Friday, July 31, 2015

In the Light of the Blue Moon

Once a year we experience two full moons within the scope of a single month, and that second moon is called the Blue Moon. Tonight is the Blue Moon in Aquarius, and some take advantage of this special lunar moment to set intentions for the period leading to the following year's Blue Moon. What I've decided to do is select three Blue Moon cards to highlight the most important influences over the next year's cycle:

1) Gifts illuminated by this next Blue Moon cycle: Magician
Stone Tarot/A. Stone
This card appeared reversed, symbolizing energy preparing to unfold, and internal essences waiting to be brought into consciousness. The Magician symbolizes a need to pull out my ability to manifest my desires, to embrace my Will and the force of my personal confidence. This is my soul card, so it carries special meaning for me. The Magician encourages me to confront my tendency to feel I must accommodate others (oftentimes in the process I end up getting in my own way). This brings to mind the relatively well-known Marianne Williamson quote:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

It's time to make things happen, and to recognize that I can accomplish quite a lot when I focus my energy, so it's a prime moment to fill out some of the ideas and goals I'm been pondering. No "playing small" - the Magician calls me to live into my own skin, and do, and be, always me.

2) Receding Influence: 4 of Swords 
3) Peaking Influence: 6 of Swords 
Stone Tarot/A. Stone
The 4 of Swords suggests that my Hermit time is coming to a close. It's time to gather what I've learned from my past six months of down time, and take it back out into the world, bring it to a new level. Those four swords repose over a cool blue plane while angry-looking black and red energies collide in battle in the background. It's certainly fair to say that I've been inwardly-focused of late, considering who I am, what is most important to me, what I want to do, and what path I need to take to get there. As this energy fades...

...the 6 of Swords symbolizes a time of forward movement. I've pulled this, along with the 8 of Cups a lot over the past several months. The swords are no longer at rest - they're upright, and their blue backdrop has become a raft taking them away from the turmoil and into a new phase of life and growth. The 6 of Swords represents my need to embrace a new paradigm, to look beyond "what is" to "what could be", and to begin ( or continue) that journey.

6 and 4 is 10 which equates to the Wheel of Fortune, my personality card. So again I have a special message that reminds me of the ever-moving cycles of life, bringing me onward and upward in unexpected, often mysterious, ways.

Happy Blue Moon!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Under the Sheltering Arm of Our Ancestors

Yesterday, as I waited for the coffee pot to finish percolating, I pulled two cards for my daily draw: one from the Oracle of Pharaohs (by Norman Plaskett) and one from the Stone Tarot.

The first was titled "Closeness." This card represents the ties of family, the celebration experienced when a special event occurs (such as a wedding, birth, or graduation). In an overarching sense it signifies the love and warmth of home and community.
Oracle of the Pharaohs/N. Plaskett
From the Stone Tarot I drew Strength (and I just love the gorgeous colors that seem to reach out from the card!). This card is my constant companion, often popping up in regards to questions that relate to spirituality and purpose. Strength is so many things, but in the simplest of terms Strength is about the spark of the divine within us, our ability to be compassionate, wise, loving, powerful and confident in who we are as individuals walking this earth.
Stone Tarot/A. Stone
On a mundane level these cards speak of the fact that my oldest daughter is coming back home tomorrow after having spent quite a bit of the summer in the north visiting with her grandparents. Every day my son says, "When is Isa coming home? She's been away TOO LONG!" His excitement and impatience is touching and adorable. Friday will be a very special day, and in a literal sense it will feel like the strengthening of our family unit now that we'll be complete again.

In another sense these cards bring to mind the deep importance of our ancestors, or egun. In my faith practice, ancestor reverence is fundamental - our ancestors are teachers and guides that are always accessible to us as we walk through life. Remembering them, inviting them to be present in our lives, honoring their memories, helps to give stability to the path beneath our feet. In the book Finding Soul on the Path of Orisa (2012), Tobe Correal writes:

When we learn to share our existence with a palpable and wise spiritual presence, our relationship with the egun becomes a sheltering arm that protects us when we are vulnerable, embraces us when we are lonely, and carries us when we are too weak to walk alone (pg. 53-54)

A couple of days ago I had the urge to make the typical cook-out food that my father's mother used to make when I was a small child. I experienced a brief whiff of Spicy Cheez-Its, her favorite snack food - she once said that years of chain-smoking had shot her taste-buds, but the heat in those crackers was just enough to come through. Perhaps it's time to make my grandmother's cook-out dinner for my own kids, and place some Spicy Cheez-Its out in her honor. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

What is Spirit? Who are the Gods?

