High Priestess Musings: Wondering About Nuns

By Carrie Sanders

The High Priestess has secrets to tell - Rider Waite tarot deck

The High Priestess has secrets to tell – Rider Waite tarot deck


I live across the street from a convent in Krakow and nuns cross my path daily.  They usually travel in pairs, chatting in whispery front-of-the mouth Polish.  I have seen them at the corner Jubilat, weighing strawberries, selecting canned goods, and once, to my delight, briskly sorting through a bin of bras.  They are all ages, but even the youngest ones seem ancient and seem transported from the Old World in their habits and plain faces.  I am fascinated by them to the point of impoliteness, peering into their shopping carts and straining to hear their voices.

I wonder what they think of the salon next door that advertises “Lipo-shock!” and gel tip nails.  I wonder what the reaction would be if, like me, they were told by a dermatologist that “your face is starting to slip from the architecture of your face.”  I wonder if they worry about their teeth crowding or suddenly noticing a vinegary smell to their skin after a walk in hot weather.  I wonder if they see their wrinkles as a mark of another year- a gift from God- and nothing more.  Do they think about their ovaries withering and the monthly reminders of what will never be?  Do they just grow old together and laugh as their bodies fall apart behind those cloistered walls?

How does a nun spend her nights? I imagine a big room with iron framed single beds like an 18th century orphanage, a white gowned virgin snoring softly under each wool blanket. I wonder if, sometimes, one of the sisters across the street is awake in the worrying hours. Does she imagine their own personal version of Christ holding her in His arms and stroking her hair until she is lulled into sleep like a Sunday morning cat? Does she imagine the calming warmth of Him against her back?  Would this pleasure even occur to her?

I wonder if they get jealous of their sister wives needing their shared heavenly husband more- or less- than they do.  I wonder if they get stuck in the awful conditional tense of the lovelorn, “If He loved me as I thought He did, why do I hurt so bad?”  Do they feel lost, unloved, or cheated by the partner they have chosen for life?  In effect, are some of them in bad marriages and too afraid of the consequence of breaking the commitment and starting anew?

Or are the virgin crones in the Siostry truly called and constant in their devotion?  Are they secure in their purpose while the rest of us women worry about our neck skin?  What do they make of me walking by, phone in hand, unfocused and distracted as I make my way down the road we share?

Rejecting the 4 of Cups Life

the 4 of cups - Klimt and Rider-Waite tarot decks

the 4 of cups – Klimt and Rider-Waite tarot decks

by Carrie Sanders

I once had a palmist take one look at my hand and say “Ooh, it’s Little Miss Not Enough.” This is a perfect example of the 4 of cups tarot card. The traditional image portrays a person (sometimes male, sometimes female) sitting under a tree with his arms crossed gazing at three cups before them, and another cup being offered by a hand in a cloud. At the most basic, cups represent emotions and aspects of life that you care deeply about- relationships, opportunities and choices that evoke the heart. This card is an image of being so emotionally stuck or apathetic that everything is met with a “meh” and a shrug. They are refusing what is on offer like a petulant child. I am reminded of a friend’s child on her 9th birthday. When she was asked what she thought of her cake she responded with a sullen: “Well, it’s not my favorite.”

The querent who pulls a 4 of Cups card is caught between reflection and action. It’s a card of divine discontent and refusal to see the strength of the number 4, which creates a balanced foundation to build upon. Cups are literally being offered to you from the heavens and you are too oblivious to your own good fortune to appreciate them.

When the bottom dropped out of my marriage and I traveled for 6 weeks from China to the US via Europe (the trail of tears), I was completely blind with pain. A dear friend was driving me to the airport in Amsterdam for the 5th leg of my trip across the world to stay with friends in yet another country when I started to cry about all I had lost: my home, my husband, my life in Shanghai. She quietly said “Do you know when I got divorced I also went bankrupt and I had no money to move out so I lived with that man for another year? Do you know he didn’t sign the divorce papers for 7 years out of spite?” It was call to snap out of my self pity and see what was actually before me. I left an awful situation and my heart was broken, but I had the cups of friendship, money, and freedom before me. That 4th cup being offered at that moment was perspective. I had the good sense to accept it.

