Friday, August 28, 2015

The Hermit and the Gift of Transformation

It's been a long week, no doubt. Last week I pulled "Fulfillment" as part of my "week ahead" draw and while in the end I am not with my padrino celebrating tonight as I had planned, I am sitting here with my kids, enjoying a Corona with lime, having just filled my belly with a satisfying dinner prepared by my eldest child (recipe from a Harry Potter cookbook, no less!). My son is making funny faces and enjoying the laughter of his sisters. There is satisfaction here, to be sure.

This evening, for my current "week ahead" reading, I pulled three cards from my new Celtic Lenormand (Chloë, if you're reading this, I finally have your deck, and I am thoroughly pleased with it!), and a single card from the Stone Tarot.

First I want to discuss the line of three: Shedding Snake - Fox - Flowers
Celtic Lenormand/C. McCracken, W. Worthington
The first understanding that caught my attention was the two Queens (Clubs and Spades) united by the Fox, suggesting "wrongness" or incongruities between two women. Without going into a lot of detail, I will say that this is certainly accurate, and something I'm sure to be wading through in the coming week!

Another detail that drew me in is that this snake is the Shedding Snake, as opposed to the Fierce Snake in the Celtic Lenormand deck. Chloë McCracken has included two versions of the snake card here; the Shedding Snake is somewhat non-traditional and represents the elements of transformation and renewal, while the more traditional Fierce Snake symbolizes complications and falseness. Since I value the sacred and holy aspects of the snake, I enjoy having both here, and have included both in my working deck (there are many other "extra" cards to choose from that I have left out). So then I also see in this line a message that speaks of the elusive (Fox) twists and turns (Snake) inherent in the gift (Flowers) of transformation (Snake). Who said change is easy? Transitioning from one phase into another is often fraught with some amount of complication and uncertainty, and missteps are part of the terrain. This is the nature of the beast; it does not detract from the gift of growth and opportunity, rather it is a necessary and valuable element (after all, aren't mistakes - even the slightest ones - the best teachers?). I have been busy, busy, busy with new (and very complicated, at times) responsibilities of late, and while I'm holding my own pretty well, the road has not been particularly smooth or worry-free. Yet I recognize that this opportunity is a special gift, and in honor of that I am dedicating myself diligently to doing the best that I am able. So there is a certain beauty in that.

From the Stone Tarot I pulled: the Hermit.
Stone Tarot/A. Stone
The Hermit seems like a fitting complement to both interpretations of the Lenormand line above. The Hermit uses discernment and knowledge gathered over the course of time to help understand, analyze, and process new information. The Hermit thrives in solitude, finding that the greatest productivity comes from time spent alone rather than in groups. In many of the new activities I've been up to I am both learning from others (also an aspect of the Hermit) and operating very much on my own. On the road of transformation, the Hermit is a sacred ally, encouraging self-reflection and introspection in order to tap into that very discernment that is part of his blessing. If I don't know what lies ahead, or whose guidance to follow, I must remember to trust in the light of my own lantern that provides a measure of illumination even in the darkest night.....

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Earthy Power of the Empress

This morning I drew the Empress from my Stone Tarot deck. I absolutely love the rich, vibrant colors, and the slight imperfections in the proportions which give so many of the cards in this deck an earthy, rustic, handcrafted quality that attracts me so much. My favorite detail is the way in which the stars around her head appear to radiate light.

I've pulled the Empress many times over the past few months, and I like being in her company. There are many facets to her energy, and the theme of "motherhood" often comes to mind. Mother of children, of crafts, of ideas and special projects, mother of earth's rich bounty.
Stone Tarot/A. Stone
Incidentally, about five minutes after pulling this card, my son came to me complaining of an "ouchie" on his leg, so we went together to my herb shelf and I smoothed some homemade calendula salve onto his skin. The connection to the Empress was not lost on me, and in fact I was just considering this perhaps a week ago: the joy and satisfaction of being able to care for my family through the aid of the natural realm. One day not long ago I found myself soothing small wounds, and making herbal teas to help treat an upper respiratory infection that had afflicted a couple of the people in my home. As I moved from kitchen to herb cupboard, from person to person, I was filled with a certain empowerment that comes from being able to do something productive when one you love is not well. This is rich with Empress energy.
My herb shelf: salve, lemon balm, elder flowers (O. Destrades)
There is another quality of the Empress that is less spoken of: she is a leader. Of course, her very name denotes a woman of power but in Tarot we tend to think of the Emperor as in control of order - the great architect that provides structure to our lives. The Empress is a ruler, too, however. While she does, to some extent, consider form and structure (just as the Emperor does have a heart for humanity), her primary strength lies in her people-centered approach: wisdom, kindness, strength, caring and advocating for others in the context of larger organizations.

