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Author Archives: PJ Spur

About PJ Spur

PJ Spur is an author, intuitive, spiritual mentor, astrologer, and hypnotist.  She does tarot & oracle card readings, natal chart readings, grief coaching, and relationship healing. She also has hosted a weekly “Coffee & Cards” event with her Soul Compass Community for the past four years. Her book Navigating Grief with Grace is available on Amazon. Learn more at www.dearpj.com

Walking with the Seasons, by Alice Peck

Walking with the Seasons: The Wonder of Being in Step with Nature, by Alice Peck
CICO Books, 9781800652958, 128 pages, February 2024

Now that spring is here, I was really interested in learning more about how to get in tune with the cycles of nature. In her book Walking with the Seasons, Alice Peck provides lots of activities and suggestions for getting out in nature. As I flipped through the book and saw the beautiful photographs and different practices that she shares, I was excited to learn more!

Peck is a writer and editor, having written more than six books on herbs, trees, and meditation, including Tree Wisdom.  She has also edited numerous books on various metaphysical and meditation topics. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn, New York, and photos of New York City figure prominently in this work. You may follow her on Instagram @BeMoreTree.

What I love most about Walking with the Seasons is the structure, which makes it easy to navigate. It’s like a calendar to a year of walking. She starts the book in the Spring, which is the beginning of the astrological New Year and devotes a chapter to each season. The Table of Contents shares the nuggets in each chapter, making it easy to retrace your steps and find the practices or activities that you might want to enjoy later.

I decided to jump right into the chapter on Spring–both the verbiage and the photos had me craving more of the green in nature that is starting to bud and bloom in my area. Peck reminds us that we don’t have to find anything special in nature to benefit from a walk:

“A green space doesn’t have to be a forest or a hiking trail. Seek out the unexpected–even in cities you can find “secret” green spaces like church yards, botanic gardens, or areas near train stations.”1

Did you know that walking in nature for about an hour and a half can lessen depression, stress, and anxiety, as well as quieting negative mind chatter? She goes on to share that a research team from Stanford University confirmed this, as well as stating that spending the same amount of time in areas with concrete and traffic had no impact on depression.2

For one of the exercises in this chapter, Peck invites the reader to walk outdoors for at least 15 minutes a day “in the greenest place you have access to.”3 Do this every day for a week and monitor the changes in your mood.

She also includes what she calls a “Joyful Walking Meditation” and the value of walking with your dog. I particularly enjoyed how she shared the “5 ways of liberation” from the Buddhist path and how dogs embody these qualities: perfect faith, energy or persistence, mindfulness or memory, stillness or concentration, and wisdom. She invites us to “walk with your dog, just as you walk with the seasons.”4

Peck weaves beautiful quotes from thought leaders, athletes, and other dignitaries into the prose and photos, such as this one on trees:

“Trees are literally greater than ourselves … trees connect us directly to the life of more than human nature. -Rupert Sheldrake, Science and Spiritual Practices”5 

Eager to learn more about walking in nature, I turned to the next chapter on Summer. Here I was treated to beautiful photos of beaches, rivers, lakes and ponds, in addition to hiking trails and mountain vistas. The practice that caught my eye utilized the concept of “nowscape.”

“Everything then unfolds, unfolds now and so might be said to unfold in the nowscape. Psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn incorporates the nowscape into a practice he teaches called choiceless awareness or the state of unpremeditated, complete presence without preference, judgment, effort, or compulsion. We can apply this understanding of the nowscape to walking with the seasons. As you wander do not just be with the place you are walking –be the walk itself…. Abide fully in the nowscape.”6

In the chapter on Autumn, I found what may be my favorite story or passage, which was one on grief.  A woman had lost her lover and best friend of 18 years. She was encouraged to go on a hike in the Catskills with a group of people and a grief doula. She shared this about her experience:

“The biggest tragedy of my life had led me to one of the most beautiful days I’d ever experienced. It felt healing, it felt like something positive. Gave me the strength to go on. The forest and the mountains welcome you; they hear you and if you let them in, they can help to heal you, too. – Danielle Davis”7

I was so encouraged by this story and the healing power of nature that I plan to add the suggestion of this practice to my grief work with clients. In fact, this book contains many helpful and healing exercises that I plan to incorporate in my coaching practice.

I love great bibliographies and Peck does not disappoint! She includes four full pages of her reference material for everything from “How much sunshine do I need for enough Vitamin D?” to “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know.”8 She follows the bibliography with a two-page index, which further helps the reader to find information, such as a passage on calorie burning, forest bathing or wishing stones.

She also includes photo credits for all of the beautiful images in the book. I love the flaps she included in this paperback version. The flaps make it easy to mark your place, as you read the prose or peruse the beautiful photos. The book is a nice size to tuck into a handbag or backpack and I can see myself keeping it in the car to re-read while waiting for my granddaughter to get out of school.  Here’s another one of my favorite passages, where she talks about the meaning of walking a labyrinth:

“The labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey of life… a path of self-discovery, a journey into the center of our own hearts. – John Mitchell, Sacred England”

Walking with the Seasons would be enjoyed by just about everyone. I can see someone who is new to meditation benefiting from the practices and tips, as well as a more seasoned meditator.  I can also envision someone who is a gardener or hiker or birdwatcher picking up this book. By utilizing the tips and practices, this person may add another layer to their enjoyment of the great outdoors.

The Shining Tribe Tarot, by Rachel Pollack

The Shining Tribe Tarot, by Rachel Pollack
Weiser Books, 9781578638178, 83 cards, 247 pages, April 2024

As a tarot enthusiast and reader for twenty years, I was excited to learn about the publication of Rachel Pollack’s revised deck The Shining Tribe Tarot. Initially published in 1992 by Aquarian Press, the deck was called The Shining Woman Tarot. In 2001 she changed some of the art on some of the cards and the deck was published by Llewellyn. The title was also changed to The Shining Tribe, which she felt better reflected the community of people drawn to tarot for divination and personal growth:

“The name was a kind of invocation, a hope that the deck would shine for others, especially in reading, and light the way for travelers on their own sacred journeys.”1

For this 2024 edition, Pollack created five new cards: one for each of the minor arcana suits and one to represent the major arcana. Although the deck was published after Pollack’s death in 2023, she was able to complete the revisions and supervise the creation of the deck before her death. It is also important to point out that Pollack created the artwork herself for all of the cards.

