Posted in interviews, journal prompts, journaling, Jung, personal transformation, self improvement, spirituality, Writing for healing

Journaling Tarot, an Interview with Mary K. Greer


Mary K. Greer2016-Mary Greer


This week I’m excited to introduce you to Tarot expert, Mary K. Greer. She’s the author of eleven books and has been a tarot teacher for years. I use her Tarot for Your Self, a Workbook for Personal Transformation regularly. I recommend that all memoir or journal writers take a serious look at tarot as a tool for self-discovery through symbolism and metaphor.

greer books

Some keywords defining the tarot journey are

  • perspective
  • imagination
  • spirituality
  • discernment
  • symbolism
  • process
  • theme
  • Jungian psychology
  • personal transformation

My personal story with oracle cards began around 1986 when I bought my first deck. I started with a non-traditional oracle deck, The Medicine Cards. Then I purchased the classic Rider Waite Tarot, and the Crowley deck intrigued by  the illustrator Pamela Colman Smith. The Jamaican-American woman artist who created the original tarot images so well-known today, supposedly was not mentioned for her work when the deck was published. Unfortunately, they say she died in poverty and obscurity, but her work is beloved by many through the ages.

the hermit sue rowland copy

      my collage  tarot card – the Hermit

Tarot is about the human saga. For brevity’s sake you can look up Tarot here. It’s uncanny how spot-on the card pulls can be as a fun tool for writing.

Aside from the twenty-two Major Arcana or Trump cards there are four suits with general associations making up the lesser arcana. When you read the cards you look at the relationships generated by the images and their meaning.

  • Cups represent emotions and water
  • Wands represent action and fire
  • Swords represent thinking and air
  • Pentacles represent materials (coins) and earth


  • What I want to explore for journal-keepers and seekers in this segment is the excavation of symbols and metaphors that help you, as a writer, discover your own personal story.

Please join me in talking with Mary K. Greer below:

SR: What got you started in the tarot path?

MKG: I was in college in Tampa Florida in the late ’60s and my best friend got Eden Gray’s Tarot Revealed for Christmas but no cards. I was fascinated and asked everyone if they knew where I could find Tarot cards. Someone told me about a “metaphysical” bookstore on the other side of Tampa. I borrowed a car and went on my first magical “quest” to find a deck. I discovered not only the cards but the whole world of the occult and metaphysical at that bookstore. Within a year I decided I would teach Tarot in college and that someday I would write a book on the subject. I had found what I never knew I was looking for. What really drew me to the Tarot was my interest, as an English/Theatre Arts major, in “archetypal criticism” involving a Jungian approach to symbolism and Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, all things I was just learning about then. I soon discovered that the stories I would spontaneously tell about the cards were easy-to-interpret metaphors for what was happening in someone’s life. To me it seemed as natural as breathing, although it could be disconcerting when potential boy friends nervously complained that I knew too much about them after they asked me to read their cards!

SR: How did you decide to write about tarot?

MKG: I had been teaching Tarot in colleges for several years and started doing large lectures and wrote an article. About this time I started going out with a travel writer. We went off to live in Mexico for a year and he encouraged me to write a book. I started it there and continued it when I returned to my teaching job in San Francisco. My college had a degree-completion program for returning adults. We required students to keep a journal recording their work and life experiences. I taught the journal writing workshops and also directed the school’s “learning skills” program for which I had found a workbook that was highly effective. So my first book addressed the then-taboo that one should never read tarot for him or herself. (I love to break taboos!) I used journal techniques and the workbook format to help people overcome the so-called “problems” with reading for oneself and use Tarot for personal insight and creativity.


SR: How would you advise new students to examine their lives by using tarot?

MKG: There are so many ways I can’t even begin to describe them all. Definitely keep a journal in which you write card meanings, your own readings and what is happening at that time, plus make up spreads, gather info on related myths and symbols, and so on. Do a reading at the beginning or major turning points of everything in your life. Note the patterns that appear: certain cards for certain people, when a card keeps coming up and what it finally means for you. You can go back to these readings later and write what actually happened—revisiting them again and again as you gain more insight. Write about the cards particular to you based on your birthdate numerology, astrology and so on. Dialog with these cards as if you were characters in a play, figures in an “active imagination,” asking advice or answering questions posed to you by the Tarot “archetypes.” Explore the many spreads and other processes that are found both in my books and in so many other books today. Try a variety of decks. Each will require that you look at your life from a different, perhaps totally new and fresh perspective. Create Tarot art. By the way, your “journal” can be a public or private blog, a computer file, a ring-binder, an artist’s notebook—whatever works. Start with what interests you most and go from there; you have your whole life with Tarot as your companion and your relationship with it will develop over time.

