“Sit still! Or else!”

I wonder how much residual resistance remains from our caretakers telling us to sit still when we were kids. The directive was an imperative that had punitive consequences if not heeded.

When we try “to sit still”, is part of the restlessness rooted in this formative experience of admonishment? Remember the challenge of trying to harness all that chaotic energy flooding through you?

You’d sit on your hands, or hold your breath. Whatever you could do to stay out of the corner. Facing the blank wall in silence. Sound familiar? There is a Zen practice of sitting facing the wall for meditation. How much of our resistance comes from this fight againt “time out”?

Be here now. It isn’t Mom telling you to sit still, to calm down, or you are going to your room. It isn’t the teacher telling you to settle down or go to time out. Now it’s your spirit inviting you to come home and sit for a spell.

I’d be curious to hear if you have come across this in your practice.

Thank you.



Sample Tarot Reading

Ace of wands with incantation aletheus light shadow tarot


First the question: (Note: The form of the question is important. 1st person active is ideal. “How can I…?” encourges action.)

The client, Paul, asks, “I need to take better care of myself, stop smoking, get fit. How can I go about this so I will be successful?”

The cards drawn: 5 wands, King pentacles, Empress, Prince wands, Hanged Man, 3 cups, 2 cups, Fool, 3 pentacles, Ace wands.

First impression: Lots of fire (wands), no swords, creativity, love, perspective, letting go, starting at the beginning.

Card 1: The situation/question/context – 5 wands: This card couldn’t be more correct, the challenge for Paul being to rebuild something, in this case his health and body. This card reminds Paul that preparedness, patience and resolve are what are needed.

Card 2: The obstacle/challenge – King pentacles: The pondering Father shows Paul that he cannot lean back and observe, cannot be complacent too soon…that he too will be the contented “Father”, with his house built soundly, but getting there will be challenging.

Card 3: Above/conscious thought – Empress: This card reminds him to check his intuition and in this case he believes his intuition is correct. His intuition is telling him that he needs to fix this situation rather than let it go by the wayside or worse sublimate it.

Card 4: Below/unconscious thought – Prince wands: The young man, brave, strong, full of resources and proud of them. The unconscious reminder is to make best use of all his resources and recognizing their, his, worth.

Card 5: Past/past experience – Hanged Man: This card encourages Paul to look to times when he has reinvented himself before, made changes in his way of being and living and how that worked or didn’t work. Doing so will provide clues re how to proceed with this similar challenge. This requires a willful shift in perspective.

Card 6: Near Future/what to look for – 3 cups: Recommends that his creative powers can take over or be an integral part of this process and let the love etc feed him and his plan. Love of self, love of others and others’ love of him. One wouldn’t normally think that “love” plays a big role in this type of challenge but when Paul looks to see how it might be it turns out that it does play a significant role and that it can be a source of energy and commitment. (Interesting that 5 & 6 are both about creation and perspective).

Card 7: Paul’s place/role in this situation – 2 cups: Would indicate that facing the challenge alone may not be the best way. Should enlist the support and comfort of a loved one (this furthers Card 6 message). Also, can be seen as embracing the parts of self that have been neglected or unloved, embrace them sand see the support there.

Card 8: Influences around Paul – Fool: Wow, the Fool. Watch out for pranksters and those that would throw a wrench in the process, but also, be with those (and the parts of self) that are uninhibited, willing to work the “magic”. And don’t take things too seriously. Paul needs to be flexible and non-judgmental toward himself as he moves through this change toward a healthier lifestyle.

Card 9: Wants/Fears – 3 pentacles: This is uncanny – this card directly indicates what it will take is to be healthy, fit, and well equipped. This is the want and thankfully he doesn’t have much fear about the process or outcomes. “It’s all good.”

Card 10: Outcome – Ace wands: Root of Fire! Wooohooo. Moving into a new phase of life, the fire part will come alive after a long spell in water. The beginning of a productive period.

OVERALL MEANING for Paul: The challenge is about quitting smoking and getting back to the pool and gym. Paul was making mental plans this a.m. while showering and on the drive to our session. Get the lead out is the message. He has the wherewithal, the know-how and resources, etc…so get on with it. Card 2 makes a little more sense now after exploring all ten…Paul could just sit back and enjoy the comforts he has now, but clearly this is telling him there is more, that he can be and do more. No red flags other than frivolity or willy-nilly thinking and action getting in the way – he needs a disciplined approach, which has worked in the past. He feels good about what lies ahead.

UPDATE: Paul hasn’t smoked in 4 months and goes to the gym 2-3 times a week. He has also changed several eating habits and says that he hasn’t felt this good for a long time. His productivity has increased and his is enjoying more success in general.


This card encourages Paul to look to times when he has reinvented himself before, made changes in his way of being and living and how that worked or didn’t work. Doing so will provide clues re how to proceed with this similar challenge. This requires a willful shift in perspective.