I was longing to use my cards this evening after a long day at work. I needed some shuffle-time. Perhaps I was just looking for an excuse to work with my new Stone Tarot deck that, days after appearing on my doorstep, still holds my rapt attention.

Whatever it was, I didn't have a purpose, a question, in mind. So as I was shuffling I simply thought, "Who are the Gods and Goddesses [from across all cultures and religions]? Who are the Spirits that guide us?"

I pulled: Ace of Cups
Stone Tarot/Alison Stone
That sums it up. No interpretation really necessary, I suppose! What else is there to say? God is love, Goddesses are love, Spirit is love, it is love that guides us, always, forever, until the end of time.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Reason in the Face of a Storm

For my "week ahead" cards, I decided to use two brand new decks that have me entirely enamored: the Stone Tarot and the Prisma Visions Tarot. I didn't pick any particular positions in favor of simply sitting back and seeing how the two cards speak to me. They are:

Stone Tarot: Page of Swords
Prisma Visions Tarot: 5 of Wands
Stone Tarot / Prisma Visions Tarot
Sigh. Look how beautiful! This pair has a couple of significant meanings for me that already come to mind....

First of all, the Page looks a lot like me wondering what I'm going to write about for the next blog hop. It's been on my mind lately, as the next hop is scheduled for August 8th and I've just signed up to participate. I have a few ideas for topics, but nothing that's won the competition just yet.

The birds in the Page remind me of Huginn and Muninn, Odin's ravens (and it might actually be them, since Huginn means "thought" and Muninn means "mind" - very appropriate for this card!). That might be worth pondering to see what inspiration it offers. I may even do some studying to prepare for this one.....

Secondly, this card combination feels like a voice of reason in the face of a storm. Or just getting to the core of a complex situation, aka "What does this all mean?" I have a team meeting coming up within the next week which should be interesting as one member is leaving and another is experiencing a position shift that will have some impact on organizational structure. I expect there to be lots of discussion and many voices in the mix as we navigate our way forward.

The strong presence of air (Swords) and fire (Wands) tells me that I'm in for an active week, but I'm good with that. I'm feeling ready to see what action comes my way, and what action flows from within!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

9 of Swords: In the Dark of Night

I was sifting through cards from the Tarot De St. Croix the other morning, enjoying the rich colors and the interesting combinations of depictions Lisa De St. Croix features in her paintings: Native American, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist influences along with contemporary images such as a treasure troll, or women playing a board game while sipping tea. I've used this deck many times, but there are always little details to be discovered, even in well-loved and long-utilized decks.  I had such a moment when I came across the 9 of Swords.
Tarot De St. Croix - Lisa De St. Croix
At first glance it appears to be a rather traditional representation of the card energy, with a woman in bed in the dark of night, with nine swords stacked above her. On closer inspection it becomes clear that Lisa De St. Croix has done something extremely clever...

It appears that there is another stack of swords on the adjacent wall. But then it also looks like Venetian blinds over a window. And as I started to focus on the blinds, they became quite obviously blinds, as opposed to swords, almost like an optical illusion.... and then I realized that the swords on the wall over the woman were in fact reflections of the moonlight through the window shade, and due to the gaps in the blinds, the reflection takes on the appearance of swords. That is very interesting in and of itself. But then I realized that the nine swords on the wall combined with the nine created from the gaps in the blinds equals 18, which correlates to the Moon in the Major Arcana. The 9 of Swords speaks of fears, anxieties, and even at times of depression, which has a great partner in the Moon. In this image the woman's fears have been blown far out of proportion due to the lunar reflection on her window covering (it has literally doubled the swords in her room!). She can't sleep, or tear her eyes away from her worries, but the butterfly on her blanket reassures her that as the dawn breaks, her anxieties will ease.