Last bit of advice: When in doubt, simply describe the card! It’s amazing where you will naturally go from there.


Thank you so much, Mary! What a treat to talk with you.  Readers, you can find Mary in the links below.

Bio: Mary K. Greer is an independent scholar, writer, teacher and professional Tarot and Lenormand consultant. She has an M.A. in English from the University of Central Florida where she first taught Tarot in 1974. With more than ten books and nearly 50 years experience in Tarot, Mary pioneered many of the Tarot reading methods used today, including reading Tarot for yourself and methods that are interactive, transformational and empowering. She leads intensive workshops every year at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck NY and travels internationally teaching Tarot. Visit Mary’s blog and on-line courses. Check out the “Tarot Magic Tour in Merlin’s Britain” that will take place in June 2017.



Journaling prompt: find yourself a tarot deck and try a reading. How do you like working with Tarot? What Tarot card do you resonate with?  Write about your experiences.

Discussion: A note to people who are afraid of divination or who might fear Tarot study, or are concerned that oracle decks are dangerous. (They’re not). Briefly, people are often afraid of the “occult” and imagine robed devil worshippers dancing around a fire encouraging making human sacrifices. Not true. I’ve never met any such characters.

With any study group one has to follow one’s intuition and if something or someone makes you uncomfortable, then don’t pursue it. There are times when I use “lighter” oracle decks such as Fairy Tarot or Guardian Angel Tarot.

Yes, there are cards that represent the archetypes of “the devil” and “death” etc, but these cards about symbolism rather than a literal event. Breaking the chains of addictions or illicit behavior (devil card) or the need to  change behavior or look at things from a new perspective (death card) are only indications of elements in life. Find a good teacher. Do research.

Each person who chooses to work with oracle cards or the tarot can choose a deck that isn’t frightening. There are all kinds of decks available that do not use these classic “negative” images. I will devote another blog entry to this topic.

Copyright © 2016 by Susan E Rowland

Posted in inspirational, journal prompts, journaling, parenting, relationships

Thoughts of Grandfather

grampa and sue copy.jpg grampas 90th

Above: Grampa’s 90th birthday 1972. My mother made the dress.

July 17th was my maternal grandfather’s birthday. He was born in 1880 and died in 1977. He was my favorite relative. He was a man of few words and a limited education-he completed the eighth grade to be exact. Then he went to work on the family farm. When the farm was sold, he worked on Henry Ford’s farm. My grandmother, who died before I was born, took in teachers for room and board. She worked as a seamstress.

Grampa L. worked as a laborer his whole life. After he stopped working on farms, he was employed as a custodian at the local high school. One time he got on my case for throwing away pencils. He saved pencils long after the erasers were tough and unusable. Throwing out something useful was simply not done.

For as long as I can remember, Grampa would get up at 5:00 am like clockwork and put on his green janitor uniform, even after he retired. He lived by a strict schedule. His little unassuming house was always neat and clean, every tool in its place. He grew raspberries, corn, sunflowers and rhubarb in his back yard in a small Michigan village. When he let you slip your little hand into his, you felt warm and protected. He was decent. He was kind.

                                     grampa lamming

Grampa could make you obey just with a glance, and you knew he would take care of you while in his presence. I miss him and feel him on the other side. Even though my grandfather on my father’s side was a prominent and well-known physician, I favored my earthy grandfather who said “you ain’t” and “well, I guess it’s “prid’near quittin’ time.”

You could always tell when Grampa was in town. His red Mustang would be parked by the curb near the post office or  in the lot at the grocery store. He drove it until he no longer had a license, probably in his mid-80’s because I remember him driving to Cleveland alone in his 80’s. It was depressing when he couldn’t drive anymore. The Mustang went to one of my cousins.

 I remember Grampa taking me with him on errands in the village.  I’d cringe as he drove too slowly in second gear. His beloved cherry red car lurched and sputtered as he neared the end of the street. He paid no attention to the lurching. We’d get there, everything was in a half mile radius. He’d turn his head as far as he could, about 15 degrees, at the corner. I hunkered down politely until the turn was made.

Each time we visited, he’d make sure to mention my sister and me at the check out counter. He’d announce to the clerk, “These are my granddaughters. They’re visiting from Ohio.” His pride made me feel good. His words let me know I was loved in a way that is unique, unconditional; the affection is not contingent on  rank, employment, money or marital status.

