Friday, September 23, 2016

Tarot Blog Hop: Winter Finding


Welcome to the Autumn Equinox Tarot Blog Hop, hosted by Jay Cassels and Arwen Lynch Poe. The topic this season is "Foodie's Guide to the Tarot" (though for all intents and purposes posts may feature any oracle or divination tool!). 

The Equinox is celebrated around the world, and goes by an array of names according to tradition, culture, or region. Among the practitioners of the Northern Tradition, some refer to this equinox as Winter Finding, a harvest time where special attention is paid to the Vanir gods and goddesses of abundance and fertility, such as Freyja, Freyr, Njörd, and Nerthus. 
Das Germanische Götterorakel - Voenix
Njörd is a god associated with wealth. He is also principally tied to the sea, and humankind's relationship with it: the winds, waves, the catch. Thus Njörd is connected to mariners, fishermen - any and all those whose living depends in some way upon the ocean.

The card featured here is from the Das Germanische Götterorakel (The Germanic Gods Oracle) by Voenix and Thomas Vömel. It is an 81-card oracle deck which represents the major deities, heroes, giants/jötunn, and overarching concepts in the Norse Eddas and Sagas. Here we see Njörd sitting on a coastline draped in seaweed, surrounded by gulls. An open chest of gold lies to his side, and a longship can be seen in the background. A keyword, "Reichtum," is listed on the card, which means "wealth."

I've often imagined some of my ancient North Frisian and Danish forebears - sea people, island folk - holding a special regard for this Norse deity. My great-grandfather left the island of Amrum as a young boy, and came to New York City with his family. Here they are, in the traditional dress of Amrum and Sylt (my great-grandfather is the boy at the lower left). 
In the United States he met and married my great-grandmother, Emilie Hansen, from Ribe, Denmark. Ribe is the oldest town in Denmark, and one of the oldest towns in all of Scandinavia. It is located in southwest Jutland and borders the North Sea, not more than 100 kilometers from Amrum. 

Gerret and Emilie's son, also named Gerret, was my grandfather, and of his three children, one of them - my aunt Lillian - dedicated her life to the U.S. Coast Guard, and for many years (until it sunk in harbor not too long ago) owned a boat she named "Norddorf," after Norddorf, Amrum.  I have fond memories of family celebrations aboard that vessel. The "sea gene" continued to breathe life into the following generations. 
My Grandfather, Gerret
One of my earliest memories of my grandfather (who died of a heart attack while mowing the grass when I was barely two years old) is of sitting next to him at a cafe counter and ordering New England clam chowder. I was so young when he died that I can't be absolutely certain that this occurred, but I've had the memory since I can recall, and the recollection of my grandfather's clothing - a white t-shirt, blue jeans, a red baseball cap - has always been vivid. 

Clam chowder is a fitting maritime meal, it's perfect for the cooling months of coming autumn, and it connects well with honoring Njörd at the Winter Finding, so I'll offer it here. 
I am decidedly not the recipe sort so I'll do what I can to give accurate quantities...

New England Clam Chowder
  • 4 large potatoes
  • 1 onion or leek
  • A 15 oz. can of corn (you can use fresh corn, or frozen, as well)
  • Water (enough for boiling the potatoes)
  • 1-2 cups of milk (whole milk is great, but you can also use a smaller amount of heavy cream)
  • 1 small can of clams (go for fresh if you like!)
  • A slice or two of bacon (optional, but worth it)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter and/or olive oil
Peel and chop the potatoes and place them in a large stove pot. Pour in just enough water to cover the potatoes completely, add a bit of salt, and let them boil. In the meantime, sautee the chopped onion or leek in butter or olive oil. If you like bacon, you can throw some in to add to the depth of flavor, just chop or crumble after it is cooked. Add the onion and oil/butter (and bacon, if you like) to the potato water. (Do not drain the potatoes - you'll use that water as the base for the broth.) Add the corn when the potatoes are close to done, and let simmer. Then add the clams and their juices. Finally, when the potatoes are soft, turn the heat down so that the liquid is no longer simmering (very low setting), and then add the milk or cream. Cream is finicky about being boiled, so keep that in mind. Milk is a bit sturdier. Mix it in and let it heat through. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper as desired. Eat it up!

Now, as I said before, this is my attempt at quantifying a recipe that I usually just "eyeball." If you choose to go for it, don't be afraid to add more or less of any of these ingredients! And if you need precision, there are a lot of nice-looking recipes online that will do the trick (here is one). 
Njörd altar space
Enjoy the Equinox! Happy Mabon, and a Blessed Winter Finding to you all! 

