Sneak Preview: Astrology for Writers

You know what I always say: If you can’t judge a book by its cover, it’s not being marketed correctly.

Here’s a sneak preview of my next release, Astrology for Writers. Isn’t this a fabulous cover design?

I wrote the book knowing that it would appeal to a lot of the same readers who bought Tarot for Writers — and Kevin R. Brown, who designed both covers, obviously kept that in mind, too.

Astrology for Writers  is going through editing and production now, and Llewellyn has it scheduled for publication next May.

Susan and the Mermaid

A Rediscovered Story by Pamela Colman Smith

Lost for almost a century, “Susan and the Mermaid” is the rediscovered tale of a magic ring, an underwater kingdom, and a wise old woman who knew how to make her granddaughter’s dreams come true. It’s a tale that rivals “Alice in Wonderland” for imagination … and it was written and illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith, whose own life story reads like a work of fiction.

Smith was an author, artist, and storyteller who divided her time between London, New York, and the island of Jamaica. During the early 1900s, she traveled with some of the world’s most famous writers and performers, including poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, popular actress Ellen Terry (the Elizabeth Taylor of her day), and Bram Stoker, the author of “Dracula.”

Smith published three books by the time she was twenty, and her work won critical acclaim around the world. True fame and fortune eluded her, though, and she died virtually unknown in 1951. Twenty years after her death, however, an old card deck she created was republished, and millions of modern tarot enthusiasts were welcomed into Smith’s world of magic, mystery, and metaphysics.

“Susan and the Mermaid” offers a new and unexpected glimpse into that realm, where the border between reality and fantasy blurs, and ethereal creatures lead ordinary people into extraordinary adventures.

This story first appeared in the Christmas 1912 edition of “The Delineator,” a magazine for mothers and their children. This version reproduces the original text and images, just as they looked at the time. This book also takes the discovery a step further, by offering a close-up look at the dozens of full-color illustrations Smith painted to accompany the story.

“Susan and the Mermaid” is a treasure recovered from the vaults of history. It’s a gift from the past, from an artist who lives on in the words and pictures she left behind.

Order your copy from

The Delphian Oracle

The Delphian Oracle

Click for a super-size image

I scanned a page of a cool old book for you — and since my hand looked ghostly and supernatural in the scan, I left it in the image, too. This way, you can imagine that I’m actually showing you the book in person.

Check out the second paragraph on the page, along with the engraving: it describes the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, as well as the virgin priestesses who served as seers and prophets there.

When I say the book is old, I’m not kidding. It’s William Smith’s A Smaller History of Greece, from the Earliest Times to the Roman Conquest, published in 1887 by Harper & Brothers, New York.

Disneystrology: A mini-interview with author Lisa Finander

Lisa Finander

I’m so proud of my friend Lisa Finander, the author of Disneystrology — a clever new book that reveals the astrology behind 366 Disney characters. While the book itself is approachable and compact, the project was massive. I asked her how she developed it.

Q: How did you come to write “Disneystrology?”

A: The opportunity presented itself in a magical way. I was sitting at my desk filing papers and thinking about what direction my writing would take. I heard the chime of a new message entering my inbox, and there was an email from Jason Rekulak at Quirk Books asking me if I was interested in writing a birthday book using Disney characters. I stared at the email for a while to enjoy the moment and commit it to memory. (Ok, there was joyful screaming too.) Of course, I said I was very interested, and he asked me to write three sample birthday entries for Quirk and Disney to review. The samples (Tinker Bell, Mowgli, and Remy) were approved, and the rest is Disneystrology history.

Q: How did you choose the 366 characters for your book?

A: It might surprise you to learn how much effort went into not only choosing the perfect character for each birthday but also discovering forgotten ones from the past and learning about new ones created for upcoming movies. I started by building a huge database of Disney characters that I updated daily. It contained the names and movies of over 400 characters. Then, I researched each character diligently by watching movies, clips, reading books, searching online, and viewing images. As I added bits of dialogue, the movie’s backstory (the making of movie), and any prominent personality traits to the database, I additionally noted my impressions of where they might fit in the book.

For every month of the year, I printed out a sheet of paper where I made hand-written notes about the astrology, numerology, and tarot card associated with each day of that month. This is where I kept track of which dates were filled and which ones where still available.

Next, I used the two databases simultaneously to determine which characters I would use and assigned them to a specific day of the year. Many people have asked me if I wrote the book in chronological order. I didn’t. Instead, I started with the character and then chose the birthday that they would preside over. In the beginning, it would take me hours to match up a character with a certain day of the year.

