This is free advice blog which is part of Skeptical Tarot. To participate, please send your query to our  email .  Please keep queries under 300 words and let me know how you would like to sign off — anonymously, with a link to a website, etc.  Selected queries will be published on this blog. Not all queries will be selected and queries may be edited for length. This feature is not a full tarot reading, but is absolutely free.  You’ll be offered  advice by Marion and a “meditation card.”  See an example here.  If you are interested in a complete reading, please check out out the information in  “Book a Reading.”

When there are no “free advice” inquiries, this blog will focus on different cards and interpretations.  Feel free to comment on the queries and advice, but be aware that these comments will be monitored and snark free.

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Just Walk Away

(I’m still waiting for more of you to write in for free advice using through Dear Skeptical Tarot.  In the meantime, here’s another one of my little discourses on Tarot. Today’s lesson: The Five of Pentacles.)

Tarot is a visual language, and one where meanings can change depending on context and interpretation.  While most decks follow the same basic format and meanings that go back, at least to the Rider Waite deck, there are some subtle and not so subtle differences.

How a card is “read” is not only based on the knowledge of the reader, but on his or her ability to tune in — regardless of what one believes tuning in entails (supernatural or intuitive or simply skilled cold reading).

Some cards tend to always look like bad news.  The Death Card in particular has a reputation that precedes it.  I’m always at the ready to announce, “It’s not necessarily literal,” although clearly, necessarily isn’t much comfort to a worried querent.

Another card which I tend to interpret as not-necessarily- bad-news is the five of pentacles.  In the classic Rider-Waite deck, there are two destitute looking figures, one barefoot the other with crutches. It’s a snowy night and they are walking past what looks like a church window with stained glass pentacles.

The elements from this image are is more or less copied in many other decks. Such as here, in The Goddess Tarot.

“Traditional” interpretations include hard times, rejection, not getting sustenance (in whatever form), ill health, weariness, etc.

In some decks, the image brings to mind more one thing than another. The Barbara Walker deck calls the image, “Hardship.”  In 78 Doors a man is waiting for medical help.  Celtic Dragon seems to take “rejection” literally.  Here we see a man walking away from a woman.


Spiral uses the “traditional” imagery, but with a twist. We see inside the Church window, contrasting the image of warmth and plenty  with one of coldness and destitution.  It reminds me of the old film, Stella Dallas, in which the crude waitress gives her daughter to her wealthy ex-husband so that she can be raised with all the advantages. At the end, Stella watches from outside as her daughter gets married. Here, the figures outside appear to be mother and child.  Could the woman have been a rejected ex-lover of the happy groom? Yet, in this image only three of the pentacles are inside the church. The other two remain outside.  So we might wonder, what is the meaning of the pentacles?  Are they more than mere coins?  Might they represent something bigger and even more valuable, that remains with us, even when we leave material wealth behind?

Usually, the figure or figures are in movement whether walking past something, or leaving a place.  Perhaps it’s purely subjective, but I often see the five of pentacles as representing a necessary leave taking, a movement that is not without risks, but one in which some essential resource is still with you, and in which you are heading (despite the hardship) toward something, though you may not be able to see what that something is, and it may not even exist (at least not yet)

This is supported in the deck I usually use, the Mythic Tarot. Note that the figure is leaving under cover of darkness.  Here, he is alone, cloaked, almost hidden.  In some ways the image is very like that of the seven of swords, a thief in the night.  He is leaving behind a house which looks strong enough from the outside and has five pentacles on it.  He doesn’t seem to be taking anything with him.  He is not weighed down by his burdens.  While his cloak is ragged, his sandals appear to be sturdy enough.

If this is a card about rejection, here the figure leaving appears to be the one doing the rejecting, leaving something behind, but taking with him, what? His talents? His integrity?

Leaving what you have with no certain prospect of getting anything better is a risky proposition, but it may be the best choice. Leaving a job that has become oppressive, breaking off a relationship that has feels like a jail, rejecting an offer that comes with too many strings — these are not easy things to do.  Yet, if we stay where we are, we may lose who we are.  If we leave with our integrity in tact, we remain on a path to being our best selves.  Sometimes, you just need to walk away.

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Mythic Tarot

A man is walking away.  In some decks, he may be walking backwards.  It may be night.  He may be partially cloaked.  Sometimes it looks like he might be sneaking off, similar to the image in the five of pentacles.  He’s holding swords. In some decks seven of them, in others only five with two left behind.  Traditionally, the two left behind seem to be within some encampment.  Maybe he’s a soldier deserting, or a thief taking the swords to sell on the black market, or a spy.

But the tarot is like an ink-blot and the image always subject to interpretation.  Some people will see a lover sneaking around and the knowledge that they are being cheated on will suddenly come to the surface.

Hello Kitty

Others might view it as a breaking away.  In a deck where two swords remain planted, there’s the idea that you can never really leave everything behind, or the message that you need to leave, but it won’t be easy and may require a little secrecy.

Your old boss has called you and dangled before you a new possibility.  You respect your current supervisor, but the firm is a sinking ship.  You obviously can’t say anything till things are firmed up, but you feel as though you are being disloyal for even considering another offer.

The most common interpretation of the card involves the need for diplomacy, discretion, stealth, guile.  Sneaking around may not feel good,  but it could prevent a war.  Maybe the man in the card isn’t exactly a thief.  Perhaps he’s stealing weapons from an occupying army, weapons that would be used to hurt the people he loves. Yes, it’s stealing, but is it unethical?  Or maybe he’s not exactly sneaking away at all, but tricked the enemy somehow, and is afraid they’ll catch on that they’ve been had and come after him.

