Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future

For the month of December I am participating in a loosely heathen-centric Instagram challenge hosted by @MagnoliaMoonHolistic called #mmyulechallenge. For days 15-17 the prompts are very Charles Dickens: Ghost of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future. As when drawn together this creates a nice spread, I've chosen to combine the days thus, and pull cards from the Dreams of Gaia Tarot:

Ghost of Christmas Past: 9 of Fire
Ghost of Christmas Present: 10 of Air
Ghost of Christmas Future: Major XIX
I love the mirroring of this line. The two end cards are fiery and bright, and the figures look outward, while the middle card has cooler colors (fitting for Air), and the woman is turned away, looking through a portal into the universe. Numerologically, the 9 and 10 make 19, reflecting and amplifying the energy of the Major Arcana card.

The 9 of Fire brings forth an energy of intensity and pressure. This image underscores the idiom "grace under fire." This man has absorbed and transformed the sense of chaos surrounding him, and has produced from it a white rose of peace and potential which floats between his hands.

The woman in the 10 of Air is processing the depths of a new personal paradigm. She is looking into the universe, into herself; she is willing to release, to be released, and thus to be reborn.

Major XIX in the Dreams of Gaia is called "Emotions" and in a similar vein to the more traditional Sun, it connects to the expression of joy and happiness; the invitation for those powerful experiences to be called forth, honored, recognized; to allow them to move, to breathe, through you.

In the past year I've certainly seen some radical and positive changes in my life. The 9 of Fire pressure that propelled me forward; that taught me about my will and fortitude; that pushed me to keep striving, and to keep my faith; ultimately fostered a particular experience of abundance and personal power that I'm sure has fed into the reconceptualization of the 10 of Air. The other day I was on a walk with my husband and I was telling him about how different I feel, how much I've grown in the last twelve months. I'm the same, and I'm different; I'm a better, stronger, more refined expression of myself. I see through new eyes. I see new possibilities. The hint of sadness that seemed to lurk for so long beneath the surface of my waking mind has evaporated. I feel the warmth of that joy unfolding, and I'm truly and deeply grateful.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Dreaming with Heimdallr

My daughter recently gifted me a gorgeous rhombus of Iceland spar (clear calcite) for an early Yule present. It was very touching, both because it was such a lovely and thoughtful item, and because she herself was so moved by the experience. She recently started her first job and this is the first year that she has been able to shop for people on her own - there is a certain power in that sort of self-determination and self-sufficiency. 

This calcite has been roosting next to my head as I sleep every night for nearly two weeks now. Since its arrival I've been having some very interesting dreams, almost on par with what I experienced with apophyllite a couple of years ago!
Iceland spar in the sunlight
Last night was no different. Though my dreams were extensive, there is one that stands out in my mind. In the dream I was with many other people - mostly women from what I recall - in what was essentially an observation deck or tower. However rather than a typical observation deck that you might find in the mountains, it was up in outer space, at a considerable distance from the Earth. It was meant to allow people to view our planet. As we were looking through the blackness of space toward Earth we noticed that there was a rainbow encircling it. A woman seemed to make a connection to Norse mythology, and said, "Hey! That is sort of like...." and she tried to pronounce a Norse word that she couldn't quite recall - but she was on the right track. I said, "It is Heimdallr!" Then my mother was there, and she asked me what that meant. I started to tell her about Heimdallr and how he protects the Earth, and as I spoke I was so overcome with emotion that I started to cry, and couldn't keep speaking. 
Slightly cheesy (but free) image that depicts my dreamscape (albeit a bit cartoonishly!)

Now, in mythology, Thor tends to claim the role of "protector of Midgard." Heimdallr is the Guardian of Bifröst, the flaming rainbow bridge that connects Midgard with Asgard. He will blow his horn, the Gjallarhorn, to warn the gods and goddesses of the start of Ragnarok (the end of the world of gods and humankind), and Bifröst will ultimately break when the Jötunn arrive. Thus begins the end (that ultimately leads back to a new beginning). So in this sense, Heimdallr's crucial position can also be considered one of protection. 

In my dream, Bifröst was not so much a "bridge" as a ring around our planet. Beyond that, I have no interpretations for either the dream or the manifestation of Heimdallr (I never saw a human-like image - I saw the rainbow, and the rainbow was the essence of Heimdallr). But it was fascinating and moving nonetheless, and something I'll be pondering in the coming days. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Focus on What You Can Do Today

Today is the first day back at it following the Thanksgiving holiday. The entire household has been wading through a haze of various illnesses - a stomach bug, a nasty cold - for a couple of weeks now, and the break gave us all some much needed down time to rest and consume loads of hot tea!

As I type this I have a steaming cup of lemon brew to my left side, and a box of tissues to my right. But the week's toil waits for no-one, and, as Robert Frost wrote, I have miles to go before I sleep.

So in choosing my morning card I asked, "What energy is my ally?" As I tackle the responsibilities before me today, what will help me to maintain perspective, to reduce tension, to increase stability?

I drew the 5 of Hazards from the Zombie Tarot:
The first thing I notice, of course, is that this lady is kneeling over a pile of what looks a lot like crumpled up tissues. And the yellow bag she's holding strongly resembles my Ricola cough drops. She seems to be thinking, "WTF, cold, this is getting out of hand. How many tissues and lozenges until I reach the end of this thing!?"

What I'd love to do is to huddle in a cave away from the rest of the world (and really, who wants to be around a sick person?) but I can't accomplish that - too much going on. In this image there clearly is a lot that needs to be tended to, but this woman isn't sweating it. She is focusing first on what she needs to do (take care of her health), and what she can do (prioritizing, balancing the to-do list with energy output), and the rest will have to hang in there in the meantime. Fortunately the buildings don't look like they're about to fall!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Óðinn, the Valknut, and the Warrior's Path

I didn't plan to write this on Veteran's Day, but it's a wonderfully appropriate synchronicity. This post is a semi-curated version of a couple of rambling journal entries I've written recently. I hope that the content - my thoughts - are clear enough to the reader (sometimes we think in images, and images can be rather difficult to fully and faithfully narrate into text). So here goes....

