Monday, August 24, 2015


Mary K. Greer: The High Priestess Of Tarot

 Welcome to The Divination Nation blog!
 We are Pleasant Gehman and Crystal Ravenwolf, a duo of divination divas, “spiritual sisters from another mister”. We’re life-long Tarotistas and obsessed with all things esoteric, occult and paranormal. We’ve created this blog to share our knowledge and to connect with the vibrant worldwide metaphysical community.

 We are extremely honored to feature Mary K. Greer as the first interview subject in our new  “Seers And Sages” series.
Mary K. Greer, cartomancierre extraordinaire in her element

To say that Mary K. Geer is respected in the Tarot world almost is an understatement. The word revered comes to mind, as do venerated, celebrated and honored.  In fact, let’s just say that hands down, she’s The High Priestess of Tarot.

In an illustrious career that’s spanned nearly fifty years, she’s devoted her life to the Tarot, not only as an expert card reader but also in her extensive scholarly work. She’s literally spent decades studying and researching this ancient art.  She’s lived and worked in several countries, and currently resides in Northern California, though she shares her vast knowledge by teaching and lecturing all over the globe.  Her work is illuminating as well as revolutionary- she’s the founder of Tools And Rites Of Transformation, aka T.A.R.O.T., and also teaches many courses on line. If you are lucky enough to be attending a Tarot symposium or festival where she’s teaching, run-don’t even think of walking- to one of her workshops or lectures.  We took her workshop “The Fool’s Progress” at  TarotCon in Denver this past June, and were nothing short of blown away.

Mary has an M.A. in English Literature and is the author of nine hugely popular books on various aspects of Tarot. Her 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card (Llewellyn, 2008) won the COVR award for Best Divination Book. Her latest book is Who Are You in the Tarot? Published by Red Wheel/Weiser…but trust us, they’re all great and packed full of information, as is her blog.

 Since most of the interviews we’ve read with Mary concentrated on the scholarly facets of her work with Tarot, we thought it would be interesting to find out more about the  more personal aspects of her extraordinary life...enjoy!

 When did you first start getting into Tarot?
 It was Christmas, 1967 and I was a junior in college. My best friend got Eden Gray’s Tarot Revealed. The pictures immediately “spoke” to me. But my friend got only the book without the deck. Asking where I could find such a deck, I borrowed a car, and set out on what I consider my first “spiritual quest.” I ended up at a metaphysical bookstore in Tampa, Florida and bought the University Press edition of the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck.

The minute I saw the pictures in the book I was drawn to the idea that you could reveal something about a person based on these story-telling images. It fit right in with my college studies as an English major in symbolism and archetypal criticism and with my recent introduction to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. It also went along with the kinds of exercises we were doing in acting classes. It was like all my interests came together in this one thing.

Did you know right off the bat that it was going to be your life’s work?
Within that first year I decided that I would someday teach Tarot in college as an academic subject and that I would eventually write a book about it. I set about finding out anything I could about Tarot.

How did you learn at first- was it passed down to you, did you study on your own, take classes, or were you mentored by someone?
When I began I couldn’t find anyone who knew anything about Tarot, so it was mostly my reading books and reading the cards for others on the fly. Making associations between images and a person’s life seemed to come naturally to me. I searched out every book I could find on Tarot and struggled to understand the more esoteric concepts on my own, taking up the additional studies of astrology, magic, Kabbalah and even Spiritualism.
Mary on London's Hampstead heath, 1970

I moved to London where I met several people who furthered my interests including a young man who had known Fritz Perls and started me Gestalt Therapy techniques with Tarot and a woman who was studying with Paul Foster Case’s Builders of the Adytum, which I subsequently subscribed to. By 1974 I offered my first class as a non-credit course at the University of Central Florida, Orlando where I worked as a typesetter and graphic designer and got my M.A. in English. For my second Tarot course 60 people showed up! It was around this time that I met someone who had written on Tarot and was very much into Jungian psychology—helping me expand my awareness of how these fit together. But it wasn’t until after I moved to San Francisco in early 1976 and had been teaching Tarot for several years in a college that I took my first Tarot classes from others: Hillary Anderson, Angeles Arrien, Jason Lotterhand and Diane di Prima among the first. I’ve been regularly speaking at Tarot symposiums in San Francisco and elsewhere since 1979.

