Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Mandala for October's Shadow Work Challenge

As I was reading Ellen's blog, Grey Lady's Hearth, yesterday I saw that she is participating in an October Shadow Work Challenge primarily via Instagram, though she'll be posting certain aspects on her blog as well. She posted the challenge, originated by Mnomquah, in case anyone would like to participate:
The first task listed for the Shadow Work challenge is to create a Mandala that reflects who you are at this moment. The final task of this challenge is also to create a Mandala depicting who you feel you've become by the close of the month. I really like how this has been organized and have decided to participate, though I'll probably participate primarily through my blog since I'm a bit slow with Instagram! We'll see!

So last night I settled down with a pencil and sketch pad and started to work on my own Mandala. I didn't put a lot of thought into a particular vision for it, I simply started to create, and allowed it to develop on its own:
At first I considered leaving it simply a gray-scale pencil drawing, but then I decided to add color. I asked Lourdes, my crafty kid, to dig me up some colored pencils and she came through quite nicely. So I set out to bring some life to my Mandala:
The textured appearance looks almost like watercolor paper, but it's just the shadow of the screen that the sunlight was filtering through as I took the photo! Considering that I didn't plan out the image, it was interesting to review the symbols that ended up here. I see signs of hope and new life in the rainbow and the sprouting plants. I drew a sun and crescent moon over my forehead, a connection to my sign in Ifá, but I realized that I'd drawn a waxing crescent which was cool - there is growth there rather than retreat. Considering that I've felt very overwhelmed with various aspects of my life of late, this is a nice symbol that, even if I can't always see it, there are indeed seeds of positivity unfolding.....!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Captain of My Ship

I was too busy last week to pull my normal "draw for the week ahead" and I even managed to forego my Monday-draw for my Facebook page. Finally yesterday afternoon I settled down to pull a "where I'm at, and what to do about it" reading. Rather than looking at the week ahead I decided to simply do a check-in for myself. Later I realized that it was not only the evening of the full moon, but it was the full moon-eclipse-bloodmoon-in-Aries. Wow! That is quite the lunar action! So not only did my reading make sense for me, it took on even greater meaning once I learned about the moon activity taking place on that very same day.

I pulled the following line of three cards: 10 of Swords, 7 of Wands reversed, Emperor
Prisma Visions Tarot/J. Eads
Often when I look at a line such as this, I read it almost like Lenormand. The first card highlights the matter at hand, the middle card illuminates an important element in regard to the matter (how I feel about it, an effect or impact, etc.) and the third card is a result or conclusion, sort of a "what to do or be aware of next." There is some flexibility to the interpretation, but in a general sense this is what I do.

Here I have the 10 of Swords as the "matter at hand," which is interesting because I pulled this card as representative of my month of October about a week ago. It's quite true in terms of the general state of things in my environment. I'm exhausted - feeling rather overworked and stressed out by my job. In some ways it's a good thing, and I always appreciate a challenge. But there are a lot of unknowns at play at the moment that have had me questioning the point of all that I'm doing. So in a physical sense, the aspects of this card that speak to exhaustion and even back pain are right on the money. In another sense I do also feel that I'm in a phase that's closing out to make way for some new thing that I can't yet see. What I like about the 10 of Swords is the aspect of closing out the old, putting matters to rest, scraping away the ineffective in order to make way for healthy growth. And in some not-so-literal ways, I feel some of that unfolding.

The 7 of Wands appeared reversed, which does make sense, because when I feel overwhelmed it's like having my flame muted or dimmed. Rather than simply meeting challenges head-on and knowing I can handle them, I have moments where I want to hide in a quiet place by myself and take a break from the world; moments when I am not so confident that I can handle change in the way that I want to do. What the 7 of Wands encourages me to do is to remember that I can do it, always. That my "down" moments are brief and fleeting, and that all of this is reminiscent of something like the discomforts of labor - difficult, painful, draining, but ultimately leading to something important and good. In the image on this card a person is alone, leaping from stump to stump out over a lakeshore. The sky is alight with color and movement. I've done this before. I've faced difficult situations and I've navigated them not without anxiety, but with grace and ability nonetheless. By remembering what I've done in the past I can fortify myself for the present and future.

