Gaian Soul

Earth Wisdom Tarot Sacred Art

Resource Yourself

in Gratitude, Grief

Aldermarsh path in summer

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know that 2018 was a very difficult year for me. My marriage of 20 years ended at the beginning of that year, and I sold my beloved island home at the end of it. 2019 began with with pneumonia and moving to town. After I settled into a small condo, I spent most of the winter and spring ill with a number of ailments. Now that I have mostly recovered from them, it seems to be that the enforced “slow time” of illness was a process of physical, emotional, and spiritual detoxification.

river and cottonwood leafAs I look back at the mythic arc of the last 20 months or so, I see that 2018 was a personal Tower-like year of trauma, followed by the healing grace of the Star in 2019. When I taught the Sacred Wheel course last fall, many of you heard me express my utter and complete faith that the Wheel will always turn again, will always move from despair to hope. And so it did for me.

My circle soul-sisters and my therapist were there every step of the way. The land and the sea, always, were there for me. Learning to find nature in an urban setting continues to be a delight, as does the sociability of village living. The positive response to the publication of the Herbcrafter’s Tarot has given me deep soul-shaking joy. My “Foundations of the Gaian Soul Wheel” retreat a couple of weeks ago at Aldermarsh rooted and grounded me once again in the work I’m meant to do in the world, that gives me so much pleasure and satisfaction. There are some lovely things unfolding in my personal life too, that I’m not quite ready to share.

So the tide has turned for me, the Wheel has turned once more. I am no longer taking it on faith, I’m experiencing it in my life and in my body.

And then there is the state of the world, which can take us right down into utter despair.

Resource Yourself

So today I want to share something with you that I shared first in May of last year. I need to be reminded of it right now, so it may be helpful to you as well. It’s the idea of resourcing yourself, which I first learned from Anne Hayden and Sheila Belanger of NW SoulQuest in their “Tending the Knowing Field” group facilitation course.

I saw a graphic on social media yesterday that said something like “Self-care isn’t just about bubble baths and chocolate cake. It’s about creating a life you don’t have to run away from.”  Self-care, to me, is about what you do to replenish yourself after you’ve been depleted. Resourcing yourself is deeper and is more pro-active — it’s about creating that authentic life. It’s about doing the spiritual practices that center and ground you so that you can handle whatever comes your way with equanimity, whether it’s in your personal life or how you respond to the tragedies in the world around us.

The simple act of wrapping yourself in a shawl and bundling yourself is one way to resource yourself. Engaging with the natural world is another. Singing and dancing — those too. Hugs and heartfelt conversations. Writing in your journal. Tossing the cards. There are many practices that will help you resource yourself. One that always works for me is to step outside and simply turn to each of the four directions, plus above, below, and center. I greet each direction in turn by speaking or singing from the heart, by making a gesture, and/or by making an offering.

It’s these practices, done on a regular and routine basis, that help us build the strength and resilience we need to meet difficult times with courage and calm.

open gateI wrote this in May 2018:

Resource yourself. Greet the four directions, wrap yourself in a shawl, lean into feeling how Cedar has your back. Hold hands with a sword fern. Drink sparkling dew from a cup of lady’s mantle. Move to the sound of frog song. Walk through that gate. You’ve got this.

When I wrote that, I was thinking of the end of my marriage and the new life that awaited me, and how scared and sad I was at times. But I was also thinking of transitions of all kinds … all kinds of thresholds and gateways that we each have to walk through. We’re often frightened when we need to make changes, to answer the call of Soul … and yet, it is our destiny, is it not?

Resource yourself in whatever way works best for you — then cross the threshold before you.

And so I ask you to consider:  

What are the sacred soulful practices that resource you the most? 

Make a list. Pick one or two or three, and do them as often as you can. 💚


(From my NL, 8.28.19)

Listen to a Community Call about the Herbcrafter’s Tarot

in Herbcrafter’s Tarot

This is the replay of our Zoom community call that was held on June 19th to celebrate the release of the Herbcrafter’s Tarot.  Latisha Guthrie and I shared our creative process, answered lots of lovely questions, and we all did some one-card readings. Out deep appreciation goes out to everyone who showed up for the call. We’ll do another one in a few weeks. Just click on the photo above (or here) and it will take you the video on Vimeo.