I've pulled the 10 of Swords (upright and reversed) so many times in relationship to Odin: what blessing does he offer?; how can I deepen our relationship?; what aspects of psyche is he connected to? (just to name a few).
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot
The 10 of Swords connects to themes of sacrifice, loss, endings, utter release from the bonds of restriction and self-limitation; a death of the old self in order to birth the new. Odin hung for nine days, without a drink or a bite to eat, from Yggdrasil in order to earn the wisdom of the runes, symbols representing the layers and streams of experience and knowledge that flow through the multiverse. The World Tree itself, Yggdrasil, is at once thought to be both around us and within us. So the entirety of existence is not only external to ourselves, but is contained within our very beings (reminds me of that Whitman quote: "I contain multitudes" - which, come to think of it, is a very Odin expression!). As I pondered all of this, I was reminded of a dream I had some time ago of a raven or crow offering me an eyeball to eat. I vividly recall that when I woke up, I felt like the raven was inside my head. In this (rather complex) context, there is a concept of the raven as external messenger, and at the same time as an intrinsic aspect of myself.

Odin is considered to be a god of battle, shamanism, inspiration, wisdom, and death. His symbol is generally thought to be the valknut (knot of the fallen, or dead), three intersecting triangles. Its meaning is not firmly known, but based largely on educated conjecture. In other words, there is nothing historical that explicitly states that Odin and the valknut are connected. However there are pictorial artifacts that do appear to associate them, including one - on the Lärbro stones - that shows what is probably Odin and his ravens at a burial mound over which a downward-angled valknut is depicted.

A couple of weeks ago I was pondering the symbolism of the valknut. I decided to pull three cards about its significance, and I drew: 8 of Swords rx, Knight of Swords rx, and the Ace of Swords.
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot
I noticed immediately that all of the cards were air (intellect, knowledge, language, discernment, communication - very much the domain of Odin), and that the sum of the spread was 9, which is Odin's number. The feeling that this line gave me was: the clarity and new knowledge that comes from journeying through the "other side." It's the 8 of Swords - not 10 - but still there is this feeling of breaking free, or diving in. Mary Greer discusses the shamanic aspects of the 8 of Swords in her book "The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals," and mentions that the significance of the reversal of this card includes initiation. That makes sense. The Knight is a warrior. He ventures forth, freed from  the bindings of time and thought, and there finds illumination. In ancient depictions of the valknut we see evidence of a correlation to the death of a warrior. And as in probably all religions, in particular Ifá and the Northern Tradition, all wisdom has multiple meanings. Warriors, battles, and death are both literal and metaphorical.

Odin sacrificed himself to himself in order to set himself free and truly learn who and what he was. As a deity, or even archetype, it is a bit funny to think of him needing to embark on such a journey, but the story itself demonstrates the whole point of his essence: allowing the ego to die so that the soul can be free to be fully expressed.
Valknut pendant
Who are we when we remove all outer and societal trappings? Who are when we release the baggage that builds up over the years, the stories we tell ourselves (and believe) about what and who we are, and are not? About what we can do and cannot, about what is acceptable and what isn't? If our ultimate goal is self-actualization, then our greatest sacrifice is of ourselves toward that goal. In order to learn, we have to get rid of binary thinking and open ourselves to paradox, to all possibility, which is why true "Odinists" know no barriers or limitations. All experiences, all people, all cultures, all aspects of social strata, all elements of nature, offer new knowledge and the opportunity to learn both about the cosmos and about ourselves. The number nine symbolizes completion; Odinism is ultimately about becoming whole, and free.

If the World Tree is within us, then Odin is effectively hanging himself in the liminal, sacred space of his own inner self, the ultimate initiation. Who are you when you have nothing to name you? By letting himself go he was able to open himself up to the keys of the universe and universal knowledge/wisdom/truth. And with that wisdom he was able to dialogue - consciously engage with - existence itself.

Some believe that to wear a valknut indicates a dedication to Odin and/or Odinic principles, and to the path of a warrior. As I mentioned before, I believe that soldiers are one sort of warrior, and the strength, bravery, and willingness to confront physical death that they embrace as part of their duty to protect and serve is sacred and sobering. I also believe that the path of the warrior is a choice that we make in every moment of our lives, whether or not we ever set foot on a literal battle field.

From my perspective, Odin's principles include (but are not limited to) having the strength to stand up for what is right; reducing and eliminating perceived barriers that prevent us from engaging in the dynamic fabric of life; opening our hearts and minds to learning from all things, and all people; having the courage to look at our own shadows (and not run away); working to identify the influence of our egos, and then working to free ourselves from those bindings; to fully embody our unique selves. All of this involves the never-ending work of self-evaluation, self-acceptance, a desire, dedication, and intent to always "be and do" as authentically, honestly, and openly as possible; a willingness to challenge ourselves to always grow, evolve, and learn.

He alone knows
who wanders wide
and has much experienced 
by what disposition each man is ruled
who common sense possesses.
-Havamal, 18 (B. Thorpe)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Time for Healing - and Action

Though Hillary won the popular vote, the electoral college system awarded the presidency to Donald Trump. I won't bother attempting to tone down my dismay. I called in sick today because between not getting any sleep last night, and being stunned by this turn of events, I can't think straight. I'm a proponent of positive thinking and the value in choosing to focus on what's possible, and what's good, especially when it's most difficult to do so. But today I'm granting myself much needed space to grieve - not just for the loss of my candidate, but more so for what this "Republican" win means for my country, my family, and myself. I was not pleased (to say the least) when Bush won the highest office in the land twice in a row, but that feeling just doesn't compare to how I feel on this day. 

Still, the show must go on. These are the moments that Tarot was made for - when you are stumbling around in the dark, confused and unsure of your surroundings. So I shuffled my Zombie Tarot and pulled two cards:
Where does healing begin: 4 of Pentacles (rx)

A man sits in his supply room, surrounded by food stores, and cradling a rifle. His ears are plugged against the group of people banging on the boarded doors, seeking refuge from a coming onslaught of zombies. He is safe, and isn't willing to take the risk of opening his stronghold to invite others in. He doesn't want to share his resources with anyone else, either, otherwise he won't last as long as he might on his own. This card tells me that it's okay to take some space apart to process the significance of all that is happening around us, but it's also critical that we not shut ourselves off from each other as we move forward. Sharing with others who feel the same way that we do helps to weave strong bonds of solidarity; helps us remember that we're not experiencing this pain in a vacuum. We may question our community, and the fabric of our very society. We may look at our surroundings with new eyes. But ultimately we must connect with each other - and that includes those who see the world differently than we do. If we are going to heal as a nation, we have to forge bridges, even where we feel they've been burned.  And if they crumble, we have to be willing to rebuild them, or find a new path to understanding. This is not simple or straight forward, but it's necessary. 