I have indeed found myself doing quite a bit of advocating in the past week, working diligently to make sure that the voices of my colleagues were heard by those in 'high places.' I was pleasantly rewarded with the satisfaction of finding a way to bridge the expectations of management with the needs of the faculty, a sensation very similar to the one I experience when applying carefully crafted salves to my children's cuts and scrapes.

As I type this post, a lamb and barley stew is simmering away on the stove, filling the house with a savory aroma. Every few moments I pause to mediate a sibling dispute, and as soon as I finish typing I'll be heading out to the backyard to weed my garden, full of rosemary, sage, mint, lavender, and lemon balm. The Empress, in these ways, lives within and through me. That, alone, is a comforting meditation.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Finding Fulfillment with 7 of Cups

Last night I pulled two cards for the week ahead, using the Prisma Visions Tarot and the Wisdom from the House of Night oracle. Before discussing what popped up, I feel the need to reflect for a moment on last week's post, Channeling Fire. I'd pulled very "hot" cards, and was prepared for a wild week ahead. In reality, my week was probably even more hectic that I could have anticipated, and there were several times where I definitely felt like I was on the back of a runaway horse. To be honest, I still feel a bit like that! I had thought to use the High Priestess of Fire as a focal point to avoid burnout, and I'm not entirely sure if I managed to do that successfully, though I did think of her often. I did feel close to burnout somewhere around mid-week, and then, almost miraculously, I just started laughing. The kind of laughing which you come to realize is just a way of expressing out-of-control stress in a fairly healthy way! I just stopped caring so much about where my wild pony was going, and I carved out a fraction of space not rudely invaded by my overwhelming work responsibilities. It was a good thing.
Two days ago I decided to pull a card from the Tarot de St. Croix to gauge my own progress and I pulled the 2 of Pentacles. Yes, I thought, this is about right. Harmonic fluctuation. Well, "harmonic" might be pushing it. I mostly just felt like I was treading water, however I did manage not to drown, and I'm certainly pleased about that!

So today I drew the 7 of Cups along with Fulfillment:
Prisma Visions Tarot
It's an interesting combination because the 7 of Cups is certainly not a card that I'd say brings to mind satisfaction and pleasure, per se. This is a card often understood to represent fantasy, illusion, dreams, and the act of pondering one's many options.
Wisdom from the House of Night Oracle
Meanwhile Fulfillment is about enjoying the fruits of success and accomplishment, relaxing, reveling in material comfort. What is particularly noticeable to me is that in the 7 of Cups we can see many chalices enveloped by fog or wind. Only one is actually holding something - from the central chalice rises a rather large-looking serpent. Thinking in Lenormand-style, the snake often signifies complications (among other things). And it's fair to say that I will certainly have a lot on my plate, and will be wondering what to do first, all the while attempting not to let the haze carry me away. But these chalices are mirrored in the cup of wine on the Fulfillment card.

What does that mean to me?

It means that I will certainly be weaving my way through a complicated web of duties and emails and students and conflicting interests, and will very likely find it challenging at times to know what to check off my list first. But if I can look the snake in the eyes and focus, I'll have the opportunity to enjoy the satisfaction that comes from a difficult job well-done. (And truth be told, if I can make it to the end of the week, I'll be attending a special event for my padrino which will certainly be a wonderful way to kick back and relax!).

