Thursday, October 31, 2019

Samhain Blog Hop: Honoring Our Beloved Dead

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It's that time of year again, and for once in Louisiana, the weather suits the holiday. It's cold, it's dreary, and it has forced me indoors to contemplate on those who have come before. For our hop, we were asked to honor our ancestors or someone who has passed beyond who has influenced us in some way. However, I've been lucky in at least one way in life and that's that I have not lost too many close family members in some time.

I feel remarkably lucky that when thinking on who I want to honor in my post today, I thought of my loving and dearly departed Cottonball who passed last year. He spent 17 years with my family, and though not all of them were the best, I tried to make his last years a continuous spa day for him.

Perhaps it's odd that of all the people in the universe who have passed, I have chosen my loving cat. However, I think all of us who are pet owners have a story of a difficult time in our lives when the "person" who was there for us through it all was our beloved animal. Cottonball was utterly devoted to me through my two-year long series of health issues, treatments, and recovery. He slept on my chest for every forced nap I took. He tapped me on my shoulder as I worked from home -- almost a sweet reminder that hey, hey you... You're not alone. I'm here.

It devastated me when he got sick. It hit him so quickly. After everything, I never expected cancer to take my sweet kitty so suddenly. The loss hit me on so many levels. I felt as though cancer was taking everything away from me. On his last day, I found him collapsed and unable to get back up. I took him to the vet, swaddled in a warm towel, and held him until he went to sleep forever. He had cuddled me through everything. I was most certainly not going to let him go without his family next to him.

And so of course, I also could not move into my new home without bringing him with me. I felt as though it would be a betrayal to him to separate his final resting place from his family. I opted to have him cremated, and he resides on my hearth alongside a brass cat statue to honor his devotion to his family.

For today's thinning veil, I did a reading to communicate with my sweet kitty. Despite my penchant for spooky decks this time of year, I chose to use the deck I associate most with him — The Mystical Cats Tarot by Lunaea Weatherstone. After he passed, I felt an immense amount of guilt. I felt like I hadn't done enough, but a reading with this deck helped me feel at peace after his passing.

What I can learn from his life:
Strength (reversed) — I don't have to suffer in silence. I don't have to carry burdens alone. I don't have to let the bird sit on me if I don't want it to. I can eat it if I really truly want. Cottonball rarely complained in life. Something he probably got from his family. He just carried his disappointments without a single meow, even when his bowl wasn't full.

Advice he has for me:
Eight of Fire (reversed) — It's okay to slow down. Life doesn't have to be a mad rush. He was never one to run willy nilly all over the house. He was a dignified floof. Walk slow. Walk with dignity.

Path he advises for my life: 
Five of Sea (reversed) — Move on from the things that get me all soaked and bothered. I don't have to be a pissy kitty about it. I'll dry off eventually if I just keep moving and stay away from what might drown me. Letting go of the past and releasing intense nostalgia for a time before has been a struggle for me. I think he's reminding me that things do get better, even if he's not there to cuddle me.

Do you have a beloved pet you'd like a message from? I would gladly serve as the conveyor of that message! You can book a reading in my shop. 💓

This post is part of a series. Use the navigation to browse ahead or behind in the series, or visit the master list to go directly to a blogger. If you are a tarot reader with a blog and wish to join future hops, join our TarotBlogHop Facebook group.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Mabon Blog Hop: My Harvest

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Once again, it's time to blog hop! We hop for each of the eight holidays on the wheel of the year, and as we turn toward the harvest, we hop in celebration of Mabon, or as the druids prefer, Alban Elfed. Alban Elfed is the last harvest of the year, and a time of reaping what we've sown.

In true Celtic fashion, our topic for this hop is a reading which covers the three realms: Land, Sea, and Sky. The realm of land is that of body. The realm of sea is our minds. The realm of sky is our souls. For each realm, we were asked to draw three cards to discuss our current state, an area of focus, and the outcome if we take action on that focus. I felt called to use my Wildwood Tarot for this reading project.

Body

My body has been through a lot over the last few years, and it's only recently I've been finding some peace with it. I have grown in acceptance, but I also have grown in reclaiming it for myself. I have begun feeling so much more in tune with my body and less at odds with it!