The Emperor made me smile when I saw him. I've pulled this card several times of late, which is a nice complement to the Empress that has been following me as well. The Emperor reminds me that I have the power and strength to be the captain of my ship. He is the great architect, creating and organizing the structure of the surrounding world such that order is established and progress can be made. I find immense comfort and encouragement in that energy. Above all the Emperor is connected to Aries, and I was born with the moon in Aries, which is where it is currently located during this super-full-blood-moon eclipse. Aries underscores boldness, power, and forceful-yet-controlled action. If I was looking for extra strength to get me through this time of transition, I couldn't have asked for a better card. So, taking the Emperor into my heart and soul over the next few weeks, I'll focus on this:

"To be like the fiery ram, captain of my ship."

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Hanging In There

I have been totally exhausted lately; over the past week or two I've been so entrenched in work that I've had very little time to even think about much else. This weekend I've finally earned a solid three days off and I'm taking full advantage of them! Today, for the first time in years, I rode my bike.
By Karl Ramentol
As my husband and I were soaring down the road, inhaling the city-style outdoor aromas of road-side barbecue, Chinese take-out, grass clippings, and Eau de Exhaust Fumes, I just couldn't help but smile. What have I been missing!

Tomorrow I may well wake up with a sore rear end, but it was so worth it. And hey, maybe I'll even do it again ;-)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mabon Tarot Blog Hop: Princess of Cups

Welcome to the Mabon 2015 Blog Hop! Please use the links at the bottom or top of this post to navigate to the other wonderful blogs in this circle of divination thinkers, writers, and creators.

For this second-harvest festival hop, our wrangler, Maureen Aisling Duffy-Boose, asked us to think of a Tarot card that embodies this time of year for us, and then to create our own card using whatever materials suited our fancy. I am a drawer and painter primarily, so my first thought was to head for the canvas and acrylics. But then I thought about trying out a new (to me) medium - digital/photographic art! So here goes.....

When asked to consider a card that highlights the harvest season, autumn, most completely, I immediately thought of the Princess of Cups from the DruidCraft deck. In fact I will never forget how I felt the first time I laid eyes on it after having purchased it several years ago...the colors in rich, deep reds, the orange leaves preparing to fall into the brisk breeze...the golden fields in the background, and the cool calmness of the water. I love autumn, I'll just clear that up right now. It's my favorite season, and one of the more difficult adjustments I've had to make with living in the near-tropical south has been losing the earthy charm of this time of year. I have rediscovered it to some extent in the Florida winter, which is quite like autumn in the north, complete even with certain trees that change color and lose their foliage (usually in mid-December).

Still, the apple-cinnamon-orchard-pumpkin-chill-campfiresmoke-mystery is a little bit harder to find.
DruidCraft Tarot/W. Worthington
That said, the minute September 1st rolls around I start to feel an undercurrent of excitement - the thrill of the impending change in season. It's subtler down here, but it's still noticeable if you pay attention. Even in the at-times-oppressive 90-degree heat, I am thinking of baking, cider, and pumpkin pie.

So I knew that I wanted to recreate the Princess of Cups in honor of this second harvest festival of Mabon. Interestingly as I went a-researching I found (thanks to my trusty Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot, by DuQuette, 2003) that the season of the Princess of Cups begins at the Fall Equinox and rules Libra, Scorpio, and Sagittarius! Coincidence? Synchronicity? Perhaps!
Princess of Cups/O. Destrades
I chose my daughter, Lourdes, to be my Princess, and I used my iPad and an art app to create the effects over the photo. While her Sun sign is Taurus, pretty much everything else in her chart is water, and she is certainly the most sensitive of my three kids. In this image the core color scheme highlights autumn: oranges, reds, browns and black. Representing the pure essence of water, streams of the element shoot from her finger and hand, arcing up into the sky and then down and around her body. She is young, and carries the innocence of this Court, but her expression is calm and knowing.

Inspired by the process of working on the Princess of Cups, I also created the Princess of Disks using the image of my oldest daughter, Isabella, who is a triple Earth (Capricorn, Virgo, Taurus)!

May your creativity always flow! Happy Mabon!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Transformative Power of Nettle

Last night, inspired by the Guardians card from my new Druid Plant Oracle, I made myself a tea of elder flowers and elder- and hawthorne berries.
Druid Plant Oracle
This morning I decided to pull a daily from the same deck, and I drew: Nettle.

