Lesson 7 – Writing A Question


Writing a Question

Most of the time you will want to consult the tarot because you are facing a problem or challenge. Something about your life is troubling you, and you want to understand why it is happening and what you can do about it. The best kind of tarot reading for this situation is the Question Reading. You write a question about your problem, and you receive your answer by interpreting the cards. The question helps you relate the guidance you receive to your situation in a way that makes sense. In this lesson, I describe how to create a question for a reading you do for yourself.

The first step is to review your situation thoroughly. Think about all the people involved, directly or indirectly. Go over your options for the future. Let your mind wander freely. You want to look at your problem without judging or censoring any part. Jot down the ideas that occur to you, but try not to be too systematic. You want to use your intuition, not logical analysis.

Once you have finished your review, you can write your question. Here are some suggestions:

Accept Responsibility

Write your tarot question to show that you accept responsibility for your situation. Consider these two questions:

  1. Should I put my father in a nursing home, or take care of him in my house?
  2. What do I need to know to decide on the best living arrangements for my father?

In the first question, the writer gives up her responsibility for making a decision. She wants the cards to tell her what to do. In the second question, she is simply asking the cards to give her more information. She knows the decision lies with her.

It’s tempting to write the first kind of question. We all seek the certainty that we’re making good choices, but the tarot can’t make our decisions for us. Avoid questions that deflect responsibility, such as:

  • Questions to be answered “Yes” or “No”Will I get the job at the ad agency?
    Can I stick to my diet this month?
    Am I ready to retire? 
  • Questions beginning with “Should…”Should I let my daughter live at home?
    Should I go out with Jose?
    Should I apply to more than one university? 
  • Questions asking only about timeWhen will George ask me to marry him?
    How long will it take to find a new car?
    When will I get my promotion? 

Instead, begin your questions with phrases such as these:

  • Can you give me insight into …
  • What do I need to understand about …
  • What is the meaning of …
  • What is the lesson or purpose of …
  • What are the circumstances underlying …
  • How can I improve my chances of …
  • How might I …

Keep Your Options Open

Write your question to show that you are keeping your options open. Consider these:

  1. How might I encourage my mother-in-law to move out?
  2. What do I need to know to get along better with my mother-in-law?

In the first question, the writer is not keeping his options open. He has decided on one solution – having his mother-in-law move out. The second question is more open-ended. It’s OK to narrow the scope of a question as long as you don’t decide on the answer ahead of time. Both of the following are open questions, but the second is more specific:

  • How would a switch to sales impact my career?
  • How would a switch to a sales position at Purdue Insurance impact my career?

Find the Best Level of Detail

Seek the fine line between wording that is too vague and too detailed. Here are three questions on the same topic:

  1. How can I improve my work situation?
  2. How can I reorganize my desk so that Tom can find my files?
  3. How can I improve the flow of work between Tom and me?

The first question is unfocused. It doesn’t specify which work area is of interest. The second question is too detailed. It looks at one minor aspect of the problem. The third question is best because it finds the balance between the two. Include only the details necessary to make clear what you want to know.

Focus On Yourself

When you do a reading for yourself, you are always the central character. Your question should focus on you. There are times when questions about others are fine, but not when you are concentrating on your own concerns.

Sometimes you may not realize you are orienting your question around someone else. Consider these:

  1. What is behind Arthur’s drinking problem?
  2. How can I assist Arthur with his drinking problem?
  3. What role do I play in Arthur’s drinking problem?

The first question focuses totally on Arthur and his problem. In the second question, the writer is included, but his attention is still on Arthur. The third question is best because it is grounded solidly in the writer’s own experience.

Stay Neutral

You want to stay as neutral as possible when writing your questions. It is easy to begin a reading convinced that your position is the right one, but if you truly want to receive guidance, you need to be open to other points of view. Consider these sets of questions:

  1. Why am I the only one doing chores?
  2. How can I foster a spirit of cooperation concerning the chores?
  1. How can I make people listen when I’m talking?
  2. What is going on when I try to communicate, but feel others aren’t listening?
  1. How can I make my boss stop asking me to do overtime?
  2. Why have I had to do so much overtime recently?

In the first questions, the writer feels his position is the correct one – others are not getting with the program! The second questions are more neutral and open-ended.