I always thought the worst thing that could happen was for my choices to be taken away from me. I have found that it is actually much worse when you have choices but don’t care about any of them- in fact a lack of interest in life is a classic symptom of depression. Soon after I returned to the US I accepted a job opportunity in the Middle East. Within 6 weeks it became clear that the company was not viable and I had to leave the country suddenly, which began another cycle of travel, uncertainty, and what-does-it-all-mean confusion. I ran again to Europe to experience a full blown existential crisis. I remember wandering around Rome and thinking, “Is this the point of my life? I just wander around the world and look at things?” I was in ROME for god’s sake! I was relatively financially solvent, unencumbered by obligation, healthy and employable. My cups were full my emotional bandwidth was totally depleted. It’s a feeling akin to when my grandpa broke his hip but was otherwise in good health and was approached by the nursing staff to discuss physical rehabilitation- his simple response was “You know, I just don’t have the gumption.” He died within weeks.

At times it seems that the world can echo your own feelings of inadequacy. When I arrived in Krakow after my midnight run from the Middle East, I stayed at a hotel owned by a friend of mine. There was some confusion as to the length of my stay as I was completely undecided about my next step. When I asked the Polish landlady to extend my stay, she seemed irritated by my lack of planning. She had a word with my friend and asked, “How old is your friend Carrie and why doesn’t she have anything?”- meaning a job, a family, a house, or a plan. At 41, clearly you should at least have at least one pot on the burner.

It’s a fair question. It’s the same question I howled into a poncho bunched into a pillow the first night I stayed in my own tiny Krakow flat. I shivered under a towel through the dark hours because I hadn’t had time to shop for bedding prior to moving in. Why don’t I have anything? I felt like I made the right choices. I waited until I was 37 to get married to a man I had known for 10 years. Astrological compatibility seemed guaranteed- we were born on the exact same day. I worked my entire life. I put myself through school. I had money in the bank, took lots of vacations, and loved the hell outta my dog. I thought my cups were full by any measure- and perhaps they were for a time- but lightning hit the tower and all my cups were shattered in an instant.

I write this from my flat in Krakow Poland with an unknown future, as the pigeons coo mournfully and slam themselves against my kitchen window and Carole King plays on repeat. I have adopted a different approach to taking my inventory now. It’s simplified and liberating to accept the cups that appear now and ever after with graceful gratitude.

The Queen of Swords Don’t Care

The Queen of Swords - Rider-Waite and Morgan-Greer tarot decks (recpectively)

The Queen of Swords – Rider-Waite and Morgan-Greer tarot decks (respectively)

I recently decided to leave Rome. Many ask why I would want to leave such a beautiful place/easy life, but, many don’t know that I made crucial sacrifices to live here. While it was fun, inspiring, intriguing and challenging for the five months I have been here, there were many facets of my life that left me feeling somewhat bored and powerless. I did not live in my own space, I had to deal with clashing, intensely critical, judgmental personalities and not-so-subtle power dynamics in which I couldn’t escape, but did my best to ignore (how much namaste the shit away can you do?).

Bottom line, I felt as if my life wasn’t mine. I had to make a decision. I made a Queen of Swords, cut-the-bullshit decision based on the wisdom I’ve acquired, based on heart (intuitive)/mind (perceptive) self-reflection. I decided to set my own course, a course in service to myself (that extends outward to others). A course that falls in line with my talents and strengths rather than fights against it.

The queen of swords often gets a bad rap. She’s the “loner spinster” woman of the tarot deck – “A woman widowed!” The Rider Waite deck definition: “Widowhood, female sadness and embarrassment, absence, sterility, mourning, privation, separation.” Probably written by someone under the Patriarchy’s thumb. Just being honest. As the Queen of Swords would be.

I come from Puerto Rico, and my people like to call trailblazing types a “candela pura.” Candela puras are often thought of as eccentric, they follow their own beat and don’t really fit into society’s norms. Culturally, these types are not necessarily frowned upon, just observed as maybe being “different.”

and the Queen of swords IS different.