Aside from the nettle plant itself, the first two symbols that stood out to me were the snake and the butterfly. The snake doesn't feel threatening at all, rather I get a strong sense of calm and the transformative qualities of this sacred reptile - the shedding of its old skin to reveal the new. The butterfly has similar attributes of release and transformation, as its caterpillar form encases itself in a cocoon, later emerging as a beautiful winged creature.
Druid Plant Oracle
Nettle is one of the most nutritious herbs around, containing high levels of antioxidants, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Niacin, B-Complex, just to name a few. It can be consumed as a vegetable, made into tea, even used as a hair tonic. The irony, perhaps, is that nettle stings! I remember walking along country roads in southeast England when I lived there for a time as a teenager, and making the mistake of brushing up again nettle bushes - they do indeed hurt. It's interesting that such a valuable, nutritious herb comes in such inhospitable packaging. And yet somewhere along the way humans came to understand its great gifts and offerings.

When I make nettle tea I find it quite earthy and almost hearty - like eating rather than drinking; not because its consistency is thick, but because its essence is so rich. To harvest nettle you have to wear gloves and take care that  bare skin doesn't come in contact with the leaves. But the reward from the effort is well worth it.

Nettle signifies transformation, and symbolizes the gifts that are disguised in hardships. It reminds us that though change is often uncomfortable, the product - the end result - is worthwhile when all is said and done. If we can see past the bitterness of transition, we will eventually behold the sweetness waiting for us beyond.

On that note, I'm off to brew some nettle tea!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Joy in a Box: Druid Plant Oracle

It all started one afternoon as I was minding my own business (as usual), when suddenly I came across a listing for the Druid Plant Oracle where the seller was asking for $150. I stopped in my virtual tracks. That's a lot of money. That usually only happens when a deck goes out of print, and I wasn't aware that this had happened to the Plant Oracle. I have had the Druid Animal Oracle for a couple of years and enjoy it immensely; it's a great combination of nice writing (by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm) and beautiful artwork (Will Worthington. Come on.). The Plant Oracle (by the same author-artist team) was one I'd wanted to acquire at some point, but just hadn't gotten around to quite yet. Now that I saw that it was on the market at such exorbitant prices I was pretty disappointed. So I did some investigating and found that the Book Depository was selling it for $20! I bought it immediately, with glee. But then I started to feel uncertain. I noticed that there were two listings on the Book Depository - one for the cards, which were listed as "unavailable," and one for the book which is what I'd bought. So I reasoned that it made sense that I'd bought the book for such a reasonable price and that it would come without the cards. I was a little unhappy, but at the same time glad to at least have the book. After all, I love working with herbs, so I thought it would be a nice addition to my herbal book collection. I also have the Druid Animal Oracle, the Wildwood and the DruidCraft Tarot decks (all illustrated by Will Worthington) which often feature the plants covered in the Druid Plant Oracle, so I decided it was worth having the opportunity to delve deeper into card meanings by learning more of the lore associated with these plants. And plus, despite not having the cards to work with, I could always do bibliomancy!

Several weeks later the package arrived in the mail, and as I opened it up I gasped with joy:
It was in fact the entire kit! I ripped the plastic wrapping off, lifted the cover of the box, and inside I found a book, and (cue the angelic voices singing) the cards!
It was a good moment, to say the very least. I am so thrilled to have this deck and the excellent accompanying book in my collection. I spent an hour or so on the couch in the evening flipping through each card, looking some of them up in the guide book, reveling in the art work, discovering which plants were included. I was very happy to find many of my dearest herbal friends, such as Elder, Meadowsweet, Plantain, Clover, and Yarrow, along with some new-to-me plants like Celtic Bean.
So I decided to pull two cards to help "break in" my new, dear deck:

What is my current strength?: Mint
How can I challenge myself (to be/do better)?: Flax
Mint. The slight irony here is that perhaps two hours before doing this reading I was out in my garden weeding around my mint plant, thinking a lot about it, and how I can't wait for it to spread and fill out. Some people try to tame mint because it likes to take over space, but in my case I would welcome it; the soil is sandy and sparse in nutrients so herbs do best here. I have happy rosemary and sage plants, a rather static-but-healthy lavender, and then my newcomers, lemon balm and mint. Over the weekend I was chatting with some friends about the benefits of mint, so it was nice to see it show up here.