Please use the links at the top or bottom of this post to navigate to the other wonderful blogs in this circle.

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Dance and Synchronicity

This morning my mother sent me a link to a group called 5Rhythms and asked me to take a look. Before I had a chance to delve in, I noticed that she had also posted a couple of videos of one of the Australian-based teachers of The Dancing Path (part of 5Rhythms), and decided to have a listen. The first video was about the importance of "occupying" our bodies - of living into each aspect of our being, utilizing each of our senses to its fullest, and ultimately of living now rather than focusing on the future.

The second video, by the same teacher (Kate Shela), was related to the topic of dance. One thing that she said that particularly resonated with me was the notion that the entire cosmos lives within each of our beings; the axis-mundi, the World Tree, is entirely part of us, as if all of us were home to the whole universe. Dance, she said, is a way to activate our entire beings, and to re-member our selves.

A short while later I decided to pull a card from the Dat Black Mermaid Man Lady oracle, and drew one of the "David" cards. David is a character from the theater production that goes by the same name as the deck, and his energies correspond to Chango. The "David cards" all connect to the energy of "Purpose."
Upon flipping the card over to review its advice, I found the following:
"Dance." Well hey.

Purpose; dance.

According to the website, the 5Rhythms include: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness. It says:

"In dancing 5Rhythms you can track perceptions and memories; seek out gestures and shapes; tune into instincts and intuitions. They reveal ways to creatively express aggressiveness and vulnerability, emotions and anxieties, edges and ecstasies. They reconnect us to cycles of birth, death and renewal and hook us up to the spirit in all living things. They initiate us back into the wisdom of our bodies and unleash movement’s dynamic healing power."

There is deep purpose in this.

I don't dance nearly as much as I should. Perhaps it's time to start.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Hankering for the 4 of Wands

This September, the Lady of Serpents (on Instagram) is hosting a self-exploration challenge and today's prompt is: "What do I unknowingly carry with me?" I love that question - it's great for identifying hidden influences that need a little illumination!

I shuffled my Fountain Tarot and drew the 4 of Wands.
Four people dance together on a sandy beach by an expanse of water. Four beams of light reach up into the sky, almost like spotlights at a party. These people, whoever they are, are having a very good time together.

As I sat with this card the word that kept coming back to me was, release. The 4 of Wands is a card of completion, of celebration, of letting go of routine (albeit momentarily). This card often represents occasions such as graduation parties, weddings, anniversaries, and can even symbolize much-needed vacations. No matter what event it connects to, the 4 of Wands represents the joy inherent in removing the framework that gives daily life its structure. We all need that from time to time, and we, as human beings, regardless of culture, nationality, or faith, always have.

Just yesterday I was sitting outside with my husband, enjoying the early evening breeze, watching as the sun broke over an invisible horizon to paint the clouds with peachy hues. As we chatted, our conversation turned to a topic that highlighted this concept of release. He spoke of the desire for community - particularly of a web of relation-ship with people he grew up with, of an environment widely conducive to his first language. I spoke of how much I've been missing northern nature - the forests, fresh waters, the aroma of pine needles in the air. We discussed our distinct lack of any sort of community at all where we live currently; we moved here for our jobs more than four years ago and in certain ways still feel a keen sense of isolation.

Looking at the 4 of Wands, I was brought back to my own memories of release-moments: when my mother and step-dad married; a week-long trip to the family home in the northern woods with extended family; time spent at a North Carolina beach house with family and friends. Yes, I thought, I am carrying this with me - a need for celebration, release, with people I know and care about.

As I pondered this, I shuffled my Dat Black Mermaid Man-Lady oracle deck and drew a card. I could see that it was one of the Dreamer cards, which represent the reader's own soul energy.
And when I turned it over I laughed in appreciation at its message:
Family! Indeed, family; kin. The embrace of people with whom deep bonds are shared.

My family is scattered around the globe. Some are in Michigan, some in Utah. Some are on the East Coast, and some are in Tennessee. Some are in Alaska. Some are in England, and some are in New Zealand. Some are in Saudi Arabia. With so many of us spread out so far, congregating becomes a challenge, and thus happens infrequently, or not at all. Cousins grow up and seek their own adventures. They establish their families in new places. It is good, in its way, but at times bittersweet, too.

My husband and I were planning a grand getaway at the end of September, just the two of us. We kept putting off planning, and I started to sense that there was a reason - a certain "something" - that was silently staying the process. I waited to see what it might be.

