Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dreaming of a Tarot Card

Two nights ago I dreamt about the 5 of Cups from the Wild Unknown Tarot. In my dream I saw a white horse with its head lowered. We were alone in a large, slightly greyed space. I knew that it was sad, though its expression seemed benign. And I also knew that this was the horse from the 5 of Cups. I thought to myself, "I don't think the horse in that card had tears in its eyes." At that moment, my dream horse began to cry. I wrapped my arms around its neck and held it to my chest to comfort it.
The next day I decided to pull that card out of the deck - I haven't read with the Wild Unknown in a while, and wanted to refresh myself on the details of the 5 of Cups. As I was flipping through, I saw the Chariot, which gave me pause - it is also a white horse, and the only other horse in the entire deck. The Chariot also happens to be a "card of the moment" for me, and after having just blogged about it a couple of days ago, the symbolism was far from lost on me.

Let the dark mountain shake to the thunder 

Where the wild horses trample the fern,

Let the deep vales re-echo and wonder, 

When, like an eddy, they circle and turn! 

Watch the lithe motion 

Run free as an ocean,

Never has man laid a hand on a head: 

Never a halter 

Has bid a step falter,

Never a crest bent down to be led!

-M. Gilmore

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Nine of Swords Moment Brings Helpful Insight

Lately I have been sleeping very well, which has been wonderful. Six to nine months ago I went through a period where I'd often wake up in the middle of the night, my mind would start to whirr, those fears that are wont to well up in the darkest hours would rise, and it would take an hour - sometimes even two - before I could relax enough to fall back to sleep. I'm not sure what changed, what switch flipped, but I suddenly began to sleep solidly, peacefully, and fully each night.

And then last night I had a 9 of Swords moment! At 2:40am I awoke, and started to worry. I worried about my son grinding his teeth (a really annoying family trait). I worried about bills (even though they're all under control). As I laid there I felt a tickle on my nose and was sure a bug was crawling across my face, so I shot straight up in bed, flailing my arms, and knocked the charger cord out of my phone, which then fell rattling to the floor making a sound that I was sure was the bug running away (it wasn't). Seriously. This is so comical to me right now, but I was a hot mess at 3am.
Tarot De St. Croix
So I laid back down thoroughly irritated with myself, and proceeded to think. Whenever I have these moments of insomnia I always think about Odin's advice from the Havamal, that (to paraphrase) a fool stays awake worrying all night, wakes up exhausted and has resolved nothing. I wanted to pinpoint the source of my wakefulness. I manage our finances okay. Why was I worrying about bills? Perhaps it was the weight of them that felt like a burden. I may keep things organized, but is there something more I can do? Is there a way I can be even more proactive? What the heck was I really worrying about?

A few days ago my husband asked me to do "one of those big readings" that I do for him once or twice a year. After I pulled his cards I decided to do one for myself, and I was quite interested to see the 7 of Swords appear in the position of my "current awareness." The card, from the Tarot of the Cat People, shows a somewhat unusual image of a woman surrounded by swords, looking up at the sky where a fat cat floats in an ethereal bubble. If anything, it almost feels more like the 8 of Swords (except for the floating cat!). This is often considered a card of deception, politics, strategy, even diplomacy (which is certainly on my mind in light of all of the mediation I've been doing lately!). I wanted to spend some time considering what the card meant for me, and since the depiction was non-traditional I decided to read the artist's own impression from the little white book, which described this card as representing the will and fortitude to reach one's goals. Hm. Well, that is certainly true, I thought at the time. I have a lot of goals on my plate, and every day I feel more poised to work toward achieving them. It's definitely been on my mind a lot over the past month or so.

As I was laying in bed in the early hours of morning, surrounded by darkness, thinking of yesterday's "Deep Emotions" draw from the dat Black Mermaid Man Lady oracle deck, thinking of the 7 of Swords, thinking of this nebulous source of my strange worry session, it suddenly hit me: while I am determined to achieve my goals, on some level I am afraid that no matter what I do, no matter how hard I work, I will never realize them. Whoa. That was a sharp and weighty revelation.
Tarot of the Cat People
Feelings are strange things. They are not always forthright, do not always announce their presence. Feelings can be quiet, at times even imperceptible. They can subtly influence our thoughts and responses; they can disguise themselves within a multitude of contexts, blurring our ability to identify them, to recognize them for what and why they are. As open as I am to working through my own emotional universe, to understanding myself, to engaging the dark, the light, and everything in between, sometimes emotions lurk in shadows just beneath the surface of our awareness. You have to go hunting. It was hunting that I was doing in the pre-dawn darkness when I would have preferred to be sleeping. But the search at this odd flip-side of the day provided me with powerful insight into my own psyche.

