Saturday, October 31, 2015

Samhain Blog Hop: Honoring Giuseppe

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

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

Giuseppe's Eggs all'Inferno

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Samhain, everyone!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Embracing the Knight of Swords

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

Caregiver. What do I have to offer? 

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

But there is far more to it than that.

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

Monday, October 26, 2015

Significators in the Tarot

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Breath of Sea Air

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

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

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

Friday, October 23, 2015

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Be Ever Grateful

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

10 of Bolers: Presence of the Ancestors

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A New Moon Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 12, 2015

Rising, Ever Rising

For day 12 of the Shadow Work October challenge, the task was to pull a card (or two, or three) on the following question:
What can't I accept about myself (and why)?

As I was shuffling, Judgement flew out of the deck at me, and I knew that it was the one. This is a card I really love in any deck, so I was immediately curious about what it would have to tell me. Turns out that it had quite a lot to say.
Tarot of Vampyres
My initial rumination: 

That life is a cycle of growth meant for learning and evolving, and that I don't owe anyone anything, not a single shred of guilt or shame. I'm allowed to release the past, to forgive myself and others, and move forward. I'm allowed to grow into who I am, into my calling, into my purpose, into my skin, fully and without apology. I'm allowed to rise again, and again, and again, and again. 

This pulled something from deep within me, and as I read over my own thoughts for the first time, I started to cry. It's funny, in a way. I love this card because of everything it represents: rebirth, evolution, heeding the call to our path, embracing who we are, truly. In many ways I feel I embody this. And yet it appeared as the thing that I can't accept, or don't allow myself to accept, about myself. And as I pondered, I knew it was true. In this image I see the vampire and the panther as my guides and support system. The moon above - my fears, doubts, uncertainties, the small hauntings in my subconscious Self - dissipate, are burned away by the fire of transformation. In the book, Ian Daniels writes that the vampire himself has just emerged from his grave. But when I see this card I see molten earth glowing, warning of my own impending emergence. He is there encouraging me, and awaiting me, as is the panther. The blood on his sword represents my old shell that he has done away with in order to make space for the new. 

There is a lot here. In what ways do I not allow myself to be reborn? In what ways do I shut down aspects of my own identity and growth in order to never create waves, in any way, for any reason? In what ways do I tell myself that I'm not enough, at least not yet? 

Judgement is a Trump of pure fire. Fire has been the overwhelming theme of late - embracing my own fire, and my personal power. Interestingly, all of this has brought up a lot of sadness for me. Some of it makes sense as I think about ways in which I've been limiting myself. But I can't figure out all of it - not yet. I pulled a card asking for the best way to process this sadness and out came:

The Hermit
Ah yes, of course! My friend, the Hermit, tells me that I've only just begun. In order to understand and come to be able to express the source of the sadness that has surfaced, I must keep digging. With my firebrand before me I must stride purposefully into the dark wood of my being. I love that there is a wolf here. As I was preparing the photo of Judgement, I felt an urge to include the bronze Viking wolf ring that my husband brought back to me as a gift from his time in Sweden. Viking and Norse lore, mythology, and culture form, in addition to Lukumí/Santería, an important aspect of my personal history, spiritual practice, and ancestor work, as much of the family on my father's side comes from Denmark and the small islands of the North Sea. I find great strength in the wolf, and it was strength I was looking for when I was drawn to include my ring in the photo. The wolf seems to have come to my aid here with the Hermit, assuring me that I'm not alone in my exploration. And when I've come through on the other side, there the black panther will be waiting. 

I had a lovely afternoon today with my husband and son, while our girls were in school. I was fortunate to have the day off, so we drove downtown and spent some time walking around the large lake there, filled with swans, ducks, ibises, and geese. As I watched a swan glide elegantly over the water I felt a sudden thirst for its energy - a soft-yet-sure, healing essence unique to this bird. I sat by the shore as one of them swam over, quietly watching me, asking for nothing, yet staying near all the same. 

On our way back home, we stopped by a local shop so that I could pick up a couple of stones that I am feeling drawn to use at this time: Morganite and Ruby.
A large piece of morganite, and a small ruby
As I work through this month, and this challenge, I often think back to the card I'd originally picked as representative of this month: 10 of Swords. A new word has surfaced for me in light of it: purging. I am airing out my heart and soul, cleansing, purging, examining and releasing like I never would have imagined I could do, or would even need to do. I'm amazed with what I've uncovered so far, and grateful that the journey has really only just begun.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Giving My Id A Little Breathing Room

Today's task for the Shadow Work October challenge was to complete a personal reading using an "Id, Ego, Superego" layout. I used the Tarot of Vampyres for this reading and I'm really enjoying the dark vibrancy, strength, and movement in the images.

So before I pulled my cards I wanted to refresh my memory regarding Freud's concepts of these three aspects of human psyche that impact the way we behave. I found some great images online that illustrate the way these elements interact with each other. In the end my understanding of each is as follows:

Id: my primal instincts, desires, motivations. This is the part of me that wants what it wants, that would relish free-reign over my Self.

