2 of Swords

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Swords/Air

Swords are the suit of the air, of the mind, of communication and the mental realm.  They are about matters of logic, knowledge and ambition.  Strategy and planning, truth and justice are all sword qualities.  Swords are about learning and thinking but as they are about the inner mind, they also deal with worries and nightmares, the shadow side of all that thinking energy.  This suit, like the swords that represent them, have two edges; light and shadow.  Creation and destruction.  Imagination and anxiety.  Decisiveness and indecision.

“You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too.”
– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird (quoted on Little Red Tarot)

The nature of swords is to fight but instead, as Lamott makes reference to, you can use the sword in other ways.  You can use the related intellect and instead out manoeuvre your opponent or your nemesis using your mind instead.  The suit of swords is also about communication, possibly making the saying the pen is mightier than the sword appropriate at times.

Whilst we normally think of cups as the emotional suit, swords and air bring with them mental conflict.  Michelle Tea notes that “the swords suit has a tense relationship with the realm of emotions.  In some readings of the Two of Swords, it represents a problem whose solving requires strict logic; you must not rule with your heart in this moment, but with what you know to be intellectually true”.

Twos

In tarot, twos can go two ways.  They can be about union and partnerships or they can be about choices and opposition.  With this in mind though, we can also see them as being able balance or finding the middle ground.

Twos are also linked with the high priestess, the two from the major arcana.  I’ve not done a post about her yet but she is often about intuition and looking inwards for answers.  She is a card that sings with sacred, feminine wisdom.  She is balance and harmony and peaceful stillness.  Yet she is also about awakening what lies inside you, revealing that which is hidden.  This dichotomy gives us a hint of what we will find across the twos.

We will start to see, as we move through the different depictions of the two of swords, that this tuning into oneself is one way of answering the call of the card.

Different decks

Rider Waite Smith

The two of swords from the RWS tarot depicts a blindfolded woman with a sword in each hand and her arms crossed.  Behind her is the ocean, craggy islands and a vast sky, empty except for a crescent moon.  I feel like we can take this scene by looking at three stages in the scene; the woman, the sea and the sky.

The woman appears to have chosen her blindfold, she has deliberately closed her eyes.  What might this represent to the reader?  Perhaps you have consciously withdrawn in order to make a decision without distraction.  Or are you subconsciously closing your eyes to your choices or in denial?  Sometimes we shut ourselves off physically or emotionally as a way of handling decisions – we put our head in the sand, or blindfold ourselves so we don’t have to engage.  We can also push problems or choices we don’t want to make away from ourselves and if we look at the woman we find a position which could be considered defensive, crossing her heart in a protective way so that nothing can get near.  Conversely the crossed arms could be a deliberate, temporary, carving out of space and time so that she can think things through – there is something in her position that I find somewhat intentional and zenlike.

We saw that twos can be about choices and balance and here we find the two swords facing away from each other, is there a tension here?  Are they symbolic of the two paths ahead of the woman?

Behind her we find the sea, choppy and filled with rocks and islands that could become hazardous for ships.  In tarot, we often find that the state of water is reflective of the emotional state of the querant.  Here we see a lot of emotional turmoil and perhaps this is why the choice or decision is so difficult?  Or are we being swayed by those emotions?  Another way to view this is to note how still and calm the woman is in the face of such emotions.  If the woman is in denial, we could view the choppy seas as a sign that the problem she is hiding from is growing and growing and the chance of hitting the rocks is increasing… It is time to made a decision, to choose a path and to move on from this place of inaction.  Toss a coin if you have to but don’t stay here.

Above the sea spans a sky, empty except for a crescent moon.  Interestingly the sky is a light blue, the sky of day, whilst the moon is obviously normally found at night.  Perhaps this hints that logic won’t always work here.  The moon is about illusions and dreams and things not being as they seem and a moon in the day feels like it exaggerates that message.

Tarot of Pagan Cats

The Tarot of Pagan Cats normally follows the RWS deck in it’s imagery but here it has departed quite significantly.  There is no blindfolded character and the cat is not holding two swords.  Despite that, the little white book gives this card the same meaning.  Again, it’s about conflict, this time its specified that it’s between heart and mind.  The cat is walking a tightrope between the two swords, the two choices but his head (and tail) are held high.

These swords are parallel suggesting equally valid paths and it may be worth noting that the cat is both black and white here.  We find the crescent moon depicted but this time in a night sky and whilst there are islands in the ocean, they are smoother, less dangerous and the waves aren’t as choppy as the RWS card.  This all confirms the cat’s confidence about this decision, he knows he’s got this.  I feel like this deviation from the RWS card shows the importance of listening to your intuition when it comes to which deck to use for a reading as the conversation can take on a rather different tone.

Wild Unknown

Another different depiction here.  In the RWS we had two swords facing away from each other and in the pagan cats the swords are parallel, here we find the swords are facing towards and crossing each other.  They form a dark X against a sky with an eclipsed sun.  The moon on the previous cards is now full and is obscuring light, the clarity.

When I first saw this card I read the sun as straining behind the moon to be seen and that if I uncrossed the swords, or made a decision, I would be able enjoy the light and see things clearly again.  I’ve also had readings which have shown the card as a situation where we want to understand things but we don’t necessarily want to understand things as they actually are and we find ourselves straining to impose our mentally constructed version of reality onto the world around us.

Lumina

Wow, this portrayal is so different to the rest of them.  Here we have parallel swords, as in the pagan cats, but instead of being vertical they are horizontal and instead of being held by the same person they are each wielded by a bird and they appear to be in a stalemate situation.  Alternatively, we could see a mirror image deal going on here.  Appropriately, the image is a bit confusing.

