Friday, January 20, 2017

Three Angles on Inauguration Day

This morning I pulled out two decks that called to be used for a reading: Dark Goddess Tarot and the Earthbound Oracle. It was one of those moments where your intuition is pulling you in a particular direction, and rather than question it you just go along for the ride. As I was settling down to shuffle I realized that the Dark Goddess is fitting for today as thousands of women descend upon Washington D.C. to announce their (our) unyielding presence.

First I drew from the Earthbound Oracle: Deceit.

A two-headed snake lies coiled, looking outward. One of the most mind-boggling aspects of the current political situation in the United States is the depth of shameless hypocrisy surrounding the notion of "lying." Hillary Clinton was marked with the scarlet letter "L" and yet it was her opponent who strangely became ever more popular with each falsehood uttered confidently and contemptuously. It has become jarringly apparent that truth is irrelevant. Nearly everything that the President-elect says is false - demonstrably so - and yet his followers either trust him in spite of the evidence, or they downplay its significance. In my opinion that is extraordinarily dangerous.

Yesterday one of my favorite news pundits said (and I'm paraphrasing here): "It's no longer time to support the important institutions and programs that make up Obama's strong legacy - it's now time to defend them." We can battle deceit with truth, but we have to be sure that we make our voices heard, and that we are unrelenting and consistent in our message.
Then I drew Santa Muerte, Death, from the Dark Goddess Tarot.

One of the most common ways that this card is described by readers is as a "transition," so it's apt to see it on this day of critical transfer of power from an outgoing, and very dear, President, to a new, and rather unpopular one. This is certainly a death, of sorts. And it's not without pain and grief. In fact there is a group of women I know who are wearing black today, in mourning. I decided to don, instead of black, my Obama shirt, which I purchased promptly following the election day this past November. I didn't formulate the sentiment into words, but essentially I was declaring my position: This is my President. My mother posted a wise quote by Judd Apatow today:

"I don’t think it serves a purpose to be against him. It only serves a purpose to fight issue by issue."

So in the wake of the inauguration, a time replete with uncertainty and charged with the unmoored feeling that is a part of loss, this gives us something to focus on: a tangible action to take, a perspective we can get behind.

When I went to photograph these cards I decided to take that moment to pull my daily rune. I don't normally post about my rune draws, but when Uruz came out of my rune pouch, it felt like a potent cap to the two cards I had drawn, a pyramid of complementary energies.

Uruz is the wild aurochs, it is strength and vibrancy and well-being and power. My thoughts went immediately to the women marching on Washington today, and to all of the people gathering together across the country to make their convictions evident - both to the powers that be, and to each other. There is great power in unity, and great strength in sharing a common cause. This is precisely what we need as we take our next steps forward as a people. May our endurance never wane.

Tarot Thursday Three: I Love the Celtic Cross

Here I am with another round of Tarot Thursday Three, hosted by Julia from Spiral Sea Tarot! Well, okay, I'm a day late. But late is better than never!

Question One

If you could design your own Tarot deck and have it mass-produced, what theme would it have and what would it look like overall? 

Oh, this is an interesting question. First, I don't think I would want my deck to be mass-produced. My own favorite decks tend to be either self-published or produced by small, independent publishing companies or art collectives. If I created my own, I'd prefer to take that route. That said, I have thought quite a lot about what sort of deck I would create, and I can say that I have yet to decide on the "perfect" theme or design. Perhaps this is why I don't have anything in the works!

I've thought about creating an oracle deck based on Santería/Ifá. I've thought about making a full, traditional-style deck and associating stanzas of the Hávamál with each card (I even have a partial list of card-stanza pairings). I've thought about doing a deck based on my artistic reinterpretations of my husband's photography. But to be honest, nothing feels quite right.

As far as thematic decks go, I'm actually not a huge fan. I do own a few that are particularly well-done and very dear to me: New Orleans Voodoo Tarot, Dark Goddess Tarot, Mythic Tarot, even the Giants Tarot, I suppose. But in most cases I feel that it is too challenging to jam a theme neatly into the Tarot structure, and most thematic decks have weak spots where it seems that the creator had to stretch a bit too much to make a correlation. Examples of this are: the Hobbit Tarot, the Ring Cycle Tarot, and to an extent the Vikings Tarot. So for my own deck I'd probably steer toward a more traditional style, with earthy and simple-yet-clear symbolism. And in terms of media, I'm a fan of painting.
New Orleans Voodoo Tarot
Question Two

How do you feel about the Celtic Cross spread?