The other queens in tarot are depicted as being more mothering, sacrificing archetypes, the queen of wands would be depicted as a muse, the queen of cups is the selfless, unconditional caretaker and queen of pentacles provides a kind of security and abundant care taking role (I will feed you!). The queen of swords isn’t for really anybody else (except maybe higher minded things like justice, or humanity), she is first for herself. We shouldn’t mistake her as being unfeeling for putting herself first – she has all the feels, she is ruled by water just like the other queens. But The Queen of Swords knows heartbreak and mourning. Her keen eye of discernment both engenders and alienates. She is the bullshit minimizer in a world that mostly rewards bullshit maximizers or co-dependents. “I will care more about your problems than you will,” the other queens might say. She’s the opposite.

The Queen of Swords is a badass. Her archetype is further characterized in Latin American culture as the Mexican slang word, “chingona.” Urban dictionary defines the “chingona” as a “really fuckin’ cool girl.” Mexican poetess Sandra Cisneros has this to say about this cultural rebel:

“It takes a long time for women to feel it’s alright to be chingona. To aspire to be a chingona!…You are saying, ‘This is my camino, this is my path and I’m gonna follow it, regardless of what culture says.’ I don’t think the church likes chingonas. I don’t think the state likes chingonas! And fathers definitely do not like chingonas. And boyfriends don’t like chingonas. But, you know, I remain optimistic. I will meet a man who likes a chingona, one day. One day, my chingon will come.”

The queen of swords truly doesn’t give a fuck. In Asian culture, her archetype might be Hua Mulan from the poem Ballad of Mulan. You might be familiar with her from the Disney movie. Mulan was a woman warrior who fought in place of her father. Here is a quote from the text:

“They ask Daughter who’s in her heart,
They ask Daughter who’s on her mind.
“No one is on Daughter’s heart,
No one is on Daughter’s mind.”

And do you know why? She don’t give no fucks. QUEEN OF SWORDS Y’ALL.

For anyone familiar with the mythic tarot, the queen of swords is portrayed as the Greek goddess Atalanta. Atalanta was an interesting figure. She was raised by a she-bear and learned to hunt like a bear. #GOALS. She was also one of those virgin huntresses not unlike Artemis, who didn’t want to marry. Some dude even wanted to marry her but she refused him. Also, she would only date guys that beat her at hunting and/or racing. Even then, an ensuing coupledom was precarious at best. Zeus turned her and her partner into lions. Oh well! Life as a queen of swords isn’t for the faint-hearted.

The Morgan-Greer tarot deck illustrates the queen of swords surrounded by roses. The rose is a perfect symbol for this queen – a symbol for both beauty and pain. T.S Eliot elegantly conveys her beauty and terror combined with the symbolism of the rose in (arguably my favorite) the poem Ash Wednesday,

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

The Queen of Swords is quite often alone. And so what. We are destined in life to hold this duality: that we are utterly supported by the universe, and that we are inevitably alone in this world. No one can entirely be there for us. The Queen of Swords intrinsically knows this. Listen, boys and girls, if there’s anything she can teach you it’s this: boyfriends/girlfriends don’t have to like you. and neither does the church. You’re alright being you, thorns and all.

Bet on Yourself: a Scorpionic Odyssey.

Death and Sun tarot cards – an invitation to transformation and clarity of purpose. Morgan-Greer tarot deck.

By Carrie Sanders, a Gemini

To put it bluntly, these past six months have been an endless buffet of shit. It all started last year on the solar eclipse in Scorpio. Seedy, scorpionic secrets revealed is probably an understatement. I am full to bursting with feelings of injustice, failure, anger, and anxiety. I am not sure if it’s the stars or cards, but the grimy lunch lady of life keeps ladling heaping helpings of pain on my plate. It’s enough to make me push back from the table and adopt a kind of anorexia to life. I would rather not have anything at all, thank you very much. It’s preferable to the emotional binge and purge of not quite digesting my emotions and spewing negativity back into the world. That’s terrible for your body and soul- bulimics die of heart attacks.