Be Positive

Be positive when writing your questions. Consider these:

  1. How come I can never get my research published?
  2. How can I locate the ideal forum in which to publish my research?
  1. Why can’t I overcome my fear of public speaking?
  2. How can I improve my ability to speak to groups effectively?
  1. Can you help me understand why I always blow a tournament in the last round?
  2. Can you help me find a way to push on to victory in a tournament?

The first questions have an air of defeat. The second questions are more confident. The writer knows she will be successful given useful advice.

You may be wondering why I have gone into so much detail about writing a question. This process is a focusing exercise that prepares you for the reading that follows. Writing a question usually takes no more than three or four minutes, but, for that small investment in time, you reap big rewards. You understand your situation better and can interpret your reading with more insight.

Exercises – Lesson 7

Writing a Question

Exercise 7.1 – Writing a Tarot Question

You are going to write a question for your first tarot reading. Think about your life for a moment, and choose an area in which you are having some difficulty. (We all have one of these!) Avoid general concerns such as finding a life partner. Pick a specific everyday problem that is troubling you right now in your home or workplace. Choose something that involves you directly and that you care about personally. Follow the recommendations in lesson 7 for writing an effective question. Take notes as you go. We will be using these notes and your question in the next lesson.

Exercise 7.2 – Practicing Question Writing

Life will offer you many opportunities to practice writing questions. Any time you face a problem, take a moment to create a question about it. Work on it while you’re doing routine activities, such as riding in a car or doing housework.

Writing practice questions helps you learn to analyze a personal problem quickly and recognize what you want in various situations. Also, if you decide to do a reading about the problem, you have your question ready.


BANISHMENT SPELL {Use With Extreme Caution}





This is a spell for love gone wrong, for ending a personal, family or business relationship that you no longer wish to be in. It is a fire spell. To work it, gather herbs of protection and an image of the person (photograph, poppet, etc.) Something written in their own hand, a lock of hair, a piece of clothing or a personal object will also do. Put everything into a fireproof container – iron cauldron, marble mortar, whatever – and set fire to it as you perform the spell. Add the photograph or a piece of paper with the person’s name on it if you have trouble getting the fire going. It should make a very satisfactory blaze that reduces to ashes. The ashes can be buried or washed down a drain. Flush them down a toilet if you are very angry. Dispose of all the objects that connect you to the person: gifts, letters, photographs, etc. It is especially important to get rid of jewelry. Move house if you have to. Be careful with this spell. It’s permanent, so don’t use it unless you really mean forever. It’s also powerful.  

By the crimson and the gold

By basilisk and bloodstone

By the garlic in the fields

By the poppies and what they yield

Invisibly I make my shield

To detect thee and deflect thee

And keep thy harm from me.

By dragon’s blood and salamanders

By horses when their hooves strike sparks

By the dragon breathing flames

From the Book of Life I erase thy names

I cut the cords and unlock the chains

I sever all the ties by which we were bound

And with impenetrable walls myself I surround

Against thy power and its source

Against thy evil and its source

Vesta, Pele, Lilith

Kali Kali Kali

I banish thee forever from me

And any harm from thee to me

Doubles back and tables turned

Thou shalt by thyself be burned

Lilith, Vesta, Pele

Kali Ma Kali Ma

By the power of three times three

I banish thee, I banish thee, and I banish thee

I am set free

So mote it be!

To Banish Illness


To Banish Illness




Burn a black candle anointed with banishing and burn banishing incense.


Concentrate on removing whatever the health problem may be by saying:


” As this candle burns,

So the illness turns,

Melted like this wax,

Cut like with an ax,

Remove and banished,

All disabilities vanished,

As my word you see,

Radiant health blessed be.”


Let the candle burn until done.

Then bury ashes from incense and leftover wax.