Q: What did you learn about astrology in the process of writing the book?

A: I learned to look at each day in detail. Every astrological sign has approximately 30 different expressions, and I discovered how to tune into the subtle nuances that occur within the same sign. Also, I became aware of the energy and potential each day holds.

Personally, I use Disneystrology as a book of days and have a copy sitting on my desk next to my computer. I love looking at the images and remembering how much fun I had writing the book and getting to know the characters. Besides, why limit myself to just one day of magic and possibility when there are 366 days to enjoy!


I am Django

According to Lisa Finander’s new book, Disneystrology, my Disney persona is the practical, strong, and concerned Django — the father rat from Ratatouille. That’s based on the astrology, numerology, and tarot card for my birthday, July 8.

Here’s how Lisa describes Django’s personality — and by extension, mine.

You are protective of those you love. You prefer established methods to achieve success. It takes a while for you to warm to new ideas, especially if they challenge your own. You’re hard to impress unless you can see the benefits of an endeavor. Your willfulness results from your love and devotion to family and friends. Beneath your no-nonsense exterior lies a heart of gold.

Django brings you the gifts of leadership, sensibility, and sincerity. he will share his knowledge of the world and ensure your safety.

Aside from the initial shock of being pictured as a rat, I can’t disagree. But why couldn’t I also be a princess?

Come to think of it, that’s pretty much the story of my life … and it sounds like a Disney story in and of itself.

You can find your own Disney persona at

Book Review: Beyond the Celtic Cross

The Celtic Cross is one of my favorite tarot spreads. I love its history, its tradition, its symbolism. I love how it offers a comprehensive overview of any question or situation. And now, thanks to “Beyond the Celtic Cross,” I’ve learned that the spread is even deeper and richer than I once thought.

I highly recommend this book to any student or teacher of tarot.

“Beyond the Celtic Cross” focuses on three techniques that can be used to add layers of meaning to a Celtic Cross spread: card counting, pairing, and elemental dignities. All three methodologies make excellent additions to any tarot reader’s toolkit.

The three systems are fascinating, too. They’re based on ideas and theories that were first developed by the Golden Dawn, the secret society that designed the decks most of us use today. I like that connection to history, and I like the layers of meaning that counting, pairing, and elemental dignities can add to a reading.

The three procedures aren’t simple — but that’s why they take a full-length book to explain.

In fact, if you’re interested in the techniques, you should break out a tarot deck and replicate the reading in the book with your own cards. If you follow along with the illustrations and the explanations, you’ll feel like you’re taking part in a tarot intensive or an experiential workshop on the subject.

In that regard, “Beyond the Celtic Cross” reminds me of New Thoughts on Tarot: Transcripts from the First International Newcastle Tarot Symposium, featuring Mary Greer and Rachel Pollack.

Most of “Beyond the Celtic Cross” is based on a tarot reading and email exchange between Paul Hughes-Barlow, a British tarot scholar, and Catherine Chapman, an up-and-coming tarot blogger. I expected a lively dialogue, which the book delivers.

The exchange between the two, however, is surprisingly intimate. It involves a subject that comes up in almost every tarot reading: Catherine’s search for love and romance.

I liked that a lot, too. Even though I was reading a book, I felt like I was a privileged bystander, listening in on a private conversation.

That aspect reminded me of the written correspondence between Aleister Crowley and Frieda Harris, as they collaborated on the Thoth tarot. Paul and Catherine’s dialogue gives the book an immediacy that’s missing in most other tarot works, and it brings what could otherwise be a dry topic to life.

I’ve always thought of Paul Hughes-Barlow as a serious, scholarly man, because I only know him through his website. Reading his interactions with a student in “real time” gives us a refreshing glimpse of his real personality. As readers, we also get to experience his teaching vicariously, through Catherine— who, in the end, helps communicate his message. It’s the best of both worlds.

It was also interesting to observe how two experienced tarot readers could explore a personal question with a professional detachment — and it was gratifying to note how the focus of the reading shifted along the way, from Catherine’s search for someone outside herself to a better understanding of herself. That part rang true to life, too.

Catherine was especially forthright and honest in her approach. It took a lot of courage for her to bare her soul through an ongoing email exchange — and it took even more courage for her to publish the results. The story that unfolds, however, only proves that the personal truly is universal.

. . . . . . . . . .

A note about my tarot reviews: I review books and decks by authors I admire, on subjects that intrigue me. I don’t accept free publications for review, I don’t solicit free books in order to sell them later for cash, and I don’t use reviews to promote my own products or services.

