Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Crow Mother: Initiation (and a Tarot Spread)

I had to make a leadership decision at work recently that was as necessary as it was troubling. It threw me off balance for several days preceding and following the main event. And as supportive as everyone was about it, I still felt rather alone in the aftermath of the experience, when all was said and done. I didn't know how to process the residual moodiness I was experiencing, and I ended up designing a spread to help get my head and spirit around it all:

(In Case of Emergency) Spread:

1) How I'm feeling

2) Nurture this

3) Express this

Dark Goddess Tarot; Ellen Lorenzi-Prince
I decided to use the Dark Goddess Tarot, which had been calling my name for a few days. The cards were:

1) How I'm feeling: 2 of Air (inverted)

2) Nurture this: 8 of Air

3) Express this: 2 of Water (inverted)

The first thing that stood out to me was Crow Mother in the central position of the line of three cards. Crows have caught my attention quite a bit lately; everywhere I go I see them flying, hear them cawing, watch them calmly perched in treetops or on power lines. They have come to feel like patient and ever-present friends, and I find them comforting. Seeing the Crow Mother as the anchor card hit home the sense that the crow is passing through my life as a sort of "spirit bird," serving as an usher through a challenging time of change and uncertainty.

To move back to the first card, the 2 of Air in an inverted position (and especially with Athena ruling here) reflected my feeling of being at war with myself. I had a very divided mind, and rather than finding peace with it, I was feeling quite at odds with my own choice. Should I have done it? Did I act too soon? When I passed the previous month or so through my mind, recounting all of the contributing circumstances, I knew I'd made the right decision. And yet I found little comfort in that.

Crow Mother represents initiation, and in the position of "Embrace This," she encourages me to understand and accept the choice I made as an initiatory process, a necessary aspect of my new leadership role. Initiations are not supposed to be comfortable; they are often jarring, full of mystery, of the unknown. By living through them the initiate achieves new levels of understanding, is able - perhaps "invited" is the better word - to integrate new knowledge and perspectives. I hadn't previously thought of this as a rite of passage, but indeed it was, and there was some comfort in understanding it in that light.

Interestingly, as I was flipping through one of my gem and mineral books in search of an "initiation stone," another stone listing caught my eye: pallasite. This immediately connected me to Athena (Pallas Athena), and to the 2 of Air. Upon reading the entry for this meteorite, it turns out that one of its principal functions is that of helping to calm the emotional body. Very fitting, I'd say.

Unfortunately I didn't have any pallasite on hand, but I decided to pull out a new piece of one of my favorite stones - black tourmaline - that I'd just acquired the week before (you can never really have too much of this one!). Black tourmaline has a soothing, relieving energy that feels very good to me. And I realized, as I was gazing down at it in my hand, that it looked quite a bit like a crow's head.
Crow's head Black Tourmaline
The final card in the reading was Lorelei, the 2 of Water, and it had appeared inverted as the 2 of Air had. In the position of "Express This," it urged me to release the sorrow I was holding onto regarding the decision I'd had to make; to talk about it; to call on the ever present and all-abiding pool of universal love to help heal from its painful after-effects. A close friend to whom I've spoken about this has commented several times that it's very much like breaking up with someone. It's an astute observation. Lorelei was a siren whose beauty and hypnotic song was said to lure entranced sailors to their deaths against the jagged rocks. In a way, I could relate. I want to always help, honor, and nurture people, so coming to terms with having to make a decision that I knew would inevitably cause someone pain was (and still is) quite difficult to manage.

The sum of this line of three is 12, associated with the Hanged Man, a card that has appeared for me on a couple of occasions of late. Sacrifice, evolution, release, surrender.

In addition, I find the layout of numbers in this spread to be intriguing - 2 - 8 - 2. Twos relate to duality and choice, while eights correspond to change, strength, and personal power. The willingness to embrace difficult choices for the heart and mind provides great fertilizer for transformation.

