Earth Wisdom Tarot Sacred Art

Sacred Practices of the Gaian Tarot: the 3 P’s

in Spiritual Practice, Tarot

A guest post by Carolyn Cushing of Art of Change Tarot

(Joanna’s note: Carolyn graciously allowed me to share this process that she created at the workshop I presented at the Omega Tarot Conference last month. We are so happy to share it now with you. It’s one of my favorite contemplative tarot practices.)

Of course, it started with a card.

I’d drawn this card as part of my Tarot morning ritual.  This daily time with the cards had become an important part of my contemplative practice; I found being with the Tarot’s wisdom images helped me to enter into a grounding silence, connected me to something greater, and awakened a sense of wholeness within.  The woman with her eyes closed and ear inclined to the natural world provided me with an ideal image of contemplative practice and its rewards.

Taking this spark of inspiration as guide, I looked through the rest of the deck and saw sun-saluting groups, dancing women, fire-tenders of the human and animal variety, and facilitators of storytelling circles.  The whole deck came into focus as a guide to practice.

And the Gaian offers an ample and embracing view of practice. Along with pictures that conjure traditional images of spiritual practice such as chakra meditation and casting a circle, the women joyfully gathering to create herbal tinctures or attentively planting a tree are practicing that which can connect us to the Greater Than, the Divine, Mama Gaia.  There is no one way to practice and, indeed, every act undertaken with awareness can be the gateway to connecting with that hard-to-name sacred source.

I kept looking at the deck and sorting the cards.  I often work with the deck in its different modes of Major Arcana, numbered cards, and people cards.  The guidance the card provides is shaped by its mode.

The numbered cards, in which I was seeing so many suggestions for practice, show us the activities of daily life.  As I’ve described above, they can be very literal pictures of a practice to undertake, or mulling over the image may invite some interesting associations.  Take the 5 of Fire, for example.

Most of us are not going to take up fire breathing!  But you might try the yoga practice of Breath of Fire that involves rapid breathing from the diaphragm through the nose.  Or you might let out your anger by howling at the moon or writing / doodling in your journal in red pen using hard strokes across the paper.

The Major Arcana shows us larger, overarching lessons or archetypes that unfold over longer periods of time.  They are pathways of wisdom that continually offer new teachings.  (Or maybe I’m just slow.  I haven’t mastered any of them and actually anticipate a lifelong exploration!) The Aces have a similar quality in that they contain the full potential of their elemental energy.  I sorted them in with the Majors and began to think of this group as indicating the greater pathway that we are learning about as we undertake practice.

The people cards offer different guidance. They suggest the attitude that would be most beneficial to hold as we walk the path practicing.  Each of the 4 stages of life brings a different quality to the practice.  The children show us in-the-moment awe, for example, while the Explorers show us a commitment to action.  The Guardians have a certain intensity while the Elders show a certain ease in their worlds.

I see the Child of Fire taking a much more carefree attitude toward the practice of the week than the Guardian of Air.  I think we often forget that our practice needs to shift as our lives change, and the people of the Gaian model for us how we can be dynamic in our practice.

I was struggling with how to describe this aspect of the process when Gaian Tarot Circle member Della Kurtz offered that they represented the Posture to take in regard to practice.  Brilliant!  I now had a 3P process of Path, Practice, and Posture.

As my contribution to the Gaian Tarot Circle, I’ve started posting a weekly Practices of the Gaian Tarot on Monday mornings.  Joanna and I thought we would give you all a chance to share in the practice for this week.  As you’ll see below, I offer first thoughts on what the cards are inviting the group to during the week, but these are just jumping off points.  Please feel free to offer new views and ideas in the Comments. Or you may want to pull personal cards for yourself; that sharing is most welcome as well in the Comments.

Week of August 20th Practices:  Hermit – 6 of Earth – Guardian of Earth


Use Pile 1 / Majors and Aces to pull a card for the question: What sacred path would best serve the Circle this week?  THE HERMIT invites us to walk this week on pathways of …

  • connecting with your inner light / guide
  • solitude
  • accessing your personal wisdom for your own use – and to share with others
  • listening to the Greater Than, especially through messages from the moon or animals sounds in the night


Use Pile 2 / cards numbered 2 – 10 for this question: What contemplative practice will best serve us to move along this pathway this week? THE SIX OF EARTH invites us to practices such as …

  • gratitude for the abundance of the earth
  • conscious shopping
  • mindful eating
  • balancing giving and receiving


Use Pile 3 / People Cards for a question such as: What attitudes and behaviors will be most helpful to me in undertaking this practice? THE GUARDIAN OF EARTH invites you to follow your path and practices with attitudes of ….

  • tenderness
  • attention to detail
  • communing with the object, the task, the reality before you

Overall Musings:

In these cards, I see a challenge that I so often face. Solitude is a great support for me in remembering my connection to the Greater Than, but the realities of my everyday life don’t allow me to live a solitary life all the time! So how can I — or any of us nurtured by or needing solitude — bring that peacefulness, mindfulness, connection into the louder, busier world?

The Guardian of Earth as he pays attention to just what is before him shows a way. Have you ever met someone like that, someone who is able to focus just on you for a moment of connection even as chaos surrounds you both? I have met some workshop teachers like that and they seem able to access their inner Hermit no matter what is happening in the environment.

So perhaps this week, you will meet someone you know in a busy store and ask them how they are and wait with singular attention for their answer. Or there will be chaos in your kitchen while preparing a meal for hungry people, but as the food comes to the table you’ll remember to take a moment to look deeply at your food and feel gratitude.  Or you’ll realize that you’ve been giving a lot to others and – despite your full schedule — you’ll take 15 minutes to go outside and let yourself receive energy, beauty, bounty from this summer-into-fall world.  Or … the list goes on!