Talking about the two of swords reversed, the little white book says that “mental confusion and information overload is rife!”  This is something I wanted to touch on as it’s not really come through with the other representations.  We life in a world where we are surrounded by messages and information and opinions and words and words and words.  It can be hard to hear our own voice in amongst all the others and most of us don’t tend to make space for listening either.  Another way to feel into this is that being surrounded by information can mean we know too much and can see all sides or we can have so much information that we don’t realise we have the right information.

I don’t know what the birds on the cards are but given the meaning of the hawk and eagle, I like to view them as one or the other.  Both are messengers who bring perception and foresight to the game.

Other

The two of swords in norse tarot is very different again.  It has two men sitting opposite each other at a table and it looks like they’re playing chess or something similar which requires the mind to come up with paths forwards and work through them to see what obstacles could arise.  There is also something here about taking your time but not taking too long.

Whilst we’ve seen some very different depictions, there are some common themes here.  We are looking at decisions and how we face them.  As well as figuring out the decision or choice you are facing, you may need to spend some time unpicking the how and whys of your coping mechanism.  In my little white book I’ve made a note that whys -> wise.  By learning why we engage with a particular way of dealing with things we can start to learn how to approach things differently.

Other questions to explore include:

  • What are you denying, repressing or avoiding?
  • Head or heart? Logic or intuition?
  • What info do you need to make the decision?
  • Why are you struggling to decide?
  • Is anxiety clouding things?
  • Do you already known your decision but are afraid to make the leap?

Keywords

blocked, stuck, avoiding, at a standstill, intentional blindness as an emotional barrier, following blindly, conforming, stalemate, opposing forces, a situation you’ve been putting off dealing with, ambivalence, take off the blindfold and start fighting, indecision, contemplation, deliberation, considering both sides, boundaries, the calm before the storm, closing off from distractions to make a choice, comfort zone, clouded logic, overthinking

Associations

Peppermint

Whilst I mostly know about mint as an association because of the wonderful Little Red Tarot website, I have come across it elsewhere as I’ve noted it in my little white book I just didn’t note where it came from…  I have found a few more references in my googling to the suit of swords being associated with mint which reassured me that I haven’t just dragged this out of thin air!

Mint is a stimulating herb which is associated with quickening the mind and as we’ll see, the sign of libra is also about rapid fire of ideas and this could be related to the information gathering or information overwhelm of the two of swords.  The peppermint could stimulate the mind to filter through or seek out the information needed to make the decision.  It is said to clear the mind and this would set the scene for making the choice ahead.  Perhaps a peppermint tea would give you the space and the clarity you need.  Or a peppermint scent could help you cut through the fog.

It is a stimulating, invigorating plant that energises but also soothes; it is complicated, much like decision making!

Moon in libra

On a basic level, the moon is about emotions and libra is about balance and harmony.  Libra is an air sign, like swords, and the moon in an air sign brings us quick fire thinking, rapid fire ideas as well as the desire to build bridges, connect seemingly opposing ideas and find compromises.

The moon also brings us intuition and the sub-and un- conscious and then libra can bring in an air of indecision.  Because libra can see and understand multiple perspectives, they can find themselves unable to make a decision because they know there are pros and cons of all sides and as there may not be a clear cut good or right choice, their intuition can become muddled and blinded by information.

Moon in libra can be focused on trying to keep everyone happy, compromises which keep the peace and generally trying to find the middle ground.  This can lead to the person themselves getting lost and their own needs and thoughts being lost as they try to please everyone else.  This can be seen in the depictions above but does put a slightly different spin on things.  Instead of just being indecisive or stuck under an information avalanche, we find a person who has lost touch with themselves because they are focused on the happiness of others and compromises.

I feel like the energy at play here makes it hard to lean into mind or heart fully, perhaps being able to feel into both instincts and not being able to privilege one over the other.

On a more negative side, the moon in libra can lead to a person becoming argumentative as a protective mechanism.  They can provoke an argument if they feel emotionally unsafe and then instead of dealing with the emotional unsafe feeling, they can go into their quick fire, rapid idea, seeing all sides of things part of themselves and this can feel more comfortable.  In a way, this is hiding behind indecisiveness and/or the decision making process itself.  It is almost as if an issue has been summoned up so that moon in libra can busy themselves with seeing all the many sides and arguing about it.  An excellent example of paradoxically avoiding an issue by diving into the issue.

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Badger

I was pleased to see the badger card in this deck as I’d already been planning on writing a post about these shy yet fierce woodland creatures.

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Left to right: Animal Allies, Medicine Cards

Nocturnal and elusive, the badger is generally a social creature.  That being said, Jessica Swift who created the deck views this particular badger as “a bit of a loner, preferring to deal with others indirectly rather than directly.”  I looked into this and it turned out be a geographical difference as I am in the UK and she is in the US.  As I am writing from the UK, I’m going to look on the badger as a social creature.  If on the other hand, you’re from the US or the solitary badger has more pull for you, do go away and read about it.

Badgers are goddesses of underground living.  They create complex, long lasting burrow systems which are built by both male and females. They evolve and develop over time and are regularly being added to.  They are active spaces which can last generations.  This means they become a key part of the landscape and can be there for hundreds of years.  A cete of badgers (the correct term for a group) will have a number of setts in their territory with extensive tunnel networks with multiples exits for safety.  These are also at various heights which ensure good ventilation.  The badger home is not a haphazard guess but rather the result of years of hard work and reminds me of the beaver in that respect.

As I was looking online to see how people view badgers as spirit animals and what the associated characteristics tend to be, tenacity and determination came up a number of times as did the idea of needing to put in hard work to ensure something is a success.  If I was going to allocate the badger a suit from tarot it would be the pentacles and not just because they are earthy creatures but also down to their work ethic.  There feels like a slow and steady, putting in the effort, type approach from these creatures that chimes with a few of the pentacle cards.