How do we take the first step forward? Queen of Pentacles (rx)

This woman sits in a drawing room with tear-stained cheeks. She has no arms, and a chain reaches from a chair leg up under a blanket to close tightly around her neck. I am sure that many in our country feel momentarily powerless; at a loss for where to go from here. Indeed there have been many tears shed in the last 12 hours, and a deep sense of disenfranchisement. There are vibrant fears at the idea that racist police protocols such as "stop and frisk" may be revived, and that Muslims may be discriminated against through the application of a broad (and vague, and un-American) "Muslim ban" on immigrants. Furthermore, the opportunity to break the glass ceiling in terms of the ability of women to achieve the highest office in the land was hugely important to many people. Knowing that the new President-elect is a man who disparaged women in a variety of ways, who touched and kissed women against their will because he believed that his power and prestige awarded him such liberties - that has been hard to swallow. Awareness that women's health issues may come under fire, and that marriage equality for all humans may be at risk, is high in the minds of a large segment of America's population. Many discuss the possibility of relocating overseas, or to a neighboring country more friendly to progressive ideologies. But is that the best way? At some point we have to recognize that we do have a voice, and there are contexts in which our advocacy is still needed - perhaps more now than ever before. Rather than resigning ourselves to a new order, or giving up on our country, it may be just the right time to get our hands dirty. We are in fact not powerless. 

Find a cause and dedicate yourself to it. Be selfless, and show kindness to strangers. Speak up when you witness bigotry in action. Ally yourself with legislators in your area that are fighting for you. Advocate for immigrants and refugees. Bring cross-cultural trainings to your workplace. Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. Remember that one person can make a difference. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Responsibility of Power

Along with power and leadership comes a sacred responsibility to be impeccable with one's word. According to Don Miguel Ruiz, to be impeccable with your word means to:

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. 
Avoid using the word to speak against yourself 
or to gossip about others. 
Use the power of your word 
in the direction of truth and love.

This morning I pulled the Sage card from the Dreams of Gaia Tarot:
Like a blend of the Hermit and the Magician, author and artist, Ravynne Phelan, describes the Sage as a wise man who searches for new knowledge, reflects upon the past, and then imparts his wisdom to others through eloquent speech.

The shadow side of this card may be seen in those who distort reality and disseminate false information to support their own agendas, or who simply engage in rhetoric or impart advice and guidance based on faulty knowledge. (In either case it is almost irrelevant whether or not the guide is well-intentioned or not, because in either case damage can result.)

Power can be a dangerous thing if that sacred responsibility is not solemnly accepted and tended.

As I sat drinking my morning coffee today, the eve of the conclusion of our wild ride of a U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump was shown addressing attendees at a campaign event. Though Hillary Clinton has been officially cleared of wrongdoing by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (for the second time in a matter of months), he nevertheless chose to cast ominous doubt over the affair, implying that the FBI did not conduct a thorough investigation, and that they perhaps had bowed to some sort of clandestine pressure from the Clintons. He said, specifically: "You can't review 650,000 emails in eight days." As he spoke, the crowd jeered. I started to yell at the television set: "They didn't have to review that many emails in eight days! They reviewed a tiny fraction of that, and only those that had any correlation to Hillary Clinton. Does he not understand this?" (Well, speaking factually has not been a priority of his campaign, so it shouldn't be a surprise.)

But as I sat there fuming, I thought of how utterly manipulative this man is. He has no respect for the office he is seeking. He pays no mind to the pain and fractures he is creating, nor the tornadoes of discrimination and distrust that he is fomenting. In reality, I believe it feeds him.

Just yesterday at a Trump rally, a peaceful protester holding a "Republicans Against Trump" sign was knocked down and tackled by attendees before being whisked outside by a group of police officers (par for the course considering Trump's previous encouragement of violence at his rallies). Someone in the crowd had yelled "gun!" and so the secret service had swooped down and hurried Trump off stage. Ultimately there was no gun. The words of the peaceful protestor afterward, when asked about his treatment by the crowd:

I like these people. These are my fellow Americans. I love these people. 
I understand that they came here because they're patriotic. They want to 
do good for their country. So, the things that were going on...
this is the main reason why I do not support Donald Trump. He's fascist. 
You know, he's a dictator. And these type of people, they take good people 
and they turn them into animals

(For contrast, this is how Obama handled a pro-Trump protester at a Clinton rally recently).

So, does Trump's manner bear some resemblance to fascism? Yes, according to Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a scholar of fascism at New York University, in an article written by Jonathan Blitzer for the New Yorker. A particularly potent and somber excerpt:

In the speech of Mussolini, Putin, Trump, and also Berlusconi, 
Ben-Ghiat notes a pattern: they are at once transparent about 
their intentions and masters of innuendo. “Trump trails off. 
He uses ellipses and coded language. He lets his listeners fill in 
what they want.” When Trump seemed to suggest that gun owners 
should deal with Hillary Clinton themselves, or when he talked 
about needing to “watch” certain communities out to steal the 
vote on Election Day, his statements were more powerful for their 
ambiguity. “It’s all about letting listeners convince and mislead 
themselves,” she said. 

Yes, that has been one of the most terribly fascinating aspects of this election cycle.

Excerpts from stanzas 63-64 of the Havamal read:

Inquire and impart 
should every man of sense 
who will be accounted sage...
His power should every wise man
use with discretion.*

May the outcome of tomorrow's election afford us the opportunity to continue - as individuals, as a nation, and as a planet - the important work of spreading the noble virtues of respect, justice, equality, wisdom, integrity, kindness, patience, and responsibility. 


*Benjamin Thorpe translation

Saturday, November 5, 2016

November Cards: Believe In Yourself

Admittedly a bit late, I've decided to pull some "cards of the month" for November. Rather than use assigned positions, I simply pulled a line of three from the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot, and an oracle card from the Dat Black Mermaid Man Lady deck.

Judgment - 6 of Cups - Chariot

Ole Caney Sharp - Divine Opportunity
I sat down with cards and coffee on my son's race car rug in the early hours of Saturday morning as he played superhero next to me with his trucks and an assortment of miscellaneous items. It was a nice way to start the weekend.

