Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: Strength

The card on the left is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork of Luna belongs to Felicia Cano.

Traditional Meaning of Strength

As we study the Strength card from the Rider-Waite deck we see several variations of the theme of strength. A woman clothed in a loose white tunic tenderly leans over a ferocious lion. She peers into his sharp-toothed mouth and gently hold his head in place with her hands. It is hard to tell whether she is keeping his mouth open or shut, or maybe even petting him, but whichever it is, she is in control. His tail is tucked between his legs and he gazes up at the woman in submission. A garland of roses twists around her waist and an infinity symbol hovers over her head like a halo. Despite being in what seems like a dangerous position, the woman looks not only calm, but serene; completely at ease with how close she is to the mouth of the lion. Behind her is a bright yellow sky, and below their feet is a lush green landscape.

In some ways the strength card’s themes are obvious – it speaks to inner strength and courage, of not being afraid of the ‘beast’ before us, but it also brings nuances to the idea of “strength” and helps us examine what being strong means to us. The woman is strong, not because of her brute force and physical strength, but rather because of some inner calm and confidence she possesses. True, she isn’t afraid of the lion, an animal which is renown for its prowess in overpowering and brutally killing its prey, but it isn’t just that she isn’t afraid, she has actually tamed it. Her peaceful nature and inner calm have somehow subdued this ferocious beast. The Strength card tells us that we can do this to the ‘beasts’ in our lives, through calm, gentle action and inner courage. The Strength card tells us to go through life with a kind of grace and a gentle handle on things, and to be consistent and patient in our dealings to come out on top. It reminds us that having courage and believing in one’s self puts us in control, even in the most precarious situations.

Luna Lovegood as Strength

If there is one character that embodies the Strength card in the Harry Potter series, it’s Luna Lovegood. I mean, there are plenty of strong female characters in the series, but none have the inner calm and fortitude that Luna does. To understand why Luna personifies this card more than all of the other strong females, we need to take a look at who she is and how she behaves in the series.

We first meet Luna in Order of the Phoenix, which is Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts. Harry, Ginny, and Neville are looking for a place to sit on the Hogwarts Express and end up in the same cabin with Luna. The first impression we get of her is of someone quite strange. She is wearing a butterbeer cap necklace, has her wand behind her ear, and she is reading a magazine upside down. Throughout the ride, she pops up from her magazine to interject weirdly observant (and truthful) comments, and even laughs hysterically at one of Ron’s jokes, to the point where he doesn’t know if she’s laughing at him or not. She seems like a silly side character, but when the train arrives at Hogwarts and Harry notices the thestrals for the first time, it is only Luna who steps in to affirm what he is seeing. From this point on, Luna grows into an important character in the series, and a perfect representative of both inner and outer strength.

Firstly, Luna shows inner strength by not caring what others think. She wears what she wants, reads what she wants, and is open to strange theories even when others make fun of her. The picture above, and one of the cutest scenes from the books, is when Luna wears the animated lion hat to support Gryffindor in the Quidditch match. It roars out loud and is absolutely ridiculous, and draws stares and ridicule, but in typical Luna fashion, she doesn’t care and rocks the hat anyways. Luna never tries to change who she is, despite being made fun of. We get the sense that she is ‘silly’ or ‘out there’ but if we look deeper, we see how much courage and inner strength it takes to be who you are no matter what others think of you.

Secondly, Luna remains calm in the face of adversity, almost to the point of absurdity. We see this most pointedly in the scene from Order of the Phoenix when she is being held by Umbridge and the Slytherin Prefects, and when she talks to Harry at the end of the year. In the first instance, she is being held tightly by the thugs in Umbridge’s office. All of the other characters are struggling and being beaten up, but Luna is described as staring out the window and looking unbothered by it all. Somehow she manages to remain completely calm despite the violence being done to her and to those around her.

In the last scene of book five (and one of my absolute favorite moments), Harry runs into Luna when he’s trying to avoid the end of the year feast. He is feeling isolated and angry about Sirius’s death. Luna is putting up flyers to ask for her belongings back. Harry becomes angry as he hears how each year the students steal Luna’s things, but Luna remains remarkable calm and serene. She remarks nonchalantly that her things always turn up, she just wanted to pack early, but she is going to have a dessert because she knows she’ll get them back by morning. She proceeds to have a profound conversation with Harry about death, and leaves him feeling a little less burdened by his grief. Luna never seems bothered – which can be seen as weakness by some, but really, she is one of the only characters to not become enraged and still make it to the end, loved and respected by others. (Harry even names his kid after her).

Luna is also a support system for others. She is always seen comforting, listening to, or encouraging the other characters. We see this most specifically with Harry, in her willingness to sit with him in his grief over Sirius. She doesn’t make him talk about it or ask him questions, she simply sits with him where he’s at. Because she has gone through similar grief, she is able to hold that grief with others, which shows her amazing inner strength, patience, and wisdom really. She also is seen comforting Ginny and even Hermione at times, and states truths that others need to hear, even if they are uncomfortable with the observation.

Lastly, Luna shows courage and bravery in her actions. She ventures with the group to the Ministry and plays an integral role in the battle there, faces Umbridge and her thugs before going to the Ministry, joins Dumbledore’s Army, and even though we don’t see it firsthand, we hear how she has sided with the students in rebellion in The Deathly Hallows. She is kept prisoner for several months in book seven, but even this doesn’t seem to wither her inner strength or faith in Harry and his mission. She fights bravely and with courage, making her a perfect representation of the Strength card.

The portrait of Luna above really relates to he imagery in the Strength card. There is the same message of strength and hope, especially when we consider the context of Luna and the lion hat. Obviously, the hat itself ties into the imagery on the Strength card, and although it is different (Luna is in its mouth), it is apparent that Luna is in control and wearing the hat; that the hat isn’t wearing her. Her good nature, serenity, and inner strength shine through in her eyes, her expression, and her hand gesture, just like in the Strength card.

How Luna as Strength Helps Us Read Tarot

Luna Lovegood as Strength helps us read tarot because as we think about how Luna stays true to herself, keeps her calm, and exerts courage, we can think about these elements in our own life. Let’s look at a few questions about Luna from book five onward. They are asked with Luna and the Strength card’s themes in mind:

  • How does Luna react when she is being ridiculed and why do you think she acts this way?
  • What do you think Luna’s inner process is – what goes on in side her head, especially when faced with adversity?
  • Do you read Luna’s calm detachment as a weakness or a strength? What beliefs inform this opinion?
  • What do Luna’s fashion/reading choices tell us about her strength of character?
  • What’s your favorite instance of Luna being a support system for others in the books?
  • How does Luna as a character influence your thoughts on the theme of strength?

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about Luna, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where Strength comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Strength card appears in a reading:

  • How do you react when you face adversity in your life? Why do you react this way? Do you think it is coming from a place of strength?
  • What is your inner process when faced with these tough “beasts” of situations in your life?
  • If you were to be able to react to adversity with detachment or calmness, would you feel this was based in weakness or strength? What beliefs inform this opinion?
  • What do your ‘lifestyle’ choices say about your strength of character?
  • How do you provide strength for others, or others for you? Where do you find sources of strength in the world?
  • Think about the theme of strength or inner strength – what does it mean to you? What words do you associate with it? What experiences? What type of people?

This post should get your started thinking about the Luna Lovegood, the Strength card, and your own thoughts and reflections on the theme of strength. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Strength card in tarot!

Next week we will explore Remus Lupin as card number IX, The Hermit.

Listen to the podcast episode of Luna as Strength :

Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The Chariot

The card on the left is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork of Harry on his Firebolt belongs to Art of Spiris

Traditional Meaning of The Chariot

The Chariot is an interesting card in the Major Arcana. In it we see a man standing in a stone chariot. He is dressed as a nobleman or high-ranking warrior, with fierce looking soldier’s uniform. He wears a diadem of sorts with a bright gold star. Above him is a light blue canopy, also covered in stars. In his hand is a spear, and on the front of his chariot is a symbol that is connected to solar energy and chariot mythology. The sphinxes at the front of his chariot are black and white, reminiscent of the pillars in the High Priestess card, and also representing the four elements. The background of the card boasts a city with many tall, wealthy towers, and the sky, ground, and wheels of the Chariot are the same gold as the star on his headpiece.

The Chariot is a card that speaks to us about direction, travel, control, movement, and making choices. It also talks about success and victory, or a hurdle overcome so to speak. The charioteer stands strong and sure, denoting that he is secure in the choices he has made and is sure of where he is headed. He is off in a new direction, but he hasn’t made the choice willy-nilly; he has used his past experiences to help him in the decision. The stars above him relate to the Star card, which not only propose happiness and fulfilled wishes, but also astrological guidance, like sailors who used constellations to sail around the world on new adventures. The card tells us to be confident in our decisions, walk boldly in new directions, and take the reigns in our own lives to steer them to where we want to be. Choice, direction, and control are keywords of this card.

The Firebolt (and Nimbus 2000) as The Chariot

I think you can probably start to see why I’ve chosen Harry’s broomsticks as the best representations for the Chariot card. If we zoom out and take an overview of Harry’s life there is only one place he feels completely free, alive, and in control, and that is on his broomstick. In all other settings, Harry is controlled or restrained somehow. He is being ‘directed’ by others or priorities that are expected of him. At Privet Drive it’s the Dursley’s, at Hogwarts it’s classes, friends, and Dumbledore, in Grimmauld Place it’s the memory of Sirius, and even at the Burrow, as comfortable as Harry is there, he is still a guest and often has outside concerns weighing on his mind. But on a broomstick, especially on the Quidditch field, Harry is completely free. He directs his own actions and speed, and he can focus on his singular goal which is finding the Golden Snitch.