Returning to their subterranean world, we find an animal that is grounded, down to earth and has a deep affinity with the land and mother earth.  If the badger has appeared as a medicine, you may want to explore your connection to the earth whether it is standing barefoot on the grass or exploring growing your own food etc.  They are also often ascribed healing powers and I have come across quite a few references to root medicine or magic including medicine men and women using a badger’s paw in healing ceremonies to ‘dig’ the disease out.

Another way you might interpret their underground and overground lives is by leaning into the idea that our world sits atop a fairy or magical realm, such as the irish Tuatha Dé Danann.  In this metaphor, badgers could be seen as messengers, bringing us secrets or ideas from a different world.  Perhaps this could be extended to an invitation to see things from a different perspective?  Their underground homes could also be about seeing below the surface, looking deeper and getting beyond the superficial.

Digging deep may also be felt into as a metaphor.  Because they can dig deep, it is hard to keep a secret from the badger, they can uncover things which perhaps even you don’t yet knoe about yourself.  This could be a call to spend some time trawling through your mind and tuning into your feelings and, if badger magic is working for you, you may find this to be a healing process.

Badgers’ diet varies throughout the year.  They enjoy apples, earthworms, roots and insects to name a few of the items on the badger menu.  They are omnivorous and whilst they really do like worms, they can switch to other food making themselves very adaptable to seasonal change.  Are you, like the badger, keeping your options open?

Somehow I’ve made it this far through the post without exploring the iconic colourings of the badger.  Their black and white stripes on their face direct attention towards their intensely strong jaw and sharp teeth – their key defences – and highlight their powerful defence.  Courage and strength are often associated with badgers which combined with perseverance creates an animal you want to keep on side.  Related to this, Jessica Dawn Palmer says:

“Once badger has bitten into something it won’t let go.  It would die rather than give up, so badger teaches us how to stick to a project and see it through to its completion.”

Whilst this is an admirable quality, do be careful of holding on tightly to the wrong things.

The black and white markings could also suggest a polarity which is akin to that which we saw with the bear; both a fierce and strong warrior but also a loving family orientated creature.  Interestingly, whilst the badger is known for being black and white, it’s body is actually grey.  Having just been on a three week pain management programme which included elements of CBT, I am viewing this as a reminder that life is not black and white and that black and white thinking is normally unhelpful in life.  Instead we can look towards the more nuanced grey, the inbetween, the compromise, the middle way.

Another common theme that has popped up many times in my research has been the link between badgers and storytelling.  I have yet to find out why but for now I am hypothesising that it is down to their intensely strong jaw which could then be taken as being a powerful communicator and then, although it feels tenuous, a great storyteller.  Another (less feasible but rather sweet) image that has popped into mind is of a badger family all sitting around in their sett on a cold winter’s day listening to wise elder badgers telling stories.

As storyteller, the badger “was keeper of history in the form of legend and lore.  Badger knows both past and future while maintaining a firm grip on the present” (Parker).  Regardless of why, this association does give us some interesting areas to explore.  We can think of storytelling as a social activity that connects and binds a group.  We can think of the personal stories that we tell ourselves about who we are and who we should be and who others think we should be.  These stories are powerful and can affect how you view yourself but they are stories so if they aren’t helpful, change the narrative.  I know building self esteem and self confidence isn’t as easy as that but it is one tool in your tool box.  Maybe think about the stories that you’ve heard over the course of your life and why or how some of them have been important or made a lasting impression.

On the topic of stories, let’s have a quick look at fictional and folkloric badgers.  According to Wikipedia, “authors of fictional works employing badgers have often emphasised their natural reclusive privacy and their ferocity and courage when protecting themselves”.  Personally, I was a bit stumped when it came to thinking of fictional badgers.  There is of course Mr Badger from Wind in the Willows and the badger which Beatrix Potter created.  For anyone of my generation there was the badger in The Animals of Farthing Wood but then I got stuck.

Interesting, in contrast to Wikipedia, John Dougherty wrote in the Guardian that “badgers in stories are usually wise and kindly animals”.  It seems that, like their black and white stripes, badgers in fiction find themselves cast in two polar opposite roles.

“The roles played by the badger in folklore fall basically into three categories: that of vengeful transformer, grateful friend and roguish prankster”
Violet H. Harada (PDF)

Turning from fiction to folklore, we find the Chinese and Japanese badger is a shapeshifter.  Not only can this creature appear human, but they can also shapeshift into inanimate objects such as fence posts.  Really, anywhere you go there could be a badger hiding right under your nose!  This could be quite unfortunate as badgers were also thought to be able to predict death… They could not only see into the future, but they could also see the past lives of people meaning that as well as changing shape, the badger has a fluid relationship with time as well.

Moving round the globe to North America where badgers (US badgers obviously) are portrayed as hard working, protective parents who will attack when necessary such as when something that matters to them is threatened.  We also find the element of divination with a rite involving badger blood and what is essentially mirror scrying to see the future of the diviner.

We actually find a strange but true relationship in North America between coyotes (another of the animal allies cards) and (American) badgers – whilst the majority of their interactions are fairly neutral, they have been seen hunting together but also sometimes coyotes eat badgers and sometimes badgers eat coyotes.  Whilst I’ve not yet looked at coyotes, this feels like it could be an interesting area to explore, especially if you draw them both in a reading.  This relationship gets yet more complicated when we learn that the coyote waits until the badger has made a nest and then steals it for himself.