Current State - 5 of Bows

I've faced a lot of conflict and struggled to find motivation to take back control over my own body. There's been a lot of fighting myself, other people, life in general... but I've finally reached a point where I at least feel like I'm in charge of the direction I grow in, and I'm proud of the work I've done to get to where I am.

However, I still am not where I once was and I worry I never will be. There are a lot of fights yet to be won, and all I can do is take them on one at a time. Even now as I recover from my most recent surgery, I'm going a bit stir crazy as I want to get back into the swing of things.

Focus - The Journey

This card replaces Death in traditional decks, but I feel like the meaning holds true. Rebuilding the strength in my body is a process of constantly breaking down and rebuilding. Starting from the bottom and working my way up. Each time I work on something new, I'm starting the journey fresh. The tedium of starting over and over and over has worn on me in the past because I was focused on the end goal and not on the journey. I always felt so far away instead of living in the now and appreciating the milestone I was currently achieving.

Outcome - 3 of Stones Reversed

There's going to be a lot of delays reaching my end point and it will always be a process -- a never ending journey. In fact, the journey to manifesting the the ideals I have in mind may never be achieved. I need to be okay with that. I need to be okay with being proud of what I do achieve and ground my ideals in reality.

Mind

I've felt my mind become more open lately, but this can be a horrible thing for me as I'm prone to ADD. I get distracted easily and become hyper-focused on tasks that might not be the most important thing for me to focus on. 

Current State - Knight of Stones Reversed

My current state confirms what I already know about myself. I've lost a lot of motivation, and I chase after tasks which aren't the most important thing. Sometimes I give up way too easily. I've allowed myself to have my spirit broken in areas of my life such as career, and that loss of motivation shows up in my day-to-day.

I'm not proud of myself for letting this be the state of affairs, and I want this to change. I've had a lot of false starts in finding the part of me that gives a shit.

Focus - 8 of Vessels

I need to focus on letting go. I need to stop letting things impact me emotionally. Yes, it infuriates me when I have colleagues who spend more time marketing themselves than actually doing quality work. It infuriates me the way that it seems to go unnoticed. It infuriates me even more that sometimes it seems that this dynamic is expected. I, the woman, should be the diligent worker. The expectations on me are much higher and the standard I'm held to unattainable. It's not fair.

However, I've dealt with all these things a million times over. I need to have faith and just let go.

Outcome - 7 of Arrows Reversed

Ultimately, if I just focus on myself and controlling my emotions, I'll be able to let go of insecurities and worry much less!

Soul

There are many parts of my life that I jokingly refer to as soul crushing. Hopefully this will give me some insights on changing my perspective!

Current State - Page of Vessels Reversed

I'm very far removed from a state of being present. I'm not hearing the messages I need to hear, and I'm not attending to my life in a manner that is heart felt. I'm just not here. This is something I truly need to fix. I pour my heart into other people's needs and happiness and well being and have none left for my own. It's left me feeling a bit disassociated quite a bit.

I need to flip that vessel around and feel again. <3

Focus - The Sun of Life

I need to become aware of something beyond this earth. This is something I've worked on through tarot and through druidry; however, I haven't paid as much attention to my bardic studies as I need to. I have finally returned my attention to my tarot practice, but perhaps I need to resume my bardic studies as well. 

Outcome - 4 of Arrows

Peace and rest await me if I can let myself find stillness! Stressful things are happening around me, but I don't have to let those things touch me. This is a realization that I look forward to reaching and actually being able to practice.

Would you like a similar reading done for you? You can request your own three realms reading by ordering a custom tarot reading in my Etsy shop. (You'll need to select a 'medium' reading at checkout.) All readings over $10 are 30% off through the end of September!

This post is part of a series. Use the navigation to browse ahead or behind in the series, or visit the master list to go directly to a blogger. If you are a tarot reader with a blog and wish to join future hops, join our TarotBlogHop Facebook group.

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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Using a Mandala Spread for Character Development in my Tarot Story "Sacrifices"

Procrastination is as much a part of the writing process as writing is I believe. This was no less true when I began working on the challenge of writing my tarot story "Sacrifices." When I began working on the story, I did my Celtic Cross for planning a good month before I actually started writing the story. I just couldn't quite figure out the person these events were happening to. I knew I wanted my character to be someone a little bit strange, and the story to be somewhat fantastical, but beyond that I had no clue.

