Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mind Body Spirit Odyssey Review: The Tarot Discovery Kit

Review: The Tarot Discovery Kit

Amy Zerner, who was featured last month in our “Mind Body Spirit Artist Series”  has co-created “The Tarot Discovery Kit” with her husband Monte Farber. This wonderful kit is about more than just tarot though. It also contains ways to help you ground and focus your thoughts, as well as meditating on a myriad of subjects, to help you reach a deeper truth.

The kit contains a deck of cards, a booklet, and a DVD.

The Cards

For the most part, the cards follow a standard format. The four suits are as usual (wands, swords, cups, pentacles). The court cards contain four of each suit, Princess, Prince, Queen and King. The cards are kept in a golden satin pouch.

The Booklet

The booklet goes into the detail of each card in the deck, complete with the message behind the card, and the outcome.

As well as describing the cards in detail, the booklet also offers you a second usage of the cards that I have not seen in other decks. These cards can also be used for meditation. Each card has a different concept on which you can meditate, such as “intuition”, “discipline”, or “patience”.


The main menu of the DVD is divided into six sections. One for the Major Arcana, and one for each suit. These sections are used with the meditation aspect of the kit. The final option is “Tarot Discovery Theater”. This section contains features on the Major Arcana, the Minor Arcana, the history of tarot, entering sacred spaces (how to use the power within us), and a grounding ritual to help prepare your mind for reading the cards or doing your meditation exercise.

In addition, the Grounding Ritual is very therapeutic and can be used all on its own, whenever you just need to take a moment and relax and center yourself. That always gives us a much stronger position from which to deal with things.

Doing a Tarot Reading

As mentioned previously, this deck follows the standard suits, so those of you that are comfortable doing readings already should be able to jump right in. You just have to remember that there are slightly different court cards than usual (using a Princess and Prince rather than a Knave and a Knight). Also know that there are no reversals involved. Each card has but one message and one outcome. The booklet gives you details on a One-Card Spread as well as the standard Celtic Cross Spread. Advanced readers can play with other spreads with which they are familiar to see which ones work best for you.  These cards are very beautiful and ornate.

For those of you who are just starting out, these cards may be too ornate for you to use as a starter deck. Those of you who are experienced are given a wealth of imagery on the cards from which to draw your readings, much more so than an average deck.

While the cards may be too ornate for some to use in a reading, that same ornateness becomes a strong point when it comes time to use them for meditation.

Meditation With The Cards and DVD

In order to perform the meditation rituals, you will need the cards, the DVD, and possibly the book, depending on the kind of meditation you wish to do.

If you wish to let your mind inform you of the meditation it wishes to do, then use the DVD to go through the White Light Illumination ritual. As you go through the ritual in your mind, shuffle the deck and choose a card at random. Once you have made your choice, study the card, its colors, its symbols, absorb as much as you can from the card. Then, go back to the DVD and find that card in its section. Listen to the words and music and focus on all the aspect of the card that you can. Take it all in. At the end, focus on the impressions you are left with after going through this, and relate it to the card you chose. This will complete your meditation.

If you wish to choose a specific topic on which to focus your meditation, you can go to the booklet. It explains the meditation concept for each card. Once you have made your choice, you can go through the steps outlined in the previous paragraph, minus the shuffling of the cards and choosing one at random. All other steps in the process remain the same.

The wealth of imagery on each card could lead you to use the same card in multiple meditations, and get new and interesting insights each time you use it.

So, whether you need to a standard reading, an advanced reading, a chosen meditation, an internally informed meditation, or even just a basic grounding ritual for better centeredness and focus, this kit will help you.


The Tarot Discovery Kit
Card Illustrations by Amy Zerner
Text by Monte Farber
DVD Features and animation by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber
Distributed by Sterling Publishing Company  NY, NY
~ Giani
Visit Giani's shop on Etsy
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

2012 Year of the Water Dragon

Scholars consider Chinese astrology to be one of the world's oldest forms of Astrology.  Unlike the other Moon-school traditions; Tibetan, Vedic and Judaic, which are couched in religion, Chinese astrology is purely secular, a direction shared by Sun-school astrologies (Western and Arabian).