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Creating the Princess of Pentacles

It's Sunday, and I was feeling a bit crafty. For the upcoming Mabon Blog Hop in September the task is to create a Tarot card that reminds us most of that autumn festival. I did so last night, and I'll share more about it when the autumnal equinox rolls around! However it was fun dabbling in a medium that I don't normally work with, and I decided to keep experimenting with it. So I used my eldest daughter's image in this rendition of the Princess of Pentacles:
Princess of Pentacles/O. Destrades
Isabella considers this Page/Princess to be her significator in the Tarot, and for good reason: she is probably the earthiest kid I know with her Sun, Moon and Ascendant representing all three earth signs in the zodiac! So for my Triple Earth child I've created this card that looks something like how I'd imagine a wood sprite. Vibrant earth-energy radiates around her while a golden pentacle-orb floats in the air in front of her. I love the expression on her face, the knowing smile. She understands the beauty and raw possibility of this suit, and offers it up to the world!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Rebirth with Arianrhod

I felt "off" last night. I mean, I am getting over a nasty cold so feeling a bit strange would be understandable. But this felt having one toe on the Other Side, the sense that the strong grip that I tend to have on my consciousness was slightly loosened. As I was pondering all of this, I suddenly thought: It must be the New Moon. I whipped out my phone and pulled up my moon phase app, and sure enough, it was the New Moon.

Now, the truth is that I have no idea if the New Moon impacts the "clairs." It's not accurate to say that I always feel more in touch with spirits on these nights. Or at least, I don't tend to notice it. But *something* was afoot last night. I'll simply embrace the mystery.

However having realized that it was indeed the New Moon I decided to pull cards for it, in the typical What to Release/What to Embrace layout. Instead of using Tarot, I chose cards from the Goddess Knowledge Cards deck by Susan Seddon Boulet:

What to Release: Kuan Yin
Kuan Yin, compassionate mother, full of loving radiance, sits enveloped in heavy fabrics. In the darkness her pale face shines like the moon, and a lotus flower blooms over her heart. She is calm, patient, and nurturing. When I see this card I am reminded somewhat of the 4 of Swords, or the Hermit. There is a sense of taking time away from the world to breath, to think, to consider. The lotus over the heart chakra speaks of "sitting with" one's true desires. Of coming to explore and acknowledge our ability to be compassionate both with others and with the Self. And perhaps most importantly of determining our boundaries both in relationships and in terms of the wider world that we interact with. Many of these things have been true for me of late - I've been doing a lot of thoughtful considering, to be sure. I've also been identifying areas of my life where I've become too comfortable, and what needs to be changed. So the next card I pulled was quite fitting:

What to Embrace: Arianrhod
Arianrhod as a goddess and deity has a complex history, but she's known as "the Goddess of the Silver Wheel" and is deeply connected to cycles of life, growth, change, and rebirth. It's interesting to note that on Kuan Yin's card there is a waning moon, while this card features a full moon. There is an affirming correlation there with the card positions. I like this image: the greens and blues, and the composition itself (the left side represents past thoughts, experiences, circumstances, wishes, fears, hopes, realities, whereas on the right side we see a face deep in contemplation - a woman filling herself with everything that has come before and preparing herself to move into a new phase of being). There are many layers of change and growth unfolding in my life. Some of it is uncomfortable, some is simply exciting, but all of it is essentially good. The Wheel pushes us forward on our earthly journeys. We gather experience, we struggle, we flourish, we love and we hurt, and we keep on moving. I like the vision of Arianrohod standing by my side, offering ancient and loving support as my Wheel carries me forth into newness.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Channeling Fire

I pulled two cards for my weekly draw last night, one from the Wisdom from the House of Night Oracle deck, and one from the Stone Tarot. I was impressed with the fiery thread that unites them, I'm not sure I could possibly get any more "red energy"!
Stone Tarot/Alison Stone
The Knight of Wands initially showed up reversed for me, and what popped into my head was the idea of the cart running away from the horse. Or perhaps the horse running away despite the rider? (I'm sure I've just butchered some idioms here - carts don't have legs!). Truth is, while I pulled these cards last night, I'm already starting to feel that way. I have quite a bit of new work-related responsibilities that are very busy-making. On Monday the kids start school. Jorge has a work engagement that begins today and will last all of next week. So, I'll be doing a lot, and driving a lot (horse) and could definitely be in danger of my environment having its way with me (i.e.  becoming overstimulated, hyper-focused on so many things that it's hard to feel I've accomplished much, stressed out.)
Wisdom from the House of Night Oracle
The Priestess feels like my advice, the best way to approach this somewhat chaotic energy. She is like the Queen of Wands, who thrives off of movement and creative vibrancy. However despite all the fire energy, there is something calm and knowing about this Priestess; she understand that her element is powerful, that it can at times be volatile and that it can burn, but she has the skill to channel it well, and use the heat and flame to her advantage. She is able to master her element and make things happen, but she also knows when enough is enough, and it's time to cool off in order to avoid burning out.