Mint, according to the book, is about clarity, focus, and creative drive. It is about the attentiveness needed to take advantage of new opportunities, and encourages being proactive rather than waiting around for something to come your way. As a "strength" this makes sense because over the past month or so I've been working on a lot of new projects, and have had a couple of new opportunities offered to me, both of which required quite a lot of focus, clarity, and active engagement. I do feel that I've held my own in the face of these at-times-challenging, yet invigorating, tasks and projects.

Interestingly, Flax is quite a different - almost opposite - energy. Flax encourages relaxation, acceptance, and integration. It challenges me to go with the flow, to honor the interconnectedness of all things, and to ease into change and transition. With Flax, the good that you put out into the world will come back around to you. In terms of my past month I feel that the overall message here is that I've done well with applying myself fully to the important activities in my life, and now I can step back and see what develops out of the work I've been doing. Rather than continuing to push forward, it is time to settle in to "what will be" and to open myself to synchronicities and communication with others in my flaxen web.

All in all, I am super happy with this deck. And I really love the details in each card. Aside from showcasing the herbs, there are fully illustrated scenes I want to jump right into. Last night I spent quite a while reading about the Sweet Track, a neolithic, raised foot trail in southwestern England, which is featured on the Mint card. I'd never heard of it before, and was entirely intrigued. I'm looking forward to learning what more this lovely deck has to offer!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Maferefun Yalorde!

Today is the feast day of Ochun, lady of the sweet waters, of love and honey and joy.
Artist: Hubert Escobar
Ochun is considered the youngest of the Orishas, and though she represents the beauty and sweetness of life, she is a source of profound strength and power. One of my favorite patakines (sacred stories) about Ochun tells about a time where there was a great drought on earth and everyone was suffering. Other Orishas had tried to reach Olodumare (God) to tell him what was going on, but were unsuccessful. Finally, Ochun climbed on the back of a peacock (one of her sacred symbols) and flew up through the sky, past the scorching sun, and to the realm of Olodumare. On the way, the heat of the sun had burned the feathers of the peacock, such that it no longer had the lovely, colorful plumage. This is said to be the first vulture. Ochun herself was also badly burnt, her beauty marred by fire. Olodumare realized that she had sacrificed her vanity for the well-being of the world, and he healed her, though her beauty was not restored. This highlights how Ochun's beauty is not solely physical - her strength, love, and beauty shine on the inside. Olodumare heard her plea, and allowed the rains to fall again on earth. Since then Ochun has been known as a messenger of God.

Ochun is dear to me. Aside from Elegua and my guardian Orisha, Obatalá, she was one of the first saints to step forward in my life as a guide, support, teacher, and wellspring of deep love and joy. On this day, her feast day, as we openly honor and praise her, I feel her abundant felicity in my heart, a special kind of lightness that I clearly sense is her sacred essence coursing through me. 

My son, Gabriel, is Ochun's son. While all of my children are loving and expressive in their own ways, Gabriel is by far the most demonstrative, both physically and verbally. He's a total romantic. He often says, "You know what?? I love you and I like you!" Every single morning when Lourdes wakes up and stumbles out into the living room, Gabriel lights up and greets her with an affectionate, "Good morning, sweety!!!" He hugs, he snuggles, he loves to be loved, and he adores sneaking into the bathroom to douse himself in my perfume, or his dad's cologne (another attribute of Ochun, ha!). It warms my heart in ways that cannot be expressed adequately in words. This morning he woke up and said, "I'm so happy today!" When he saw his father he said, "Dad, it's Ochun's day!" He picked out a freshly made cookie to offer her, and he helped me light some candles in our window. 

Maferefun Ochun, Yalorde, Yeye...todos los días.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Daily Readings with the Fantod Pack

I've been having fun experimenting with my new Gorey Fantod Pack (click here for some background on this acquisition). Having attributed my own oracle meanings to each card, I have drawn a pair of them on each of the previous two mornings to see what would might unfold, and how the circumstances of my day would correspond. Pretty interesting results so far!

Morning #1: The Black Doll and The Plant
Edward Gorey's Fantod Pack
For The Black Doll I attributed the following meanings: toys, play, poppet magick, protection, impact of positive/negative thinking. 

For The Plant: nutrition, health, herbs, the wild/nature, ecosystem, ecology, environment, socializing/community. 

1) The kids' toys (trains, tracks, papers and pencils, etc) were scattered all over the house and I couldn't take it anymore, so we had a cleaning/organizing fest in which all toys were put in their places. Toys...... environment...... tending to the house's ecosystem... definitely!