Also see: General Guidelines for a Tarot Reading


Contact Mark at mlbh@gmx.com for inquires and to schedule consultations. Trainings are also available.

Dicing onions leads to the path of self discovery

dicing onions leads to a path of self discovery aletheus mark hannan

For three months, I questioned my every thought and every action – everything. How I brushed my teeth, answered the phone, opened a door, spoke to a salesperson. One day I was dicing onions and asked myself, “why am I cutting these this way? There are other ways. Why do I do it this particular way?” The answer surprised me, and it didn’t. It was an answer that led my to this experiment. “My mother did it that way.” I remember watching her cook and that’s where I must have learned it. Now granted, her way of cutting onions was the “right” or “best” way – but I want to make that choice rather than just do it that way because she did. This happened over and over again for the next three months – I evaluated all that I said and did and looked to discover if it was the best way for me in each case – that my words and actions are my choice not the result of someone else’s choice.

While the ultimate result of any truly spiritual path is the negation of the individual ego-self, one cannot begin on one’s own personal path of spiritual realization unless one establishes his/her individuality. That means freeing oneself from the demands of organized religions, creeds, socially accepted beliefs, the dictates of any prophet, the stories others have of and for us. People can spend an entire lifetime following the teachings and beliefs of others, without ever finding the path that is right for them personally.

The truth is within us as an individual. All the sages of the ancient past have found it so. Within ourselves are all the problems and promises that we must confront and meld into a whole Self that we can then project to the outward world. So much of what we are told by our family, community, and those in power, leads us away from our true nature. We come to believe the stories we are told – “you’re stupid,” “your ugly,” “you can’t do anything right can you?,” “you’ll never be happy,”…and so on. If you listen closely to your thoughts when you are in moments of difficulty, saddness, or despair, you will hear these sentences again, below the surface arguments. It is these stories that need to be dis-assembled and re-written. Your own individual story – your preferred story. Not the story told to you by others and society. That is their story.

In the darkness of true spiritual aloneness, the ego dies. The soul, however, can never die. And it is the person’s soul that comes through and begins the climb out far removed from where one began the quest. This is the discovery of who the person really is, one’s inner spirit or soul without superficial attachments to worldly identities — the true Self. What happens on that journey is specific and personal to each seeker. The dreams and visions that come to the mind — once it is stripped of its complacency and familiar moorings — are new and challenging.

It was amazing to see how much of my daily life was spent carrying out the storyline of others, of how much my own story was unheard, untold. Many days were painful, but at the end of it I came to find a way of living that was my way. This was one beginning of many. To this day, when I am facing a challenge, I am reminded to listen to my thinking and to look at my actions; do they move the story of my life forward? Do they advance my character development? Do they bring me closer to harmony with myself, others and the universe? Asking those questions is a simple strategy – stopping to ask them is the hard part.

M. Hannan

The Light and Shadow Tarot – A Review

a review by Sarah Ovenall

The Light and Shadow Tarot is a marvelous example of an all-too-rare occurance: a deck that works on both the artistic and esoteric levels. The deck was created as a series of linoleum block prints by the late German artist Michael Goepford, and originally published in a limited edition as the Contrast Tarot. Goepford’s art has been re released as a deck and book set (book written by Brian Williams) by Destiny Books.

Goepford’s art is superb. Tarot enthusiasts accustomed to decks that look like illustrations from a sword and sorcery novel will find Light and Shadow a pleasant change of pace. The cards show all the expressiveness associated with block prints, but are finely detailed, with delicate, clean lines. As is common with block prints, the cards are all black and white. Unusual for a Tarot deck, but fortunately the cards are well-printed with deep blacks. The effect is not one of cheapness but of rich, complex art. At 5.5 by 4.25 inches, the cards are fairly large: with my relatively small hands, I had difficulty shuffling at first. I find that turning the cards sideways makes them much easier to shuffle.

Structurally the Light and Shadow Tarot is a standard 78-card deck. For the most part, the trumps retain their traditional names and ordering. Justice is 8 and Strength 11. The only alteration in naming is Death, which is called “The Endless Dance of Death.” The imagery on
the trumps keeps fairly close to tradition, though Goepford has made some modifications. The Emperor, for example, stands at a podium with arms outstretched, in front of a city.

Temperance features a male angel, pouring water from one cup to the other behind his back. Death shows a man dancing with a skeleton. Between the towers on the Moon sits a four poster bed. The World shows an African mother figure giving birth to the world in the shape of a turtle. All the trumps feature rich symbolic imagery; every corner of each card is filled with tiny details that add additional meaning, reflective of Goepford’s interpretation of that trump.

The minors are generally based on Waite, though a few minors are based on Thoth (for example the Four of Cups, Four of Swords and Eight of Pentacles). Goepford does exercise some creative freedom in interpreting the minors.