To solve my little hiccup, I decided to follow up my Celtic Cross planning session with some character development using a Mandala tarot spread. A mandala tarot spread is typically used for personality analysis and helping a querent understand themselves. So, this should be the perfect spread for helping my understand the character Ursuline I was trying to develop! Once again, why reinvent the wheel or do some fancy process for developing a story with special spreads when the spreads already exist?

Developing Ursuline's Character with a Mandala Tarot Spread

We're slowly moving toward fall and all that's creepy and a little spooky, so I got a head start by selecting my Mildred Payne's Secret Pocket Oracle to work with for this exercise. I don't use it nearly enough and I'm overly excited about the approaching fall season, so creepy character development with a creepy deck was what I went with!

I was also much looser with interpretation using the oracle deck. I feel oracle decks do open that freedom up more so than tarot, particularly the Mildred Payne. The deck is full of very specific pieces of imagery, almost like a Lenormand deck. Because of this, I found that the imagery came into play more so than the meanings.

1 Self

The Ear (9) reversed appeared to define Ursuline's core self. She constantly describes hearing the shades howl, and at one point they are referred to as banshees. I wanted there to be a strong sense of hearing in the story. I'm not sure I quite succeeded in driving that sensation home, but it was the intent. Ursuline is also hyper vigilant of her situation, perhaps overly so. She probably has a lot of other options for her situation, but she's overly sensitive and aware of what the shades want.

2 Ambitions

Ursuline very much desired to be likable. The Flower (23) is a card of blossoming, but at a cost. Ursuline would love to reach her full potential, and she believes that she can only do this with the help of others.

3 Ideals, goals, and path to spirit

Between the Arrow (64) and the Boot later in the spread, I knew there would need to be some travel in store for Ursuline. She believes that carrying her message of teamwork will help achieve her goals. When she meets the witch, she throws caution to the wind because she is too hopeful that this witch is like her.

4 Accomplishments and life path

The Star (67) took on a bit of a very literal accomplishment/life path for Ursuline as she gets turned into little twinkly bits in the dark! Who says every card has to have some deep meaning? Sometimes face value is all you need.

5 Dependencies, addictions, erroneous values

Ursuline encounters her Spider (51) in the witch and makes the unfortunate mistake of believing that the strong female force she encountered was benign.

6 Strengths, positive personality traits

It might take Ursuline a long time to feel the effects of a situation that is Poison (45), but eventually it will take her down. Endurance is a positive trait, but it doesn't hold in there forever. Unfortunately, I don't feel I had room in the story to reveal this about her as much. Keep in mind for a creative project, you don't always have to use everything you plan!

7 Faults and weaknesses

Ursuline was smart to observe before getting involved with the witch, but she allowed herself to become too caught up with her curiosity. She was also way too giving. The Octopus (44) appeared reversed, and so we have a character who takes on more than they can handle and gets in deeper than they can actually handle.

8 Self-awareness and self-image

The reversed Boot (20) was not only another indicator of travel gone awry, but also a sign of feeling stuck. Ursuline's impetus was to try to resolve feelings of being stuck in a situation that wasn't great. The trip itself was not necessarily a bad idea, but her entire engagement with the witch was throwing caution to the wind a bit.

9 Desires and higher purpose

Ursuline doesn't just want to make her life better, she wants to make it better by bringing together other people. She wants to feel joy, but the reversed Boy (5) indicates yet again that though she might bring that joy into another's life in a way that gives way too much of herself.

Pulling It All Together

Ultimately, this reading didn't slide as seamlessly into the story as my Celtic Cross spread did. However, it did stimulate a lot of creative thought and small details which worked into the story and helped develop it into what it ultimately became. Tarot stimulates creativity and intuition, and so I don't feel like doing this extra thought process with this spread turned out to be a wasted enterprise at all.

If you would like to receive a Mandala reading for yourself, they are available for purchase in my Etsy shop.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Developing my Short Story "Sacrifices" with Tarot


When I first began learning tarot, my first impression of the major arcana was simply, "Oh! I recognize this! It's the hero's journey. These are archetypes." To be fair, I work as a writer and my degrees are in English, so it was a quick jump for me to recognize the cards for what they were. As I learned, it was the moment I realized that reading the cards was a form of storytelling that my readings all snapped into place. The side effect of this realization, however, was that I then wanted to try my hand at writing an actual story with tarot cards.