And now, back to folklore, we cross the ocean to Europe.  Medieval folk thought that badgers worked together to dig tunnels under mountains in quite a coordinated fashion – some badgers did the digging, some had soil pilled on top of their tummies and some then dragged these soil laden badgers out of the tunnel in order to move the soil out the way.  I’d love to know more about how this idea came about!

Other beliefs are comparatively more reasonable…  The badger was associated with the coming of spring.  In Ireland, the badger was thought of as unclean and known for biting, yet a gambler who put a badgers tooth in his pocket was said to be unbeatable…Badger hair was an ingredient in a potion which protected you from witchcraft and their skin was made into bridles so that the rider would have magical powers over horses.  At the other end of the spectrum, to see a badger was bad luck.  These mammals are a complicated mixture of contradictions.

Badger culling is a topical, controversial issue and casts the badger as a scapegoat.  It is also an issue which gets very heated and emotive and singles out the badger despite other actors being involved.  If we look again at the idea of storytelling, here we have a badger cast as the leading villain and taking all the blame for a crime that was committed by many.

Sadly their poor treatment doesn’t end there.  The phrase “to badger”  apparently comes from the custom of badger baiting (badgers have had a rough time of it regardless of which generation they are from…) and means “to persecute” or “to annoy”.

I feel like the badger, more so than most of the animals I’ve looked at, is a bit confusing.  There are many ways to lean into the meanings and I do think it’s one you’ll have to feel your way into by yourself.  I hope this post has offered some signposts for further exploration and that you can find your own path through the contradictions!

Home Artificial Nutrition Week 2018

6th – 12th August 2018 is Home Artificial Nutrition Week and is also the first summer I’ve had artificial nutrition so I wanted to do a post based around the questions that my friends have asked me.  Please note that these are my experiences and everyone is different.

For background info, I started having very mild swallowing difficulties a few years ago.  They slowly got worse and then in September 2017 they got dramatically worse.  I was barely able to swallow anything and essentially slowly starved until February 2018 when my PEG was fitted.

In no particular order…

How does it work? 

I had a PEG feeding tube fitted in February which goes into my tummy.  This is a plastic tube which is held in place by a bumper which sits just inside my stomach and another one sits outside on my skin.  The external part of the tube includes a clamp and a cap on the end.

When we do my medication we clamp the tube, unscrew the end and use a syringe to push meds through.  They are either already in liquid form or we crush them and mix them with water.  To ensure they get into my tummy and don’t just sit in the tube we also flush through some water.

Feedwise, we attach the bag of feed to a pump via tubing and then the tubing is screwed onto the end of my peg.  The machine is turned on, set up and then runs throughout the night.

What does it feel like?

On the whole, I don’t feel it.  If the water we use to administer meds is too cold or put in my tummy too fast then it makes me feel a bit sick.  The best way I’ve found to explain that is that it’s like getting up in the night and downing a huge glass of ice water whilst you’re still half asleep.

When I have effervescent medication eg disolvable paracetamol then I can feel it bubble up my throat which is very yukky…

The only other way I feel it is when my feed is on and I lay too flat or on my right side and then I experience reflux/regurgitation and can taste it a bit.

Does it hurt when the tube gets caught on things?

Yes and no.  One of the first things I get my carers to do is pull the tube.  This is to get them over the fear that they’re going to a) hurt me and b) pull the tube out.  It’s fairly stable and I only really get hurt (very mildly) when I lay on the hard bit of the tube or I get really badly caught on something.  It would be in the same sort of way as if an earring got caught I think.

What is actually in your feed?

The feed is made up of the vitamins, minerals etc that you need to live.  I have to say I haven’t looked too closely as I don’t really want to know… My feed is a soya based version but the dietician works with you to find out what is best for your body.  As an example, my feed has no fibre in it and that works well for me but you can get ones which contain fibre.  To start with there is a bit of trial and error whilst you try and figure out what is right for you.

Can you taste it?

Only when I have reflux or regurgitation.  It tastes slightly milky and sweet but it’s more just a generic food taste rather than anything else so it’s hard to describe.

Does it make you feel full?

Yes.  My dietician works out how much I need to consume daily and the amount of feed is worked out accordingly.

Can you eat or drink?  If so, what?

Whilst most of my nutrition is now through my PEG, I can still eat a little bit and I can drink a lot of things.  What I can eat is a bit random but stodgy foods are out and so are foods that you chew into little tiny pieces and swallow.  Sugar is also out the question and that does limit what I can drink.  I’m ok with diet coke for example but can’t do normal coke.  Sugar, for me, also seems to include natural sugars and I can’t drink apple juice or have sugary (dairy free) ice creams.

What do you miss?

This is one of those things that is going to be so personal but for me it’s salt.  Thankfully I can still eat a bit and so I just put a lot more salt on that.  I also miss things which sound boring like rice and pasta.  I don’t miss cake or most sweet things except for just before my period when I crave a bit of sugar.

Would you get drunk if you put alcohol down the tube?

It has been made very clear to me that only medication, water and prescription feed go down the tube.

However, theoretically, I would imagine you would get drunk and you would get drunk a lot quicker.  Think about how much alcohol you drink per mouthful (not including shots!) and then think about how you’d feel if that was a lot more – the faster you drink and the more you drink the drunker you get.  So given that you’d probably have a higher volume hit your stomach at the same time I think you’d not only get drunk but you’d get drunk a lot quicker.

As I said though, there are very specific things you can put down your tube.

Does it bother you when people eat around you?

No.  But I’ve always been a fussy eater so I’m probably more used to not eating around eating people than most.  When I was growing up I was fussy about texture and then I went vegetarian and then I found I couldn’t tolerate any lactose.  Add into this that I really can’t stand tomatoes and you can get an idea about how hard it was for me to eat out.  I often ended up with chips, bread and if I was lucky maybe a starter.