Onward and upward.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Daily Draw: Working From Home

I woke up reluctantly this morning. From the warmth of bed I mentally reviewed the steps I'd be soon undertaking in order to prepare both myself and the kids for work and school. I decided that it was safest to start with the coffee pot, and as I listened to those first, glorious, mahogany droplets fall into the carafe, my younger daughter sat quietly at the kitchen table with a bowl of cereal... which she promptly vomited all over the floor (sorry, I know it's kind of gross). Hm. Perhaps Monday would become my third day of the weekend!

I did manage to arrange to work from home, sending out a couple of text messages and emails to be sure that everyone knew where I would be all day and why (I did refrain from sharing the minute details, ahem). So with a rather low-key day ahead I settled my pajamaed-self in to enjoy my coffee, and pull a daily card or two (something that tends to be rushed rather than leisurely these days).

I was considering (based on one of Ellen's recent posts) what my "soul deck" might be as I was deciding upon which to use. While there are a lot of decks that I love for various reasons, I realize that the Fountain Tarot has become a common go-to. The reversible backs, beautiful art, rather traditional (yet freshly rendered) imagery, and amazing card stock has elevated it to this position. I almost grabbed it off the shelf, but then I decided to go for warmth instead, so I dug out my trusty Morgan Greer. This was one of my first decks, but I gave it away because I just couldn't deal with the Tom Selleck mustaches all over the place. (And then I regretted it, because it's really a gorgeous, brightly colored work of art, so I reacquired it in the Italian version). This is another deck that shuffles fantastically.
Morgan Greer Tarot; Bill Greer
So what would the predominant energies of my day be, oh Morgan Greer?

Page of Cups (ah, definitely my kids - not only is my daughter ill, but my son is battling bronchitis)..........

World (mhmm.... no doubt that I'd be spending most of my time and energy on them....)...........

Emperor (oh, right. Working from home.)

As I peered at the World card I was drawn to the fact that the figures on each side peer outward to the cards on the left and right, respectively. The woman in the center balances them all evenly. To the left the Page of Cups shows my attentions to caring for my kids, while the Emperor to the right reminds me that I will have to divide my time a bit between home concerns and my director duties: despite not being physically present in the office, I still need to hold down the proverbial fort, even if I do so via technology. But then, that's the benefit of living in this modern age, I suppose!

So off I go to pour another cup, organize the kids in their beds and blankets, and then...on to those emails!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Gender in Tarot: A Simple Study

Months ago, sometime back in the autumn of 2015, I started to look at gender representation in the Tarot as a whole. While I can't recall exactly what initially prompted me to engage in this small-in-scope review, I nonetheless think that the data is interesting to consider. Below I've outlined the major elements of this study, and included some graphics that I hope help illustrate more clearly the layout of gender balance across the decks I chose to examine:

Primary Impetus:
        1.      Consider proportions of gender representations in Tarot decks
        2.      Compare percentages/balance across a selection of decks
        3.      Raise the discussion about gender representations: whether or not it matters, whether or not
                 it should (images serve as subtle messages that influence our perceptions of our
                 environment, reinforcing - or challenging - cultural norms).

        1.      The sample of decks used here is small, and from my personal collection (not exhaustive).
        2.      Potential for some subjectivity (figures I see as androgynous others may see as male, etc.)

Worth Further Examination:
        1.      Gender and marital/relationship representations
        2.      More decks

Things to Keep in Mind:

        1. Some decks (like the Stone Tarot, Thoth, and Vision Quest) are styled with less-scenic Minor
                  Arcana cards and therefore figures are limited to court cards and the Major Arcana.

