Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On a Breath of Rising Wind

I am participating in the #vatarotjanuary challenge on Instagram (hosted by @violetauraphoto) where a prompt is given for each day, and participants use Tarot and oracles to engage it. Today's prompt asks us to "Read the First Swords Card Dealt."

Last night, in preparation, I pulled out my Wild Unknown deck, shuffled and cut, and found that the bottom card was the Father of Swords. I set that to the side, and then started digging down, layer by layer, to find the first swords card on the top of the deck. I laid them side by side and as I noticed the rainbow blade of the owl Father, in contrast with the tightly bound edges of the 3 of Swords, a poem started to form:

Wild Unknown Tarot
What do you do with the bitter memories; the ones that lie in tangled knots in your deep and shadowed corners?

Do you leave them in peace, allow them to calcify and harden just beyond the edge of your waking?

Do you cut them free, release them from their aching cage, like birds in flight;

their once-piercing calls now dispersed in fading echoes?

Pain is our most merciless teacher, and, with love, our most faithful companion.
The instinctual drive for relief, for escape, is primordial.

But what happens when we don't push it away;
rather we open ourselves to its presence,
let it move through us

and then,

on a breath of rising wind,
allow it to be carried deep into the heavens,

as a prayer?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Need for Mothering

This morning I was feeling rather tender. Well, to be honest, I was feeling a bit tender last night as well. That sort of ambiguous sensitivity that makes you want to shut the door on the world, curl up in a ball, and drink loads of tea. It is subtle, though, that feeling; it creeps in around the edges of consciousness, such that each movement in the process of dressing, or in the simple preparation of toasted bread, becomes ever so slightly heavy. And then, *ah* - an inner acknowledgment that what I needed more than anything was to be mothered.

I wanted Ochun and Yemaya to bathe me in sweet and briny waters. I wanted to curl up in honeyed arms, and have my hair stroked by firm and gentle ocean hands.
I wanted mothering. So when I brewed my morning tea I added elder berries to the herbal mix. Elder has always felt like the earthiest and most prototypical mother tree. Perhaps it's because it tends to so many common ailments, like coughs, colds, and the flu. Perhaps it is because nearly the entire tree offers itself up for our wellbeing.
As it steeped I continued my last few tasks in preparation for the day ahead, and just before heading back to the kitchen to pour myself a steaming travel mug full of herbal blessings I decided to pull a card from the Tarot of Vampyres (which generally sits out on my bedside table). I shuffled briefly, and I cut with one hand; I didn't ask a question, I simply poured my sentiments, like tea, into the cards. And then, there was the Empress, reflecting back to me my needs and desires, and letting me know that in one way or another, she had her arms around me.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Goddesses of Empowerment

It is a time of many decks.

I don’t remember ever before being in the position to juggle (in the best sense possible) so many different manifestations of Tarot. Just in the last few months I’ve acquired – either through gift or purchase – the Cosmos Tarot and Oracle, the Dark Goddess Tarot, the Ancestral Path Tarot, the Fountain Tarot, the Tarot of the Holy Light, the Wild Unknown Tarot, and the Steampunk Tarot. Needless to say, I’ve got options. Not that I didn’t before – I haven’t counted lately, but prior to this new lot I had somewhere around 50 or 60 Tarot decks to choose from (not counting oracles). The difference is that I love every single one of these new acquisitions. There is not one that is underwhelming, or “not my style,” or just “nice.” There are no qualifications when I say that they are all wonderful. They all have a unique voice; they all draw me in and excite me with what they might show, and how they might show it.

This, of course, is a fantastic conundrum to be in (that of “which deck to use now?”), and I’ve thought several times recently that I could lose my entire collection, save these, and be quite fulfilled (well, I wouldn’t like to lose the New Orleans Voodoo, or my Thoth..! But you get the idea).

So over the past several weeks I have often found myself using one or two one day, and then switching it up the next. This way I am tasting them all, feeling them out in fairly regular intervals.

So it was that last night I decided to pull a card from the Ancestral Path Tarot – the Hermit – and immediately felt the relief of that simple reflection wash over me. In fact I had just leapt onto my bed for a much-needed (albeit brief) moment of alone time amidst what had been a busy-but-lovely Sunday. I drew the Hermit in the moment I was most aware of my need to embody that quiet, solitary energy.