I think it also probably helps that I don’t really crave much but I don’t know how well I’d get on if someone had a beautifully made slice of marmite on toast* in front of me…

*It’s been years since I had this because I was by far the best person at making it and I just couldn’t bring myself to risk having badly made marmite on toast so I never asked my carers for it.

Do you burp the same?

Yes and no.  When I drink fizzy drinks quickly, I can feel my tummy expand a little – this is because of the external bumper which suddenly puts pressure on my skin when I bloat – and then there is a little release and I unbloat.  I am assuming that some of the gas is coming out the tube site but don’t know for sure.

The worst thing is actually when we put things which fizz directly into my stomach.  One of my medications gets dissolved in water and even after an hour is still fizzy.  When we put it down the tube we have to be very slow and even then it’s yukky.  I can feel the bubbles escaping up my oesophagus and then I do burp.  It’s the same as if I’d drunk the medication but somehow it feels worse given that it didn’t go down before it came back up…

Is the tube annoying?

The most annoying part for me is that I can’t lift the feed bag, pump and stand combo so once I’m hooked up I can’t move more than about 1.5m.  This translates as not being able to go to the toilet at night… But on the whole, it’s a vast improvement on not being able to get nutrition.  You can also use a small rucksack set up so if you were hooked up during the day you could go out and it would be fairly discreet.

The other annoyance is that I have a lot of dresses which means when I go out we have to find a toilet or somewhere so that we can do my medication otherwise I’d end up flashing my knickers at everyone…!

Do you like your feeding tube?

This may feel like a strange question to ask someone and if you do ask, most people expect the answer to be no.  The doctors did everything they could and then wasted time on things that were never going to work before they would consider a PEG.  In the eyes of the medical profession it seems to be viewed as a last resort, almost as a failure on the part of the doctor – they haven’t found out what is wrong with me and haven’t been able to fix me and on the whole they don’t like that.  But I view my PEG very differently.

Whilst my PEG is annoying at times, it means I can get nutrition and medication into me without it being a nightmare-ish struggle involving regurgitation and stress and frustration and having to eat a lot of the few things I can swallow in order to survive.  Even then I still wouldn’t be able to eat enough to live.  So with that in mind, I am happy to say I love my feeding tube.  It has given me my life back and what more could you ask for than that?

@PINNTcharity * #HANweek2018 * #enteralnutrition

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask away and if I can, I’ll answer them!

Wheel of Fortune

Whether it’s depicted as the Wheel, the Wheel of Fortune, the Wheel of Time or the Fates, this card brings with it change and cycles and uncertainty.

Suit

Each Major Arcana card is associated with a suit, in this case the wheel of fortune is a fire card and knowing this can help us lean into the meaning.  Without knowing anything else, we get a fast, sparking, energetic vibe, this is not a card about staying still.

Different decks

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I’m posting this from a hotel room and can’t remember the name of the tarot deck for the small card or the one on the bottom row to the right… I will update when I’m home with the boxes…
Top Row; Lumina
Bottom Row; Wild Unknown, Tarot of the Pagan Cats

Rider Waite Smith

“The Wheel of Fortune promises that change is the only thing you can rely on.”
– Michelle Tea

The Rider Waite Smith image involves a lot of symbolism.  There are many layers to this card and we’ll get a sense of that as we start to unpick things.  You can take the image at face value without knowing what the symbols mean, less so for the RWS but this is easy with some of the other decks.

With the RWS symbolism, from the little I know and have read, we have alchemical symbols which correspond to the suits of the tarot, zodiac signs depicted in the four corners and so on.  In terms of the zodiac, there is a Scorpio eagle, Leo the lion, Taurus and apparently Aquarius – all of which are fixed signs if you know anything about astrology you might want to ponder this.  The wheel itself seems to be resting on the back of what might be a devil and the wheel has a sphinx? On top and a snake to the left.

According to Michelle Tea, the snake is Typhon, a murderous monster in a downward spiral – he has had his time on top but no longer.  What I think looks like a devil is apparently Anubis (half jackal and half human) who is protector of the dead, who guides souls and brings new life.   The sphinx is indeed a sphinx who is enjoying her time up top.  There are a lot of different ways we can relate to this card through the different depictions and we will all, at one point or another, be each of them.

Rachel Pollack instead says the snake is set, Egyptian god of evil and bringer of death into the universe.  In some stories, Anubis is set’s son and so the decline of set gives space for Anubis to step into life, the cycle of death and rebirth is played out – “psychologically, only the death of the outer self can release the life energy within” (pollack).  The sphinx represents Horus, god of resurrection and so symbolises the triumph of life over death.

Pollack also notes that the wheel originally symbolised both the mystery of nature and the human ability to take part in that mystery through a ritual sacrifice.  This may sound sinister to our 21st century ears but sacrifice could just be about letting go of that thing which is no longer relevant, that belief which is no longer appropriate or that idea you have of how things should be.  She goes on to point out that the important thing about change is the reaction you have to it.

Do you embrace change?  Do you struggle against it?  Do you drain all your energy trying to fight it?

The Tarot of the Pagan Cats

Where the RWS wheel is spinning by itself, albeit with the influence of gods and such, the wheel in pagan cats is being spun by a cat herself.  We still have the four suits and the symbols which indicate the degree to which the cat cannot control the future.  Combined, these elements show an approach to destiny and fate which is in partnership with the reader of the cards.  The LWB says:

“The wheel of life is spinning and where it will land is uncertain, those who are centered will feel the effects less than those who cling to the edge. R. running away from fears or responsibilities.”

I find this interesting given the cat is clearly on the outside of the wheel, here she will feel a greater impact of change, and perhaps experience greater change because of that resistance to throwing herself at the centre.