Total Decks Reviewed: 12

1. Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot by Arthur Waite and Pamela Colman Smith
2. Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley and Frieda Harris
3. Vision Quest Tarot by Gayan Silvie Winter and Jo Dose
4. Tarot De St. Croix by Lisa De St. Croix
5. Fountain Tarot by Jonathan Saiz, Jason Gruhl and Andi Todaro
6. Mythic Tarot by Juliet Sharman-Burke and Liz Greene
7. Deviant Moon Tarot by Patrick Valenza
8. Prisma Visions Tarot by James R. Eads
9. Tarot of Vampyres by Ian Daniels
10. Halloween Tarot by Karin Lee and Kipling West
11. Wildwood Tarot by Mark Ryan, John Matthews, and Will Worthington
12. Stone Tarot by Alison Stone

An Initial Overview of Findings (there is far more to be explored than what I list here)

When looking solely at the balance of female:male representations:
Number of decks with more Male than Female: 8 (67%)
Number of decks with more Female than Male: 4 (33%)

When including additional cards:

Number of decks with more Indiscernible/Non-Human/No Figure than Male/Female: 8 (67%)

  • Decks with greatest gender disparity in favor of male cards: RWS, Mythic Tarot
  • Decks with greatest gender disparity in favor of female cards: Tarot of Vampyres, Tarot De St. Croix
  • Decks with greatest male/female balance: Thoth, Vision Quest Tarot
  • Decks with high percentages of "indiscernible" figures: Halloween Tarot, Prisma Visions Tarot
  • Decks with a majority of non-human cards: Thoth, Vision Quest, Stone, Wildwood
  • Deck with greatest overall balance: Deviant Moon

Note: in the charts below the term "Indiscernible" represents cards with human or otherwise anthropomorphic figures that are shadowed, blurred, distant, or androgynous. "Both" indicates the number of cards that feature both male and female characters.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

4 of Pentacles: Addressing the Weakest Link

I'm dealing with a challenging situation at work - one that will likely require me to make an important and difficult decision by month's end. There are a lot of things I enjoy about leadership: having the ability to improve the work environment for my team; recognizing the unique talents, abilities and contributions of each individual; problem solving; big-picture thinking and planning..... but there are less enjoyable aspects of it, too.

Without going into too much detail, I will say that I'm in a position where I must consider, and make decisions about, the overall strength of my team. I was up late last night with a coughing child, and as I was easing him back to sleep, I was playing various scenarios and options though my head in regards to how I could and ought to approach the matter. When I woke up I decided to pull a card to highlight the most critical aspect to keep in mind as I move forward: 4 of Pentacles.
Vikings Tarot; Lo Scarabeo
At first I noticed the solid composition of these four figures; they each bear a coin, and stand firmly upright in a diamond-shape, creating a strong foundation of strength and power. There are no weak links here, which is an important detail - if even one person begins to waver, the entire structure they create with their stances loses its integrity, and compromises them all. 

I noticed the 4 on this card - the number associated with April (affirming that this has been and will continue to be a major matter for me this month), and likewise associated with the Emperor (a card that has appeared for me quite a bit as I've transitioned into this director role). 

Pentacles are associated with the material world, with what we can experience with our five principal senses, with finances and resources. As I looked at this card I saw my team (albeit abbreviated here), each member offering their unique resources of education, know-how, experience, and energy; each carrying his or her responsibilities fairly and equally, working together to create a strong program. So what happens when one person isn't able or willing to shoulder their own weight? To avoid collapse, the other members end up taking on more and more until the responsibility starts to feel like a burden. Eventually it becomes a problem that needs attention. 

What this encourages me to do is not think only in terms of single individuals, but to keep in mind the team as a whole. What is in the best interest of the majority of these instructors? What can I do to support them? What actions can I take to ease the excessive demands on their time and energy that may eventually hurt their motivation and ability to enjoy the work that they do? 

I may be the nominated leader, but I work for these teachers just as much as they do for me. The 4 of Pentacles reminds me that it is my responsibility as a part of this team to make sure that the overarching organizational structure works smoothly for them, and to address any of those "weak links" that prevent them, and the group as a combined entity, from achieving their highest potential. Perhaps a tall order, but one I must face nonetheless.