Of course these new-to-me symbolic discoveries were all part of Lisa's brilliant plan, and having just realized the eloquence in her painting, I'm left feeling...quite....happy! (ironic, isn't it??)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Deck Review (and a reading): The Stone Tarot

I recently acquired the Stone Tarot, and I am so pleased! I'd been admiring the images for a few months, and finally decided to take the plunge. This deck was self-published in 2000 by Alison Stone, a writer, poet, and psychotherapist who lives and works in New York. The Stone Tarot is a series of 78 oil paintings that she created over a period of many years. She has used bright, rich colors and visible influences derive most noticeably from Rider-Waite-Smith, with touches from Marseilles and Thoth.

Deck Basics

Card count: 78
Card backs: Star/moon design, non-reversible
Card stock: Sturdy, matte, easy to shuffle
Majors: Traditional titles (Hanged One, Universe) Justice XI, Strength VIII
Minors: Illustrative pips
Courts: King, Queen, Knight/Amazon, Page
Suits: Wands, Swords, Pentacles, Cups
Stone Tarot by Alison Stone
The card backs are technically not reversible, however as you can see, they are painted in rich blues and purples in a star and moon design. Due to the texture, reversed cards would be noticeable, but would not stand out significantly. I love this color scheme, and in fact Alison Stone's use of color throughout the entire deck is breathtaking.

The Majors are traditional, with the Hanged Man appearing as the "Hanged One," and the World appearing as the alternate "Universe." The silver crescent moons in the High Priestess card seem to glow over the purple and blue backdrop, and the reddish staff held by the Hermit took on an almost 3-D effect as I was examining it, which was very cool. This is the result of the color and textural combinations that Stone has employed.
Stone Tarot - A. Stone
This is perhaps one of my favorite Tower depictions ever. A jagged lightning bolt descending from the sun pierces the tower and sets it alight with fire as two figures fall towards the earth. The image is very traditional, but the rich hues, and the combination of primary colors softened by the white plumes of smoke and orange glow of the flames, are captivating.
Stone Tarot - A. Stone
The Hanged One shines brightly in front of what appears to be a deep, blue cave. The light surrounding his head brings to mind the enlightenment possible through sacrifice. Justice glows in bright red, off-set by green detailing, her scales balanced, and sword upright and ready for action.
Stone Tarot - A. Stone
The Minor Arcana do not feature full scenes with people, but they are not truly "pips." Alison Stone has done a wonderful job of highlighting the core energy of each card via the positioning of the suit elements and the use of color and texture (as goes with the theme!). You can see that here in the 6 of Wands, where all are aligned and upright, basking in the glow of the sun, or in the 5 of Wands where strife is cleverly conveyed over an orange background.
Stone Tarot - A. Stone
I particularly love the Court cards in the Stone Tarot. Here, the Knight of Wands rides forth with purpose and smoldering energy, under a lion-faced sun. The Queen of Wands is lit by fiery heat, but the blue background reminds us that she is "water of fire."
Stone Tarot - A. Stone
In the suit of Cups here are two examples of the unpeopled-yet-clear card meanings. The 5 of Cups obviously draws from the RWS system, conveying the sense of loss in the 3 spilt cups, while the two remaining cups stand in the shadow - healing that is available yet at the moment forgotten. The 2 of Cups draws on the joy of the sun, and the unity between the two forces - one gold cup, one silver - is shown in the water leaping from one into the other.
Stone Tarot - A. Stone
In the Stone Tarot, Alison Stone has added some gender-balance by having Knights in two suits (Wands and Swords) and Amazons in the remaining two (Cups and Pentacles). Both Knights and Amazons are portrayed astride horses per the traditional depictions, and they carry traditional meanings despite the slight variation. While the background in these cards carries the same color scheme (blues, greens, purples), the use of texture sets a rich scene that looks rather like the Louisiana bayou.
Stone Tarot - A. Stone
From the suit of Swords, it's clear that even without human figures, no meaning is lost or muddied. The 10 of Swords shows ten swords protruding from a stone that appears to bleed into the surrounding water. In the 3 of Swords we see a very traditional and jarring image of three swords piercing a realistic-looking heart. In the background the sky is stormy grey, with a bloody rain falling.
Stone Tarot - A. Stone
The Knight and Page of Swords show every evidence of their suit, as they're surrounded in pale clouds, each bearing an upturned blade. The Knight rides a swift pegasus while the Page card features a flying hawk.
Stone Tarot - A. Stone
The 7 of Pentacles is exquisitely painted, with green leaves, and bright flowers in red, blue and purple, with golden pentacles in their centers. The connection to the RWS farmer reviewing his harvest can be seen here. In the 5 of Pentacles, five coins are stacked in a dreary-looking room that looks rather like a prison. The red-streaked wall calls forth feelings of discomfort, which is appropriate for this card!
Stone Tarot - A. Stone
I think the Court cards from the suit of Pentacles are my favorite. You'll notice that all of the people in this deck look rather serious, however I don't see this as "dour," rather it reminds me of medieval portraits or religions icons, which I like. I adore the deep greens and purples here. I love the bright red flowers hanging in the Queen's tree, and the lush fields of violets in both cards.
Stone Tarot - A. Stone
I am very pleased to have this deck in my collection, not least because it's self-published rather than being mass-produced. The card stock feels....self-published! I don't know how else to describe it. It's sturdy and high-quality, but the cards have a certain matte-feel that is unlike typical mass-produced decks, and adds an extra layer of uniqueness to the deck.

