The Land of Delights

When it looked as if Christianity was taking hold in her native Campania in southern Italy, the Sibyl left her labyrinth of caves in Cumae below the temple of Apollo She had pronounced her oracles there for hundreds of years, but she was now taking to the hills, to make one of the last stands of paganism on the highestridge of the Apennines, still called the Monti Sibillini in her honour.
From The Beast to the Blonde by Marion Warner

This collection of repurposed cards, collaged with images from fantasy magazines and assorted old books records a healing inner journey into the world of the Sibyl in her labyrinth of caves in Cumae.

The imagery used in this collection of repurposed cards is from magazines like Juxtapoz which was founded by Robert Williams.

Postcards from the Land of Delights may be found featured in a Wild Inner Garden.

Meet Anastasia Riversleigh

Anastasia Riversleigh is just one of my alter egos. She is a member of the Skull Clan who is currently working, primarily, with the Tarot of the Vampyres. Given that she is taking this opportunity to do important shadow work she will be leaning on numerous decks and other resources.

Visit her and you will find a detailed journal which records her newest adventure, in residence, living and playing with many interesting internal characters at Shadwell Manor and on the old Ghostly Spanish Galleon that sails the seven seas.

Tarot Travelling

“I don’t believe in things like that – fairies or brownies or magic or anything. It’s old-fashioned.’
‘Well, we must be jolly old-fashioned then,’ said Bessie. ‘Because we not only believe in the Faraway Tree and love our funny friends there, but we go to see them too – and we visit the lands at the top of the Tree as well!”
― Enid Blyton, The Folk of the Faraway Tree

Whenever the world is getting all a bit too much I seek out alternate realities. There is a Fey Guide waiting in this tree, ready to take me on another adventure. I have packed a suitcase, I have my tarot deck and I am ready to go.

I cannot say that I was a devotee of Alice in Wonderland. Instead it was Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree series that captured my imagination as a child growing up in the 1950’s.

The Faraway Tree is best described as a slow, gentle series of adventures that take place in a magical tree and the lands it connects to in the clouds. Originally published in 1939, the language is lyrical and playful — a slide is called a slippery slip — and young readers will probably dream about how the kids are left to play in the woods for an entire day by themselves.

I loved, still love these stories for their loveable characters, magical lands, silliness ( the Saucepan Man’s songs and forgetfulness had me giggling every time) and the exciting cliffhangers that kept me enthusiastically reading chapter after chapter. Not so long ago, during our blistering hot summer, I listened to audio book adaptions and fell in love with the series all over again. Silky and Moonface have not lost any of their appeal and I still adore the angry pixie.

Of course, some point to the pretty standard gender roles but it was 1939 and the fact that the roles are decidedly out of place in 2020 will not diminish the joy I feel when I read the books.

The truth is that the Magic Faraway Tree, combined with the influence of Archie Hair, an elderly prospector whose home in the bush was a place I loved visiting as a child, filled me with wonder and have each contributed to me having a rich inner life, an inner life that has sustained me through some very difficult periods. Perhaps not surprisingly, thanks to such influences, when I ran the Soul Food Cafe between 2000 and 2010 I took countless travellers through a portal into the fantasy world of Lemuria and preserved the journeys in annual advent calendar features.

Fast forward to 2020 and I now find myself in world put into hibernation by a new pandemic. It has been over seven weeks since we went into lockdown in Australia and there have been many reports indicating that social isolation and being ‘confined to barracks’ is having a detrimental impact on people’s mental wellbeing.

Thank goodness for my passion for Tarot. In this situation I have found it self soothing to pack my bag, slip through a portal and Travel Within A Tarot Deck.

Not surprisingly I chose the Path Through the Enchanted Forest, a magical deck which conjures some of the charm of the Faraway Tree. When I work with this deck I not only drift back in time but find that my imagination is fired. After shuffling my deck I found myself standing in a forest, alongside a gingerbread house and I was, quite frankly stunned by how the cards continued to fall.

Invariably others, inspired by this idea, have gone in different directions but the feedback I am getting suggests that, at a time when flights are cancelled and borders are closed, this is one kind of travel that can fire up our creative juices.

Will you join in? I am thinking of setting up a flight centre, a ‘Travel Agency’ where those who read about the travels of others will be inspired you to join in the fun. Considering there are no charges and all you have to do is pull out a much loved Tarot Deck, even Ryan or Tiger Air will not be able to beat this offer. And just think of the travel brochures we could conjure up! So much potential!

