Verbal Remedy AKA Denise

Verbal Remedy AKA Denise
Del Mar, California, The One That's In A State Of Steep Decline
January 18
Much preferred to the alternative.
Born. Grew up. Kept growing up. Started growing older. Still at both the growing up and growing older. Stay tuned.


Verbal Remedy AKA Denise's Links

Memoir-ish stuff
Humor and Rants
No-Longer-Current Events
Movies, TV and Music
OS Meta Stuff
JUNE 7, 2009 9:50PM

Liz Reads Verbal's Cards: The Conclusion

Rate: 37 Flag

 (This is a tandem, collaborative post: The other half is over on Liz Emrich's blog. My reaction to her full reading is below this original background post, after the double-divider.)


Cards from the Rider-Waite Deck--The "Original" Tarot

I Went Through A Witchy Period  And All I Have Left Are These Nine Tarot Decks...

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a college-aged woman with post-Christian feminist friends is in want of a coven.

In 1988, I found one.

After schlumping, disgustedly, out of my dark-ages-throwback childhood Catholic parish for the last time, I didn't exactly feel a spiritual void. But I was still (relatively) open to the notion that there may be Something Out There, somewhere, somehow engaged in the the workings of billions and billions of human lives.  

I was certain to the bone that the literal "father" notion of "God" I'd been taught in Catholic school doesn't exist: It makes no sense that an omniscient, omnipotent force would act like an angry drunk half the time, through threats and intimidation and damnings-to-death-eternal. I couldn't believe in the existence of, let alone worship, such a dysfunctional idea. 

But might there be, out there, something not-so-personal (and not so deranged and obviously based on human nomadic tribal patriarchs)? Something natural? Something like The Force? A Ben Kenobi-style We-are-all-cosmic-dust-and-subject-to-more-laws-of-nature-than-we-know-of kind of way? 


The Zerner-Farber Tarot: Each image is actually a photo of a handwoven tapestry


I'd messed around with Ouija boards in high school (and always felt my friends tugging the little pointer thingy around to "prove" that Unattainable Gorgeous Boy did, in fact, secretly have a crush on one of them--not the most mystical experience). Beyond that, I didn't think much about "spirituality" in my teen years.

By the mid-college, though--fresh out of my first life-shattering breakup (the kind that makes you cry yourself dry and sink into a dark bedroom for months at a time) I found myself looking for reassurance, comfort, some notion that the current, transient pain was part of A Greater Plan. (Which, when it comes right down to it, is sort of what I conceive of as the "religious impulse"--a burning desire for things that hurt to make sense--not to be random, cruel, chance, meaningless.)

I started acquiring books on astrology (real, ephemeris-and-Dalton's-Table-of-Houses-based natal astrology--not mushy newspaper sun-sign stuff). I cast birthcharts for all my friends (hand-drawn and illustrated). Friends recommended other books.

I branched off into reading about Wicca--some beginning texts were Scott Cunningham's Wicca for the Solo Practitioner  and Marion Weinstein's Positive Magic. I very much appreciated the underlying philosophy that sees humans as a part of nature, not separate from it; it made sense to me in a visceral way. The balance of masculine and feminine in the traditions was another appeal--the notion that we are, and need, both male and female, yin and yang, in equal proportions, to live life fully.

In the context of exploring Wicca more deeply, I picked up my first Rider-Waite tarot deck and a book on how to read the cards.  

And then somehow, I fell in with friends-of-friends who actually had a small, functioning, active coven.


Cards from the Voyager Deck (my second-favorite deck)

The coven's rituals were warm, upbeat, positive, beautiful. While a couple of the girls privately expressed suspicion that a couple of the guys in the coven were hoping for a whole lot more "skyclad" action than we engaged in (i.e., none at all), for the most part I remember the coven members as warm, generous individuals with enough extra love to give that it sloshed all over everybody around them.

Before rituals, we cooked a lot. Food was central to the collective experience. Crescent almond cookies were one of my favorites for moon celebrations. (I suppose I've retained that part of the coven period--cooking for people I love remains one of the greatest pleasures in life to me.)

We worked only at positive magic--nothing even mildly suspect. Prosperity, love, renewal, strength spells. We lit candles and incense; we chanted; we held hands; we drank wine; when we broke the circle and drank a lot more wine. And we danced.