There is a great Fred Rogers quote that has been in my mind lately: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” I am looking for the helpers now; people who have already taken their pain and transformed it into wisdom, art, or service to others.

Finding people with pain is the easy part. I have lived abroad for most of my adult life in places like Eastern Europe where people my age remember lining up for bread or China where people live under governmental control and censorship. I have lived in the Middle East where an entire servant class has been imported and people sleep in bunkbeds, 10 to a flat. Comparatively, I know my “Eat, Pray Love” white lady problems might not incite a call to action to protest any of my trauma of the past year (Stop Husbands from Sleeping with Prostitutes! We Demand Legally Protective Contracts with Overseas Employers! Excess Baggage Fees Should Be Fixed and Reasonable!) but pain is pain and I am full to the back teeth with it.

I am searching for my mentors now. The people who have been emotionally guts-on-the floor unzipped and now understand compassion. People who went all in and lost but are grateful for the experience. People who were betrayed but still believe in love. People who, like me, have been repeatedly redirected but have trust that there is a purpose and a plan. People who move forward and through their own version of hell without circumventing the lessons pain provides. People with strength, character, and perseverance.

I think there is a common spark in these people- a confidence and a willingness to trust themselves. There is freedom to losing everything- the worst has already happened and you’re still standing. I have started the self talk that I believe will get me through. It’s simply this: I’m a good bet. I bet on me.

It’s a start. It’s a mantra I tell myself when I want to stop the cycle of late night anxiety (and I want to save those Cambodian Valiums for when I really need ‘em). It’s become my response to doubt and frustration over the lack of traction I have had in the last 8 countries and 7 months. It’s something I say out loud to people who have watched me go through some of the most stressful of human experiences in a short period of time. (Though I am afraid it can be a bit lost in translation- I had a long conversation with a Polish friend about getting through the difficulties in my life because I am a good bet and his response was “Why do you keep telling me you are good in bed?” Yes, friends, this guy listened to me cheer myself on for 10 minutes with the understanding that I was bragging about my sexual prowess- I will get through a painful divorce and a lack of a career direction at 41 because I am GOOD IN BED.)

I am still at the table The moon is full in Scorpio as I write this and I have a semblance of what the universe is trying to show me through this 6-month roller-coaster odyssey. I will be slowly and carefully deciding what I need to nourish me and what are simply empty calories. I will make the choice to do the hard smart thing when the urge is to just order a bottle of wine and be done with it. I will take my lumps and eat my vegetables- and no one can take my plate and give me the bill until I am good and ready.

Journey to Rome

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A church in Rome

I have all sorts of fantastical ideas for what brought me to Rome – some more practical, and others less practical. I needed a break from the hyper-capitalist hustle of South Korea, I needed a break from teaching, from worrying about my “next step.” Italy, another peninsula (I end up in them God knows why, Florida!??!), seemed like a safe refuge from all the frenetic movement of life in Seoul. While Italy DID in fact provide me with such breaks, as the old saying goes, “you can’t escape yourself.” We all attend to reflections of parts of ourselves wherever we go, both good and bad, and it is no different in Italy, except maybe the coffee is better, the gelato and weather and all manner of fleshly desires are better. Overall, a trade up from the intensity of Seoul – where, for me, and I quote from Keats, “I am, however young, writing at random – straining at particles of light in the midst of a great darkness…” …ok, I’m exaggerating, but still….dark times.

On a more esoteric level, I had some unfinished business I needed to attend to in Rome. In other words, there were a few past-lives I needed to come to terms with before moving on. Visions of ancient Rome came to me during my time in Seoul – I was a man, part of an elite legion, who foresaw manipulation and intrigue at the hands of a corrupt government, I issued warning to friends and family before escaping in isolation for the rest of my days. The visions were specific – I defected from the Roman empire during an underwater ambush….I fled to the “north” where my only friends were passerbys and animals. I died. Alone.