I understood the significance of this line almost immediately. Though my job focuses primarily on directing an English language program, I have recently been called to give presentations on cultural awareness. Language acquisition is a small aspect of the overall theme, but much of the "weightier" material delves into concepts of religious diversity, racism, and cultural labeling. This sort of work is a passion of mine. My undergraduate degree is in Cultural Anthropology, and most of my adult life has involved addressing injustice, increasing awareness of the beautiful fabric and texture of human existence, and preserving ancient legacies - language, traditions - before they are lost in an ever-expanding globalized society. I am one half of an interracial marriage, and my children straddle a number of cultural and racial divides that will likely bring them (in addition to many joys) frustrations from an outside world that struggles to place things (and people) in tidy (and utterly limiting) boxes. Throughout my life I have worked in various roles in places that include Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, central city urban neighborhoods, immigrant communities, and the Basque Country, Spain. Honoring and understanding the breadth and depth of humankind, and facilitating that understanding in other people, is extraordinarily important to me. 

An initial invitation to give a presentation to administrators who support international students gave way to a second invitation to present on cultural awareness to a group of faculty members from two different departments, which then led to a third invitation to present to yet another department at the end of the month. Judgment is an interesting card because it both represents the elements of this work that feel like a true "calling" and it also touches on how hard I am on myself. After that first presentation I ruthlessly beat myself up about "what people might have thought," and "how much more clearly I should have explained [insert topic]." My husband was a bit shocked at what he dubbed my "self punishment." And he was right - that is exactly what I was doing to myself. Ultimately I received so much positive feedback that I came to understand that it "wasn't that bad" after all (!) which was both a relief and a blessing. When the day came to present for the second time, my daily draw was Judgement. I didn't think about it at the time, but later I realized that perhaps this was touching on something deeper than I was acknowledging. (And that session went very well!)

The 6 of Cups represents this connection to who I have always been, my essential self, that part of me that has remained unchanged since childhood. In doing this work I'm tapping into a voice that has a lot to say; a part of myself that has gathered experience and perspective over many years, and is primed for expression. The Chariot gathers all of that up and carries it forth into the world. It tells me that I have a lot to do, and so much more to develop and explore in this capacity. As I approach my third presentation, I've already started to consider how to expand into a "part two." There is so much that can be discussed in the broad arena of diversity and cross-cultural understanding, and in the current limit of two hours I can only scratch the surface. I see that there is a need for it, and a place, as well, and that will spur me onward in the coming months and year ahead. 

Ole Caney Sharp represents the energy of Elegua, my dear friend and road-opener. When I read the advice on the back of the card I had to laugh in appreciation. It says: 

Let your questions go
you ain't got to know.
You thinks too much
that's why you stuck.
Get on up
and fly.

I have spent a lot of time lately considering how much I over-think, over-worry, and thereby limit myself. This card is a pointed reminder that (as illustrated by my intense - and unfounded - self-criticism following my first presentation) I tend to clip my own wings, and that it's a good moment to let go of that bad habit and see where the winds take me.....

Monday, October 31, 2016

Samhain Blog Hop: Guidance From Our Ancestors


Welcome to the Samhain Blog Hop! Louise Underhill, from Priestess Tarot, is our trusty wrangler this time around, and she has asked us to open ourselves to the guidance and advice of our ancestors in honor of the present time of year. So here goes!

Last Samhain Blog Hop I chose to focus my post on my Grandpa Malgeri. This time around I decided not to choose, but to let any grandparent(s) come forward that wished to. I pulled three cards to help describe the person, and another three cards to form their message to me. Interestingly, I found my Grandpa Malgeri here again!
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot
The King of Swords is the anchor card, and my mother's dad was a Libra; I think he was a good father in his own way, but he made choices that ultimately led to many years of considerable geographic separation from his kids. The Page seems to trying to show his pentacle to the King of Swords whose attention is diverted toward the Lovers - he's even gesturing toward them. My grandmother left Italy and returned to the U.S. with her kids after she learned that my grandfather had been having an affair.* So here I see my grandfather nestled between two rather significant areas of family life: his love relationships, and his children. I will underscore the fact that I don't judge my grandfather and the choices that he made - life and love are complex and messy at times. Given that he died when I was a baby, these are some of the sparse details that I know about him, which means that they are particularly helpful themes to touch on for purposes of helping me figure out which grandparent was "speaking."

I love that he is letting me know that he is still here and present in my life.

The message along the bottom - the 6 of Swords, Fool, and Ace of Wands - speaks of movement, new adventures, and opportunity. This is indeed what my astrology reports have been hinting at lately, too! And I see evidence of it in my life - the sense of wheels turning, of new paradigms waiting to be born, of branching out (no pun intended!) and exploring new territory, especially as it relates to my professional life.

Thus it is a comforting confirmation of the small wonderings that clamor for the attention of my waking mind. I'm ready for what may come.
This is a peek at my ancestral altar which has been seeing quite a bit of action lately.

May your Samhain, Halloween, may your Winter Nights, be blessed.

To continue around the circle of blog hoppers, use the links at the top or bottom of this post!


*Interestingly, in a reading I did recently (for Shadow Work October on Instagram) about the "wisdom of the female lineage," I saw my grandmother's story there, too!



Monday, October 24, 2016

10 of Swords: Let It Go

Today I decided

to let it all go;

to make impotent

the cords of expectation

(ego's lashings).
Robert Place's Vampire Tarot
Today I decided

to release it all

(a vibrant exhale);

to re-member my thoughts

(a stillness of breath);

and in that fleeting curve of moment

I found myself

again.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Powerful and Wild: Artemis

Last week for the Shadow Work October challenge on Instagram, the host, Mnomquah, asked us to think of a childhood idol and use that person (deity, character, etc.) as the focal point of a spread. I didn't do it initially because after thinking and pondering and considering for quite some time, I couldn't come up with anything at all. I don't recall ever having an "idol" that I looked up to.

Several days later I found myself still ruminating on the topic when -

- Artemis came to my mind.

When I was about 15 years old I studied the Greek gods and goddesses as part of high school humanities, and I'm sure that I drank it up more heavily than would have been expected of me as a student at the time. I was immediately drawn to Artemis. I saw so many aspects of myself in her: Artemis of the wild wood, the archer, fierce and independent.

So nearly two weeks later I sat down to pull some cards.
1. Core desire: The things that drive my idol.
2. Strategy: My idol's ways of achieving goals.
3. My idol's greatest fear.
4. Weakness.
5. Strength/Talent.
6. Me as a result: Summary of how my idol influenced who I am today.
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot
I was extremely moved and fascinated by the results of the draw. Not only did moon images appear in two places within the main reading, the "shadow" card at the bottom of the deck was also one of the Luna cards from the Pagan Otherworlds deck. This was particularly fitting considering Artemis' connection with this celestial body.