One glorious midsummer midnight (or was it Samhain?) we gathered in a local public park. We celebrated that shortest night by joining hands and playing--first skipping, then jogging, then running in a connected circle, the way small children do--gripping each other's fingers for dear life as we "raised power," spinning clockwise, faster and faster, until we felt it was time to break apart and we let go simultaneously, tumbling backwards onto the cool, damp grass, dizzy and laughing until we were breathless.

That night remains a favorite memory.


The Bosch Tarot (as in Heironymus)

I played with the coven for perhaps a year.

And then, as I inevitably do with all organized spiritual collectives, I lost the motivation that drove me to actually leave the house at specifically appointed times. I don't particularly Do Spiritual Stuff on a schedule.

So my official witchy period was over, but I still spent plenty of hours hunkered down on the beds, laying out cards. Trying to figure out where my life was going. What choices I should be making. What directions I should be seeking. (Even occasionally returning to that perennial High School favorite: "Do X and I have a romantic future?" The answer was generally "No.")

I was never particularly good with the cards. They didn't "speak to me"  the way they do with some people. Gleaning meaning from a spread was always a sketchy business, and I read only for myself. But I loved--still do, actually--the imagery, the poetics beneath the surface of each card, the details, the questions each image could raise (new ones every time). The way I could meditate on a card and construct a narrative around it. In that way, I suppose, individual cards did "speak to me."

But full readings? Ouch. Give me a book and a couple of hours and I might stumble into something halfway helpful...but usually not.


The Witches Tarot: My Favorite Deck, By Far

I bring all this up because most of the accoutrements of my Witchy Period are long gone now. The astrology books and Wicca tomes got offloaded to a local occult bookstore many years ago. I still have my cauldron and its various effects (the knife, the pentacle, the cup, a few candle stubs, a bunch of stones), but they're sitting next to the fireplace and haven't been visited in a forever.

The tarot decks also remain with me. They've been my companions through (counting on fingers) 23 years, 12 homes, ~6 serious romantic entanglements, 2 marriages. They're some of my oldest friends.

I have nine decks. Some were whimsical purchases, others more considered. (The Lord of the Rings deck seemed like a good idea...until I realized that keeping straight all of Tolkein's characters was going to be much harder than the old familiar Rider-Waite cast.)

Until last weekend, I hadn't really thought about my decks in years.

I was inspired last weekend to haul the decks out of the closet where they've been resting in a wooden jewelry box, neglected, each deck wrapped in a silk scarf.

The inspiration was talking to our own Liz Emrich (thanks for the call, Pretend Farmer!). Liz is somebody who does have the knack, the insight, the knowledge and the ability to tap into whatever subconscious mechanisms there are that make a good card reader.

  • Do I believe tarot cards are some kind of mystical conduit to The Universal Font of Knowledge And Wisdom? Not really.
  • Do I still believe in Something Supernatural out there? Not really.
  • Do I have any sort of "faith" or "spirituality" at all? Not really. (When pressed to place myself on the atheist--------agnostic spectrum, I come out on the atheist side, at least in terms of a "god" personified with human urges, emotions, and qualities).
  • Do I believe there's potential value in tarot card reading? Perhaps surprisingly, yes.  I do believe in the power of storytelling--of myth, symbols, and imagery--and that's what cards do. They construct a story, from a finite set of elements. Some people are better than others at deciphering the stories and gleaning applicable meaning from them, that's all. 

So, I asked Liz if we might do a tag-team post.

  • I would haul out my decks for the first time in a forever, do a spread and send a photo of it to her.
  • She, with no prompting from me (no specific question to answer, nothing to guide her or noodge her) would read that spread in an OS post, explaining exactly what the cards are telling her--how and why she perceives and concludes what she does from the cards and their relative positions to each other.

I sent her the spread photo Wednesday morning. She sent me back her "preliminary impression" Wednesday afternoon.

I replied, "Holy CRAP, Liz. No wonder you get paid to do this."

Stay tuned for her full reading/teaching/explanation.

Afterwards, I'll chime back in with a few final reflections.

Verbal Reacts

In the spirit of Cartouche's recent post "What was she thinking?" I've summed up my own internal monologue as I read Liz's interpretation of the spread.   

Check. Check. Yep. Uh-Huh. Oh, hell yes; you just said a mouthful. Ouch. Have you been reading my diary? (Oh, wait, I don't have a diary)...Well, no, actually that's not quite accurate but I can see where it came from...Yeah...well, that's good to know...Eeeeep...Triple EEEP...[sigh] Yeah, isn't that always the way?