As I dive head first into what's gearing up to be a wild week, I will use the Priestess's energy as a focal point to help me to stay balanced, and ride the flames!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Joy of a Good Book

I was in a rush this morning, sadly. A rush to get dressed, to figure out some arrangement for my hair that didn't look completely awful, and to get to campus before my students did. I like pulling a card or two in the morning but didn't have a good moment for it, so as my husband battled traffic I sat serenely beside him pulling my 3-card Lenormand daily draw (the dashboard serves as a reasonable shuffling surface when need be, and my son's star blanket provides the lovely backdrop!).

My cards were Lily - House - Book.
Game of Hope Lenormand, Star Edition (reprinted by Lauren Forestell)
This line says a few things:

-Learning something new from a family member.
-The landlord making contact with a question in mind.
-Pondering a property's age.
-Relaxing at home with a book.

Yeah. That last one. In fact, yesterday a book I'd ordered a couple of weeks ago finally arrived in the mail. I flipped through it and know I'm going to really enjoy it, but haven't had the right moment to sit back and dig in. I'm feeling slightly under the weather, having caught a cold from my oldest daughter, and the last thing I need is to lecture my students for hours on the attributes of a good essay. What I really need to do is sit back with a hot mug of steaming ginger tea, and lose myself in the joy of a good book!

Result: It was indeed an afternoon and evening full of peaceful book reading. I did manage to spend quite a while reading my new book, mug of tea in hand, and I even read my son a new book about Trombone Shorty before he went to bed. All in all, a good way to end the day.

Monday, August 10, 2015

2016 Presidential Election Prediction

I know we're more than a year from the formal vote, but I've been hearing so much about the potential candidates lately that I decided to pull some cards to see if I could identify a party win for 2016. Of course, as of now the candidates haven't even been selected yet, and only the Republicans have begun their primary debates. Nevertheless, here we go!

I selected one card to represent the Democrats (I decided it would be the left-hand card for obvious reasons!) and one for the Republicans. I also considered the card at the bottom of the deck for underlying energies. My specific request when shuffling was to understand the energies surrounding election success for each party:

Democrats: World
Republicans: Ace of Swords reversed
Tarot de St. Croix/Lisa de St. Croix
Well... wow!....that was my reaction when I turned the cards over. I find it very interesting that we have the final card in the Major Arcana, and an Ace from the Minors paired together. I'm going to call this for the Democrats, and in particular the woman on the World card brought to mind Hillary Clinton. This is truly someone who has reached the apex of their career, and potentially their life as a whole. It's an incredibly powerful symbol of everything coming together, of profound synthesis of experience and knowledge, and in a literal sense the creation of a new world leader. The constellations represent all of the background support being provided and the bolstering community (at times undefinable to the lay person) that is in place.

Interestingly, the Ace of Swords in its reversed position shows logic and reason falling apart. There is confusion, and strong ideas that miss their mark. Upside down, the sword in this image descends, rather than rising up in triumph. I think it is interesting that both cards feature a deep blue night sky with a background of stars. But whereas the World card feels harmonious, the sword pointing down into the moon suggests the inability to create the sort of clarity, rationale, and focused intent that people can get behind. When I think of what I've read about the current Republican primary debates it does certainly sound like there is already some confusion and lack of decisiveness in the mix.

We will see how it all plays out!

The card on the bottom was: 9 of Wands
Tarot de St. Croix/Lisa de St. Croix
In this card an elderly woman walks alone down a dark path at night. From the vantage point we can see where she's come from: there are the pillars from the High Priestess, and lightening striking a tree, reminiscent of the Tower. She's been through a lot of ups and downs, but she's still walking. In general this shows me that it's going to be a long and exhausting trek to the finish line. And again we have a woman here, which (again) brings my thoughts back to Hillary Clinton. She has a lot of air to clear if she hopes to earn the support of the majority of the nation, one of the more significant issues being the Benghazi emails. But she is a sharp, masterful woman with many long years of high-level political experience behind her. I suspect that she knows exactly what she's in for, and that she has a Plan.

