Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Weaving Spirituality: Santería and the Northern Tradition

Ellen, from Greylady's Hearth, asked me some time ago to write about the ways in which I incorporate both Santería and the Northern Tradition into my spiritual/religious practice. It is at once a rather simple and complex topic; I don't necessarily combine them, but I do honor Norse/Germanic history and mythology as a part of ancestor veneration. And as I've pondered it over the past couple of weeks some salient areas of relationship between the two have risen up into my thoughts:
1) Both Santería and the Northern Tradition feature a variety of gods and goddesses/Orichas whom we learn about through our personal relationships with them, as well as through sacred stories or myths. In these stories they interact amongst themselves as well as with others, oftentimes showing quite human characteristics that serve to teach us about the world (and in fact some were human at one point or another). In Norse history these are the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, as well as the Sagas to some extent. In Santería these are the patakís. A principal divergence here is that while the "pantheon" in Santería includes the presence of a primary creator God, Olodumare, no such equivalent exists in the Northern Tradition. (Santería is a monotheistic faith, whereas the Northern Tradition is considered polytheistic. The Orichas are somewhat similar to saints, which lent themselves to being syncretized with Catholicism during slave times in the New World).

2) Both Santería and the Northern Tradition feature a divination style unique to the history of each. In Santería divination is most typically done via the caracoles (Merindilogún, cowrie shells - usually those of Elegua) by Santeros, or using the epuele or Opon Ifá (Table of Ifá) by Babalawos, priests of Orula (I'm sidestepping obi divination since it is essentially a yes/no system that, while extremely helpful and useful, lacks the complexity of the previous two). The heart of both the caracoles and Ifá lies in the Odu (which is too complex a subject to detail here). In the Northern Tradition the wisdom of the runes was granted to Odin after he sacrificed himself (to himself, as it were) for 9 days hanging upside down from the branches of Yggdrasil.
3) Both Santería and the Northern Tradition place heavy emphasis on ancestor veneration. In Santería, our family members who have passed on, previous generations we may never have had a chance to know, even spiritual ancestors (such as those of our god family) form our egun, those without whom we may not exist, those whose own life experiences may have sent vibrations down through our family's energetic ties that could well be influencing us today in ways we may not even be aware of. Our egun, our ancestors, are honored, recognized, petitioned for support and guidance. We offer them water, coffee, flowers, plates of food. We talk with them. We welcome them, invite them to be present for us in any way that they are able.

I honor my egun at my bóveda - my altar. Learning about the Northern Traditions (a term I most commonly use to refer to the Norse/Viking/Germanic pre-Christian spiritual beliefs and tales) is one way that I honor aspects of my biological lineage. While my physical ancestors are diverse (British Isles, southern Italy, Northern Africa, the Middle East, Northern Europe and Scandinavia, even South America) I have always been drawn to Viking history. Thus, it has become an aspect of personal study, it contributes to an extent to my spiritual ideology, and serves as an element of ancestor veneration, even within the context of Santeria.

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I fondly recall listening to my aunt proudly discuss our North Frisian and Danish "Viking" history when I was a young adolescent. She and my uncle named their boat "Norddorf" after the town of my great-grandfather's birth on the island of Amrum in the North Sea. Amrum is one of the North Frisian islands located off the coast of Germany, near Denmark. He, along with his Danish wife, my great-grandmother Emilie, form the first generation of U.S. immigrants on my father's side.

As I started to learn more about ancient Norse mythology I was drawn even more deeply into the fold. I was born on a Wednesday, Odin's Day, and I was born near Yule, a time associated with the Wild Hunt. I found Odin fascinating - a shaman, a warrior, a seeker, a leader, a wanderer, a diviner, in some ways a loner.  Those were attributes that called to me. A couple of years ago I finally began to study the Elder Futhark runic system with more diligence and focus. On my husband's many jaunts to Sweden he has brought me back treasures such as a silver mjölnir pendant which I wear along with my elekes (sacred necklaces of the Orichas which are granted as part of one of the first initiations in the religion). In fact, in a sort of intercultural yin-yang, my husband also wears a mjölnir!

Santería is my religion, the set of traditions into which I am initiated through my god family. It is my heart; in important ways it forms the foundation from which I approach my life, and provides a framework within which I may come to understand (as much as any of us are truly able) my place in the universe. Honoring and learning about the Northern Tradition is one way in which I recognize my biological ancestry, and thus coexists harmoniously with my overall spiritual practice.
Interestingly, as I was writing this post I took a break, and as I was making some tea my husband came home and handed me a surprise package: a carved candle in the form of an elderly man, and a white and tan egg, also a candle. He said that the carved man reminded him of someone who could be my grandfather, and indeed when I saw it I thought of a European mariner. And the egg is connected to my Ángel de la Guarda, Obatalá. Beautiful synchronicities ;-)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Cosmos Tarot: A Reading

Yesterday I facilitated my first important meeting in my new position, after spending a couple of weeks preparing for it. Over the course of my various career paths, I've led a lot of meetings, and as a teacher and presenter I'm accustomed to speaking before groups, however this felt like a whole new ball game (so to speak). I was going to be presenting on various critical aspects of my program and requesting feedback from our department's advisory council, and I wanted to make sure that my data was accurate, clearly presented, and well-organized. Needless to say, I was slightly anxious!

Yesterday I decided to pull some cards from the Cosmos Tarot to provide some advice for how to approach this meeting:
1. Do this: 3 of Fire (Tucana)
2. Don't do this: 3 of Air (Hercules)
3. What to be aware of: Judgement (Capricornus)

As I was shuffling the cards, Strength (Puppis) leapt out at me. This was comforting for many reasons, but one of the connections I made was that when I had read on my ability to do this job (during the interview process) I pulled Strength, and found its message of calm confidence and compassion very stabilizing and encouraging. So I saw this as a reminder that the same skills or traits that brought me to this place would sustain me throughout this experience.
In the image on this card we see a ship moving forward between two towering cliffs. Surely the channel is narrow and harrowing to navigate, but the shades of deep purple give a sense of being calm, cool, and collected, and the golden hue in the sky foreshadows success. There are oars in the water - someone is navigating. However the greatest force propelling this ship onward comes from the many beings under the water. Bulls, fish, birds, people.... they are like spirits offering their support and guidance, even in quiet ways.

As advice about where to focus, and what to do, the 3 of Fire encouraged me to focus on goal setting, plans for moving forward with what's been developed thus far. It would be best to have a clear list of proposed focal points to discuss. And the keywords on this particular card read: expression, confidence, communication. Being clear and concise with my words would be important, and then, there again is the theme of confidence...in myself, in my ability, in the ideas I would be sharing.
As advice about where not to focus, and what not to do, the 3 of Air (Hercules) suggested that to focus on the challenge of this meeting would not serve me at all. The keywords here are: great effort, trial. I was feeling somewhat anxious about the meeting, however worrying, focusing on the potential difficulty of the task at hand, would only shake my calm and wear down my confidence. It was important to stop thinking about this meeting as a hardship, or hurdle to be jumped, and start focusing on the benefits of idea sharing and goal setting highlighted by Tucana.
Finally, Judgement, Capricornus, appeared as "what to be aware of." It actually appeared inverted, which told me quite a lot - similar to the message of "confidence" in Strength and the 3 of Fire, this card told me to toss any self-doubt out the window. I had this. I would be fine. Yes, I should review the development of the past year with this council. I should talk about what wasn't working, and how we might take steps to improve those areas. But I should do so with the understanding that I am perfectly prepared to describe and address the pertinent and salient issues, and likewise I am capable, along with the support and diverse perspectives of the advisory team, of directing our "ship" forward into clearer waters (which again conjures that image from Strength). The keywords here are: setting priorities, efficiency, practicality. This would be my focus. Furthermore, I am a Capricorn, and the connection to my sun sign felt important. Last week I met with the dean (my boss) and when she realized that my birthday was coming up soon she said, "Oh, you're a Capricorn! Well no wonder managing the faculty schedules is a breeze for you!" We had a little laugh about that (she also happens to be a Reiki master, which I love, but I digress...)