Spell To Clear Away The Old With Crystals

There are many aspects of our lives which we would like to improve, but we just can’t
muster up the willpower. In your time of need, a crystal can come to your aid.
You can program a crystal to help you lose weight stop smoking or overcome any negative
attitudes about yourself. For example, you want to stop eating chocolate but just can’t.
You know you should stop for health reasons but you don’t have the will power.
Try programming a crystal by telling it something like,
“I have completely lost any desire for chocolate.”
Wear the crystal around your neck or keep it in a pocket.
Whenever you want chocolate, touch your crystal and feel the urge dissipate.
To get the most out of your crystal, you need to get the right crystal in the first place.
Pick a crystal by attraction, by being drawn to touch it, and then hold it loosely in your left hand.
Notice the impressions, colors, sounds, and feelings you pick up. No two crystals are the same.
Each crystal has its own unique vibration, and each will resonate differently. It should feel alive in
your hand, vibrate, or radiate. In other words, it should feel good.
Before you use your crystals cleanse it. The easiest way to clean your crystal is to hold it in
the bright sunlight and order it to be completely cleansed. when, program it with your desired goal.
Now, you’re ready to enjoy your crystal!

Spell To Break Bad Habits 2

For getting rid of bad habits, overcoming obstacles, riding yourself of unwanted energy.
Take a black candle which has been ritually cleansed and some anointing oil which has
also been ritually blessed.
Do not use anything for this which has not been cleansed or blessed already.
Depending on the desired result, you should choose an oil which corresponds to this end.
At the time of the new moon, or when it first begins to wane, cast a circle or use your 9′ cord to
create a sacred space. Place the black candle (preferable a taper) on the altar with the oil.
Have no unblessed/uncleansed tools in this ritual.
Cast the circle. Call the Goddess and her consort.
Use a burin to engrave the candle with the spell you wish to cast.
Now, anoint the candle using the oil.
While you anoint the candle with the oil, speak these words out loud or silently:
“Tonight no moon, tomorrow the first one.
Let this be eroded till my will be done.
Candle burn down to remove all ill.
Let this spell be cast by the power of my will.”
And once you have anointed the candle, place it in a safe place to it can burn down completely.

Unwanted Habit Spell

To eliminate an unwanted habit, make a poppet of yourself out of cloth, straw, or a carved candle.
Make symbols or words on it to indicate what you want to release forever, allowing anger to build
within you that you have practiced this unwanted behavior. Call upon Pluto or Hecate to assist
your resolve to fully carry out change in you life.
Then, using a safe container such as an iron cauldron or metal bowl, anoint the poppet with a
few drops of oil of myrrh, pennyroyal, rosemary, or rue, and then carefully set it on fire, visualizing
the release of your unwanted habit or trait forever.
Burn the poppet to ashes, and then take the ashes to a place where you have no need to
be at any time soon. Bury it, turn firmly, and walk away. Don’t look Back.

Interacting with Totems Part 4

Interacting with Totems

Author: Robert Oakes

Once the totem has been identified and understood, it is time to learn how to interact directly with the animal spirit.

Totems form an invaluable ally on the spiritual path. Acting as healers, protectors, teachers, and guides, they can have a profound impact in one’s life.

Part 1 of this article looked at recognizing the various types of totems, while part 2 addressed finding a personal totem. Part 3 covered working with the totems in daily life, and part 4 will deal with interacting with the totem.

The following sections are tools and methods that can be employed in creating a beneficial relationship with an animal totem.

Guided Visualizations/Journey

Having access to someone that is adept at shamanic journeying is probably the best way of having interaction with a totem. Be careful in selecting someone to do this work, as many people like to see themselves as a shaman, but do not have the discipline and training. As with everything else use common sense, caution, and look at their track record. If it feels wrong then it almost always is, and conversely if it is appropriate then it should feel that way.

Not having access to a traditional or contemporary practitioner is not the only way to contact totems. Guided visualizations, either commercially done on a CD/MP3, or ones personally prepared from a script can be used to journey with totems.

Oracle Cards

Jamie Sams Medicine Cards, or Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm’s Druid Animal Oracle are both solid sources of information on specific totems, and offer a useful tool in receiving guidance.

Totem Dreams

As mentioned in part 2, dreams can be used to interact with totems. These can be spontaneous dreams that carry messages from a totem, or ones that are incubated by the dreamer. Incubation can be as simple as asking the totem to bring a message in a dream. It is helpful to make the request formally before going to sleep, maybe with an appropriate offering. Examples of an offering might be tobacco tied in cloth, or food put out for that totem.


Almost all pagan cultures use song or chant to connect with spirits and totems. If possible, learn a traditional song for the totem, or using chant and words create a new one. Song can be a touchstone to communicate with a totem and call in their assistance.