For starters, check out these two videos! Both Elaine and Kate make reference to their approach to travelling inside a deck. Plus @Anastasia-gyspysoul is working with two decks as she travels inside the Wheel of the Year Tarot.

Talking Tarot Part 2

This is the second part of a series where I follow the lead of Tracy @becoming_temperance who also makes videos about Tarot on YouTube. In this video she responds to a series of questions about her passion and since I am not into making videos I have decided to respond using WordPress, the internet medium I am most familiar with.

Show us your recent deck, Tarot, Oracle and Crystal.

Between December 2019 and February 2020 I went on a bit of a buying spree and bought a range of decks that I felt I simply had to have. I purchased the most recent, the Lions Gateway Tarot, by Jessica Henry, after seeing a walk through on Tracy’s Video Channel.

The most recent Oracle Deck that I acquired was the Sacred Sites Oracle. I confess that I have not worked with it much but it is a very interesting deck that will enable me to travel at a time when the pandemic is restricting all travel.

Since February I have stopped buying because I have enough decks for the moment and I need to take the time to work more closely with the ones that I have.

If you could share a tip with someone learning Tarot for the first time what would it be?

I am only interested in reading Tarot for myself and using it as an activator in the writing classes I run so I decided that I was not going to try to ‘learn’ Tarot or rely on standard interpretations.

When I stumbled upon The Art of Intuitive Tarot, a course that Gina Spriggs offers on Daily Om, I decided that this was a good place to being my journey. This course involved working with one deck and I used the Cosmic Tarot to complete the exercises she suggested.

Aside from this course it was venturing into the world of the Tarot Tuber Community that really spurred my interest. I found the deck and Tarot resource recommendations that these YouTube videos provided to be really fantastic. It is a great place to become familiar with what Tarot has to offer.

Above all I adhere to the notion of simply having fun and being playful with Tarot.

The first Tarot Tuber who I followed.

The first Tarot Tuber I followed was Simon Harrison. He describes himself as a professional Tarot Consultant based in Nottingham with over 30 years experience of reading the tarot.

He believes (through lived experience) that the tarot is a tool that can help provide us with insights and clarity to identify areas for improvement, find solutions to difficult decisions and arm us with additional information so that we are able to make more informed choices in various aspects of our lives.

There are a host of Tarot Tubers in the Tarot Tube Community. Another early favourite was Kasia at Tarot Map.

What was life before Tarot for you? Where did you come from?

I am an Australian who grew up in Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. If you put Heather Blakey – Daily Writing into Google you will learn more than you need about my online history as a Web Publisher, artistic midwife and purveyor of creative stimuli. Working with Tarot feels like a natural extension of my work with creative stimuli.

I ran the Soul Food Cafe for over ten years but stopped working it after compounding losses silenced me and took a toll on my capacity to be creative. I walked away from my former life, moved to regional Victoria from Melbourne and reinvented myself. Soul Food is now well archived in the Way Back Machine.

Favourite go to spread

My favourite go to spread is one that I use when I meet for an appointment to write. It is based on three cards. The first card identifies the issue we want to explore, the second sheds light on what may not help and the third offers a way forward.

For myself I like a deck to offer one message for the day.

From the Cosmic Tarot.

Most anticipated deck of 2020

I eagerly anticipated the arrival of a number of decks and Tarot books early in 2020. One that I really looked forward to coming was the Sakki Sakki Tarot. I ordered it late in December and it seemed to take ages to come. I was thrilled when it, along with the companion book ‘Playing With Symbols’ arrived. This deck is now out of print. I regret not ordering the colouring book as well because I would photocopy some archetypes for participants in my classes.

What is on your Tarot Wishlist?

It is not surprising that Raecine (Owlmoon), a Tarot Community Tuber, has a huge following. She has an amazing collection of videos and her professionalism is outstanding. I trust her recommendations. She frequently makes reference to the Tarot of the Vampires and the dark imagery not only appeals but provides a contrast to decks I have in my collection.

Talking to the Stones

The Philosophers Stone consists of 40 square cards, each depicting a painting by artist De Es Schwertberger, along with a particular quality or condition. Schwertberger’s preferred subjects seem to consist entirely of stones with human faces, stone figures, and stones over plain backgrounds. The artist seems to have applied an enormous talent to an extremely narrow subject matter.