Rachel Pollack (1945-2023) was a giant mentor in the field of tarot. In addition to writing the bestselling book Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, she wrote the guidebooks for several tarot decks, as well as many fiction and nonfiction books. She taught at The Omega Institute for over thirty years and was a frequent panelist at tarot workshops around the world. I was blessed to meet her at a tarot workshop in Los Angeles in 2007.  She was brilliant, generous, and very friendly. A group of us went to lunch during the workshop where I visited with her and Mary K. Greer! 

In addition to her interest in tarot, Pollack also created the first transgender superhero in several issues of the comic book Doom Patrol. She was also known as a trailblazer within the transgender community. 

“Welcome to the definitive edition of the Shining Tribe Tarot. It’s the equivalent of a director’s cut of a film. It’s the creator’s cut, Rachel Pollock’s cut. Published for the first time with all 83 color corrected cards, it also includes a full colored guidebook in which Rachel discusses the evolution of the deck, offering insights into each card and how to read them. More than merely an accompanying book, this guidebook stands as another of Rachel’s landmark Tarot guides.”2 – Judika Illes, Editor

With this Introduction, the editor opens a door into the special world of Pollack. In the next few pages, Pollack gives us a history of this deck, including the inspiration for the tribal images and artwork that she created. She talks a great deal about symbols and colors and the different cultures on which her images are based. She makes it a point to say that she wants to honor and respect the “history and living power”3 of the symbols.

The structure for this set of cards is fairly traditional, although she has adopted her own names for the suits of the minor arcana: Trees (Fire/Wands), Rivers (Water/Cups), Birds (Air/Swords), and Stones (Earth/Pentacles). She has also renamed the court cards as “Vision” cards: Place (Page), Knowers (Knight), Gifts (Queen), Speakers (King).

Pollack also shares this:

“One difference is that the Vision cards in general do not signify actual people the way the Court cards sometimes do in traditional tarot. Nor do they represent character types in quite the same way. Instead, they take us into an experience of ourselves. They give us a chance to discover and use the power of the elements.”4

The cards are a nice size, a little larger than playing cards. The card stock is a nice weight, and the matte finish is great for the ancient symbols and bright colors of the deck. Each card has a white border, and the name of the card is shown at the bottom in black type. The set comes in a beautiful box with a cut-out portion and ribbon for the cards, as well as ample room for the hefty guidebook.

These cards are easy to shuffle, and I enjoyed using them for my week of daily readings.  For the first day, I drew one card: Three of Trees, which is the Three of Wands in a traditional deck. This card is always a celebration for me and I was interested to see what Pollack shares:

“This card is a celebration, filled with the laughter of the Grandfather. He welcomes and protects us with his open arms.”5

She also includes the story of the artwork, which features “a spirit image formed from a tree by the Ojibwe people of Canada.”6 The image is based on a photograph of this type of tree, which has been carved to represent a person. 

The next day, I did a three-card spread and drew these cards: Knower of Birds, Six of Trees, and The Sun. With Pollack’s guidebook and my own intuition, I created this affirmation, based on the three cards:

“I collect signs and symbols and share my knowledge with confidence and wisdom, as I emerge into the light of divine consciousness.”

Her imagery is so beautiful, and the artwork invites deep contemplation and a connection to the heart. My favorite card in the deck is one of the five “extra” cards:  Portrait of Albert-Bright Through Nobility, which relates to the major arcana and Spirit. Pollack explains that this card is based on the name of her animal guardian, a red fox. “The name Albert means ‘bright through nobility.’ Getting this card means a sense of protection and the ability to ask for and receive help.”7

The guidebook is very easy to navigate, from the Table of Contents to the Glossary.  She includes a large section on Readings and includes lots of ideas for spreads for various situations.  She also includes an Appendix which explains the name changes for all cards, how to work with reversals and how to start your own Shining Tribe. She even has notes for groups, including ways to start conversations and create activities for developing your tarot skills. The last section is a Glossary that includes references to some of the cultures, religions, and symbology used in the deck. 

I really enjoy working with The Shining Tribe Tarot. I can feel the decades of tarot history, as well as the flavors of the various indigenous cultures in the cards. I can’t wait to introduce it at my next Coffee & Cards Zoom with my friends.

A Critical Introduction to Tarot, by Simon Kenny

A Critical Introduction to Tarot:  Examining the Nature of a Belief in Tarot, by Simon Kenny
IFF Books, 1803413921, 248 pages, January 2024

Simon Kenny wrote A Critical Introduction to Tarot: Examining the Nature of a Belief in Tarot after getting a tarot reading from a woman named Jo Lluque. He bought the Modern Witch Tarot Deck, “which sparked my interest in Tarot as a research topic.”1

“My approach here is to make the unknown known insofar as that is within my ability. It should be evident that the style I employ, while comparative, is to seek clarity of theory as informed by the available facts and compassion for those studied. My study of the Tarot has brought me on an exciting and unexpected journey through the many topics it touches.”2

Kenny’s background is in blogging about technology and political philosophy. As an author, technologist, and educator dedicated to asking probing questions to promote technical thinking, he applies his expertise to the tarot for the purpose of this book. He currently lives in Galway, Ireland and is a member of International Playing-Card Society, The Irish Writers Centre, and Writing.ie. You can learn more about him at this website.

A Critical Introduction to Tarot is very well planned and thoughtfully constructed, much like a research paper or dissertation. The reference material is always available; I found myself checking the References over and over again as I made my way through the book. He utilizes the Rider-Waite-Smith deck for all images in this book, although he mentions Aleister Crowley and his Thoth Deck in several passages.