1. Core desire: 8 of Cups

Visually, this card brings to mind following the moon across wild and shadowy landscapes, which of course is a perfect backdrop for Artemis. Metaphorically it connects to going beyond quotidian life and searching for deeper meaning. It is about exploring the unknown, and discovering what ultimately satisfies and invigorates the spirit. I see Artemis in all of that.

One of the things that I loved about her when I was a teen was that she did not conform to a "traditional" goddess archetype of love, or marriage, or "tender of the hearth fire." Artemis was a free spirit. Though she did have relationships, and she was connected to the very feminine experience of pregnancy and childbirth, she had no desire to settle into a prescribed lifestyle of domesticity, and as such became such a beautiful symbol of female power and independence.*

2. Strategy: Queen of Pentacles

Wow. Yes. Artemis is known to not only be profoundly connected to the wild and natural world as a patron and protector, but also as a tireless supporter of women. Myth says that immediately after her own birth, she helped her mother Leto labor with her twin brother Apollo. Thus, despite being a virgin goddess, she was connected to childbirth. All of these reside within the domain of this Queen.

3. My idol's greatest fear: Sun reversed

This card brought a few thoughts to my mind: a fear of losing power and independence; a desire not to be overshadowed by her brother, Apollo, a sun god; a fear of either not having space to shine brightly enough, or of being subject to the dominating egos of others.

4. Weakness: Half moon.

This says to me: black and white. And this is how Artemis tended to view the world. She had a very strict sense of morality, and was unforgiving if she perceived a breach in her code.

5. Strength/Talent: 9 of Pentacles

Seriously, though. I often refer to this as the "strong, successful, independent woman card". I actually laughed when I pulled this one.

6. Me as a result: 2 of Cups

Artemis taught me to love myself and in turn to receive love. To truly bring the disparate elements of my being into harmony, to fully honor myself, has meant that I was able to enter into a strong marriage that never required me to limit or compromise myself in order to fit a particular mold. Artemis showed me that independence and strength are not incompatible with partnership - in fact they are prerequisites to healthy union.

And after all these years, I am still wild on the inside.



*As an adult I have a far more complex and dynamic understanding (and experience) of "female power and independence" which fully includes partnership and "traditional" roles of women under its umbrella.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Beauty of the Draw

I love it when daily draws are immediately relevant.

This morning I pulled the 3 of Pentacles, a card of creativity, teamwork, and applied skill.
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot
The first thing that came to mind was the fact that I will be facilitating a team meeting this afternoon at which a couple of faculty will be discussing “best practices” and technology use in education.

Then I checked my email.

I’ve been working for months on a major program overhaul. I’ve gone through several iterations, I’ve networked with the necessary departments that will be involved in implementing it, and I’ve pored over how to make this a stronger, more relevant program version. This morning I received a message that the modifications were approved! It’s been a long process, and to receive this full acceptance is extremely rewarding.

It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time, as now I’ll be able to share this exciting news at this afternoon’s gathering. The 3 of Pentacles is feeling pretty damn good today!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pagan Otherworlds Tarot: A Review

This is the deck. As in, “the” deck – the one that hits all the right places, the one I can’t put down, the one with all the right feels, overflowing with soul.
My ideal deck would have:

  • reversible backs
  • little-to-no text on the card fronts
  • not a single card I don’t really like
  • been produced by an independent publisher
  • the feel of a very useable work of art
  • quality artwork
  • an essence of timelessness 
  • excellent card stock
  • card images that are complete and balanced, but not overfull 
  • at least slightly illustrated minors (enough for the intuition to dig into)
  • art that clearly highlights traditional card meanings 
  • that special “something” 

So, that said, the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot fulfills each and every item on this list. It’s a tall order, I know. But like I said, this is the one!

The down and dirty:

  • 78 cards 
  • 1 additional Major (the Seeker)
  • 5 “Luna” cards (representing the moon cycle)
  • Strength VIII, Justice XI
  • Page, Knight, Queen, King
  • reversible backs with a beautiful floral image
  • high quality tuck box
  • mainly RWS styling with some influence from Marseilles
  • excellent stock with a linen finish
  • company: Uusi
  • creators: Linnea Gits and Peter Dunham

This deck arrived to my home wrapped in a foam sheath upon which a small sprig of cedar was attached. A cloth card bag featuring the company’s name (Uusi) was included along with the shipping invoice. Each deck features a different herb or plant – some people received their decks along with lavender, or sage, for example. It’s a beautiful touch.
The box itself features the same design as the card backs, and feels like it was produced by someone who really knows, and loves, cards. This is the case, of course. Aside from this deck, Uusi has created a number of playing card decks, a Tarot deck called the BRuT Tarot, and they are currently working on a third Tarot deck called Eros: The Garden of Love. (They do make a few other things, such as advent calendars and wooden knife racks!)
Small details like a custom paper stamp that seals the tuck box and small printed messages in the fold of the box top add to the exquisite experience of handling this creation for the first time.
When I pulled the cards out of their box I noticed immediately that they move effortlessly over one another – no stickiness, no slight catching that sometimes occurs with matte finishes. These cards were meant to be shuffled, and I even think that the process of shuffling was intended to be a part of the overall enormous pleasure of preparing to read with this deck. If you have it, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
I have heard some people express concern that the numbered Minor Arcana may be “pips” however this is not really the case. Yes, each card shows the correct number of elemental items for the suit, and no, there are no people (for the most part). But if you look at each card you will find an abundance of scenic imagery that connect with traditional RWS meaning.
Take for instance the 4 of Swords. With three swords upright (blades downward) and a single sword perpendicular to them on the ground, it mirrors the RWS version which shows three swords hanging on a wall over a stone knight, with one sword horizontal along the tomb.
The 7 of Wands shows one upright rod with six others crossed in front of it. It certainly gives the impression of advocacy, standing for what you believe in, rising to meet a challenge.
The 4 of Wands shares an unmistakable connection to the traditional RWS version, with four rods standing upright and decorated with celebratory garlands.
Even the 3 of Wands features an ocean in the background with ships either coming or going.
The tree in the 8 of Pentacles exudes the idea of growth and development. In the 5 of Cups you’ll notice that the three central cups are upside down, while the two on either side are upright. The skull below calls to mind past regrets, and mourning.
All of the Court cards are stunning. I particularly love the Queens and the Knights. There is such elegant movement in the shape of the horses that the Knights ride. Here we also see the 6 of Swords showing a boat riding through water!
Just look at this Queen of Pentacles...
The Majors are sedately spectacular as well. The Hierophant is dressed in animal skins, and holds a stang in his right hand. He is the keeper of tradition, the village vitki.
The Chariot shows a warrior in a cart pulled by two energetic rams, one black, one white.
The Sun depicts a quite traditional child riding a white horse, a kindly celestial orb floating above.
This morning I pulled a card asking, “What energy should I honor today?” I pulled the Ace of Pentacles, inviting me to count the many blessings in my life.
One of those happens to be the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Layers of Synchronicity: The Star