The call is about 90 minutes long. If you’d rather listen to it without watching the video, here’s a link to the audio file.

Seven Ways to Get to Know the Herbcrafter’s Tarot

in Herbcrafter’s Tarot, Herbs, Tarot

Get to Know the Herbcrafter's Tarot

I’ve been teaching tarot a long time, and you may have heard me say that I encourage you to trust your own intuitive take on a card before reading the book. I’ve also said that you should not assume that your own take on the card is wrong, if it’s different from what is written in the book. It’s important to develop your own relationship with the cards outside of what the deck creator intended.

However, the Herbcrafter’s Tarot is a deck where I strongly encourage you to read and use the companion book, especially if you are not already familiar with herbs and plants. The energy and message of the particular plant we chose for each card is just as important as the traditional tarot meaning. There are specific qualities assigned to the numbers, people cards, and elements in the HCT which will also enhance your understanding of the deck. (You can read all about it in the book!)

My co-creator Latisha Guthrie and I were inspired by our friend Ellen Lorenzi-Prince’s Dark Goddess Tarot to write three “pithy wisdom statements” (as we call them) for each card. Those three sentences appear first on each card’s page and are a kind of distillation of the wisdom of the card and the plant.

For example, for The Empress, Rose:

Be vulnerable, yet strong.
Nurture love and compassion.
See beauty and abundance in every stage of life.

Latisha wrote the book, and she did a beautiful job. It is full of heart-felt experience and wisdom. I hope you love it as much as I do!

Herbcrafter's Tarot and Roses

Seven Ways to Get to Know the Herbcrafter’s Tarot

Choose a card ...1. Go through the deck, pulling out the cards that particularly attract you. Write about the card in your journal, especially noting any personal associations you may have with the plant or other imagery on the card. Then look the card up in the book and notice any particular sentences or phrases that jump out at you.

2. Pull one card a day and write about the card in your journal; your own impressions first, followed by something you learned from the book. Be sure to notice any cards that show up more than once in a week or a month; those cards are calling you!

3. Do a “Getting to Know You” Spread.

My friend Deb Strom likes to ask a new deck these three questions:

  • What type of relationship will we have?
  • What must I do in this relationship?
  • What will I receive in this relationship?

I would add a fourth question:

  • How can I best serve the spirit of this deck?

4. Do an Interview Spread.

I first saw this spread on an Instagram post by Morgan Josey Glover, and I love it. She says that when she gets a new deck she asks it the following questions to set intentions for working with it. It’s a variation of a spread in Courtney Alexander’s guidebook to the Dust II Onyx Tarot.

  • What is your main characteristic?
  • What is your strength?
  • What is your weakness?
  • What is the key lesson you teach?
  • How do you deliver your wisdom?
  • What is the potential outcome of our relationship?

(Morgan posted a two-part video of her interview spread with the Herbcrafter’s Tarot here. Very fun!)

5. After pulling a card from the Herbcrafter’s Tarot, pull the corresponding card from the Gaian Tarot or another favorite deck to compare and enhance the meaning of the card.

6. Look at your Birth Cards to see which plants may be calling you as allies for further study and relationship. (For example, my Birth Cards are the Tower / Chariot. In the HCT, the corresponding plants are Mushroom and Cedar.)

You can learn how to calculate your own Tarot Birth Cards from our friends at the Tarot School here.

My friend Sara Galactica is doing some lovely work reframing tarot birth card “constellations” as ecosystems. Read all about it here.

Herbcrafter's Tarot Empress Rose7. Take a few cards that particularly call you and anchor them in the physical world by crafting with the plants. For example, for Rose, Latisha shares these suggestions in the HCT book:

Crafting with the Empress

Arrange rose thorns and petals together on your altar to cultivate vulnerability and strength.

Create a rosary out of rose buds, rose hips, or dried rose petal beads for love and compassion.

Celebrate the many stages of life by learning the remedies for each season of the rose: rose buds for childhood, full blooms for midlife, and hips for elderhood.

I’m sure you have your own favorite way of getting to know a new deck too. I hope these ideas are helpful!