Ming Shu (Circle of Animals), is just one form of Chinese astrology, but it seems to be the one that is most commonly recognized by westerners.  This system is what Sun signs are to Western astrology, meaning, you only have to know the year of your birth to create a general personality profile.  Like all of the world's major astrological traditions however, a person's time, date and place of birth are essential to create an accurate, true birth chart.

2012 is the year of the water Dragon.  Although there are general behavioral patterns associated with the Dragon sign, the delineation is further augmented according to which element (earth, metal, fire, water, wood) happens to be in control the year that you are born.  For example, the personality of a fire dragon is very different from that of a water dragon.

Persons born within these date ranges can be said to have been born in the "Year of the Dragon," while also bearing the following elemental sign:
  • 16 February 1904 – 3 February 1905: Wood Dragon
  • 3 February 1916 – 22 January 1917: Fire Dragon
  • 23 January 1928 – 9 February 1929: Earth Dragon
  • 8 February 1940 – 26 January 1941: Metal Dragon
  • 27 January 1952 – 13 February 1953: Water Dragon
  • 13 February 1964 – 1 February 1965: Wood Dragon
  • 31 January 1976 – 17 February 1977: Fire Dragon
  • 17 February 1988 – 5 February 1989: Earth Dragon
  • 5 February 2000 – 23 January 2001: Metal Dragon
  • 23 January 2012 – 9 February 2013: Water Dragon
  • 10 February 2024 – 28 January 2025: Wood Dragon
A earth dragon needs to control his or her environment.  This person is quiet and understands the value of cooperation, but he or she still needs to lead in an executive and dignified manner.

A fire dragon is highly dramatic and competitive.  This person has elevated expectations, demanding to be heard and obeyed.  The criticisms this person imparts are completely constructive, however, all advice is objective.

A metal dragon is strong-willed, critical, and very difficult to sway, but this person also inspires others.
Everything must be done with integrity and honor; laziness and stupidity are never tolerated.

A water dragon believes in growth and expansion.  To that end, this person puts aside personal opinion, but maintains a strong will and wields remarkable patience.

A wood dragon has a creative mind and the ability to develop revolutionary ideas.  This person is compulsively inquisitive at times and can be condescending toward others.  He or she generally hides a domineering spirit, but can still be very outspoken.

*Information for this post was taken from Miller and Brown's "The Complete Astrological Handbook for the Twenty-first Century"; Understanding and Combining the Wisdom of Chinese, Tibetan, Vedic, Arabian, Judaic, and Western Astrology.

The dragon graphic is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series: Cristina McAllister

When I first saw Cristina McAllister's beautiful prints I was transfixed not only by her amazing sense of design, but also in the way she incorporated mystical themes and sacred symbols into her gorgeous Art Nouveau style work.  A gifted illustrator, graphic designer, painter, and printmaker - I really don't think there is anything out of reach for this multi-talented artist once she sets her sites on it!  Enjoy the interview - I hope you will enjoy Cristina's work and story as much as I did!   ~ diane fergurson

Air Spirit
MBS:  Can you tell us a little bit about your background?  How you got started in art?

Cristina:  I was born an artist.  I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon, and it’s always come naturally to me.  As a child I was captivated by fantastic and imaginative imagery, inspired by animated films, comics and picture books.  I taught myself how to draw by studying other artists’ work, experimenting and practicing constantly, creating my own stories, characters, costumes and creatures.

I’ve had little formal art training.  I took a few basic art courses at the local community college,
which gave me a good foundation to build upon.  A job at an art supply store gave me access to a wide range of mediums and techniques that I voraciously explored, constantly striving to hone my skills.