2) I took my son to the park after having spent the previous day indoors (for the most part). We walked to the larger park about a mile away and he brought his toy excavator along. While there he met another small boy with whom he played for quite a while. After we returned home I prepared the blow-up pool and Gabriel spent nearly an hour enjoying the cool water. being outside....healthy activity..... check!

Morning #2: The Tunnel and The Écorché
Edward Gorey's Fantod Pack
To The Tunnel I attributed the following meanings: entering unknown territory, facing fears of the unknown, trying something new, liminality, lack of clarity, uncertainty.

To The Écorché I gave these definitions: honesty, vulnerability, understanding or examining the underlying structure of a thing or situation, getting to the bottom of a matter. Could also be a man.

The main event on this day (which was today, as a matter of fact) was that I did a reading session for three wonderful women, one of whom had never had a reading before in her life. There was quite a bit of delving into the unknown, searching for deeper meanings, and being open and honest, and it was quite a lovely afternoon, in fact! So...the cards fit very well!

As I read with these cards I tweak and adjust the meanings, add to them, alter them, so that over time they'll become refined and set. And I have to say, the process is quite enjoyable!

Maferefun Yemaya!

Today is the feast day of Yemaya, our loving mother of ocean waters. This is a special day in and of itself, though it takes on even more meaning because Yemaya is the guardian orisha of both my younger daughter and my sister-in-law (both of whom share the same name: Lourdes).
Artist: Maria Giulia Alemanno 
In honor of Yemaya I pulled three cards from the Celtic Lenormand, asking to highlight the special qualities that she offers to us:
Book - Heart - Storks
Celtic Lenormand/McCracken and Worthington
Lenormand is read in combination, one card influencing the other to create an overarching message. When I saw this line of cards I found myself appreciating their individual meanings, each a gift of its own. Book represents knowledge and wisdom. Heart is love and affection. Storks is evolution and development. I love that the anchor card is the Heart, and that the ocean stretches out beyond, affirming Yemaya's oceanic energy. And Storks are associated with pregnancy which highlights Yemaya's strong connection to children and motherhood.

As a line I might read this: "Loving wisdom that helps us to evolve and grow."

My daughter decided to honor Yemaya today by creating a special picture:
Houses by the sea, by Lourdes
Lourdes started 3rd grade a few weeks ago, and was a bit nervous about a new year (she loves school, but she's shy about new starts). When we went to Meet-the-Teacher night we were welcomed into a classroom decorated with blues and whites, and symbols of anchors and sea life - everything ocean-related! I said, "Yemaya's got your back. See your new room? She's telling you that she's going to be with you at school all year long." It was very beautiful encouragement (both for her and for me!).

So thank you, Yemaya, for your love, your nurturing support, and your motherly guidance.

Maferefun Yemaya, todos los días!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Edward Gorey's Fantod Pack: A Review

About six months ago, give or take, I first heard of Edward Gorey's Fantod Pack - a set of cards illustrated by this relatively well-known artist-of-scary-and-unusual-things. I was happily intrigued. As a child one of my favorite authors was John Bellairs, who wrote a series of frightening novels for kids, often illustrated by Edward Gorey. I always found the artwork to sharply enhance the spookiness of the story I was reading, and it became something of a trademark of those books; anytime I see a Gorey illustration I am immediately transported back to the thrilling fright of reading the Bellairs tales.
So I was interested in acquiring the deck, though slightly less-so once I realized that while many people referred to it as a "Tarot," in fact it is an oracle with just 20 cards. But in truth I really enjoy oracle decks - more and more with time - and there was something particularly amusing about this deck: it was originally meant as a very grim parody of divination. The symbols featured on each card are quite funny when understood in this light: the Blue Dog, the Limb, the Effigy, the Insects, the Yellow Bird, to name a few. The card descriptions are all rather miserable; there's not a hint of positivity in this deck, but some of the language is so unusual or unpleasant that it's hilarious (which is the point, really). The first night I had this deck I was laying next to my young son as he was going to bed, and was slowly reading through the deck's booklet. I read the description for the Waltzing Mouse:

"May, vertigo, loss of jewelry, a bêtise, morbid cravings, disorders of the large intestine, corruption, equivocal symptoms, a hazardous project, brawls, suicide, involuntary seclusion, shriveling." 