The story over all told me that I didn't need to worry - that in fact to worry would detract from the experience. All I needed to do was spend a little additional time ensuring that the agenda and discussion items were organized, clear, concise, and geared toward progress. If I could manage that, and preserve my own self-confidence, the meeting would go just fine.

In the end, it did just that!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cosmos Tarot: A Short Interview

Back in mid-November I ordered a new deck (or rather, decks) - the Cosmos Tarot and Oracle - from the Light Grey Art Lab, based in Minneapolis, MN. This is the same group that produced the collaborative deck, the Light Grey Tarot, and the Cosmos similarly features the work of 100 artists. These sorts of decks can be challenging to work with due to the varying styles of imagery, however as I was perusing the Cosmos online I found that while not all of the art was immediately attractive to me, a lot of it was very much so, and as a group I found it compelling.

One of the things I like about the Cosmos Tarot (I'll discuss the oracle deck in another post) is that each card features a constellation and its associated mythology. One of the more difficult-to-swallow characteristics of the deck is that the elemental and astrological associations have largely been changed from the traditional, and in fact many of the card meanings are non-standard as well. For example, the 5 of Earth, a card normally associated with isolation and economic struggle, carries the keywords: "new projects, craftsmanship, hard work." Instead of the Chariot, Cancer is now connected with the Lovers, and Temperance is now governed by Air rather than Fire. The Sun and Star Trump numberings are exchanged. All of this (and there are many more changes than what I've listed here) makes the Cosmos Tarot feel more like a second oracle deck, despite its Tarot organization.

Still, I like a good challenge, and there's a special "something" about this deck that reels me in. I decided to do something I have never done before: conduct a short "deck interview" with the Cosmos:

1) What is the Cosmos Tarot's strength? Devil (Andromeda) - This is a great deck for challenging myself to move past self-imposed limitations.

2) What it can teach me? Moon (Pisces) - The Cosmos Tarot will help me to delve into my shadow landscape, to read more intuitively, to not shy away from the Great Unknown and the riches it offers.

3) How can I best approach working with it? Emperor (Leo) rx - In order to get the most out of my work with this deck, I need to be open to doing things differently, to seeing what good may come from alterations in structure. I need to relinquish the desire for control, for following known formats.

I'd say the message was quite concise and very appropriate given the aforementioned traits of the deck. And three Majors! Hmmm.... I suppose the best is yet to come.

Monday, December 14, 2015

La Loba Spread: Air and Fire

Vickie from Eternal Athena Tarot (IG: eternal.athena.tarot) created a very interesting spread called "La Loba" that was inspired by her reading of "Women Who Run With the Wolves" by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The spread is as follows:
Image: Victoria Wilson
This spread is based on the myth of La Loba, a half-wolf, half-human crone who searches the desert landscape for bones that she reassembles and eventually sings back to life. The myth is about reclaiming our power as women, those aspects of ourselves that we lock down tightly, the harder edges that we soften to be more pleasing to society, the parts of our essential selves that we lose along the way.

I actually pulled these cards nearly two weeks ago and have been sitting with them, letting them simmer, come together, letting the flavors blend, so to speak. Here they are:
Fountain Tarot
Who is the wild woman within? Knight of Swords
Where do I gather my bones? King of Wands
How do I express her? 7 of Swords

I've been doing a lot of work with the Knight of Swords over the past month or two, unintentionally, really. This card has come up quite a bit for me of late, particularly in the days prior to my interview in November (which ultimately landed me my new position). I was initially resistant to it because I just don't see myself in this Knight at all - or rather, I didn't. Sharp edges?? I am the master of earth and water, subtle, calm energies, soft edges. But as I sat with it I realized that there are many aspects of the Knight of Swords that I do see reflected in myself: problem solving, quick thinking, perception, the ability to see to the core of a matter, being clever, and having the ability to be very clear and precise in communication. However I still didn't see my Self as the Knight of Swords - embracing some qualities, perhaps, but not truly living in that skin.

And then... I pulled these cards, and my wild woman within is none other than the Knight of Swords!

And yet it all makes sense. I care a lot about other people, and always seek a way to meet others where they're at, no matter where they are coming from. I am very careful with my use of words because I know how easy it can be to be misunderstood, and to misunderstand, too. However in many ways I've hidden aspects of myself in order to be easier to swallow. As Marianne Williamson wrote about in her famous quote, I often "played small" in order to reduce the potential insecurity of others. However in the process I diminished my own voice, and my own sense of personal power.

I remember listening to my sociolinguistics professor speak about "hedging" - a behavior more often employed by women than by men in an attempt to minimize the impact of their ideas or thoughts by allowing space for doubt, ambiguity, or lack of authority. For example: "Trump seems to have challenging perspectives, but I don't really know much about politics."

I never thought I "hedged" but I have come to realize that I do it far more than I realized. I may not always hedge in terms of word choice (though I certainly do that, too); I also hedge with body language, via the use of smiles or certain gestures, or even via tone of voice. However I am rarely unsure about what I think or want. Sure, sometimes I need to do some investigating, or perhaps sit with a concept for some time before I can wrap myself around it, but during that period I am simply quiet and contemplative. In general, I am often very clear about what needs to be done, what I want or don't want, but I often hedge as a way of diminishing any potential abrasive impact that comes from simply stating what you mean, from being very clear and sure of yourself, and for being unapologetic about that clarity.

The Knight of Swords is my wild woman within. I gather bones from all of the ways in which I can embody the King of Wands - the fiery passion, the great visionary sight that draws people in like moths to a flame, that brings minds together around an idea in order to manifest it. These are things I am capable of, but rarely recognize or live out. The 7 of Swords is how I express her. Through clarity (and strategy, at times) in the written and spoken word. Though recognizing, and being honest with myself, about my underlying swords-nature. By not hiding or apologizing for my ideas. By knowing the difference between diplomacy and presenting a false-face. A sword is a tool, not something to be afraid of.  When wielded well, with strength, honor, and truth, even the 7 of Swords can be a powerful force for positive growth and development.

New Year's Reading Special

From now until January 15th I am offering a special $39 New Year's spread to explore the predominant energies in your life throughout the course of 2016. The spread is one I have worked on since last year, and I've found it to be quite to-the-point and helpful, especially if you review it as you move through the year.

There are nine positions in this New Year's Spread:

1: You
2: Relationships
3: Family
4: Home
5: Work
6: Money
7: Spirituality
8: Strength
9: Advice

Depending on your personal circumstances or preferences, you may choose to replace a position with another that is important or relevant to you for 2016, or specify the nature of a position (for example, if you want "relationships" to focus on a friendship, a romantic relationship, or even your love prospects in general) - just let me know!

If you are interested in requesting this reading either for yourself, or for a family member or friend, please click here.

If you are a fellow reader, please feel free to use this layout for yourself!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Making Space

This morning I pulled the 2 of Swords from the Fountain Tarot (a new acquisition that I am enjoying quite a bit - perhaps I'll do a review soon!). When I see this card I usually think of "impossible decisions." This is a card that, when it features a keyword, is often connected to the concept of peace, or "inner peace." In general I find that whatever peace this card affords, it is only temporary, and it tends to stem from avoidance rather than true ease.