The chapter “Randomness and Projection” discusses the practice and different forms of shuffling cards.
This discussion was interesting, as he shared viewpoints from different readers, as well as statistical data on the randomness of shuffling and drawing cards. He interviewed a number of leading tarot experts, including two of my favorites: Benebell Well and Cynthia Giles. And what book on tarot is complete without a discussion of archetypes, Jung and his influence on tarot?

“The Tarot Major Arcana are well established in the literature as representative of archetypes in the Jungian sense. For example, the above archetype of Mother is represented as the Empress . . . The Hermit often stands for solitude, wisdom and even time itself.”3

In another chapter, he talks extensively about Satanism and Freemasonry and the tie-in with tarot, including the Order of the Golden Dawn, which used tarot cards as part of their teachings:  

“A divinatory reading was one of the exams taken to achieve the sixth grade of ‘Adeptus Minor”, the highest grade for which any details are known for certain, as documented by Freemason Archivist Israel Regardie. Initiates were even required to create their own tarot deck from scratch, painting or illustrating every card.”4

Kenny references all of the parts of tarot, from the importance of pairs of opposites to magic and witchcraft to randomness. On the subject of evil in the cards, he presents information on the symbols, history, and other references to evil, but refuses to assign any evil intent or significance. However, he leaves it to each reader or practitioner to find his or her own meaning in the symbology of the cards.

My favorite chapter is “Chapter 3-Layers of Meaning”.  Here, Kenny covers numbers one to ten and the meaning and symbolism of the numbers in the major and minor arcana.  The interesting facts and insights he shares about these numbers are quite interesting. For example, did you know that 10 = 1+2+3+4?  He also talks about the magical number 7 and how it relates to the seven original planets, the sevenfold path, and “an old idea that life proceeds in phases of seven years, which likely originates in the widespread notion of the sevenfold spiritual path.”5

Kenny includes a very basic Table of Contents with chapter titles. In the back of the book, he lists all of the figures or graphics that he presents in the book, including the original source, author, and page number. Next, he shares references for each chapter, with the source, author, book and page number given. This alone is priceless for those who wish to dive deeper into any of the areas Kenny discusses. Lastly, he includes a seven-page Bibliography for even more reference material.

A Critical Introduction to Tarot is great for anyone who would like a deeper dive into tarot, particularly its origins and symbolism. It would probably best suit a seasoned tarot card reader or student of tarot. I plan to keep it on hand and weave some of the numerological information in my readings. I feel that I benefit from every book I read, especially those that challenge my beliefs. This book has helped me reframe my love of tarot and deepened my knowledge of its rich history.

A Floral Grimoire, by Patricia Telesco

A Floral Grimoire: Plant Charms, Spells, Recipes and Rituals, by Patricia Telesco
Crossed Crow Books, 9781959883739, 187 pages, March 2024

When I saw A Floral Grimoire: Plant Charms, Spells, Recipes, and Rituals, I was drawn to learning about the ways to use flowers and herbs in my daily, magical life.  In this book Patricia, “Trish”, Telesco weaves a beautiful chronicle of history, lore, practical steps, and magical vibes. I learned about flowers, as well as how to use the rest of the plant for potions, crafts, and much more.

Calling herself a “kitchen witch,” Telesco studied Wicca on her own and then became initiated by the Stega tradition of Italy.  As the author of over 30 books, she also coordinates spiritually oriented tours of Europe. She shares her knowledge of herbs, metaphysics, dreams, divination, folklore and magic in workshops and lectures around the US. She lives in western upstate New York with her husband and children.  You can learn more about Telesco on her website.

Telesco begins with a history of the use of flowers, mentioning the Victorians and their creation of a “petaled vocabulary”1 for secret messages. Then she goes on to share how merchants during the Crusades “often mingled magical lore and wives’ tales into their selling techniques.”2 She provides two examples that we still see today in our modern world:  sprinkling rose petals for love and using garlic to keep away “wandering spirits.”3 From here, she invites the reader to become involved in “Green Witchery” and travel with her through this practical guidebook for discovering more about nature and magic.

The book is an easy read, almost as if you are sitting with Telesco for a cup of tea and about to make a craft with flowers and herbs.  She shares more history and folklore from botany, herbology, and the magical arts, as she includes her knowledge and wisdom from more than 30 years of experience as a Green Witch too.

Telesco’s stories of the various uses for flowers, plants, and other natural elements includes the Greek myth of Hekate teaching her daughters all about herbs. The tradition says that these daughters taught other witches how to utilize this magic. She goes on to say that “this myth, which is one of many linking Witches and nature together, gives us a peek into the minds of our ancestors.”4

My favorite chapter was ”Chapter 6:  Petaled Psychism: Floromancy and Botanomancy”.  In other words, how to use flowers, herbs, stone, or wood for divination. In this chapter, she includes how to observe the plants and flowers that grow around us, as well as casting herbs or flowers on water or cloth to receive a message. She also shares how to make a flower or herb pendulum and an oracle to keep for use over time.  I want to try my hand at making a pressed flower oracle later this spring!

In this chapter, she also includes spreads for use with your oracle cards, as well as guidelines for doing readings. In fact, all throughout the book Telesco includes guidelines to help the novice better utilize the knowledge and rituals she shares. 

And what book on flowers and herbs for magic would be complete without information on edible flowers? Telesco includes recipes for all kinds of teas, beverages, oils, vinegars, and sauces, as well as a recipe for Mystic Mushrooms5 and Peace Porridge6.

An interesting list that the author includes in the book is a “List of Anti-Magic and Anti-Witch Herbs.”7 This list contains things from nature that can protect the witch in adverse circumstances. Later, she adds a list of herbs, flowers and plants that can honor and support witches and their magic.

Some other lists and information I found helpful:

“Ways to use a leaf you find on your walk”8

“How to get in touch with a plant spirit”9

“How to use the Moon by Zodiac sign”10

“Tools of the Trade”11

“Ingredients for Spells & Charms”12

That last list, in a chapter titled “Spicy Spells & Charms”, includes how to use anything from alfalfa to violets for “pleasing and powerful results.”13 And I must point out that these are just a few of the lists that are sprinkled throughout the book!