In The Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry flies on a broom for the first time. Harry and company are at their first flying lesson with Madame Hooch. Nothing much happens until Neville loses control of his broom and gets injured. That’s when Malfoy snatches Neville’s Remembrall and begins talking *ish. Despite never having been on a broom before, Harry jumps on and chases Malfoy. It is a feeling Harry has never had before. He has complete control over the broom – it goes exactly where he directs it, he even ‘tells’ us that it seems like the broom can read his mind. He catches the Remembrall in a fantastic nose-dive, impresses McGonagall, and is given a place on the Gryffindor Quidditch team as the youngest Seeker in a hundred years.

If we look at the illustration of Harry on his Firebolt, we can see many similarities with the Chariot card. Although they are in different proportions, there are similar blues, reds, and golds. Like the charioteer in his armor, Harry is dressed in his Quidditch uniform, putting him in the goal-oriented mindset. Both Harry and the charioteer have determined looks on their faces and they are both using their means of transport to achieve their goals. Each of them is in complete control, the charioteer of his stone chariot and Harry of his broom stick, directing it where they want it to go. There is clear movement in each picture as well; both of them are in motion, actively seeking their target. And let’s not forget the ‘gold’ motif – the colors in the Chariot card and the Golden Snitch in Harry’s picture.

We can’t discuss Harry on his broomstick without talking about some of the connections between Quidditch and the Chariot card. One interesting thought is that Quidditch is played in a stadium. If we think about the idea of a Chariot or charioteer, we probably think of the Roman chariot races in the colosseum.

Roman chariot racing reenactment

The Quidditch stadium and the matches that take place there reflect this association. There is action, violence, and victory there. The times after his victories are the times that Harry is treated most like a champion – it is the time he feels most ‘normal’ and not like ‘The Chosen One’. So, much like a chariot racer in Roman times would be cheered like a star athlete, Harry is cheering and adored after playing Quidditch. We also see this in Goblet of Fire, when Harry uses his Firebolt against the dragon in the first task. His skill on the broom shows just how in charge he is when on the Firebolt, and he is cheered for his performance afterwards.

As a Seeker, Harry has one of the most important positions in the game. Even if the other team is ahead, when Harry catches the snitch it ends the game and gives his team 150 points, usually causing a win. To catch the snitch, Harry has to have complete control over his broomstick. He must swoop and dive, out-fly and maneuver against his opponents and through all the other action on the field. Just like the Chariot, he has to know where he is going and steer his broom to get there. When Harry is in control it is magnificent; however, when something happens to Harry’s broom to interfere with this, it causes chaos. We see this happen when Harry is subject to Quirrell’s curse in book one, when he breaks his arm in book two, and when the dementors attack in book three. These are the only time we see Harry struggle with his broom and each time is catastrophic for him. This matches up with one negative reading of the Chariot card in which we consider what happens when the chariot itself is thrown off course or tipped over.

Another ‘shadow side’ of the Chariot card is the way that the confidence of the charioteer can possibly lead to being overly confident, egotistical, or arrogant. Although we don’t see this with Harry, we do with other Quidditch players. Cormack McLaggen , most Slytherin players, and even Harry’s own dad fall prey to this theme of the Chariot card and each of them is like Harry in terms of his broomstick riding abilities.

One last element to consider ties into the tarot story itself. In the tarot deck, the Chariot card is sometimes considered to be the ‘youth’ aspect of the fool, meaning that the charioteer is the Fool, just more experienced and unlike in card 0, here he is making a calculated decision in where he wants to go and what he’s going to do. This play in perfectly with Harry’s story as the Fool. When Harry gets on the broom stick, and especially when he begins playing Quidditch, it is the first time he feels entirely at home in the wizarding world. He feels like he belongs on the broom, it is the first time he thinks he has found a natural talent and isn’t worried about not fitting in or knowing enough about being a wizard. He isn’t lost either, in terms of where to go, he knows his mission is to catch the snitch and that’s what he does. As he gets older, Harry even becomes Quidditch captain, showing his progression through the Fool’s journey, just as the Chariot card shows us progression for the Fool.

How the Firebolt as The Chariot Helps Us Read Tarot

The Firebolt as the Chariot help us read tarot because as we think about the way in which Harry controls and directs his broom, and how this makes him feel, we can think about the same themes in our own life. Let’s look at a few questions about the Firebolt. They are asked with the broomstick and the Chariot card in mind:

  • What sticks out to you when you think about Harry on his broomsticks? Name any emotions, sensations, or images that come to mind.
  • Harry’s first broomstick is actually a toy one that Sirius gets him for his 1st birthday. According to a letter from Lilly, Harry zooms around the house and even knocks over a vase! What does this tell you about Harry’s innate abilities on a broomstick?
  • What causes Harry to lose control of his broom and what are the consequences?
  • Why do you think Harry likes flying/playing Quidditch so much? What about it does he enjoy?
  • Why doesn’t Harry becomes egotistical or arrogant despite all of his skill and ability?
  • We really only see Harry ride his broom during Quidditch, if he had been allowed to ride it elsewhere, where might he have gone? How might this have changed the story?

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about the Firebolt, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the Chariot card comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Chariot appears in a tarot reading:

  • When you think about grabbing the reigns and taking control of your life, what comes up for you? Names any emotions, thoughts, images, fears, etc. that pop up.
  • As children, we are often comfortable being in the “Chariot” position, but it can become harder as we get older. What kind of child were you in this regard and how has this affected your ability to direct your life as you get older?
  • What influences have caused you to ‘lose control’ or ‘steer off course’ in your life? What were the consequences of these moments?
  • When are the times you feel most in control and/or confident about your decisions? What about this is enjoyable to you?
  • Do you struggle with arrogance or pride in any aspect of your life – or do you have the opposite problem of lacking confidence or self-worth?
  • Are there any instances in your life where you wish you’d been more in control or chosen a specific course of action? How would things be different if you had? What can you learn from this going forward?

This post should get your started thinking about the Chariot, Harry and his broomsticks, and the Chariot themes in your life. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Chariot card in tarot!

Next week we will explore Luna Lovegood as card number VIII, Strength.

Listen to the podcast episode of the Firebolt as the Chariot :

Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The Lovers

The card on the left is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork of James and Lilly belongs to ribkaDory.  

Traditional Meaning of The Lovers

Ah, the Lovers card. Who doesn’t want this card in a reading! In the Lovers, number VI in the Major Arcana, we see two people, a man and a woman, standing naked in a strange garden. They stand facing both frontwards and towards each other, hands open and slightly out to their sides. The woman’s head is turned up towards the angelic figure above, while the man looks directly at her. At their feet lays a lush green carpet of grass and a mountain rises (wink wink) in the background between them. Behind the male figure is a tree with leaves of fire, and behind the woman, an apple tree with a looooong green snake wrapped around it. (Can we say Adam and Eve ya’ll?). Above them is a luminous figure rising out of the clouds, its red wings spread wide, its arms spread even wider, wearing a purple robe. This being’s hair looks like fire and blends in with the sun it sits in front of.

This card is chock-full of symbolism and meaning. Firstly, there is the association with the story of Adam and Eve from the Christian Bible. According to the story, Adam and Eve were created by God as perfect mates for one another. They live blissfully in the Garden of Eden until Eve is tempted by the serpent, eats the forbidden fruit, and causes their ‘fall’ from grace. This story hints at some themes for this card – namely that in love, we have times of perfection and utter happiness, but also times for trials, arguments, and potential moments for complete betrayal and heartache. Love is never a straight road and it takes work and working together to make it last.

Other symbols in the card offer more insight into the message of the Lovers. The third figure in the card is Archangel Raphael, who is associated with healing and love. He offers the advice of following your heart and making a commitment to be there for another person. The fire tree represents the passion of love and its flame-like quality, while the apple tree with the snake represents temptation and wisdom, as well as sticking to the boundaries created in a healthy relationship. The garden floor represents potential for growth and a healthy, vibrant relationship. The mountain can represent virility and sexual conquest of one another, or possibly obstacles to overcome in order to come together. The naked figures communicate vulnerability and openness. Overall, this is a card that speaks to love, perfect union, soulmates, and a meeting of hearts. It signifies more than a simple relationship, leaning more towards a person to whom you have an intense soul tie or twin flame aspect with.

James & Lilly Potter as The Lovers

There’s no shortage of couples in Harry Potter. We have Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione, Lupin and Tonks, Molly and Arthur, and Bill and Fleur, but the relationship that most represents the deep connection of the Lovers card is that of Lilly Evans and James Potter. Their love was typical in some ways, but in others, it showed itself to be the kind of sacrificial love that many of us can only hope to have. Even in death, the love of Lilly and James, and the manifestation of their love – Harry himself, lived on and was able to withstand the darkest magic ever seen and eventually defeat it. Pretty powerful if you ask me!

If we compare the image of the Lovers with the image of the Potters, we see a few similarities. Firstly, we see a couple in love, being both vulnerable and sensual with each other. Their hands are openly touching, and Lilly is looking up at James, while James is looking directly at her. What really strikes me are the leaves falling around them, which are the same shape and color as the leaves of fire (and the angel’s hair) in the Lovers card. James and Lilly are definitely a more modern representation of the Lovers, less allegorical and more realistic. One addition thing to consider is the snake imagery. Much like the snake is wrapped around the tree in the Lovers card, we know Voldemort (hello snake connections – Slytherin, Nagini, snake-like face) is lurking just beyond the perimeters of the picture, waiting to strike and ruin this perfect union.

As ‘soulmates’ James and Lilly had an ironically bad start. They meet during their first year at Hogwarts, where James and his friends are bullying Lilly’s best friend Severus Snape. James is described as conceited and spoiled, yet smart, a good friend, and an even better Quidditch player. Lilly is described as kind, clever, good at potions and charms, outgoing, with solid principles of fairness and equality. In their 5th year, James intensely bullies Snape, and Lilly lets him have it. (There’s more to that story, but for Lilly and James I’ll leave it at that). Although James has had a crush on Lilly for a while, it hits full force after this. By their 7th year, he has matured and grown out of most of his cocky ways and manages to snag a date with Lilly. She must see good in him, because they fall madly in love, marry right after Hogwarts, and have Harry shortly after.