Superego: my principled, socialized, "ideal" self that keeps my Id in check. This primarily stems from how we've learned to be through our environment, and always strives to do the right thing. This is the central source of the experiences of pride and guilt.

Ego: my practical, conscious self that forms something of a bridge or balance between the Id and Superego. It filters the Id's impulses through the Superego, ending up with something manageable within the confines of reality, or society. 

My cards are: Lord of Scepters - Daughter of Grails - 8 of Knives
This was a very intriguing and powerful reading for me in light of the spread positions, and also quite enlightening (and it made me slightly sad all at the same time). What struck me initially through this imagery is just how effectively my Superego keeps my Id constrained.

My Id is represented by the Lord of Scepters (King of Wands). I love the intense reds and blacks of this card, the energy of the horse leaping, the electricity in the lightening bolts streaming from the sky above. My Id wants to ride forth and be great, experience life in all its manifestations. This Lord is charismatic and vision-guided. He doesn't care what people think about him, but he naturally draws others to him like moths to a flame (whether for good or not!). He goes out and gets what he wants, claims his power as a birthright. 

Meanwhile the Lord's fiery essence is totally cut short by my Superego: the 8 of Knives. The correlation between the two cards is meaningful. The Lord sits confidently on his steed's back, the horns of his helmet upright, a symbol of his potency. The figure in the 8 of Knives also has horns, though his are down-turned, a symbol of powerlessness, and a knife is positioned over his genitals as if to block his raw power and force. Instead of the lively red of the Lord's card, we have a murky, yellow haze that confuses and obscures the surrounding environment. Who, or what, is out there? It's impossible to say. 

In the middle lies my Ego, the Daughter of Grails. She has a tough job of finding a way to balance the heavy demands of the Id and Superego. In the end she chooses a softer, far more receptive and easy-to-swallow demeanor. There is nothing forceful about her - she is calm, caring, and perceptive. She moves like water to adapt to the needs of others, thus she's quite pleasant to be around. But she doesn't look particularly satisfied, does she? Perhaps the chains of her Superego are bound too tightly. She needs to find a way to give her Id a little breathing room.

This is a fairly unexpected and painfully accurate representation of my personal experience. It's quite jarring to see it laid out so explicitly in these powerful images, and yet there is something cathartic here. In my shadow work thus far this month the theme has centered very pointedly around reclaiming my personal power, learning how not to run from conflict. Yet again that is present here in this reading, and it seems like each day I'm given a slightly larger view on the matter. The Daughter of Grails is a core part of who I am, but I need and want to tap further into the power of my inner fire. I see an imbalance here, and in order to address it I need to unpack the root of the 8 of Knives....

As I looked over this reading the idea of "playing small," from the Marianne Williamson kept running through my head:

Saturday, October 10, 2015

5 of Wands: Integrating Ferocity

The day 10 task for the Shadow Work October challenge asks: What do you need to release?

I pulled: 5 of Scepters (Wands) reversed:
Tarot of Vampyres
This was interesting, as this was one of the cards I drew for the day nine task about misperceptions we have about ourselves; for me this related to a fear of conflict, that it would be the end of me, that I can't handle it. So to pull this as something in need of release is fitting, really. I need to continue working on releasing my desire/tendency to avoid conflict. 

This card shows a woman facing down a black panther. The black panther has been significant in my life over the past six months or so. In this image I see the need for the woman to release her fear of her own ferocity, to put the cross down and allow the panther to meld with her spirit. The panther is not going to hurt her; that in itself is her misconception. The panther is a part of her, calling for integration. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

7 of Skulls: A Poem

Yesterday I took a brief reprieve from the Shadow Work October challenge and pulled a card-of-the-day from the Tarot of Vampyres deck (which I'm enjoying quite a bit!). I pulled:

7 of Skulls
Tarot of Vampyres 
As I was pondering the imagery - the werewolf girl clinging to a post (in what almost looks like a graveyard, except that it is not), apples strewn about on the ground before her - words started to dance about in my head, and before I knew it I'd composed a short, lyrical poem:

Where have you come from, 
and where are you going? 
Are the seeds that you planted long ago 
still growing? 
Measure, inhale, think, repeat. 
Temper, calibrate, exhale, reap. 

I am indeed doing quite a bit of review, thoughtful consideration, and planning - probably just as much today as yesterday! As I sit and make lists, and ponder, I realize that I start to hold my breath. So one of the subtle aspects of this card that I will take with me is that, as I go about my calculations and consider how I want to move forward, I must remember to breathe!

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. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Self-Forgiveness with Tarot of the Vampyres

A new deck appeared on my front steps yesterday afternoon. It's not a deck I ever thought I'd purchase, nor one I thought I was particularly interested in....until seeing Ellen's blog posts featuring it! I was surprised by the lovely and interesting artwork; while certainly "vampirey", it also has a uniquely eloquent voice and I find some of the card depictions intriguing and even rather beautiful. So I decided to go for it:
This is not a proper review, though I will probably do one a bit further down the line after working with these cards some more. For now I want to simply discuss the task from day six of the Shadow Work October challenge which I completed using this deck:

The Innocent - What do I need to forgive myself for?