However at times this card is less about avoidance, and more about the benefit of intentionally blocking out external "noise" in order to make space to breathe.

I once pulled this card when I was on Christmas vacation in a cabin in the far north. It was perfect because vacations can serve as a momentary escape from the tumult of everyday life and responsibilities (we can see the 4 of Swords here as well). In a similar way, I have been struggling to make space for things that are important to me: spending time tending to my altar, letting myself absorb self-readings, explore them, write about them, posting blog entries. In a way, I have been so busy lately that it's even been a challenge to spend quality time with my kids.

The 2 of Swords is often symbolic of an incompatibility between the heart and mind. In this case, my heart yearns for space to do these things, but my mind is filled with the many tasks and responsibilities that I am faced with in my new position at work. I don't like how that feels, however I won't be gifted that space simply by waiting to see what happens.... I have to claim it. And that means that I can't ignore these needs I have for quiet, for time, for writing and reading, for my egun (ancestors) and my family. I have to find a balance between what I must do, and create order within these priorities. Doing that requires attention.

Thus I have pushed off everything I "must do" this morning - just for a moment - to allow myself space to write this post, and to think these thoughts. That is nourishment all on its own!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Golden Glow of Quiet

Life has been so busy lately that at times I find myself longing for a moment of quiet peace, a short measure of silence with my bóveda, a breath of communion. This morning was no different. I woke up, and after finally gathering the energy to move my body out of bed, my first feeling was one of, "I need space." I need space to sit and, rather than think, to let my mind be still.

As the coffee was brewing, I shuffled my Raven's Prophecy deck and pulled: Hermit.
I looked at it for a moment and just thought: Yes! Yes, to the Hermit in general.... but this depiction is so welcoming and precise in its reflection of what I hunger for: the golden glow of quiet. A lantern burns within the heart of an ancient tree, providing a secluded place, a protective and natural embrace.

This image reminds me of a book I cherished as a child, My Side of the Mountain, about a young boy who escapes into the hills and lives off the land on his own. He has a hawk companion, he learns to tan his own hides using the natural tannins in fallen oak trees, and he lives inside of a massive, hollowed-out tree. This is the kind of experience I always wanted to have as a kid, and I would lose myself in that story.

Now I am blessed with some new and wonderful opportunities in my life that also bring a higher level of "involvement" and attention and "noise." I don't have the choice to ignore it - it is my job to face it all head-on. And so it becomes even more important to intentionally carve out a space in my own proverbial sacred tree to steal away to from time to time, to recharge, release, and recenter.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Full Moon in Gemini: Bonding the Self

This morning I felt drawn to pull a few daily (or - moment -) cards from the Earthbound Oracle. As I laid them out they wove a clear story before me, and engaged with their tale I decided to take a look at the "shadow" card at the bottom of the deck - Luna - fitting for today's full moon.
But the cards, the central line of three, had much to say about where I'm at right now that also flowed with the fact that today's full moon is in Gemini.....

Death - Bond - Self

On the left, reflecting where I've been of late, Death symbolizes the deep transformations that have been flowing through my life on so many levels. The lemniscate over the third eye speaks to the endless cycles that we can perceive most clearly when we still our Selves. I like how purple ribbons curl upward, new sight being revealed. In many ways I am indeed experiencing new sight - a new way of "looking" at the intangible world, and even a new way of viewing and interacting with my environment at work due to a change in position. And just visible behind the skull, a full moon glows.....

To the right there lies the Self, an eye opened outward. When I was preparing for my recent interview I pulled a card from this deck to help me focus on my approach, and it was Self. Let them see your heart. Be you. And so that is what I did. And it was good. But now I am exploring new aspects of my Self. I have always felt that I was more an "individual" - not a follower, not necessarily a leader, but, well, perhaps a loner, though that carries a slightly negative connotation that I don't love. Yet I am a leader now. What does that mean to me, about me, for me? How does that impact my own sense of self? What natural characteristics will I cultivate and nurture and strengthen through embracing this new role?

In the center is Bond, bringing together Death and Self. The image appears to be an atom with an acorn nucleus and leafy electrons swirling about. Electrons have a negative charge and are bound to the atom's nucleus which is made of protons (with a positive charge) and neutrons (which have no charge at all). Opposites attract: how appropriate! And there is that the acorn, the seed of change, that tiny emissary of life that with just the right amount of rainfall, sunlight, oxygen and nutrients will grow ever stronger, up up into an oak tree. Change brings new sight, brings new possibilities. Change is one of our only constants in life, as ironic as it is, and change offers us new ways of understanding ourselves. (Funny, then, - or synchronistic - that I chose the 2 of Pentacles from two different decks this morning!) ;-)

Tonight's full moon is in Gemini, and About.com describes it as a time of: 

"de-coding language; observing social trends; wearing many hats; the view from all sides; shaking up reality; playing tricks with perception; fascinating fragments of style and culture; getting the cosmic joke; being contradictory"

Yes.

In my own time of bonding I am standing on a precipice looking both downward and upward. I see from where I've come; and I see that there is more ahead, though I may not be able to make out the details. I am no longer who I was, and yet I haven't entirely become who I will be. Sacred space. Ancient and natural. The current turns back on itself, as it always will, and yet never returns to the same place. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Winds of Oyá Blowing

I haven't been able to post as much as I've wanted to of late. I think about it every day and between teaching, managing, parenting, and doing many (wonderful) readings for (lovely) clients, I never have the time or the energy. But I'm making space tonight, to release some of this energy. Throughout the month of October much movement was taking place. I started to see 333 everywhere, and it's the first time I've ever noticed numbers like that, and felt its significance. Eventually I came to feel that it was an acknowledgement that I was in good (spirit) company, and I felt that attention quite pointedly. It was comforting.

I've already written about the crazy happenings with our car so I won't recount it, but I was both aware of struggle, and aware that there was something more transpiring. In those moments where the challenge of the moment felt sharpest, I kept this mind, and placed my faith in what I couldn't see, but what I knew was there nonetheless. I pulled a lot of 10 of Swords, but one of my more memorable draws was during the Shadow Work October challenge where I pulled Obatala, Elegua, and Oyá from my New Orleans Voodoo deck. It was a powerful line for me: my father, my best friend, and the sacred presence of Oyá; the shifts and transitions she brings along with her. 10 of Swords, Oyá.... the car died, my egun, Elegua, always Eshu-Elegua, 333 and 33.... so many things sifting through my mind.....
Oyá is called the "owner of the marketplace" and the "owner of the gates of the cemetery." These are often treated as literal, and they can be taken as such, but they are metaphorical first and foremost. Oyá is owner of change. The marketplace is Earth. The market is where we engage others, we barter for what we need, we pay and are paid, we argue and laugh, we learn about the affairs of others, we sing, we eat. We live. The "marketplace" is simply another word for the world in which we live, where constant change, upturns and downturns, is the way. There is a saying, "The world is a marketplace; our real home is the spirit world." Oyá is not the owner of the cemetery itself, rather the passage - the doorway - the portal between the marketplace and the spirit world. The cemetery is a physical place. But she ushers us from an old way of life into a new, encouraging us to let go, to shed our skins, and thus she governs the process of transformation of which death is a part.