What was said in private was another matter entirely.

Grampa’s handwriting was perfect and slow, like his other movements. He never failed to write me little notes in which he would include a stick of Wrigley’s licorice or Juicy Fruit gum.

He liked to read Westerns and when we were little girls, he would hide the books that had bad words in them. The words were mild compared to today’s ever-present in-your-face, irritating, unavoidable vulgarity. One time I snuck and anxiously prowled through the  book until I found the offensive word. It was “pecker.”

Can you believe it? Gone are the days of good and proper verbiage. Gone.

God bless you, Grampa. I can’t wait to see you again on the other side.

Journal prompt: write about your grandparents. Did you know your grandparents? Who is (or was) your favorite? What words and feelings would you use to describe them?


© 2016 Susan E. Rowland

Posted in journaling

I Wrote This

Remodeling….again….scuse the mess!


Found while browsing through my own files:

Working through trauma is considered a difficult task. The memory of an experience works as a trigger for a racing pulse, anxiety, and at times, the inhibition of will. Even our family background and genetics is said to be a foundation for how we deal with issues, be it dating, work, finding opportunities and expectation of personal success or failure. Whole books have been written on the topic of uncertainty. Daniel Siegel writes in the foreword to Louis Cozolino’s, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy, “Cultural evolution continues to mold our synaptic architecture, influencing how we experience our inner, subjective lives and learn to communicate with one another.” I love those two words “synaptic architecture.” I’m excited to continue my work in daily writing as a way to gain confidence and to teach what I’ve learned to others.

You can tell I was in school or taking an online class in journal therapy during the past few years. In plain language I was trying to say trauma affects the brain.

Love, me.




Posted in journaling, stream of consciousness writing

For My Nieces

yesterday in solitude

two rabbits approached to play

where we put out bird seed.

just like a puppy, the bunny rolled around in an earthen indentation

while the doves fed and quail strutted.

roadrunner came by for a frantic visit

going this way and that.

I have so many wild pets and birds

that when thunder came by this afternoon

I was not lonely.

Never wanting for anything

the scent of desert waters

reminds me of childhood

when watching storms was the greatest pleasure,

yet when I hear your story

I wish there was something I could say

to ease your young mind.

The only thing I can think of

is what Mama would say to me

when lightning and tears

felt like they would surely suffocate my spirit:

“Keep that chin up, honey,”

You are stronger than you know.”






Posted in journaling, memoir

Writer’s Lament



The first waking light of dawn

makes my stomach tingle tightly,

as I force my eyes open, glancing at the clock

which has ceased to hold me in custody

like the prisoner of time I used to be.

I try to re-write the sentence in my head– anxious, grasping,

missing again, veering away

from what it was I was trying to say.


In the afternoon road- walking,

responsibilities keep me stalking through sentences.

I pace in the back yard, not seeing anything;

Then flop on my back for a stolen moment

the softness of  cushiony earthen mattress on my aching spine,

I’m feeling the phrase emerging from between my ears,

from behind my eyes.

They did the best they could.


pebs and petunia


Journal prompt: write about writing. If you write memoir, what somatic issues come about during the process? Describe what your body feels like when writing the truth. Do the words just flow out from the page or the keyboard or do you have certain routines that help get the words out?



Posted in journal prompts, journaling, poetry, Writing for healing

Nothing to Fix

back alley 1 copy

Journal entry: on a deliberately UNPLUGGED Sunday evening in the desert…looking through my art…trying not glare at the news about a new radioactive leak being reported. Maybe fantasy works as a temporary cure for mankind’s insanity. I am grateful for having lived so many years without a television. Now I know better and have to take serious breaks from the dang thing.


   There’s nothing to keep up with,

    nothing to fix,

    turning it all off

    while ignoring the mix.


Above: tempera on wood- 1998 -San Francisco.




Posted in friends, inspirational, journaling, poetry, Writing for healing

A Wayward Leaf

cherub with my name


Prompt: fog

Form: elegy

Device: metaphor

WordPress Writing 201 Day Five



A Wayward Leaf


You appeared as a wayward leaf

Outside my window whispering “time is a thief.”

How you disappeared so quickly, my friend,

You died during heavy rains of confusion, a Piscean end.


Yet in the misty, watery, bayside moorings,

I knew you had suffered and cried in the mornings.

