Ritual for Balance using the Two of Swords

Ritual for balance using the breath and two of Swords

In this ritual we continue working with the suit of Swords, associated with Air, and thus with ideas, information, communication, and choices. The two of this suit is often described as signifying a choice between two alternative courses of action. That understanding can lead to too much of an emphasis on discarding one alternative in order to move forward. In this ritual we will focus instead on the idea of balance. In Swords, when the two represents balance, that can mean holding two ideas simultaneously, as in being able to see both sides of a debate, or it can simply mean appreciating different possibilities without feeling pressured to commit to one course of action too quickly.

For this ritual, we will use our breath to experience different parts of the Element of Air being in balance. If you have a particular choice that you need to make, you can use this ritual to help you assess both options fully, but here it is written simply to engage with the qualities of the Tarot card.

Safety note: I suggest two simple breathing exercises below which are very safe. As always, use your best judgment. If at any time you feel dizzy or are having difficulty breathing, stop the exercise, relax, and let your body return to its baseline.


Place the two of Swords card from your favorite Tarot deck on your altar.

As you cast your circle, begin to become aware of your breath. How is your inhale? Your exhale?

Call the quarters using these words or words of your own. As you do, pay attention to the way the words and the silence fit together:

Air, in your stillness and your movement, join me. Balance my mind.

Fire, in your warmth and your light, join me. Balance my actions.

Water, in your salt and your fresh, join me. Balance my heart.

Earth, in solid rock and friable soil, join me. Balance my body.

You may invoke a goddess or a pair of goddesses as appropriate to your specific situation. If you invoke a single goddess, invite two different aspects of her to be in balance, and to help you find balance in your spirit.

Settle into a comfortable position that you can maintain for a few minutes. If you wish to set an unobtrusive timer so that you do not meditate for too long, go ahead, but make it something that you can set and forget.

Gaze at the two of Swords card on your altar. If you have a specific situation that you need to bring into balance or that you are trying to understand both sides of before you make a choice, draw your mind to that situation and then describe it to the priestess in the card.

In keeping with the theme of this ritual, I offer you a choice of two different breathing exercises. You may start with one and go on to the other if you like.

Balanced breath

Gently bring your attention to your breath and begin counting the length of your inhalation and exhalation. Is one longer than the other? Slowly begin to make them both the same length. Change your breath by just one count at a time. For example, if you started out with your breath an inhale for three and an exhale for five, then move to inhale for four and an exhale for five, then to an inhale for five and an exhale for five. Remain here, or try to lengthen both your inhale and exhale to a count of six.

If you have a particular situation you are concentrating on, think about one aspect or choice on the inhale and another on the exhale. Can you keep your breathing even while doing so? If you want to go on to the next exercise, release your issue into the hands of the priestess in the card and solely work on your breath.

Alternate nostril breathing

Bring your right hand to your face and put your index and middle finger between your eyebrows, on your third eye. Inhale, then press your thumb gently against your right nostril to close it and exhale to your same count through your left nostril. Inhale through your left nostril, then release your thumb and use your ring finger to close off your left nostril. Exhale through your right nostril, keeping your breath even. Inhale on the right, then release your left and use your thumb to close your right nostril. Repeat.


  • Use thumb.
  • Exhale left, inhale left.
  • Switch hand to use ring finger.
  • Exhale right, inhale right.
  • Switch hand to use thumb, repeat.

This will seem complicated at first. Practice makes it easier very quickly. The complicated nature is also useful because it absorbs your attention, so you’re less likely to be distracted.

Stay with this for two to five minutes. End with an exhalation through your right nostril.

When you are finished, release your breath and simply observe. What does it feel like now? How does it feel to be balanced?

Thank and dismiss the quarters with these or your own words:

Earth, thank you for helping me balance my body.

Water, thank you for helping me balance my heart.

Fire, thank you for helping me balance my actions.

Air, thank you for helping me balance my mind.

Open the circle and ground yourself. You may wish to journal about your meditation.

Posted in rituals, Tarot | Tagged , , ,

Elemental Dignities: a few examples

Considering the Elemental Dignities among three cards can show which cards are supporting and reinforcing and which cards have friction or conflict, adding new depth to a reading.

I wrote about using Elemental relationships between Tarot cards and astrological signs in the Weekly Tarot Zodiac entry for my women’s spirituality organization. Where the idea of Elemental Dignities really becomes useful, though, is when we’re working with three (or more) cards and the relationships between them.

For WTZ entries such as next week’s, instead of looking at the Elements of three different cards, I look at the Elements indicated by the Wild Card, the astrological sign, and the card drawn for that sign. Understanding the relationships between the Elemental Dignities of these three pieces helps me know how the current situation and the natural tendencies of a person’s sign are likely to interact with the wild card’s influence.

