Promise of the Tulip: a Springtime Tarot Spread

Over the weekend we visited Skagit Valley in Washington for the annual Tulip Festival. I hadn’t been since I was a child and my heart was aching to get outside to enjoy springtime in a safe, pandemic-friendly way. That day also happened to be our daughter’s one month mark and we were able to celebrate her in a field of colors. (We also visited the co-op and grabbed some fruit and veggie starters for our garden – but more on that later. )

While enjoying the stunning beauty of the tulips among strangers, I was struck by how little I actually knew about their origin, history, and magickal purposes. I’ve used dried tulip petals in protection charms before – grinding them down with a little pink Himalayan salt makes an effective (though short lived) ward – but beyond that I wasn’t well informed. Our yard has tulips growing throughout in a variety of colors, so knowing their uses and energy became a top priority for me by the time we got home.

Reading up on the tulip, I learned all kinds of curious facts, like they’re originally from Central Asia, associated with martyrdom and protest in Iran, and their petals are edible. What really stayed in my heart, though, was their association with love in the context of their perennial nature. Tulips store their energies in their bulbs, and are happy to reinvent themselves genetically to suit aesthetic tastes and new environments. This flexibility and hardiness is a bit of a contrast to their rigid yet delicate appearance, reminding me of pointe ballet dancers.

About the Spread

I developed this tarot spread to represent the promise of the tulip to return the following year. Their glorious burst of beauty in bloom is indeed short lived, but returns next year with even more to bare. I made this with the mind of how we’re going to sow love in our home. We’re new homeowners, and we’re trying to fix up our place but are struggling with just how to do so; do we make changes that we’ll enjoy for years to come, or do we make changes that future buyers would love if we choose to sell in a year or two? See, we don’t know how long we want to be here – we’re very tempted to move back to Japan or England – and every decision on our cottage feels consequential to any potential exit strategies.

What long-term projects are you pouring your love into? That’s what this spread is here to help with.

  1. The love to be sown
    How can you best sow your love and energy into the project, job, or relationship? What “love language” needs to be spoken?
  2. Influences from the past
    What previous habits, struggles, or lessons are cycling back around? What echo from previous years is influencing the project, job, or relationship before you?
  3. New perspectives to bring
    Time has passed since those previous influences and going forward requires a new perspective. What perspective or mindset do you need to take on? What should your mental mood board look like?
  4. The bloom that awaits
    Just waiting to be divinely loved, this is the reward that awaits you long-term. This is the love you will sow.

This spread settled my fears and hesitations with working on our home, and reminded me to be completely present in the moment. It’s ours now, and we should pour our own aesthetics, needs, and love into it. The next owners can do as they wish when the time comes – whenever that may be.

What about you?

The Caves – a poem

There are no boundaries here.  The tide rises
to permeate these caves and I welcome the drowning,
like mountain honey on a starved tongue.

Salted ocean is a cold and wet woman, awake
to the billions of stars in her waters. She:
an expanse, cosmic and unknowable, charged
with the holding of things,
people, memory. I breathe her in
like a ship resigned to wreckage
and revealed treasure.

There are no boundaries with Her.
When the cave is full I can see
through time, like the cuckoo who eats by the sun
but calls out in the night, everything is

Below, I see the distant glow of Atlantis.
High above, I see Her hellbent on erosion
reaching for and crashing against cliffs.
And there, on the rocks – the lamb of God-

Brigantia, Laima, Hera –        No. My own Mother;
divine and dressed, as she always is, in black and white;
planting flowers, as she always is, in her garden by the water.

There are no boundaries here. The tide rises
to permeate these caves and I welcome my drowning
with offerings of honeysuckle and violets.

I don’t believe in death or in poison.

There is
only Her, only the tide. The cosmic mother,
my own mother, memory.

The infinite.

Winter Magick and the Elemental Spirit of Ice 

Ten inches fell in 24 hours. Ten inches that weigh down the cedar trees, coat the mossy earth, and bury the dead. Even the hemlocks look heavy, more than they used to. 


Curiously, in Western culture we celebrate the birth of a new year just ten days into this season of darkness and survival. I wondered about this from a young age dabbling in astrology. My elder sister is a solstice-portal Aries, making her birthday one of welcoming spring and a new, warm world.  She, like many other Aries folks, lives her life like each day is a fresh start and an exciting new challenge. That springtime energy is echoed in the depths of winter with December 31st; New Year’s Eve resolutions and diet plans. It’s an energy so out of place with nature that something else – some other energy – must be missing from the equation.


Shortly into my magical studies I read that winter was the power season of the water witches. Winter, too, was the domain of the water zodiac signs (and, to some extent, their mutable companions). Intrigued, I swam in a very Piscean way through this concept and aimed to consciously experience this affinity. Year after year, I’ve found that my most consistent days and weeks of physical confidence, optimum mental health, general self esteem, and desire to be creative reside in the winter months. Of the water zodiac signs or not, anyone with a particular pull towards the water – holy wells, deep oceans, long seashores, river deltas, lotus ponds, thunderous rain – may find a deep sense of comfort and companionship with the waters of winter. 


In some ways, the anticipation of spring pulls our hearts too quickly over this cold, dark sea, and our Oneness with winter – and all the opportunities hidden therein – are put aside for next year. And the next. 


What are those lessons, anyway? Patience, for one, I’d guess. Winter feels long because it is deeply still. When temperatures are low, there is less energy on the move – less room for mistakes. Stripped bare down to her most basic of energy needs, the earth mother holds us in deep silence and witnesses the cycle of life and death. Water, an element essential to that life, also drowns, erodes, cascades, and evaporates. Water can leave a desert to die, or be present in such abundance as to create the inconceivable biodiversity of the trench. 


This leads to the other lesson: presence in what is witnessed. In our case, that simply means presence in the tale of life – and it’s counterpart. 


Outside are ten inches of snow and a cold wind of 26 degrees. Trees have fallen, trapping people on the highway, closing off neighborhoods, and leaving others without power. This is the third time in my lifetime of living here that we have had a weather event like this. In the beauty of this snowstorm there is danger, suffering, and material loss. Yet, where there is death there is life. 


Washington State in recent years has seen a dramatic increase in wildfires in our forests caused, in major part, by the lack of snowpack from winter, high up in the mountains. In our short but hot summers, that snow from autumn through spring melts. This slow melt is what has nourished our creek beds and forests while dampening the landscape, protecting it from fires. This year, we may see a less wildfire devastation here – that is, less crazed, uncontrollable heat and energy due to the nourishment of a cold, dark winter. 


Ice and snow is water in solid form. Like water, it carries the energetics of remembrance, but more like an archive or library rather than the flow of memory. Ice is water’s way of standing still. The elemental spirit of ice simply asks us to do the same. 


In winter,  the stillness makes us vulnerable. Though we’ve adapted to physical stillness from our evolutionary legacy of migratory hunting and gathering, it would be disingenuous to imply that our mental and spiritual experience is anything but still. This is why working with the seasons in the Wheel of the Year can be such a revitalizing practice pathwalkers, as the seasons offer the most present experience we have in modern life to the natural world. Of course our ancestors venerated this cycle and presence too, but they also regularly faced the other aspects of nature on an intimate plane, like the buffalo hunt, collective grief, large predators, natural birth, poisonous snakes, and sleeping under the stars.  


Especially sleeping under the stars on cold winter nights.