Please share an anecdote about your early days about any of your earliest readings, or first professional gigs?
While still in college, I quickly learned that reading for people I didn’t know (friends of friends) and often without even knowing the question, got the most impressive and accurate results. Potential boy friends became very uncomfortable at my ability to “see” into their deepest secrets that I would blithely reel off with little understanding that they hoped to keep these parts of themselves well hidden.

 What is your creative process for the books you’ve written?
Each book has presented me with a unique challenge and requires a unique approach. I no longer think I know the “secret” to how to go about it, like I thought I did after writing my first few books. Mainly it is long hours of writing and rewriting and, where required, doing far too much research and practice before I feel competent or ready to share what I know. All the exercises are tested thoroughly in my classes. A book’s subject matter largely dictates what and how the book will be presented, along with synchronicities that arise. I was in Paris researching Women of the Golden Dawn when I noticed a postcard of a painting on an outdoor rack. It was Walter Crane’s Masque of the Four Seasons. When I learned that Crane probably knew several of the people I was writing about, the painting, representing the four women, became the cover. I also structured the book around the “four seasons” of his or her lives, each section introduced by a verse from a seasonal “folksong” which I later found out was really written by the mother of someone who became a friend. A “masque of the seasons” is a kind of ritual and, since I was writing about the magical lives of my subjects, I decided to place the entire book within a ritual context with chants of invocation and release at the beginning and end of the work. The writing-a-book process itself leads me down strange roads that I can never predict!

  What sort of process- intuitive and/or scholarly- do you use for your own work?
I’m not sure how this is different from the books I write. Certainly I have studies that will probably never come out in a book. I started my blog to present my more scholarly work, which publishers are loathe to publish. Or my studies form the basis of workshops and advanced teachings. As I mentioned before, I over-research and over-prepare. What I love most are the practical ideas and insights that come in the midst of workshops – perhaps when someone asks a question about how to do something and I make up an exercise on the spot that will demonstrate the process. Sometimes the exercise fizzles out and sometimes it’s a great success. Most of my successful teaching exercises have ended up in my books.

How did you start integrating art, psychology, history…and all the things that make your approach unique- into your work?  Did it evolve organically, or did you make a concerted effort?
 Wanting to know everything possible about Tarot involves all of these things and more, including mathematics and probability theory, science, literature, philosophy—pretty much everything found in a humanistically inclined Liberal Arts education. What can I say? I’m a perpetual student! For instance, besides teaching in a college for eleven years, I’ve been in a Jungian-based book-group, meeting several times a month for over twenty years.

You’ve travelled all over the world- lived, taught and spoken in several countries…  do you notice any cultural differences regarding Tarot in the places you’ve visited?
I really can’t speak from a global perspective. I haven’t yet taught in Asia and my teachings in Egypt were to westerners. France and southern Europe tends to use more Marseille-style decks with their own esoteric underpinnings (non-Golden Dawn). I felt that the Tarot readers I met in Brazil felt far freer in using Tarot and other cartomantic systems as only one part of their healing work. They include everything from crystal healings to Santeria practices in a session. In the USA, I perceive a sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, divide between those who work more psychologically and interpersonally and those who are more descriptive/predictive (focusing only on interpreting what the cards say in response to a question). But I’m really oversimplifying a wide range of reading practices by my comment. While the internet has opened up an awareness of creative and innovative approaches to Tarot it has also made clear that there are Tarot “fundamentalists” who believe their approach is the only right one, and they aren’t tied to one culture.