We finally decided not to go anywhere at all. Rather, we would spend the time at home-base, and venture out on day trips, go on dates, and enjoy some time together in that manner. My mother was still planning to come to town to look after the kids. And then my sister let us know that she'd be descending upon our household as well, flying in from the Middle East to spend a month or more with us during her own down time. My mother, my sister, my husband, our kids. All under one roof.

By ultimately choosing to stay put, we unwittingly created a space for the 4 of Wands to manifest.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

New Moon Reading

Today is the New Moon, and the first day of September. It's a blessing to have finally reached the first month of autumn (even though the equinox hasn't arrived quite yet). Hurricane Hermine rolls up the Gulf shedding her bountiful rains, and while the associated cloudy skies have cooled the air slightly, the humidity is fierce. Needless to say, it isn't feeling much like a proper fall....yet! But there is a certain potency in the naming of things, and simply knowing that September is here brings relief, and anticipation of a gradual descent into fresh, dry weather. In Florida we do have the glory of a northern autumn - it just happens to come around during the winter months. In December there are certain trees whose leaves even turn shades of orange and yellow before floating gently to the ground!

Since it is a New Moon I decided to pull some cards: the relatively common Release-Embrace spread (also known as Waning-Waxing, or Fading-Increasing). However you like to call it, the idea is essentially the same! I decided to use the Tarot of the Cat People tonight.

1) What is waning in import at this time? World
2) What is waxing? 6 of Pentacles

Tarot of the Cat People
The woman in the World gazes at a glowing globe, and appears to be in mid-step of a dance. She looks happy - celebratory, even.

Meanwhile, the woman in the 6 of Pentacles appears ready to offer a steaming bowl of food to some very eager looking cats. The woman is robed, and the scene feels homey and comfortable. She provides these adoring creatures with physical sustenance, and they offer constant companionship: a harmonious exchange.

Just yesterday I learned that a major project that I thought would be months away from being relevant is ready to be developed right-this-moment. It's exciting. As a program director I'm largely responsible for steering this ship into what will very much be a whole new world, and I'm jumping in full force. I know that the outcome of this project will provide much needed refreshment to both the program and my team. I'm not doing a jubilant dance quite yet - there is much work to be done! But I'm invigorated by the prospects, and from my current vantage point I see so much possibility.

The 6 of Pentacles, in this respect, shows me that for the next period of time I'll be participating in some important give-and-take with other departments, people - even with my own team. Progress doesn't occur in a vacuum. I have knowledge to offer, but I don't have it all; I rely on others just as much as they rely on me to offer up some of the puzzle pieces that ultimately combine to create the whole picture.

These cards also address another layer of life that has been on my mind of late. After going back and forth over where to go for an upcoming vacation, my husband and I recently decided not to go anywhere at all (releasing the World). In the end we decided to nurture our bank account, and be around for our kids (despite their grandmother coming to visit!). In order to strike a balance between our desire to stay put and our need for a break, we are planning to go on a whole lot of dates while my mother is in town!

May your September be full of cider and cinnamon!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dreaming of a Tarot Card

Two nights ago I dreamt about the 5 of Cups from the Wild Unknown Tarot. In my dream I saw a white horse with its head lowered. We were alone in a large, slightly greyed space. I knew that it was sad, though its expression seemed benign. And I also knew that this was the horse from the 5 of Cups. I thought to myself, "I don't think the horse in that card had tears in its eyes." At that moment, my dream horse began to cry. I wrapped my arms around its neck and held it to my chest to comfort it.
The next day I decided to pull that card out of the deck - I haven't read with the Wild Unknown in a while, and wanted to refresh myself on the details of the 5 of Cups. As I was flipping through, I saw the Chariot, which gave me pause - it is also a white horse, and the only other horse in the entire deck. The Chariot also happens to be a "card of the moment" for me, and after having just blogged about it a couple of days ago, the symbolism was far from lost on me.

Let the dark mountain shake to the thunder 

Where the wild horses trample the fern,

Let the deep vales re-echo and wonder, 

When, like an eddy, they circle and turn! 

Watch the lithe motion 

Run free as an ocean,

Never has man laid a hand on a head: 

Never a halter 

Has bid a step falter,

Never a crest bent down to be led!

-M. Gilmore

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Nine of Swords Moment Brings Helpful Insight

Lately I have been sleeping very well, which has been wonderful. Six to nine months ago I went through a period where I'd often wake up in the middle of the night, my mind would start to whirr, those fears that are wont to well up in the darkest hours would rise, and it would take an hour - sometimes even two - before I could relax enough to fall back to sleep. I'm not sure what changed, what switch flipped, but I suddenly began to sleep solidly, peacefully, and fully each night.