We know they were deeply in love, but one thing to consider about James and Lilly, and what makes them so representative of the Lovers card, is that their love for one another is immortalized in time. Let me go a bit further…

We don’t actually get to ‘meet’ James and Lilly in the books. Not as presently living, breathing characters anyway. We are introduced to bits and pieces of them. First through Harry’s eyes in the Mirror of Erised (a fantasy), then through the photo album Hagrid gives Harry (frozen memories). We hear Lilly’s scream when Harry meets the dementor on the Hogwarts Express (PTSD/Trauma). Next we see them in the wedding photo Sirius gives Harry (frozen memory), then in the Occlumency lessons taught by Snape (flashback), through the words of Lupin, Sirius, Dumbledore, and Slughorn (recollections), then in the Penseive (memories), in the Priori Incantatem spell (not ghosts but not alive), and finally though the Resurrection Stone in The Deathly Hallows, which is probably the closest to their being alive we get.

All of this is important because just like the theme of love, especially romantic love, so much is dependent upon fantasy vs reality. James and Lilly obviously loved each other. They were willing to get married during The First Wizarding War, defy Voldemort three times, and go into hiding while Lilly is pregnant. James loves Lilly and his son so fiercely that he willingly faces Voldemort unarmed to give them time to flee. We know he loses his life, and then Lilly, who is given a chance to save her own life, refuses, dying for her son – which you know, sort-of created the entire situation for the books. Harry himself is the manifestation of James and Lilly’s love; he is a symbol of their soul tie, and this is why they both die trying to save him.

However…what is often not considered, in new, exciting love, is the other side. What would have happened had things gone differently? Lilly and James were only 21 years old when they died – extremely young. Did they really have time to delve into the darker themes of the Lovers card, like temptation, growing apart, resentment, and just…time? We see them immortalized as this ultimate loving couple, and while my personal opinion is that they really were, it does raise the same concern as the Lovers card does, which is whether or not two people have what it takes to make it for the long-term. Unfortunately we don’t get to explore this idea thoroughly with James and Lilly, but, what we do know of their relationship majorly connects to the initial themes of the card. They really do seem like the perfect match. Lilly inspires James to be a better man, and he provides her with love and support. Heck, even their Patronuses are the perfect match – Lilly’s is a doe and James’ is a stag. This actually reminds me of the imagery on the Druid Craft tarot’s Lovers card (see below). In Harry Potter, the message of the Lovers card is clear: Love conquers all. Literally. Harry IS James and Lilly’s love personified and in the end, this is what vanquishes evil and makes life worth living for.

The Lovers from the Druid Craft Tarot. Doe and Stag imagery? I think yes.

How James & Lilly as The Lovers Helps Us Read Tarot

Lilly and James as the Lovers helps us read tarot because as we think about how these two were so perfectly matched despite their differences, and how their love transcended time, space, and even death, we can think about the same themes in our own life. Let’s look at a few questions about James and Lilly’s relationship. They are asked with the couple and the Lovers card in mind:

  • Were Lilly and James a perfect match? If so, what made them perfect for each other?
  • What made Lilly and James’s relationship such a good one, according to those who speak about them in the book?
  • How did Lilly and James’s love ‘heal’ others throughout the series?
  • Lilly and James were married very young – do you think if they had lived their relationship would have changed? If so, how?
  • What challenges did Lilly and James face as a couple? What joyful moments did they have?
  • Do you believe it was love at first sight for James or Lilly? Why or why not?
  • What kind of work do you think went into Lilly and James’s relationship behind the scenes (the ‘real’ stuff we don’t see through all of the rose-colored remembrances)?
  • What statement does James and Lilly’s relationship make about the nature of true love?

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about James and Lilly, we can turn this questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the Lovers card comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Lovers appear in a tarot reading:

  • Do you believe you have a perfect match? What will/does make someone a perfect match in your eyes?
  • What makes a relationship healthy and happy? What traits can each partner bring to the table for a ‘good’ relationship?
  • How can real love bring healing to your own life? To others?
  • How has your idea of ‘true love’ changed throughout the years? How do relationships grow and change as you get older?
  • What challenges have you faced in your relationship(s)? What are some of your best relationship moments?
  • Do you believe in love at first sight or soulmates or twin flames? Why or why not?
  • What is some of the hard work that goes into relationships that we often don’t consider when in the ‘honeymoon’ phase? Are you ready to put in this work? Do you do it already?

This post should get your started thinking about the Lovers, James and Lilly’s relationship, and the Lovers themes in your life. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Lovers card in tarot!

Next week we will explore the Firebolt as card number VII, The Chariot.

Listen to the podcast episode of James and Lilly as The Lovers :

The Wheel of the Year Series: Samhain

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,

         Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap,

Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,

         The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,

         The swallow twitt’ring from the straw-built shed,

The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,

         No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,

         Or busy housewife ply her evening care:

No children run to lisp their sire’s return,

         Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,

         Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;

How jocund did they drive their team afield!

         How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, Thomas Gray

The air is crisp and cool. Jewel-colored leaves litter the ground, crackling and scraping as the wind pushes their dry edges across the sidewalks and streets. Bright orange pumpkins sit on doorsteps, some already transformed into Jack-O-Lantern’s with faces carved into their skin. Night comes earlier now, the darkness creeping in deeper and darker than in the previous months, and twilight seems to hold an almost magical power. It is a time of darkening, a time of twilight, and a time of solitude. A time of remembering what once was and of preparing for the long winter months ahead. A time of gathering around and telling stories, some for fun and some for solemnity. And it is a time for crossing over into the worlds beyond, as the veil lifts and we feel the otherworld so close that we can almost touch it. Yes, it is that time; the time of Samhain.

Samhain is the third and final harvest festival on the Wheel of the Year, the others being Lughnasadh and Mabon. The original Gaelic festival of Samhain took place around October 31 or November 1 (on our modern calendar), and marked the beginning of winter. The festival was a time of feasting and drinking, of telling stories and of communing with those that came before. It was associated with the dead, with the otherworld, and with divining the secrets of the year to come. Modern Halloween uses many themes and customs that originated in this ancient festival, making it familiar and relatable to many practitioners who grew up outside of paganism. In this post, I’ll be looking at the origins of Samhain, some of the customs observed for the celebration, as well as its themes, correspondences and symbols, and how to celebrate this truly magickal sabbat.

History of Samhain

Although the exact origins of Samhain are unknown, it is believed to be an ancient festival that was celebrated in Ireland and Scotland. It marked the end of summer and heralded the winter to come. The most concrete references to Samhain we have are found in 10th century manuscripts, however there is evidence that the seasonal timing of the festival was important, even in Neolithic times. The Mound of the Hostages and Hill of Tara are both Neolithic era tombs which align with the sunrise on Samhain, indicating the importance of the date.

From what researchers have pieced together, the festival of Samhain was when the many tribes of an area would come together. Herds of cattle were brought in from the upper fields where they had grazed during the summer and usually a prized cow would be slaughtered and included in the feasting. It was the last big gathering before the winter halted travel, so these tribes often marked this time as the last time to trade with one another. It also marked a time of peace, as any tribal warfare was halted during Samhain and throughout the winter. There is also research that insinuates that every so often, during the Samhain gathering, the tribes would revisit their governing laws and payment systems and make changes. Because everyone was together, the festival was the perfect time to make new edicts and such.

Samhain was also a time for stories. Celtic culture was rooted in the art of oral storytelling. Not only was Samhain an ideal time for telling these important cultural stories, but many of the stories themselves take place on Samhain. Most of these stories tell of liminal spaces, open ‘doorways’, supernatural beings, otherworlds, and souls of the dead revisiting the land of the living. Some such stories are found in The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn, Colloquy of the Elders, and The Adventure of Nera. These stories include wisdom from ancestors, fairy mounds that open as portals into the otherworld on Samhain, and killer werewolves.

A custom that ties closely with this theme is that people tried not to offend the “aos sí”, a sort of mythical race of elves or fairies, on Samhain. To stay out of their way at twilight and nighttime, people would turn their clothes inside-out in hopes to trick them. The tradition of mumming and guising began in connection with these aos sí. People dressed up to protect or disguise themselves from these spirits and sometimes went door-to-door to collect offerings for them. By the 1500s, mumming or guising had become part of the Samhain celebrations. By the 1700s “mischief nights” became common, which also probably originated with the idea of spirits wreaking havoc. Instead, youths would dress up or blacken their faces with ashes from the bonfires, and threaten mischief if they weren’t given food as they went door-to-door.

Of course we cannot forget the precursor to the Jack-O-Lantern, the carved turnip. These pranksters and mummers would carve a turnip and place a light inside to light their way. In addition, people would carve them and place them in windowsills to illuminate the path for wandering spirits.

In terms of the customs practiced on Samhain, one main staple was the bonfire. It is believed that the these bonfires had special powers. The hearth fires were put out, and relit from the main bonfire as a way to banish evil. The fires symbolized the sun, and kept the darkness away during the night, and they were though to have protective powers. Some researchers say that people and animals walked between two bonfires to be cleansed.

At Samhain, people also honored the dead. It was thought that the souls of the departed would visit their former homes on this night, where families would set a place for them at the table and welcome them for the night. There was also the business of slaughtering animals for the winter. Although this would have been business as usual in ancient times, the symbols of blood, sacrifice, and death have been woven into this celebration.

Divination was also a big part of Samhain. There was a divination ritual which involved laying stones, each representing a specific person, around the bonfire. When the fire had burnt out, the stones were examined and their future was told based on certain outcomes. Apples, which we know are associated with the otherworld, and hazelnuts, were used in many rituals. Apple bobbing was a form of divination, as was peeling an apple and throwing the peel over one’s shoulder. The letter formed by the peel was said to reveal the first letter of the person’s future partner. Another fun form of divination was to bake a cake or loaf of bread with items like a coin or ring inside. These items were said to tell the future for the person who got them – a ring symbolized marriage or engagement for example.