Is this a trick question? I have heard many readers gripe about the Celtic Cross, but to be honest, I'm not really sure why. I don't generally like to do large spreads because there is so much meaning to be found in even a single Tarot card that anything more than five seems like overkill. But the Celtic Cross is wonderful when I want to understand the breadth and depth of energies surrounding a person or situation. I am so intimately familiar with the layout that I usually have a clear and immediate impression of what's going on over and under the surface, and for that reason I find it indispensable. There are so many versions out there, but the one I use is laid out thus (minus the significator, which I don't use):

The positions I use are:

1) Heart of the matter
2) Crossing card (elements blocking or strongly influencing the matter)
3) Above (what is on the querent's mind, what is known)
4) Below (energies flowing under the surface of the matter)
5) Past (previous issues impacting the present)
6) Immediate future (where things are heading)
7) Querent (what energies the querent brings to the situation)
8) Environment (people or circumstances influencing the matter)
9) Hopes/Fears (may or may not not be based in reality)
10) Outcome (what to be aware of 3-6 months down the line)

Question Three

If you could have any deck in the whole world (that you do not have already), which one would you pick and why?

If I had been asked this question a year ago, I would have said hands-down, "The Greenwood!!" The artwork is primal and beautiful, and of course it's out of print and nearly impossible to find... such that when you can find it, it's always set at exorbitant prices. It's actually stupid. I think that if I did own it, I probably wouldn't read with it very often, and I'd end up feeling like an idiot for spending the money. I don't long for the Greenwood anymore. Probably (aside from my distaste related to the price gouging) it is because I have grown into a better understanding of how I interact with decks, and what I really like to read with. Nowadays what deck would I love to have? I think Le Tarot Noir, perhaps. I don't own any true Marseilles decks, and the art style is intriguing - reminds me a bit of illustrations in a haunting and captivating fantasy book that doesn't actually exist.
Le Tarot Noir

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Old Art, New Tattoo

It has been over five years since my last tattoo. My upper arms, and one small part of my left forearm, as well as most of my back, are inked. Over the past months I'd been feeling a desire to have a larger piece done on my right forearm. I like timeless tattoos - nothing contemporary or related to pop culture in any way. No bright colors. I hesitate to use the term "tribal" but that is the best general description for the style of art that I prefer.

On my back I have a listing of numbers which represent the birthdates of close family members. I have a mandorla, a stick bird from a centuries-old Sami drum, and the names of my older kids written out in the Cherokee syllabary. Both of my upper arms are covered in black bands that I designed based on the tradition of Indonesian women tattooing their hands, arms, and shoulders, often connected to major life events (I got these after my husband and I married - and he had Celtic crosses done on his forearms for the same reason!). On my upper left forearm I have my son Gabriel's name written in Hebrew.
For my new tattoo I wanted to represent Germanic mythology in some form. I knew that I wanted something connected to Odin, but I also knew that I didn't want something typical (aka no Odin with ravens and wolves, no valknut - though I love those symbols) and I also didn't want anything contemporary in style. There are some beautiful reinterpretations of ancient art, but I didn't want that either. I started examining runestones and on the Stora Hammars III runestone I saw an image of Odin in eagle form next to Gunnlöð who bears a drinking horn filled with the mead of poetry. I love this story. I also love Odin depicted in his eagle shape. I love the image of the "maiden and the mead." Its shape would fit well on my arm. I sat with the idea for a few days. I looked at more potential images. Finally I decided to pull a rune around it, and I drew Sowilo from my pouch. Okay then! This would be the one.

At the tattoo shop, they offered to redraw the image, to make it more symmetrical. I told them that I really wanted the original work, with no significant alterations. They warned me that people might not be able to figure it out. I thought: as long as it looks accurate, that's what matters.
In the end, they were happy to give me what I wanted, and I was happy with the work they did. I suspect that this will end up as one part of a larger sleeve that will bear more Germanic art, possibly from the same runestone series.