Another key bit of knowledge Telesco includes is called the Doctrine of Signatures and Law of Similars. If you do not have a particular flower or plant for a spell or ritual, “you can substitute an item of a similar shape, texture or color and still maintain magical congruency.”14 For example, a pale blue flower could be substituted for lavender.

This book has a wonderful Table of Contents that shares chapter titles and brief subheadings for the contents of each chapter.  This makes it very easy to find passages or information later. Telesco also includes an eleven-page index, which makes retrieving information even easier! She also shares an extensive bibliography for future research.

A Floral Grimoire is great for a new witch or seasoned pro.  It holds valuable information for anyone wanting to harness the power of nature in their daily life. I will refer often to the information for spells and charms, as well as the ingredients list and correspondence list.  With the various lists and the index, I have a valuable reference for utilizing flowers and herbs in practical and magical ways.  I can see myself adding this book to the resource list I provide clients who come to me for readings for their daily lives.

Spiritual Revelations from Beyond the Veil, by Douglas Charles Hodgson

Spiritual Revelations from Beyond the Veil: What Humanity Can Learn from the Near Death Experience, by Douglas Charles Hodgson
O-Books, 1803413409, 152 pages, January 2024

In his beautiful tribute to life on the Other Side, Douglas Charles Hodgson highlights experiences from people who have had near death experiences (NDEs) in Spiritual Revelations from Beyond the Veil: What Humanity Can Learn from the Near Death Experience. This book not only recaps these experiences, but also catalogs what he learned from over 500 interviews from the International Association for Near-Death Studies and its website.

Douglas Charles Hodgson is a retired lawyer, dean, and professor of law, who has focused on human rights, religious discrimination, and religious fundamentalism. Following his forty-year legal career in Canada, England, Australia, and New Zealand, he began a study of twelve religions, as he searched for the meaning of life. After this exploration, he wrote a book called Transcendental Spirituality, Wisdom and Virtue. Hodgson has also written four other books.  Born in Canada, Hodgson now lives in Perth, Australia and has dual citizenship.

In his preface, Hodgson presents the concept for his book and how he came to be interested in NDE experiences, following the publication of his book on transcendental spirituality. He made use of information from the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) and the hundreds of accounts from people who experienced NDEs. He asserts that he “decouples spirituality from a religious context”1

“Indeed, numerous IANDS authors declared that before their near-death experience, they had no religion and did not believe in the existence of God or an afterlife, while others who were adherents to a particular religion or faith declared that after their experience, their particular religion was of less importance to them and henceforth aspired to be more spiritual in their outlook on life and in their dealings with others in the natural environment.”2

He hopes that this book will “provide comfort and assurance to those who have fear or uncertainty about the eventual demise of their physical bodies. It is to reassure them that their souls are eternal and that there is a beautiful afterlife to be enjoyed within the higher spiritual realms (our true home).”3

Hodgson takes care to let the reader know that all accounts were anonymous, and that no identifying information is shared. He also points out that while no two NDEs are the same, there are similarities and accounts that “tend to corroborate one another.”4 Within this book, Hodgson takes the accounts from people who have experienced an NDE and arranges the comments into nineteen categories.  

Starting each chapter with the name of the topic, Hodgson provides a brief explanation of the NDE information that he will include.  Then, he lists the comments or experiential narrative from each NDE that fits in this category. 

For example, the first chapter is entitled “God/The Source”, and it includes what various NDE authors “have described concerning their encounters with God and God’s supra-human qualities and attributes as well as any messages or revelations which were imparted to them either by God or higher spiritual beings.”5

Here are just a few of these comments:

“God exists as well as an afterlife beyond our earthly life.”6

“God is our creator and our soul returns to him.”7

“God is the center, and we are all spokes of the universal wheel.”8

My favorite chapter was one entitled “Loving Yourself”.  In this chapter, Hodgson shares the importance of loving oneself, “not in a narcissistic sense but in a compassionate sense.”9 He goes on to share revelations on self-love from those who experienced an NDE, including the following comment:

“My life review taught me that before we can let God’s light and love in,  we must forgive ourselves.”10

Hodgson’s book is written in a very conversational, clear style. The information is presented in a very open and objective way, and one that does not include any bias or religious connotations. I am impressed by the time and work that went into researching, cataloging, and writing this chronicle of NDEs. The organization of all of this material, from over 500 accounts of NDEs, is truly remarkable. He also includes a few sources for learning more about NDEs. 

What I like best about Hodgson’s book is the way that I can use this information for daily encouragement or journal prompts.  For example, in the chapter called “Our Earthly Life Purpose and Meaning”, I saw these thought-provoking prompts that I want to use for daily affirmations:

“Life is meant to be lived in abundance.”

“Do not be concerned over what others may think of you. “

“There is meaning in everything.”

Spiritual Revelations from Beyond the Veil would be great for all interested in what happens after we pass on, including anyone who needs encouragement after a loss, someone at a crossroads or someone asking “why?” in a general context.  In Hodgson’s own words:

“For those who are grieving the loss of a loved one and for those who feel lost and confused about the meaning and purpose to their lives and what lies ahead of them, it is hoped that this book will provide comfort, peace, solace, assurance and direction.”11

My husband and I work with grieving people, giving mediumship readings, and providing resources for life after a loss. Hodgson’s book will provide us with even more information to share with our clients, family and friends.

Crystal Clear Oracle, by Nadine Gordon-Taylor

Crystal Clear Oracle: Loving Guidance from the Mineral Kingdom, by Nadine Gordon-Taylor
Bear & Company, 9781591434849, 40 cards, 166 pages, December 2023

With the Crystal Clear Oracle: Loving Guidance from the Mineral Kingdom, intuitive artist Nadine Gordon-Taylor has combined 44 well known crystals and minerals with beautiful symbols from plants, animals, elementals, and ancient symbols to provide unique guidance for our lives.

This deck is the third deck created by Gordon-Taylor, who holds both MFA and doctorate degrees in art.  She has taught for more than 30 years through lectures and workshops.  Her artwork has been shown in galleries and collections around the world. She owns a gallery called Third Eye Arts in Peekskill, NY.  Learn more about her through her website https://www.thethirdeyestudio.com/meet-the-artist.