The Two of Cups, for example, shows in Indian man and woman seated on a lotus, embracing in a clearly sexual position, while water pours from their cups and over their heads. The Two of Pentacles shows a white and black man clasping each others’ faces, with a snake wrapped around their waists to form an infinity symbol.

In some cases I find that Goepford neatly skewers a meaning with an image totally unlike that of Waite. For example, his 5 of Swords depicts farmers using swords in a vain attempt to fend off a swarm of locusts.

To me, this illustrates the concept of “futility” much more clearly than Pamela Colman Smith’s image. Like the trumps, the minor cards are richly illustrated with symbolic details. Each minor also bears astrological symbols, to add meaning for readers who combine astrology and
Tarot. Some of the cards contain partial nudity (the Lovers, Judgment and the Devil for example) and occasional sexually explicit poses (Two of Cups and the Lovers). Nothing too overt in my opinion, but you might want to think
before using this deck to read for the unusually prudish, or for children. (The imagery on some of the “darker” cards, such as the Ten of Swords or the Tower, is also pretty expressive and might unsettle a child.)

The book accompanying Light and Shadow is as enjoyable as the deck. The book was written by Brian Williams, creator of the Renaissance Tarot and Pomo Tarot, based on interviews with Goepford. The same size as the cards, the book fits into a small box with the deck, making it easier to carry than decks that include full-sized books. The book is attractively produced, with
a much more professional look than many I have seen. It includes detailed interpretations, with a clear reproduction of each card, and (rather cleverly I think) one element of each card is clipped and used as an ornament on the page, in place of a drop cap.

The book also includes a brief biography of the artist, with examples of his non-Tarot work. The only weak part of the book is its treatment of interpretations: a half-dozen pages, most of which are taken up by yet another presentation of the Celtic Cross, finishing up with a recommendation that the reader try Mary Greer’s Tarot for Yourself. This section reads like an afterthought and would have been better left out entirely in my opinion.

Light and Shadow Tarot is one of my favorite decks, a highlight of my collection, and is the deck I read with most often. I highly recommend Light and Shadow Tarot as an art deck for collectors, to readers who want a fresh perspective on the Golden Dawn tradition, and for anyone interested in block print art.

Review Copyright 1998 by Sarah Ovenall; used with permission

Harnessing the power of change…

Harnessing the power of change aletheus

Harnessing the power of change aletheus

By Mark Hannan

Can you think of anything that stays the same, which does not change? The core nature of the universe is change. Everything changes. Everything. No moment is the same as another. Cellular changes occur constantly. Nothing remains constant. In many ways stability is a delusion, a way for us humans to exert and maintain control over ourselves, others, our environment and, we think, the cosmos. To what extent is that true or possible?

At first blush this fact, that change is inevitable, can be unnerving, unsettling. “What can I count on if everything is going to change?” Acknowledging change can give rise to feelings of powerlessness, fatalism, and resignation. But, yes but – we can count on one thing more than anything else – you guessed it – Change!  We can participate actively in the changes happening in our lives, in our minds, and in our hearts.

By understanding the process of change, how it occurs, as it is occurring, one can engage more actively in the change, thereby impacting the outcome. There is a constant supply of energy available to us in the process of change. Using your core values as a guide to harness that energy of change is what creates progress.

Take for example a rip tide. If you are caught in a rip tide and you try to swim out of it by swimming toward the shore you will never get there. In fact, you will wind up further away from the shore and eventually be pulled under and out to sea. However, if you understand the way the sea changes, in this case how the water moves, then you will realize that if you swim in a sideways direction, you will, in a matter of minutes, be free from the pull of the current that had you trapped. The sea, the rip tide, is still swirling, and it will continue to do so. However, having participated actively in the process of insight and understanding of how the sea changes you moved from harm to safety. You changed how you were participating in that action and created an advantageous outcome.

When we touch someone, or something, it automatically changes, it is different than it was before we touched it. We leave our mark, an imprint. And, that which we have touched leaves its mark on us. We are forever changed.

Sometimes it seems like change is happening to us – we are being controlled. We all have to fill out forms, endure being put on hold and listening to elevator music, getting caught in traffic, or having to wait 45 minutes for a bus sometimes. It seems we have no control over these things. And often we don’t. How we participate in these situations is in our power. We have a choice. Sure, I can refuse to fill out the form – but then I won’t get the bank loan, the building permit or the new job. However, if I think about the benefits of having the loan, I get excited about completing the form correctly and on time. Then I’m closer to getting the funds. I could get really ticked off at the bus driver, yell at him or her, complain to all the other angered passengers. Venting can be good for you. But, if the anger just ruins their whole day, your day, what have I gained, how far forward have I moved toward my goal of wellbeing and peace of mind? By embracing change rather than fighting it we can move closer to our goals.