Not all of my tattoos are "pretty" or objectively appealing pieces. In fact perhaps none of them are. I remember that after getting my upper arm tattoos, someone asked me if they were just outlines of something more I was planning to do - and was surprised when I said, "No." Yesterday as we were driving back home from the shop, I reflected on that, and if I cared. On one hand it's nice to show off a piece (which you only get because it matters to you) and have others comment on how lovely it is. But my tattoos are ultimately for me. When I receive a tattoo, I feel like I'm tapping into some primal essence, into ancient history, into the annals of human experience. I invite all of that history to become a part of me. I am happy to bear the work of an unknown artisan from the 700s, in all of its asymmetrical glory. An indigenous craftswoman once told me that the best work is never "perfect." I agree!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Full Moon Ritual Reading

The other night, for the Full Moon in Cancer, I completed a reading designed by Alaina O'Brien and posted on Instagram:

While it was immediately significant to me, I was too sleepy to write about it at the time. A few days later, however, I find myself up early on a Saturday morning, nursing a hot and and strong cup of coffee in my Michigan Mitten mug, prepared to dive in.

The position meanings are as follows:
I used the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot:
1) In what areas of my life am I dimming my light? Hierophant

Work. I pushed myself pretty hard in the autumn, leading up to the holidays. I had a lot of coordinating to do, a lot of meetings to facilitate, a lot of information to disseminate, a lot of pieces to align toward a major project goal. I was feeling pretty exhilarated by the end of December, but also pretty wiped out. While I had two weeks of vacation immediately following that, I spent the first of those battling strep throat, and the next two (including my first week back at work) dealing with its remnants which led me to the doctor and another round of antibiotics before I finally started to feel "right." All of this combined, I wasn't feeling ready to sally forth into a new term. I was dragging my feet, feeling uninspired, wading through the drudgery of the post-holiday tasks. The big project was mostly set up and ready to go, but it still required some attention. Only now I wasn't feeling excited by it - if anything I felt like I was coming down off a momentous high, and feeling confused about what to do next. 

2) How can I best bolster my heart? King of Wands

This King was a fairly regular companion for me during the autumn. In contrast to the at times static-feeling rigidity of the Hierophant, the King of Wands burns with the energy of vision, creation, and self-mastery. His fire is directed, but not fully contained. And it is that fire that I've been needing to feel again. I started to recall some of the new projects I wanted to start in 2017, the farther reaching goals I hope to meet in the year ahead, and I began to feel that tug of inspiration pulling at the edges of my spirit again. 

3) Message from the High Priestess to my heart: 6 of Cups

This ties in to the upcoming self-love cards. The 6 of Cups represents memory; our deepest, most authentic selves; the care-free energy of youth; and the joy of innocence. The card here seems to say, "Be like a child again." When you dive under the pressures that accumulate over the years, the weight of adulthood's responsibilities, what do you feel? Who is there? When I was in Michigan over the holiday, one of my favorite moments was a woods-walk we took. Gabriel hung from freezing jungle-gym bars with bare hands, unbothered by the cold because of the fun of his experience. I laid down belly-first in the river mud so that I could reach my hand into icy waters to splash my face. When I was young I used to spend long hours alone in the forest, picking wild raspberries, building lean-tos, identifying animal paw prints in the soil. I saw foxes, rabbits, and sometimes deer. That was the whole world for me then. I distinctly recall one afternoon on a glorious summer day where I sat on a leafy footpath at the top of a hill watching the wind blow through the trees. Those moments of unadulterated bliss, of pure "being," are a key; a memory to tap into; a reminder of my innate and wild freedom.

4/5/6) How can I integrate more self-love into my daily life? King of Cups rx, 2 of Cups, 9 of Pentacles rx

I had to smile at the anchoring presence of the 2 of Cups, so perfect in response to this question. Both the King of Cups and the 9 of Pentacles are relevant to important elements of who I am and how I am developing. At its core this line reminds me that I often become too caught up in "not being or having or doing enough" and fail, at times, to honor and recognize the plentitude in my life, which ultimately impacts the strength of my emotional body. I am enough

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tarot Thursday Three: New Decks

Tarot Thursday Three is a set of weekly prompts for "mystical" bloggers begun by Julia from Spiral Sea Tarot and I thought I would participate today for the first time!

Question 1

What do you do with a deck you don't connect with?

