Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Prettiest Feet: Skadi's Lesson in Discernment

Day 28 of the spirit guide challenge asked: "How can I strengthen this view, or improve my relationship with self?" I drew Justice/Skadi from the Giants Tarot.

I pulled a version of this card back on day 10 for "how my guide is helping me primarily now," so it was nice to see it again here. Some puzzle pieces start to fall into place. The other day I drew "Air" (from the Earthbound Oracle) in response to what my guide sees in me that I can't or don't, and air is the element associated with Justice. 🌬 It seems to me that my guide is helping me recognize and honor this part of myself and in turn requests that I continue to spend some time exploring those aspects of myself and how they pertain to my personal development.
There are a lot of attributes of Skadi that connect to concepts of justice, fairness, adjustment, and even retribution. But one of them strikes me as particularly relevant: Skadi had to choose a husband solely by the looks of his feet.

Skadi's father, the Giant Thjassi, wanted the Aesir goddess Iduna for his own, and when caught in a tight spot, Loki agreed to arrange that for him. But of course the Aesir were upset and demanded that Loki find a way to bring her back....which he did, however it resulted in the death of Thjassi. So Skadi came to Asgard demanding compensation or war, and the Gods made her an offer. Ultimately she agreed to two things: they would have to make her laugh, and she would get to marry any Aesir/Vanir of her choosing. Odin agreed to the first (which Loki successfully accomplished) but for the second, Odin consented on the condition that she would have to choose her husband based on the looks of his feet alone.

Odin severely limited her perception and then obliged her to choose a life partner - an impossible task. But then Skadi executed her power of choice through rather superficial means. She assumed that Baldur, the God of beauty, peace, and light (who she was planning to select), would surely have the loveliest feet. She was quite surprised to find that they in fact belonged to the weathered sea God Njörd, whose extended time in sand and surf had kept his feet looking quite youthful and elegant.

So what does this all mean?

Well two sayings come to mind immediately: "Don't judge a book by its cover," and "Assuming makes an ass out of u and me."

When Odin restricted Skadi's perception, the wise thing to do might have been to expand her thinking rather than only considering what was before her. She chose based solely on what she could see, and was quite confident in the accuracy of her decision, despite knowing that she was only getting a small fragment of the whole package. In the end she found her logical approach to be faulty. (This isn't a criticism, because without the story, there is no lesson.)

So, when confronting a situation in which we must make important decisions, we have to use careful discernment. We must consider not only what we can see, but what we can't. We must open ourselves to the bigger picture, to a variety of the angles and possibilities inherent in a matter - we must be willing to accept that there may be more than what meets the eye, and then make a choice to explore that nebulous territory. And then, part of discernment is knowing when we simply don't have enough information to make a truly balanced decision at all, and being willing to embrace that challenging space.

The fact is that we don't live in a concrete, black-and-white world. This story shows us that there is beauty in the haggard, and there are imperfections in the seemingly perfect.

Njörd and Skadi tried to make it work (she gets a lot of points for sticking with her pick, and he does too, for agreeing to marry a woman he knew didn't prefer him) but neither were particularly happy. He missed the sea and she missed the mountains. In the end they parted ways as friends, which is just another powerful lesson in the benefits inherent in making decisions and agreements from a fair and whole place.

This seems like a small and humorous part of the whole story of Skadi's search for justice, but I think that it is a deeply meaningful one, and that the lessons it teaches are critical to walking our paths with mindfulness and balance.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Gefion Takes Me For a Spin

A few days ago the "spirit guide challenge" on Instagram featured the following prompt: "How do my personal relationships detract from my current development?" I was curious as to how this reading exercise would unfold as I don't have any "bad" relationships, so to speak, and I tend to find even the personal challenges and conflicts to be good learning experiences.

First I drew Gefion from Das Germanische Götterorakel, and I did indeed have one of those WTF moments; I ended up drawing Hel (Death) from the Giants Tarot as a secondary pull.

But knowing that Gefion held some important element that would simply take more digging and sitting and thinking, I did just that.

I love Gefion, but she has so much positive energy I was having a hard time placing it with the prompt. Gefion is said to have provided so much merriment to the court of the Swedish King Gylfi that he repaid her by allowing her to keep as much land as she could plow around in a single day. She brought in her four Giant sons, turned them into bulls, and they helped her plow a massive swath of land that she then brought over to Denmark (it is said to be the island of Zealand (Sjaelland).
Two of Gefion's more salient characteristics are that she has formidable work ethic, and she knows how to have a good time with a mug of mead and group of people. I see a lot of myself in Gefion - she is independent, she knows how to take care of business, she cares a lot for the well-being of women. She is quite a force. But what she is that I am not is particularly sociable. I tend to be private and contained - friendly, laid back, communicative when it matters - but not sociable.