Prayer forms the most basic type of communication. Prayer is simply focused intention and it can be done internally or verbally. As long as prayer comes from the heart, it is effective in communicating with totems and spirit in general.

Vision Quest

Time spent alone in nature on a fast, is one of the most effective means in connecting to a totem or guiding spirit. The silence it provides is the perfect space to hear spirit.

Totem Art

Sacred art exists the world over, and can be a conduit for spirit communication. Both creating totem art and having it nearby can be a powerful touchstone to that animal’s medicine.

Carvings can also be used to represent the medicine of animal. A carving imbued with the spirit of a totem is called a fetish, and can be used to connect to a totem more easily.

Sweat Lodges Ceremonies

Sweat lodges are found in most cultures around the world in one form or another. Cultures such as the Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) of central Canada have sweat lodge ceremonies that focus on interaction with totem animals.

The sweat lodge creates the perfect environment to have profound spirit contact.

Totem Assistance and Messages

Totems can often bring important messages. This might be in the form of dreams or visions, or it might be in waking reality. Be observant of animals and their behavior. Watch for unusual or repetitive antics, especially of those of a primary totem. Take note if the totem looks healthy or sick. Seeing the totem with food in its mouth can be a sign of abundance. Watch for synchronicities.

Get in the habit of asking for a totem’s assistance when requiring protection, healing or guidance. Like any relationship, familiarity strengthens the bond.


Animal Speak; The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small, Ted Andrews, Llewellyn Publications ,1996

The Once Unknown Familiar; Shamanic Paths to Unleash Your Animal Powers, Timothy Roderick, Llewellyn Publications ,1994

Medicine Cards; the Discovery of Power Animals through the Ways of Animals, Jamie Sams, St Martin Press, 1999

Druid Animal Oracle, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, Fireside, 1995

Working with Totems Part 3

Working with Totems

Author: Robert Oakes

Totems animal spirits are an invaluable ally not only when dealing with spirit realms, but also when trying to understand life lessons.

Understanding that animal spirits choose to work with humans both in spiritual and mundane matters can be highly beneficial.

Part 1 of this article looked at recognizing the various types of totems, while part 2 addressed finding a personal totem. Part 3 will cover working with the totems in daily life, and part 4 will deal with interacting with the totem.

Greatest Strength, Greatest Challenge

A primary totem can point out the greatest strengths someone carries, as well as their areas of greatest challenge. Often this is two sides of the same coin, as the weakest area can turn into their strength if they do their work. For example, let’s say someone’s primary totem is elk. One of the aspects of elk medicine is stamina and strength. Now this person just so happens to have a chronic health condition that causes fatigue and exhaustion. By turning to elk medicine in times of greatest challenge, they will come to develop deep wells of inner strength and resiliency. By working through this issue they will not only come out much stronger than they started, but also will be able to go on much longer than anyone around them. Their greatest challenge became their greatest strength.

Animal Behavior

Ethology is the study of animal behavior. By learning about animal behavior, a person can get great insight into the medicine of a totem. Knowledge about animal behavior not only develops insight into the totem, but into the person working with that totem as well. How the animal behaves in the wild relates to how the person will work with that totem medicine in terms of interpersonal relations, adversity and daily life routines.


Although it is a generalization, people do tend to eat according to the active totem in their life. If the animal is a carnivore, then they will probably need to eat meat at least from time to time. Hoof clans tend to be grazers and will snack throughout the day. Wolves will gorge themselves at one sitting and might not eat for a long while. Bears will eat everything in sight and still look in the fridge for more.

Power Times and Environment

The totem’s natural energy cycle will influence the holder of that medicine. What time of day or year is the totem most active? What type of climate do they like? When is their mating time? When is their birthing time? What part of the year represents their greatest challenge? These are all things that come into play in a person’s life when working with a primary totem.


Totems influence daily interpersonal interactions. This can be in intimate relationships, business transactions and family life. Understanding how the primary totem acts socially will give clues to how the person carrying that medicine will behave. This is covered in greater detail in the article on totems and relationships.


One of the most powerful ways a totem can assist is in the form of protection. Just simply asking the totem for protection is recognized as a powerful defense in most pagan cultures. This might be protection from spirit based forces, or from more immediate physical threats.