Oyá's winds tell us that it is time to leave; to leave what we are used to, what wasn't working, to pack our bags and get ready to go. She helps us to peel away our old selves, she gives the courage and strength to burn down and rebuild, always better than before, always more than we could have ever really understood. She gives us the gift of change, a gift always meant to bless us when all is said and done.

In so many ways my life has changed in the last month alone. I've been scared, sad, anxious, speechless, furious, determined, worried. I've been grateful, moved, touched, thankful, speechless (again), honored, humbled, in awe, triumphant. My life has utterly changed. The reality I see as I look out from these eyes is not the same as it was a month ago. I have possibilities now that I never imagined. There is newness in my life that I didn't anticipate and could not have imagined.

I have learned a lot. And I realize that I'm somewhat inarticulate here; I am forming these words with the last dregs of today's energy, but it's been over a week that this has been calling for release. Hope and faith are everything. Trust is so important. To stay positive, even when the outlook appears dark, is the only way. It's not easy, but it's the only way.

Maferefun Yansa, maferefun todos los días.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I Know This Much Is True

Yes, you may have to face conflict, and I know that you don't prefer that.

But you have a panther inside of you.
Try not to suppress its essence; rather,
let it breathe with your breath.

Don't walk away.
Yes, you will have to wander through the deep unknown,
and uncover parts of yourself that you didn't realize were there.

You'll feel afraid from time to time, but don't give up.
This is death
and it is birth.
You are becoming you.

Your fire will lead you onward.

This is not a mask you must learn to wear;
it is a power you were always meant to wield.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Guest Post: To Be Loved Is to Be Given Life

Today I'm featuring a guest post written by none other than my mother, Cecilia Skidmore: licensed counselor, grief and change expert, former radio host, and MBTI administrator (to say very little!). To read a bit more about her click here, and to view her blog click here.

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"TO BE LOVED IS TO BE GIVEN LIFE" - those words were written years ago by the artist wife of my minister and he used them as a Christmas card the year following her death. To be loved is to be given life -odd words for a memorial for someone who has died. What does that mean? Given life...

In our society, in relatively recent times, we avoid mention of death. We left the armbands behind, left the wakes held at home behind, left the formal mourning periods behind. Death is a spectre, just like on Halloween, hovering in the shadows of our homes, our lives, our minds, and we use a great deal of energy trying to find a way to shut the door on those shadows and seal them off forever.
When our childrens' pets die, we buy another. The illusion is that life is replaceable, that pain can be erased in the blink of an eye with a new puppy. When our parents die, we keep our children home from the funeral. We keep our tears and pain inside, so that they (and we) won't have to experience that so uncomfortable emotion, despair. It feels so out of control and so intense that we fear we might frighten the children. So, while we can't replace Grandma with a new puppy, we can act as if it's ok that she died. We might even pretend she's "away" or "asleep," common euphemisms for the word "dead." We can not talk about her; we can fill the space she had in our lives and in our homes with other people or more work - or a new car. Or a new love. The hole is not only a physical one (she's not in that chair anymore) but a spiritual one and a psychological one- and we race around desperately trying to fill it with everything and anything except the few things we really need.
Golden Tarot - L. Dean
We need a light to shine on those dark spaces in our psyches where death lurks. We need to look death square in the face--and when we do, we find that death looks very familiar. It looks like us. It looks like our loves and our hopes, but also like our failures and lost dreams. It looks final, though - like we don't get another chance. Perhaps that scares us the most. And perhaps it should. We need to say and do important things now - not after they are no longer here.

We need education. Sit with someone who is dying, as I have done at Hospice. When you spend time with a dying person, you find they are Person first. Not a spectre. They live, often better than before. They find great pleasure in people, in children, in animals. They still find joy in reading, in smelling fresh cut grass, in watching the birds on a snow-covered pine. They are thoughtful and less concerned with things tangible - like money or possessions, except as a legacy they might be leaving a loved one. But they are very real, very human - very alive.
5 of Water - Gaian Tarot
Joanna Powell Colbert
We need to ponder what comes after death. (I firmly believe in reincarnation until someone I love dies - then the thought of them embarking on a new life when I've just arrived in Heaven seems so sad - so I revert to the safety of clouds and harps.) We need to read books, talk about it with friends, and weigh what we learn. A firm belief in something greater than ourselves, or a firm belief in the natural cycles of life and death on earth can be comforting.

We need to learn about grieving as well. It helps to have a belief about life beyond death - but usually that's not our biggest concern when a loved one dies. An incredible amount of the pain of grieving comes not from worry about where they are, but from the fact that they are not here with us. Grief can be an emotional, psychological and physical maelstrom. So much is unanticipated, unexpected. We experience a gnawing in our guts, a weariness in our bones, a breaking of our hearts. When my mother died, some thirty years ago, I wrote a poem:

"This morning when I woke up, I found my heart had been ripped from my body....What I want to know is... why am I still alive?"

We become forgetful, losing moments, hours, names, faces, appointments. We see things: the look of our beloved on a stranger in the hardware store - or visions that are so real, but impossible to explain.

We hear voices - or we are visited in our dreams.

We remember and remember and remember - with others, on paper, in our daydreams and our night dreams. We relive so many moments, trying to keep them alive and here with us. We are so afraid to forget.
Vision Quest Tarot
And people, other loving, fearful people try to push us forward, to get us (and themselves) away from the pain. So gradually we have our lost loved ones in our lives (so it doesn't hurt) and we gradually talk less about our beloved - so it doesn't hurt. But the hurt comes from a deep would and deep wounds take a long time to heal.

So we need to know about grieving and how long it will take. Hiding from the spectres of death and grieving leave us unprotected from the turmoil they bring. If we know, we can take care of our needs, learn to share our pain and not be overwhelmed. Grief happens all our lives, if not from death, then from divorce, or job loss, or moves, or aging. The grief experience is the same, and it carries compound interest from all the others before it. The more we know, the more we can help ourselves and our children.

At last we can take the time and energy to begin to understand who we are now - after.

When someone dies, they are transformed. Some faiths believe our souls go to a heaven of clouds and harps where we live happily ever after. Some believe literally that God's house has many mansions where we will all go,, and other that only they will receive everlasting life. Some believe in a seemingly endless cycle of life, learning, death and rebirth until we reach oneness with God. People who don't believe in a God or afterlife acknowledge that at least the body becomes part of the earth again, fertilizer, renewing other life.

The reality is, when someone dies, they are transformed - whatever you pay attention to.
Earthbound Oracle
But so are we - we who are left behind. The person we were when our beloved was alive changes - in sometimes very subtle, sometimes profound ways - always viscerally. So when the time for mourning and grieving has passed, when we awake to a new morning, free of the deep pain, we are newborn.

We are a fresh creation.

But we have not left our beloved behind. We have not forgotten. If death is like a shedding of our outer skin, a metamorphosis, grieving and healing from grief is like communion - an absorption into our living flesh, our changing psyche, our evolving spirit - of the essence of our beloved.

It's hard to understand - ask someone who has grieved. Those parts we thought were gone forever have now become part of us. And with that transplant comes a new human being - broken, but stronger at the broken places, as Hemingway said. Malleable, but firm, solid and real, but transcendent. All those cliches about dawn after darkness, spring following winter - are real, true.

They are true because love and grief are inextricably bound. We don't grieve what we never loved. We grieve only those things or people who have enriched our lives and given it meaning. When we love deeply, we grieve deeply. But we do not forget. And in our remembering we keep our loved one alive.

To be loved is to be given life.