And then last night I had a 9 of Swords moment! At 2:40am I awoke, and started to worry. I worried about my son grinding his teeth (a really annoying family trait). I worried about bills (even though they're all under control). As I laid there I felt a tickle on my nose and was sure a bug was crawling across my face, so I shot straight up in bed, flailing my arms, and knocked the charger cord out of my phone, which then fell rattling to the floor making a sound that I was sure was the bug running away (it wasn't). Seriously. This is so comical to me right now, but I was a hot mess at 3am.
Tarot De St. Croix
So I laid back down thoroughly irritated with myself, and proceeded to think. Whenever I have these moments of insomnia I always think about Odin's advice from the Havamal, that (to paraphrase) a fool stays awake worrying all night, wakes up exhausted and has resolved nothing. I wanted to pinpoint the source of my wakefulness. I manage our finances okay. Why was I worrying about bills? Perhaps it was the weight of them that felt like a burden. I may keep things organized, but is there something more I can do? Is there a way I can be even more proactive? What the heck was I really worrying about?

A few days ago my husband asked me to do "one of those big readings" that I do for him once or twice a year. After I pulled his cards I decided to do one for myself, and I was quite interested to see the 7 of Swords appear in the position of my "current awareness." The card, from the Tarot of the Cat People, shows a somewhat unusual image of a woman surrounded by swords, looking up at the sky where a fat cat floats in an ethereal bubble. If anything, it almost feels more like the 8 of Swords (except for the floating cat!). This is often considered a card of deception, politics, strategy, even diplomacy (which is certainly on my mind in light of all of the mediation I've been doing lately!). I wanted to spend some time considering what the card meant for me, and since the depiction was non-traditional I decided to read the artist's own impression from the little white book, which described this card as representing the will and fortitude to reach one's goals. Hm. Well, that is certainly true, I thought at the time. I have a lot of goals on my plate, and every day I feel more poised to work toward achieving them. It's definitely been on my mind a lot over the past month or so.

As I was laying in bed in the early hours of morning, surrounded by darkness, thinking of yesterday's "Deep Emotions" draw from the dat Black Mermaid Man Lady oracle deck, thinking of the 7 of Swords, thinking of this nebulous source of my strange worry session, it suddenly hit me: while I am determined to achieve my goals, on some level I am afraid that no matter what I do, no matter how hard I work, I will never realize them. Whoa. That was a sharp and weighty revelation.
Tarot of the Cat People
Feelings are strange things. They are not always forthright, do not always announce their presence. Feelings can be quiet, at times even imperceptible. They can subtly influence our thoughts and responses; they can disguise themselves within a multitude of contexts, blurring our ability to identify them, to recognize them for what and why they are. As open as I am to working through my own emotional universe, to understanding myself, to engaging the dark, the light, and everything in between, sometimes emotions lurk in shadows just beneath the surface of our awareness. You have to go hunting. It was hunting that I was doing in the pre-dawn darkness when I would have preferred to be sleeping. But the search at this odd flip-side of the day provided me with powerful insight into my own psyche.

Interestingly, the "outcome" card in the reading I had done for myself was the Ace of Pentacles. What intrigued me most about this duo was the story that they told together. In the Ace of Pentacles we see that the "fat cat of unrealized dreams and goals" that once floated in the sky above the woman in the 7 of Swords is now tangible and sits quite happily on the floor beside the lady in the Ace. Now, a glowing pentacle hovers where the cat once did. The "thoughts" of the swords suit become the earthy reality of the suit of pentacles. It is a positive symbol that suggests that despite my anxieties about my ability to accomplish my dreams, the efforts I put forth will not be in vain.

This morning I decided to pull a card from the dat Black Mermaid Man Lady oracle deck, and I pulled one of the "Dreamer" cards for the second time in two days. But this morning, rather than pulling a card with a keyword, I drew one that was blank on the back. This indicates that "you already know" what the message is. And indeed, I did know. I made space to pull a card for the #tarotperspective challenge on Instagram, and instead of simply pulling a daily draw, I decided to ask: "How can I address my own fear of failure?" As I was shuffling I saw in my mind's eye the Chariot card that had been the "shadow" card of yesterday's pull. I cut the deck, turned the top card over, and it was....the Chariot!
Tarot of the Cat People; Stone Tarot; Tarot of Vampyres
This is card that I've been pulling with relative frequency for the past year, and it has ushered me through some powerfully and very positively transformative times. For the Instagram post I wrote about the Vampyres version of the Chariot (which speaks to me most):

The warrior spirit is evident, the fearless pursuit of a goal. The arrow points true, finding its destination and locking on. Even in the darkness of night, with nothing but inner fury and the dim moonlight for guidance, this charioteer flies forth.