"Connecting" with a deck is a rather mysterious process. For the decks I don't keep reaching for, they tend to collect on a divination bookshelf that I have in the living room. All decks have interesting perspectives to offer via their arrangement, artwork, themes, etc. I have yet to acquire a deck that I don't like, but I do have a lot that don't inspire me to work with them very often. One such deck - the Raven's Prophecy - has become my glove compartment deck, in case of emergency. Sometimes, if I feel like I need a divinatory "breath of fresh air," I'll pull one out to read with. And it's worth mentioning that I don't always read with the decks I like a lot. For instance, the Dark Goddess Tarot is spectacular, but I only pull it out from time to time.
The Raven's Prophecy Tarot lives in my glove compartment
Question 2

How long do you give yourself to connect with a new deck?

I don't time the process. If I find myself called to use a deck over and over, then I know there is something special there. That said, usually I know how it's going to go if after a week or two the deck is gathering dust. To date there is only one deck that I've used with great consistency over a relatively long period of time, and that is the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot, by Uusi. (I reviewed the deck in this post). That doesn't mean it's the only deck that I connect with, but I would say that perhaps it's my "the one." ;)

Question 3

What consecration ritual(s) do you use with new divination tools?

Nuttin'. I think fondly back to my early divination days when I would smudge every single card of a new deck in sage smoke, and "charge them with my intentions." Perhaps I'm old and crotchety now, but saging them (or not) doesn't impact my readings for better or for worse, doesn't help me focus more deeply, and doesn't open my intuition to more profound messages. So I don't bother!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I Promise

Last night I settled into a corner of the couch, prepared to read or pull some cards while my husband watched an episode or two from one of his Hulu series. But then he passed me the remote control. I switched over to cable, figuring I'd flip channels until I found something interesting. The moment the television sparked to life, I saw a news anchor announcing the start of Barack Obama's farewell speech. For the next hour, we witnessed his final, formal words as President of the United States.

No matter what anyone says, I love, and will always love, this man. He wasn't perfect (and I'm sure he would agree), and not everyone supported his stances on matters such as healthcare and foreign policy. However he accomplished a lot of good during his tenure; he was a fundamentally good person. He is that. He is deeply intelligent, thoughtful, discerning, wise, and kind. His partnership with Michelle Obama is a beautiful testament to what a good, strong, balanced relationship can and should be. He didn't fulfill everyone's expectations for what he should do (no leader ever achieves that), and yet he will forever stand high above his predecessors, and in my heart, as one of the best presidents the U.S. has ever had.

Last night's speech was a beautiful farewell, and also a gentle-but-firm warning that the future of this country depends on the active involvement of every citizen. As I was listening, I pulled some cards from the Cosmos Tarot and Oracle:

The first card I pulled was meant to capture Obama's essence: Ace of Water, Hydrus.
The Ace of Water, an act of love. That was abundantly evident in his speech and his demeanor. The keywords on the bottom of the card caught my attention: "In one's element" - he certainly was. "Ease of action" - I don't necessarily assume that any of his speeches are "easy" to give, but he certainly makes them appear so due to his depth of grace and comfort in his own skin. The guidebook says:

Hydrus is a symbol of wisdom, steadiness, and focus. Snakes possess a fluid, elegant form that borders on elemental. Water snakes, above others of their species, signify awareness, flexibility, and subtle strength.... one can take time to celebrate a period of emotional peace with oneself.

All I can say is: yes. Not only does this encapsulate how I experience President Obama, the last bit connects beautifully to the core essence of what his farewell speech was all about. 

The next card I pulled was meant to signify Donald Trump's emergence in U.S./World politics: Comet.
An orange monkey that is far too big for the porch it's sitting on holds a woman captive by the throat, and binds her feet with its tail. Hmmm...... I think I'll let that speak for itself. The keywords read: "A sign of fate; a harbinger of change." Yes, that about sums it up. The guidebook reads:

As a comet passes close to the sun, it heats up and begins to emit gases which create a visible aura called a coma. Sometimes the visible coma can be seen from Earth. The coma's presence has given rise to speculation that comets are harbingers of doom or incredible change.

