Alison Spokes

Faerie Tales from an Artist & Tarot Reader

July 23, 2017
by Ali
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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tower Card.

In Tarot, there is no bigger trial than the dreaded Tower card. This card represents unexpected devastation, upheaval and a forced removal of security, yet I have learned to love this card. Over time and throughout experience, this card has come to mean growth, happiness and a feeling of great achievement. Unfortunately, in the case of the Tower, none of that greatness comes without all the former stuff to accompany it.

Lately, I have been re-immersing myself in the works and teachings of mythologist, Joseph Campbell. Campbell is best known for his theory of The Hero’s Journey, in which he identifies a single archetypal hero and plot found within every great tale ever told, from the story of Jesus Christ to tales of King Arthur, Hercules, and even Star Wars and Harry Potter. His theory has influenced many great writers to this day, however, Campbell’s theory goes even deeper than simply explaining how to tell a great story. He believed myths and stories are a metaphoric reflection of the human experience – that there is a hero in all of us longing to discover what it means to truly live.

If you’re wondering how to start your own journey, Campbell says all you have to do is “follow your bliss.” Your bliss can be linked back to what you loved or dreamed of doing as a child, or something you keep going back to again and again. When I was a kid I loved mythology. As most myths are connected to some kind of spiritual belief system, mythology led me to an interest in world religions. I actually went to university to study religion, but finished with a degree in Psychology and Anthropology. In my spare time I was practicing Tarot, which led me to fairies. Fairies brought me back to folklore and mythology. It’s a wonderful feeling to find a mentor whose interests and philosophies line up so closely with your own. For me, Joseph Campbell’s theory is the glue that holds all my seemingly miscellaneous blisses together. I was afraid people would think I was crazy when I said I was going to merge Tarot with Geek Culture, but Campbell’s theories say they couldn’t be more aligned! Whether we’re listening to stories of ancient demigods or reading comic books about modern-day superheroes, the purpose is the same: to reflect and explain the human experience, experiences that I can gauge, mirror and put into perspective for individuals through my Tarot cards.

So what does any of this have to do with the Tower card? The Tower represents those moments in a story when all hope seems lost and we can’t see how our hero will ever escape from their dire situation. These are the moments in our own lives when our world is crashing down around us. Everything we once relied on is now gone and we wonder how we are ever going to recover or rebuild. These are our worst fears come to reality. Yet somehow, as if by magic, our hero does escape (or is reborn), and we, too, emerge out of the other side of our own tragedies better than we were if they had never happened to us. Allow me to share with you a few personal Tower moments in my life and how the aftermath of those negative experiences left me in a better state than where I was before they’d ever happened.

  1. Dad dies at age 13

In 1996, I was 13 years of age. In May of that year, my dad fell ill and was being tested for Cancer. He was positively diagnosed in June, and passed away in September. From that moment, my life was irrevocably changed. I was forcefully pushed outside of my comfort zone, as everything I had come to know and rely on had to be rebuilt from the ground up, including redefining my relationships with my surviving immediate family members.

Out of the ashes of this great personal loss and upheaval, I learned just how strong and independent I could really be. However, my greatest transformation was that the experience made me more humble, mature and appreciative of others. Because of the emotional aftermath that clouded our family, I was very lucky to have other adults in my life who stepped up every so often to act as a sanctuary from my emotionally dysfunctional home life, offering me everything from a listening ear to vent my troubles, to getaways and safe spaces for me to stay for the weekend. Before my dad passed, and even for a few years after, I possessed a childish sense of entitlement and assumed that people would just look after me at my beck and call, and provide me with things like dinner and travel expenses. I might have continued getting away with that attitude if I only had to rely on my parents, but extended family and family friends expected more appreciation for their generosity. By age 16, people were starting to express annoyance and anger with my immature selfishness. I realized I had to step it up, grow up and stop taking others for granted. Understanding that the world didn’t owe me was a big step toward achieving a happier life.

2. Divorced at age 26

In 2006, I married my high-school sweetheart. This was not a decision I made lightly. This was part of my grand plan: marry young, graduate university, have children in my mid-twenties, buy a house, live happily ever after. I was in control of my life, I knew what I wanted, and I would make it happen. People questioned my decision. Some people were even taking bets as to how long our marriage would last. This only made me more determined to prove everyone wrong, that I was a mature adult and I knew what I was doing. Divorce would never happen to me; I was very stubborn about that. I would not be a statistic. Although I heard the whispers and negative opinions, I chose to ignore them, making me the last person to realize I was 9 years deep in a psychologically abusive relationship. Maybe if I try harder, do more, be better, I can earn his affection, love and respect …until 2009, when I finally had to confront my fear and admit that maybe the problem wasn’t something I could fix. I had to decide what was more important: my plan and my pride, or my happiness. I chose happiness.

Although it was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, it turned out to be one of my best. Because I was able to let go of the life I planned, I was able to meet a man who showed me what a healthy relationship looks like. I am now happily married and ever the more grateful and appreciative of the life and romance I have now because of the one I walked away from.