This morning I decided to draw a guidance card from the Dark Goddess Tarot (this is such a rich, profound, wise, and moving set of cards) and I drew the Magician – Isis. This is my soul card (in terms of Tarot Birth Cards) and also one I’d drawn over the past several months as I moved through the change from my previous teaching position into one of departmental management. It all fit; it was as if the universe was saying: “This is you, it’s your time, you got this.” And here it was again.
I closed the previous week with an important meeting at which I provided a pile of evidence in support of a change that I knew needed to happen. I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be, but in the end the upper management team agreed with me and approved the change. I was walking on air (appropriate for the Magician!). I felt that I’d accomplished something that was as monumental as it was simple, and I was elated to have been able to pull it off. Today I will be sitting in another meeting where I will be explaining this change, and later this week I’ll be doing it yet again, so Isis was very welcome encouragement.  The guidebook for this deck reads:

See what needs changing and step up to change it. Because you can. Energy is flowing through and around you now, available for you to shape and direct.

It gave me shivers to read that. One thing that has been most satisfying for me as I walk this new path has been the ability to make positive change where I have seen the need for it for so long – change that benefits the faculty, the students, the program, and the school overall. It is extremely empowering, and there is a breath of liberation within that experience that I have not felt before quite in the same way.

I took a look at the bottom of the deck, and smiled at Baba Yaga, the Hermit, flying through the air in her mortar. It was a gentle reminder that I am still in Hermit-space, and that much of the work I’m able to do now has come from all of the time I’ve spent alone, gathering data, investigating, testing out my theories and making new discoveries. It’s funny because as I thought about my Hermit tendencies in relation to the workplace I recalled how I often call my office “the cave,” and when an instructor wishes to talk in private I often say, “Let’s do it, come into my cave!” The irony, of course, is that my office has no roof, and only three walls. The fourth wall is also a sliding door made entirely of transparent glass, which means that I’ve got a fish-bowl thing going on. Still, there is something to be said for boundaries, and these walls at least give me a designated space in which to sit alone, and a door that, while clear, can still be closed.

On the top of the deck I found Epona, embodying the 6 of Fire. When I made this rather large change last week I was nervous about what the global reaction would be. Would my team understand? A few that knew about it were supportive. I was very confident that they would all feel the same way after I presented the evidence, and yet I still battled some anxiety. Would a partner department be on board with it? It turns out that they are just as happy about it as I am, which was both a surprise and a tremendous relief. The 6 of Fire is not just “success” (though it is that, too). In the Dark Goddess Tarot it is about transformative work that comes about through caring leadership and working as part of a team. This is how I see myself – not as a boss, but as a leader, and honoring the role, value, and strengths of each member of my team is of utmost importance to me.  The guidebook reads:

Sometimes it takes a herd. And a herd needs a strong, sensitive, balanced leader. Especially when the herd is not of docile sheep but swift, spirited horses.”

My “herd” (I’m not sure they’d appreciate that title, ha!) is most definitely the spirited type, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Accept the accolades, take in the blessings, and store that sunshine. Let it give you strength as you go forward.

Experiences teach what instruction cannot. Often it is in the doing that the deepest learning takes place. I’m certainly “doing” these days. I don’t have a mold to fill, and every day presents new opportunities for growth and expansion. I will store this sunshine as I continue to walk my nebulous path that materializes with each step I take; and I am grateful.

Friday, January 15, 2016


What do I do in the morning when instead of being present in the moment - enjoying the sound of the coffee percolating, listening to my children chatter about peanut butter toast for breakfast - I sense my mind start to fill with anxious thoughts about the many tasks ahead for the day?

Yesterday morning I pulled a card for the day. I don't always do this, but when I do I most often set the question not as, "What might unfold for me today?" but as, "Where can I find my center; what can I draw on for strength and focus today?" It was nearing time for me to leave the house so I reached for my handiest deck - the Raven's Prophecy - quickly shuffled, and drew the 5 of Swords reversed:
At first I slightly resisted it, as my knee-jerk reaction to "negative" cards often seems to be. But then I really looked at the image, and what I saw was that instead of what might have once been a fist clenched around a grouping of small feathers, there was an open hand, a grasp no longer tense and rigid, but soft and relaxed. Instead of holding tight to the feathers, they were now allowed to catch in the breeze and float away.