You can dig very deep with these images, it’s almost like looking into a persons’ soul. These cards are ideal for prompting ideas, especially when combined with another deck.

To get a feel for this 1970’s deck begin by watching this walk through by the Tarot Alchemist. Stop and pause the video and meditate upon some of the images.

Get out your journal and see where these cards lead you. Here are some starter activities.

Write a stream of consciousness piece based on how our need to belong, connect and complement one another is being compromised during this 2020 pandemic. Given the current crisis it might be a bit full on to read The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe but right now it does seem to resonate. Here are some exercises I have used after reading the opening of this story.

Card 28 Portrays Existence and when I viewed this image my thoughts turned to Sisyphus who was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top, repeating this action for eternity.

Your thoughts may go else where. Perhaps you might take the time to interview this figure and write the dialogue that emerges.

More Ideas

This stone, lying in an old goldfields park has witnessed enormous change in the world.

Take a walk sometime, watch for a stone that seems to grab your attention… pick it up, turn it over a few times and look for images on it’s surface. Allow those images to relay words to your mind. Those words will be the message from the stone – for you. This a simple form of stone divination, looking and listening within – to dive in – “divine” an answer to a question.

Quietly enter the world of Stonehenge. Stand in the centre of these famous stones – one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe – and dialogue with these ancient stones.

Remember that while the mysteriously arranged structure of Stonehenge is one of the world’s greatest wonders these odd stone arrangements can be found throughout the world in many shapes and sizes. Known as megaliths, these giant stones formed prehistoric structures in amazing (and perplexing!) feats of construction. The purpose of these sites may be shrouded in mystery, but their remains add character and ancient beauty to landscapes across the globe, from the cold mountains of Russia to the balmy Mediterranean. Take the time to visit 7 ancient megaliths.

Will You Follow The Lead?

When you trust the process and allow yourself to step outside the square your imagination is kick started and you can take off in amazingly diverse directions.

Maybe you do not have a young calf to read too but there are plenty of alternatives that will lead to rich journal entries.

Last year I took along a whole lot of children’s picture story books to my Writing for Wellness class and asked the participants to go outside and read a story to a tree and then write about how the tree responded. Perhaps surprisingly no one resisted.

Upon his relatively quick return I asked James if he had actually read ‘Harry the Dirty Dog’ to a tree. “Of course” he said. As we waited for others to return our conversation led to me asking him what he had done before retiring. ” I taught Professional Writing at a TAFE” he said without blinking an eye. Needless to say I fell about laughing and said he must have found this class to be a ‘bit different’.  He smiled his charming smile and told me that he had found it all quite challenging – then went on to write the most stunning piece in the allocated fifteen minutes.

In my capacity as the Tarot Midwife I have taken to revisiting historic cemeteries in my region to test run some ideas about communicating with inanimate objects for upcoming courses.

Recently, on one of my expeditions, I found the grave of David Jenkin Davies, who came to Australia from Glamorganshire South Wales and was accidentally killed at the Brunswick Mine in 1870. He was just 27 years old when he died. I kneeled by his grave, placed a white cockatoo feather on his grave and asked if he would communicate a message through my Tarot Deck. I shuffled the cards and The Devil emerged.

Obviously one could interpret this message in many ways. I did not take it to mean that he had gone to some kind of hell. There are many ways you can interpret the Devil card. Indeed, I took it to mean that he was dancing for joy that he had been given the opportunity to let me know that his death had all been out of his control; that he had mourned a life cut short due to the negligence of greedy gold seeking devils who had no regard for the well being of others, whose negligence led to his untimely death.

Will you follow the lead, test run an idea and share it with me in the comment box?

Seeking Strength

Strength is a Major Arcana Tarot card, and is numbered either XI or VIII, depending on the deck.

Strength predicts the triumphant conclusion to a major life problem, situation or temptation through strength of character. It is a very happy card if you are fighting illness, recovering from injury or trying to recover from a trauma. It suggests you will prevail.


Everyone on the planet has been well aware that this has been a particularly torrid summer in Australia. It began months ago and it seemed that the whole country was on fire. Horrific images of people huddled on beaches with a searing red sky and a blanket of smoke, deaths of firefighters and civilians, loss of property and images of whole towns razed circulated around the world.