The Tarot Traveler

The start of a new year is a great time to practice meditation and visualization with tarot cards. Here are some tips from my 2006 book, Tarot Journaling. Try them for themselves in the pages of your tarot journal.

Go Inside the Cards

Sometimes, people who study tarot cards imagine themselves inside the cards, exploring the landscape and meeting personally with the characters inside each card. Typically, they enter each card through meditations and visualizations — two simple, remarkably effective ways to connect personally with each card.

The two techniques work seamlessly to bridge the communication gap between your conscious and subconscious minds. Because the information you glean during a meditation comes directly from your subconscious mind, it is imminently relevant and pertinent to your life. And because your journeys occur when you are fully conscious, meditations are easy to remember when you’re through.

Meditations and visualizations are two effective ways to use your tarot journal as a gateway into the cards. Simply allow your mind to wander, and watch as events unfold on the page.

Preparation. Choose one card from the deck. Sit comfortably in a chair, with your feet firmly on the floor, and breathe deeply. As you breathe, relax, and study the card in front of you. Examine every detail. As you look at the card, imagine it growing larger and larger, until it stands in front of you, like a doorway into another world. Picture yourself walking through that doorway and into the card.

Survey the grounds. Look around, and describe what you see. What do you notice that you couldn’t see from outside the card? What do you hear? What do you smell? What is the weather like? How does it feel to be inside the card?

You will probably be surprised by what you can sense. Many people who try this exercise report hearing background noise like wind, birds, and waves. They can feel the heat of the sun, or a cool breeze, or the grass underneath their feet. They can even smell flowers, and grass, and salty sea air.

You’re not alone. You find yourself face to face with a character from the card. Where do you meet him? What is he wearing? What is the expression on his face? What is the character’s mood? How does he or she react to your presence? Does the character greet you, or must you initiate a conversation? What do they say to you? How do you respond? Does he have a message for you? Does he have a gift for you? What is it? How do you feel about it? What do you say to him? What will you remember most about your encounter?

The safe haven. Imagine that you are on the run from an unseen attacker. Suddenly you find yourself in the scene shown in your card, where you can hide safely. What makes this card a refuge for you? What help can you find here?

Unexpected visitors. You may have gone into the cards during meditation or visualization, in order to explore the world of the tarot from the perspective of the cards. Now, try the process in reverse. Imagine that one of the characters has come out of a card to meet you in your surroundings. Imagine finding the Magician in your kitchen, or the boys from the Five of Wands roughhousing in your living room, or the Hanged Man at your computer.

Visualize yourself walking through your front door, and go through your house until you find your visitor. How do you feel: angry? Alarmed? Amused? What will you say? What will the two of you talk about?

Record your interaction in your journal.

Q&A: Nevada Barr – Library Journal

Another author with a “secret” tarot past – and a book with a tarot character!

By Teresa L. (Terry) Jacobsen, Solano Cty. Lib., Fairfield, CA — Library Journal, 10/1/2009

Longtime mystery writer Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon series) launches her first stand-alone thriller this month. Speaking in a phone interview from her home in New Orleans, she shared some background on the exciting, psychologically draining 13½ (LJ 8/09) and offered a sneak peek at her other writing projects.

Can you explain the significanceof the title?

That was a gift to me. I was talking to a psychiatrist friend of mine who works with juveniles. He told me the trend in the prison where he worked was that the inmates would get 13½ tattooed on their bodies. It stood for 12 jurors, one judge, and half a chance. I had to fight for it because the publishing world does not like numbers, and they really don’t like fractions!

What got you thinking about this type of crime?

When I lived in Minneapolis years ago, and we’re talking years ago, there was a nice boy from a nice family in Rochester, MN, who one day took an axe and butchered his family. The novel is not about him, of course; that was just the inspiration. But it was the first horrific crime that entered my world. When someone is arrested for doing something horrific, you think, "Ask them why. Ask them why they did it." But the answer is always so unsatisfying.

And so I got fascinated with trying to find a "why." I liked the sense of our hero trying to figure himself out. And I’ve also been fascinated with the concept of who would you be if you found out that everything that you believed about yourself wasn’t true.

Was it difficult to juggle all the narrators? Which was the hardest voice to write?