On my walk into the office this morning a shining penny stood out in my path. I always see these as little messages from Elegua. I pick them up, run some numerology on the year, and see what that sum means to me in that moment (it's amazing how often there is relevance). I paused and picked up the coin. I calculated the year, and found the sum to be 7. At first I frowned, slightly puzzled. And then it clicked: 7 is the number of the Chariot. And like a vast circle turning round and round and round on itself, the pieces all came together into a whole.

I will probably have sleepless nights again; this realization hardly cures me from concern. But what it has given me is a powerful tool of reflection. I don't float unmoored through time; I, as a human being on this earth, have context and history. When I forget that (which is easy to do at 3am); when I lose - even momentarily - perspective regarding my ability to breathe life into my goals for the future, I can call to mind the Chariot, which reminds me that I will, because I have.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Doing the Hard Thing

I was hungering for a deck, and nothing was right. I searched at shops, I scanned through the pages of online sellers, I looked at the newest upcoming indie decks. Nope. Nothing. Through a somewhat incidental (is anything ever really incidental?) conversation I learned about the "dat Black Mermaid Man Lady" oracle deck created from the heart and soul of Sharon Bridgforth, and I knew that was "it" - I purchased it before I even really knew very much about it, and was pleased to come home to it waiting for me in the mailbox this afternoon.

I sat down with it and decided that for the inaugural reading I would ask: "What message do I need to hear in this moment?" I shuffled, and cut, and I drew one of the four "Dreamer" cards which represent the self, or soul of the reader. 
Then I turned it over to read the wisdom, consisting of a keyword and an excerpt from the "dat Black Mermaid Man Lady" production. It was: Deep Emotions.
Gah. Yep. I was feeling a lot of things at that moment. In fact, I'd had a pretty decent day until I received a series of emails in the early afternoon regarding a few (more) difficult meetings that I will be mediating next week. My heart immediately sunk deep down into my gut and made a nice little nest there. Why this reaction? I mediate well. The meetings won't necessarily be anything out of the ordinary for their type. Why was I feeling so...blue....about it? 

I decided to ask the Tarot of the Cat People to help me identify the source of these deep emotions. I pulled two cards - the Ace of Swords, and the Hanged Man.
The Ace of Swords, the truth. Fairness and clear speech. This man is ready for battle, though his face is calm. The truth hurts. I'm not afraid to speak it. I use my words well. Like this warrior I'm not afraid to meet conflict when necessary. In mediation it's quite interesting to listen to the parties speak, to parse out the grains of truth, the utterances, the perceptions, the thoughts that illuminate the heart of the matter; they are little swords of their own that help me to cut away the excess fibers and fog that build up around and between two people when they are at odds and don't know how to communicate their experiences to each other. 

Why would this make me sad, why would it evoke such a deep emotional response within me?

I thought... the truth does hurt. Just because I am not afraid of it doesn't mean that the edges aren't sharp. I am empathic by nature, absorbing the hurts and joys alike of others. I believe that this is, in part, what makes me effective in mediation, but as able as I am to help others navigate the hazy straits of conflict when called to my duty, it has an impact on me. I have always been a peacemaker, I have always supported harmony. Conflict has always been difficult for me to process and integrate. I like to be alone, in fact, as a general rule (not counting my family, of course). And here I am in a position that requires so much communication, that stretches my diplomatic nature to its limits at times, that pulls and pushes on my desires to be free of all of these ties that come with this responsibility that I have: to navigate a group, a department full of unique souls, through waves that can be choppy at times - that can threaten to toss some people overboard every once in a while. I mediate as part of my work, and while it can be extremely rewarding, it can also, if I'm truthful, be really hard sometimes. 

So, today it is hard. Today, I'm not in the mood - I want to push it away, off my plate, I want to fast-forward to September. I want it to be over already. Yes, I will have to do this thing that I'd rather not do, but I owe it to myself to at least acknowledge that it feels uncomfortable today. 

The Hanged Man is Odin singing in my ear that there is no sacrifice without wisdom on the other end; that pain is instructive; in fact, sometimes it's the only way. What challenges us makes us stronger, opens the way for personal growth to blossom forth (particularly when accompanied by a healthy dose of self-reflection). There is ultimately great good in doing the hard thing (and in remembering to take care of ourselves in the process).