As someone who has been studying crystals for over 20 years, I was immediately drawn to this deck. Unlike most crystal oracle decks, this deck also features many different symbols on each card. You can choose to focus only on the crystal or mineral for a quick message or add layers to the guidance by reading about each symbol featured. Here is just one example of the symbols on these cards. (I’ve added brief information from the guidebook, as well.)   

“CRYSTAL:  Hanksite
Moniker:  The Earthy Supporter
Key words: Cleansing, grounding, and heightened sense of reality
Mineral content: Rare potassium sulfate
Healing properties: Realignment of your etheric chakra system. Hold me over any area of your body that feels unbalanced and needs healing.

SYMBOLS:
Capybara: You function best with others.
Beaver:  Follow your intuition on new projects.
Tulips: Rebirth, and two tulips mean you might want to look for balance and partnership.
Honeybees:  Examine your productivity with dedication, hard work, and collaboration.
Full Moon:  There is new information and brilliant epiphanies for you.
Viaduct:  Watch for opportunities for transition and change.
Earth: Look to your home planet for support.
Shooting Star: Your wishes will inevitably come true!
Affirmation: I am on the right track to my spiritual destination”1

As you can see, Gordon-Taylor weaves lots of guidance and encouraging information about each crystal or mineral, as well as the symbols she has chosen for each card.

Each card is brilliantly painted in a very realistic style.  I’ve seen artists attempt to draw or paint crystals and miss the mark. This is not the case with Gordon-Taylor. Each one of her renderings of the crystals and minerals is as realistic as any photo. She is very talented when it comes to painting the crystals and minerals as they appear in nature. She uses fine detail, shading, and an authentic depiction of the crystal in a traditional shape to present each crystal or mineral. Two of my favorite depictions in these cards are fluorite and aquamarine. 

The back of the card box declares that the cards are “intricately illustrated,”2 and this is true! She also uses different border colors to accent the pictorial layouts. The cards are a large format, measuring 4” inches by almost 6” inches. The back of the cards features a magnified view of an iolite crystal. 

As I’ve mentioned with the example for Hanksite above, the guidebook contains a wealth of information, with two to three pages per mineral. The messages are written in first person, from the point of view of each crystal. For example for Hanksite she relates:

“I am Hanksite, a rare potassium sulfate mineral, and I connect you with the Earth.  I am commonly found beneath the surface, embedded in mud or drill cores.”3

Gordon-Taylor utilizes different colors for the type in the Table of Contents, as well as the passages for each crystal. This makes the various headings really pop! Each card is also shown in the guidebook with a small four-color photo. She ends the guidance with three affirmations for each crystal.

The Table of Contents is laid out in alphabetical order and includes the name of the crystal, the moniker, key words and page number. This layout is brilliant because you can open the guidebook and run your finger down the page and select a crystal randomly for yourself or others, without taking the cards with you. In the Introduction, Gordon-Taylor shares her long history with minerals and her goal for this deck: 

“The constructive and positive messages found in this book allow you to access new and loving energies that inspire, empower, and heal. These messages come directly from the crystals that appear in each image.”4

Gordon-Taylor also shares how to use the cards, including different ways to clear the cards, spreads for use with the cards and the use of a sketchbook as a journal. At the back of the guidebook, she includes a 30-page glossary with words and phrases about crystals and minerals, as well as spiritual terms. The cards are stored in a beautiful box with an indentation for the cards, ample room for the guidebook and a magnetic clasp. 

These cards arrived in the mail and I didn’t have the chance to glance through them before my husband and I left to attend a gem and mineral show. I came home with three crystals (mangano, calcite, septarian) and an ammonite tray. When I pulled out these cards the next morning for my daily draw, I drew the card Ammonite!

For my friend Ann, I drew the card: Chrysanthemum Stone. This stone is known as The Karmic Liberator and references intuition, optimism and akashic records.

Ammonite helps you release the past and welcome change, evolution, and personal growth. According to Gordon-Taylor, ammonite is “The Ancient Emancipator,” and aids in “adapting to a new, exciting timeline and a new version of yourself.”5

“You have chosen this card because you are a beautiful soul experiencing challenging situations. You also want to feel joy again. I can help you reset your energy grid. Hold me in your hands when meditating and burrow deep into your intuition . . . You are here at this time to work out issues balancing the mind and heart.”6

My friend has had some challenges lately, and just accepted a new temporary position with a hospital in another state.  She loved the encouragement that she received from this stone, as well as from the symbology of the eagles, groundhogs, cherry tree, infinity symbol and the ankh.  I sent her a photo of the card and the verbiage for even more support. 

Crystal Clear Oracle is great for any level of oracle reader or crystal student. With the depth of the information about each crystal or mineral, as well as the reference materials on the various symbols, anyone can benefit from the knowledge shared by Gordon-Taylor. You can focus only on the crystal or read further and integrate all the information for a complete guidance session. I can see myself using these cards to add a footnote to a client reading or pull a card for myself when I’m troubled by a situation.

Tarot Life Lessons, by Julia Gordon-Bramer

Tarot Life Lessons:  Living Wisdom from The Major Arcana, by Julia Gordon-Bramer
Destiny Books, 9781644118177, 216 pages, November 2023

In Tarot Life Lessons: Living Wisdom from The Major Arcana, Julia Gordon-Bramer endeavors to “heal the world”1 with her personal stories and those of her clients from 40 years of tarot card readings.

Gordon-Bramer picked up her first tarot deck at 16 and began her journey, and along the way, she became an award-winning author and poet, professor, and host of her own radio show turned podcast called Mystic Fix.  She currently lives in St. Louis, MO.  You can learn more about Gordon-Bramer on her website.

In the book’s introduction, Gordon-Bramer shares:

“The tarot is a tool to awaken and tame the subconscious, to help us grow our strengths and make changes when we identify our weaknesses. It’s a way to conquer problems and move on from painful situations and the baggage we carry through life.”2

Within this book, Gordon-Bramer shares stories from readings she has done in regard to the Major Arcana, the first 22 cards in most tarot decks. She references the Universal Rider-Waite tarot and features drawings of cards from this deck in this book. These major arcana cards “represent the key players and milestones in life, the sacred adventure from birth to death. Those are my primary focus in this book.”3 Each chapter features one of the cards from the magical 22 cards. Gordon-Bramer shares these stories in card order from The Fool to the World.