Interestingly, the "outcome" card in the reading I had done for myself was the Ace of Pentacles. What intrigued me most about this duo was the story that they told together. In the Ace of Pentacles we see that the "fat cat of unrealized dreams and goals" that once floated in the sky above the woman in the 7 of Swords is now tangible and sits quite happily on the floor beside the lady in the Ace. Now, a glowing pentacle hovers where the cat once did. The "thoughts" of the swords suit become the earthy reality of the suit of pentacles. It is a positive symbol that suggests that despite my anxieties about my ability to accomplish my dreams, the efforts I put forth will not be in vain.

This morning I decided to pull a card from the dat Black Mermaid Man Lady oracle deck, and I pulled one of the "Dreamer" cards for the second time in two days. But this morning, rather than pulling a card with a keyword, I drew one that was blank on the back. This indicates that "you already know" what the message is. And indeed, I did know. I made space to pull a card for the #tarotperspective challenge on Instagram, and instead of simply pulling a daily draw, I decided to ask: "How can I address my own fear of failure?" As I was shuffling I saw in my mind's eye the Chariot card that had been the "shadow" card of yesterday's pull. I cut the deck, turned the top card over, and it was....the Chariot!
Tarot of the Cat People; Stone Tarot; Tarot of Vampyres
This is card that I've been pulling with relative frequency for the past year, and it has ushered me through some powerfully and very positively transformative times. For the Instagram post I wrote about the Vampyres version of the Chariot (which speaks to me most):

The warrior spirit is evident, the fearless pursuit of a goal. The arrow points true, finding its destination and locking on. Even in the darkness of night, with nothing but inner fury and the dim moonlight for guidance, this charioteer flies forth.

On my walk into the office this morning a shining penny stood out in my path. I always see these as little messages from Elegua. I pick them up, run some numerology on the year, and see what that sum means to me in that moment (it's amazing how often there is relevance). I paused and picked up the coin. I calculated the year, and found the sum to be 7. At first I frowned, slightly puzzled. And then it clicked: 7 is the number of the Chariot. And like a vast circle turning round and round and round on itself, the pieces all came together into a whole.

I will probably have sleepless nights again; this realization hardly cures me from concern. But what it has given me is a powerful tool of reflection. I don't float unmoored through time; I, as a human being on this earth, have context and history. When I forget that (which is easy to do at 3am); when I lose - even momentarily - perspective regarding my ability to breathe life into my goals for the future, I can call to mind the Chariot, which reminds me that I will, because I have.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Doing the Hard Thing

I was hungering for a deck, and nothing was right. I searched at shops, I scanned through the pages of online sellers, I looked at the newest upcoming indie decks. Nope. Nothing. Through a somewhat incidental (is anything ever really incidental?) conversation I learned about the "dat Black Mermaid Man Lady" oracle deck created from the heart and soul of Sharon Bridgforth, and I knew that was "it" - I purchased it before I even really knew very much about it, and was pleased to come home to it waiting for me in the mailbox this afternoon.

I sat down with it and decided that for the inaugural reading I would ask: "What message do I need to hear in this moment?" I shuffled, and cut, and I drew one of the four "Dreamer" cards which represent the self, or soul of the reader. 
Then I turned it over to read the wisdom, consisting of a keyword and an excerpt from the "dat Black Mermaid Man Lady" production. It was: Deep Emotions.
Gah. Yep. I was feeling a lot of things at that moment. In fact, I'd had a pretty decent day until I received a series of emails in the early afternoon regarding a few (more) difficult meetings that I will be mediating next week. My heart immediately sunk deep down into my gut and made a nice little nest there. Why this reaction? I mediate well. The meetings won't necessarily be anything out of the ordinary for their type. Why was I feeling it? 

I decided to ask the Tarot of the Cat People to help me identify the source of these deep emotions. I pulled two cards - the Ace of Swords, and the Hanged Man.
The Ace of Swords, the truth. Fairness and clear speech. This man is ready for battle, though his face is calm. The truth hurts. I'm not afraid to speak it. I use my words well. Like this warrior I'm not afraid to meet conflict when necessary. In mediation it's quite interesting to listen to the parties speak, to parse out the grains of truth, the utterances, the perceptions, the thoughts that illuminate the heart of the matter; they are little swords of their own that help me to cut away the excess fibers and fog that build up around and between two people when they are at odds and don't know how to communicate their experiences to each other. 