Using the tarot for story building isn't an unheard of method. Authors such as Stephen King and John Steinbeck purportedly used tarot to build their stories. In addition, teachers such as James Ricklef use storytelling to demonstrate how to connect the cards in readings for actual people. Clearly there is a tight bond between tarot reading and fiction.

I attempted a tarot challenge once in the past, but it was a huge exercise of planning, and I never completed it. When one of the Daily Tarot mods stepped forward to lead a free-form tarot story challenge over the course of the month, I was excited to participate. There were no guidelines. Use tarot anyway you like to develop a story, and share. I liked this much better, because I feel storytelling is a very intuitive process much like tarot. Sure, there are those who like to plan every fine detail, but there's always an alternative approach. I felt like this was my opportunity to make it simple and actually finish a story!

I went classic tarot and decided to use the celtic cross to develop the plot of my story. I'm currently leading a series of discussions about the celtic cross, so I figured this would be a great overlap project.


Planning the Plot with a Celtic Cross

Why reinvent the wheel? The Celtic Cross is a spread which gives great general readings when you want to dig into the overall "plot" of someone's life right now. Why not use it to tell a story? Here's how I connected these cards into "Sacrifices."

1 Self/Present Situation

The particular meaning of the 5 of Swords that really stuck out to me here was being overwhelmed, opposition, and lack of support. Ursuline is completely alone against an army of angry shades. She has successfully held on to her sense of self and maintained some firm protections against the shades, but it really isn't enough. There's a lot of disappointment, and it's not just in the shades that have been successfully turned away.

2 Problem

The Queen of Pentacles in the problem position made me feel like Ursuline's problem needed to something human. And not just human, female. I used the queen's representation very literally to present another character, the witch, who would be extremely problematic for Ursuline and ultimately be her downfall.

I also tend to associate this card with a female friend of my own. Appearing in this crossed position brought to mind the ways her friendship had been problematic for me. It grew into a larger theme of the toxic feminine sacrificing other women to survive.

3 Past

Ursuline has experienced or partook in a misuse of power. The King of Swords shows up reversed, and it's this unethical king that she constantly bemoans. According to Ursuline, the shades are asking for more than they are owed. As the central figure of the story, we have to trust her judgement. However, it's unclear if Ursuline has abused her own power and not given proper dues to those who have supported her, or if she has made some unwise decisions on where to gain her power.

It sets the stage for the uneasiness of the present in the 5 of Swords. Is Ursuline the girl clutching the two swords or is she the disarmed and disappointed knight walking away? There's a bit of flow in her character to be both. And I wanted that to be there since the beauty of tarot is that the subjectivity of each card is up to the reader.

4 Future

The future position in a celtic cross spread throws off a lot of readers, and though it informs the outcome, it is not the outcome. It is what happens tomorrow, next, leading up to the outcome. And though Judgement is a card about resurrection, rebirth, and fresh starts, it is exactly this step forward that brings Ursuline toward her ending. It's impossible to say if she could have held the shades away forever on her own, but she definitely moved toward the dark outcome of the reversed Moon by looking for a new opportunity.

5 Conscious

I often interpret this position not just as consciousness, but higher consciousness -- a message from the higher self. The 4 of Swords is another card of the mind. Ursuline's current state is one of constant conflict. She lives in the back and forth of turmoil in the 5 of Swords. She needs rest. She knows she needs rest, but it's her unconscious desires that inform the method she chooses of finding rest.

6 Unconscious

There are only two places that cups show up in this reading -- in this position and hopes and fears. I think there's a very clear line drawn here. The 9 of Cups is incredibly hopeful, and I feel informs who Ursuline is as a person. There's an underlying warmth to her, a deep ability to love and be loved. The unfortunate truth about our unconscious influences, however, is our tendency to project ourselves onto others. When we don't recognize the reflection as our own, we make the mistake of believing we see the better parts of ourselves in others.

7 Emotions/Personal Influence

Urusline truly believes her situation is unjust. This sense of unfairness comes from Justice reversed. Perhaps her situation is truly unfair, but there is a greater cosmic sense of justice that is beyond her. She is dealing with cosmic/spiritual beings that are by nature greater than her, but she's doesn't seem to  recognize them as divine. She has a strong sense of what she believes to be just, but who is she to decide?