Now that I have drawn my cards, there's nothing left to do but sit back and see how it all unfolds!

UPDATE - 11/10/16

Trump ended up claiming the Republican nomination, and Hillary Clinton did in fact become the Democratic nominee. Clinton was highly favored to win, and after a long, brutal election cycle, Clinton did in fact win the popular vote, however Trump won the presidency via the electoral college. The cards I pulled so long ago were all quite accurate in the sense that there was (and still is) a lot of confusion, disagreements, and division among the Republicans, their nominee, and the public. A day after the results of the election, streets in many cities across the country were filled with protestors claiming that "Trump will never be my president." It's hard when the majority of voters express preference for a candidate, but due to the electoral college, the other candidate is awarded the grand prize. Thus there are also petitions circulating at the moment demanding to either abolish the electoral college altogether, or at the very least update it to reflect modern day America.

Interestingly, Hillary Clinton won support from the current President and First Lady, a number of star celebrates and musicians, a long list of renowned newspapers and news magazines, and many international figures as well (World card). She certainly walked a hard and long road as shown in the 9 of Wands, and the email scandal definitely came back to haunt her toward the end (though it was ultimately resolved to her favor). It may be a small comfort, but at least Clinton can move forward knowing that she was chosen by the people.

What will the next year look like as we transition into a very new and unexpected future government?  Only time will tell.....

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Religion As Spiritual Sustenance

I was raised with elements of Christianity, paganism, and indigenous ideology. While I was christened in the UCC as a baby, my mother was always searching for "the right fit." She was born into a Catholic family and celebrated her First Communion in the streets of southern Italy, wrapped in a white, lacy gown that hugged her small form. She always described the Catholicism of her childhood as "pagan" because while everyone loved the Pope, people practiced their faith in their own ways, often incorporating aspects of folk magic, such as using cornicellos to ward off the evil eye.
Cornicello and sign of the horns. Photo Credit: CRWR
When I was a girl I recall experimenting, alongside my mother, the worship practices of the Unitarians and Episcopalians. I remember attending a sacred circle with her at a retreat and educational facility tucked away in the Michigan forest, called Circle Pines, where I had my first taste of the power of meditative group trance. In my teen years my mother began to recognize the Celtic Wheel of the Year, and I remember becoming very familiar with Beltane and Samhain, and reveling in the creation of the ancestral altar.

In my early 20s I sat through a sweat lodge ceremony with my Ojibway boyfriend and other members of the local native community. My indigenous Costa Rican college professor was there, and in the evening while everyone was enjoying a communal meal, I helped his Anishnaabe wife bring the spirit plate outside and set it at the foot of a towering oak tree.
Sweat lodge/Walt Hubis
Throughout my life I always spent endless hours alone in the woods, absorbing the breeze, the river water, the movements of the deer, fox, and rabbits, picking raspberries and letting myself fly with the soul of the wild. All of these things impacted me in important ways. I grew up appreciating all faiths, and finding deep value in the uniqueness they each had to offer, and the similar qualities they shared.

Still, I had never found a "seat for my soul" until after marrying my husband who had been raised with Santería in Santos Suarez, Havana, Cuba. After many years of living with the Orishas in our home, I one day realized they had become my dear family and my friends. My journey in Santería and Ifá had begun even before I'd become conscious of it, and has continued through the years to feed me in rich and indescribably wonderful ways as I've experienced initiations, delved deeply into the Yoruba perspective and cosmology, and grown in community with my family and ilé.  In the end, my religious practice was not something I sought out, but something that found me instead.
Yemaya dancer/James Emery
But I know that not everyone has positive experiences with religion and religious structure. I know that many have difficult memories of organized faith communities, and who prefer the freedom of expression that an unrestricted spiritual ideology offers. I've even found seekers who discover the beauty of the Orishas, but reject the ritual traditions that form the historical, ancestral, religious, and ceremonial context in which they are meant to be understood, explored, and experienced.

It is true that religion devoid of spirituality can be a dangerous entity, and in my experience it is the union of the two that create what for me is a deeply satisfying whole. And while many are content and well-served with spirituality devoid of religion, I do find that many "spiritual-not-religious" people develop practices that provide them some sort of structure, whether it be pulling Tarot cards for guidance, maintaining an altar, or honoring the turn of the seasons (and in fact these are all aspects of my own spiritual practice as well).