Themes of Samhain

As with all of the sabbats on the wheel of the year, the themes can be found by meditating on the energies of that time of year. As we’ve already seen, Samhain is associated with the following themes:

  • Death/Dying
  • Sacrifice
  • Ancestors
  • Mischief
  • Guising/costuming
  • Preparing for the dark times ahead
  • The otherworld/otherworld spirits
  • Stories/traditions
  • Divination

Symbols of Samhain

Symbols associated with Samhain are:

  • Bones-skulls, skeletons, etc.
  • Otherworldly creatures
  • Black animals – cats, crows
  • Cauldrons
  • Bonfires
  • Cemeteries
  • Costumes/mummers guising
  • Carved turnip/pumpkin/apples
  • Crossroads/liminal spaces

Correspondences of Samhain

Some of the correspondences for are:

Stones: Obsidian, bloodstone, smoky quarts, onyx, fossils

Colors: Orange, black, gold, white, silver, dark red/maroon

Herbs: rosemary, sage, pomegranate, sandalwood, patchouli, wormwood, mugwort

Foods & Drinks: Apples, pumpkins, cider, root veggies, potatoes, stew, beef…

Magick: Harvest rituals, rituals or connecting to the ‘Dark Mother’ goddesses such as Hecate, Persephone, or Morrigan. Any kind of divination. Banishing or protection spells. Communing with the dead. Gaining clarity. Exploring past lives. Death/endings/letting go.

Ways to Celebrate Samhain

As modern witches and pagans, we have to find new ways to celebrate the Sabbats. Surprisingly, it is really fun and easy to come up with ways to celebrate that honor Samhain and also fit into our busy lives. As with all magickal practices it is the intention that counts. If you are able to center in on the energies of Samhain by meditating on its themes, colors, stones, and other correspondences, you don’t need a flashy ritual (although there’s nothing wrong with it if you want to do one!) to celebrate.

Here are some celebration ideas. I’ve made them as simple as possible, so you can add on your own touches as your practice allows.

  • Go crazy with décor! Seriously. Samhain is one of the sabbats that has really strong ties to the secular Halloween. Most Halloween decor is based on symbols and themes of this celebration, so now is the time to take advantage of that, especially if you are in the broom closest.
  • Create your own ritual involving a ‘veil’. This could be a simple setup where you hang a sheer curtain in a room or hallway and walk through it to symbolize moving into a sacred or otherworld space. A nice touch to add some deeper feeling to a Samhain ritual
  • Take a trip to a liminal space (cemetery (if allowed), forest, bridge or just under a tree) and practice some sort of scrying or divination. Really cool if you can do it at twilight.
  • Have a bonfire (or firepit). Tell stories, eat, practice divination while sitting around it. Maybe even light a candle insight from the flames to mimic the Samhain ritual.
  • Have a dumb supper for your ancestors, or one in particular.
  • Simply practice divination of any kind. One idea is my Samhain tarot spread. (I also have an ancestor spread and a shadow work spread).
  • Look at old family pictures (with others or by yourself). Tell family stories.
  • Go on a nature walk – again especially if you can go at twilight or dawn
  • Carve pumpkins or turnips with the origins in mind
  • Do a meditation where you let yourself imagine you are at an ancient Samhain festival OR where you travel down a crossroads into the otherworld
  • Commune with spirits however you choose
  • Drink some tea with a piece of barmbrack (recipe below). I offer this Samhain Blend with pomegranate, sage, black tea, and star anise.

Samhain Recipe

Although there are many fun recipes for Samhain, I wanted to go traditional for this one. As I mentioned in the history above, one of the Samhain customs was to bake a loaf of cake or bread with trinkets inside that would foretell what was to come for the recipient. The traditional Irish bread was called barmbrack or “speckled bread”, and its roots go back to druidic tradition. This recipe for barmbrack is from Gemma from Bigger Bolder Baking (I really love her channel and recipe for two-ingredient ice cream…). She is actually Irish, and this recipe is from her very Irish mother. The link talks about the history of the bread and how it ties into Samhain, so I thought it was a perfect fit. It’s not too hard to make and even gives a few suggestions of items you can put into the bread =)

Traditional Irish Barmbrack

Happy Samhain!

Wormwood

Player Queen

O, confound the rest!

Such love must needs be treason in my breast:

In second husband let me be accurst!

None wed the second but who kill’d the first.

HAMLET

[Aside] Wormwood, wormwood.

Player Queen

The instances that second marriage move

Are base respects of thrift, but none of love:

A second time I kill my husband dead,

When second husband kisses me in bed.

Act III, Scene II, Hamlet, William Shakespeare

History of Wormwood

Wormwood, an herb closely related to the mysterious mugwort, has earned itself a place in the ‘notorious’ plant category. Used as a main ingredient in the reportedly mind altering spirit Absinthe in the 19th century, wormwood was both touted as a creative wonder drug and demonized as the cause of violent homicidal madness. Less dramatically, wormwood boasts many medicinal and folkloric uses, and is associated with immorality, ancestor, protection, and reversal magick. Let’s take a closer look at this bitter and notorious herb.

The Bitter Herb

Wormwood’s official name is Artemisia absinthium. A cousin to mugwort, wormwood is part of the genus Artemisia, and boasts many of the same energies. Artemisia refers to the Greek goddess Artemis, who was connected to the wilderness and forests, as well as the moon, childbirth, femininity, and healing. According to the Herbarium of Apuleius, this family of plants was discovered by Artemis and given to Chiron (the figure who taught Achilles how to use yarrow), after whome he named them. Absinthium is from the Greek “apsinthion”, which most likely came from a Persian or Hebrew word for ‘bitter’. Once source even suggested that the Greek word had the connotation of ‘undrinkable’ or ‘unenjoyable’.

Wormwood was referred to as absinth in English even before the infamous green liquor was created; however it is from this etymology that the drink was named – which we will explore later in this post – but the source of the word is kind of a mystery. Etymology.com suggests a folk etymology of Old English “wermod” -similar to Old Saxon “wermoda” or Dutch “wermoet”. The theory is that it has something to do with ‘man’ and ‘courage’, or that it was used as a way to get rid of parasitic worms. It is also related to “vermouth”, an alcoholic beverage flavored with wormwood. Wherever it came from, wormwood is indeed bitter and was used for many purposes. Some of its common names were wormseed, sagewort, old woman, lad’s love, sloven wood, santolina, and sweet Annie.

Medicinal & Folkloric Uses

Before we get into the Absinthe issue, we should look at the traditional uses of wormwood. It was used for centuries for many different reasons. In ancient Egypt is was an antiseptic. In Medieval Europe it was used as a flea and mite repellant, and unsurprisingly, it was often used to get rid of intestinal worms. In 1597, one herbalist wrote, “wormewood voideth away the wormes of the guts”. It was used to treat stomach pains, gas, nervousness, and to stimulate the appetite. It was also known as a fever reducer, and to treat various bites and stings, as well as a method of inducing mensuration or childbirth.

It was used in wines and other alcoholic beverages before Absinthe as well. Romans used it in victory wine to remind themselves that victory has a bitter side to it. There were also folk drinks made with wormwood, such as wormwood wine and crème d’absinthe.

In medieval England people carried it on them to ward off the plague and burned it in their houses after a bout of plague. In Russia, wormwood was worn as protection against Rusalki, water spirits with sharp claws who roamed in the forests and along rivers.

There is a folklore belief that when the devil left the Garden of Eden, wormwood sprung up after him, therefore wormwood has long been associated with snakes, and was used to keep them at bay by being planted in gardens and near home entries.

In Popular Culture

Because of its reputation as a bitter and effective herb, and later, its notoriety which stemmed from the Absinthe controversy, wormwood has been portrayed in different lights in popular culture. Below I’ll look at a few examples from famous pieces of literature, and then I’ll (as briefly as possible) delve into wormwood’s notoriety.

Literature

The quote at the beginning of this article is from Hamlet, but this isn’t the only time Shakespeare mentions wormwood. In Romeo & Juliet, the nurse speaks of wormwood as a method of weaning Juliet from breastfeeding. “And she was wean’d (I never shall forget it), Of all the days of the year, upon that day; For I had then laid wormwood to my dug, Sitting in the sun under the dovehouse wall. My lord and you were then at Mantua. Nay, I do bear a brain. But, as I said, When it did taste the wormwood on the nipple Of my dug and felt it bitter, pretty fool, To see it tetchy and fall out with the dug! (Act I, Scene III).

In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, a character writes in their diary, “He hath made my chain heavy. He hath filled me with bitterness – He hath made me drunken with wormwood.” This describes their sour mood at the situation.

In Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter, two characters are talking about the bad attitude of another. They say, “It begun then — at the time of the trouble with her lover,’ nodded Old Tom; ‘and it seems as if she’d been feedin’ on wormwood an’ thistles ever since–she’s that bitter an’ prickly ter deal with.”

The phrase “gall and wormwood” appears in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, E.W. Hornung’s Dead Men Tell No Tales, and Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge, Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte, and The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (again by Dickens), proving that the saying was extremely popular and common, and as always, wormwood was associated with bitterness.

One last mention is in An Old Maid by Honore de Balzac. It reads, “Before Madame du Bousquier returned to town, Madame du Ronceret, one of her good friends, had driven out to Prebaudet to fling this corpse upon the roses of her joy, to show her the love she had ignored, and sweetly shed a thousand drops of wormwood into the honey of her bridal month”. I’m not familiar with the story, but I really like this quote in showing the versatility with with authors used wormwood to indicate bitterness, sadness, unhappiness, and general annoyance.

Absinthe

Ah, now to the most intriguing part of the history of wormwood – its notorious ties to Lee Fee Verte (The Green Fairy). Although I’d love to go into an entire essay here about this drink (and believe me it is fascinating), I’ll try to stick to the basics and what is relevant to learning about wormwood’s actual properties and associations.