This morning I was making my second pot of coffee (the pot is spotty and the first was a bit more like tan-colored water) when I started to realize that I was already feeling the jagged edges of my to-do list, and I sensed the way it was reducing my enjoyment of those early morning hours. I immediately thought of the 5 of Swords reversed, of the feathers floating away on the wind.

Each feather, when held too closely, is like a needling voice, and five of them together create a subtle cacophony in the back of the mind, a push and pull of nebulous demands on time and energy and attention. But if I take a moment to allow my awareness to settle on that noise I find I have the choice to release my grasp, to let those voices fade away like feathers in the gentle breath of morning air.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Interviewing the Steampunk Tarot

Last night I acquired the Steampunk Tarot by authors John and Caitlín Matthews and artist Wil Kinghan. Steampunk as a genre has never held much interest for me, but I appreciate the depth of thought and wisdom that the Matthews bring to their work, so this particular deck has always drawn my attention when I've seen it sitting on the bookstore shelf. I just never felt that $20 was worth the price of a deck I was only slightly interested in.

Then last week I took my oldest daughter out on "date" (I try to give each of the three of my kids some one-on-one time now and again) and I saw that a single, final copy of the Steampunk Tarot was in the bookstore's clearance bin at 50% off. I snatched it up. But ultimately I thought, "Do I really need this deck? I have several others I'm exploring at the moment..." and I decided to put it back.

Last night I took my younger daughter out on our own "date" and she wanted to go to the bookstore, too. On a whim I thought I'd see if the deck was still there, though I doubted it would be after so many days, and at such a low price. Nevertheless, there it was. This time I decided to take it home with me.

The art seems to be a mixture of photographic collage and artwork, but the overall look is unified and interesting. This post is not a proper review so I won't go into all of the details here, but I will discuss a short interview I did with these cards, in light of the previous interview with the Cosmos Tarot having gone rather well ;-)
1) What is the strength of the Steampunk Tarot? 8 of Submersibles (Cups)
This deck will be a great tool for plumbing the depths of my psyche, my deepest longings, for uncovering the areas of my life in need of release and refreshment. In this image a submarine soars deep into the mysterious reaches of the ocean, but rather than finding itself surrounded by darkness, it approaches the bright light of illumination; a precious discovery awaits.

2) What can it teach me? Navigator of Engines (Knight of Wands)
The Navigator of Engines is a spiritual traveler, always on the move. He indicates that this is a great deck for exploration and journeying, for identifying my spark of life and finding ways to embody it. This card appeared inverted, which indicates subtlety and inner workings. But it also brought to mind a concept I recently learned about: in Kung Fu, "patience" and "mastery" are represented by the symbol of fire, reversed. The key is not to dim the fire, but to control it; to know when to unleash it and when to contain it. In this light it carries a resemblance to Strength. I like the idea that this card might refer to a deeper understanding and embodiment of personal power and responsibility.

3) How can I best approach working with it? XII. Suspension Tank (Hanged Man)
In order to get the most out of this deck it will help to suspend judgment, and open myself to its offerings. As I said before, the steampunk genre has little interest for me, but I do find that the decks that I love working with the most are those that challenge me the most. Therefore the imagery here may provide new angles and perspectives from which to understand myself, my environment, and my interactions with others. In this image a figure hangs suspended upside down in a tank with two others observing. A beam of light moves through the suspended person, through each major energy center of the body. By sacrificing the ego, profound insights may be discovered.

I'm glad I finally own this intriguing set of cards; here's to a new journey!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

New Moon Spread: Earth, Air and Fire

Today is the New Moon and for the Instagram challenge hosted by @violetauraphoto the theme for day 9 is "Dark/Shadow," so I've decided to do a New Moon reading. Normally I limit these to two cards: what is waning, and what is waxing. However for today, in addition to using three decks, I've added a third card:

Card 1: What energy is waning? Mother of Pentacles (Wild Unknown Tarot)
Card 2: Where/Who am I now, on the dark moon? Scathach, 6 of Air (Dark Goddess Tarot)
Card 3: What energy is waxing? Mars (Cosmos Oracle)
I asked my four year old son to choose which deck to use for which position, and I have to say that I admire his choices ;-) I'm also glad for them because my first pull was Scathach, a card that appeared for me in a reading I did last week, and it was affirming to see it again here.