There is a subsection of people in the "esoteric" community (and in many communities, I suspect) that are very opposed to what they perceive as a rigid and authoritarian religious hierarchy that disempowers individuals. I wanted to explore this further, as there are people (like me) that have had a very different experience with religion. I decided to pull some cards:

"What represents religion at its worst - the aspects that drive people away?" The 5 of Swords almost immediately flew out of the deck.

Prisma Visions Tarot/James Eads
Interestingly this is often called the "bully card," and I'd say that "bullying" is an apt term to use to describe the negative experiences that some have had with organized religion. The 5 of Swords says, "it's my way or the highway," and represents the impulse to dominate others. In the religious context this can be the move to monopolize belief systems, to control the behavior of others (often via fear), and symbolizes the dogmatic systems used to beat out those who are deemed "less than."

What I like in this picture is the one figure watching the butterfly as it flies away from the fight as if wondering, "Could there be another way?" Divinity is out there swirling above their heads but they're so wrapped up in their victor-less battle for "right" over "wrong" that they don't even seem to notice.

This way of thinking ("my way is the only way", "if you don't act right you're going to pay") is a sickness of many, if not all, religious practices that have stepped away from spiritual creeds and become dominated by ego and baser instincts. However it doesn't mean that the religion itself has no value, rather that some of the people running the show have lost their way. So I ask....

"At best, what does religion offer?" I pulled the Hierophant, and the 2 of Wands flipped out as well.

Prisma Visions Tarot/James Eads
I find this to be a very fitting duo. The 2 of Wands is about choice, personal power and growth, and a search for the right path. We don't practice a faith because it is forced upon us (that defeats the essence of "faith," really). We practice it, learn it, live it and breathe it, we struggle with it and we love it, because we have made the choice to do so, and because it empowers us rather than disempowering us.

The Hierophant at first glance seems kind of funny: religion at its best is... religion? But no. Religion at its best is tradition. In the Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts (1994), Baba Ifa Karade writes: "Religion, as a custom of worship, is not man's purpose, but only a means to an end while the end itself is iwa-pele (balanced, gentle character). The fundamental reality in respect to the divinity of self and the heavenly forces is that of pure and enlightened character development" (pg. 23).

Religion isn't the purpose, it's simply a path, a means to improve the self and develop strong character with integrity. There are many roads that lead to the same goal, like there are stars in the sky. Nowadays most people have the opportunity to discover a faith practice that resonates with them - or to choose none at all.

I find my religion to be a great source of spiritual sustenance and wisdom, and the traditions are meaningful and sacred to me. Incidentally, while there are certain ways of conducting ritual and ceremony that should be followed (and even this will vary from house to house), there is generally a lot of flexibility and free will within the structure of the religion. Most often we receive advice or recommendations as opposed to mandates. This allows for a great deal of personal freedom and development. Even if someone were to unknowingly commit a "transgression" it's seen as a learning opportunity. There is a saying, "La inocencia se perdona" ("innocence is forgiven").

I am deeply fed by my relationship with the Orishas. They are not abstract concepts, or interesting-sounding entities; they are my father, my mother, my Warriors, my best friend, my teachers, my allies, my family. As I grow in my practice and knowledge, my relationship with them, with God, with my ancestors, and with myself, continues to deepen and blossom in wondrous, fulfilling, and beautiful ways. That, to me, is what it's all about.

"Only when you allow religion to be more than a book of rules or a means to get power can you internalize the fundamental truth about Creation: that our world overflows with the Sacred."
(pg. 24, Tobe Melora Correal; Finding Soul on the Path of Orisa, 2003).

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Lammas Tarot Blog Hop: Rediscovering Our Joy

Welcome to the Lammas 2015 Blog Hop! Please use the links at the top or bottom of this post to navigate to the other wonderful blogs in this circle.

Our wrangler, Joanne Sprott, has asked us to discuss the influence of the Sun in the Tarot, and/or of Mercury from a favorite Tarot or Oracle deck. I've decided to focus on the Sun (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the sun called me to focus on it!).