Why would this make me sad, why would it evoke such a deep emotional response within me?

I thought... the truth does hurt. Just because I am not afraid of it doesn't mean that the edges aren't sharp. I am empathic by nature, absorbing the hurts and joys alike of others. I believe that this is, in part, what makes me effective in mediation, but as able as I am to help others navigate the hazy straits of conflict when called to my duty, it has an impact on me. I have always been a peacemaker, I have always supported harmony. Conflict has always been difficult for me to process and integrate. I like to be alone, in fact, as a general rule (not counting my family, of course). And here I am in a position that requires so much communication, that stretches my diplomatic nature to its limits at times, that pulls and pushes on my desires to be free of all of these ties that come with this responsibility that I have: to navigate a group, a department full of unique souls, through waves that can be choppy at times - that can threaten to toss some people overboard every once in a while. I mediate as part of my work, and while it can be extremely rewarding, it can also, if I'm truthful, be really hard sometimes. 

So, today it is hard. Today, I'm not in the mood - I want to push it away, off my plate, I want to fast-forward to September. I want it to be over already. Yes, I will have to do this thing that I'd rather not do, but I owe it to myself to at least acknowledge that it feels uncomfortable today. 

The Hanged Man is Odin singing in my ear that there is no sacrifice without wisdom on the other end; that pain is instructive; in fact, sometimes it's the only way. What challenges us makes us stronger, opens the way for personal growth to blossom forth (particularly when accompanied by a healthy dose of self-reflection). There is ultimately great good in doing the hard thing (and in remembering to take care of ourselves in the process).

Monday, August 15, 2016

Week Ahead: Finish What You Start

Last Monday I drew two cards to highlight the predominant energies for the week ahead: Queen of Cups and High Priestess. Both were very relevant themes, and so on this Monday I decided to do to the same. After shuffling and cutting the deck I noticed that the "shadow card" was the High Priestess, forming a sort of thread of connection from one week to the next.

The two principal cards that I drew from the Giants Tarot were Death (Hela) reversed, and the 8 of Pentacles (Olvalde and Sons):
Hela is the goddess of the underworld, and Olvalde was an etin renowned for his ale-brewing skills.

This pair tells me that I'll be working diligently to tie up loose ends, to finish what I've begun, to work toward closing out projects. Indeed there is one rather large project that I've been wanting to finish for the past two weeks, but it keeps getting pushed off due to other urgent, more immediate issues that have been cropping up here and there of late.

Along another vein, when I see Olvalde and his kids on the 8 of Coins card, I see myself and my three kids making magic happen in the kitchen. So just maybe we'll see what fun we can cook up this week. Teaching the kids to make meals is such an 8 of Coins activity, and watching them grow into competent little chefs who can whip up some very nice grub is extraordinarily satisfying.

Have a happy week, everyone!

Update: It was indeed a productive week! I made a lot of progress on a pile of files I had been needing to tend to, and one of my team members ended up helping to revise the dregs of that big project that had been on the back burner.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Page of Cups: A Moment of Peace

I have been pretty overwhelmed at work of late: the pace has been particularly hectic and I've had a far higher-than-usual number of flames to quench. I'd say I'm a mediator by nature, but even mediators (perhaps especially mediators) need to let off steam from time to time. There were at least two or three occasions in the past couple of months where I used the drive in to work to envision myself thoroughly cursing out the offending party, and putting her or him in their respective places being very honest and forthright about my thoughts and opinions, simply so that once I arrived (at whatever meeting it was that I needed to facilitate) I could breathe and moderate professionally. Yes, I need a vacation. It's not vacation time, however, so I have been craving my weekends like cold water in the high desert.

This evening I pulled a card from my newly acquired Tarot of the Cat People (I'm admittedly not a cat person, but the art is quite interesting) asking: "Where do I need to focus on self-care?" I pulled the Page of Cups:
I could almost feel my soul sigh upon taking in this card image. A young lady sits on what appears to be a sandy hill, under a hazy, sunny sky. She is flanked by a cat companion, quiet and comforting, and a chalice. This card evokes a sense of the 4 of Swords - a time for separation, recuperation, and healing. Indeed the Page of Cups does include healing qualities. Like a flame burning itself out from far too much intensity, I need to be cooled and calmed. Those flames I've been putting out have taken a toll, and a quiet space away from that charged environment will help me to rebuild my emotional wellspring so that I can keep on tending to the responsibilities that fall on me as a leader. I don't begrudge my position by any means; this comes with the territory and ultimately the energies will shift like ocean tides. As they say, "This too shall pass." In the meantime, I need a little me-time, and maybe a cup of mulled mead in that goblet ;-)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Finding Myself in the 9 of Pentacles

There is a lovely challenge occurring on Instagram this month which I am not participating in: #tarotperspectives. I will say, though, that I'm enjoying reviewing the posts of those who are! The idea is that you pull a card for the day from one, "main" deck, and then draw its equivalent from two or three other decks in order to see how different depictions of the same card speak to the same basic energy. Some of the voices are quite different, others very similar. Some approach the same archetype from unique angles.