Instead of just select astrological signs, the pagan cats wheel includes all the zodiac symbols and the planets.  Having observed this, I’m now mulling over what I think it might signify but am not feeling anything obvious – I’d love to hear from you if you have thoughts!

Wild unknown

This particular wheel of fortune card is one that I’ve leant into in a deeper and deeper way the more I’ve learnt about tarot.  The card shows a complicated web of rainbow treads, weaving in and out and getting tangled in branches and ultimately creating a circular wheel akin to a dreamcatcher.  The top half is in darkness with a crescent moon and an owl and the bottom half is light.  Things are a bit topsy turvy right now.

As with the previous cards, change is a key element here.  We are asked to be the change or to feel into how change is showing up for us.  How are we responding to those changes – are we clinging on for our lives desperately trying to be in control of the change or are we going with the flow?

The tangledness of the image reminds us of how intertwined life is.  It is a visual representation of the interconnectedness of all of us and how everything is connected and united with everything else.  However random events in your life may feel, they are connected somehow, just in a way that us mere mortals can’t see.  Life is messy and it may not feel like things are going as they should but have faith that the universe is keeping you on your path, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Related to the idea of life as messy, we can use the card as a reminder that life, like a tangled ball of wool, only becomes untangled with time and patience and making a bit more mess first.

Lumina

“Intentionally move the spinning wheel of You to the beat of your own heart’s guidance”

Where the phases of the moon were hinted at in the wild unknown, they are explicit with the lumina tarot.  A feminine figure stands at the centre of 8 arms, each reaching for a different moon phase.  Above sits the moon and she stands on the sun, echoing the wild unknown.  Etched into the moon is the symbol for Jupiter which I’ll look at a bit later on.

The centring of the figure suggests she is at the centre of the wheel of fortune; she is moving with the flow not resisting change.  Fighting it makes no difference to what happens, just how you react to it.

The moons in this card speak to me of cycles – the lunar cycle, the way tides flow in and out, the way a year moves through seasons and the cycle of life that we all experience.  Everything changes and everything passes.  We also cannot skip a stage of the cycle.  You cannot go from new to full moon without passing through the crescent moon on the way.  Works of Literata expands on these ideas around cycles and phases in a post about the wheel of fortune.

Other decks

In the Simplified Tarot, the wheel of fortune shows a wild looking woman turning a crank to spin a wheel with 6 of the zodiac signs on it – Pollack suggests that this is saying in a direct way we make out own luck.

The Chrysalis Tarot has a somewhat different image to most of the other decks I’ve looked at.  In this deck, the wheel of fortune appears as though it could be burning.  I wonder if this is saying we can take control of our fate?

The Herbal Tarot illustrates this card with slippery elm, something which doesn’t take much leaning into to feel appropriate for the wheel of fortune.

Finally, in the goddess tarot, the wheel of fortune is represented by hindu goddess Lakshmi who is associated with fortune and prosperity, the generosity of the universe.

I find these different versions of the wheel of fortune reflective of the different types of change we all experience, the different ways we move through change and the different levels of control we have over changes.

General thoughts

“Like the wheel of life that never stops turning, the longer you cling on and try to stay where you are, the more out of flow with life you get, life is not linear, it is cyclic.  A boundless journey of transformation. Of highs and lows. Of contractions and expansiveness.  Of birth and death.  Of wins and losses.  Change is a sure thing.  Our ability to surrender to its natural rhythms is our greatest tool”
Rebecca Campbell

“I walk with life’s ups and downs. Sometimes I’m ahead, sometimes I’m behind. This too shall pass”
Jessi Huntenburg

  • What is changing? How am I responding?
  • How can I stay centred?
  • Have you checked out of your life in some way?
  • Are you struggling to trust that the future will unfold as it’s meant to?
  • Who is spinning the wheel?
  • Where on the wheel am I?

Keywords for the wheel of fortune:

Destiny, change of course, life is messy but have faith that the universe is keeping you on your path, change, luck, karma, fate, turn of events, turning point, movement, action, brief glimpse of the world card, taking control of your destiny,

Associations

Fixed zodiac signs

As we saw with the RWS card, the fixed astrological signs come into play here.  These are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius and Café Astrology says:

The fixed signs are not as interested in manipulating their environment as their Cardinal brothers and sisters- they are happy to concentrate on personal matters and will resist outside attempts at trying to change their lives. They tend to hang on to the past, which is their biggest weakness, but they are strong in their stability.

In the context of the wheel of fortune, these signs feel like they should be more resistant to change and to the turning wheel so I’m finding it a little strange that they are highlighted.  I’d be interested to hear other people’s ideas about why the fixed signs in particular are used on this card.

Amethyst

Previously I’ve not really explored the symbolism of the associated crystals but I love amethyst and as a pisces, it’s my birth stone and it’s been with me for over 2/3 my life in different ways so I felt compelled to find out more about it.

Firstly, it’s quartz so let’s start there.  Quartz comes in many varieties and formations and is the most abundant mineral on the earth’s surface.  There is, when you put it like that, nothing special about quartz.  But it is special.  I have a lump that I picked up as a child and whilst I don’t know where it is, I can picture it as clearly as I can my teddy bears.  It was raw and full of character and as I write this, I’m upset that I can’t think where it is.  I know I didn’t get rid of it but I’ve moved house so many times…  Anyway, back to quartz.  It’s clearish and if you look back in time, it was used to heal sickness and wounds and is generally thought of as a basic go to crystal if you are into crystal healing.  If you don’t know where to turn, grab some quartz.