One morning, recently, I was looking out my kitchen window in the early hours of the morning, enjoying the glint of the rising sun through the green landscape. I thought about how interesting it is that the angle of light can bring out so many lovely details in even the simplest of things. This spurred the thought:

How does the illumination of the sun invite us to see things in a new light?
New Orleans Voodoo Tarot/S. Glassman
On a mundane, earthly level, the sunlight filtering through green leaves, flowers, and grasses imbues nature with a golden glow that can be absolutely breathtaking. My favorite time of day to "take in" my back yard is in the early morning during the time of year between early June and late August. The rising sun lifts into the sky at a precise angle that lights up the tall bushes and shrubs along our fence line such that it looks as if a magical door has materialized. Golden beams glint off emerald hibiscus leaves just outside my window, and long shafts of brilliance stretch over the lawn, leaning into secret crevices in our maple tree. It's a beautiful sight to behold. And just as fast as it appears, the magic is gone, the sun rises high into the day-time sky and the back yard looks ordinary once again.
A golden arch opens as the sun rises
In the Tarot, the Sun can symbolize success, health, and happiness, even enlightenment - not the sudden revelation of the Tower, but a softer, joyful clarity. In the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot, Trump XIX Gros Bon Ange represents our immortal essence, the spark of divinity within us, and as such reflects our capacity to experience and express all-encompassing love and joy. There is deep power in that.

How does our ability to experience these two profound emotions influence the way in which we perceive our environments, our relationships, and our Selves? 
Stone Tarot/A. Stone
Many depictions of the Sun card show children because they are, generally speaking, great emissaries and teachers of both joy and love. But this symbol also represents the children that live inside of us, the aspect of our being that is purest, most innocent, and most joyful.

At times along our earthly paths we experience great difficulties that cast long shadows over our hearts and souls, and challenge or inhibit our ability to know love and joy. It is in these moments where rediscovering our connection to Sun energy is most crucial.

The Dalai Lama said: "Seeking joy and freedom from suffering is the birthright of all beings."

Interestingly, my cousin, Junior, posted a quote the other day that read: "Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional." I really appreciated the root of that message, and decided to investigate its origins online. This brought me to an article from Psychology Today, written by Dan Mager, M.S.W., wherein he discusses how mindfulness and positive thinking mark the difference between the healthy management of (and recovery from) physical and emotional pain, and the experience of suffering. In other words, it's about how we respond when "bad shit" happens.
Vision Quest Tarot/Tarot De St. Croix
At the start of the article the author quotes Dr. Viktor Frankl (Holocaust survivor, among other things):

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

I had just been thinking about this very idea several days prior after having heard an argument where one party reacted strongly, bitterly, and rapidly to a perceived affront. When asked, "Why do you act that way?" the person replied, "I can't help it, that's just how I am!" I thought, That way of thinking is how we choose not to do or be better. There is a moment immediately following the occurrence of a difficult situation, a brief, liminal space, where we decide how we will respond, and there is wisdom in slowing down just enough to allow that moment to touch us.

Becoming aware, or mindful, is important, but not necessarily easy (none of the things in life that are truly worth it are particularly "easy"). So how do we open our Selves to experiencing the love and joy that are our birthright? How do we increase our awareness of, our capacity to experience, Sun in our lives? To address this, I've created a spread:

Card 1: In what way do I feel limited in my ability to embrace joy?
Card 2: How can I help open myself to receive joy?

Card 3: In what way do I feel limited in my experience of love?
Card 4: How can I become more aware of the love in my life?

Card 5: What is my deepest longing?

"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves." -Buddha

Happy Hopping!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Decreasing Velocity with the Hermit

One of my pet peeves is something that I must confront every day, and usually on multiple occasions: driving. I remember when I lived in the north in a much smaller city, and I commented frequently about the exasperating "crazy drivers." Compared to the drivers in my current location, they were docile and slow. Driving here is a feat of bravery, defensive tactics, and deep patience. People drive so fast, execute dangerous maneuvers, cut others off. Car accidents and rescue vehicle sirens are a part of the daily landscape of life rather than an occasional occurrence. And I admit that I sometimes experience private glee when someone tears past me in a mad rush into the future....only to end up stopped right next to me at the red light.