“My tarot cards became a life decoder and a compass to navigate  and reduce the chance of bad luck.”4

In the first chapter, Gordon-Bramer kicks off her story with the first card in the Major Arcana, the Fool. Here, she shares her own spiritual journey, including her fascination with the famous poet Sylvia Plath, who had her own tarot deck.  She conveys more about who she is, creating a bond with the readers, to set the stage for her trip through the rest of the cards.

My favorite card in the tarot deck is the Star card, so I was curious about Gordon-Bramer’s notes on this one. She shares a story about working at a renaissance festival with her son and the clients who came her way.  She worked with a young couple, a man who aspired to be a recording artist and another man who was a skeptic. To his comments, the author said:

“Tarot is about showing you where your energy is going. It gives you tools to understand yourself and guidance to make the changes you want.”5

Each chapter includes a highlighted section on a special TIP. For instance, in the chapter on the Fool, she provides suggestions for buying your first tarot deck. In the chapter on the Star, she addresses the question “Is Tarot Evil?”:

“Tarot does not call spirits, good or evil, into play. . . The idea behind the tarot is that we all have access to that knowledge and power because we are all one, of one spirit (which I call God). . . As a reminder, what the tarot shows us about the future is not fixed. We always have the power to change our path through the decisions that we make.”6

My favorite chapter in the book is the chapter on the Devil card. Gordon-Bramer weaves a story about two women who immigrated from Columbia to St. Louis and were seeking love and money.  When the Devil card popped into a reading for one of the ladies, the woman panicked.  Gordon-Bramer told her:

“Relax, this isn’t about being evil; It’s about being indulgent. The Devil is about  living large: good food, drink, pretty clothes, expensive cars, sex, vacations, sleeping late . . . you get the picture.”7

These ladies visited the author many times over the years and through her readings, Gordon-Bramer was able to support the women as they navigated their lives. 

The cover is beautiful, printed in a soft gray with pastel type and extra varnish on the three tarot cards featured on the front. On the back, the Gordon-Bramer’s photo is highlighted with varnish also! The book is a nice size, perfect for tucking into a handbag or backpack. In addition to a Table of Contents, Gordon-Bramer also puts the name of each chapter’s card at the top of each page.  This makes it very easy to navigate the book and find a chapter or passage. 

In the back of the book, she adds a list of resources, including her favorite tarot decks for client readings. She also features an extensive index for finding specific stories or tips within these pages. 

This book would be great for the experienced tarot reader, one who wants to add an additional layer to their readings. Gordon-Bramer combines client histories with her own tarot symbolism to add to your knowledge base. I can also see that this book will add to my own journey with the cards, as I refer to her stories when I pull a specific Major Arcana card for myself.

The last tip in Tarot Life Lessons was an important one. She shares how to use tarot cards for creativity:

“I know many creative people who pull a card for inspiration or to help them take a project in a new direction. We come to the tarot to find language for the impenetrable emotions and  things we don’t have language for. As they say: a picture says 1000 words. Let the tarot show you your next steps in life and how you might create it.8

Oracle of the Universe, by Stacey Demarco

Oracle of the Universe: Divine Guidance From the Cosmos, by Stacey Demarco, illustrated by Kinga Britschgi
Rockpool Publishing, 9781922785015, 112 pages, 44 cards, 2023

The shining box for the Oracle of the Universe: Divine Guidance From the Cosmos really attracts your attention with the background of the night sky, a woman’s profile, and an electrical storm in multiple colors in place of the woman’s brain. By adding an overlay of even more stars, Stacey Demarco and Kinga Britschgi immediately let you know that a journey through the cosmos is about to begin!

Did you know that we have eighty-eight areas of the night sky? Demarco shares this:

“Constellations are named areas of the celestial sphere that are used to divide the night sky into specific regions for easy reference and we now officially have 88.”1

Stacey Demarco is an author, pagan practitioner and modern witch, whose passion is to “make practical magic accessible to everyone and to reconnect people with the power of nature.”2 Demarco has created nine oracle decks, one tarot deck, a lunar calendar and numerous best-selling books. She is a popular teacher and speaker in her native Australia and around the world. 

As an award-winning artist and digital creator, Kinga Britschgi has a degree in fine art and a master’s degree in bilingual education. After working as a teacher, Britschgi transitioned to the digital world, where she has been creating art for more than twenty years. Originally from Hungary, she now lives in the US with her husband and son. 

The collaboration for this deck of oracle cards is truly amazing! From the compelling cover art to the rich jewel-tone colors of the cards, I was mesmerized by the deep night sky combinations. Britschgi adds symbols, animals, people, nature, elements, and mythical creatures in a rich collage with stars, stars and more stars. Each card contains a number and a title that helps you identify it as either Constellation, Nebula, or Bright Star. Then, the creators add the name, a common name (if there is one), and a key word or theme. 

For example, for the card Sirius, it is identified as a “Bright Star,” tagged “Sirius”, modified as “Dog Star” as its more common name, and further marked with “Consistency” as its keyword. This method of identification is very helpful as you navigate the extensive guidebook. The Table of Contents is also broken into the three sections mentioned and each card is listed in number order. In addition to the name of the constellation, nebula, or bright star, they also include the key word in the table of contents.

The Constellations section is the largest grouping and includes the twelve zodiac star formations, as well as many others, such as Andromeda, Centaurus, and Cassiopea. In all, the creators include thirty-two Constellations, eight Nebula and four Bright Stars.

The guidebook is quite extensive and includes an introduction, a section on how to best use the forty-four cards, and several pages on spreads for this deck. Demarco also features a simple ritual for dedicating your deck and a few words on combining this deck with other decks. For each card, the creators feature a small, four-color photo of the card, key word, guidance summary, affirmation and information on the myth or history and IAU official astronomy tag for sky viewing. 