And then I hit this line: "The reason this is such a problem for her is largely because she can’t seem to get her brain to shut up." 

Get out of my head, Emrich. You kinda scare me.

What Liz did with that tarot spread is something I could not have done with a thousand intensive hours of additional reading and study. I could look at the same cards in the same array and never, ever piece it all together the way she did.

  • Did the reading tell me anything I didn't already know? At some level? Not really.
  • Did it rub my nose in some things I'd been trying to deny or ignore or futilely wish into nonexistence? Oh, yes.
  • Am I OK with having done this little experiment? Difficult to say. Then again, I'm probably overthinking...
  • Would I pay Liz to read my cards?


Whatever her method or approach to reading may be, it's obvious to me as a recovering Witchy-Poo that Liz also has a sizeable intuitive gift (as Bob Eckstein mentioned in comments, she could probably be a very good psychologist. Idle thought: I wonder if any psychologists use the tarot in their practice? Hm. Probably not. I'm being silly. Where was I again? Oh, yeah, that's right; concluding this experiment. Distractedly. Always, always distractedly.)

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
First! (I hope.) Now off to read...
Did I mention how much I LURVE that first line about the coven?
*blush* I love stuff like this (and I still don't believe/disbelieve in any gods) I read a dictionary instead- anyone want me to pull a word for them? ...not nearly as exciting I know, but probably as accurate

The Zerner-Farber Tarot- never seen that one before Verbal, and I must go find it and buy it
Cool post VR. I think you are right that the power of myth (Joseph Campbell nod) and the power of symbols are important and meaningful. Interesting stuff, and interesting story.

On another note, I'm glad you didn't put a vid of The Eagles "Whichy Woman" on here.
I would have had to pick on you then ; )
This should be VERY INTERESTING. I love tarot. Just started doing my own readings. I like the round deck, Mother Peace.
What a great post - I love the symbolism of the tarot also. We used tarot cards as a meditative tool in a spiritual ceremony that I recently attended. Are the images you posted from cards in your own decks? They are beautiful. Regarding your reading - talk about making yourself vulnerable! Rated!
I always knew YOU were a witchy woman but I gotta tell you, Liz is now the scariest woman I know. In a good way.
I had no idea there were so many different tarot decks. Off to Liz's to see what she uncovered about you. :)
Very interesting...I had just spent an hour trying to find my tarot book on old disks and then came back here to check on OS.

If anyone's interested, I have a very simple tarot system and sometimes do a workshop (which I was getting the book out for) called Tarot in Ten Minutes. Which I did as an antidote to all the complicated systems out there - and also as an antidote to the use-your-intuition approach (you need something solid on which to base intuition, IMO).
OOh, I'm intrigued - and inspired to dig out my decks as well. I only have two - the classic, and a beautiful reproduction of an antique Italian deck I bought down a tiny winding side street in Rome.

SO waiting for the follow-up.
I have some Tarot cards, but I fear I'm not good with them (though 'they' say you aren't as good with yourself as you are with others)....
This is legitimately exciting! I’m on my way over to Liz’s.

And BTW – I’m not sure anyone could have written better and more understandably (not to mention efficiently) about the history and causes of their religious/spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof).
I have my own Rider deck which I've been hauling around for almost forty years, though I haven't actually read it more than half a dozen times in the last two decades. Risa uses the Motherpeace deck, of all the ones I've seen I think its images are the most evocative

Now I've got to run over and check out Liz's reading
So, I spawned a "witchy", evil woman? Go figure. I read my daily tarot too, usually for the yuks, though sometimes the cards fall uncannily true in reference to current circumstance. Love you, girl. Off to Pretend Farmer.
Liz, that line? I only steal from the best. :-)

Julie, you can order it from Amazon. Easy peasy.

MJ--don't think I wasn't TEMPTED to insert the Eagles. :-P

CBerg, I had a MotherPeace deck but found it just a tad bit too gender-unbalanced for my tastes. I found it a good home, though.

Shivaun, no, the sample deck images are all Googled. And I did have my doubts about going forward with this...but I figured, what the hell.

Isn't she just, 'touche?

Lisa, there are probably literally HUNDREDS of decks available--this is but the merest of samples.