Away from the fire fronts we knew that there by the grace of Mother Nature it could have been us. Perhaps because the drought had not been as intense in this part of Victoria we dodged a bullet but felt helpless in the face of it all.

Now everyone is on alert and going more than slightly crazy because of a virus that, along with the thousands of travellers who zig zag across the world, will freely enter countries. Today we woke to news that people are emptying supermarket shelves and it feels like the world really gone quite mad.

One of the therapeutic benefits of the Tarot is that you can seek solace at a time like this. The Cosmic Tarot Strength card featured here is particularly beautiful. A mysterious woman, purported to be the film icon, Hedy Lamar, holds a magic cloth which mirrors a lion. Lamar is a good choice for the Strength card. Lamarr once insisted, “Any girl can be glamorous; all you have to do is stand still and look stupid.” That she herself was anything but stupid was unequivocally proved during World War II when, in collaboration with the avant-garde composer George Antheil, she invented an electronic device that minimized the jamming of radio signals. Though it was never used in wartime, this device is a component of present-day satellite and cellular phone technology.

Seeking to meditate upon the archetypal qualities of strength, courage, and fortitude, as reflected in this card, this guided visualization helped me to enhance these qualities, to connect to my own strength, and my own courage.  Rather than visualising meeting with the traditional lion I went into my safe place and sought out the faithful donkey who had accompanied me, at a very difficult time, on the inner journeys we led from the Soul Food Cafe. With his fortitude came a strength of mind that has enabled me to calmly set boundaries and refuse to engage in craziness such as emptying supermarket shelves of things like toilet paper and Panadol.

Try picking out the Strength card from your deck, take in some nature imagery and meditations and go inside the card for awhile. Trust me! You will feel refreshed after doing this.

Hedy Lamarr 

Hedy Lamarr was the daughter of a prosperous Viennese banker. Lamarr was privately tutored from age 4; by the time she was 10, she was a proficient pianist and dancer and could speak four languages. At age 16 she enrolled in Max Reinhardt’s Berlin-based dramatic school, and within a year she made her motion picture debut in Geld auf der Strasse (1930; Money on the Street). She achieved both stardom and notoriety in the Czech film Extase (1932; Ecstasy), in which she briefly but tastefully appeared in the nude. Her burgeoning career was halted by her 1933 marriage to Austrian munitions manufacturer Fritz Mandl, who not only prohibited her from further stage and screen appearances but also tried unsuccessfully to destroy all existing prints of Extase. After leaving the possessive Mandl, she went to Hollywood in 1937, where she appeared in her first English-language film, the classic romantic drama Algiers (1938). Lamarr became a U.S. citizen in 1953.

Tarot Fairy Stories

The unique designs in Norbert Losche’s Cosmic Tarot deck bring ancient knowledge to modern readers through simple yet beautifully drawn images that resemble familiar figures in our lives. Source: tarot.com

The creator and artistic designer of the Cosmic Tarot was born in 1951 and currently lives in Aachen, Germany. He is a self-taught artist. He originally began his professional life as a surveyor, then studied the history of art before taking up painting. It was an interest in the esoteric that led him to the tarot — an interest which found the perfect means of expression in the creation of the Cosmic Tarot.

When I want to become familiar with a suit in a deck I like to lay out the Court Cards at the top and then lay out the ten cards so that I can formulate a story. In this instance we set the task of writing a fairy story.

I cannot remember when I acquired the Cosmic Tarot. I suspect it was way back in the day when I did a Jungian course at Monash University in Melbourne. Whatever! Having pulled this deck back out of the cupboard, I realised just what a compelling deck it is. The Cosmic Tarot features symbols and icons gathered from diverse eras and influences, including astrological, Qabalistic, and Golden Dawn attributions. For my purposes, the pictorial nature of the Cosmic Tarot makes it an ideal deck to work with in my writing groups.

In this instance, using the technique of stream of consciousness writing, I wrote a fairy story about Prince Gustav whose father, King Harold, insisted that the indulged Prince make his own way by living amongst the common folk, in disguise for an extended period.

I used the sequence of the cards to develop Gustav’s character arc over a twenty year period, culminating in his celebrated reunion with his parents.

Perhaps you will try this exercise and share a link to your work in the comment section.