What places would you recommend for “Tarot Tourism”?
Northern Italy: Milan, Ferrara, Bologna, Siena, il Guardino dei Tarocchi and more. Egypt is worthwhile if just to convince you that, while the great archetypes are well portrayed, it is not the source of Tarot. Additionally, attending one or more of the major Tarot conferences can be a real eye-opener—I definitely recommend doing this. You’ll make friends for life!

Who do you admire,  (living or passed, established or newer on the scene) in the Tarot universe?
I love everything about Tarot: the books, decks, personalities, and its connections to all forms of human culture. The list would go on and on and on, so I’ll just mention A.E. Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, as, without them, I may never have developed my love for a Tarot that speaks directly to me.

 Please let us know about any upcoming projects you’re working on…
I prefer to not talk about my projects until they are produced, although I’ll say that I’ve expanded my interest in Tarot to include all forms of cartomancy and a great interest in the lives of cartomancers.

What is most important piece of advice you have for card readers, or aspiring readers?
Rules are made to be broken! At the same time you might want to take a look at what a rule is trying to express and determine if is it worthwhile in some form or another. Let go of rules that are unnecessarily limiting. When you look at a card and can’t think what it means: Simply describe the card. More often than not, that will get your intuition flowing. Intuition is not always right. It is different than psychic insights and it is worth cultivating those differences. While your first thought is worth noting, it’s not always worth saying. Continue to develop your reading skills, which include everything from symbology to interpersonal communications.

The Moon and Mary
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Thursday, August 6, 2015


Welcome to The Divination Nation blog!
 We are Pleasant Gehman and Crystal Ravenwolf, a duo of divination divas, “spiritual sisters from another mister”. We’re life-long Tarotistas, obsessed with all things esoteric and paranormal. We’ve created this blog to share our knowledge and to connect with the vibrant worldwide metaphysical community. Aside from Tarot, we practice many other disciplines, including Reiki, pendulum divining, dousing, crystal work, mediumship, house cleansings, and more. We read for clients, write, lecture and teach together as well as working solo. For years, we’ve worked as professional belly dancers, and since 2009, we’ve been doing paranormal investigations together, exploring public and private sites that are reputed to be haunted.  Currently, we’re working on our book, “ Walking The Tarot Path”.

We’d love for this blog to be relevant for metaphysically-inclined peeps at every stage of development from e beginners to professionals, our posts will range from basic concepts and info that many of you are undoubtedly familiar with, to interviews, how-to’s and reviews on events and products.
We hope this blog is as fun for you to read as it is for us to write…Enjoy!

   We live for the dead…or more specifically, we are professional paranormal investigators. We’ve been working as a two-gal team since 2009, and often hunt with others as well. In addition to our own Divination Nation investigations, we’ve done several with Ghost Girls, an all-female Los Angeles-based team with revolving members- many of whom were new to paranormal investigating. Of course, the newbies had several questions. This coming weekend, we’re teaching our workshop “Paranormal Investigation 101”, in California’s Central Valley and we’re certain that those exact same questions will come up in class, so thought we’d share some of our tips for keeping safe both spiritually and physically on ghost hunts.

  Gather the members of your team together in a circle, for a discussion that includes a run-down of protocol.  This should include information on the site you are investigating, including the layout of the site (or building) as well as its history of haunting and what sort of spirits you might potentially encounter.

Go over general troubleshooting, such as making sure everyone knows what to do if they get separated, in case someone gets injured, or feels physically ill. Often, spirits have an affect on humans, who are sensitive to them, which could include-but is not limited to- headaches or bouts of nausea. Making sure everyone is on the same page about these matters will make for a much more efficient- and safe- hunt.

On our investigations, we like to conclude our circle by having everyone hold hands and have a member of the team lead a non-denominational prayer, asking for spiritual protection, and wishing all team members a safe and active hunt.

 There are many protection rituals that can be performed before embarking on a paranormal investigation, and they are as unique as the individuals who practice them! In fact, sometimes they might seem as superstitious and downright bizarre as the lucky rituals gamblers practice…but hey, that’s precisely why these are personal. There’s no right or wrong here- as the old saying goes, “If it feels good, do it!”.