***************************************************

Ashé

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Contemplating "Home"

Since writing the Samhain post about honoring my grandfather, Giuseppe, the other day, I've been thinking about the concept of "home." He moved around a lot, was an immigrant a few times over, and when I was younger I found some sense of pleasure out of the description my mother gave our family as "nomads." Yes, we have appeared to have a sort of "itch," it seems.

Since our immigrant ancestors, we've ever been on the move. At first perhaps it was due to the pursuit of better economic conditions, but is there something more? A constant search for a feeling of "rightness" and belonging?

Last night I was watching an episode of the Originals (a vampire show) and the topic of "home" popped up. Two of the characters were discussing how fiercely they would defend their right to live in their home city, and I thought, "I don't know what that feels like." To be so connected to the place where you live that you would fight to stay there. So I decided to pull some cards about it. I didn't ask a clear question, I simply held this idea in my mind as I shuffled ("What is home, and how does a lack of home impact me? How do I find home?"). I pulled:

8 of Grails/Cups - Judgement rx - 10 of Skulls/Pentacles rx
Tarot of Vampyres
The 8 of Grails was fitting, since it is a card of movement, of dissatisfaction or lack of fulfillment. It's about going on a journey. There is something here of the nomad experience. The 10 of Skulls is the quintessential "family legacy" card - what do you pass down to future generations, and what have you received from your own ancestors? It's a card a closely associated with the essence of a family's material being and presence. And in the center lies Judgement, provoking so many questions I don't even know where to begin.

I live in central Florida now, but I was born on the east coast, and spent my early years between Connecticut and Rhode Island. At about kindergarten age my natal family moved to Michigan, and for nine years I lived in one town, moving to another (very different) city for the next eighteen years. Then my husband and I packed up our things and our kids, and drove into the deep south. You might think that Michigan would have been that "home" for me, but I felt discontented there despite having lived in that state for most of my life. It didn't feel like home, though it was certainly very familiar.

And while there have been many wonderful aspects about life in our "new" state, I don't feel at home in Florida either. So I ask myself:

Will we always keep moving on in search of a place that feels right? If so, we will never provide that land-rooted legacy for our future generations; instead ours will be a legacy of the nomad, the pilgrim, the wanderer. 

And if we always search, are we destined never to find? 

Is the answer in the act of deciding to stay rooted to a place, to not move even when we feel discontented? 

Is the answer in the realization that our legacy moves within us and doesn't need to be anchored; that perhaps our legacy itself is in our movement?

Is there perhaps no answer at all? 

Perhaps this is the legacy of all immigrants who lose their connection to ancestral lands. There is something to be said for the "family oversoul" - those gentle energetic ties that connect us to our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and beyond. As I did a cursory search of my own blog I found that for last year's Samhain post I had a "conversation" with my grandmother (who passed on thirty years ago) and the 10 of Pentacles was the heart of the draw. It's interesting that it has come up again almost exactly one year later. In the context of that post the focus was on honoring and reuniting family - the idea that home is where the largest grouping of multigenerational family is. A year ago we were considering moving back to Michigan since my mother and step-father are still there. And yet we are still here, with no plans to go anywhere anytime soon.

I sometimes imagine how our family's oversoul impacts me, us. Does my grandfather's wandering nature wield a more forceful vibration through the generational lines? His children, whose American bloodline epicenter lies in Connecticut, are now in Michigan, Tennessee, and Florida. Two of them are fairly regular world travelers. Their children are in England, New Zealand, Alaska, Saudi Arabia, Boston, Florida, California. The net is cast ever wider. Most of those are world travelers as well.

So is "home" in the people, or in the land? Is it in both? How do we recapture a sense of belonging - to each other, to a particular part of the earth? Or do we not? Do we simply restructure, rebuild, reconfigure family "legacy"? Do we start over, honoring the past and releasing it? I don't know, but I'll be sitting with this for time to come.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Samhain Blog Hop: Honoring Giuseppe


Welcome to the Samhain Blog Hop! Please use the links at the top or bottom of this post to navigate to the other wonderful blogs in this circle. This time around our wrangler, Arwen Lynch-Poe, has asked us to "commune, communicate, and commemorate." We might choose an ancestor or notable historical figure to discuss, to read for or about, or to celebrate, in one way or another.

I ultimately decided to honor my grandfather for this Samhain celebration. Giuseppe Giovanni Amerigo Malgeri was born on September 23rd, 1900 in Pigüé, Argentina, the son of immigrants from southern Italy. As a young adult he left South America for Italy to earn his teaching certificate, and eventually enlisted in the Italian military. In 1924 he traveled to the United States for the first time, where he met and married my grandmother, with whom he had three children. They moved back to Italy which is where my mother spent her early years, but my grandmother ended up returning to the U.S. with all of her children after some waywardness on the part of my grandfather. He died a couple of years after my birth so I never had the opportunity to know him (or my paternal grandfather either, as a matter of fact), which over the years I've come to see as a true and mostly irreparable loss.
An extendable table crafted by my grandfather
I never knew a lot about Giuseppe, and what I did hear could be held within a single, cupped hand: he was a woodworker; he was a teacher; he was a traveler; he was a soldier; he was multilingual. He loved his children in his own way. As I thought about what court card my grandfather might be, I settled on the King of Wands. Though he was a Libra, his essence feels more like fire to me, and as it turns out he has quite a bit of Sagittarius in his chart! I had pulled my husband's Mary-El deck out the previous day, and decided to sift through it for the King of Wands. When I found it I immediately noticed an interesting resemblance to my grandfather:
Mary-El King of Wands and Giuseppe Malgeri
Yesterday on my way home from work I was contemplating what to have for lunch and had settled on eggs all'inferno (eggs in Hell) because we had a really nice tomato sauce that needed to be used. And then I realized that this dish is part of the small legacy that I have from my grandfather. We have relatives in Argentina still, some of with whom I speak. We have family in Italy as well. But one of the most consistently present, always-accessible, fully tangible remnants of his is this simple egg-and-tomato-sauce dish that I learned from my mother. As she would throw eggs on top of bright red sauce in a pan, she would say, "Time for eggs all'inferno, one of my dad's favorite foods!" So for me, this is a direct line to the grandfather I never had a chance to know in this life. Now as I prepare it, I tell my own children, "This is your great-grandpa Malgeri's favorite dish!"
Giuseppe's eggs all'inferno
For those interested in the recipe, it goes a little something like this:

Giuseppe's Eggs all'Inferno

Put some tomato sauce (a cup or two, to your own liking) in a pan (non-stick is best) and crack as many eggs as you like on top. Put on a cover and let it poach until the eggs are cooked to your preference. You can add cheese if you like - throw some on to melt during the final minute or two, or grate some parmesan or romano on top after you serve it. It's great with buttered and toasted bread. As an alternative method, you can pan fry the eggs first, and when they are close to done you can pour the sauce over the top and let it heat through!

I decided to do a reading to ask some basic questions about my grandfather: How did he see himself? What was his passion? How would (or does) he see me, his granddaughter? The results provoked more questions than answers, but were interesting nonetheless:
Stone Tarot/A. Stone
1) How would you describe yourself? 8 of Pentacles reversed. I wonder if he ever felt contented with what he had accomplished in life. Was he a perfectionist that never seemed able to reach the top of the mountain? Was he perpetually dissatisfied? He certainly wasn't a "stable" man in the sense that he didn't stay in one general area - even country - for the majority of his life. He traveled, but more than that, he was an immigrant. He had many different interests, skills, and occupations. He had a family, and then he didn't. Did he ever feel that he'd been "enough"?