My first art job was doing window displays at a comics shop.  After that I did illustration and packaging design for a toy company.  I had a few issues of a small press comic published, and worked for several years at a role playing game company doing fantasy illustration, graphic design, conceptual design and some writing.  I’ve also done some children’s illustration, murals and pin-up art.

Several years ago, I began to feel the need to do something more meaningful with my art.  I enjoyed doing fantasy illustration, but I felt like it didn’t really have much to say, on a personal level.  I wanted to produce more “artistic”, self-directed artwork.  Of course, figuring out what I had to say and how to say it has been a challenging journey that I’m still on. :)

MBS:  The use of symbols in your work is really quite striking.  How did you become interested 
in symbolic art?

Cristina:  Thank you.  I’ve experimented with symbolism in my work for a while, mostly in the context of a more figurative style, and it tended to be very personal symbolism.  I began working with traditional symbols in a more abstract, decorative style fairly recently.  This style developed when my husband and I decided to build a gypsy wagon.  He’s a maker – he can build with wood and metal, and fix anything.  We combined our skills to create Calliope, a custom camper trailer that’s literally a work of functional art.  The full story (with pictures!) can be found on my blog, here.

When I started designing the artwork for Calliope, I was initially just interested in making her beautiful – my main focus was basically ornamental.  But the more we invested in the project, the more I wanted to infuse some meaning into the artwork.  That’s when I began researching traditional symbolism, seeking ways to visually express what was important to us through my artwork.

I’d always had a passing interest in the subject, but this time I found myself captivated by the use of symbols throughout history by different cultures.  Visual language can be very powerful, particularly if it has been well established in a culture.  These days we have access to such symbol lexicons from around the globe, so there’s a lot of material to draw from. One thing that intrigues me is the prevalent and fundamental use of symbols in religious and spiritual contexts.  It’s incredible how very complex ideas can be encoded in simple imagery.

I’ve also come to appreciate the notion of art beyond decorative, expressive or storytelling capacities.  I began exploring the world of sacred art, such as mandalas, which can be a tool for focusing the mind, celebrating cherished ideas and communicating spiritual and philosophical concepts.  I love the notion that a visual artwork can be both aesthetically beautiful and functional on a psychoactive level.
The outcome of this new direction is a continually-evolving style that integrates elements of Art Nouveau, Celtic knotwork, tribal design and organic forms.  This style allows me to incorporate traditional symbols, combine them in new ways and create original symbolic images.

Shakti: Water Spirit
MBS:  Oh my!  That Calliope is just gorgeous.  You both must have had a great time designing it!  
I can see how your current, more decorative artwork has developed out of that.
  What are some of the materials you use when you create your pieces?  
Do you use stencils?  If so, do you make your own?

Cristina: The designs begin as hand sketches, which are scanned into the computer and finalized in Illustrator, which allows me to precisely control and adjust the imagery.

The prints available in my Etsy shop are hand-pulled screen prints.  I envisioned these designs in metallic gold on richly colored backgrounds, and after some research, decided that screen printing would be the best way to achieve this.  Dore (my husband) and I educated ourselves on the process and got to work. He’s in charge of making the screens, which involves a darkroom and photosensitive goop – that’s his department!  I do the actual printing on a simple press he built for me.
The larger, variable-edition prints actually have unique hand-painted backgrounds.  Each print is an original work, the field behind the design painted with pastels in various colors and patterns.  I really like the contrast of the very matte pastel texture and the shimmering gold ink.  The smaller prints are printed on colored fine art papers or scrapbook paper, which I find suits my needs quite well.  Its high quality, archival paper and you can find subtle patterns that add a nice dimension to the work, as opposed to a flat single color background.

Alternate versions of some of my designs, as well as some which are too complex for our screen printing process, are also available as high-quality digital prints through Fine Art America:

MBS:  It sound like you and your husband collaborate well together!
  The prints, what size do you like to work with?