The Major Arcana cards don’t necessarily have an Element associated with them, but even there the Elements give me more context in which to read the Majors. For Aries, for example, the context of Fire and Earth guided me to read the card Awakening (Judgment) as suggesting certain kinds of renewal.

When all three pieces feature the same Element, that obviously means that Element is having a very powerful influence on the person’s life right now. It’s worthwhile to be cautious about this occurrence, though, as it can mean an over-abundance of that Element. My WTZ reading didn’t have any of these, but Virgo with the Hermit was close, so I included a reminder not to go too far into the Hermit’s withdrawal, suggesting instead that readers balance that with the “Explorer” part of the wild card.

When two pieces have one Element and the third piece is a friendly Element (remember, Water and Earth are friendly to each other, Air and Fire are friendly to each other), all the pieces are usually working fairly well together. For Cancer, a Water sign, to draw an Earth card in combination with the Earth wild card indicates that it should be fairly easy for Cancer to use her natural inclination to work with the experiences these cards portray.

When the three pieces are split between two Elements which are neutral to each other (Earth and Fire or Water and Air), there is a tendency for the “odd one out” to be downplayed or de-emphasized relative to the others. For Sagittarius, with the 5 of Earth and the wild card Explorer of Earth being neutral to the Fiery qualities of Sagittarius, I read that as two pieces of advice for Sagittarius individuals to try to limit their innate tendency to try to change things, suggesting instead that they work on remaining present with the situation they experience even while it is challenging or difficult.

There can also be a split between two Elements which are unfriendly to each other (Earth and Air or Water and Fire), which usually indicates friction or an inability to get different parts of a situation to work in harmony. The wild card for this week is an Earth card, and Taurus is an Earth sign, but Taurus drew the Elder of Air, which I interpreted as Taurus’s earthy tendencies creating difficulty moving into the role of a wise elder.

Elemental Dignities are especially interesting when the three pieces are from three different Elements. This means that among the three there will be pairs that are both friendly and unfriendly! For example, with the wild card Explorer of Earth, the Air sign Gemini drew the card Elder of Water. Here the Earth and Water are friendly, the Water and Air are neutral, and the Earth and Air are unfriendly.

These combinations hold fascinating potential. One of the first interpretations I try to apply to these situations is that one piece forms a “bridge” or “hinge” between the otherwise unfriendly pieces. In this case, the Elder of Water may mediate between Gemini’s Airy tendencies and the Explorer’s Earthy stolidity. Exactly how that mediation takes place depends heavily on the cards themselves; sometimes it can indicate that the one in the middle is being pulled in two different directions, and sometimes it can be a suggestion for a way forward to combine the best of both worlds. Either way, the idea of Elemental Dignities helps me connect the pieces when there are multiple Elements floating around in a particular reading.

For more information about Elemental Dignities and examples of three-card combinations, see the excellent resources at Tarot Eon.

Are Elemental Dignities something you use in your readings? How do you find them helpful? Would you like to learn more?

Posted in divination, Tarot | Tagged , ,

Who is your dark moon goddess?

I work with two primary goddesses, Brigid and Morrigan. In my work, they form a complementary pairing. Brigid usually takes the creative and healing roles, while the Morrigan is the goddess I turn to when I need to work through more difficult situations, such as engaging my shadows. As we turn towards this dark moon after Imbolc, I am reminded of the ways both of them are necessary and important parts of my work.

Do you tend to turn to different powers or deities in different situations? Do you have a dark moon goddess?

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Two upcoming events: Sacred Space and Fertile Ground

I will be presenting at Sacred Space conference on Saturday, March 15th, at 10am, with a short talk and then ritual to the goddess Columbia:

Centered on the goddess Columbia, a personification of the United States who lends her name to our capital district, this ritual presents her as a modern-day version of Athena. After an introduction describing her background and symbols, we will approach her in ritual and hear from five of her aspects calling us to honor the values she embodies. Participants will have the opportunity to respond to these calls by making personal commitments to Columbia for honesty, growth, empathy, groundedness, and community.

Registration for Sacred Space is discounted through Friday!

I will also be presenting multiple new workshops at Fertile Ground Gathering over the weekend of May 8-11. Register by Friday to get the early-bird discount!

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OHF current location will close

For those who were not able to attend the Open Hearth Foundation town hall meeting last weekend, the biggest news is that OHF will no longer have its current location after the end of March. The board is currently working on making decisions about what OHF will do after that.

My obligations for the day were rearranged because of the recent weather, so I was able to attend part but not all of the meeting. The purpose of this meeting was information exchange, not decision making. The board wanted to update the community about what has been happening and what OHF’s current situation is, and then to get feedback from the community so that the board can make informed decisions that serve the community’s expressed interests.

During the last year the board went through a period of overhaul in order to keep the center afloat. The work that they did is why OHF has some assets and options at this point rather than having gone bankrupt around October of 2013. The current board deserves a lot of credit for that work.