2) What was your passion? Wheel of Fortune. In some way this card seems to answer certain elements of the previous card. After I pulled this from the deck I was singing "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" for the next hour. What I like about this card is that it tells me that my grandfather was truly a wanderer by nature. He thrived on change and newness. My mother always said that we come from a nomadic family, in the sense that at least the recent generations have never stayed put. My grandfather moved around a lot, and so have his children and their children. It's nice to think that he pursued change at least in part because he found it exhilarating. And it's interesting to see those qualities in myself.

3) How do you see me? Page/Princess of Wands. I was just writing the other day about "signficators" in Tarot and I mentioned that the cards that most often come up for me are the King and Queen of Cups, and the Page of Wands. In fact, the Page of Wands is specifically the card that tends to represent the work I do in divination: an emissary and messenger, a go-between and interpreter. An underlying question here was one that Arwen had mentioned in her original Blog Hop task for us: How might your relative feel about your card reading? In that light, I take this as a positive confirmation that he approves of what I'm doing. And I like the idea that he sees me as a "princess" (that's very grandfatherly, I think!).

Last week my husband and I were dealing with a pretty difficult and challenging matter regarding our car that had suddenly broken down and left us in quite a conundrum (I discuss it in more detail here). As we were strolling through the dealership parking lot in search of a new vehicle, I had a "moment" where I was very aware of both of my grandfathers. I imagined what it would be like to have their help and support in that situation. I thought about how I never had known them, had missed out on the opportunity to experience the grandfather-granddaughter bond. But I welcomed their energy in, and asked for their advocacy.

It's funny that I never thought about it at the time, but as I wrote this post I naturally thought about that invitation in the parking lot, and then it suddenly dawned on me. We ended up purchasing (via a lot of mysterious and fortuitous circumstances) a car that I'd never imagined I'd ever own (and still can't believe it, really): a Fiat - the most popular Italian car brand.
So I send a big "thank you" to my grandfather-in-spirit, Giuseppe Giovanni Amerigo Malgeri. May you always be with me, and may I always be open to your love and guidance.

Happy Samhain, everyone!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Embracing the Knight of Swords

The task for Day 28 of the Shadow Work October challenge (hosted on Instagram by @mnomquah) is: 


Caregiver. What do I have to offer? 

Last night I pulled the Prince of Knives from the Tarot of Vampyres and I was mystified. I had just written earlier that same day that I rarely see myself in the Swords courts, and yet there it was. I put it aside. This morning I thought I might see what Morgan Greer would have to say about it, and as I shuffled a card came flying out at me: the Knight of Swords. I laughed. The cards had made their point.
Tarot of Vampyres and Morgan Greer Tarot
I had to sit with this one for a while, but as I delved deeply into the energy of this card I found that I could see myself reflected there - both a surprising and revealing experience for me. I don't love to debate, and I am rarely sharp with my words. I am not reckless, nor do I move particularly quickly.

But there is far more to it than that.

This Knight is intellectual and analytical, articulate and perceptive. He is creative and knowledgeable, honest and clear-minded. He finds solutions and helps others to see past outdated patterns of thought. And as I thought about it I realized that people do come to me for problem solving, and they trust me with advice when it comes to approaching complex matters. They ask for my opinion and believe me to be fair, not influenced by politics or personal preferences. I write, and once in a while I hear from strangers who approach me to let me know that some post helped them understand a card better, or was affirming for them in its openness and honesty. So I suppose that this is what I offer others, though I had never really thought about it this way before... This one deserves some further meditation.....!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Significators in the Tarot

In Tarot, significators are typically court cards that represent the person being read for (including the reader, in a self-reading), as well as important people in the person's life. Some people use them as part of a reading (pre-selecting a significator as a focal point), and some don't (I fall into the latter category).

There are quiet a few theories about how to choose this card, but in my experience no choice is really necessary - the cards themselves show you who you are (if you're paying attention). And while you may tend to show up as one particular card most frequently, you may find yourself symbolized by a number of other courts, depending on the context of the reading. For example you may see yourself appear as the King of Swords in matters of work and "outside life," but then you may appear as the Queen of Pentacles when it comes to a reading about your family.
Stone Tarot - A. Stone
Often I see people choose a significator according to their gender and astrological sun sign (i.e. a Pisces woman would be the Queen of Cups, and a Sagittarius man would be the King of Wands). In reality this is not always true or reliable. For example, I am a double Capricorn woman, however my principal significator is the King of Cups. I tend to show up most commonly as Kings in general, but also at times as Queens (most usually the Queen of Cups) and even Pages (particularly the Page of Wands).

My husband and one of my sisters both show up most often as the King of Wands even though they are water and air signs, respectively. Another sister (a Leo) is most commonly represented by the King of Swords, while my mother is the Queen of Cups (that one fits the mold being that she's a Cancer!). I even remember reading for a man who appeared in his own reading as the Queen of Wands. In all of these cases the significators were not preselected or decided upon, they were shown.
Navigators Tarot of the Mystic SEA - J. Turk
This isn't to say that astrological associations aren't ever accurate, or can't be helpful. As I mentioned before, my Cancer mother's card is the Queen of Cups. My eldest daughter (a triple Earth sign) is most often the Page of Pentacles. And in an ancestor reading for a client once, the Queen of Swords appeared. I asked my client if his sister was an air sign, but he wasn't sure about her birthday. Later he checked with his mother, and sure enough she had been an Aquarius.

Court cards represent our most salient traits and characteristics, so they don't always match up neatly with gender or astrology. And that is a good thing, as it allows much more fluidity in readings, and in the end reflects our diversity with far greater acuity.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Breath of Sea Air

Saturday was a beautiful day. In the morning my husband and I stopped at our favorite local botanica for a few things. As usual, while there I ended up finding a number of extra goodies as well! The principal goal of our trip was for me to secure a few stones. I immediately located some precious finds: red coral, raw selenite, raw black tourmaline, desert rose, and snowflake obsidian.
While I was selecting my stones, Jorge was busy discussing important matters with Paula, the clerk and jeweler. As I approached the counter I realized that they were talking about azabaches - generally speaking, charms against the evil eye. "Good call," I thought, since I was supposed to get one months back and hadn't yet. In fact, we were planning to get one for each member of our family. Azabache is another word for jet (also called "black amber"), an ancient stone formed from the remains of decomposed wood, which has a high carbon content. It has been used through the ages and across many cultures to bring wisdom, protection, and healing. It is often combined with red coral, also widely used for protection. In Cuba, most babies don't leave the hospital without an azabache charm attached to their clothing. I myself used to own a silver and red coral bracelet, a gift from my mother from Italy for the purposes of deflecting unwanted attention.

We didn't see any in stock that were quite what we were looking for, so Paula went into the back room and returned with her beads and jewelry tools. In the end, we were able to make a custom order which she completed right in front of our eyes, which was a special treat. Our azabache beads were hand carved from California, and we chose naturally shaped red coral for the accent:
Custom-made azabache pendant
I gathered up a couple boxes of incense and a candle, and we were on our way. It was a really nice way to start the day.