3. Financial loss

A couple of years ago, I rented a small studio space outside of my home where I could sell my artwork. I was still travelling to festivals, fairs and conventions on weekends peddling my wares. The storefront was slow to start and I wasn’t getting a lot of walk-in traffic. There was a new event being advertised that I had known about for a while through other artists in the vendor circuit, but refrained from booking because the table fees were outside of my current budget. Only two weeks before the event, word went out that there were still spaces available and the organizers were willing to sell them at a reduced rate. I was encouraged to take the offer by fellow artists, so I called and negotiated a price within my budget. It was urgent that I get my payment in ASAP, or the booth would be offered to someone else. I also had a part-time job to make ends meet, and because I wasn’t expecting to participate in this event, I had agreed to accept shifts at work that same weekend. I called my boss to see if I could get out of them. She pulled some strings and everything was a go. I sent in my payment to confirm my spot. About a week later, 3 days before the event, rumors started circulating on social media that it had been cancelled. There was no official announcement, no information on their website, and no one was able to reach the organizers, including the venue, to confirm if the rumors were true. To make a longer story short, things got ugly really fast and all vendors and most ticket holders were out the cash. The event never went forward. I had lost my table fee as well as the wages I would have got from the two shifts I sacrificed in order to attend. As a result, I could not pay my bills that week!

This situation forced me to scramble! I was panicked. I needed income, and I needed it now! I had been toying with the idea of adding Tarot to my business repertoire, but I was scared of what people would think. Well, now felt like a good time to jump! I emailed about five local businesses that week asking if I could read cards for their customers in their establishment offering them commission for use of their space. I had one reply, so I went to meet with the owner. Not only did she offer me a space to read cards, but she also offered me space for my art in a higher traffic area for less than half the price of the space I was currently renting! Had I not been motivated by the sudden and unexpected loss of income, I wouldn’t have been granted the opportunity to make even more money than the bundle I lost.

Now, I will never try to lie or attempt to cover up the fact that these Tower moments were incredibly shitty situations. They were devastating! But on reflection, my life became undeniably better after every single one. Had those things never happened, I would not have had the same opportunities to learn, grow or improve my circumstances the way that I did. The Tower is unpleasant, no question, but if you can find the joy and the treasure that is hiding within that darkness, you can not only burn out the pain, but emerge triumphant.

The video below contains more inspiring stories about overcoming trials, fears and the positive aftermath that results.

“The best things in life are on the other side of terror.” — Will Smith

“Growth doesn’t happen in our comfort zone; it happens in our uncomfortable zone… …If I’m not willing to be afraid and go forward anyway, then I can’t grow. And if I can’t grow, I can’t be happy. It’s paradoxical. Our willingness to be afraid is directly proportional to the amount of happiness we can get.” — JP Sears.

I recently had the opportunity to exchange readings with another reader at the Native Mystic and Spirit Fair a couple weeks ago. I asked what I ought to do about my business, as it wasn’t in a place I was hoping it would be at this point, and I am starting to sense that I am about to be confronted with some major changes and decisions.
The first message I received was: I must face my fears.
How? I asked.
Then he pulled these three cards:

  

I could tell that my Tarot reader was a little reluctant to share the answer, but I knew immediately what it meant: Trust the universe, take a leap of faith and follow my bliss. It will not work out, in fact, things might seem a lot worse. Only after everything falls apart will I finally get my happy ending.

Once again, it’s time to let go of the life I had planned, and start accepting the life that is waiting for me. Another Tower moment is coming to tear down the structures I have built around me that keep me in a comfortable and knowable place, so that I may have the opportunity to experience something far better than what I have now.  Time to be a hero and await a new call to adventure.

July 16, 2017
by Ali
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What Are Tarot Spreads, and How Are They Used in Your Reading?

A Tarot spread is a map or method for how a Tarot reader physically lays out the cards on the table. Different positions have different meanings within a spread that are then explained by each card in its relative position. Therefore, the Ace of Cups in position 1 may be interpreted very differently than if it showed up in position 5. Tarot spreads vary in structure, complexity and purpose.  There are spreads for romance, spreads for dream interpretation, and spreads for how to understand your dog’s psychological needs. If you can think of it, there is a spread for that! If you were to search “Tarot Spreads” on Google right now, the results would be seemingly endless, and more are being created and shared every day.

The Celtic Cross

If you are a Tarot beginner, it’s almost certain you will encounter the Celtic Cross spread early in your training. It’s often the first spread a newbie reader learns. The meaning of the positions vary depending on who you ask, but the physical structure is always the same: 10 cards made up of a cross pattern on the left and a column on the right. Most readers ditch the Celtic Cross once they are comfortable with the cards and branch off into their own style of reading; however, some choose to stick with tradition. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! 

As a Tarot reader, I certainly have my favorite go-to spreads that I love to work with, while I know others who never use spreads at all. It’s also not unheard of for a reader to interview you before your appointment to find out what your biggest concerns or objectives are, then custom design a spread just for you! This requires preparation time and some background knowledge about your specific situation in order to best serve you, so do not be put off if your reader asks you questions. If you believe the only question a Tarot reader can answer is “what’s in my future?”, you’ve been watching too many movies. Choosing the right Tarot spread, for those who choose to read with them, is integral to achieving a successful and useful reading for the one seeking answers and guidance …and that often requires getting to know a little bit about whomever is receiving the reading.