I believe that both are true. Change is already underway, for better or worse. In his speech, Obama touched on the fact that there is a subsection of the U.S. population that has been essentially ignored over the past couple of decades, and that it is that hole that ultimately paved the way for Trump's election. Understanding that dynamic is critical. I believe that many of us feel "doomy" about what is happening in our country... but I do believe that it is when we are faced with the dark that we learn how to shine our light most brightly. So in the end I also believe that we will certainly get through this difficult time to come, and that we will emerge the better for what we are able to accomplish in the meantime. 

Finally I pulled a card asking, "What can I do? How can I help?" I pulled the Moon from the Oracle deck.
Frogs and lizards huddle around a full moon, in a celestial embrace. Frogs represent healing energy, and the moon is the great light that shines in the dark. The positioning of the frogs looks protective: and indeed it's probable that protecting women's rights - especially in terms of healthcare - will be a significant matter in the years ahead. The moon also represents uncertainty and the unknown, which is how I've been feeling lately in respect to politics and the upcoming inauguration. I know that many will take to the streets - in fact even my mother will be heading to Washington D.C. in a couple of weeks to joint the Women's March on Washington. There is value in popular dissent. In my 20s I was very involved in political and social activism, and participated in a great number of marches, across several states. But it doesn't quite feel "right" for me at this moment. There must be another way. The moon governs the darkness, and as the keywords state: "secrets, mystery, cycles." Perhaps my way of acting will be more subtle - less attention-drawing. The guidebook says:

As a card, the Moon suggests that those who act behind the scenes can be extremely influential.

Yes, I thought. I don't have to march to make a difference. I just have to act. I said silently to myself in that moment: "I promise." I promise to speak when I see injustice, and to act in support of environmental preservation, human rights and equality in all its forms. I looked down at the oath ring on my left wrist, as if to seal my promise in its silvery sheen. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A New Year

Wow! It's been three weeks since I last posted, which I think is a record. But I can explain...


December was a whirlwind month and toward the end I spent two full weeks (laptop free) in the north country enjoying the snow and cold breeze before heading back down into the warmth of the tropics. My son and I suffered a bout of strep throat at the start of our trip, and when I woke up on the day we departed for home, I once again felt a funny tickle in my throat (not likely to be strep again, though, and for that I'm grateful!).

We've been living in Florida for nearly five years, and I have adjusted to the unique climate. I enjoy that the winters are like a perfect northern autumn, and I appreciate not having to drive in ice and snow. I don't mind the intense heat of the summer months (though I'm not keen on the increase in insects that it brings!). I love the moody skies of the rainy season, especially in contrast to the deep dryness of the fall and winter months, where precipitation is so scarce we often have wildfire warnings.

However on this trip north I remembered just how "right" it feels to be in the snow.
One day we packed ourselves up and drove out to the country side for a romp in the woods (one of my favorite things to do, but something I rarely do in Florida due to the creatures that lurk in the shadows [insert scary music here]).
It was spectacular. It was a rare sunny day, with sparkling blue skies. The air temperature was rather balmy for January, at about 38 degrees.
The trees feel different in the north - good, like home. We do have oaks and maples and even pines in the deep south, but the quality of energy is not quite the same.
There were towering birch trees, which have always been a favorite of mine. As a child I would sometimes peel birch bark to make small baskets.
And the water, albeit freezing, felt so good in the hand. I laid down on my stomach on the damp, muddy riverbank and brought some of the cold water to my face.
Though I brought a deck with me on my trip, I ended up using my mother's Mythic Tarot quite a bit. The 8 of Wands has been following me around for the past few weeks, speaking of travel and movement, and communication.
I purchased a new playing card deck from a favorite local (to Michigan) brewery - Founders - and sure enough, my daily draw on the day we were set to fly back south was none other than the 8 of Clubs!
My husband surprised me with several beautiful and deeply thoughtful gifts. Here is a silver Norse arm ring.
This is a gold ring that he had etched with a portion from one of my favorite Havamal stanzas (57): "Fire is from fire quickened."
This is a Norse vessel pendant that almost appears to double as a mjölnir, complete with Thor's face up top (or, it could just be a person). It is a replica of a brooch found in a grave site in Bornholm, Denmark.
And this is the gold bracelet that was given to me as a baby. He opened it and finished the ends with gold caps and rubies so that I can wear it again (now that my wrists are quite a bit larger!!).

Altogether it has been a beautiful season, and I am filled with gratitude.

May your 2017 bring you all peace, joy, and abundance!