I am participating in an Instagram "challenge" in October called CHMM Fall Challenge. Day sixteen asked the question: "What needs activation in my life?"

I drew the Star from both the Ring Cycle Tarot and the Pagan Otherworlds tarot.

This immediately spoke to me: Believe in yourself. Have faith in yourself. Let your inner light shine. These are very relevant messages to me at this very moment.

But there is more.

Yesterday I was in a local metaphysical shop and just as I was deciding to leave (empty handed) I noticed a deck in a long box with its title edge facing the wall. I thought I'd see what it was, though it was a bit difficult to remove as it was lodged there quite snugly. It was the Ring Cycle Tarot, a name that barely registered in my memory. As I read the text I learned that it was based on the Wagner production, The Ring of Nibelung, and was illustrated with the work of Arthur Rackham. Not only do I love the Norse saga of the Volsungs (which is the basis of the Ring of Nibelung) but I love Arthur Rackham's work. This combination of elements hit all the right spots for me, and so I took it home.
The Star: Pagan Otherworlds Tarot and the Ring Cycle Tarot
I first decided to pull today's "challenge" card from the Ring Cycle deck, and I drew the Star. I then shuffled the Pagan Otherworlds deck to hear its opinion, and the Star made itself known once again.

When I placed them side by side I was struck by the beautiful similarity in images:

In the Ring Cycle, Freyja stands near the tree of the golden apples of youth (Idunn's charge). Her right arm is bent, her left extended. She peers out over her left shoulder. In the Pagan Otherworlds, the Star figure crouches over the water near a sheltering tree. She, too, extends her left arm and looks back over her left shoulder. And in this depiction there is a bird perched on a small tree limb. The bird immediately brought to my mind the ability of Sigurd (the hero of the Volsungs) to comprehend the speech of the birds following his accidental taste of Fafnir the dragon's heart blood. With his new "wisdom" he heard the birds warn of Regin's treachery, which ultimately saved his life. And their words also informed him of a figure that would become an essential "signpost" in his story: Brunhild the Valkyrie, surrounded by a ring of fire.

So, in the context of the Star card, the bird speaks to attuning to "otherworldly" guidance as well as listening to inner guidance, which can indeed seem almost like a whole other language until we pay attention and quiet ourselves to its gentle voice.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Midnight Meeting with my Grandmother

A few nights ago I dreamt of my maternal grandmother - or, perhaps it's more accurate to say that she came to visit me in my sleep. It wasn't a long dream, per se, but it was poignant, particularly because it is the first time that I've ever dreamt of Dorothy, who died when I was five years old.

In the dream her figure was not solid, but ethereal; only partly there, like a spirit. I stood in front of her and wrapped my arms around hazy form saying, "I never had the chance to hug you, as an adult." I asked her if she had any messages for my mother, and she gave me two. Unfortunately, upon waking I couldn't remember the second. I did recall the majority of the first, and when I wrote to my mom to tell her, she replied that it was the same message that her morning reading had given her. That was nice to hear.

I pulled a few cards to explore this experience:
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot
1: My grandmother's presence

Page of Cups. A perfect symbol of a message-bearer, a speaker through the liminal realms of dreamtime.

2: Her essential message to me

9 of Pentacles. I felt this to be both encouragement and acknowledgement of where I am, and where I'm headed. I felt that she was telling me that she's proud of me.

3: Additional energy

2 of Cups. Love.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Lessons from a Hurricane

Hurricane Matthew came and went in my area late last week. We spent Thursday morning filling sandbags in the rain, and driving around trying to find any store or market that still had bottled water (the city quickly turned into a ghost town for items such as bread and H2O!). Gas stations were running out of fuel, and lines to fill up tanks stretched out of lots and into roadways.
Water didn't last long at most markets
By early afternoon we went home and prepared as much as we could. We removed the loose debris from the backyard, picked up toys. We taped the windows - not to prevent them from breaking, but to at least keep the glass shards contained in the event that they did shatter. We put candles out, and made sure that our flashlights had batteries. We laid the sandbags around the door of our front porch which is prone to light flooding even during a normal storm. 
Sandbags lined up and ready to go 
At bedtime Thursday night we were anxious, but hoping to get at least some sleep before the winds started to come. Fortunately for us, the eye of the storm shifted 20 miles further east during the night, which meant that instead of the 80mph (129kmh) winds that they were expecting in our area, we ended up with 50-60mph (80-97kmp) winds - a true blessing! All day Friday we stayed indoors, watching the winds whip through the trees. Overnight a particularly strong gust had downed a large limb on our backyard maple.
A downed branch in our backyard
Around 2pm we heard transformer boxes popping, and suddenly the power was out. Wind had knocked down two utility poles on our street, and power lines were dangling so low that they almost touched the ground. Police came to block the road, but the winds were too strong for the electric company to do anything but put up detour signs and wait until the next day to assess the damage. 
One of two utility poles leans cross the road
We stopped frequenting the refrigerator in order to preserve the cold air. By evening our home was filled with lit candles, and we found the only open restaurant nearby - a Pizza Hut a couple of miles away. It was so backed up with orders (carry-out only as they couldn't send their drivers out) that as we sat waiting for our food they ended up having to refuse new customers. A nurse from the hospital across the street came in and pleaded with them to allow her to order. She had been working for two days straight and was willing to come back over an hour later to pick up her food. They kindly agreed.

