Gaian Soul

Earth Wisdom Tarot Sacred Art

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!)

Create Community Circles

in Circle Way, Community

One of the things I am hearing from many people is how challenging it can be to find a community of like-minded people.

I’d like to reframe that desire from finding community to creating it.

Community can be one or two people gathering together.
Community can be sipping tea with a far-off friend via Skype or FaceTime and having a good chat.
Community can be inviting an acquaintance to lunch.
Community can be picking up the phone and calling an old friend you haven’t talked to in a long time.
Community can be created by taking a class, or teaching one, on a favorite topic.
Community can be created by finding a way to serve.

Don’t wait for the just-right community to come along.

Create it instead.

I’ve started a number of local circles over the years. My own preference is for a circle of people who want to support each other’s life path, rather than a focus on ritual or study. I’ve found that the following format for a monthly 3-hour circle works well for a group of 4-8 folks: a check-in (using the Circle Way methodology), a seasonal activity (usually a craft or tarot play), and a potluck meal. In the past, I’ve invited a few people I know well and a few people I’d like to know better, and I’ve asked them each to invite a friend. It’s an easy way to get a local circle started. A different person can host each month, and that works out well too.

If you still feel at a loss as to how to find anyone to invite to such a circle, start by putting out the call. Go to your altar (or to the moon or the woods or the sea), and ask. Put out the call and be alert in waiting for a response. Sniff out the synchronicities. Expect magic to happen!

And remember, you can start with a circle of two.

(From my e-letter, November 21, 2018)

A Blessing for Place

in Place

Marsh House, Aldermarsh, Whidbey Island

When I visit the east coast, I’m always a bit disoriented to realize that the element of water is found in the east, not in the west. I’ve been calling the directions for over 30 years and have always placed water in the west. But that is not everyone’s experience of their own landbase!  So I started a practice of really centering myself in Place by imagining what physical features actually exist in each of the directions.

How might you honor the four directions that radiate out from the Place where you live or the Place you are visiting?

Begin by honoring the original inhabitants of the land. Do a little research, if you don’t already know. This map will help you discover who they are. Land acknowledgment is a simple yet powerful way of showing respect for indigenous people’s history and culture. (Here’s more information on why it’s so important.)

Then consider each direction in turn, studying maps and finding out more about the area’s natural and cultural history.

Here’s an example of a blessing I wrote for a gathering at Aldermarsh Retreat Center on Whidbey Island.

We respectfully acknowledge the Coast Salish tribes on whose homeland we meet; the Skagit, Swinomish, and Snohomish people who have stewarded this land throughout generations. We are grateful for the more-than-humans (the plants, the animals, the stones, and more) with whom we share this earth.

Now we open our hearts and minds to the Four Directions that radiate out from this gathering place, this Marsh House.

In the East, we greet the alder marsh, the gardens, the Chinook lands of the Whidbey Institute, the water that separates us from the mainland, and farther on, the glistening Cascade Mountains.

In the South, we greet the fields and beaches of this green island, the waters that we cross to reach the metropolis of Seattle, and farther beyond, the great shining mountain Tahoma.

In the West, we greet the beaches and waters of the Salish Sea, the luscious Hoh rainforest on the peninsula, and the vast Pacific Ocean beyond.

In the North, we greet Grandparent Fir, and the islands and waters of the Salish Sea; the small cities, towns, fields and farmlands, all the way to the pastoral lands and cities of British Columbia.

We give thanks for the Great Above, the Great Below, and the center, the still point of the turning world.

I invite you to write a blessing of the Four Directions for the Place where you find yourself today, and share it here in the comments. 

This exercise is part of my upcoming course, The Sacred Wheel: An Exploration of the Cycle of Life, Death, & Renewal through Nature, Tarot, & Art.  I hope you’ll join me!  We start September 10th. 


What the Sea Taught Me When I Was 18

in Grief, Moments of Grace, Nature Connection

little corona

I had the good fortune to visit my friend Jennifer Lucero-Earle in southern California last week for a few days of work and play. I grew up in the area, and found myself experiencing a profound, nostalgic return to the landscape of my childhood and young adulthood.

One of the places Jennifer and I visited is a beach called “Little Corona del Mar.” This was one of the first places I ever knew as a sacred landscape, even though I didn’t have that language for it.

When I was 18 years old and a student at the University of California at Irvine, my high school boyfriend was killed by a drunk driver. I was inconsolable. It was the first time in my life I had ever experienced a great trauma. For months after his death, I would leave campus frequently and head for Little Corona, where I wandered around the tide pools and sat gazing out at the ocean. For hours at a time, I watched the waves roll in and roll out again, over and over and over.

little corona rockThe sea taught me that love doesn’t die, because even though my young man was gone, my love for him remained, alive and glowing like a living thing. The tides were teaching me about the cyclical nature of life, although I didn’t recognize it at the time. Two high tides and two low tides a day, ebb and flow, ebb and flow again. The coming and the going, the leaving and the returning: I learned that this can be counted on, as faithful as the phases of the moon or the round of the seasons.

This sensory body-knowledge served me well as my life unfolded, and I danced with Lady Death multiple times over the decades. I experienced the deaths of both parents, of my beloved son, and of several good friends, as well as my own close brush with Lady Death four times.

pink rose

When Jennifer and I visited Little Corona last week, I felt a profound sense of welcome — of both recognizing the Place and being recognized by it. You might dismiss my experience as my imagination, and I’m fine with characterizing that way. Or perhaps there is a more ancient wisdom at play here: that when we love the land, it loves us right back.

After a few hours on the beach, Jennifer and I climbed the steep hill up to the streets above, and were rewarded by the delightful sight of two monarch butterflies (symbols of the souls of the dead) fluttering through a rose garden, dancing with each other, and leading us ever on.