8 External Influences

The Knight of Swords rode into this position reversed, and that's when I knew there had to be a steely, stabby influence in the story. The reversed knight here is one who is bitter, resents the happiness of other, and disrespects women, but how would this come into play? Our heroine is certain that her own divinity is equal in value to that of the shades. Though they have clearly provided her with something she wouldn't otherwise have, she is resolute that she has paid them fairly for it. So, whatever it is that she has given is either being overvalued by her, or undervalued by the shades. 

I personally believe we all have a piece of divinity within us, and I think the end of the story finally lends some insight to the conflict between Ursuline and the shades. In exchange for something they gave her, they took everything.

9 Hopes & Fears

The Page of Cups is such a happy, loving page, but the poor little reversed page fears neglect. The fear of being alone was heavy enough to motivate Ursuline to a seemingly uncharacteristic act. She's been so cautious, so why does she let down her guard for the witch? Ursuline's unconscious self combines with her fear of being alone, of not being recognized for who she is, and a need to authentically express herself with others overrides her caution. Her last act is an act of desperation and love.

10 Outcome

For those who saw my Instagram post prior to the story, you probably suspected some deceit would come into play for the ending. The reversed Moon is a card of hidden intentions, lies, and betrayal. The ties to lunacy also played in as I wrote the story as well. I didn't want Ursuline to appear as a perfectly well-reasoned character, and I wanted the world she lived in to be somewhat fantastic. I do feel I missed some opportunity with this card, as the story tied to it is the one of Blodeuwedd and the Lake of Maidens

After Initial Planning

Describing how these cards tied to the story after the fact is all well and good, but if I were to be honest, it took me a long time to tie it together. In fact, I toyed with a lot of ideas and none quite fit until the name Ursuline popped into my head. Unfortunately this only happened after I procrastinated writing by doing another spread to try to understand the character the events outlined in the Celtic Cross were happening to.

It definitely made me realize that perhaps those long arduous challenges which outline the millions of little details weren't so frivolous after all. By the end of it, I had planned a plot and worked on character development which I'll be covering in a future post!

If you would like to receive a Celtic Cross reading, they are available for purchase in my etsy shop!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Tarot Story: Sacrifices

In our Daily Tarot server, we like to have a bit of fun with tarot from time to time. This month's challenge was to create a story using tarot, something I've been meaning to try for a while. I got a lot of false starts with my endeavor, but ultimately I think it came together.

For planning the story itself, I used a Celtic Cross spread with my Llewellyn deck. For character development, I used a Mandala spread (personality analysis spread) with my Mildred Payne Secret Pocket Oracle deck. I wanted the story to be sort of fanciful, but also strange and more than a little bit creepy. Hopefully I achieved that. I don't want to make this post excessively long, so I plan to share more insight into my tarot story planning process and how I connected each of those spreads to my story in a future post.

So, with no further ado, here is my story. Please be forewarned, there is some graphic violence!

Sacrifices

Ursuline could still hear them. Asking for more. Expecting more. More. More. More. No sacrifice was quite enough, and she had become frightened they were coming for her. They were the sort who would come for her and take what they felt they deserved. Talismans weren’t enough. She gazed at her useless display of jewelry and wondered if the power they held would be enough for someone else. Probably. Most people make the proper sacrifices.

Most people acknowledge their divinity. Ursuline was not most people.

She wanted to be good, and Ursuline tried so hard to make them happy. It’s not that she didn’t want to please the spirits. She felt it fair to give them the appropriate tributes for the kindnesses they showed her, but they just howled louder in her ears – angry and unappeased. They skittered just around the corners of her sight, never allowing her to forget they were near and coming for the rest of what she owed.

Sometimes they showed her visions. Horrific and tortured scenes demonstrating what they wanted from her. They wanted her.

Other times she found little specks of things here and there. Gentle reminders of the nightmares in store for her. The specks were as powerful as the unexpurgated horrors she’d witnessed. Each speck brought to the forefront of her mind the tortured fantasies they showed her, playing over and over. She didn’t have enough talismans. Her power wasn’t enough to stop them, and it never would be.