Why Your Reader Asks for a Backstory

Harmonious Relationship Spread

Although spreads can be as complex or intricate as the designer intends, I personally prefer spreads made of 6-8 cards. I find that this is the sweet spot for getting enough useful insight without suffering from information overload.

When a client comes to see me for a reading, I will ask them what brought them in or what is currently happening in their life that is causing the most confusion or worry. Most people are comfortable opening up, while others simply say they are here to treat themselves and are open to any message they hear from me and my deck of cards. I can work with either of those responses, as long as the client is being truly honest with me. Knowing why you are here for a reading helps me to know what I’m looking for while rummaging through the Rolodex of spreads stored in my brain so I can really get the answers you deserve and need to move forward. I always tell the people I read for, the more specific your question, the more specific your answer. Even more important than choosing the right spread is establishing an open and honest relationship between reader and sitter.

What to Expect From a Tarot Reading …And What Not To

If you want to see me demonstrate different tarot spreads, check out this playlist on my YouTube channel:

Still curious about Tarot Spreads and how they work? Here are a few I have collected on Pinterest that have caught my eye…

July 7, 2017
by Ali
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Tarot Geek Wisdom 8: Doctor Who & the Justice Card


Lessons from Justice:
Justice can represent pending legal issues and the need to consult legal experts, but more often it is an omen cautioning us to deliberate carefully before making the next move. If we are confronted with a big decision, we should be collecting as much information as possible, seeking out reviews, references and remembering to read the fine print. This card asks us to weigh all options thoroughly before committing to a final choice.
The Justice card is also about establishing order, balance and harmony. This is a time to right wrongs or simply accept that things happened as they were meant to.  She indicates fair and final outcomes, and warns us to be mindful of our actions and subsequent consequences. Her presences may also for honesty with ourselves regarding our motives, as there is a fine line between seeking justice and seeking revenge.
“While we are all free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.”
– Stephen R. Covey

“Justice is about harmony. Revenge is about making yourself feel better.” – Rachel Dawes, Batman Begins.

Lesson from Doctor Who:
“YOU JUST WANT CRUELTY TO BEGET CRUELTY. YOU’RE NOT SUPERIOR TO PEOPLE WHO WERE CRUEL TO YOU. YOU’RE JUST A WHOLE BUNCH OF NEW CRUEL PEOPLE. A WHOLE BUNCH OF NEW CRUEL PEOPLE BEING CRUEL TO SOME OTHER PEOPLE WHO’LL END UP BEING CRUEL TO YOU. THE ONLY WAY ANYONE CAN LIVE IN PEACE IS IF THEY’RE PREPARED TO FORGIVE. WHY DON’T YOU BREAK THE CYCLE?” –Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, the 12th Doctor, Nov 2015
This critical moment on the brink of a button push that would execute a human genocide started with a mounting revolution of radicalized Zygons, an alien race permitted to live on Earth as long as they were disguised as human beings. As the treaty between themselves and UNIT started to break down, the Zygon extremists began using the justice-masked slogan, “Truth or consequences” as both a threat and rally to their cause. This disgruntled group no longer wished to live in the shadows of mankind. If mankind won’t accept them for who they are, they were willing to commit genocide.

As a champion of Justice, the Doctor swoops in seeking fairness and harmony. He is a peacemaker and pacifist refraining from violence unless absolutely necessary, always seeking out diplomatic solutions to resolve conflicts, often acting as an objective mediator between two hostile opponents.  He understands better than most the relationship between actions (choices) and consequences. A large part of his underlying darkness comes from the burden of regret he carries as a result of making difficult and destructive decisions.

The Doctor exemplifies Justice in many ways. First, he flies around in a time machine shaped like a police box.
“Advice and assistance obtainable immediately. Officers and cars respond to all calls.” — written on the TARDIS, Doctor Who.
Secondly, he possesses deep sense of right and wrong and conviction to intervene whenever injustice occurs, which sets him apart from the rest of his race of Time Lords who follow a strict ethic of non-intervention.
“The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life…You don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand. You say ‘no.’ You have the guts to do what’s right, when everyone else just runs away.”—Rose Tyler, Doctor Who
Consider Lady Justice for a moment. Like the symbolism behind blindfold she wears, The Doctor does not discriminate.
“In 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.” -The Doctor, Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor, Doctor Who
In her hands are two objects: a set of scales to represent the weight of collective facts and evidence against that of a fit punishment to bring about the restoration of harmony and peace; and a sword to remind us that justice can be swift and final. Likewise, the Doctor is very clever and observant relying heavily on observable facts in order to deduce conclusions that allows him to make quick decisions and solve problems peacefully.
“The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don’t alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that need altering.” — Doctor Who, Tom Baker, the 4th Doctor – Jan 1977
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