At that last word I just couldn't stop laughing, and began shaking the bed so badly with my silent fits that I was afraid I'd wake Gabriel up. Shriveling? Seriously? But it's so very Gorey.
A selection of cards from Edward Gorey's Fantod Pack
This deck was originally published in the December 1966 edition of Esquire magazine, and was meant to be cut out and glued to one's own blank cards. Later it was published as a proper deck, but eventually went out of print once or twice. Then in 2007 Pomegranate Communications issued a reprint, which is the one you can most commonly (and inexpensively) find on the market at the moment (the original decks are much pricier). It comes in a sturdy box with a nice little booklet, and the cards themselves are of good stock and highly glossy. No aspect of this box/deck is shrink-wrapped, so don't be surprised when you open it up and the cards and booklet are simply laid within!

I decided to finally purchase the Fantod Pack because I'm getting into the Halloween spirit and this deck is quite fitting for the holiday. I also wanted to avoid the disappointment that would surely come if I put off buying it for so long that eventually it went out of print, yet again! Now, the given card meanings are rather ghastly, it's true, and great for a good, morbid laugh. But I actually do plan to use these cards, and so I've gone through each one very carefully and attributed my own meanings to them. There are only 20 cards in the deck so it's hard to cover every circumstance or emotion in the global human experience, but they do alright! So I decided to pull a card regarding some major changes in my work environment, and drew:
The Burning Head
Edward Gorey's Fantod Pack
The updated definition that I've given this card is: creative energy; aggression; passion; desire; competition. And you know what? It's spot on for my question. I had a lot of fun making this deck "mine" via re-envisioned meanings, and look forward to experimenting with it in the future. It's clearly a great Halloween/Samhain deck, but we mustn't limit ourselves! If you decide to purchase this deck, feel free to give the booklet an appreciative pat-on-the-head and then proceed to do what you will - and have fun with it!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Truth and Humor in the Cards

Today the cards caused me to laugh appreciatively. This is always a good thing.

I'm home this weekend with my little ones. These days we are a one-vehicle family. While I like the savings (no extra car payment or insurance or gas, etc.) and the lowered carbon footprint, it can at times present certain challenges. My husband was called away this weekend to help a friend in need, so the kids and I are spending a day or two thoroughly at home. With no transportation save our feet, our ability to explore the wider world is fairly limited. Early September in central Florida sees daytime temperatures rise into the stifling 90s (around 35 celsius) which is simply not conducive to being active outdoors (best times for that are early morning and later evening), so creativity is crucial. 
Prisma Visions Tarot/J. Eads
I pulled the Empress for my day today, and isn't that the truth! I am fully engaged in mother-mode. I was up at 6:30am putting bacon in the oven and throwing some waffles together. The cinnamon-laced coffee was brewing, and before the children woke, and before I sat down to enjoy a hot cuppa, I snuck outside and stole a few moments in the back yard taking pictures of the sunlight filtering through the flowers and greenery. This brings to mind the reason why I adore this version of the Empress.... she is sheathed in a dress of leaves, and appears entirely in her element surrounded by the energy of the wild. 

A great way to combat cabin fever is to come up with some interesting activities, and being slightly at a loss for novel ideas (reading, game-playing, toy organizing, Legos, movie watching, drawing, etc. only keeps the babes entertained for so long, after all), I decided to pull a card, asking: "What should we do today?"
Prisma Visions Tarot/J. Eads
Yes, I pulled none other than the Strawberries, that extra Major card from the Prisma Visions that I never remove from the deck, and yet still rarely see. And yet today it appeared, and I had to laugh. Yesterday at the grocery store I bought a large box of strawberries! I munched on a few, but was a bit worried that they would start to mold faster than they could be consumed. So when I saw this card I knew what I had to do: I sent the kids to find a good strawberry-based recipe and in a few minutes the four of us will be in the kitchen making some culinary magic! ;-)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thetis: Finding My Peace

I love the little confirmations that the cards give us from time to time – like when you ask about the cause of waking up in the middle night full of anxiety and you pull the 9 of Swords. Or you wonder about a dream you had, and the 7 of Cups is the anchor card.

This morning I pulled out my Goddess Knowledge cards and simply asked: 

“What can I do to help embrace peace today?”