We'd planned to take the kids out to the sea in the afternoon, so after lunch we gathered up chairs, a blanket, and some snacks, and we drove our new Fiat out to a beautiful, quiet, sparsely populated beach. We watched the pelicans fly overhead, and the little ones played in the surf for a while. We munched on cheese crackers and salted nori, and I pulled a few cards:
Wildwood Tarot and Earthbound Oracle at the sea
We drove back home under the setting sun, and settled in for the evening with good food, and some Antiques Roadshow. It's the little things. ;-)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

It's fair to say that things have been rather tumultuous of late, though not in an altogether negative way. In my last post I discussed the drama of having our car suddenly fail on us, feeling rather stuck, and yet experiencing so many blessings along the way. In the end there were far too many blessings and synchronicities to mention here, but it all culminated in our purchase of a new vehicle (I will say, though, that one little and intriguing detail involved our wonderful car salesman suddenly discussing Hebrew and numerology, which was pretty awesome):
Our salesman's notes on Hebrew, the name of God, and numerology
The entire affair hasn't reached a final conclusion (we still have a non-functioning "other" car to contend with) but things are far better than they were, and far better than I'd dared to hope for while sitting at the mechanic shop a week ago. 

It wasn't lost on me that my recurring 10 of Swords is about more than the shadow work I've been doing this month. It is that, definitely, but it is a rather holistic approach to life purging that is occurring here. In an intangible sense I'm sorting out the items in my proverbial closet, doing some spring cleaning, but in a very physical way (car, ahem) it's "out with the old!" While it certainly hasn't been comfortable, per se, there is something relieving about it all. It does feel like a paradigm shift is unfolding.

One of the tasks for the Shadow Work Challenge was to identify "the greatest lie you feed yourself." I pulled the Hanged Man reversed:
Haindl Tarot
I wrote the following about it:

"I am a faithful, accommodating, and very optimistic person, and I believe that our struggles are not for nought. At worst, we're always growing and learning. But I think that perhaps deep under the surface, in a part of my psyche where I seldom dwell, there is a fear that in fact there is no gold at the end of the rainbow, and that all the sacrifices I've had to make are not in fact leading me forward. That I'm stuck rather than waiting patiently. That no matter how positive I am, no matter how much light I see in the dark, it might just not be enough. But that is the great lie. It is enough; in some ways perhaps it's everything."

That was a powerful and somewhat strange idea to confront about myself - that in some part of my being I fear a dead end. But it was also liberating to release it, to name it as untrue. 

This evening I pulled a card from my Druid Plant Oracle asking where I need to focus as I work through this period of change and I drew: Heather.
Druid Plant Oracle
My notes:

"'Appreciate what you have' is such an old refrain that we often become desensitized to its essence. But when challenges arise you do have a choice: to cover your eyes and endlessly review your discomfort and pain, or to focus on the beauty and fortune you have all around you. It's not easy, you might fall off the bike a few times, but the effort is worth it. Just the effort, without any concern with reaching a goal. Be grateful for the good in your life, and draw strength and comfort from it when storm clouds loom (the good thing about clouds is that they always pass sooner or later, and while overhead the gift us with an opportunity to see things in a new light.)"

Perspective is everything, and while staying truly positive in a difficult time can certainly be easier said than done, it can indeed be done, with a little bit of grace, a dash of humor, and an open heart. (And a few cups of strong tea doesn't hurt!).

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Be Ever Grateful

This morning I "pulled" the 8 of Bolers/Pentacles from my Buckland Romani Tarot app as my daily draw. I thought, "Ah, makes sense, I'll be slowly making my way through work today...." Mmhm. I got ready to go, my husband and I dropped our younger daughter at school, and we set off toward my workplace. As we were within a few blocks of our destination, the car suddenly shut down and refused to restart. It wasn't the battery; I knew it was something worse, I just didn't know what. We were at a dead halt in the middle of a very busy, very fast road, but fortunately a couple of friendly passersby helped Jorge to push the car into a nearby parking lot. I mused to him: "You know, you'd have thought I would have pulled the Tower or something, not the 8 of Pentacles. Seriously." We called for a tow, and while my husband sat waiting to be taken to a mechanic, I walked the rest of the way to work to meet my class.
Buckland Romani Tarot
Later my husband called me and said, "Not good news. The engine is useless, and they say that it doesn't make sense to repair it - we need a new car." Oh shit! This was the second part: "Since I have no way to get you, see if you can find a ride home." Yes. Over a year ago I was run into by a texting-while-driving sort, and our other car was totaled. We took that as a sign that it was the right time to downsize, to save money, to lower our carbon footprint. So we were a one-car family. And now we were suddenly, and without warning, a no-car family in a city with terrible public transportation, where having a car has become essential.

On my way back to my office after class I took a detour and saw that my director's office door was slightly open. I didn't know what I was going to say, but I decided to say hello. I had written an email to my colleagues asking for a ride home, and she'd just seen it. She said hi, and asked about my situation. I told her that it would probably impact my next day's teaching schedule, and asked for ideas about how to manage it. Suddenly she said, "You know what? Just take my car!" I called her "crazy" several times, and also thanked her a few times, and soon I was on my way home, in her little blue Nissan. On the way I stopped at the mechanic to pick up my husband. As he was paying for the inspection, I sat patiently in the waiting room. Suddenly I got the joke:
My view from the car repair shop waiting room
I was in a car repair shop. Just like the one on the 8 of Bolers card. You know, within reason, taking into account the cultural context and decade. I laughed. And then I took a picture. You have to appreciate the way the universe works, no matter how dire the circumstances, really.

So we were a bit stuck. We had a repair quote exceeding $7000, no car, a kid in school who would eventually require a ride home, and I had to teach again the next couple of days. I couldn't keep my boss's car forever. This was a true WTF moment, though a true gem was the moment when my husband actually handed me the estimate, and as I reached the final price I just started to laugh, and he laughed right along with me. Because what else is there to do? If someone hands you a repair quote that high for your only vehicle, that is just about all there is to be done about it.

As we drove home I said to Jorge, "You know, this really does suck a lot, but there are so many ways in which we are fortunate today. Gabriel wasn't in the car with us when it shut down in that busy zone. Those men helped to move the car to a safe place. We were only a few blocks from work, so I wasn't too late for class. My director handed me her keys, and now we can pick Lourdes up from school. The tow was covered by our insurance." The list later expanded to include the fact that our insurance company secured us a rental car on the same afternoon, allowing us to return the borrowed car. We went to a dealership (which normally I passionately hate - sales, in general. Not a fan) and the fellow that helped us was nice, very relaxed, very open and non-pushy. He even broke into song at one point. Instead of wanting to run away as fast as I could, I found myself wanting his business card! (This is a true rarity).

When our foray was over for the evening (we still have no car of our own, and have more insurance stuff to deal with tomorrow) we went home, finally. As we entered the house, a glorious aroma of garlic and spices wafted toward us. Our oldest daughter had prepared dinner: a trout chowder that she had found the recipe for online. It was really good.

I checked the mail. There was the Earthbound Oracle that I wasn't expecting until tomorrow, beautifully wrapped in tissue paper, with an art card, a sticker, and yes/no flipping coin on top:
Earthbound Oracle still boxed and wrapped
The point is: be ever grateful. Life throws some major twists and turns into our paths, and many of them are unexpected and unforeseen. We can't always change what happens to us, but we can always choose how we see the circumstances in which we find ourselves. In even the very difficult moments, there is light.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

10 of Bolers: Presence of the Ancestors

This morning I woke up with my son snuggling against me. The first words out of his mouth, still in the haze of sleep, were, "You need to fix your hair, mister!" I smiled at the sweetness of his child's innocence and honesty, all imbued with bottomless love. (Then I complied and put my hair in a bun.)