The young Dylan was the easiest, for some unknown reason. But I have been writing—well, I’m working on my 17th Anna Pigeon. That’s just, you know, a helluva long relationship. And she’s so in my head that to create new voices is hard for me. The most difficult one was Richard’s [Dylan’s brother]. The Woman in Red [a tarot card reader] came easily, too. I don’t know what that says about me! [Laughs]

Read the rest here: Q&A: Nevada Barr – 10/1/2009 – Library Journal

Witchcraft and the Medal of Freedom

The source for this story – the turncoat writer Matt Latimer – isn’t reliable, but this column from the Times of London is still interesting: 

Harry Potter, and the White House

Bess writes: This fascinating snippet on Think Progress reveals that officials in President Bush’s administration objected to giving America’s highest civil honour, The Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Harry Potter author JK Rowling. Usually the medal is awarded to individuals deemed to have contributed to world peace, the security of the US or cultural or significant public endeavours. Matt Latimer, a former speechwriter for Bush and author of Speechless: Tales of a White House Survivor says  that some in the White House  discouraged the medal being given to Rowling on the grounds that her books “encouraged witchcraft.”

This  re-opens the intriguing debate over whether Harry Potter will harm the soul, a topic much discussed on Christian forums.

This article from Christian Answers  explains that leaders are divided: some believe the books “just fantasy” others, including occult experts, disagree. A third line is that all magic – white and black – is specifically condemned in the Bible.

Deuteronomy 18:10-14 states categorically that witchcraft is “an abomination” to God. “There shall not be found among you anyone who… practicies witchcraft.” etc

“Those books” a Christian bookseller argues can “open the door to spiritual bondage.”

Possibly my favourite article condemning Potter is this, from a Christian author in the United States. She reads an extraordinary level of symbolic detail into Rowling’s books, as follows:
"Tom Riddle is clearly the God of Christian tradition as other Christian critics of Mrs. Rowling’s books have pointed out. When Potter first sees Tom Riddle the Son, Tom is described as strangely blurred around the edges, suggesting a halo (p. 330).

The reason why Mrs. Rowling calls Jesus Tom is simple. In England, the saying every Tom, Dick and Harry is highly popular and in this case alludes to the omnipresence of God in our world.”

Fancy that. Too much of a good thing perhaps? But a final word on opposition to Harry Potter from believers. Obvious nonsense if you totally deny the existence of the supernatural. But – for those who do accept the possibility of a supernatural realm, beyond nature, a reality attested by the world’s major faiths, it does have a certain,if exaggerated logic. Especially if you further accept the possibility of two opposing forces, one of good, one of evil. The objections of the anti-Potter brigade stem from the fact that they view Christianity as the real good, and the divine source of the supernatural – a belief that takes its origins from the first followers of Christ – and that this is excluded from the books. Maybe they take it just a little too seriously forgetting this is fiction but a point worth considering is that while many Westerners consider cultures that appear to favour belief in the supernatural as “primitive”, many from cultures where such beliefs are prevalent consider Western dismissal and denial of the supernatural as simply “naïve.”

Certainly whatever stance you take, consistency is important across the board.  Dismissing faith but reading horoscopes or tarot cards for instance is a failure in logic.

Source: Faith Central – Times Online – WBLG: Harry Potter, and the White House

A Sneak Preview of The Wizards Tarot Minor Arcana

Illustrator John Blumen has finished all the Minor Arcana cards for the Wizards Tarot. I saw them for the first time about two hours ago — and they’re amazing!

Here’s a sneak preview of four of the cards: the Four of Wands, Five of Cups, Seven of Swords, and Two of Pentacles.

You might remember from my earlier posts that this deck is based on a fictional school of magic, in which the Major Arcana cards depict teachers, and the Minor Arcana cards show students. (You can see a sideshow of the Majors over at The Majors are based on myth and legend, while the Minors are based on traditional Rider-Waite-Smith imagery with a magical twist. Each suit represents a different form of elemental magic — fire, water, air, and earth — and the Minor Arcana cards show students practicing their lessons through the course of the four seasons.

I designed the cards, but John has definitely gone above and beyond anything I could have imagined in my written descriptions. I almost feel intimidated! I hope I can do them justice in the guidebook.

The book is going to be pretty neat, though.

The Major Arcana section, which focuses on the professors, will include magic lessons that correspond to each card. The Star card, for example, depicts the professor of astrology, so I’m writing brief course on basic astrology. Meanwhile, the Minor Arcana portion of the book will read like a grimoire of magic spells, which also correspond to the imagery and the significance each card.

I could ramble on … but I shouldn’t, because now that I have all of the cards in my hot little hands, I have to finish the book!

While I work, feel free to leave admiring remarks for John in the comments section.