If you like what you see, you can purchase this deck directly from the artist (click here for her website) or through Goddess Ink for an extremely reasonable price. Alison Stone also offers a book of Tarot poetry for those interested.

A Reading with the Stone Tarot

Now, a review wouldn't be complete without at least a short reading! I decided to pull a card asking "What will help me get through the next week?" I'm balancing two intensive classes, double lectures (which means teaching non-stop from 9am-5pm), and to top it off I'm feeling a bit under the weather!

As I was shuffling I was thinking: "It'll probably tell me that 'it's all in how you look at things'." And then I flipped over the Hanged One. Sigh. Gotta love it!

My Uncle Joe always said, "Attitude is everything." And he was right: attitude is quite a powerful thing. For some reason, seeing this card reminded me of the laughing therapy of the curanderos: laughing releases endorphins which make you feel good, heal faster, and overall make you more resilient. You just...start laughing...deep belly laughs, at first manufactured but eventually they become sincere because, you know, it's kinda funny listening to yourself laugh heartily!

So the key to changing my outlook about work is to find the humor in my situation - or just in general to be open to laughing a bit, and see how it lightens my load.

For curiosity's sake, I decided to ask the cards: "How would you describe the impact of laughter therapy?" I pulled the King of Cups!
Stone Tarot - A. Stone
Healing force (the counselor), emotional balance and health, reclaiming power. Hm, yeah. And this king is the court that most often represents me, so I'll take it as a doubly positive sign that laughter is indeed my best medicine this week. (Fortunately I have a really good sense of humor!)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Talk It Out

This morning my husband mentioned to me that I've been very pensive and quiet lately. He wondered what I have brewing in my mind, and I realized that he's right, I have been very "internal" over the past week or so. As I was considering that, I went to the kitchen to start the coffee and pull a card from my Halloween Oracle.

I drew: Skull of Darkness - Blind Spots
Halloween Oracle
S. Demarco
This card speaks of the ways in which we run in patterns and often don't realize, or aren't conscious of, those cycles. At times we need to talk things out with other people (a friend, partner, or even therapist) in order to allow them the opportunity to reflect back to us our own processes so that we can hear objective insight. I thought back to my husband's comment, and I thought - yes! Being quiet is what I do when I worry. I worry in silence and rarely speak my concerns or ideas aloud. So when he came out to sit at the table, I sat down next to him and started talking. And as I spoke, he listened, and the low-level anxiety I'd been carrying with me began to diffuse. Sometimes just expressing our thoughts is all we need to lighten our burden. And sometimes hearing another perspective on a situation helps us to see a light where before we only saw darkness. My blindspot is my tendency to hold things inside rather than let them out. I do it without really thinking about it, like an old habit. It's like when you drive to the grocery store and once you park in the lot you realize you weren't even really paying attention to the turns you were making on your way there. Your body was in auto-pilot while your mind was wandering. But to break those patterns it takes attention and awareness and a lot of time.