As I was shuffling, the 9 of Swords reversed popped out of the deck. I put it back in and kept shuffling. I split the deck and pulled my cards, and lo and behold, the first card was none other than the 9 of Swords reversed, followed by the Priestess and the Magician:
I knew immediately what it was about: my propensity for profound self-doubt. I mean, I do believe in myself, and I recognize when I am capable of a job or if I have a particular skill. But for some reason, when I'm in the trenches of the work itself, I always question myself, and often don't sleep well while worrying about the quality of what I've done. I remember this happening quite a lot when I was a student. I would spend so much time and effort working on a project or essay, and never feeling that it was up to par. I knew I could do better. And then I'd get the feedback from the instructor and find that not only did I do very well, I went far above the expectations for whatever the assignment was. You'd think that after experiencing that same situation multiple times over the course of my life that I would come to trust in myself more. But no, I repeat the same cycle - I know that I'm doing it, I'm aware - but that doesn't remedy my worry. These cards show that I eat myself up with self-doubt, but in the end I'm able to use my own wisdom and knowledge (internal) to manifest success (external). I really love that the Priestess showed up (it's my favorite card in this particular deck as it reminds me of Artemis, and much of my self-doubt stems from trusting my intuition and innate wisdom) and the Magician as well (he is my Soul Card).

It's a powerful message, a potent reminder to myself, and I may just lay these cards out somewhere in sight so that I can continue to work on assuaging my sense of self-doubt. I suppose that in a sense, I never want to be over-confident; to some degree I value my inner critic as a way to be accountable to myself, to know that I'm always giving my all to whatever I do. But there is a line somewhere (perhaps I've crossed it when I lose sleep!) that I want to be more respectful of - a balance of self-forgiveness that I would like to achieve.

Least Favorite Card

The task for day 5 of the Shadow Work October challenge was to identify your least favorite card in the deck and discuss what that means about you. I spent quite a while in bed, sprawled out in the dark going over each card mentally, trying to find one that I don't care for. After some time I realized that I don't dislike any. However I eventually settled on the 3 of Swords:
Mythic Tarot
Obviously some cards are more difficult than others, but I appreciate them all. However the card that makes me hurt most for a client is when the 3 of Swords appears. At best it highlights deep disappointment and at worst profound sadness, heartbreak, and even betrayal. It's the most visceral and the hardest for me to shake off when a reading is finished.

What does that say about me? I care about and empathize with my clients and I probably have some boundary work to do!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Shadow Work October: Overcoming My Fear

I've really been enjoying the Shadow Work October challenge. It's based on Instagram and initially I imagined that I'd use my blog primarily to share my various tasks, yet I've surprised myself and am in fact using Instagram! What I really appreciate about that forum is the opportunity to experience the thoughts and work being done by others participating in the same challenge. However from time to time I want to share some of the tasks and results here, so today I will briefly discuss the challenges from days three and four:

On day three our task was to pull a card to describe our greatest fear. I pulled: 5 of Stones.
Wildwood Tarot
On Instagram I wrote the following about this:

"This is apt! I often say that a solid economic security is the only thing missing from my life. I have amazing children, a loving husband, and I enjoy the work that I do. But if anything nags at me it's the worry that stems from always having to be meticulously mindful of my resources."

An additional thought: several months ago I did a "bridge" reading to identify where I was at the moment, where I was headed, and how I was going to get there (aka the "bridge"). In that reading my bridge was the 5 of Stones, which both made a lot of sense, and also served as a comfort (yes, this is your indeed your path!). It is nice to see it appear here, again, and to have the chance to consider that past reading and the encouragement it gave me.

On day four (today) the task was to pull a card that represents how best to conquer our fear, and I pulled: 9 of Swords.
Stone Tarot
My thoughts: "The best way to approach and overcome my fear is through reflection and attention. Naming and knowing fears helps to diminish their power over us, and helps us find solutions for them."

Often times we want to run from fears, push them down below the surface, distract ourselves from them. But fears can also be our greatest teachers. Hiding from them allows them to grow out of proportion to what is real, and our fear of fear provides sustenance for them. Addressing our fears reduces their influence over our hearts and minds, and can be a rich source of self-empowerment.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." -FDR

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Special Shadow Spread and Reading Offer for October

I am offering an October special-rate reading using an original shadow spread:
Deviant Moon Tarot
October Special: "Exploring Our Shadow" 3-Card Reading - $10

Just for the month of October you can order a special, reduced-rate reading to explore shadow influences:

Card 1 - Shadow: What feelings, thoughts or past experiences are floating beneath the surface of your life that you may not be fully aware of?

Card 2 - Lesson: How does your shadow impact you? What does it teach you about yourself?

Card 3 - Key: How might you address, work with, or overcome your shadow?

You may purchase the reading via the Request page, by clicking here.

If you are a reader, please feel free to use this spread for yourself! :)