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Carolyn Cushing is a passionate change maker and Tarot enthusiast who loves to work with people to make positive life transitions, grow spiritually, and develop creatively. She blogs at Art of Change Tarot and her Major Arcana meditations are available at Journey into the Tarot. E-mail her at carolyn [at] artofchangetarot [dot] com for more information.

Thoughtful, sparkling comments. . .

  • Madeline Hill Tue - Aug 21st 2012 3:33 pm

    An absolutely brilliant and enlightened presentation of a new way to work with the tarot..the Gaian deck totally lends itself to this sort of exploration and I am going to immediately begin using this method of exploration as a weekly practice (Daily ,3 cards would seem a bit much..)The first weeks 3 cards already fit my world to a “t..” Will start with my own deck next monday.Thank your for sharing this wisdom!

    • Carolyn Cushing Wed - Aug 22nd 2012 5:50 am

      Greetings, Madeline! So glad that this way of working with the cards is speaking to you and that you want to adapt it as part of your practice. May the inspiration and guidance flow! Be well, Carolyn

  • Diane Wed - Aug 22nd 2012 3:13 am

    This truly is a lovely deck, not so much “predictive” of course — as tarot should not really be anyway — but really does reflect a sweet practice of living and meditating and being. I love working with this deck. And the 2 of Air, where the woman is listening to her own insight, is one of my favorite cards.

    • Carolyn Cushing Wed - Aug 22nd 2012 5:51 am

      Hi, Diane! Rachel Pollack in 78 Degrees of Wisdom identifies some cards as gateway cards. And so, yes, isn’t the 2 of Air a most wonderful gateway into listening and insight. Be well, Carolyn

  • Sue Kearney (@magnoliaswest) Wed - Aug 22nd 2012 7:34 am

    What a wonderful practice. I am inspired by this. I can’t wait to sort my cards and try it.

    Thank you for this.

    Love and light,

    • Carolyn Cushing Wed - Aug 22nd 2012 11:22 am

      So glad you like it, sue! Feel free to let us know how it works for you.

  • Madeline Hill Wed - Aug 22nd 2012 8:12 am

    I have also found the Gaian deck to be very predictive as well as teachers.In reading for myself, I have been given the heads up on exactly where a situation is headed, and guidance as to what the resolution should be.The 3 card layout in particular can be uncanny: The Opportunity,Obstacle, and Outcome reading. This week, in answer to a pressing concern I was told that my Teacher would be Mother Nature, that the lesson would show us just when I needed it and the obstacle I was facing was a lack of get myself to “higher ground” so to speak. I took this to mean I need a retreat up in my mountain cabin, have been too busy with silly “chores” here at home.I need to meditate (I have gotten very lazy with meditation lately..) and that I can find renewal .. the opportunity was related exactly tot he question I asked, also.. These are the most beautiful and powerful deck I’ve ever worked with !(Thanks again Joanna!!)

  • Carey Thu - Aug 23rd 2012 5:43 am

    This is brilliant!!! Thank you for teaching us this spread!

  • Carey Thu - Aug 23rd 2012 6:57 am

    Hi Carolyn, I love your idea of the 3 p’s and I am looking forward to putting it into practice. A great way to get to know this wonderful tarot deck.
    Joanna I really enjoyed your first video which I watch while eating my cereal. A great way to start my day.

    • Carolyn Cushing Thu - Aug 23rd 2012 7:25 am

      Ha, ha! You were feeding your body and your soul at the same time. Yes, a great way to start the day.

  • Joanna Thu - Aug 23rd 2012 9:04 am

    I am thrilled so many people are loving this juicy practice!

  • Brigit | Biddy Tarot Sun - Aug 26th 2012 12:19 am

    Hi Carolyn,

    I have a question for you. You wrote, “The people cards offer different guidance. They suggest the attitude that would be most beneficial to hold as we walk the path practicing.”

    I really love this simple explanation. But how do you apply this for reversals? Is it that this then becomes an energy or attitude you don’t want to keep, or is that we need to embrace the shadow side of the particular people card? I’m curious to understand your perspective.

    Warm regards, Brigit

    • Carolyn Cushing Mon - Aug 27th 2012 7:46 am

      The quick reply, Brigit, is that I don’t use reversals with this spread.

      Further musings on this ….

      My intention with is this spread and the posture position is to find the most beneficial approach so I don’t feel like I need to have reversals. To prepare to do this reading I have to sort and order my cards to have the 3 piles so I just put them all right side up.

      Personally, I’m that big on reversals. I remember Robert Place, creator of the Alchemical and other Tarots, saying, “Hey, I created this image to be looked at right side up.” And since I focus first on the image and the impression it gives to both the client and me, upside down isn’t usually that useful.

      I always go through the deck after a reading and see if they are right side up and then I shuffle; that is my clearing system. I let clients shuffle the deck and sometimes the way that they do it results in reversals. I hold them lightly. I say that the energy is muted, not head one. It is still available if you want to cultivate it or if you’d rather it was passing away, that is good news.

      If you – or anyone else – wanted to bring reversals into the spread, I’d say that you could do that in your normal way as you described above. And/or, the way that James Wells often talks about reversals as indicating that the action or work or meaning would be best served to be inward-focused rather than outer-or action-focused would fit very well with the intention of the spread.

      Thanks for checking out this process and asking an interesting question!

  • PaulB Wed - Aug 29th 2012 8:38 am

    Thank you! .. I’ll be trying this P.P.P …easy to remember too!

    • Carolyn Cushing Wed - Sep 05th 2012 12:25 pm

      Yes, I love the alliteration and was so happy when Della suggested Posture to make the 3rd position a P!