Cristina:  I’ve done a range of sizes, from “mini prints” (5” x 5”) to my larger mandalas, which are 14” x 14”.  We aren’t really set up to do anything larger at the moment.  But I think that’s a good size – big enough to grab your attention and present the details well, but not overbearing!  I like to make a variety of sizes and price levels available.

Metamorphosis Mandala
MBS:  What do you find so appealing about the printmaking process?

Cristina:  I used to just make original paintings, but I would put so much effort into one single piece and in order to price it to value my time, it would end up being more than most people were willing or able to pay.  So – I have a lovely collection of original works adorning our home!

Printmaking is a way for me to make my work more available and affordable to more people, and yet it still has the quality of being handmade by the artist, so it retains that creative energy.  My style also lends itself to the medium – the crisp edges and complex patterns really shine through.

Celestial Gaze
MBS:  What are you currently working on?

Cristina:  As far as new work, I’m currently working on a series called “Shakti”; very ornate decorative designs that include symbolic elements and female figures that represent various themes.
I’m also working toward making my work more widely available through catalogs, other retailers or publishing companies that have more distribution.  Ideally, I’d love to have someone who could do the marketing part for me, but that doesn’t seem to happen much in the art world these days, so it’s a DIY situation.  I’m striving to get better at that aspect of my career.

MBS:  What is a typical work day for you? Do you keep "hours" and go to your studio like a 9-5 job, or are you less scheduled about it?

Cristina:  At the moment I have a part time job, which takes up the middle portion of my days.  Generally, my mornings are spent on the computer checking email, maintaining my blog and Etsy shop, doing online research, etc.  My afternoons are for working on new designs or making prints, working on other projects, errands, housework, etc.

I tend to fluctuate between periods of intense art focus and periods of creative downtime.  Sometimes my Muse hits hard and I’ll spend every available moment working obsessively on new designs.  This weekend was like that – the weather was gorgeous, but I spent most of it on the computer working on my Shakti.  I did manage to get out and get some fresh air and activity in, though.


MBS:  Your blog, website, Etsy shop - it sounds like you really do quite a bit online to help promote your work.  I know so many artists who really still avoid the whole online aspect for their business.
 What has your online experience been like?

Cristina:  The internet is such an amazing phenomenon…it has opened up the world like never before.  There’s the potential to connect and share with millions of people.  The flipside of that is that there is SO much stuff out there!  It’s easy to get lost in the clutter.  You don’t want to “spam” people, but you DO want to let the right people know you exist – the people who can appreciate and enjoy your work.  I think blogs like yours can really help facilitate that, and I’m excited about this opportunity to connect with your readers.

One thing the internet is great for is getting feedback – from all kinds of people from all over the place.  That can be very inspiring.  Of course, it can be frustrating when you’re getting a ton of feedback and few actual sales, but I think it’s kind of a critical mass game.  The more exposure you get, the more familiar you become to people, the more your work builds value on a collective level.

I used to be kind of reluctant to put my stuff out there – afraid of the potential for people to just steal my images without giving me any credit or compensation.  It certainly does happen, but I’ve come to accept that as sort of an investment.  I just try to remember to put a watermark with my name and website on everything so people can track me down if they want to find out more!

MBS:  What advice do you have for those who wish to seriously pursue an artistic path?

Cristina:  Well, on a practical level, I would advise getting some fundamental business and marketing education, so you have some idea of the tools necessary for getting your stuff out there and dealing with the Making-A-Living aspect of an art career.

On a creative level, I’d say never stop exploring and trying new things, new mediums, new styles, even if it’s just for fun.  Every technique I try my hand at teaches me something and adds to my creative voice.

Thank you Cristina

Cristina McAllister's artwork can be found in her Etsy Shop, her website - Gypsy Mystery, and  Fine Art America.
She also does freelance illustration and graphic design work.  
For more information you can contact her

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Blueberry Buckwheat Corn Muffins - Gluten Free

One thing I missed when I started eating gluten-free/wheat free was having a really hardy, tasty muffin.  I know that might sound silly to some people - but nothing beats muffins fresh out of the oven, especially in the winter.  A grain that I have enjoyed incorporating into our diet lately has been Buckwheat.  (Buckwheat is a gluten-free).  So I decided to try using Buckwheat flour to make some gluten free muffins. 