Druid Craft

Which leads us to the idea of discretion.  There’s the famous quote:  “For evil to flourish, all it takes is that good men do nothing.”  But sometimes the thing you need to do, doesn’t feel right.

The most ethical choice is not always the most obvious, and in some cases it may be necessary to make a choice that doesn’t seem on the surface to live up to your own ethical standards.  You may feel like a thief in the night, but you might be making the best choice.

On the other hand, there may be a good reason why you are feeling a twinge of conscience. Sometimes, if it feels wrong, you shouldn’t be doing it.

We live in a world where “openness” and “transparency” have become buzzwords.  “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”  But often “loose lips sink ships” and “discretion is the better part of valor.”

Celtic Dragon

Certainly, when the card comes up in a spread, it’s as good a time as any to reflect on your own use of guile, whether it’s in your love life, work life, or social life.   Is  secrecy necessary?  What would happen if you were more open? If you are somehow violating the ethical standard you set for yourself, the question needs to be asked:  Is it the standard that needs to be reconsidered? Or is it your behavior?

This is not a card that provides an answer, but one that raises a question.

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Everyday Joy

Tarot cards offer a vocabulary of images that offer insight. Today’s image is not a card, but a cartoon. The title is “Boulevard of Unbroken Dreams.” Many of us have broken dreams, wishes or desires that haunt us years after it becomes clear they are unobtainable. We mourn for what we never had. Yet, right in front of us, there are so many opportunities for happiness. Healthy food, intellectual stimulation, sleep — all of these are necessary and all can be immensely pleasurable. The cartoon is not about “settling” for the mundane, but about taking joy in what’s available and what we need.

*Image from The New Yorker  6/18/2012

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The Best Thing for my Family?

Dear Skeptical Tarot,

I’m forging ahead into self employment during the summer, but I am so uncertain if it really is the best direction to go in. I have a young family to care for and the practical side of me is telling me not to do it – the financial side is so uncertain at the moment, while the rest of me is saying that it is the best thing for me to do for my own happiness which is more important and if I am happy then my family will be happy.

Should I really go ahead with self employment or find a job?

Thanks for any help you can give me,

KM (United Kingdom)


Dear KM,

I’m going to suggest you focus on two cards.  First, let’s take a look at Temperance.  The Temperance card isn’t about a bunch of Carrie Nation smashing beer barrels, it’s a card about the need for balance and moderation, the alchemy of creating harmony in your life.

It’s probably a bit of an oversimplification to assume that if a parent is happy her children will be.  If you suddenly decided to abandon your family to pursue your dream of being a pole dancer, this would not necessarily make your family happy.  However, your focus seems to be that a full time job will be the best way to go financially and that will make them happy and you not so much.  But does financial security buy happiness?   It may play a role but it’s not necessarily the whole enchilada. How much is enough?  Here’s where “balance” and “moderation” come in.

You need to figure out how much money your family requires to feel secure.  It may come down to making your home payments and putting food on the table. We live in an amazingly status hungry age where parents feel guilty if they can’t provide their children with the latest toys and gadgets, where even young children eye each other’s designer outfits.  Are they happier for it?  Fortunately, you live in a land where health care is universal and universities can be free.  Many parents choose to spend more time at home even at a financial sacrifice because they believe that will make their family happy.  Weigh all the factors. Given that it will take you time to build with self-employment, will there be enough for the necessities?  If not, how will you live?  Do you have the skill-set and expertise that will make you successful at self-employment?  If not, what do you need to learn?  The other thing to consider is this:  Are you the sole possible breadwinner in your family or is there a partner who could perhaps be contributing more?  If you are planning to go the self-employment route, this could eventually give you the financial security you seek, but it will take time.  Is your partner willing to give it you?  That may also mean making certain commitments on your part about setting and achieving realistic goals and objectives — developing a business plan and sharing it with your better half.

If your family really needs more income now, then you might want to find something that will pay the bills.  This doesn’t mean that you need to give up on moving forward, but it might necessitate getting more support from your family, so that you can do both.  You won’t get that if you don’t ask for it. Developing other options will help everyone.  Even if you find something full time, these are uncertain times and you might find yourself in this situation again, so developing a skill you can turn into your own business  or use in future employment is in your best interest and that of your family.  If a part time job will be enough and allow you time to work on your other goals, that may be the best solution, even if that job is less prestigious than you’d like.  The key is balance and moderation.  This not only means mixing elements, but also discarding that which you don’t need.

Now here comes the second card — The Chariot.  The Chariot like Temperance involves the need for harmony.  All the parts need to work together to make it go. . Notice in this image the horses seem to be going in two different directions.  You get further when everyone is going to the same place.  You have your dreams.  You also have dreams for your family.  Your partner may have his or her own dreams, and your kids — even if they are very young, may have their own valid ideas. Make sure you are all working toward the same goals, including supporting each other’s individual ones. Try to focus on the long term.  No matter what decision you make now, where do you want to be in five years?  What gets you there?

Temperance and The Chariot are the images you need to focus on  —  balance and moderation but also harnessing your energy to reach a goal.  This is not work you do alone, but in harmony with your family.


Skeptical Tarot invites you to comment on this advice and/or help the querent by writing your own  (with or without cards).  If there’s an issue about which you’d like some free advice, please send your query to  Please keep queries under 300 words and let me know how you would like to sign off — anonymously, with a link to a website, etc. Not all queries will be selected and queries may be edited for length.


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