As I rose I felt drawn to my bóveda (altar). I've been needing to connect with my ancestors for weeks now, and while I continue to tend to my sacred space - changing the water in my glasses, occasionally offering a hot cup of coffee - I still feel the deeper call to really sit with them and invite their constant presence more intentionally into my mind and heart. This morning, after giving the Boy his bowl of cereal, I set a pot on to brew, and when it was ready I brought a steaming mug to my bóveda. Instead of the fly-by offerings of late (work has been hectic, and I've been quite engaged with the Shadow Work October challenge in my "idle" moments), I stood there for a time. I thought of my grandmothers and grandfathers, all of whom have passed on. I felt the presence most noticeably of my paternal grandmother, Lillian, and I acknowledged her. I called off the surnames of all of the forebears that I know of, and then expanded out to the countries and areas of the world where I know that they came from: Italy, the British Isles, Scandinavia, Northern Africa and the Middle East, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, Hungary...... I opened myself up to honoring all of those who contributed to my bloodlines, all of those without whom my physical being would not be. I asked them to be with me, that I may always be "open" to their support and guidance.
Buckland Romani Tarot
I returned to the kitchen and prepared my own coffee with sugar and cream, and then sat down at the table to pull my card of the day from my new Buckland Romani Tarot app (the first such app I've ever owned, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit!). I received: 10 of Bolers (Pentacles).

And I just smiled, because there they all were, my ancestors, there, present, waiting for me. The 10 of Pentacles is often called the "legacy" card because of the ways in which it represents our material and physical ties to our broader family networks. Thus it is also a primary "ancestor" card. I had never seen this particular version of the 10 of Pentacles before, and there is something special in the position of these people, quietly watching...there. It felt like a warm acknowledgement for me from them.

Amid the toils of everyday work life, woven through the fabric of family togetherness, in the liminal spaces of my thoughts and dreams, my ancestors are there with me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A New Moon Reading

For day 13 of the October Shadow Work challenge, the wrangler, Mnomquah, tasked participants with a New Moon reading:

The positions (and the cards I drew for myself) are as follows:

1) The Light - what you know and accept about yourself: Chariot
2) The Shadow - what is hidden from you about yourself: 10 of Swords
3) Why you fear your Shadow - what is preventing you from seeing or accepting your Shadow: Strength
4) Why you should embrace your Shadow - what are the positive sides of the Shadow that would benefit you? 7 of Swords reversed
5) How to integrate the Shadow into the Light - what steps you should take in order to accept your Shadow: 5 of Swords reversed
6) The Outcome - the possibilities if you succeed in bringing the Shadow into the Light: Sun and Judgement

Tarot of Vampyres
I have two cards for #6 because I had a "jumper" as I was thinking about that card position. So I've placed both the jumper and the additional card that I selected for that position, as partners.

As I pulled the cards the story that unfolded before me became more and more clear. I said in a previous post that each day of this challenge seems to offer a bit more detail that slowly helps me understand the bigger picture. It continues to be true here.

The fact that my shadow is represented by the 10 of Swords is very fitting. This is the card I pulled as representative of my month of October, and for this entire month I'm working each day with my shadow.
Tarot of Vampyres
I've already identified that part of this shadow work relates to reclaiming my personal power, and also that a predominant emotion that has emerged for me is sadness. When I saw the combination of the Chariot (as my light) and the 10 of Swords, I felt a very familiar sensation: that of powering past pain. The figure on the Chariot is aggressive and determined; nothing will stop him from achieving his goals. In the 10 of Swords I see (and feel) pain. This vampire woman has been knifed right in the solar plexus and lies agonizingly across a four-poster bed. It's interesting because this is often a card of being "stabbed in the back" and yet the source of my own pain often centers in the solar plexus. These cards represent two aspects of myself: the part that has experienced sharp, deep pain, and the part that insists on riding past it as swiftly as possible, hurrying away from the suffering as fast as my beast will take me; refusing to spend any more time in that dark space than is absolutely necessary. I will myself to move on because I can't bear the idea of lingering.

I've always been a very happy person. I am a peacemaker. I seek to understand and honor others. I tend to see the best in people. I am more trusting than suspicious. I want to heal others and make them happy. Joy is part of my essential nature, a core foundation of my soul. Throughout my life, from the time I was a very small child, I've had a visceral opposition to negativity, but most particularly to feelings of sadness or despair. Over a year ago I wrote a blog post for the Litha Blog Hop called "Joy and Shadows" in which I discuss how difficult it has always been for me to process sadness.

But as you grow up, you do experience pain, and some of it can feel unbearable at times. My instinct is to power past it. To distract myself through the worst of it, and to move on as quickly as possible, most especially when I feel betrayed and shamed. My desire has always been to let the difficult memories fade with time until they become nought but occasional and brief recollections of another era.

So the Chariot, my aware-self, streams past the shadow-pain of the 10 of Swords, using its pure Will to force the grief undercover.
Tarot of Vampyres
Card 3 represents what prevents me from seeing or accepting my shadow, and I pulled Strength. At first look this might seem strange: how would embodying strength, compassion, or resilience keep me from dealing with pain? And on one hand there is something to be said for the consequences of my desire to smooth things over, to bend over backwards being compassionate to the people who have hurt me, trying to understand others to the point of undervaluing my own experience. There is something potent there. But there is also another side: the Chariot, my light, is about hard control - using force and determination to get what is desired. It is externally oriented, it's about what you (and others) can see. Strength is about soft control, and it's internally oriented. In Strength, the black panther symbolizes this woman's fierce inner power, fully integrated. What that means to me is that by avoiding pain, I'm avoiding the opportunity become fully integrated with my own divine power. And that has been a major element in my shadow work.

The 7 of Swords reversed speaks to why I should embrace my shadow - the positive aspects that my shadow might afford me. This says that confronting, sitting with, accepting, working with (instead of against) my shadow is the ultimate act of honesty with myself, of reclaiming my power. It allows me to see who and what I am, to realize that I'm truly capable of making the changes that I want to see, of embodying the fiery qualities that I know I possess in my soul.

Position 5 deals with how I might integrate the shadow into the light, and I pulled the 5 of Swords reversed:
Tarot of Vampyres
I often think of this as the "bully card." What I really like about the imagery here is that in its inverted position (which is how it appeared) the prostrate girl changes positions with the demon. Upright the demon hovers over the young lady like a dark cloud, but reversed, she returns to the light. Symbolically this shows a turning of tides, a reversal of the difficult qualities of this card where the victim becomes the victor. This card suggests letting bygones be bygones, however in order to do that I need to give myself time and space to review my past. If I don't become fully aware of what I'm avoiding, it will follow me like... a shadow!.... right on into the future. The time is here to let go: have I truly forgiven my trespassers? What does it mean to "forgive and forget?" Can I forgive without forgetting, and if so, how do I keep the memory of difficult situations in my psyche without being drawn back into that pain? What does true forgiveness even look like? What shame or embarrassment still lingers in the background and how is it impacting me? How can I break free?

If I succeed in my efforts to integrate my shadow with the light, I have both Judgement and the Sun waiting for me:
Tarot of Vampyres
The Sun bounced happily out from the deck, and was interesting for two reasons: 1) according to my birth cards, the Sun is my shadow, in which case this shows that I will have literally reclaimed it, and 2) the card itself shows the essence of light and dark intertwined into a harmonious union. I decided to make a mental note of the Sun's presence, and I put it back into the deck to complete shuffling. When I finally pulled all of the cards, I was again quite impressed to see Judgement in this position #6. This is the card that represented yesterday's topic of "What I can't accept about myself." So again, this drives home the immense, powerful, and touching energies that I'm working with, and that with effort I can indeed achieve this. I decided, for curiosity's sake, to see what card was hiding behind Judgement, and lo and behold, it was none other than the Sun.

I have a lot more to say, far more to consider, and over time I'll do just that. But for now, it's tea time.