The next day was beautiful: sunny, blue skies, dry air, and only a light breeze. The power was still out, and no crews were on site yet to begin to repair the damaged poles and lines. Cars would turn down our street and upon realizing that they couldn't get through, they would use our driveways to turn around. Most were respectful, but some would use our yards instead of the driveways, damaging the grass. The neighbors stood out in the street attempting to direct traffic until we were able to secure a police officer's support with getting the end of the street blocked off. I marveled at how much communication was taking place; we were chatting with neighbors we'd never before spoken with, checking in with each other, offering to harbor each other's cold food items so that they wouldn't perish. 

My husband and I decided to stroll down the street to review the damage. We didn't get far due to the debris in the street, and as I took it all in I thought, "Whatever isn't firmly rooted is swept away." It reminded me of Odin's Yule-tide Wild Ride that ultimately serves to carry away the old and outdated elements of our lives. It reminded me of the Tower.
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot
The plant debris wasn't the only thing that was blown away by the wind. The downed power lines meant no electricity and no internet, which in turn meant no TV, no air conditioning, no video games, no Netflix. It started to push people together. Not only did we speak more with our neighbors than ever before, but we started to see people sitting outside. We have often commented to ourselves over the years about how we seem to be the only residents on the block that actually sit out front from time to time. But now our neighbors were bringing out lawn chairs, and their kids were outside with hula hoops. My own kids spent hours playing board games, and picking up craft projects abandoned ages ago. 

For the first time ever since living here, I felt a semblance of community. Though the power is now back on, and people will surely return to their indoor lifestyles, it is good to have had a reminder of how satisfying each moment can feel when electronic devices fail to form the center of how we organize our time; of how rich neighborhood life can be when people connect to and care about one another.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Queen of Wands

As I leap forward into my return to the office, I look for ways to stabilize the transition. It's been a very busy year - all in great ways, but I've had to learn new techniques for balancing my time and energy. As much as I've attempted to avoid burnout, I've come close on at least a couple of occasions. I really needed this vacation to shift my focus, and to replenish my energy.

This morning I was straddling the line between feeling ready, and feeling reluctant. I decided to pull a card from this new, amazing deck, the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot (which I can't recommend enough, and will do a review of very soon).
The Queen of Wands appeared for me, and as I gazed down at her warmth I was filled with a calm confidence and an awareness that the day was going to be good. Many months ago when I was indeed on the edge of burning out, I pulled this Queen (from another deck, of course) reversed, and took her message to heart that I needed to find a better way of managing my energy output and associated stress levels.

When I did my New Moon reading this past Friday, the "waning" card was the 4 of Swords, and the "waxing" card was the 10 of Wands. I saw in that duo the ending of my down time, and the return to the responsibilities of the workplace. I am not a fatalist, so rather than sigh in surrender at the oncoming "burden," I sought a focal point, a strategy, to help maintain my peace within the busy-ness of my professional environment. The 4 of Swords offers some of that; I don't need to assume that rest is reserved for vacation - I can (and should) find ways to make space for quiet, reflective moments every day, and not feel guilty for claiming them, but recognize that they are a critical part of self-care.

This Queen reminds me that achieving balance does not require the separation of my Self into partitions at all. She reminds me that vibrancy is not the same as extroversion - it comes from within. Its primary focus is on a strong inner power that naturally emanates outward, and is not drained by the ebb and flow of the environment around her. She engages others, and yet is always mindful of maintaining her own equilibrium.

Looking at this Queen seemed to spark a sort of alchemical shift within me. I moved from "ugh..." to "I got this" in a matter of moments. So cheers to the Queen of Wands, and here's to remembering all of the things I so deeply enjoy about the work that I do!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Tarot Blog Hop: Winter Finding


Welcome to the Autumn Equinox Tarot Blog Hop, hosted by Jay Cassels and Arwen Lynch Poe. The topic this season is "Foodie's Guide to the Tarot" (though for all intents and purposes posts may feature any oracle or divination tool!). 

The Equinox is celebrated around the world, and goes by an array of names according to tradition, culture, or region. Among the practitioners of the Northern Tradition, some refer to this equinox as Winter Finding, a harvest time where special attention is paid to the Vanir gods and goddesses of abundance and fertility, such as Freyja, Freyr, Njörd, and Nerthus. 
Das Germanische Götterorakel - Voenix
Njörd is a god associated with wealth. He is also principally tied to the sea, and humankind's relationship with it: the winds, waves, the catch. Thus Njörd is connected to mariners, fishermen - any and all those whose living depends in some way upon the ocean.

The card featured here is from the Das Germanische Götterorakel (The Germanic Gods Oracle) by Voenix and Thomas Vömel. It is an 81-card oracle deck which represents the major deities, heroes, giants/jötunn, and overarching concepts in the Norse Eddas and Sagas. Here we see Njörd sitting on a coastline draped in seaweed, surrounded by gulls. An open chest of gold lies to his side, and a longship can be seen in the background. A keyword, "Reichtum," is listed on the card, which means "wealth."

I've often imagined some of my ancient North Frisian and Danish forebears - sea people, island folk - holding a special regard for this Norse deity. My great-grandfather left the island of Amrum as a young boy, and came to New York City with his family. Here they are, in the traditional dress of Amrum and Sylt (my great-grandfather is the boy at the lower left). 
In the United States he met and married my great-grandmother, Emilie Hansen, from Ribe, Denmark. Ribe is the oldest town in Denmark, and one of the oldest towns in all of Scandinavia. It is located in southwest Jutland and borders the North Sea, not more than 100 kilometers from Amrum. 

Gerret and Emilie's son, also named Gerret, was my grandfather, and of his three children, one of them - my aunt Lillian - dedicated her life to the U.S. Coast Guard, and for many years (until it sunk in harbor not too long ago) owned a boat she named "Norddorf," after Norddorf, Amrum.  I have fond memories of family celebrations aboard that vessel. The "sea gene" continued to breathe life into the following generations. 
My Grandfather, Gerret
One of my earliest memories of my grandfather (who died of a heart attack while mowing the grass when I was barely two years old) is of sitting next to him at a cafe counter and ordering New England clam chowder. I was so young when he died that I can't be absolutely certain that this occurred, but I've had the memory since I can recall, and the recollection of my grandfather's clothing - a white t-shirt, blue jeans, a red baseball cap - has always been vivid. 

Clam chowder is a fitting maritime meal, it's perfect for the cooling months of coming autumn, and it connects well with honoring Njörd at the Winter Finding, so I'll offer it here. 
I am decidedly not the recipe sort so I'll do what I can to give accurate quantities...