I took the cards on a test flight and utilized a spread called “The Stellar Read.”3 For this spread, I was to pull out the four Bright Star cards and set those aside. Next, I shuffled the rest of the deck and chose three cards. Then, I shuffled the four Bright Star cards and chose one. Here is a recap of the cards I drew and description of the spread placements:

  1. Represents the blind spot or hidden issue:  #7 Libra – Balance
  2. Represents the path of most empowerment: #35 Butterfly – Change
  3. Represents the truth of the matter: #3 Gemini – Rescue
  4. Bright Star Card: Represents the immediate action to take: #43 Vega – Dynamism

My question regarded how to get moving on a large project I was working on, where I felt stalled or sidetracked. From the four cards, I came to realize that I needed more balance, rather than an “all or nothing” work pace. I also was challenged to look at my schedule and see where changes could be made to better accommodate work in the mornings, when I am at my best.

I also got a message about waiting to respond to requests for guidance and help, rather than jumping in and “rescuing” people.  Finally, the Bright Star card spoke to the importance of setting goals, doing the work, and then resting when tired. This is a great reminder!

Next, I pulled cards for friends, both online and in my Friday “Coffee & Cards” group.  For one friend, I pulled the Crux, or Southern Cross, card.  She called to thank me and related that the message of carefully communicating to avoid sending mixed messages was right on track for her. The card featured two aboriginal men and she related that she has always been drawn to the indigenous people of Australia. 

Another friend asked: “What do I need to know as I head into the holiday season?” Her card was #26 Cygnus which talked of compassion. She was guided to show compassion for others and for herself.  I think I saw tears in her eyes when she read this passage from the guidebook:

“Get your self-compassion on and forgive yourself. It’s easy to show compassion to those you know, but a greater compassion is to show it in action to those you don’t. Give someone the benefit of the doubt. Show up.”4

One of my Facebook friends received #28 Draco, which featured a dragon and the theme of “guardianship.”  She wrote to share: “This message really speaks to me today.  I need to remember good boundaries, especially as we enter the holiday season.  Thank you!”

These cards are dynamic, beautiful, and so very healing.  The rich artwork and gilt-edge finish may draw you in, but the guidance is deep and resonates on many levels. I really like the layers of the information in the guidebook. A person can simply select a card and use the keyword as a theme for their day.  Or they can go to the guidebook and read the guidance summary.  If someone has more time and wants to learn about the myth or history of the nighttime star or nebula, the information on each one is extensive. Finally, if a person wants to find the star or nebula in the sky, the information to do so is provided.  

I appreciate the structured layout of the guidebook and the easy navigation. Demarco has created signposts to make retrieving the guidance, the myth, and the sky placement easy and effortless. Oracle of the Universe would be great for a novice oracle card reader, as well as the more experienced diviner.  Also, if someone is interested in stars and nebulas, this would be a great gift! I can see myself adding this deck to client readings for a final bit of guidance.  I also look forward to using this deck for my own daily card reading.

2024 Moon Goddess Diary, by Nicci Garaicoa

2024 Moon Goddess Diary – Northern Hemisphere: A Year’s Journey of Love, Connection, and Support – a Journey Back to You, by Nicci Garaicoa and illustrated by Olivia Burki
Rockpool Publishing, 9781922579560, 160 pages, June 2023

Anything that promises to harness the energy of the moon is a natural fit for me, so this diary was a no-brainer! In her 2024 Moon Goddess Diary – Northern Hemisphere: A Year’s Journey of Love, Connection, and Support – a Journey Back to You, Nicci Garaicoa presents twelve goddesses to support women as you brave the new frontier of a new year.

 Garaicoa hails from Australia and is a medicine woman, energy healer, speaker, intuitive and author. She is known for her Full Moon Meditations, held on her beach in Australia for locals and broadcast for followers worldwide. Learn more about her at https://www.niccigaraicoa.com/. Illustrator Olivia Burki enjoys illustrate her pieces with both traditional artwork and digital media. Her art website is: https://www.iamfy.co/shop/olivia-burki.

On the cover of the diary, Garaicoa promises:

“A year’s journey of love, connection and support. A journey back to you.”1

This journal is a delight for the senses from the luscious dark teal cover with a mermaid holding the moon to the jewel tones of the moon goddesses featured for each month. Garaicoa opens the diary with a brief introduction and a few paragraphs that help you to use the diary in the most beneficial way. She includes a beautiful ritual to claim the diary as your very own. Next, she presents “My Goddess Self-Care Toolkit for Winter,”2 which includes color, sound, crystals, and plants, among other tools.  Writing in these few pages before the season begins helps you set intentions, call in support and plan for the three months to come.

I find it interesting that Garaicoa also suggests that you look through the three moon goddesses for the upcoming three months and select only one to be your primary support for the season. Yes, you will also work with the goddess for each month as you travel through the four weeks. However, the suggestion to select one of the goddesses for your primary guide each season is brilliant! This is a way to personalize the diary experience.

What follows next is beautiful goddess artwork for each month, as well as a description of the cultural background for each goddess, a mantra, a crystal and other ways to work with her. The diary provides a double-page spread for each week in the month. This allows ample room to journal, record a daily card or whatever your heart desires. Along the way, Garaicoa lists the New and Full Moons each month, so you can also do your intention setting and releasing rituals.

The pages for each month feature a beautiful pastel color that perfectly complements the color palette of the moon goddess for that month. Sprinkled throughout the diary are other pieces of art to accent the pages, such as fans, flowers, shells, or pottery.  Encouraging and inspirational bits of prose are also shown on select pages, as well as a “Ritual to Close Off the Year 2024”3 near the end of the diary.

Although I am familiar with four of the moon goddesses chosen for the diary, the other eight moon goddesses are new to me. It is so interesting that she features different countries and cultures for the moon goddesses so that learn more about customs and rituals for navigating the seasons. For winter, spring, summer and fall, she presents a unique toolkit for navigating the three months and this version was created specifically for the northern hemisphere. Since Garaicoa is based in Australia, this version is a wonderful way to honor those of us who live in another part of the world.