I pulled: Thetis
Goddess Knowledge Cards/S. Seddon-Boulet
Thetis is a youthful, song-and-dance loving Greek sea goddess, also known as a shape-shifter who was able to transform into various elements and animals in order to avoid Peleus’ unwelcome advances. The card image reminds me strongly of Fancy Shawl dancers, whose lively, colorful movements imitate the joyful reemergence following transformation and healing. As I read about her, I was struck by this section of the description offered in the deck:

“As the personification of calm waters, Thetis is responsible for providing a peaceful sea. She is that center of peace and calm that is always available, even in the midst of changing forms.”
Fancy Shawl dancer/Fr. Lawrence Lew
I love that she is a sea goddess, because water is the ultimate wellspring of our emotions. And she is the goddess specifically of the peaceful waters which is the most perfect symbolism I could have asked for, considering my original question. She brings peace even in the midst of shifts and change. I believe that the key to embracing the experience of tranquility today is to allow myself to be light-hearted, to laugh, to remember not to take things so seriously. That is a special gift, and it also brings to mind the joyful river otters from yesterday morning’s draw. So I’ve decided to create a short haiku poem to celebrate Thetis’ welcome influence over my day:

Thetis of the sea
Song and dance are your release
In peace, waters calm.

Peace and joy to you all!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Just Do You

Yesterday marked the first day of September, which comes as a great relief to me. The heat and humidity of the summertime tend to feel oppressive by August, and saying goodbye to that final, full month of the hot season is rather pleasant (though in reality the changes in overall weather from August to September are so subtle they're almost non-existent, so my relief is more psychological than anything!).

This morning, instead of a daily draw, I decided to pull a card asking, "What strengths should I develop during the month of September?" In the end one card turned into three, and the message felt right for this point in my life:

3 of Cups reversed - Lovers - Explorer (Knight) of Earth
Gaian Tarot; J. Powell-Colbert
I tend to see myself as a confident and laid-back, open-minded person, but that doesn't mean I don't suffer from the occasional insecurities. For instance, as I develop and grow, I like to write about my experiences. It feels good to express myself, though sometimes I worry that some people won't like, or understand, or connect with my words or point of view. I want to pat myself on the shoulder, sigh, and say, "That's life, mi amor!" Really, I do know how unrealistic it is to hope that the entire planet will be receptive to my thoughts and ideas (especially considering only an atom-sized percentage of the world's population even read my posts!). But by worrying about those who might not "feel me" I'm allowing some of my capacity for joy and free-expression to seep away, and that is not the route I wish to take. 

The Lovers reminds me that all I can and must do is me. Just do me. I have to be true to my reality, my experiences, and my voice (which in fact coincides with my card of the week via FB: Knight of Swords!). I read an article the other day about a married Catholic priest (he converted to Catholicism after marrying and having kids, and he was already an Episcopal priest prior to that). It was certainly an interesting read, but what stuck out to me was the way the man described the differences in expression between the two faiths. As an Episcopal priest he experienced and witnessed quite a lot of pressure on the priesthood to say what people wanted to hear rather than what the priests felt it was important to discuss, because the lay people of the church "held the purse strings." If they didn't like a priest or a priest's perspectives, they could restrict programming or simply rally together and boot the priest from the church altogether. In the Catholic church priests are appointed to parishes and have a measure of security in their position that allows them to explore concepts and ideas that feel important without the pressure of conforming to popular opinion. This was a relief for him because as a married priest, he would obviously be likely to face scrutiny and displeasure from some parishioners. Religious trappings aside, the core of the message is clear and resonates with me in certain, important ways. 

The Explorer of Earth reminds me that this is my path, my journey, and the way that it manifests in the physical world will be unique to who I am. The woman on this card tends to the natural environment. She thinks she is alone, but in the background the spirit of a stag stands watching over her. Perhaps this is her guide, a sign that even when she feels alone, she is always in close company. Perhaps it's a reminder that while her offerings may seem insignificant in the broad scope of the universe, it does mean something to someone, somewhere; above all, it means something to her. Her way may be slow, but her work is measured and steady; she is making an impact, even if in small and quiet ways.

So my September message is: get over it, Olivia, and just. do. you. Stop worrying, and start enjoying. Be an otter in the river, love yourself as you are, and keep plodding along.