We knew all you ever wanted was a family of sweet kindreds,

Yet the anxiety bottled up blasting inside your head.


I wept at the injustice day after day,

Thinking about the wolves that  kept you at bay.

They came up with all kinds of psychological labels,

It was much too late; you  longed for a happy-ending  fable.


The lightest, most delightful red ruby hummingbird

Caused gaiety and laughter, uttering not a word.

How could it be that you had to so quickly depart?

And leave us to wonder if you ever knew your own heart.


Came a glowing cherub, the  angel of deafening fate,

A thrift store treasure found during my melancholy 1998.

Little friend, I often wonder if a fairy tale had been written,

Could it have saved your life, instead of you being bitten?


When, at summer’s finest end, the leaves do fall,

I stop to pick them and ponder it all.

The things that delighted our senses were many,

Like googley-eyed frogs, blooming roses and the shiniest penny.


If you are reading this, over my aging rounded shoulder,

Kiss now your loved ones, savor each pebble and boulder.

Give me a sign please, just one in the evening

And let me know again that you knew you were leaving.





Copyright ©2015 by Susan E. Rowland


Journal prompt: write a no-holding back elegy (see above) or page about a death or a love. This poem is one of a series that is emerging on my friend and co-worker Jocelyn who died in 1998 from an aneurysm. She was only 38 at the time. She loved nature and collecting pretty leaves, and anything with googley eyes. She was born in Nashua, New Hampshire and passed away in San Francisco, California. We both lived in a small rural town about two and a half hours north of the Bay Area. Her husband Pete, died six months before her after a long illness.

When I think of my friends who have crossed over I can smile again. I look at death differently. They want us to carry on and to be happy.

I am not posting a photo of her here, rather I’m posting a picture of the things she loved.

Posted in Gratitude, journaling, memoir

Rainy Day Memories

Grampa Lamming with my name copy


In the basement darkroom I tapped the paper gently in the tray

stirring the strong liquids.

I’d learned to wait for the image.

Within seconds it floats up into my vision, excitedly I proceed,

so I may hang the pictures of my work to dry on the line

and later, to study.

The flaws and white spots don’t make sense at all

but I save the photographs anyway.

Thirty years later I recognize the circles as orbs,

and not mistakes at all.

Sparkling spirits, guiding lights, and angels of mercy

accompanied my quiet grandfather throughout his days.

He was a man who looked out the window often

checking the skies for signs of Spring.

He lived within a sixty mile radius his whole life, from farm into town, from carriages to Model T’s, always Fords, for he labored on Henry Ford’s farm.

He was sure of the perfect time to plant, locating the seeds in their practical places.

When we were little

his hands felt like the warmest mittens of cinnamon and apple tobacco,

tiny hints of the grandmother I’d never known,

I longed to see her eyes.

I wanted to find out who she was, a seamstress named  Esther.







Posted in inspirational, journal prompts, journaling

On Color, Landscape, and the Journey of Life

colors and landscape copyFor the past few days I’ve been busy sorting and cleaning. My journal writing has been sporadic since this is the busy season with book sales.  I came across a sketch in a 1987 journal. My kids were ages 6 and 10. Life was routine. Everything was based around school schedules and summer breaks. We didn’t have computers back then-at least our family didn’t have them. Or cell phones.

Here is something to consider with your journal writing. Take time to discover color. Without going into a long treatise, color is  healing. Color is a descriptor. Color is invigorating.  Hues, shading, and blocks of primary colors can create mood and ambience. I suggest keeping a set of inexpensive markers at your desk or near your journal. Adding doodles and dashes in your writing brightens the appearance of your notebook.

Study landscape along with color. I have been a mountain dweller most of my adult life and even now, living in the desert, just the sight of  peaks in the distance calms me-Lone Mountain, Black Mountain and Twin Peaks are nearby. Yet, it is flat and open around here. “There’s no place to hide in the desert,” said a friend. You’d be surprised. The desert is deceptive and you can get lost easily in it. The desert is sparkling, timeless, and magical.

 Mountains are adventures with each dip and curve. Mountains represent the feminine, the earth’s shapes are like a woman’s body. The mountains nestle and protect us. Life has pinnacles and valleys-we have our ups and downs, our long open spaces and plateaus.

If you are a city dweller, you still have landscape. Neighborhoods, streets, avenues, parks, and highways make up daily life. Going underground to a subway, riding the bus or a train is symbolic in some way. Commuting or staying in place, the theme of travel is in many songs and poems-definitely it’s the highlight of great literature and modern writing, from The Odyssey  to Cheryl Strayed’s inspirational memoir,  Wild.  