I know it's better to talk, but I still sometimes fall into those old routines without thinking about it. Learning to do things differently takes some flexibility as well as consistent dedication to carving a new path (and sometimes a loving - or cartomantic - push in the right direction)!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Facing the Devil: Don't Walk Away

Lately I've been working through my feelings on a personal project that has been a major part of my life for quite a while. Sometimes I feel very happy with and fulfilled by what I'm doing, and other times I feel really disillusioned and frustrated, and wonder if I should let it go altogether. Last night I decided to pull some cards about it, asking, "What course should I be taking in terms of this situation?"

The first two cards were:

Action to Take: 6 of Swords reversed 
Action to Avoid: 8 of cups 
Morgan Greer Tarot
The message was exceedingly clear - so much so that I laughed a bit when I saw the cards. In the simplest of terms, they were telling me not to walk away from my work.

The third card I pulled was:

Advice to Ponder: 7 of Swords

This card is often seen as indicative of deception, sometimes of being clever or strategic. What this card was shouting at me was: How am I my own worst enemy? What lies do I tell myself? How do I get in my own way, and how is this preventing me from being the best that I can be in terms of my work?
Morgan Greer Tarot
The Devil was the card at the bottom of the deck, which I always look to in order to better understand the underlying energies in a reading.  The Devil supports the 7 of Swords, and addresses the issue of giving my personal power away to worry, self-doubt, negative self-talk, impatience, etc. These cards came as a great relief to me because I know that they're true, and they give me some important areas to consider and work on. It's not my work that needs to be abandoned - it's my relationship to my work, and to myself, that needs to be healed.

Seeing this Devil brought to mind just how much my opinion has changed regarding the depiction in this particular deck. I used to hate the Devil card in the Morgan Greer because it looks just so evil. I saw the Devil's true nature as something like Pan or Cernunnos: wild, untamed energy, passion, instinct, power that long ago was misrepresented by the Catholic church toward its own ends of converting the masses. But in Tarot we do tend to see this card as an imbalance of power, or a negative manifestation of our primal force. The truth is, the Tarot Devil is not Cernunnos or Pan at all. The Catholic church demonized those good pagan deities and created something to be feared and avoided. That in itself is vice in action, manipulation or perversion of something holy for ultimately ill purposes. And that is what the Devil is all about. When I see this depiction now, I find it very fitting; it's just as scary and unpleasant-looking as the energy it's meant to represent: the misuse of our power. When you convince yourself that you'll never be good enough (for example) you're abusing and mistreating yourself, you are buying into an illusion that reinforces your own perceived limitations and restrains your sense of agency and power. This is what the Church did with Pan et al: created a frightening pseudo-archetype of a wild and cruel beast so that people would flock to the churches in fear. It worked pretty well. It takes a lot of bravery and trust and courage to vanquish our "demons" and restore our primal force. And if we won't, or can't do it, or if we drag our feet too long, there's always the Tower.... ;-)

My cards encourage me not to walk away from my work, but to look the Devil squarely in the eyes, and dive right into my shadow. There I can recover the power that I'm undermining, restore my truth, and embrace my Will as it manifests through the work I've been doing.

That should keep me busy for a while!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

When Spirit Moves in Children

On this sunny Sunday morning I want to very briefly illustrate in pictures the beauty of spirit moving in children. There is nothing more touching than seeing how kids experience spirituality and religion, from their own perspective. Yesterday two things happened that really moved me. In the morning, I was sitting in the living room when my young son, Gabriel, came and said that he wanted to give his silver toy car to his Elegua. I told him that I thought it was a lovely idea, and I helped him balance it on his shelf.
Later in the evening my 8 year old daughter was working on crafts at the kitchen table. We've been working on rearranging her room, and part of that process has prompted her to organize her copious art supplies. When I walked into her room after her craft session, I realized that she had created her own little altar to her guardian orisha by placing a circle of shells around an image of Yemaya that she had cut out of a larger piece of paper.