I decided to try it out today using a few decks that I haven't drawn from in quite some time: the Fountain Tarot as the main deck, and then the Steampunk and DruidCraft Tarots as the companions. I shuffled and swirled and cut, and drew the 9 of Pentacles, a card associated with personal financial success and the comfort and pleasure that comes along with it. Then I pulled the same card from the other two decks, and laid them all side by side. Two images - from the Fountain and DruidCraft - were both quite similar to each other (and quite true to RWS styling), showing a woman with a falcon perched on one hand.
But despite their obvious connections, there are some significant differences in detail upon closer inspection. The DruidCraft 9 of Pentacles shows a woman who might be in her 40s. With the stone wall behind her, there is a sense that she could be in a courtyard, or at the edge of a castle enclosure. She bears appropriate falconry gear, with the heavy glove on her right hand, which reminds me that falconry was a "noble sport," practiced by those with enough money to afford the luxury of a fine bird, its housing needs, the necessary equipment, and the training. This was not a layperson's activity.

In the Fountain Tarot image there is a woman who appears to be a bit younger - perhaps in her 30s. She also has a bird, but she has no glove, which gives a more natural feel to her position. Perhaps the bird is there of its own accord - I like the idea that this wild bird simply came to visit. The woman stands before a series of concentric, golden circles, or arcs. This reminds me of tree rings, and I like the symbolism here: age and experience can be wonderful assets to support a successful life.

Then there is the Steampunk 9 of Leviathans, which shows a very science-fiction scene with two figures riding along in what appears to be some sort of futuristic amusement park ride. I had to look to the guidebook to try to understand what was going on here, but it just mentions that financial well-being allows one to enjoy life. Well, alright, I get that. I live in Orlando and never go to the "Parks" (Disney, Universal, etc.). The fact is that I just can't justify the expense of going with my family. Thus it does seem like some sort of symbol of economic success to be able to afford a worry-free visit there without breaking the bank.

As I was reviewing all of these cards I just felt flat. Not a single one made me truly "feel" anything. Women holding falcons isn't an image that resonates with me, and the Steampunk doesn't speak to me either - even if I was rolling in dough I wouldn't waste my money on a day at Disney. It was actually a kind of jarring experience to realize that I didn't connect with any of these cards - all from decks that I ostensibly really like.

So I went on a hunt to find a version that I could see myself in. I found it in the Prisma Visions deck:
Now this is what I'm talking about. No pretenses, no fancy gowns, no fancy gadgets and rides. This card shows a naked woman out in the middle of a field of tall grasses and wild flowers. It appears to be sunset, and the light in the sky shines in orange, yellow, and green hues. In the distance there is the outline of a cabin with an inviting glow coming from the windows. Perhaps logs crackle in the fireplace. There is a bird perched on the woman's shoulder, but there is not even the slightest hint of it being a pawn of the wealthy - it might have lit briefly on the lady's arm as it went about finding its evening meal. There are sparkles in the air - fireflies! The tall trees offer their green embrace to the world all around. Yes, this is me in the 9 of Pentacles. This is a woman who is glad simply to be alive, to be connected to the earth and sky. She delights in the presence of nature - she considers herself a part of it all. A rustic bowl of stew and a steaming mug of cider... a night of star-gazing...that is true contentment.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Circles, Cycles, Dreams, and Runes

On Monday I thought I'd pull a pair of cards for the week from the Giants Tarot. The Queen of Cups (Ran) came flying out of the deck, and I drew the High Priestess (Angrboda) as her complement. What an interesting pair, I thought, regarding their close partnership: water, intuition, passivity, contemplation, wisdom, femininity, emotional intelligence.
This morning I decided to take the day off to spend with my kids, as tomorrow they all begin once again that spiral dance of the school cycle, with my son just embarking on his own as he takes his first steps into Kindergarten. So I was sitting at the kitchen table nursing my second cup of coffee and continuing my journey through Futhark (by Edred Thorsson, a.k.a. Stephen Flowers). I paused when my husband came to the table, and pulled out the Earthbound Oracle; he pulled a card, I pulled a card. I drew Luna, that perfect, pale circle. I thought how fitting it was to pull this moon after having drawn two very closely aligned Tarot cards for the week. More water, cycles, and emotional food for thought. 