My favorite goddess is Coyolxauhqui. (pronounced Coy-yo-shar-ki) Perhaps because I live in Texas and have always been fascinated by anything from Mexico, I particularly resonate with this Aztec beauty. Garaicoa shares this information about the goddess for July:

“Coyolxauhqui’s medicine for you is the most incredible example of how to turn your greatest traumas, wounds, pain and the drama that can happen in your life into your greatest strength and power, as she does each night by beaming her light across the world and shining as brightly as the moon.”4

2024 Moon Goddess Diary would be great for any woman who wants to learn more about working with the signs and phases of the moon, as well as tracking her own energy throughout the year. Whether you are new to learning about the moon or have been living by the moon for several years, this diary is for you. The information on the goddesses adds a beautiful layer of support and the seasonal toolkits give you additional ideas for energetic healing and reinforcement throughout the year.

Garaicoa shares this last message on the back cover:

“Let 2024 be your year of change. This year, be guided, inspired, and supported by the 12 powerful goddesses in this full-color diary. Use their knowledge, bathe in their love, breathe in their radiance, and feel their power radiates through each page and into your life.”5

Unlocking the Secret Language of Tarot, by Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone

Unlocking the Secret Language of Tarot: 22 Keys to Understanding Its Symbolic Imagery, by Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone
Weiser Books, 1578638186, 304 pages, November 2023

As tarot pioneers in America, Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone founded The Tarot School in 1995 and first published this material in 2008. Unlocking the Secret Language of Tarot: 22 Keys to Understanding Its Symbolic Imagery combines the curriculum of many classes that they taught to thousands of students. This book presents a treatise on many of the symbols in the popular Rider-Waite-Smith deck. It is arranged in a series of seven chapters, each of which shares information on three or four of twenty-two symbols from the deck. You can learn more about the Amberstones and their school at www.tarotschool.com.

The Amberstones state the following about this material in this book:  

“We’ll be using the Rider-Waite-Smith imagery as our benchmark, but the information in this course should be transferable to any deck you care to use. We think it will also give your intuition a lot of additional material to work on.”1

The Rider-Waite-Smith deck was my first tarot deck, and I was excited to investigate this book by these master teachers. In addition to sharing imagery for the twenty-two symbols, they also share exercises and spreads throughout the book to make the most of the information. 

I decided to peruse the book, get myself familiar with the symbols, and then put it to the test.  I looked back at a three-card reading I did for myself to see how the enhanced symbology would inform or accentuate the message. I chose a reading I did a few months ago with the general question:  “What do I need to know today?”

I drew the King of Pentacles, Three of Swords, and Six of Wands.  My own guidance from the reading can be summarized as:  Although I may mourn losses, I use patience and determination to achieve my goals and meet victory and success.

After reviewing the Amberstones’ information for each card, I learned the following:

  1. King of Pentacles: “The armored foot of the king of pentacles is a hint of the full armor hidden from sight by his robes. It is a symbol of the public servant who guards the well-being of his Kingdom despite his apparent personal opulence.”2 Next, the authors take the reader on a “Contemplation of the Symbol of Armor.”3 This simple exercise invited me to ponder a question regarding how I might use armor to defend myself and was quite revealing.
  2. Three of Swords: For this card, I investigated the symbol of clouds. First, I had never noticed that there are three clouds on this card. Second, the authors share that clouds are “potent symbols of change.”4 Also, clouds can bring obscurity, depression and disaster, as well as divine support and potential.5
  3. Six of Wands: One of the cards that features a horse or horses, the Six of Wands has always represented success to me. Once again, the authors shared an exercise, “The Journey of the Horse.”6 This mythical meditation invited me to experience the world as a horse and it was truly magical!!! Then, the authors share the message of this card:

“Here again, we have the white terrestrial horse that carries his rider from the past into the present and toward the future in the world of human events. Because the intent of this card is to picture victory, the horse is white to symbolize nobility, triumph, and the mildness of perfect surrender to the rider’s will.”7

I have never seen the Six of Wands in quite this way!

With the additional symbology from the Amberstones, I now summarize the guidance from my previous reading as follows: Even though disaster might come, I have Divine support and take good care of myself as I transcend my past and travel to the sweet success of my future.

I really love the extra layer that the imagery provides! 

Next, I reviewed all of the information on my favorite card in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck: The Star. I learned that “the simple lesson of the eight-pointed star is the feeling of beauty and perfection that rewards the completion of an inner journey.”8 Did you know that the eight-pointed star is found on only two cards in the deck?  The Fool and The Star. The authors also share information on the pool, which in the case of The Star, represents “the great pool of spiritual awareness that we explore by meditation.”9

Throughout this chapter, the authors share information on the other types of stars on cards in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, as well as ideas for spreads and meditations. I will return to the spread called “The Pool, Moon, and Star”10 later for guidance.  

The book is very well constructed, with information on the symbols and then representative cards that feature the symbols. They worked with the original printing plates of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, and Ruth Ann highlighted a different part or parts of each card to call attention to the specific symbol being discussed. This technique is very helpful!

In the Appendix, the authors lay out exercises and spreads for each of the seven chapters.  This enables the reader to find a particular spread, meditation, or practice, without going page by page through the book. They also include an eight-page Index where you can find everything from every mention of angels (or archangels!) to every Major Arcana or Minor Arcana card mentioned in the book. These tools are very helpful for the novice and experienced tarot professional alike. For this reason, as well as the conversational style in which the authors share the information, I feel that this book would benefit any level of tarot reader. In fact, for the new reader, this book is a great textbook for learning more about the esoteric symbols of tarot.

I plan to use many of the spreads for work with my clients, as well as utilizing the information on imagery to add depth to my own daily readings.

Perhaps Tarot Master Rachel Pollack said it best on the back cover of Unlocking the Secret Language of Tarot:

“For years, Wald and Ruth Ann Amberstone’s deep work on the symbols and esoteric traditions of the Rider-Waite-Smith cards has been a legend, the learning and inspiration available only to their students. This book is useful in the deepest possible sense.”11