These are seemingly "little" actions that in reality are hugely significant. They are the pure impulse of children to connect in a physical way with spirituality, an early, innocent, beautiful demonstration of spiritual practice. I have nothing else to say but: aché!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Wine On a Saturday Evening: An Oracle Review

I've been reading the House of Night book series (by P.C. and Kristin Cast) over the past month or so. I originally bought the first four books for my teenage daughter for Christmas last year, thinking that if she got into them and really enjoyed them, I'd get her the Wisdom of the House of Night oracle deck (by P.C. Cast and Colette Baron-Reed), which seemed like a pretty cool way to expand on a story. In the end she never read the books, but I decided to read the first one this summer for vacation entertainment, and was hooked enough to keep right on reading. Now I've got the final few books on hold at the library, and in the meantime I picked up the oracle deck from a local bookstore. I like it quite a bit!
The illustrations are digital, but they remind me of art from the Halloween Oracle which is one of my favorites. I don't feel like I'm looking at a computerized image, and the use of color is very inviting. This deck has 50 glossy cards and covers all the expected and necessary elements of life, such as love, discovery, mystery, healing, education, success, hope, and change. The card stock is durable yet flexible, and I think my only real surprise was that the card edges are not rounded. In fact I've poked myself a few times while shuffling! I can't figure out why a publisher would produce a deck of cards without rounded edges, unless it was to cut corners (pun sort of intended!) on cost. But in the end it's not a major bother.
The guidebook is a nice size at 127 pages, and discusses the intention for the deck, spread options, and sample readings in addition to a full list of card meanings. Of course the writing style is done in such a way that it reflects the book series' theme, so each card description sounds like the goddess Nyx (a loving, compassionate moon goddess from the series, based on the Greek night goddess of the same name) is bestowing her wisdom personally unto the reader. The tone of the writing can be slightly annoying since of course this series is aimed at teens and young adults (roughly the same audience that Twilight was meant to appeal to). But the meanings are clear and the substance of the deck itself is vibrant and applicable to all. While the cards are a great way to connect with the series, they're a good, all-around oracle and reading the books is not a prerequisite to working with them.
One card that I particularly like is called "Fragment," which shows a spirit hovering in a shadowed meadow full of flowers. The sun reflects slightly against the highest tree branches but doesn't quite reach down far enough to illuminate the grove. It highlights the experience of being torn in so many different directions that one no longer feels whole. It also covers the concept of the shattered soul, where grief cuts so deeply into a person's psyche that they experience long-lasting effects of loss that impact many areas of life over a long period of time. That is really interesting, and has the potential to be very eye-opening. It's not a topic I've seen explicitly covered in a deck before, which is why it intrigues me so much!
This morning I decided to pull a daily card from this deck, and chose "Fulfillment." The image shows a pomegranate full of luscious seeds, and a glass of red wine. As one might expect, it's about enjoying life and experiencing satisfaction with one's achievements. It was a perfect card for today, for a couple of reasons: on one hand we've been working on reorganizing the bedroom that our two littlest ones share, and made a trip to Ikea to find some finishing details which they had fun putting together; and two, yesterday we picked up a bottle of red wine at the grocery store, which is something we rarely do, and I'm prepared to thoroughly enjoy a rich glass of it as soon as I finish typing this post! A lasagna is in the oven, a gentle rain is falling outside. Yes, I'd say I'm feeling pretty fulfilled this evening.....!

Friday, July 17, 2015

In The Empress's Earthy Embrace

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that during my vacation I became very aware of something that has always been true: that I feel calm, at ease, nourished and filled by nature and my connection to the earth.

When I was a child I spent countless hours alone in the forest picking wild raspberries, listening to the wind rustle the maple and oaks leaves, building living huts (where saplings are used for a shelter, but are not cut down). I saw deer, squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits, and I'll never forget once when a red fox sprinted past me - they are elusive and beautiful creatures. I still have a red hawk feather that I found while picking through the underbrush in a wild wood. I would spend time along the river where I would see raccoon prints in the sandy shore. I would dream of having the opportunity to live there full-time.
Wildwood Tarot - W. Worthington
It's funny how growing up and becoming more deeply enmeshed in society can make those voyages into the wild somewhat more challenging. Not that they cease, just that our modern society as a whole has been structured in such a way that cities have become "cement jungles" where access to raw nature is limited, at best. You must be very intentional about being out in the natural environment...or else live in the countryside!