New England Clam Chowder
  • 4 large potatoes
  • 1 onion or leek
  • A 15 oz. can of corn (you can use fresh corn, or frozen, as well)
  • Water (enough for boiling the potatoes)
  • 1-2 cups of milk (whole milk is great, but you can also use a smaller amount of heavy cream)
  • 1 small can of clams (go for fresh if you like!)
  • A slice or two of bacon (optional, but worth it)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter and/or olive oil
Peel and chop the potatoes and place them in a large stove pot. Pour in just enough water to cover the potatoes completely, add a bit of salt, and let them boil. In the meantime, sautee the chopped onion or leek in butter or olive oil. If you like bacon, you can throw some in to add to the depth of flavor, just chop or crumble after it is cooked. Add the onion and oil/butter (and bacon, if you like) to the potato water. (Do not drain the potatoes - you'll use that water as the base for the broth.) Add the corn when the potatoes are close to done, and let simmer. Then add the clams and their juices. Finally, when the potatoes are soft, turn the heat down so that the liquid is no longer simmering (very low setting), and then add the milk or cream. Cream is finicky about being boiled, so keep that in mind. Milk is a bit sturdier. Mix it in and let it heat through. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper as desired. Eat it up!

Now, as I said before, this is my attempt at quantifying a recipe that I usually just "eyeball." If you choose to go for it, don't be afraid to add more or less of any of these ingredients! And if you need precision, there are a lot of nice-looking recipes online that will do the trick (here is one). 
Njörd altar space
Enjoy the Equinox! Happy Mabon, and a Blessed Winter Finding to you all! 

Please use the links at the top or bottom of this post to navigate to the other wonderful blogs in this circle.

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Dance and Synchronicity

This morning my mother sent me a link to a group called 5Rhythms and asked me to take a look. Before I had a chance to delve in, I noticed that she had also posted a couple of videos of one of the Australian-based teachers of The Dancing Path (part of 5Rhythms), and decided to have a listen. The first video was about the importance of "occupying" our bodies - of living into each aspect of our being, utilizing each of our senses to its fullest, and ultimately of living now rather than focusing on the future.

The second video, by the same teacher (Kate Shela), was related to the topic of dance. One thing that she said that particularly resonated with me was the notion that the entire cosmos lives within each of our beings; the axis-mundi, the World Tree, is entirely part of us, as if all of us were home to the whole universe. Dance, she said, is a way to activate our entire beings, and to re-member our selves.

A short while later I decided to pull a card from the Dat Black Mermaid Man Lady oracle, and drew one of the "David" cards. David is a character from the theater production that goes by the same name as the deck, and his energies correspond to Chango. The "David cards" all connect to the energy of "Purpose."
Upon flipping the card over to review its advice, I found the following:
"Dance." Well hey.

Purpose; dance.

According to the website, the 5Rhythms include: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness. It says:

"In dancing 5Rhythms you can track perceptions and memories; seek out gestures and shapes; tune into instincts and intuitions. They reveal ways to creatively express aggressiveness and vulnerability, emotions and anxieties, edges and ecstasies. They reconnect us to cycles of birth, death and renewal and hook us up to the spirit in all living things. They initiate us back into the wisdom of our bodies and unleash movement’s dynamic healing power."

There is deep purpose in this.

I don't dance nearly as much as I should. Perhaps it's time to start.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Hankering for the 4 of Wands

This September, the Lady of Serpents (on Instagram) is hosting a self-exploration challenge and today's prompt is: "What do I unknowingly carry with me?" I love that question - it's great for identifying hidden influences that need a little illumination!

I shuffled my Fountain Tarot and drew the 4 of Wands.
Four people dance together on a sandy beach by an expanse of water. Four beams of light reach up into the sky, almost like spotlights at a party. These people, whoever they are, are having a very good time together.

As I sat with this card the word that kept coming back to me was, release. The 4 of Wands is a card of completion, of celebration, of letting go of routine (albeit momentarily). This card often represents occasions such as graduation parties, weddings, anniversaries, and can even symbolize much-needed vacations. No matter what event it connects to, the 4 of Wands represents the joy inherent in removing the framework that gives daily life its structure. We all need that from time to time, and we, as human beings, regardless of culture, nationality, or faith, always have.

Just yesterday I was sitting outside with my husband, enjoying the early evening breeze, watching as the sun broke over an invisible horizon to paint the clouds with peachy hues. As we chatted, our conversation turned to a topic that highlighted this concept of release. He spoke of the desire for community - particularly of a web of relation-ship with people he grew up with, of an environment widely conducive to his first language. I spoke of how much I've been missing northern nature - the forests, fresh waters, the aroma of pine needles in the air. We discussed our distinct lack of any sort of community at all where we live currently; we moved here for our jobs more than four years ago and in certain ways still feel a keen sense of isolation.

Looking at the 4 of Wands, I was brought back to my own memories of release-moments: when my mother and step-dad married; a week-long trip to the family home in the northern woods with extended family; time spent at a North Carolina beach house with family and friends. Yes, I thought, I am carrying this with me - a need for celebration, release, with people I know and care about.

As I pondered this, I shuffled my Dat Black Mermaid Man-Lady oracle deck and drew a card. I could see that it was one of the Dreamer cards, which represent the reader's own soul energy.
And when I turned it over I laughed in appreciation at its message:
Family! Indeed, family; kin. The embrace of people with whom deep bonds are shared.

My family is scattered around the globe. Some are in Michigan, some in Utah. Some are on the East Coast, and some are in Tennessee. Some are in Alaska. Some are in England, and some are in New Zealand. Some are in Saudi Arabia. With so many of us spread out so far, congregating becomes a challenge, and thus happens infrequently, or not at all. Cousins grow up and seek their own adventures. They establish their families in new places. It is good, in its way, but at times bittersweet, too.

My husband and I were planning a grand getaway at the end of September, just the two of us. We kept putting off planning, and I started to sense that there was a reason - a certain "something" - that was silently staying the process. I waited to see what it might be.

We finally decided not to go anywhere at all. Rather, we would spend the time at home-base, and venture out on day trips, go on dates, and enjoy some time together in that manner. My mother was still planning to come to town to look after the kids. And then my sister let us know that she'd be descending upon our household as well, flying in from the Middle East to spend a month or more with us during her own down time. My mother, my sister, my husband, our kids. All under one roof.

By ultimately choosing to stay put, we unwittingly created a space for the 4 of Wands to manifest.