps, more than most predators, understand what it’s like to be on the other side.  As eggs and babies, they are at risk from some of the very creatures they eat; snapping turtles, fish, birds and skunks all eat them when they are in the early stages of life.  Alligators transition from prey to predator, from hunted to hunter, from a more passive role to a more active one.  We are not defined by the status we are born with, we are all able to move up the food chain or climb the pyramid if we wish to.

Like crocodiles and sharks, alligators often spark fear in humans.  But like crocodiles and sharks, it’s surprisingly rare for an alligator to attack.  They eat food which is smaller than an adult human and are more choosy about what they eat than crocodiles.  They are also less likely to kill if they do attack a person.  So, as with the crocodiles and sharks, perhaps instead of being afraid, we should explore why we are afraid.

Taz Thornton writes about facing fears in her book, uses the spider as an example:

“If you are afraid of spiders, try to remember when you first learned that fear, then work out what, exactly, you believe you are afraid of… Is it the swift movement?  Would they still be scary if they moved at a snail’s pace?  Is it the legs?  Who else do you know with legs?  Are they scary?  What would a spider have to do to make friends with you?  What if they started delivering your favourite treats, or spinning lovely words for you to wake up to in the morning?”

And the sex, drugs and rock and roll…

Although large male alligators are solitary territorial animals, they do need to attract females in order to mate.  This involves laying just below the surface and making low, deep bellows which make water droplets on their backs dance.  Apparently this is what female alligators are attracted to…  Perhaps the human equivalent is someone with really good moves on the dance floor?

Once they’ve wooed their mate and done the deed, the female then lays her eggs on the riverbank and the sex of the babies is determined by the temperature.  At least for those that survive and escape thieving paws.  They then hatch and the mother carefully carries them in her powerful jaw to the water.  That extremely powerful mouth which can trap and kill is gently holding her babies.  As we saw with the bear, this dichotomy of dangerous predator and nurturing mother is a powerful metaphor.

Because the young are vulnerable, mum is very protective and they stay with her for a while as they learn to hunt and fend for themselves in the safety of home.  It is good to have a safe space to explore or practice or play with ideas before letting them out into the world and having critical eyes turned on them. We must nurture our creations when they are in the early stages, we must protect them at their most vulnerable and care for them whilst they are fragile.  Only once they are surer, more confident and more fleshed out should we allow the world to see them.  And not all creations are destined to make it.  Of an average nest of 38 alligator eggs, only about 5 will make it to maturity.  Some simply won’t hatch, not making it off the ground, and others will but the harsh realities of life, the practicalities of living and the dangers of the world will kill them, often in their first year.  We all need that safe place, that space inside a shell, to test out ideas.

Those creations which do make it to maturity will need your strength, courage and tenacity to survive.  Be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to those projects you love and want to see succeed.  Do not be put off by the hardships and challenges that other creations may have experienced.  There is something here that goes back to where we started – the idea of needing a tough skin to deal with people and situations and to keep going even when faced with criticism.  If you know that this project is what you need to do, do it.  Be assertive.  Fight for it.  But don’t become stubborn.  Not all projects need to make it to completion, sometimes it’s about the journey.  Check in with yourself, your intuition, from time to time and review why you are working on this.

Be fierce and ferocious but also gently nurture, like the mother alligator.