The organization does have some financial resources, but those are limited. Throughout the recent work, the organization has had tremendous difficulties building and rebuilding infrastructure in order to do things like contact donors and effectively use volunteers. The later part of the meeting, which I was not there for, involved community conversation on those and other topics.

A focus of the community conversation was the question “What is the most valuable thing OHF brings to the community?”

If you have thoughts related to these issues, or further questions, please contact OHF and share them as the board works through this next transition.

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Pagan framing: Responding to news stories of alleged satanic murders

A young woman in Pennsylvania has admitted knifing one man and now claims that this is only the latest in a string of 22 murders which she committed because she was in a “satanic cult.”

Pagans, please think before you respond to questions about this. Please, for the love of all you value, think before you reflexively start any comment with, “Well, we’re not Satanists.” That’s true, but it’s usually missing the point. When people ask you about your practices and beliefs, lead with what you actually believe:

“I recognize the divine spirit in everything and value life and nature.”

Then, if you absolutely must, continue with: “So obviously a string of vicious murders – if it actually happened – is completely antithetical to anything I’m involved in.”

Now, you may actually be involved in conversations about this that don’t have anything to do with your religion. If it’s office scuttlebutt, and no one confronts you, then the above advice is irrelevant. But – and this is a big but – you should still think about framing. If no one asks you about your religion in the context of this issue, don’t reinforce the connection in people’s minds between the spurious Satanic Panics of the 90s and any form of alternative religion.

With that said, here are more details. Basically, I’m withholding judgment on whether or not the additional killings – or how many of them, if any – took place. The woman involved is only in her teens, and she is undergoing court-ordered psychiatric evaluation. Her confession included several statements about how she doesn’t ever want to get out of jail and that she doesn’t care if anyone believes her (so she knows her story is difficult to believe).

Those statements combined with a story with all the hallmarks of the recycled Satanic Panic narrative, increase my level of doubt. The hallmarks include claiming to be a leader of her “cult” (apparently the imaginary Satanic movement is composed entirely of 19-year-old high-ranking officials), a possible connection with child abuse and molestation, and medically unsubstantiated claims of a secret abortion. She also admits that her memory is distorted. From the local paper that got the interview:

“I feel it is time to get all of this out,” she said. “I don’t care if people believe me. I just want to get it out.”

Suspect: I joined satanic cult

Miranda said when she was 4, she was sexually molested by a relative.

Elizabeth Dean, Miranda’s mother, confirmed Saturday that her sister’s husband was later arrested and charged with sexual abuse of a minor and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

“It was bad,” Dean said. “I never let (her) stay anywhere except for my sister’s house, and I was devastated when I found out.”

Nine years later, Miranda joined a satanic cult in Alaska. Soon after, Miranda said, she had her first experience in murder.

Barbour said she went with the leader of the satanic cult to meet a man who owed the cult leader money.

“It was in an alley and he (the cult leader) shot him,” she said, declining to identify the cult leader.

“Then he said to me that it was my turn to shoot him. I hate guns. I don’t use guns. I couldn’t do it, so he came behind me and he took his hands and put them on top of mine and we pulled the trigger. And then from there I just continued to kill.”

While in the satanic cult, Miranda became pregnant. The cult did not want her to have the baby, so, she said, members tied her to a bed, gave her drugs and she had an “in-house abortion.”

However, her mother on Saturday said that when Miranda told her about the abortion, she took her daughter to a doctor who said there were no signs of an ended pregnancy.

Miranda said she spent the next three years in Alaska, continuing in the satanic cult and participating in several murders.

“I wasn’t always there (mentally),” she said, adding that she had begun to use drugs. “I knew something was bad inside me and the satanic beliefs brought it out. I embraced it.”

During those three years, Miranda said she became pregnant again.

“And I moved to North Carolina,” she said. “I wanted to start over and forget everything I did.”

She left Alaska as a high-ranking official in the satanic world, leaving the father of her second pregnancy, a man named Forest, the No. 2 leader in their cult, who was murdered.

Please, people, let’s keep our history in mind and stay calm about this until more evidence emerges. If there is a secret underground network of vicious child abusers and murderers, the authorities will find them. I’m more concerned about what will happen if – once again – people are convinced of the existence of vicious child abusers and murderers and end up playing a sort of bizarre live-action role-playing game against the figments of their imagination while real, live, innocent people get hurt.

At the very least, it doesn’t look like this particular young woman will be hurting anyone else anytime soon; if she is fundamentally ill as well, let’s hope she gets the help she needs. I pray that everyone affected can find healing.

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I’ve been cleaning up around here. Part of that was moving several old posts to the trash, and then deciding that a few of them didn’t actually belong in the trash. Apparently pulling them out re-published them to Facebook and Twitter, apropos of nothing. I apologize for the mini-deluge of seasonally maladjusted material.

In good news: I now have services pages! Check them out, tell your friends, book an appointment!

Posted in announcements