For years I worked in the center of a city doing neighborhood organizing in underserved communities. Even now, as a teacher, I live in an urban, high-technology environment and am constantly exasperated by the quantity of cars I must navigate through each day, the hurried drivers, and the almost-daily accidents that dot the city. My back yard provides a measure of relief. I have sage, rosemary, lavender, lemon balm, and sweet mint growing in my little garden. We have a maple tree and a towering palm, and an abundance of flowering bushes such as gardenia and hibiscus. Butterflies and lizards abound, as well as the occasional snake and mole. Each morning during the summer I watch the dawn sunlight filter through the vines at the border of our property, which always reminds me of a magical door opening. In early winter I sit outside in front of the fire pit with a hot cup of coffee and welcome in the new year.
Vision Quest Tarot
However there were so many moments during our recent cross-country drive, particularly in Tennessee and Kentucky, where we passed stretches of deep forest - the kind of nature that I'm used to (as opposed to the central Florida climate which is fairly different!), that I grew up with, that always calls to me on a visceral level. My soul always wants to rush out of the car window and roam through those woods and rolling hills. In the far north of Michigan where we have a family-owned cabin house I realized just how much I value that land as a place of retreat. There are wild grasses and wildflowers, red pines and white oaks, ice cold rivers and lakes, deer and elk. And it's all at my fingertips when I'm there. Raw, wild, untouched nature is waiting for me when I simply step over the threshold of the back door.
Navigators Tarot of the Mystic SEA
Over the past month or more I've been drawing the Empress quite a lot, and I sense her energy nourishing and nurturing me, enveloping me in a comforting, earthy embrace. Being aware of how important nature is to my well-being (all humans' well-being, to be sincere) has allowed me to be more intentional about the way in which I manage my feelings, including stress. Sitting outside and inhaling the breeze, observing the movements of animals and insects, or noticing the growth of our two backyard pineapples becomes a way to channel out dis-ease, and invite in healing and sensuality. I may not always have ready access to the raw wild, but the Empress is all around us, even here in the city. She is present under our feet, and her energy is accessible through the tiles and cement and floorboards that support the structures in which we live. When I feel most oppressed, I simply close my eyes and feel roots sprouting from my feet and reaching down deep into the ground. The Empress, the Goddess, Mother Earth, provides nature-energy like food that sustains me.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bast and the 8 of Cups

I normally keep pretty close track of the moon cycles, but the past month has been pretty busy between vacation, driving across the country, and getting back up to speed at work. Yesterday I kept feeling antsy each time I would walk past my bóveda (altar), antsy with the drive to give it a thorough cleaning. I normally do this kind of thing perhaps once a month, and usually on a Friday. But I finally couldn't take it any more, and decided to make it happen on a Wednesday night. I dusted, changed the cloths, rearranged things, lit some candles, burned some herbs. When all was said and done I leaned back on my bed and decided to have a look at my moon cycle app - lo and behold, it was the night of the New Moon! And then it all made sense: the New Moon is a time of releasing the old, and embracing the new - even in mundane ways. I was feeling the lunar nudge to clean my space up, and it was too keen a call to resist.

It was also time to pull a card for the week ahead, so I decided to combine my weekly draw with a New Moon draw. Again, I've used the Morgan Greer deck in combination with the Goddess Knowledge cards, and pulled:
8 of Cups - Bast

It's interesting that the 8 of Cups has come up....yet again! This is turning into one of my cards of the season, and is entirely appropriate considering all of the inner and outer fluctuations that have been occurring over the past several months. It's a welcome card, because it speaks of going on a soul journey, of a willingness to release the hold on "what is" in order to open up to "what could be."

Bast, also called Bastet, is an Egyptian goddess with quite a long history. While she originally was associated with the sun, later Greek influence aligned her energies to some degree with Artemis, so she also came to develop a connection with the moon. No matter what, she is the cat- or lion-faced goddess of strength and wisdom, of independence and fertility, of protection and joy. All of these qualities seem deeply appropriate for a soul journey. In fact I love how in the relationship between the cards, we see the red-hooded figure walking off toward the mountains, while Bast stands like a sentinel of the night, calling the walker forth, keeping watch over the unfolding voyage.

The card duo invites me to ponder the joy possible in being brave enough to follow my own path, to be uniquely "me," and to take the road less traveled.

Questions to consider:

What satisfies you? 
What do you, or could you, do to embrace authenticity in your life? 
How do you know when it's time to break a routine and explore something new?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Creativity and Wisdom

Today I am officially back from vacation. I had two weeks full of travel and spending time with family and old friends. My two littlest children are back with us at home, and our oldest will come back in a few weeks. All I really need today is a cup of good coffee and a quite place to relax....