The origins of Absinthe originated in Northern Africa, when French soldiers, amounting to about 100,000 by 1840, were stationed there after the conquer of Algeria. The soldiers experienced fever, dysentery, and constant insect attacks. To treat these problems, they were given wormwood. Because of its bitterness, they put it in their wine, creating a unique, bitter flavor, that they became accustomed to. When they returned home, they brought this acquired taste with them. The drink was a vibrant shade of green, and they called it “une verte”. Soon, civilians and soldiers were asked for ‘the green’…you see where this is going right?

The drink’s popularity grew, and people began to partake in the ‘green hour’ in the evenings. Tales grew of the drink’s hallucinogenic properties, and artists, poets, and other ‘bohemian’ types began drinking it and touting its mind altering powers. Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Alfred Jarry, Pablo Picasso, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, and Edgar Allen Poe are all among the legendary artists who partook in the Green Fairy’s delights.

Then a man named Valentin Magnan, a respect psychiatrist and physician-in-chief of France’s foremost asylum came along. Like most ‘witch-hunts’ in the world, they start with one fanatic who has power, influence, and a strong moral conviction. He believed France was going downhill and that Absinthe was to blame. He dubbed the word “absinthism”, and performed experiments to show just how bad this wormwood infused drink was. (If you want to read my source in full, click here ). His methodology, unsuprisingly, was flawed, but nevertheless, became popular; and thus the reputation of The Green Devil was created.

In 1905, the Lanfray murders pushed the frenzy to a breaking point, and by 1914 Absinthe was banned. The article states: “Absinthe faded into lore, kept alive through the stories of Parisian decadence. What remained were caricatures of mad geniuses who roamed from café to café calling out “une verte!” as they chased that next great insight, the transcendent perspective available only through the grace of the Green Fairy. Of course, anyone who knows this kind of story—romantic, poetic—knows the Green Fairy can never really die”.

So what are the facts? The facts are that Absinthe had an outrageously high alcohol content – up to 80% in fact. This, combined with the notoriously lax standards of production of the times, means that the ‘devil’ in the Green Devil was probably the actual alcohol or other adulterators (copper, sulfate, chloride), NOT wormwood. Wormwood does contain thujone (which we looked at in the mugwort post), but tests have shown that not only is thujone not a hallucinogen, but it was usually never found in high enough levels to produce toxic results. Thujone can cause serious complications, convulsions, or death, but to get those high doses you’d have to drink undiluted distilled wormwood oil, OR you’d have to drink so much Absinthe that you’d be dead from the alcohol long before the thujone reached toxic levels.

So it seems that wormwood got its bad reputation for nothing! Yes, it can be toxic and should be used with caution, but it isn’t as dangerous as myth would have it be. Same warnings apply as with mugwort-don’t use if you are pregnant or allergic to plants in the same family, and always take care to do your research, but wormwood probably isn’t as dangerous as it has been made out to be.

In Magickal Workings

The magickal properties of wormwood are many, some surprisingly gentle for an herb that supposedly caused people to go mad. Here are a few examples of the type of magick you can use wormwood in:

  • Calling spirits & ancestor work
  • Divination
  • Love magick
  • Sending spells/curses back to who cast them
  • Protection
  • Spells for vengeance or where bitterness is required
  • Astral projection
  • Creativity
  • Letting go of bitterness

Like mugwort, wormwood can be purchased quite easily online ( I use Starwest Botanicals). You can use the dried herb in incense blends or in teas. In tea, it is extremely bitter, and is mostly recommended at 1 tsp to 12 oz of water. Otherwise, you can use the herb as you would other herbs – as ingredients in spellwork, to anoint candles, or in charm bags. Wormwood is great for communing with ancestors (think Samhain ritual), and if you’re into darker magick, it can be used to perform revenge spells. This makes sense as it’s historically associated with bitterness. Overall, wormwood is fairly safe, just take the same precautions as with mugwort.

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

Wormwood Recipe

Right. Wormwood tea doesn’t sound that appealing, although it could be worth a try, but the allure of Absinthe still holds sway. There’s something about the myths and legends of the Green Fairy that make me want to try it. Therefore, I’ve hunted down an at-home recipe for Absinthe – I take no responsibility for this recipe, but it seems legit from what I’ve read about the liquor. It is pretty simple, but you will need quite a few herbs. I’d say give it a try and report back!

Absinthe Recipe

Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The Hierophant

The card on the left is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork of Fudge belongs to Brenna-Ivy Art.  

Traditional Meaning of The Hierophant

The imagery on the Hierophant card is somewhat complicated, especially for modern-day tarot readers. I’ll address this shortly, but first, let’s look at the symbolism as it is traditional understood. We see the Hierophant, or Pope figure, seated between two stone pillars on a large chair, almost like a throne. He is richly attired in a red priestly robe, and atop his head is a truly magnificent crown (more so even than the Emperor and Empress). He holds a crosier in one hand, while his other hand gives the sign of a blessing to the two men kneeling before him. These two men are undoubtedly priests or studying to become ordained, as their heads are shaved in the tonsure fashion. There are two crossed keys at his feet, representing the spiritual and mundane worlds meeting.

The meaning of the word Hierophant is, “a person, especially a priest in ancient Greece, who interprets sacred mysteries or esoteric principles“, so by this definition we are asked to read the card as a Pope figure, or a type of spiritual authority who understands the religious or spiritual mysteries of life and who stands as a go-between, advisor, or teacher of sorts between these ‘secrets’ and us. Traditionally, the card is associated with education, deep thinking, developing philosophies on life, and exploring spirituality – essentially to “integrate mind and spirit” and “ascend to a high plane of awareness” (Liz Dean’s Ultimate Guide to Tarot, pg. 51). It also speaks to the experience that being part of an institution or structured community can offer, as well as defining and living your values.

However, the imagery on this card (and this is my opinion) speaks to me of religious rigidity and conformity, as well as abuse of power and denial of the reality of ‘common’ life that is often associated with religion and the Catholic church today. I associate it with saving face, keeping up appearances, and the kind of institutionalized rigidity that alienates and ostracizes those who don’t belong. I think of corruption, power, and political maneuvering as well.

If you connect with the traditional meaning, then this character comparison may not fit as well for you, but if you resonate with my interpretation, then you won’t be surprised at the correlations between Cornelius Fudge and the Hierophant. Even if you do see the traditional meaning as more fitting, the reversed aspect of the Hierophant is pretty spot on with my interpretation so you can use this to help you with the reversed or ‘negative’ aspect of this card.

Cornelius Fudge as The Hierophant

Ah, good old Cornelius Fudge. As far as Harry Potter characters go, Cornelius is probably one of the most indifferently despised. No one takes him too seriously, not the fans of the books, heck, not even the characters themselves really do. Unfortunately, when we do notice him it is because of his bumbling nature and (later on) his absolute refusal to make moral and responsible decisions. However we feel about him, Fudge does play a large part in the first five books, and it is due to his colossal screw-ups that Voldemort is able to fully return to power. It is through this aspect of Fudge that find the best representations of the Hierophant card’s themes. Fudge is like one big ‘ol reversed Hierophant written into a character.

Firstly, let’s look at Fudge’s role in the books. When we meet him he is the Minister for Magic, a position akin to the President of the United States or Chancellor of Germany. He has held this role for the last 13 years (13 years!) and to his credit, he has managed to keep things calm and peaceful after the First Wizarding War ended. As the Minister for Magic, Fudge has actually done a decent job, although it is rumored he made few decisions on his own, instead writing to Dumbledore (hello Magician!) for advice. However, he is the face of the Ministry and is endowed with all of the power and influence that comes with the position.

It is impossible to speak about Fudge without speaking about the Ministry as an institution. It is in charge of enacting and writing laws, working with the muggle government, and performing trials and sentencing for those who break wizarding rules. We see many examples of the Ministry, and Fudge himself, sending letters to Harry informing him of violations of magic he commits (Chamber of Secrets, Order of the Phoenix), and in Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince we witness the legal power of the Ministry during the Wizengamot trial.

In addition to keeping the laws and regulations of the wizarding world, the Ministry seems to have a hand in the education system in the wizarding world. We see this especially with Umbridge (Fudge’s right hand woman) in Order of the Phoenix. Although they may not directly set or grade the O.W.L.S or N.E.W.T.S., it seems many of the judges work for the Ministry and we get the sense that the Ministry steps in whenever they please.

Fudge as a character is greedy, arrogant, incompetent, and cruel and down-right cutthroat in Order of the Phoenix. He uses the press (Rita Skeeter and the Dailey Prophet) to wage a character assassination against Harry, a FIFTEEN year old, and Dumbledore. Even before this, Fudge shows his distain for ‘lower’ classes of wizards, favoring Lucius Malfoy over Arthur Weasley, and treating other species, particularly house elves and goblins, with disgust and discrimination. He is cowardly, inconsiderate, and offensive.

If we look at the artwork of Fudge above, we see the same kind of expression and showiness pictured on the Hierophant card. I mean seriously, look at their faces, their eyes, could they be any more similar!? Fudge is wearing his signature pinstripe suit and lime green bowler hat, a pompous and flashy get-up, that mirrors the fine robes of the Hierophant. Although not pictured, we know that Percy Weasley becomes Fudge’s assistant and follows him everywhere, which mimics the figures at the Hierophant’s feet.

The similarities go beyond expression though. Just as the Hierophant represents the Church in the Rider-Waite deck, Fudge represents the Ministry. They both stand-in for the institutions they head. Both characters put on a public face, wear fancy attire, and base their actions on how they look to others, or how they can hold on to their positions of power. Both hold the keys to life’s mysteries – the Hierophant, a spiritual knowledge and connection, and Fudge, the Department of Mysteries where we see the Hall of Prophecy and The Veil where Sirius dies.