She had attempted amulets. Little sacks of protection. Jars of nasty barriers. Charged with her energy, she’d carry them off to obscure locations to draw away the nasties. She could feel the screaming meemies hurtling toward the diversions, circling and shrieking. She dimmed her light and hid in the darkness where she became lost. If she didn’t know where she was, then they couldn’t know either.

Ursuline was careful about when she turned on her lights. When visitors came, she peered through the darkness, eyes long accustomed, to see who came to call. She weighed carefully their stature to determine if they could overpower her. If they presented too substantial of a threat, she hid, never letting them know she was there. She was certain they had envoys carrying with them their power and their desire to force Ursuline to make the proper sacrifices.

Once it had occurred to her that perhaps there were others. Others like her with angry, buzzing wraiths demanding more than their fair share. Others like her who were unyielding, doling out proper repayments and then hiding in the shadows when they snatched for more. Perhaps her and another could confederate to form a more commanding force—one they must acquiesce to, one they must accept their allowance from, and leave her and the others be. So, she turned on one miniscule light and ventured from her dark abode to find other small lights glistening in the muggy abyss.

When Ursuline found another cottage nestled quietly away, she raised her personal barriers and began the long process of surveilling the possible cohort. Ursuline watched her closely. She watched her making the proper sacrifices, the exact sacrifices she herself had left, perhaps even less. But they came and took their dues and left without bothering the woman for more. Few of the banshees lingered. Ursuline’s curiosity quickened alongside her admiration for the tiny forest witch.

Eventually she felt herself compelled to come forward and make herself known. As Ursuline moved toward the witch, she felt the witch’s gaze move up from her work to Ursuline. Her gaze took all of Ursuline in, and she smiled, as if expecting her. Ursuline disarmed her personal barriers, fearing she may seem an off-putting encroacher otherwise. The witch’s continued gaze empowered Ursuline to begin, and so she launched into the story of why she had come. She told the witch of the forces beyond the light. She spoke of their evil envoys and her persistent evasion of them. The last bit she hesitated and stumbled over as she told her about the visions.

The witch’s gaze softened, and she gestured Ursuline to her side. Ursuline’s heart raced. The shadows skittered away from the edges of her vision. It seemed as though everything around the witch and her cottage had begun to emanate a warm, pulsating glow. The darkness flitted away as it was engulfed with light. Ursuline’s own small lantern flickered under the heaviness of the radiance. She searched about for shadows, fearing the sudden brilliance would bring them near, but she found none. Feeling suddenly brave in their absence, Ursuline answered the witch’s beckon.

The witch took Ursuline by the hand, turning her away from her and toward the light’s source. Blinded, she could no longer make out where the light began or ended. She panicked slightly, and the witch pulled her back against her body and began to whisper softly in her ear all her secrets of survival in the abyss. The words buzzed together warm and soft, and Ursuline became calm again. The words kept flowing from the witch, and they bumped together and overlapped in ways that obscured their meaning but still seemed to form together a solid statement.

Ursuline leaned back into the witch believing a great revelation had begun. The witch stroked Ursuline’s hair gently, whispered one last alarming phrase, and as Ursuline’s eyes widened in fright, she saw light glint dangerously off steel. Ursuline felt all the words flow from her neck, red and sticky, never to come back. Her knees buckled, and the witch helped her gently to the ground. Her whispers resumed as she stroked Ursuline’s hair back from her face. The witch leaned in, her whispers fading further away as she got closer, and placed her lips delicately on Ursuline’s forehead. Then on Ursuline’s lips. Then on her sanguine neck. The witch leaned back with her reddened lips and giggled as Ursuline gurgled.

The blinding light vanished, snapping away quickly to reveal a mass of shadows. Each came and took from Ursuline her dues. The darkness spread from her as light slowly faded from her eyes. She stared blankly as they groped about, carrying their dues away into the gloom. She watched each piece twinkle away like fireflies desperately trying to light a void. Her eyes continued to stare, blank and empty, as the witch took her cold hand to her lips, nibbling gently. The ground rose up around her as she dissolved slowly into it. As the earth engulfed Ursuline’s body, the witch released her hand and stood to walk away unaccosted by ravenous shades.

To read about how I developed this story, check out my follow-up post: Developing my Short Story "Sacrifices" with Tarot