The Ace of Cups – an invitation to deeper connection

I dunno, maybe I have a particularly active imagination. At any rate, I thought I’d come to terms with a few things while here, and well, the opportunity presented itself to me (from a woman hand surgeon – another story for later), so I took up the offer. At first it was all gelato and limoncello, but as I took long walks I began to walk into church after church and seeing the crypts of several saints. Morbidly curious, I began to look up each saint and their patronage and leaving tangible prayers (candles) in each church for myself, friends, humanity. I unknowingly embarked on a pilgrimage that ended with the Vatican. I prayed to Saint Sebastian who was martyred by arrows and LIVED, Saint Cecilia, patron saint of flute, Saint Valentine, patron saint of lovers, and several others with bizarre patronages I may or may not be protected from (bubonic plague anyone?).

I am still currently in Rome, and all I can say is that the experience has been intense and fantastic. When I leave this place I will have fodder for years about what it all meant, and can only hope it will all unfold with beautiful understanding about myself and others, as well as deepen my connection to creativity and beauty. Maybe a few miracles to boot (thank you Saints).

Along the way, I’ve met with my wondrous partner-in-crime, Carrie Sanders, who is based in Krakow. We prayed and shed our anger and sads (there’s a lot to be angry about in the post-modern world let’s be real here) at the altar of several churches, walked 40 miles in 4 days, and ate pasta. We talked tarot, and we’re ready to share the magic and mystery of how tarot can help you navigate through the times we live in.

Photo of the Week – The Lovers

Celestial Bodies Aligned –  sexy Alex has her sun in Scorpio, I have my moon in Scorpio.  My friend Yusuf Gamieldien, a photographer, snapped this photo during the sun-moon conjunction in Scorpio new moon eclipse.  Like attracts like as depicted in the Major Arcana card, The Lovers.  I bought these dresses in Korea, both are the same cut, one in black and one in white. never worn.  You can purchase them at $25 a piece and be cool like the Asians! Message me for details: cardsnstarstarot@gmail.com

the lovers3

VI The Lovers, Photo by Yusuf Gamieldien


Tarot Combination of the Day (Friday Oct. 31, 2014) – 2 of Pentacles and 8 of Swords

2014-10-31 02.00.06

2 of pentacles and 8 of swords, Centennial Waite Deck

Happy Halloween/Samhain!  Your Halloween reading is all about what stops you from keeping you in the flow of abundance.  The idea I get is that, your mind, your outdated beliefs stop you from keeping in the flow.

The first card is the 2 of pentacles.  I see this card as the flow of abundance…having a sense of play about living in the material world, of participating in life, of understanding the intrinsic idea of E=MC2.  Energy and Matter are intertwined, do what you love and you’ll see the flow of material resources.  Crowley assigns this card’s astrological association to Jupiter in Capricorn, which is ruled by Saturn.  Both Jupiter and Saturn are completely at odds, but when working together, capable of BIG things.   Jupiter expands, Saturn contracts, Jupiter is optimistic, Saturn is more pragmatic.  Jupiter has BIG ideas, Saturn has PRACTICAL ideas.  Together, a formidable force – doing that thing you love but with a solid grounding.  If you look at the card, he is on solid ground, despite his funny hat and precarious juggling and wacky waves in the background.  The card urges you have room to be WILD when you come from a place of flow, which, according to some new age circles means, LOVE.  Do what you love dudes, it may take time to get the balance of it all, but it is worth your time if it means enjoying your life.

And now for the downer, the mind.  The suit of swords is ruled my the mind.  The 8 of swords is pretty easy to interpret when you look at the image – a woman tied up and blindfolded.  it’s the “STUCK” card.  The mind has a way of creating obstacles and saying, no, you have to be more conventional blah blah, things put in identifiable boxes .  Same-as-it-ever-was, old ideas of security keeping you from not moving out of your comfort zone.  Fun times.  You can see that she is not tied to anything, she stands alone.  This is all her doing.  I find this idea as taking responsibility for limiting beliefs, finding those blind spots, those attitudes and ideas that keep us from being in the “flow” of the 2 of pentacles.

What keeps you stuck?  Where are you shut down?  The cards invite you to explore where your mind and beliefs are limiting you from the abundance that is already available to you.  Prosperity and happiness are available to you right here, right now.  Release what binds you and take what was always yours to begin with.