I kept reading.

I read Thorsson's discussion of the cosmic void from which the runic system and its energies descend, about how Odin, Vili, and Ve gave form and structure to those energies in the creation of the multiverse. And as I flipped the page I saw a diagram of the futhark pattern of manifestation, a series of concentric circles expanding out from a central point, a core out of which the runes arrange themselves in linear patterns. As I examined the diagram it touched on a dream I had back in May, and I opened my journal to find the entry I had written about it.
My dream was not obviously runic. I had it at a time when I was struggling a bit with how to incorporate two different religious/spiritual traditions and cosmologies into my personal practice - could I integrate Santería and the Northern Tradition harmoniously? Would I, or should I, choose only one? In many ways I have come to understand that Santería has both brought me more fully to the Northern Tradition, and has helped me contextualize it. I understand Northern cosmology more intimately because of my understanding of Lucumí cosmology. I understand and relate to the deities as individual energies and unique personalities because of my relationships with the Orishas. I don't mix and match faiths - I believe in tradition, and value depth above breadth. Santería was not a religion I had sought out - it became a part of me through my cohabitation with the saints over a period of a decade or more, and via my husband. One day I realized that the saints were alive within me, a part of my family, guides, and protectors, and teachers, and friends. It doesn't get much more organic than that. This was the point at which I formally entered into the mystery religion by way of initiation, and has been, and continues to be, a source of great sustenance for me.

Through ancestral veneration and exploration I more fully began to explore the Northern Tradition as a way of connecting to my Scandinavian/Germanic forebears (I wrote about this in a previous post). And as I delved into the Eddas and the Northern cosmology, the runic system, I found so much richness and satiation. It grew and expanded in my heart, mind, and spirit, such that it became far deeper than simply "honoring history." And yet I found myself worrying about whether or not I could, or should, practice two religions at the same time. Was it right? Was it doable? Could I fully embrace both without sacrificing either? My intellect was struggling, but my heart told me that it was my own limited, "human" thinking that was raising a fuss over compartmentalization; my heart told me that there was no conflict here.

While my dream was not runic, per se, it mirrored this futhark pattern of manifestation. In my dream I felt the presence of Odin, and I could see what seemed like a picture of the cosmos, as if I were in outer space. Concentric circles of cloud-like material surrounded a central point, like the Earth, and the idea was that the image before me was showing how throughout time old gods and goddesses would slowly dissipate and new gods and goddesses would develop to take their places, but that ultimately they were all part of the same force. There was great comfort in that. These deities and entities exist both sequentially and simultaneously in time.
A rough depiction of my dream
I knew that I could, and would, continue to walk this path, and that I would learn how to "do both" through the process of living it out, as opposed to trying to intellectualize it all. At times I feel like Odin and Obatalá - all of the gods and goddesses and orishas - are friendly associates, conferring with each other, working together, supporting one another in the pursuit of the same ultimate end-goals. I have always felt that Elegua, my best friend, held my hand, and opened the door for me to explore this ancestral history. I have at times sensed that Odin is happy for me to "make saint," and supports me in the endeavor. When I think about it, it makes sense - Odin is the ultimate explorer. He would not impose limitations, rather he would promote my exposure to all of the good that the universe has to offer, no matter its form.

In the end, the universe, the experience of "being," is so dynamic. Insofar as our own progress is concerned, we are often our own worst enemies, placing barriers where none exist, projecting our own limitations onto divine forces, creating rules of engagement that are ultimately fabrications of our own attempt at understanding the Great Mystery (or putting that mystery in a tidy box)*. As a human, I acknowledge that I don't know much at all, and that I do fear and worry from time to time. But when all is said and done, I am open to receiving that mystery, even when I can do nothing but simply accept it.

*I don't believe in picking and choosing the "favorable" parts of a religious tradition, and throwing out the rest, nor do I (generally speaking) support the practice of honoring a patchwork pantheon of various deities outside of the context of their history, culture, and original traditional framework. There is too much room for cultural appropriation there. I do, however, believe that there is far more flexibility in the spiritual world than humans tend to acknowledge or allow for.