We can think of the Hierophant card and Cornelius Fudge this way: If Fudge had been honorable, if he had had morals and courage, he may have run the Ministry differently. In this alternate world, we would see more of the traditional meaning of the Hierophant reflected. As it stands though, we see exactly how much damage can be done by the negative aspects of this card. Aspects like poor leadership, selfish ambition, harsh rules and regulations, too much authority, punishment to those who don’t conform, corruption, greed, staunch adherence to duty and obligation (we hear Fudge say it is his ‘duty’ many times), and rigid orthodoxy are all traits showed by Fudge and his ministry, and these are all negative aspects of the Hierophant card. The card however, does tell us to clarify our values – which Fudge also kind of pushes in the series. It is because of his folly that everyone must take a side and decide what they stand for, which is one way to go about this task.

How Fudge as The Hierophant Helps Us Read Tarot

Fudge as the Hierophant helps us read tarot because as we consider how he exemplifies the most awful aspects of the Hierophant card, we can reflect on these traits and behaviors in ourselves or in the institutions we associate with in our own lives. Let’s look at a few questions about Fudge from the books. They are asked with his character and the Hierophant card’s themes in mind:

  • In what ways does Fudge deeply neglect his duties as Minister of Magic? How does this affect the wizarding world?
  • What kind of culture does Fudge’s Ministry encourage or set for the wizarding world?
  • What are Fudge’s worst traits and how are these magnified by his position as Minister?
  • The Ministry safeguards the Department of Mysteries. What do you make of this connection and the Hierophant’s guarding of ‘sacred mysteries’?
  • What good things does the Ministry/Fudge do during the series?
  • If Fudge had been a better person, what difference would it have made for the Ministry as an institution? For the Hogwarts education experience? For those employed at the Ministry? Etc…

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about Cornelius Fudge, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the Hierophant comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Hierophant shows his up in a reading:

  • Are you neglecting any of your ‘duties’ in life or are you being a responsible leader/teacher/mentor when the situation calls for it? Are there any areas where you could step up into this position? What effect would this have on you or those around you?
  • Would you benefit from seeking out a leader/teacher or community/institution to belong to?
  • What kinds of organizations do you belong to or participate in? What morals, values, or principles do they encourage and live out?
  • Reflect on the traits you dislike and like about yourself – how are these brought out by your different roles in life?
  • What kind of big life mysterious do you often think about? How do you go about trying to seek answers?
  • What good things come from the institutions or leaders (especially spiritual mentors) in your life?
  • What would you change about these institutions, mentors, teachers, or communities? How would these changes better reflect your values or principles?

This post should get your started thinking about the Hierophant, Fudge’s character, and the themes of institutionalization, greed, and deciphering your own values. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Hierophant card in tarot!

Next week we will explore James and Lilly Potter as card number VI, The Lovers.

Listen to the podcast episode of Fudge as the Hierophant:

Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The Emperor

The card on top is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork on the bottom belongs to Uphillart

Traditional Meaning of The Emperor

The Emperor card above shows an older, yet still powerful man, sitting on his rather solid and intimidating throne. The man is clothed in a striking red cloak, with royal blue sleeves below, and peeking out from underneath the cloak are his legs which are covered in silver armor. The throne of the Emperor is made of granite or other solid stone and decorated with four rams’ heads. He wears a golden crown, and in each of his hands he holds a golden apple and ankh. Behind him is an intensely red-orange sky and fiery colored mountains, where a small stream flows at the base of the peaks.

The Emperor card represents fatherhood, strength, and leadership. He is pictured as an older male, not young and wild, but not yet taken with age; instead, he is wise and mature, still ready to take on the challenges that come with ruling the land. His armor shows us that he is ready for battle if it should be necessary, and that he is on guard against threats to his people. His position on the throne, and the way he looks directly forward shows he isn’t afraid of confrontation; he is secure and confident in his beliefs. The rams’ heads connect with Aries energy, showing him as an intrepid pioneer, unafraid of exploring new opportunities and places. He is a protector and not afraid to set boundaries, while the golden apple in his hand tells us that he also gives easily to help those in his care.

The Emperor tells us that we are protected and in good hands. He speaks to competence, fatherhood, and ambition. He represents a trustworthy, honest, loving partner (as he is to the Empress), and loyal family man. The Emperor often talks to us about being comfortable with who we are, being unafraid to explore new territory, but also to consider what traditional values may be important to our lives. He speaks to balance and security, especially on the home front, and of being in control of our own lives. The Emperor is a leader, in the best way possible – responsible, sensible, and fiercely protective of his values, his family, and his home.

Arthur Weasley as The Emperor

At first glance, Arthur Weasley may seem a strange choice to stand in for the Emperor card. On the surface (and especially in the earlier books), Arthur seems like the bumbling dad who is a little bit silly, a little bit ignored, and who is interested in irrelevant things. He is seen as unambitious and just kind of…harmless. But if we dig deeper, Arthur Weasley is actually more of an Emperor than we might have guessed. Much like Molly, Arthur is one of the father figures in Harry’s life, and he is certainly important as the father of all seven Weasley children. Sadly, Arthur is actually the only father figure of Harry’s to live through the entire series, making him even more important by the ending of the books.

In terms of the imagery on the Emperor card, Arthur matches quite a few elements, although they appear differently with Mr. Weasley. In the images above we see both Arthur and the Emperor with similar expressions. Arthur seems more warm and welcoming, but both are looking directly towards us, with confidence and a sense of assessment. Arthur is pictured against a reddish-orange background that closely matches the colors of the Emperor card. Behind him is a halo of color, resembling the gold crown on the Emperor’s head. Arthur’s clothing keeps this same color motif, and the suit reminds us of his position in the Ministry of Magic. Here Arthur still looks young and full of energy, but there are wrinkles and a bit of greying at his temples. In the books he is described as balding, so although not captured in this image, it is another way to show that Arthur is mature and middle-aged, and reinforces that fatherly image.

In terms of character traits, Arthur embodies the positive side of the Emperor. He is THE family man of the series. He is a loving, loyal, and devoted father and husband, and puts his family first in most of his decisions. He and his wife Molly (The Empress) are passionately in love after seven children and decades of marriage. He often defers to her, but there is a sense that he does so because he loves her intensely and chooses his battles. Arthur often encourages his children in their less traditional ideas, but overall his values are pretty traditional as a father and husband. In addition, he welcomes Harry as one of his own, and has a special relationship with him as we see in Prisoner of Azkaban when he warns Harry about Sirius and Order of the Phoenix when he escorts Harry to his trial.

Arthur is often accused of being unambitious, but in reality Arthur’s ambition leans in a less typical direction. He is absolutely passionate and ambitious about his interest in Muggles. Yes, he finds them fascinating, but Arthur is also a staunch believer in Muggle and Wizard equality, even going so far as to co-author the Muggle Protection Act, which was unpopular at the Ministry and caused him to be overlooked by his higher ups. This is where we see Arthur’s values in full force. He gets into several confrontations over his belief in equality and fairness – even physically fighting a few times. Arthur is eventually promoted at work, and when he gets involved with the Order of the Phoenix, he takes on more and more responsibility and puts himself in great danger to do what he feels is right and to protect his family.

The Emperor card in the Lover’s Path Tarot by Kris Waldherr

One final tie-in to consider is Arthur’s name itself. There has been the observation that the Weasley’s are partially named after characters from Arthurian legends. If this is true, Arthur Weasley must be named after King Arthur himself- indicating a a correlation between this very emperor-like mythical character and Arthur Weasley. In fact, in the Lover’s Path Tarot the author chose to represent the Emperor card with the image of King Arthur and his queen Guinevere.

How Arthur as The Emperor Helps Us Read Tarot

Arthur as the Emperor helps us read tarot because as we consider how he lives out his role as a father, sticks to his principles and values in the face of scrutiny, and provides a stable loving environment for his family, we can think about these elements and people like him in our own life. Let’s look at a few questions about Arthur from the books. They are asked with Arthur’s character and the Emperor card’s themes in mind:

  • On the surface Arthur seems ‘silly’ or ‘weak’ even; how does viewing him through the traits of the Emperor card change this view of him as a character?
  • What kind of father is Arthur Weasley? How do his children, wife, and Harry react to him because of his fathering style?
  • What are Arthur’s core principles and how does he live by them throughout the series?
  • How does Arthur protect those he loves? What does he sacrifice to do this?
  • What kind of husband is Arthur? How does this contribute to his happy marriage with Molly?
  • How does Arthur embrace the pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit of the Emperor?

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about Arthur Weasley, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the Emperor comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Emperor shows his form in a reading:

  • Think about yourself through the Emperor card; what seemingly silly or insignificant traits of yours can you see more strength or meaning in with this lens?
  • Think about father figures in your life – what did you learn from them (good or bad) and carry forward into your life? Are there any father qualities you have found important in your life?
  • What are your core principles? Do you live by them or do you struggle to align your actions to your values?
  • How do you protect those you love? What have you sacrificed in order to give them the life you want for them?
  • What kind of partner are you (or do you want to be)? What could you learn from the Emperor or Arthur about being in a healthy relationship?
  • In what ways do you embrace the pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit of the Emperor? How does this move you forward in life?

This post should get your started thinking about the Emperor, Arthur’s character, and the themes of leadership, fatherhood, and living by your principles in your own life. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Emperor card in tarot!

Next week we will explore Cornelius Fudge as card number V, The Hierophant.

Listen to the podcast episode of Arthur as The Emperor :

Samhain Tarot Spread

Samhain is just around the corner ya’ll! I’ll be publishing my Samhain article and podcast episode soon, but first I wanted to put out my Samhain “Death Card” tarot spread. (Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds!)

Samhain is one of my favorite celebrations on the Wheel of the Year. There is just something absolutely magickal about this time of year – the veil is thin, as they say, and we can feel the otherworldly energies alongside us. One of the most prominent themes of Samhain has to do with death. It is a time to connect with ancestors, to explore our shadow side, and to get in touch with the waning energies of the Earth around us. Death is a part of life; in fact, many things must die in order to be reborn – especially in the natural world.