Yesterday evening, about a mile past the Florida-Georgia line, and 3 hours from home, I drew two cards for the week ahead (being very careful that they wouldn't fly out the window).

The 3 of Pentacles fell from the deck (hey, I just pulled this card last week!). It's perfectly fitting as today I headed back to work! And in reality, the rest of July in terms of my job will be pretty packed, but as I've been on vacation for nearly two weeks, there are a lot of details I need to iron out in regard to my schedule and overall workload. I will be relying on others to help make things flow as smoothly as possible, so I expect a lot of discussions and arrangements to be organized over the next week. Fortunately I received some positive news this morning about a course I'm teaching which will lighten my responsibilities, and it wouldn't be possible without a little help from my friends. So that's all well and good.
Morgan Greer Tarot; Goddess Knowledge Cards
As a follow-up I decided to draw a card from my new Goddess Knowledge deck with art by Susan Seddon-Boulet. The backstory is that my mother bought me a shaman poster by this wonderful artist when I was 12 or 13 years old, and it hung on my door for ages, until the corners were entirely ripped to pieces from the thumb tacks holding it up. I always thought it was my spirit guide - I adored that image! While I was in the north last week, I was in a shop and saw this deck and immediately purchased it. It's not meant to be used for divination, per se - rather its main purpose is to display and teach about many different goddesses across a variety of world cultures. However I've found that it's wonderful for meditation and guidance, and have been using it quite a lot lately!

I drew: Athena.

Athena is the goddess of wisdom and war, and battles are won with clear thinking and good strategy. These are elements that will be important for me this week as I jump back into the work circus. I don't want to feel overwhelmed, and Athena's creative depths, her rational mind, her confidence and skill will help me to navigate my path ahead. One other aspect of this card speaks to me not so much from Athena herself, but from this rather unusual depiction of the goddess. Here she appears rather child-like, surrounded by delicate phases of the moon, and framed by a serpent. She looks to be clothed in autumn leaves. What strikes me most powerfully about this image is the connection to nature. One of the things that I was very aware of over the past couple of vacation weeks is just how much nature calms and nourishes me. So in another sense, I hear Athena telling me to draw on nature's healing and revitalizing energy any time that I might start to feel stressed - to sit outside, to go for a walk, to watch the stars in the night sky.

I like that there is a creative element to both of these cards. We often think of creativity in terms of forming something new and original, but sometimes it's not about being unique in the product we create, rather in the way we approach our work. Success through creative strategizing will be my motto for the week ahead!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

3 of Pentacles: Bringing It All Together

I've been on a vacation of sorts for the past week. It started with a road trip through the southeast; first the endless highway pecan signs through southern Georgia, then into the rolling, verdant hills at the Tennessee border. Kentucky's wide open curvaceousness gave way to the flat farmland of Indiana. Eventually the landscape transitioned into the countryside of Michigan, replete with deep pine greens shot through with birch-white.

I drove straight into the arms of my children and extended family. Overall it's been a great visit, and I've had the opportunity to see many old friends, and bask in the glory of a crisp, almost Fall-like, northern summer. I haven't had a lot of time to pull daily cards, but I'm in a momentary lull (in part due to having picked up a light cold, unfortunately!) and so I made some time to pull a card from the Navigators Tarot of the Mystic SEA this afternoon:
Navigators Tarot of the Mystic SEA
J. Turk
It's not lost on me that the image on this 3 of Pentacles is so particularly fitting. Blogging is a regular practice for me - part of important work that I do, and a way in which I connect with community.  It's been thrown a bit off-course for me since embarking on my voyage, and I'm finally carving out a special place for it in the midst of all the movement going on around me. So the depiction of a person typing away at the computer is a perfect reflection of what I'm doing right at this moment!

The 3 of Pentacles also calls forth the idea of working with a team to produce results. It's interesting how that manifests on vacation time with the extended family! Everyone has particular needs, varying expectations, and a multitude of different ideas about how to execute mutual plans. Communication isn't always crystal clear, and flexibility is essential, but somehow things just seem to come together in the end!

How well do you work with others?
What practices create the foundation of your day?
In what ways do you embrace flexibility in the context of group projects?