About the Deck

Cosmic Tarot
Image Source: Astrology Angel Medium

When interviewed Norbert Losche said that “in creating this tarot, my intention is to make the old knowledge accessible and understandable to everyone by using a few secret symbols as possible. In our times, the search for transcendent meaning and self redemption has replaced the old mystical religions of a distant god. The tarot’s age-old knowledge is always quiet and reserved, yet it welcomes the seeker like an old friend. The tarot, with its dynamic concept of constant change, offers a doctrine for the New Age and thus becomes a reliable guide in this chaotic world of shifting social values.” (quoted by Jean Huets, Cosmic Tarot, US Games Systems, Inc, 1996, pg 6).

Perhaps you are interested in acquiring this deck. To learn more about the Cosmic Tarot visit Learning the Cosmic Tarot. This site is very comprehensive and is especially good if you pick up a second hand deck without the LWB (Little White Book). The Zen Witch has recently put out a great video where she flips through and provides a comprehensive review of the deck. Astrology Angel Medium also provides a good review.

Seeking Inspiration – Mystery Tarot Tours

You might not think that a bunch of dead people would have much to say. However, a good graveyard can reveal a lot about the society that built it, from its history and its architecture to its superstitions. I have been to the original blockbuster cemetery, Pere Lachaise in Paris, Prague’s  Jewish cemeteries and the oldest Christian cemetery in Penang. Here at home I regularly visit small, beautifully serene, historic cemeteries in the Central Goldfields, Victoria, Australia. There are so many narratives to be found in these often abandoned places.

Recently I set out on my first Mystery Tarot Tour. Friends love it when I suggest that we go on one of Akari’s (my Mazda 3) mystery tours. Sometimes I take writers, seeking inspiration, to historic cemeteries. All those headstones have a story to tell.

I am not sure where the idea came from but a week or so back  I decided to revisit some of my favourite cemeteries to read some tarot cards with the long dead.  (I confess that visiting cemeteries, armed with Tarot decks, is a bit different even by my standards.) I set out  with my two companion animals, a picnic basket and a tarot deck.

At the Sandon Cemetery I stopped at an unmarked grave to ask about what kind of life the occupant had experienced. Not surprisingly, given the harshness of life on the early goldfields, the nine of rods spoke of a life filled with a lot of hard work.

Further on, at the Majorca cemetery, when I asked the Martell’s to share some wisdom out came the Fool from Monicka Clio Sakki’s Art Tarot Deck. I confess I was quite taken aback – stopped in my tracks long enough to take another photo that I could use as an avatar as I establish myself as a Tarot Midwife.

Perhaps I am on a Fool’s journey or maybe I am on to something quite profound. Time will tell!

The Deck I Used:

People who know my track record online know that I am not into reinventing the wheel. Asali Earthwork provide a great review of the Sakki Sakki Tarot deck. Personally I feel it is essential to have the companion book and I lashed out and acquired the colouring book as well. Perfect for my writing classes to choose an archetype and meditate while colouring it in. A stream of words always materialises.  Also, this flip through on YouTube shows you exactly what this deck is like. I always watch flip throughs before investing. Photo by The Tarot Midwife.

Warming the Hand

The Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot is a truly great deck for generating some writing. Lay out the cards and you will see that this deck has a story book quality about it. Moreover the companion book, full of interesting spells, is excellent for any would be J.K. Rowlings wanting to use magick as a part of their writing. The diversity, the fantasy world depicted in this deck, makes it a perfect companion in a writing session.

In my writing classes we often begin by ‘warming the hand’. To warm the hand is to undertake a 15 minute stream of consciousness exercise in response to some stimuli.

When I choose to use Tarot with a group I have enough decks to provide each participant with a deck.  When we did this exercise we were warming our hand and producing journal entries that could be used for memoir writing.

I began by asking the Modern Spellcasters Tarot deck to provide me with someone who would help me started.  It was the Tower which emerged from the deck. Anyone who knows me knows there have been a few tower moments in my life and so I could have very quickly run the hand across the page simply listing them.

Instead I asked the deck to offer me another card to guide me as to how I should begin. Out popped the 7 of Pentacles which called upon me to focus on my capacity to overcome adversity and acknowledge how I have pulled through by quite literally reinventing myself.

The Tower needed me to tell some of our story.

Who steps out of your deck to ensure that their voice is heard?