Me & the Sea

My five-year-old self comes out to play with Mama Ocean!

Coming later this year …

The Sacred Wheel:
An Exploration of the Cycle of Life / Death / Renewal

Through Nature, Tarot, & Art

Video with Jennifer and meI’m hard at work (and having a grand time) creating this new online course. It’s based on the one-day workshop I did at the Kingston Tarot Lenormand Conference last November but goes into greater depth. I am excited about adding a somatic element to the work, with videos that Jennifer and I shot last week in California.

The Sacred Wheel embodies the cycle of life, death, and rebirth: all things begin, grow, peak, begin to wane, and die. And something is left as a seed for a new cycle to begin. In this course, we’ll learn how to make the Sacred Wheel come alive for us through tarot exercises and spreads, somatic explorations, herbcraft, sacred art, and “wild wander” walks in nature. And more!

The teaching I’m weaving into this course is the culmination of decades of learning and teaching, rooted in my own personal journey. In some ways it began back there on that little beach at Corona Del Mar.

I hope you’ll join me!  Registration opens August 21st.

Dreaming of Tulsi & Roses

in Goddess, Herbs, Retreat, Spiritual Practice

This past winter has been a time of deep introspection for me, and I wonder if it has been for you, too. In December and January I felt like I was sitting at a crossroads, waiting, waiting, waiting … making friends with the liminal space of not-knowing, of being in-between. I spent a lot of time seeking wisdom, fine-tuning my ability to discern the call of Soul, as I wrote about in last month’s e-letter. As the Yuletide season became Brigid’s season and we approach Persephone’s return at Spring Equinox, the way ahead is much more clear to me. I still find myself in liminal space; one phase of my life is passing away and a new phase has yet to begin. But I am finding myself much more grounded and looking forward to seeing what unfolds for the rest of 2018 and beyond.

I spent the last two weeks on retreat — first with my Northwest Soulquest mentors in a group facilitation training called “Tending the Knowing Field” at my beloved Aldermarsh, where a sudden snowstorm surprised and delighted us. I was home for two days when I turned around and went back to Whidbey Island to join Christina Baldwin and a small circle of women to “write like heaven” (as Christina says) for a week. I worked on the Sacred Wheel book that I’ve had in my back pocket for a few years now, working on the second (or is it third?) draft. Listening to the women read from their own work each night was another kind of heaven. (I cannot recommend Christina’s “Self as Source of the Story” writing retreats highly enough. If you think you might want to give this gift to yourself, she still has room in her May and December retreats.)

One of my winter practices has been tracking the connections between my dreams, tarot imagery, and wild wanders (contemplative walks) on the land. I want to share one dream and wild wander episode with you that touched my heart deeply.

Tulsi, photo by Latisha Guthrie

Tulsi plant, photo by Latisha Guthrie

This past year, the Green Ones have calling to me strongly. One herb I fell in love with is the plant tulsi (or holy basil), which is native to India. I grew a lovely tulsi plant in my garden, going outside each day during the growing season to sing to it and make offerings. I harvested and dried the leaves for fragrant tea. The plant didn’t make it through the winter, even though I brought it inside in a pot. After it died, I brushed the dirt off its roots and put them on my altar as a symbol of the Ancient Ones. I continue to honor Tulsi each day and look forward to tending a new plant this coming year.

Last month I had one of those big, numinous dreams that feels like a visitation. In the dream, I was holding a baby aloft, holding her up to be blessed. Then the scene changed and a very strong image of an Indian woman’s head and hands “filled the screen” in a close-up. She was larger than life, wearing a jewel-colored sari, with sleek oiled black hair, ornate earrings, and a gold nose hoop. She smiled a mysterious smile. I realized she looked like a human representation of the “Tulasi Devi” figurines I have seen — she was the Goddess Tulsi.

In the dream, she held her hands up in a cup to her lips and blew colored powder or powdered herbs into the air. I was not sure what she was blowing, but I knew it was a blessing. Her gesture mimicked the way I held up the baby. I had the sense that she was like a fairy godmother blessing the newborn baby, bestowing gifts on her. I knew the Goddess Tulsi was blessing the next stage of my life as if it were a new-born baby. I felt profound gratitude and awe of the sacred.

wild rose thicket & cottonwoodsAbout a week later, I was on a “wild wander” on the Aldermarsh land, communing with Cottonwood and Fir and Cedar. I approached a wild rose thicket, and began singing “She Who Hears the Cries of the World” to it. (I identify Rose with the Blessed Mother, and with the Empress tarot card.) In February, there were no roses in bloom of course; the thicket consisted of bare thorn-covered branches and stems with a few red and black withering rose hips. As I sang, I began crying as I experienced the rose thicket embodying the presence of the Holy Mother. “She has a heart big enough to hold the suffering of the entire world,” I thought, as I prayed for the our country, the students in Florida, and specific people I know who are suffering in body or spirit. Then I found myself lifting my hands up to blow blessings onto the rose thicket, to bless the prayers I had made, mimicking the gesture of the Goddess Tulsi in my dream. I wandered back inside to get warm and made myself a cup of tea.

“Holy cow!” I said out loud as I began sipping the tea from my mug. “I’ve been drinking Tulsi Rose tea for the past month!” Of course those two plants came together to bring me such a potent, moving message. They’ve been nourishing my body and spirit all month long.

I pass this practice on to you. Start tracking the connections between imagery in your dreams, in tarot cards, in your daily life, and in wild wanders around your neighborhood. The sacred is always present, if we only have eyes to see.

(Photos above: Grandmother Fir at Aldermarsh in the February snow; a potted Tulsi plant, photo by Latisha Guthrie; and Rose Thicket & Cottonwoods at Aldermarsh.)