Wednesday, October 7, 2015

True Freedom and Inner Truth

I've been pondering for quite a while (even in the back of my head when I'm focused on other things) one of the refrains from my sign in Ifá which reads: "Man is free like a bird in a cage." Obviously it's a metaphor, but a metaphor that means what, exactly?

Yesterday as I was reading Rose's lovely blog, Tarot of the Dervish, one of her posts suddenly hit me in such a way that many various elements from my present (and past) experiences, in addition to the refrain, seemed to coalesce and take on significant meaning.
Image: Roberto Verzo
For the month of October I pulled the 10 of Swords. I was afraid that I'd be miserable - exhausted, stressed out, overwhelmed, etc. To some degree that's true, though it's not nearly as dismal as I was fearing (so far - knock on wood!). But this card is about learning from and ending difficult cycles so that new ones can be born. There is fresh air there somewhere. I've also pulled the 9 of Swords during this Shadow Challenge: facing my fears is the best way to conquer them.

Last night as I read Rose's blog post I was surveying cards that focused on self-limitations, and suddenly it was all clear to me. We are prisoners of our own fears, limitations, weaknesses, shadows. We can become quite comfortable living in confinement, never truly challenging our ourselves to grow, to become better people, to examine, process, and eventually find ourselves capable of release from our own self-imposed limitations. Perhaps ignorance is bliss (that's debatable!), but knowledge is power.
Image: Vaibhav Ahuja
And I realized that all of the work I've been doing lately has been part of finding the key to my own "cage," so that I can be truly free, and not simply live the illusion of freedom.

Over the past few weeks I've been allowing myself to do things differently. For so much of my life I avoided conflict, and cherished peace. Peace and harmony are good, but there is indeed such a thing as being peaceful-to-a-fault. I was afraid of being vulnerable. I was afraid of hurting people. I was afraid of the anger or outbursts of others. I was afraid of crying in the face of someone else's rage. Of course there is a lot inherently wrong in that, and in my past I let a lot of people walk all over me. Learning to be strong, to share my voice, to be clear about my reality and my boundaries and be willing to stand by them - that has been one of my major areas of development, and I feel I've made major leaps and bounds forward even just in the past few years. Nowadays I am less inclined to avoid conflict - not because I enjoy debates, arguments, or perhaps even misunderstandings (I still don't at all) but because I have to honor myself at least as much as I try to honor others. Part of honoring myself is to speak my truth, kindly but clearly. And perhaps through honoring myself, I can better honor others.

I've been working hard to do that - to challenge myself to face my own shadow.

I don't want to be "free like a bird in a cage." To be truly free I have to be me, in the most honest and true way that I can. I have to nurture the strength within my heart and soul.

As a a fitting close for all of this large-scale consideration, on day seven of the Shadow Work Challenge (aka: today), the task was to pull cards on this topic:

"Sage/Crone: What is my inner truth?"

I pulled the following from the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot:

Obatalá - Elegua - Oyá
This was a deeply touching and affirming reading, like a warm embrace. Obatalá, my father, and Elegua, my very best friend, appeared side by side. They are always with me and within me as I walk my path, giving me the support and wisdom to remember who I am, and to embrace and process the change that Oyá carries through my life. Their card numbers total 13, Death, a reflection of the cycle of release and rebirth that I strive to learn from as I constantly seek to be and do better. 


  1. Such a beautiful, heartfelt, honest post, Olivia. Thank you for allowing us to journey with you a bit. As I read over the material of my various 'blog-friends' I'm so touched by the difficult work each of us is doing to illuminate the shadow, work that ultimately allows us to step into a more authentic, vibrant self. It requires a combination of fierceness and the most tender compassion with the wounds that have quietly shaped us. Again and again I'm reminded that we are each others' awakening.

    hugs to you, Rose

    1. Thanks so much, Rose! I love that you mention ferocity because I almost used that same word in this post :)

  2. Breaking dawn is what the Ten of Swords is all about and it is certainly for you the beginning of a new phase.
    Being able to say "I am afraid" is such a huge step toward change

    1. Hugs back to you! Yeah, I like the idea of "breaking dawn." I tend to think of the 10 of Swords as being primarily about all of the reckonings and endings that have to take place in order to welcome the dawn, and in fact I do sense both: the reckoning and the dawn's light all in one bundle. It's pretty cool, really.