I think I can find a way to handle that!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

(Re)Building Your Holy House with the Ancestors

"The ancestors are the real school of the living. They are the keepers of the very wisdom the people need to live by. The life energy of ancestors who have not yet been reborn is expressed in the life of nature, in trees, mountains, rivers and still water." -M. Somé

In Santería, being open to, working with, revering, the ancestors is a critical foundation of practice. The impact that previous generations of family have had on our lives – in both conscious and unconscious ways – and the influence of the family oversoul require us to be willing to delve into our personal and ancestral histories, facing both the good and the difficult. The process of working with ancestral spirits serves the purpose of helping us to address and purge the negative, to understand the humanity of our forebears, and to embrace the wisdom and sacred blessings that they offer us. Ancestor work can have wonderful benefits for everyone, regardless of the spiritual/religious path that is followed, and helps root our Selves to the earth, to connect us with a deep history that is part of who we are, whether we are aware of it or not. There is something sacred in that.

The other night I decided to pull a couple of cards on the topic of ancestor work:

1) In what way are my ancestors present for me? 3 of Pentacles
Prisma Visions/James Eads
These are the raw notes that I took about how this card made me feel:

Working with me to help build the foundation, base structure, of my life. Supporting me, giving advice/suggestions, then stepping back and watching how I implement them. My own personal team. Helping me find tools to work for what I want and need. Helping me to build my holy house.

That last line took me some time to actually get down on paper. It was floating through my head, and I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant, but I decided that I’d figure it out eventually, so I jotted it down.

Helping me to build my holy house.

A night or two later I was reading a book* and came across a section that compared the personal impact of Orisha worship to restoring an old home:

As you watch those old walls come down, envision your inner walls being knocked away. Close your eyes and feel the two-by-fours cracking apart within you. Watch as dirty windowpanes shatter – windows through which you might have once viewed the world clearly…Watch as workers toil, removing the house’s battered and broken parts, in order to restore its strength and beauty…Feel their jubilation along with their calluses and aching backs as they see it slowly rise before them, restored, reborn (pp. 128-29; Correal, 2003).”

As I read those words, the 3 of Pentacles with the image of the man laying bricks suddenly popped into my mind. My “holy house” is me. In this light, my ancestors work with me like the toiling workers renovating that old home, helping me to open up, break down, and rebuild into a stronger, healthier, happier, more balanced human being. That is what it’s all about.

2) How can I best take advantage of their wisdom and guidance? Hanged Man
Prisma Visions/James Eads
Again, my rough notes are as follows:

Releasing a hold on/sacrificing the ego; making time in my schedule to talk to them. Be willing to allow time for life to develop – not being quick to judge. Letting go of control and trusting them. Open up to insight. 

There is a lot to be said for learning to surrender; to get out of your head, to view your experiences from new vantage points. It has become almost cliché to say, in regards to the Hanged Man, that one must be open to “seeing things from a new perspective.” The reality is that it’s true. When you climb a tree, your entire back yard transforms; you see things you never did, or never could, before. I remember riding a Ferris wheel at a community festival down the street from our house a couple of years back. Once we reached the ride’s apex we could see lakes that we never knew were there, and even the tips of the downtown buildings were visible, driving home the proximity of important places in our environment. But those instances are exterior; we literally see things from a new perspective because our physical bodies are lifted into the sky, or hung upside down. It’s more work to be open to new angles of thought from the inside. But the analogy is potent and clear.

It’s amazing just how driven we are to do what we want to do, or not do what we aren’t in the mood to do. In a way, like with Lent, there is a certain sacrifice in not giving in to our impulses, though in another way it is also about fundamental self-control, focus; our commitment to a practice lies to some degree in the ability to remember our truest, deepest desires, our most heart-centered goals.

I say all of that because in our great rush, and our daily distractions, it’s easy to simply not take the time to sit at the ancestor altar and talk to them. Or just breathe for a few moments. To take a few seconds to call to mind your grandfather, or the name of your great-grandmother, or those nameless forebears that stream back into infinity whose essence you hold in your very cellular make-up. To hold them – even just the awareness of their existence - in your heart and mind briefly, and open yourself to their presence. So then, we sacrifice – “make sacred” – our offering of time, laying our ego out on the table because we know that in some way the benefits and blessings of that surrender might someday, stone by stone, make us whole again.
Prisma Visions/James Eads

*Finding Soul on the Path of Orisa/Crossing Press/T.M. Correal