The other day I was sitting in a directors meeting and was feeling rather chipper so I thought I'd share some good developments with my colleagues. I prefaced it by saying, "I know I'm quiet and you probably can't tell how I ever feel so I'm going to make it clear - I am super happy!" And they all laughed uproariously! It was a humorous moment, but definitely confirmed my suspicion that I'm a bit hard to get to know. Incidentally next week there is a "happy hour" get together for the women in leadership. I'd been hemming and hawing about attending because those events definitely push me outside of my comfort zone. But Gefion seemed to be saying that that is precisely what I should do - that work is important, but the social ties do matter. As I had that thought we were driving down the highway and I looked up and right at a sign that said "111" (a series that has been following me around quite a bit lately). That felt like a little pat on the head ("Yes, you got it!"). In that light, Hel's appearance made complete sense: I have to release in order to become. I'm glad I let Gefion say her piece!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mimir's Well and the 8 of Earth

As I've previously mentioned, I'm participating in an Instagram challenge for the month of June which focuses on connecting to spirit guides. A card I've pulled several times in relation to my guide's strength, the purpose of my guide's presence in my life, and what I'm developing at this time, has been the 8 of Pentacles. In fact I've pulled it three times from three different decks! The prompt for today asked about the way(s) in which my guide is helping my spiritual evolution. From a new oracle deck - Das Germanische Götterorakel - I pulled Mimir's Well, and as I was shuffling Aar (representing the nameless Eagle who lives atop the World Tree) came flying out at me, so I considered it as well.
At first glance I wasn't sure if Aar was the Giant (in Eagle form) that creates the winds of the worlds, or if it was that which lives in Yggdrasil's branches, but I was able to clarify that using the "little white book" and Google Translate (this deck is in German-only, and while I did study German for a couple of years long ago, I certainly don't have enough to navigate all of the text in the booklet!).

"Weitsicht" means "farsightedness" which was my first clue. And it felt meaningful in light of the prompt. This eagle was only briefly attested in the lore, and never received a proper name (that we know of), but it is said to hold a great quantity of knowledge. Being a bird that lives in the World Tree's highest branches, it makes sense then that the bird's keen eyesight and lofty vantage point would provide insight and enhanced perspective (as well as close kinship to the cosmos and divine center of the universe).

I was moved when I turned over the card to see Mimir's Well, showing Odin drinking from the water after having sacrificed one of his eyes in exchange for wisdom. I love how his eye peers out of the well's water, both calm and alert, surrounded by the reflection of the stars. I heard a video once, not too long ago, by Maria Kvilhaug (her YouTube channel is Lady of the Labyrinth), where she discussed Odin in depth. While Odin is a wanderer, an ever-thirsty seeker of knowledge and understanding (often considered male traits) Maria discusses the eye in Mimir's Well as his calm, cool, feminine aspect - that part that receives wisdom and connects to the universal knowledge and intelligence of the cosmos; two equal sides of the same coin.

My brief write-up for the Instagram challenge was this:

Wisdom and farsightedness. Odin sacrificed an eye for a drink from Mimir's Well of wisdom, located under one of Yggdrasil's roots. The great Eagle perches in the highest branches of Yggdrasil, and thus knows much of what transpires throughout the worlds below. What wisdom do my sacrifices offer me? How does perspective help me to be more accepting and open minded, and to see the bigger picture?

As I was navigating Instagram's sea of "tags" I discovered something that I had posted from the Shadow Work October challenge last year: when asked about our deepest potential I had pulled the 8 of Earth (Chango from the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot) and Terra (from the Earthbound Oracle).
About this duo I had written:

"I think it's really interesting how both cards connect: 8 of Earth is the Sun in the first decan of Virgo, and Terra shows the sun rising over a bountiful land. The 8 of Earth is strength and patience, dedication and skill, success through learning and the application of hard work. In this case it is also Chango, King, wielder of lightning and passion, a great diviner in his own right. All along this challenge the tale has been that I must learn to own my inner fire, to brandish it, to free my full potential and embrace my personal power. Chango is a great teacher for that. Terra mirrors the rootedness in earth that forms the foundation of how I interact with the world (Capricorn sun and ascendant) and the place I feel most "me": in the forests and mountains, in the rivers, and among the wildlife. The sun rises, showing that my greatest potential lies in harnessing the strength of my earth connection, but also in awakening my own fire, my Aries moon energy.

I love how the river water tumbles forth and down toward even more fertile land, suggesting layers of reality all joining and interacting; the 9 worlds and three levels of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. The water at the very foundation of the card image  might be Mimisbrunnr, the well of sacred wisdom and knowledge where Odin sacrificed his eye in exchange for a taste."

Here again I had the 8 of Earth and Mimir's Well in connection to each other and my own personal development and potential, a consistent theme over the past nine months (hm, 9!).

There is a lot for me to ponder here. I sense some journaling in my future ;-)

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Heart of Self-Possession

I'm taking part in an Instagram "challenge" for June, hosted by @spiralseatarot, that focuses on our connections to spirit guides. For Day 10 the prompt asks participants to pull a card around the way in which your guide is helping you at present.
New Orleans Voodoo Tarot/S.A. Glassman
As I was shuffling, Secret Societies came flying out of the deck. This card is typically associated with Justice in a traditional set of cards, but there is more going on here. This card shows an initiate into a secret society who is sent, hands restrained, into the wild to experience the feeling of being at the mercy of the cosmos. Animals could attack, you could trip and fall, you could lose yourself in the foliage in the deep black of night. But that is also the point: this card is about having such a deep rootedness in your identity, your history, such a deep understanding of who you are, that you can look fear in the eye bravely and not run away. You can allow these creatures of the shadow to look into your eyes, to examine every part of your being, without looking down, without feeling ashamed or unworthy. You stand in your own skin, with no inclination to prove anything, or to justify your place there, no impulse to apologize for who and what you are, no urge to lower others in order to feel mightier. That is the heart of self-possession, the essence of personal balance, the center of a cool mind that weighs the scales fairly and is open to being measured in return.

Yesterday I was reading an article about how much fear we deal with in modern society, on an everyday basis. Fear is a powerful tool that can limit our growth and prevent us from understanding the beautiful immensity of our own beings. If my guide is helping to support me in learning to fully embody and honor my own essence, how can I be anything other than willing to open myself to that teaching?