The Gluten-free Blueberry Buckwheat Corn Muffin recipe below is just wonderful.  I've been making them for us at least once a week.  Lowfat and delicious, the first time I made them I ate 3 right out of the oven!  These muffins are also a great food item you can make to help introduce your friends and family to alternative grains.  We would all benefit health-wise from eating less wheat, especially with the GMO's that is currently found in the flour we eat.   enjoy!

1 cup Buckwheat flour (I used Hodgson Mills)
1/2 cup Yellow Corn Meal (I used Arrowhead Mills organic gluten-free)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt (I use sea salt)
1/4 cup sugar (I use organic)
1 regular egg and 1 white replacer equivalent for 1 egg (total 2 eggs)
1/4 cup melted butter (I used 1/4 cup melted Earth Balance soy free spread) 
1 1/4 cup milk (I used low fat milk, you can use soy if you'd like too) 
Blueberries (about 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 400.  Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or grease muffin tins.
Mix together all ingredients.  Batter will be thin.  Fill muffin tins 2/3 full - muffins will rise.
Put blueberries on top of each muffin, poke down and bake aprox 15 minutes.

*You can try stirring the berries into the batter, but they will most likely sink because the batter is thin.

                                                Another Buddy Fergurson approved Recipe!

~ diane fergurson

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winter's Stillness

We cherish the winter's stillness and quiet times,
the creative darkness, accessing
our inner dreams, messages and visions.
A time and place of going within and dreaming,
a new day and a new cycle which is then 
birthed in the east for Spring.

take from NJ Holistic Magazine, Winter 2011
Snow and Lace photograph courtesy of Jude McConkey Photography, and available through her
shop on Etsy.
You can also read our Artist Interview with Jude here.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

The All Seeing Eye

This week someone asked me about the artwork that we use as the profile picture on our Facebook and Tumblr pages.  Oh, I replied - you mean the All Seeing Eye?

The symbolism associated with the All Seeing Eye has been used throughout the ages by variety of cultures and groups.  Spiritually the eye is closely associated with the idea of light and spirit and is often referred to as "the mirror to the soul".  It represents the "god within" or third eye which signifies the higher self - part of the consciousness of man that is ego free and, can guide and direct him.

The eye is probably familiar to most of us though as part of the design of the Great Seal of the United States of America.  It appears on the US Dollar Bill - set inside a triangle surrounded by rays of light.  Also known as the Eye of Providence - God watching over mankind - this symbol traces back to Freemasonry - where it stands for "Great Architect of the Universe". This eye appears in Christian symbolism too.  

All of the variations on this popular eye symbol, however, eventually lead back to the Egyptian Eye of Horus, or Udjat.  This stylized eye, with the brow above it and curlique underneath, represents the omnipresent vision of the Sun God Horus.  It is a prominent symbol within Western magical tradition where it symbolizes, among other things, secret or occult wisdom.

The artwork with All Seeing Eye that we us as the Mind Body Spirit Marketplace profile picture was taken from a mixed media ACEO Art Card that was part of a series I designed a few years ago.  As with all of my artwork I prefer the viewer to draw their own conclusions about the meaning. 

 ~ diane Fergurson

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bursting Forth Into 2012

#7 The Chariot by Adam Fergurson
As we begin our journey into the new year it's important that we remember to start our new projects and ideas from where we are "now".  Be realistic about who you are and where you are - working outward from there.  Go forth with a positive attitude and have a happy and healthy 2012.

The Mind Body Spirit Marketplace/Odyssey is expanding, and has found an additional new home on Tumblr.  Make sure to follow our daily updates there, as well as on Facebook.
Thank you for your support! 


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Artist,Writer, Jewelry Design