Life Path

The type of totem gives interesting clues to life path and purpose. As mentioned in part 1, totems can be indicative of a certain type of medicine. Some basic examples of this would be:

  • Wolf – teacher, pathfinder
  • Bear – healer
  • Cougar – leadership
  • Elk – spirit messengers
  • Eagle or Buffalo – prayer work
  • Coyote – trickster teacher

Overall a totem will point to major work that person has come into this life to fulfill. Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak, Jamie Sams’Medicine Cards, or Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm’s Druid Animal Oracle would all be good places to start learning about specific totem medicines.


Animal Speak; The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small, Ted Andrews, Llewellyn Publications ,1996

The Once Unknown Familiar; Shamanic Paths to Unleash Your Animal Powers, Timothy Roderick, Llewellyn Publications ,1994

Medicine Cards; the Discovery of Power Animals through the Ways of Animals, Jamie Sams, St Martin Press, 1999

Druid Animal Oracle, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, Fireside, 1995

Types of Totems Part 2

Types of Totems

Author: Robert Oakes

Totems form an integral part of most pagan and shamanic paths. Learning how to recognize these different types of animal spirits is highly beneficial.

Totems are animal spirits and energies that protect, guide, heal, and teach. Although the terminology changes from teacher to teacher, there are similarities. Totems can be any number of animals, extinct species, or even mythical creatures. When talking about totems, it is in reference to the animal’s energy in spirit, as well as the physical form it may take on.

Part 1 of this article will look at recognizing the types of totems, while part 2 will address finding a personal totem. Part 3 will cover working with the totems in daily life, and part 4 will deal with interacting with the totem.

Types of Totems

The number of totems active is variable depending on the individual and circumstances. In general though, everyone will have a primary totem. Some people might also call this a clan, power animal, or animal guide. Names do change with different systems, but this is the main totem active from their birth until their death.

In addition to this main totem, the average person will have another half a dozen or so throughout their life. These situational totems come in to teach or protect during a time of challenge or change. A shaman may work with many more totems than this, and it is not uncommon for someone on the shamanic path to work with 20 or 30 totems.

Totem Protectors

The main totem might also form part of the individual’s defense, or there might be specific totems that come to their aid in times of danger. In general, predator totems such as cougar, tiger, wolf, bear, badger, and wolverine would be aggressive protectors to call upon. Some totems that people wouldn’t consider to be aggressive are actually strong fighters; dolphins are known to attack sharks, and elk have been known to kill or injure an attacking wolf.

Healer, Teacher, and Leadership Totems

If an individual is involved in healing work, they will usually attract specific totems to assist them. Most common to this type of work are bears, although many other totems do this work.

Teaching is another level that totems work on. This might be a personal teaching that the individual needs to learn, or it might be that teaching work is a life path. Wolf is an example of a teacher totem.

Leadership brings it own challenges, and a totem might be attracted to assist. Learning the appropriate use of power is a difficult skill, so a totem such as cougar might be brought in to teach these lessons. This would double as a protector when the position of leadership creates a target out of the individual.

Relationship Totems

Even a relationship with a spouse or family might have its own totem. This totem might be a protector, or it might be there to teach about patterns. Wolf and goose are both relationship type totems.

Totems Dealing with Transformation

During difficult times of change, totems can be an important guide. This might be through a death, divorce, change in life path, or shamanic death rebirth cycle. Common transformational totems would be bats, owls, snakes, and butterflies.

Of course there is also traditional role of a totem in that they can be a guide through the spirit realms. Common totems for traveling work are horses, birds, turtles, and anything that flies or swims.

Primary Totem

As mentioned, the primary totem is active throughout life. This totem tends to sum up the general traits of the person as well. It will give an overview on their personality, strengths, challenges, and the way they deal with success and adversity.


Animal Speak; The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small, Ted Andrews, Llewellyn Publications ,1996

The Once Unknown Familiar; Shamanic Paths to Unleash Your Animal Powers, Timothy Roderick, Llewellyn Publications ,1994

Medicine Cards; the Discovery of Power Animals through the Ways of Animals, Jamie Sams, St Martin Press, 1999

Druid Animal Oracle, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, Fireside, 1995