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


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!