So, amethyst is a type of quartz.  It’s purple colour is down to manganese and iron in the crystal, so really, not only is this quartz, a really common crystal, it’s also impure.  And yet, it is so beautiful!  I feel this really chimes with the message of the wheel of fortune – things don’t need to be neat and tidy to be valuable, messy and impure have their own rewards.  If you start to look at how amethyst is used, you’ll find it’s a magnifier, it enhances the qualities of other crystals and like quartz is a bit of an all rounder.  More specifically, it’s allegedly good for protection, balance and interestingly purification… It is supposed to calm eg nerves and environment, and echoing its use as enhancing other crystals, it’s supposed to enhance self esteem, spirituality and meditation.

A further note on the idea of enhancing or magnifying, on a trip to Mexico Danielle Dorsey found herself dealing with a number of challenges and repeatedly drawing the wheel of fortune.  She writes:

“The Wheel of Fortune continued to appear, gently reminding me that while these misfortunes might seem temporarily magnified, it was up to me whether I would allow them to define my trip.”

When we are in the middle of change, we often experience it more intensely that it is.  Spinning around, feeling out of control, amplifies all the other areas in life where we feel untethered.

Jupiter

In the lumina tarot, we saw the symbol for Jupiter.  This was echoed in another deck which featured Fortuna on the wheel of fortune (Jupiter is said to be her father).  We also find oak associated with this card and again, that brings us back to Jupiter and his counterpart Zeus.

Aside: Zeus is linked with oak and when I was looking at plant associations for the wheel, oak was one of them.  If this feels intriguing or relevant you might want to explore this further.

As a planet in astrology, Jupiter is about expansion and growth and is excited about new things which could be seen as a very healthy attitude towards the wheel of fortune and change.  Traditionally Jupiter has been seen as the planet of luck and good fortune so perhaps we should or could see future change as a positive opportunity instead of a negative, external imposition.

Owl

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Top, left to right: Animal Allies, Animal Dreaming
Bottom, left to right: Medicine Cards, Wild Unknown Animal Spirit

 

The owl on the wild unknown card is showing herself to be wise enough to step back and observe and adapt, she is not trying to hold onto the wheel or hold back the changes.  She looks from the darkness, the unconscious and flows with the cycles instead of struggling against them.  She teaches us to adapt and to make the most out of what is coming as it will come regardless of whether you like it or not.

Links

Art with chronic pain

Sometimes it surprises people how much art I do given how much pain my hands are in everyday.  One of the reasons I can do art is because I dip in and out throughout the day rather than sitting down and doing an hour of it.  Having a dedicated space in my flat really helps with this as I can leave things in mid-progress.  There are other things I’ve discovered over the last few years that I thought might be helpful to share.  They may or may not help other people but I’d love to hear other tips as well.

  • Choose your medium carefully.  Watercolour involves too many stages for me so I use ink to get a similar effect for less work.
  • I use acrylics a lot but I mix them with a bit of water to make them smoother to apply.
  • Think about how you’re going to open paints and get ones which will be easier.  I got some lovely acrylics but the lids are a nightmare so I can only use them if someone is around to help.
  • Good quality paintbrushes make things much easier.  I have a few that are for children but are reasonable quality and I also use chunky handled brushes as they are easier to hold.
  • If you struggle with holding pencils, try different kinds.  I got a set of art pencils and promptly got rid of them as they weren’t for me. Instead I use learn to write pencils with push up lead as they are easier to hold and are always sharp.  For both pencils and paintbrushes, you might want to try the foam hand grip stuff to make them chunkier.
  • Think about how you’re holding pens and pencils and paintbrushes and how hard you’re gripping them.

puffin

  • As well as sharp pencils, good quality paper makes a difference if you’re sketching or drawing.  My favourite is daler rowney mixed media pads.
  • Watercolour pens are a really nice option as they get bold colour on the page with the stroke of a pen and you can then come in with a wet paintbrush and soften or change the effect.
  • Not to be confused with a water pen which is also nice and as well as putting water in to use with watercolour pens, you can put ink in and sometimes this gives a bit more precision.
  • If you can, mix it up and use your non dominant hand as well!
  • Forget implements all together and get your fingers stuck into the paint!
  • Take lots of breaks.  I work in layers a lot so I have to let them dry anyway.
  • Think about the set up of your work space.  Most of us know how we should set up our computer workspace (even if we don’t actually follow through) and the same sorts of things should be taken into account when doing art.
  • Craft knives may be better or worse than scissors, try one and see.  And if you prefer scissors, look around.  I use a pair that doesn’t need too much effort because their natural position is open.
  • Think about size – are you doing a lot of stretching to reach the top of the canvas?
  • Think about digital art – there are lots of apps for phones and tablets and these might provide a different style of art and relieve your hands at the same time.

rowntree park

At the end of the day, if you’re looking to draw or paint or whatever, you’re probably at least a little bit creative and so if you start to think outside the box you’ll find ways that work for you.

I know I have many more things I want to add to this post so I’ll probably keep it as a bit of a work in progress and just keep adding things as I remember…!

Ten of Cups

Cups/ Water

Having looked at the ten of wands, swords and pentacles, we are now turning towards the ten of cups. This suit, associated with water, is to do with emotion, intuition and matters of the heart. It is where we find creativity and imagination as well as fantasies and dreams. Cups deal with relationships and love and in the water we find reflections and can see into our inner worlds. The water in these cards often reflects our feelings and thus make for interesting readings.

Tens

If you want to read more about tens, check out the other posts. The only thing I want to add here comes from Rachel Pollack:

“As the highest number, the Tens signify being filled with the quality of the suit… in cups we find joy and the wonder of life spread across the sky.”