The tarot spread I’m sharing with you today focuses on this theme of death – that is to say, letting go or letting something die. Tarot is a great way to practice self-reflection and notice aspects of our lives that we might not be consciously aware of otherwise, so with this spread, we’ll be looking at what aspects of your life need to ‘die’ or be ‘let go’ so that another aspect of yourself can be reborn and live. It’s a deep subject, but Samhain is a deep, shadowy holiday, so this spread reinforces these energies.

Below I’ll walk you through a sample reading of my Samhain Death Card reading, much like I did with Mabon’s tarot spread. If you’d like to print out the spread for your Book ‘O Shadows/Tarot notebook, click the picture for a free PDF printable.

How to Read the Spread

To read this spread, you’ll want to shuffle your cards or cut your deck. Then, you’ll lay out the cards face down in the positions you see above. I personally like to ask each question as I’m choosing the card for that position. Once all the cards are laid out, take a deep breath, ask for clarity and insight, and then turn over the cards in the order you laid them down.

Next thing I like to do is take a second to notice any overarching themes/images/suits. Are your cards all wands? Do you have several major arcana cards? Are the figures all looking directly at you? Do you have repeating numbers or colors? Just take notice of all of these things and and see how they play in later.

Now you’ll move on to the individual cards.

#1: This card will tell you what area of your you need to ‘let go/release/die’.

#2: This card will speak to why you are having trouble letting go – what fears are keeping you from allowing this aspect to die.

#3: This card will help you think about how to go about releasing this aspect of your life.

#4: This card will tell you how releasing this aspect will change your life/what effect it will have overall.

#5: This card will give you insight into what may be reborn or given life after this old aspect has passed.

I like to write notes as I go, then revisit my initial overview. I also like to either speak or write my insights into a cohesive ‘story’ because as I do this, more connections arise. It gives the reading a deeper meaning and helps it resonate with me. I often think about the cards for days after a reading when I take the time to write up a summary (or video/voice memo). Below I’ll go through a short sample reading.

Sample Samhain Tarot Reading

This sample reading is much shorter than what I’d do for myself or a client, but it can give you an idea of how to read the spread.

Notes: Many figures are looking at ‘something else’ – not directly at me, they seem focused on others or a task at hand. There is alot of mist/fog, and alot of the figures are alone-they don’t seem upset about that overall, just something I noticed.

#1 Four of Pentacles- The aspect of the querent’s life they may need to let go in is the need to stay in control at all times. It seems to me that this figure is worried/preoccupied with rearranging their home (and symbolically with the pentacles, their possessions), while the visitor stands sadly outside. They are looking at the visitor, but seem to be more concerned with controlling the situation inside than letting others in, or flow. It speaks to me about needing to control situations and people and emotions, etc – so this may be the aspect to let go a little.

#2 The Six of Athames – Where to begin? The biggest thing I notice is that this is usually a card of exploration or beneficial voyage/escape – this image shows the figure tethered. I think this shows that the real fear here is that if they were to ‘let go’ of control (the tether), they’d be adrift at sea, at the mercy of the elements, having no clue where they’d land. They’d feel out of control and scared they’d get lost. (all metaphorical of course)

#3 Four of Athames – This card indicates forcing yourself to take a time out. Unlike the first card, this figure is doing absolutely nothing. They are outside, relaxing under a tree, enjoying the day. This person has no plans, is in no hurry, and if someone else came up, you get the feeling he’d welcome the company. This card doesn’t say how, but it definitely shows that the querent needs to embrace this attitude to begin to move away from the fear aspect.

#4 The High Priestess – Embracing a less fearful, controlling attitude will result in the querent being able to be more creative, in touch with their intuitive side, and actually able to gain MORE control in their life. When we aren’t afraid of someone/something being ruined or not going as we planned, we actually feel more in control because as we go with the flow, things come more naturally and we can appreciate things as they come. How many times have we planned and been disappointed, but not planned and been delighted? The High Priestess shows that tapping into this more open, communicative energy helps us feel more in control than when we tried to control with force.

#5 Eight of Wands – When this querent moves into this new mindset and lets the old one die, they will experience many opportunities or ‘new lives’. The wands laid out before this figure represent ambitions, inspiration, paths, and actions, and as you can see, they are all laid out before her, pointing out different ways to go. Instead of being busy deciding how it MUST be, she is able to CHOOSE a path which is offered. This is a card which often speaks to career choices, or swift, good news – so it shows fast forward movement and change!

Summary: Overall this reading makes a lot of sense. The querent has struggled with shutting others (other opportunities, paths, relationships, etc) out because they didn’t fit with the picture in their head. This was keeping them stuck and although comfortable, not exactly happy. They are afraid because they equate being out of control with being lost/chaotic/adrift, instead of what card #3 says, which is that lack of control can also equal freedom, rest, openness, and enjoyment of the present moment. By letting this aspect ‘die’, the querent will understand that by letting things flow and accepting them as they come, they will actually feel more in control overall, and finally, that this will give them even more wonderful opportunities than they imagined! See, not scary at all!

That’s my short sample reading. I hope it helped you in how to approach your own reading. Good luck!

If you love this tarot spread, but don’t love reading for yourself, I’m offering $15 Samhain Tarot Readings for the month of October! Just click below and choose one of these three Samhain inspired readings.

Belladonna

I have a deadly nightshade

So twisted does it grow

With berries black as midnight

And a skull as white as snow

The vicar’s cocky young son

Came to drink my tea

He touched me without asking

Now he’s buried ‘neath a tree.

Trad. “Girls’ Skipping Rhyme” from Chokely in Wynterset

History of Belladonna

Belladonna, or “beautiful woman” in Italian, is a witchy herb with a sordid history. Beautiful yet deadly, belladonna is the femme fatal of the plant world, and is intertwined with the idea of beauty cloaking a hidden danger. Used as medicine, in beauty treatments, and as a murder weapon, belladonna has quite the bewitching reputation. Its energies are associated with death, beauty, power, and danger, and although we probably won’t be using the actual herb in our spellwork, knowing the history of the plant can help us incorporate its magickal properties in spells or rituals. Let’s take a look!

The Belladonna card from the Liminal Spirits Oracle by Laura Tempest Zakroff

Named for Death & Beauty

Belladonna’s official name is Atropa belladonna. Atropa comes from Atropos, a character in Greek mythology. Atropos (which translates to “unturnng one”, “she who may not be turned aside”, or “the inflexible”) was one of the Three Fates that decided a person’s life. The first sister spun the threat of a person’s life, the second measured it, and Atropos, being the last, cut it – symbolizing death. (Her Roman name was Morta, from which we get muerte, mort, and morte in the romance languages). In some sources, these Fates were daughters of Erebus and Nyx (Darkness & Night), so we see another layer of association with death.

The second part of the official name is belladonna, which means “beautiful woman” in Italian. The berries of the belladonna plant are indeed beautiful and apparently are fairly sweet in taste, but they hide a deadly alkaline poison that can kill quite easily. The name beautiful woman, comes from the enchanting woman of the Italian Renaissance court, where pale skin and ‘bedroom eyes’ were considered the height of beauty. To achieve this look, the women would use eye drops with belladonna juice in them to dilate their pupils.

In folklore and folktales, belladonna has been called many other things, all of which add to its notorious reputation. The most famous of these names are Deadly Nightshade, Witch’s Berries, Sorcerer’s Berry, Death’s Herb, Beautiful Death, Death Cherries, and my personal favorite, The Devil’s Cherries (great band name!).

A Nefarious Poison

Belladonna is best known for its reputation as a deadly poison. Weather fact or folklore, the stories about the use of the plant to carry out murderous intentions abound. There is some research that suggests early civilizations made poison arrows from belladonna. In Ancient Rome, Empress Livia Drusilla is said to have poisoned her husband, Emperor Augustus, with belladonna, while the wife of Emperor Claudius was supposedly poisoned with the plant by her husband. Another legend says that the historical Macbeth poisoned barrels of English drink with belladonna, causing the opposing troops to retreat before battle. And according to some historians, Solomon Northup (Twelve Years a Slave), was knocked out and abducted using a concoction that contained belladonna.

Nicholas Culpepper wrote “It is of a cold nature; in some it causeth sleep; in others madness, and shortly after, death.” These effects have led some to surmise that the famous poison that makes Juliet seem as though dead in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, included deadly nightshade.

Whatever the historical accuracy of these claims, it is absolutely true that belladonna is a deadly poison. The roots, leaves, and berries all contain high amounts of tropane alkaloids, which are deadly to humans and many domesticated pets. If one handles the plant with cuts or scrapes of any kind, the poison can affect them, and although the berries contain less alkaloids, they are the part of the plant most often responsible for poisoning deaths.

A full grown adult can die from approximately 20 berries (or less) and a child from only two. The symptoms of belladonna poisoning are as follow:

  • rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • skin rashes
  • hallucinations
  • convulsions
  • delirium
  • flushed skin
  • coma
  • dilated pupils
  • difficulty swallowing
  • blurred vision
  • severe cramping
  • headaches
  • Death

Although there are some medicinal uses for this poisonous plant, the boundary between toxic and non-toxic amounts is too close for comfort. It has been used as a muscle relaxer, pain reliever, and its key chemical ingredients have been included in some eyes drops in optometrist offices. It seems that there are some homeopathic products which contain belladonna, including teething tablets for infants, that have been warned against by the FDA, and as we can see, there is good reason to avoid any product containing belladonna, especially those made for children.

Practical Magic (1998) – two sisters poison an abusive boyfriend with belladonna

Belladonna Folklore

The folklore surrounding belladonna is very closely tied to witchcraft (or what societies assumed was witchcraft). One of the most persistent associations is that belladonna was an ingredient in the flying ointment used by witches. Flying ointment was a mixture of ingredients, usually poisonous and psychotropic plants, which were put into an ointment (made from the fat of children no less!) and rubbed into the skin (an in some stories the broom handle…uh…yeah it’s what you’re thinking), to help witches ‘fly’ to their satanic meetings. [An entirely separate discussion is whether this ‘flying’ was physical or astral; it seems the latter is more likely. A witch would ‘fly’ (i.e. get high) and have hallucinatory experiences which were believed to have been really experienced)]. Belladonna was often listed as an ingredient in these ointments, due to its association with death and its hallucination inducing chemicals.