Coming Spring 2019: The Herbcrafter’s Tarot!

in Herbcrafter’s Tarot, Herbs, Tarot

Herbcrafter's Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert and Latisha Guthrie

I am over-the-moon thrilled to let you know about the new tarot deck I’ve been working on for the past three years, the Herbcrafter’s Tarot!

I created it with my friend Latisha Guthrie of I know tarot, Latisha knows herbs. We collaborated on the content, I did the artwork, and Latisha wrote the book. Together we’ve created something unique and beautiful! The deck and book set will be released by US Games in the Spring of 2019.

Here’s what it’s all about:

The Herbcrafter’s Tarot celebrates the handicrafts, tools, and time-honored folk skills related to herbs, trees, flowers, and other plants that share their gifts with us. The deck and book set explores the relationship between herbs and how people use them for medicine, creativity, delight, tools, ritual, and spiritual guidance.

It is not solely about the properties of specific plants, but our human connection to them. We focus on the craft instead of the clinical and the art instead of the astrological.

The Herbcrafter’s Tarot tells the story of the maker as much as the plants. 

It’s an engaging introduction to herbalism and plant spirit magic, and can be used as a profound divinatory tool. The set includes a 78-card deck and a 124-page book full of herbal inspiration and ideas for crafting with the cards.

“The magic is in the making.”

3 cards from the Herbcrafter's Tarot

From now until the deck’s release in the spring, Latisha and I will be sharing sneak peeks at some of the cards on Instagram and Facebook. I’ll also be sharing in my e-letter, Messages from Sea & Cedar.

If you are on Instagram, please follow our new Herbcrafter’s Tarot account (@herbcrafterstarot).

I hope you are as delighted by this good news as I am, and I wish you a most joyful Solstice!

Tarot Spread for Winter Solstice

in Tarot, Winter Solstice, Yule

Today the Moon is in its balsamic phase, the depths of darkness in the lunar cycle, when we surrender to the unknown. We also find ourselves in the darkest part of the solar year in the Northern Hemisphere, as the days grow shorter until Winter Solstice. This alignment of darkness in both the lunar and solar cycle makes it a potent time for divination, especially in exploring the gifts of darkness.
I designed this spread for those who, like me, are having a hard time with the onset of winter this year. Darkness comes early and stays late, as we approach the shortest day of the year on Winter Solstice. For many of us living in northern latitudes, winter can bring on depression, grief, and memories of all we have lost.

And yet the darkness has gifts for us as well … of dreaming, of rest, and of honoring our sorrow.

Come, toss the cards with me, and listen to the whispers of wisdom in your heart …

  1. Darkness / Dismemberment / Brokenness.
    What have you lost? What are you grieving? What is broken within you?
    (If you get a positive card in this position, you might want to read its shadow side or reversed meaning.)
  2. Promise / Rebirth of the Sun / Renewal.
    What is the promise of renewal that will come with the dawn of Winter Solstice?
  3. Integration of Dark and Light.
    How do the darkness and the dawn intertwine? What wisdom do they create together?
  4. Gift of the Darkness / Remember.
    What is the gift of the broken time, hidden in the darkness? What longs to be re-membered and restored?

My Own Reading

  1. Darkness: Two of Water (Cups).This is my broken heart, the loss of my marriage of 18 years, which ended in divorce earlier this year.
  2. Promise: Ten of Earth (Pentacles). Death and decay become compost for new life. I take my place as an elder and beloved member of my community. I still have much to give.
  3. Integration: Three of Fire (Wands). Dark and light, sorrow and joy, come together in the creative process, as I “take my broken heart and turn it into art.” (Carrie Fisher)
  4. Gift: Tree (Hanged One). The gift of the darkness is release, surrender, letting go of what once was, and opening up to the unknown. I especially see this as I sort through possessions and give away more than half of what I own, preparing to downsize and leave my beloved home for a much smaller place. There is pain, yet freedom and promise in letting go of so much. It opens up a huge space that I am content not to fill up, just yet.

If you are having a hard time this winter, I hope you try out this spread. I hope it brings you comfort and peace.

(Registration is now open for a new email-based course called “Seasons of the Sun & Moon: Root Yourself in Nature’s Rhythms,” in which we’ll follow the cycles of the sun and moon all year long. Please join us!)