So where, who, am I now, on this dark moon? Scathach is a warrior goddess who encourages us to step up to the plate, to embrace the tasks set before us, to live up to our capabilities, to show our worth. She encourages us to open up to new experiences, to learn, to ask questions and accept guidance - especially when that guidance will help us to tackle our responsibilities. Scathach reminds me of my fundamental ferocity, that when I apply myself I can move mountains.

I certainly recognize this energy in my life at this time. In my leadership role at work everyday brings something new, a puzzle to solve, a project to start, a dilemma to sort out. I often feel like I'm creating my path as I walk it; the road materializes with each step I take. And while it can be challenging at times, I am enjoying it immensely. I thrive on the complexity, on the layers, on the combination of finite details and large-scale vision. And while I love the autonomy, I also highly value the guidance of my mentor and boss, a woman I trust and respect, and who has much to offer in terms of growing into my new director-skin.

The Mother of Pentacles symbolizes the energy waning at this time, and this has a several connections: this past week has been the first week back to work and school following an extended holiday spent in family. The kids are busy with school work once again, and that precious period of constant togetherness has reached an end, for now. The kids have also been sick, so during the second week of break most of our time was spent relaxing at home, sneezing, coughing, and drinking loads of tea. Now the last couple sickies are on the mend. And in a more global sense, this Mother represents my newly expanding ability to provide materially for my family, which has been deeply satisfying.

Finally, Mars shows a time of increased energy and activity. I see myself here as I tackle some important new projects at work, host the first team meeting of the new year, and continue to tap into creative possibility as I look for solutions, fresh ways to build and improve on previous systems and procedures. With Mars, energy begets energy - the more possibilities I uncover, the more impulse I feel to keep digging. And yet Mars is also my husband, and I know that in the next couple of weeks ahead he will be focused on making some important decisions and plans for his own work as well.

I like that this line of three cards from three different decks shows three dominant figures - that is striking - and I like how the docility of the doe moves into the strong male and female warrior energies of Scathach and Mars. I am also intrigued by the presence of these elements, and the way they move from the calm stability of earth, to the intellectual engagement of air, and finally on to the burning creative force of fire.

May your own Dark Moon provide deep insights for rumination!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Fire and Air

I've come to regard the court of Air in the Tarot as my principal teacher in 2016. The Knight of Swords made many important appearances throughout the previous fall, along with the King, and at times the Queen as well. They are here to help me recognize the power of their element within me, and to develop those aspects of my Self that will benefit most from their energy and wisdom.

The other night I drew a card from the Dark Goddess Tarot asking how I might best approach this integration of Air and out flew Cerridwen, the Witch of Fire:
I picked up the card and when I saw the sow-faced figure of this goddess I was entranced, though also slightly mystified that I should receive a fire card when asking about how to enhance my air qualities. The guidebook names Cerridwen a goddess of transformation: "Craft anew with the bones of the old." Ah, transformation. Becoming. This is certainly a year for those things. The infrastructure remains, but the qualities and elements are engaged in an ever evolving dance of growth and change. Cerridwen tells me that my walk through the realm of air is not so much a journey that I'll be navigating, rather it will be a process that will occur organically within and around me. It's simply time. I will learn to breathe and to speak. I will learn to release and to name. I will craft and be crafted; I will learn to allow the breeze to move through me. I will learn about power, and about the ways in which air and fire feed and influence one another. Air is already mine; I will learn to claim it.

As we drove to the sea a couple of days later I decided to pull a card for each family member for the year ahead from the Cosmos Tarot and Oracle deck. Uranus for my husband, Grus for my eldest. The Knight of Water for my Pisces son, and Canes Venatici for my younger daughter (a dog-lover, "incidentally"!). Lastly I pulled my own..... Lynx - King of Air!