Myriad, can you blog about your Ten Minutes system?

Delia, I'd heard that too (that readings for others are much easier than readings for self) but I find readings in general are basically beyond me.

David, thanks for the visit and the compliment. :-)
Hey daughter, did I scare you? ;-)
ELO-Evil Woman:
Something is majorly wrong with "people search" OS function...white screen only. I'll catch PF's blog in the morning (hopefully)
Damn, Verbal. When you investigate a topic, you go all the way, leaving no stone (or card) unturned. Bet you got your thoroughness from the Jesuits in Catholic School. Just a guess.
You continue to educate me and I appreciate it. Never had a reading before and after reading this, I doubt that I ever will. ;-)
Francisans and Dominicans, Steve. :-)
Just read Liz's. Fascinating posts between the two of you...and I've learned so much from both. Between you and Liz, it's hard to not be intrigued by all of this. Thanks for the vulnerability and willingness to share.
May the Force be with you. rated.
cool, she said, adding, wish someone would do *me*
put them in my basket, and threw in an old favorite as well: Russian Gypsy
If you ever want to try a different type of cards, I went through 3 sets of these in college :)
oh Larry, lighten up, it's all in fun, and whatever knocks you out of an obsessive loop is a good thing- eh?
I love my Tarot cards, especially the ones I got from France. I don't believe stuff, but I think they can be evocative, helping a person find answers by looking inside and making connections and recognizing relationships between apparently disconnected facts.
I always hate to go to work on Monday but today....
I don't have time to finish reading...I'll be back but just wanted to say that my view of religion is close to the same as yours.
Can't wait to read Liz's response.
I read you now I am back to say, good choice of readers!

I'll be looking forward to see how it applies, or whatever you care to share.
Just read Liz's reading. Here is part of my comment. "I have been receiving "vibes" for some time. This is astounding. You really nailed the complex fusion of her astute intellect and authentic heart, that in my opinion, often pull at her psyche with equal weight." Love you, daughter...every twist and turn and aspect of you...
Interesting! I know next to nothing about tarot, but I like to look at the pictures. (Okay, I know enough to recognize tarot-relevant material in the cheesy horror movies I favor.)

That said, my wife and I have two or three decks. Way back when, we used to travel around in Europe quite a bit. And we played cards. So it was only natural that when we were thinking, "What would make a good lightweight souvenir to take home from this place?" we settled on playing cards. In a couple of places, it turned out to be more convenient to pick up a tarot deck rather than an ordinary one, and so we have a few stacked up on the back corner of a closet shelf, somewhere. Before anyone asks, "Are they interesting and exotic?" I'll answer, "No, they are not." What we've most often seen with foreign cards, tarot or otherwise, is a perfectly familiar deck marked with non-English text. Oh, well.
Interesting. Off to read Liz.
Interesting post and cool to see two of my favorite OSers pool their powers.

Yes, Liz is great and gave me a Tarot card reading that echoes in my mind as it involves a life changing decision my wife and I are addressing–the cards suggested I seriously consider moving.
Rated for nine decks!
I really enjoyed reading your spiritual history! I've had my own quite different wanderings, but with the same tug inside, perhaps, seeking truth and community.
This is way cool! I've always been curious as to what a card reading would be like - now to rush over to Liz's page!
Okay, so first a disclaimer: Jewish girls don't typically do Tarot. We've got the Kabbalah after all, which can take a lifetime to interpret. This exercise, however, has been fascinating and enlightening and I'm looking forward to more. Especially because I have a bit of the witchy in me too. (But why doesn't that surprise us?)
Very cool! I used to read Tarot cards too! Exciting and intuitive read - nice! rated.
Appreciate the update with your reactions! I was very curious about those.
""The reason this is such a problem for her is largely because she can’t seem to get her brain to shut up." That one got to me as well.
Genetic, genetic and... genetic!
I will PM a poem to you in a few, to punctuate that conviction.
You are one brave girl! more reason to love you.
hyblaean- Julie - those Russian Gypsy cards are cool! never seen them before
What a kick to see how many OSers have Tarot cards!
My grandfather gave me a deck when I was in high school. I never asked why he gave them to me and I never used them.
In my 20s I had a friend who did readings and always got a kick from it.
Living by the boardwalk (with many palm and tarot readers) I got sort of interested again.
So my son, at the age of 7 or 8, made some cards. They are very interesting.
I love the storytelling of it. And the reader is telling YOUR story--just like those books that people buy with their kids names in them as the main character. Of course the cards have the added element of synchronicity--and those beautiful pictures! There are so many pretty decks.
Thanks! That was fun. Good luck on your project Verbal!
I struggle with this sort of thing. That is to say, I struggle to restrain my initial impulse to dismiss. Your post makes a little more sense to me than Liz's, but I think that's because you've inserted a whole lot more iffy into it.