Another popular folk belief has to do with belladonna and beauty. In an ancient folk practice from Romania, girls would venture out, find a belladonna plant, and make an offering. She would bury bread, salt, and brandy in exchange for the plant’s root, which would then be carried on top of her head. This would assure her good looks and beauty. As we read above, belladonna was also used to ensure sensuousness and attractiveness in renaissance ladies, so this plant has been connected to the idea of beauty for centuries.

Belladonna & Goddesses

I just wanted to quickly include the goddesses associated with belladonna because the plant’s energies closely align with these powerful deities. Because of belladonna’s strong feminine energy and associations with death and danger, this herb has been connected to several ‘dark’ goddesses. The Roman goddess Bellona is one such deity. She is a goddess of war in Roman mythology. According to some sources, priests who worked with this goddess would drink a mixture infused with belladonna before rituals or meditations to connect with her.

Belladonna is also connected to Hecate and Circe. Circe (possibly Hecate’s daughter) is a Greek enchantress figure. Known for her workings with potions and herbs, Circe was a powerful woman who could use her knowledge to change those who offended her into animals. She is also associated with powerful femininity, sensuality, and because of this, witchcraft. Hecate is also a Greek goddess, and she is probably the most intensely ‘witchy’ goddess of all. According to Wikipedia (yes, I use Wikipedia!): “She is variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, night, light, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery“. We can easily see how belladonna, a plant connected to death and beauty and mystery and liminal spaces is tied to these goddesses.

In Magickal Workings

The magickal properties of belladonna are as dark and dangerous as her history. Powerful and seductive, yet extremely toxic, these energies should not be played around with lightly. Here are some types of magick that belladonna may be used for, although I don’t encourage use of the actual plant. I find that working with an artistic representation can replace the physical herb in spellwork.

  • Magick dealing with the underworld or the dead
  • Connecting with Circe, Hecate, Bellona, or or other similar goddesses
  • In meditation (connect to the energy) to travel to the underworld/dead or similar energies
  • Dark love spells or other magick to invoke intense power or seduction
  • In hexes or curses (dealing with enemies) – warfare and aggression
  • Beauty spells
  • To open and get in touch with liminal spaces

I don’t have many ‘suggestions’ for this herb because there is no way I’m recommending using the actual plant. It can be grown and as far as I could tell it isn’t illegal; however, it is very dangerous both physically and energetically. I love the idea of using a piece of artwork you connect with to bring in the powerful magickal properties, especially around Samhain, or maybe even a belladonna inspired charm. I think it’s up to you how you choose to work with this herb.

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

Belladonna Recipe

Alright, so I don’t have a recipe this week because this plant is highly toxic! What I do have are two suggestions to get in touch with her powerful energies.

  1. Create a piece of artwork inspired by belladonna. If you’re artistic you can paint or draw – the plant itself, be inspired by a story or goddess connected to belladonna, or even an imagined magickal working scenario.
  2. Make a cocktail inspired by belladonna! You could use butterfly pea flower and some lemon juice (this is what turns my Psychic Blend purple) and some other ingredients to make a fun (non-toxic) drink for a Halloween party, or even a ritual for Samhain.

Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The Empress

The card on the left is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork of Molly Weasley belongs to Anna Daviscourt.

Traditional Meaning of The Empress

The Empress is a beautiful card in the Rider-Waite deck, and indeed, she is representative of a beautiful female figure. In this card, the Empress is sitting on a luxurious cushion made of deep, vibrant red material. She is clothed in a loose-fitting gown with a pomegranate design, denoting fertility, death, and rebirth (tied to the myth of Persephone and Demeter). Underneath the gown, it can be inferred that she is pregnant, reinforcing the fertility theme. She is surrounded by abundance, represented by the many trees behind her, the flowing river to her side, and the wheat at her feet. She wears a crown and holds a scepter indicating her authority in her domain, and a necklace of seven pearls, which stand for wisdom and possibly even the seven chakras. The card’s colors also have meaning. Yellows, oranges, reds, and bright greens dominate, symbolizing the earthly, sunny, and fertile aspects of the Empress.

The Empress is the mother card in the tarot deck. She is nurturing, earthly, and secure. The Empress, in her abundant garden, shows us beauty, sensuality, love, fertility, and harmony. She denotes unconditional motherly love and the kind of resourcefulness that comes with being responsible for all her earthly children. She can also speak to domestic harmony, a happy partnership, and a deep level of emotional support. The Empress tells us that we are loved, we are cared for, and that she, as the divine Goddess, provides us with resources when we seek them out. She asks us to respect her creations on Earth, nurture ourselves, and recognize and add to abundance whenever we can. Usually, she is paired with the Emperor card, and together they form the traditional family unit with equal masculine and feminine energies.

Molly Weasley as The Empress

In the Harry Potter books, the character who best represents this card is Molly Weasley. When we meet her, she is dropping off several of her children at King’s Cross station. Harry approaches her and asks how to get to Platform 9 3/4, and Molly gently tells him what to do. This first meeting demonstrates Molly’s nurturing quality, and foreshadows how much of a mother figure she will play in Harry’s life as the books continue.

Molly is the birth mother to seven children: Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny. She has devoted her life to raising her kids and creating a comfortable, loving, and happy home for them. She married her husband, Arthur Weasley, just out of Hogwarts, and they seem to have a very happy marriage, still filled with affection and sensuality. She is often seen taking care of her home, the Burrow, cleaning and doing other chores to keep up the household. The garden at the Burrow is featured a few times in the series, and is one of the only instances of a garden playing a role of importance in the books. Molly and all of her children have the characteristic Weasley hair, a bright red-orange like a flame, which is kind of their trademark in the wizarding world. Molly is fiercely protective of her home and her children. She seems to be the one running the household most of the time, and when any of her children are threatened, she shows her magickal skills and passionate nature.

The connections between Molly and the Empress card are numerous. Molly’s red hair mimics the oranges and reds on the Empress card. At home she is surrounded by more reds and oranges, and also green in the form of Harry’s eyes. Like the Empress, Molly lives in a home of abundance and happiness. They aren’t rich, but the atmosphere their loves creates makes the Burrow one of the happiest places in the books. It is comfortable and one can almost imagine the Empress’s cushions on the Weasley’s couches (albeit maybe a little more tattered). Molly is resourceful like the Empress, always making sure her children have what they need, even if it isn’t the best quality or newest model. She has a loving, fairly equal marriage with Arthur (The Emperor), full of physical connection and emotional intimacy.

The garden at the Weasley’s home mimics the garden of the Empress. It is one of the only significant gardens mentioned in the books and it plays host to not only the hilarious de-gnoming incident, but also Bill and Fleur’s wedding. Molly is fiercely protective of her home, which she ‘rules’ most of the time, but of her children as well. In fact, we can also see a tie-in with the myth of Demeter and Persephone in this aspect. Just as Demeter deals with trying to protect her daughter from Hades, Molly has to protect her only daughter from both Voldemort as Tom Riddle’s diary (in Chamber of Secrets) and Bellatrix (Deathly Hallows). Molly is a very earthly presence in the books, usually offering support, advice, or a good talking-to to one of her children (and Harry). She really takes the time to include Harry in her family, inviting him to her home for various events and getting him gifts for Christmas. One small, but interesting correlation is the pearl necklace on the Empress. It holds seven pearls, one for each of Molly’s seven children. Molly truly is an empress in her domestic domain, and mimics the Empress card in the tarot.

When we look at the illustration of Molly above we see many similarities to the Empress card. She is hugging Harry, a nod to fertility and motherhood. Food hovers around her, reinforcing the ideas of home, security, abundance, and comfort. The warm oranges and browns remind us of the colors in the Empress card, and on her head are a few star hair clips, a (unintentional) nod to the stars on the Empress’s crown.

How Molly as The Empress Helps Us Read Tarot

Molly as the Empress helps us read tarot because as we consider how welcoming, warm, and motherly she is, we can think about these elements and people in our own life. Let’s look at a few questions about Molly from the books. They are asked with Molly’s character and the Empress card’s themes in mind:

  • Where do you see the themes of abundance and fertility in Molly’s life?
  • How does Molly show emotional support for her children (including Harry)?
  • How would you describe the relationship between Molly and Arthur?
  • How do you think Molly manages to provide the necessities for her children when its obvious the family struggles with money?
  • Molly is mothering, but not necessarily coddling. How does she encourage responsibility and gratefulness in her children?
  • Molly nurtures others all the time, but how does Molly find time/resources to nurture herself?

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about Molly Weasley, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the Empress comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Empress shows her form in a reading:

  • Where do you see the themes of abundance and fertility in your life? (Fertility can relate to creativity, ‘birthing’ a talent or project, or growing something)
  • Where might you need to find a source of emotional support at this time? Where might you need to show emotional support to someone else?
  • What kind of relationships do you have in your life? Are they balanced and nurturing? If not, how could you move towards a relationship like this?
  • How do you use the resources in your life – meaning, are you using them wisely and gratefully? Are you making the most of what you’ve been given?
  • What traits/behaviors did you learn from your own mother figure? Were they ‘good’ or ‘bad’? If you are a mother, what traits of the Empress and Molly would you like to emulate?
  • How do you show the traits of independence and responsibility? Do you encourage yourself or do you like to be encouraged by others?
  • How can you nurture yourself when you need it?

This post should get your started thinking about the Empress, Molly’s character, and the themes of nurturing, abundance, and fertility in your life. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Empress card in tarot!

Next week we will explore Arthur Weasley as card number IV, The Emperor.

Listen to the podcast episode of Molly as The Empress :