 Often, people like to carry a talisman or good luck charm with them to ward off evil, so if you need a shiny 1943-penny or your grandma’s rosary beads in your pocket, or must have a rabbit’s foot or skeleton key with you in order to feel spiritually protected, go for it!  Bear in mind that certain stones -crystals especially- will actually absorb both positive and negative energy, so make sure you do your research, cause you certainly don’t want to bring home any bad stuff with you.

 Many paranormal investigators like to concentrate on surrounding themselves in a protective bubble of white light. As woo-woo and Grateful Dead Parking Lot-adjacent as that might sound, it’s a terrific idea. If you feel safe and spiritually protected, you probably are. Heck, we do this all the time.  You must be at least somewhat woo-woo to be ghost hunting in the first place, right?  Embrace it- Woo-Woo “R” Us!

 Your physical well being on a paranormal investigation is definitely not a woo-woo concern, it’s very important. The first rule is: Never Hunt Alone.  You never know what-or who- you might encounter…and speaking from experience, we can truly say that we’re probably more afraid of humans than we are of spirits!

 Many of the places you’ll potentially investigate are in remote or abandoned areas, very late at night. Anyone with even the simplest working knowledge of B horror films knows that these are precisely the type of places where some nut in a clown suit or hockey mask is gonna pop out and try to murder you. All kidding aside, there should always be at least two people, more is better. Since we are both women, and often hunt with all-girl teams, we always have a couple of brawny dudes with us to act as security. Although our security team is always terrific for warding off sketchy humans, truth is told, one of them nearly quit on the spot out of sheer terror the first time he heard our Spirit Box go off!

 Remember to dress in layers, and wear comfortable, well-fitting sturdy shoes or boots- you never know what you might be walking around on- mud, rotting floor boards, debris strewn floors, uneven steps.

Bring along plenty of water and some protein snacks- many investigations last for hours and you’ll need to keep hydrated and have your energy stay up.   A flashlight is a must, as is a small first aid kit.  If there are several of you and you are splitting up, Walkie-Talkies are also a great thing to have along.  Remember to bring extra batteries- spirits are notorious for draining batteries, not just on your equipment, but also on flashlights. Make sure your cellphone is charged, too.

 If someone on your team needs help for any reason, you need to be there for him or her.   As we said earlier, anyone who is sensitive to spirits can become drained of energy, get panicky, headachy or sick to their stomach. These physical reactions are fairly typical, and need to be addressed. Please do not leave anyone alone or unattended if they’re in distress! Humans Before Ghosts, ok?

 When you’re done with your investigation, there are many things you can do to make sure you’re not bringing home an unwanted guest, often referred to as a “hitchhiker”.

 Circle up with your team again and have a re-cap session, going over what you’ve all experienced and then let the cleansing begin. First of all, you can respectfully ask any spirits you’ve encountered to stay where they are. Mention that you had a good time interacting with them and thank them, but that they need to stay put, they can’t come home with you.

 Have some sage in your car, light it up, and take turns smudging each other before you leave your investigation site, lightly fanning the smoke up and down each other’s bodies.   Also, it’s quite important to make sure you don’t have the sage with you on your hunt- burning or not, it will keep spirits away! If anyone on your team can do energy work, they can pull any negativity off the other members.

 We like to keep our doors and window sills freshly salted in general, but especially before going on an investigation, so that in case we come home with a hitchhiker, they won’t be able to get into our houses.

If you find yourself feeling a bit under the weather after you’ve gotten home, don’t jump to conclusions: rule out the mundane first. Could it be that your body is aching because you were running around on your feet for seven hours?  Your head hurts…are you sure you drank enough water? When was the last time you ate?  Check with other team members to see if anyone had a cold you could’ve caught, that sort of thing. If you’re feeling sick or just tired in general, monitor your symptoms and see a doctor if necessary.

 Stay safe, have fun and Happy Hunting!


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