The journey and spiritual development are always linked.

 I’m always surprised by noticing landmarks or buildings I’d forgotten about when I travel home to visit the places of my childhood.  Just a suggestion for journaling: take time to notice how line, structure, color, landscape, and form are present in your life.  So many treasures are ours to behold without a price tag.

Happy journaling!

Posted in cystic fibrosis, journal prompts, journaling, memoir, Writing for healing

Journaling Through Intense Memories

march 2009 copy

Above is a paint sketch I did in 2009 when our granddaughter was four years old. She was learning how to interact with the doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital in Oakland. She had been admitted to the hospital for treatment of cystic fibrosis, a condition she was born with–and diagnosed at two months old. She was  on a breathing machine to increase her lung capacity. In CF language, it’s called  a tune up.  The patient usually feels better after the procedure.

Jesse and I were visiting her in the hospital. It was challenging  to learn  to contain my emotions so my worry didn’t show.  Both my parents were deceased and I had to gather my wits and go on without their gentle encouragement. How was I going to be a good role model, to remain calm, focused and supportive?

For some reason, I was thinking about that day in Oakland as I drove around doing my errands today.  I missed my father because of his deep medical knowledge. When he explained things the world made sense. All the parts fit together. Logical. Inspirational. Detailed.

So, I went up to the post office just to get out of the house for a moment and get some orders out. I needed a break from a piece I was writing about my husband’s polio stories.

The heat made the desert plants seem vibrant. Cacti looked like valiant warriors with spears and thick, verdant skins. Everything pokes you here. Saguaro take hundreds of years to grow….I have to come to love each giant king as an individual.

The sky was clear with fantastic clouds that delighted me with their shapes and cartoon images. As a child I would spend hours looking at the sky and the patterns on walls. Long spans of time, minutes upon minutes of waiting, watching, and dreaming would take me up, slowly like an archetypal Ferris wheel. There was the moment when at the top in a rush of excitement you wonder if it will all go back down again, down to safety and security. Sleep would come, or the day would dawn and all the patterns reemerged.

At the post office a man was in line in front of me. He was quite tall and wispy thin, not unhealthy, but rather long; you had to look up to see the top of his head. He was elderly, like royally old, a gentleman I could only see from the back. Emotion caught in my throat a little as I thought of my father who was a tall man.

The man carried out his transaction at the counter with the super nice clerk who’s been there forever. The clerk called him by name, “Thanks for coming in, Sam.” My chest tightened and I squashed the feeling of water coming to my eyes. I see the magnet of camaraderie of two souls quietly talking without excess, man to man. As the customer turned around to leave, I greeted him just for a chance to make contact.

“How ya doin, sir?” I noticed his hearing aid. “What’s new?”

He looked towards me, a stranger. Then I saw his crystal clear eyes. I was startled for a second. They were like a child’s eyes. I look right into those peepers, searching. He was totally pure. No malice, no static, no anger… like a  wise wizard. He had an actual aura that I could see.

I felt the presence of angel. I caught myself. When you are in the presence of an angel, there is a shimmering.

“Oh I’m just old. And if anything is new, I’d be the last one to know.”

I laugh.

“Well, glad to see you. Have a great day.”

I continue to watch him slowly, stiffly walking out to his car and I to mine. I try not to let out an audible sigh. I was in a heightened awareness like I was being transported into another time zone. Why was I so emotional? Could a person manifest an angel? No, he was a regular! The clerk knew his name.

Then I remembered my conversation with my granddaughter last night. I tried not to ask her too many questions because it makes her get quiet. But when I say “talk to me” or “tell me all about it” it’s as if a button is pushed and away she goes into her little burst of power. What a joy. She was telling me all about learning how to write cursive. Her teacher had given her a compliment. So my sunshine was talking all over the place about science, natural resources, magnets and “expereements.” Just one conversation, hearing the squeaky little voice filled with enthusiasm catapulted my mood back into well-being.

Journal prompt: Do a sketch about a memory from your past where you couldn’t seem to fit words to the experience. Even if you are not “artistic” use stick figures or shapes to convey the feelings. If you are not comfortable with drawing, do a collage. The images don’t have to be realistic. They can be representational. Write a brief paragraph about your work. Don’t edit, rearrange or moderate your feelings. What do you notice?

Discussion: Feel free to share your work or your thoughts.

Copyright© 2014 by Susan E Rowland