When you talk about positive spells (the coven thing), is that just like wishing for stuff real hard? I'm serious; I'm really asking. Is it The Secret in a different package? (My roommate and I in college used to seek out those contests in magazines where the prize was a trip to Hawaii, and I remember us specifically telling each other that no one else could possibly want it as much as we did, so we should win. But I'm not sure we thought that our wishing would make it so we would win).

On the tarot thing, I totally get what you're saying about the power of story telling and myths and so on. I think it's all good, too. I think it's true that we all need reminders, quick kicks in pants, pushes, etc., to organize our lives, to set goals, to look at the big picture, to act rather than act. To make choices rather than passively let things happen to us. But I still don't get how the cards fit in. It all felt very subjective to me. And Liz's final reading felt fairly universal. I hope I don't sound to negative--I have been wrong in the most profound ways, so I'm open to new thinking. But I honestly don't get it. I think if it was all done in fun, that would be one thing. But paying people for it suggests something else entirely. Unless it feels more like therapy in some way? Somehow that feels more acceptable to me.

(I left a comment on Liz's blog too. If neither of you feels obliged to explain any of this further, that's perfectly fine with me:)
to ACT rather than REact.
TOO negative. (Sheesh. Sorry. Just delete the whole mess if you feel like it.)
I loved the deck in pic in Liz's post- it's so pretty! Back when I used to read, I always wished some other, prettier deck than Rider Waite appealed to me reading-wise, but alas, I guess I'm an old fashioned girl. I did get one of the smaller, paint-it-yourself RW decks and had a great time using the colors I loved.

Lainey, I answered you over on Liz's post too, but I'd be curious to know if you, upon reading Liz's post, could insert your own name where it says "Verbal" and feel like she's been spying on you for the past few months. That's literally how it felt to me to read what she'd put together.

I understand that it probably sounds general/universal--so I'd be curious about whether it strongly applies to you and something going on in your life right now, too. (Or ANYBODY who's read it, to tell you the truth--in a thunderbolt-from-Zeus message kind of way).

The coven rituals/wishing really hard/the Secret/praying for G-d to "give" you something you want: I'd have to say fundamentally, yeah. It's all the same. (Only wiccan rituals also include food and dancing and candles and incense and wine! So, you know...BONUS! :-)

There's a reason I didn't continue with that practice; I had no more genuine faith in the ability of ten puny dancing humans to change the course of reality than one puny human praying to G-d, or fifty million when the asteroid's plummeting our way.
I love this whole thing, both your post and Liz's. Of course, now I want a reading, but don't worry. It will pass. hee

I could never consistently do Tarot cards. They were often more accurate than I liked. I mean, I'm sure it was a constructed story and all, but they meshed a little to well with the empath stuff. It was disconcerting.
Um, yeh, you already know about US Games Systems...Fascinatin' post. Your coven days sound like enjoyable witchery. (My Gram's were much more about Dark Forces...)
I could have told you about the overthinking thing cards or no cards. I know you, Woman! Thanks for the mention. I wish I was joining you Friday with hunky hubby.
Actually, there are many psychologists that are both astrologers and tarot readers, but the best one IMHO is Liz Greene. I have her deck of tarot cards and her book on interpretation. She is a deep, intellectual Jungian. It is all about the images as our own Liz knows very well.
Cool collaboration, VR. I used to have a deck in college, too, but I abandoned Tarot-reading when a friend became dependent on my readings. It wasn't just that I wanted to be loved for myself not my Tarot; my friend was quite ill and anxious. Her need, her questions, daunted me. But those decks are so beautiful I may get myself another again. Myths and magic and stories; they make life's challenges and contradictions tolerable. Rated.
I not into this ever before, it's really a new experience for me to be here to see and know more about coven and other decks you have shown above and also the true meaning lies behind them, i have to forward to liz blog to know the rest of the story.
stickers | custom stickers