And I wonder, "Why is everyone always so aggressive and in such a hurry?" I drew the Hermit:
Mary-El Tarot/Marie White
I admit that I was, at first, a bit taken aback to see one of my favorite (thoughtful, deep, quiet) Major cards symbolizing humanity's perpetual race for first place. But the Hermit has quite a bit to offer in terms of this topic:

I understand the 9s in Tarot as a reflection of the individual (as opposed to the inclusion of others). The Hermit's shadow can represent being shut off from others, experiencing a lack of connection to people in the community. With a focus on the individual, it can cross over into self-absorption.

There may be a lack of identity (see how this Hermit's face seems to blow away in the wind); for instance, we tend to get angry at "cars" more so than drivers. We don't pause to consider the experiences or circumstances of others. They are strangers, unknown to us in just about every way. It's easier to focus intently on personal desires when the people you impact are anonymous. We are essentially all alone in a crowd.

The Hermit can also help remedy this by calling us to be mindful of our behaviors and inclinations. If I find myself rushing, I can take a deep breath and slow down. If I find myself getting aggravated by the person in front of me who is going just under the speed limit in the left lane, I might consider it an invitation to change my own pace, and find a way to be thankful for it.

In the end I can't change the velocity of the others in my world. All I can do is alter my own perspective, and work on being self-reflective enough to find my peace and refrain from participating in the manic rush around me. That's fair :)

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Spiritual Knight of Swords

Last night I asked my husband if I could pull some cards from his Mary-El deck, which is not a deck I've really ever used before. The art is beautiful and full of interesting details and presentations that have come straight from the heart and soul of the artist, Marie White.

I decided to do a Mind/Body/Spirit layout, and while the entire line was meaningful, I found myself very drawn to the Knight of Swords card in the Spirit position. I think that in a general sense few people would think of this Knight as a spiritual or religious fellow, but his presence here was perfectly precise, and the symbols on this card couldn't have been more fitting....
Mary-El Tarot/Marie White
These are the aspects of this card that caught my attention and bowled me over with their relevance:

Sun mask: searching for illumination

Circle on chest: getting to the heart of the matter, the core essence(s)

Owl: wisdom (occult)

Swords: clarity out of chaos, discernment, intellectual pursuit, analyzing various sources and cross referencing, research, discussion

Red cape: passion

Naked skin: humility

Snake design: cosmic knowledge

A lovely read. A lovely deck. A lovely meditation on the power of symbolism!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Lughnasadh Evening

With all the excitement over yesterday's Blue Moon, it's almost easy to forget that today is a very special harvest festival: Lughnasadh (also called Lammas). There are three major harvest celebrations on the Celtic calendar; Lughnasadh is the first, followed by Mabon in September, and Samhain in October. Fitting for this festival of "first fruits," my mother (who is visiting this weekend after having dropped off our eldest daughter from her northern vacation) brought a plastic baggie filled with three red tomatoes plucked from my son Gabriel's tomato plant. He had begun to grow it during his month-long stay with the grandparents earlier in the summer, and just in time for the first harvest, his plant bore him these fruits to share! So we ate them up at dinner last night, and appreciated the rich, sweet, acidic flavor they offered our salad.

I pulled a single card for Lughnasadh: What energy is coming to fruition in my life?
The Fool.
Stone Tarot/A. Stone
After my Blue Moon draw yesterday, the Fool made me smile. On the heels of a reading full of movement and manifestation, the Fool underscores the period of newness and release that is unfolding in my life. The Fool takes risks because she has utter faith that once she steps off that cliff, the universe will conspire to soften the blow of her landing. The leap, at once scary and exhilarating, is the first step of the adventure. It's an inviting and exciting energy to embrace.

We spent the day moving from shop to shop, and at one point stopped at a local metaphysical store where I wanted to pick up a new box of nag champa. As usual, I couldn't stay away from the abundant stone and crystal display, and ended up acquiring a beautiful piece of chiastolite, which I'd not heard of before. The piece I chose shows what appears to be a crossroads of black lines when set in an upright position. I didn't know at the time that this is a key feature of many chiastolite stones, but I was drawn to the symbol of the intersection of spiritual and mundane. Later I learned that this stone is helpful for staying positive while moving through big change, and it felt entirely appropriate both to my life, and to the Fool that I drew earlier in the day.
It has been a very nice Lughnasadh. A light rain has been falling all afternoon and into the evening. The crickets are chirping, and the warm, earthy scent of incense hangs in the air. It's now time for a cup of oolong tea, and a good book, and the day is complete. Happy harvest!