Different decks

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RWS

The Rider Waite Smith deck depicts the ten of cups as a normative family – mum, dad, son and daughter – rejoicing under a rainbow of cups. The parents have their arms around each other and the children are dancing. This is clearly intended to be a picture of harmony and a happy, loving family. A river and the green green grass suggest abundance and wealth, but remember we are with cups here so this is different to pentacle style wealth, this is emotional fulfilment and stability. The house is pictured but instead of being a physical asset that highlights security, here it signifies the feeling of clan – it is people who make a home.

“The Ten is the grand finale of the Cup’s emotional ups and downs; this couple has been together through some crazy twists and turns, yet they have wound up here, enjoying a pretty day.”
– Michelle Tea

Michelle notes that it is a simple scene and yet that is what makes this card so wonderful – finding fulfilment and inspiration and magic in the everyday. Take time to pause and breathe and enjoy the peace and abundance around you.

Tarot of the Pagan Cats

Unusually, this pagan cats card is notably different to the RWS version. These cats are inside the home, playing with a rainbow flag draped in the background. We still have the two adult cats and two kittens but because it’s cats and not people, we side step the heteronormative image.

The LWB says the following, which feels a little strange to me:

“Happy home. R. Presenting a false face to the world.”

Normally the reversed meaning of a card hints more to the opposite meaning whereas here we seem to be dealing with two slightly different interpretations of the ten of cups. Neither feel wrong but they don’t seem to gel very well. It’s almost as if on one side we have the head of a 10p coin and then we flip it and suddenly we’re looking at the tail of a 2p…

Leaning into each meaning separately, I think we can see that the happy home side of things fits very well with the traditional RWS version – note that they’ve used home and not house here, we are looking at those relationships and meanings and feelings that make up a home. The reverse meaning, presenting a false face to the world, makes me think that the cats are less happy and fulfilled and more focused on ‘keeping up with the jones’s’, something we all know does not lead to a happy ending.

I wonder if this reversed meaning is leaning more to an inauthentic experience of the happy nuclear family from the RWS and how actually, it’s better to feel fulfilled in whatever way is right for you, even (and arguably especially) if it doesn’t look like the rest of the world’s idea of happiness. Tied into this you could read the rainbow as the flag of the LGBT movement – perhaps this card is validation that your own version of family is just as worthy or legitimate as the stereotypical man, woman and 2.4 children.

Wild Unknown

I think I’ve said before that I like the way this deck doesn’t include humans. It’s all much freer in it’s ideas about what we should do and what society expects us to do. Because there are no humans, or animals, in this image, we can think more widely about the concept of home and family that we saw in the other cards. Here we can be thinking about found family and the homes that we create for ourselves which may not actually be buildings. We create communities online and they are just as valuable and just as much your home and family as the bricks and mortar that you might have grown up in.

This card shows a beautiful symmetry, with the top cups, or outer cups filling the bottom, or inner, cups with light and love and rainbows. Just as white light is made of all the colours of light, so too here, joy and love is made of all the different aspects of the rainbow, or aspects of life. Whilst the other cards have featured rainbows, it feels as if here we have a much stronger reminder that rainbows are the union of sun and rain, of love and pain. Light and darkness are depicted in what feels like equal amounts. This version of the ten of cups is not saying that when you reach this point in life, you will be trouble free. It is much more about having the inner and outer resources to cope and get through the harder times.

Lumina

Magnetic fulfilment. Abounding love.

Comparing the imagery for the wild unknown and lumina, we find in both a symmetry. Where the cups from the wild unknown represent both the inner and outer worlds, the butterflies in the lumina do the same. The inner reflects the outer and the outer reflects the inner, they are beautifully entwined. In the wild unknown it is the rainbow which unites them and we will see shortly that the butterfly has a similar role in that the butterfly effect highlights the interconnectedness of the world, and of our inner and outer selves.

The guide for the lumina tarot suggests we pause, take a breath and notice that we have reached the place we were striving for. Our live is full and, having trusted our path and our intuition, we have found our destination. This is a card of abundance, of love, of gratitude and joy. A card which feels like all our loved ones, our made or found family, are holding us in their arms. We are safe here and we are both loved and loving. It also says that “you are a guiding light and an inspiration for what it is to step into your power and truth and become who you know you are”. This is not an easy journey. To become who you are, regardless of what the world says or does to you, takes immense strength, you must face challenges with courage and work through the hard times. But the reward will be so sweet if you do.

On the flip side, maybe this card has shown up for you because you are not following your path, you are not carving your own way and are letting the world push you in a different direction. It is so easily done but to follow other peoples plans and expectations will not result in happiness. Perhaps you are on the career path and are automatically climbing and climbing, seeking prestige and money, when actually the job you most enjoyed was two rungs down. This may be a time to look at why you are making certain decisions and what it is that truly sets you aflame, that inspires your heart and your soul and brings you to life. Often this is not what the world expects from you, but that is ok. At the end of the day, if you are doing what you love, your friends and found family will see that and love you for your courage and honesty and you will set something alight in them too.

General thoughts

For a very different depiction of the ten of cups try the Mary El Tarot, it definitely doesn’t portray a nuclear family! Beth also shows us a number of other interpretations for this card which may chime with you more than the RWS version.

Key words in my little white book include:

happy ending, contentment, alignment, radiating energy, overflowing, positivity, excitement, light, flow, love and support, relationship harmony, emotional fulfilment, wholeness, connectedness and interconnectedness, you do you, go for what makes you happy, live honestly, acknowledge who you are and what you love

Questions to ask yourself might include: what does family look like to you? What does home look like? What does the good life mean to you? What does success look like for you?

Associations

Mars in Pisces

The astrological correspondence for the ten of cups is mars in pisces, a fiery planet infusing watery pisces with energy. This suggests strong and powerful emotions are at play and mars can lend energy to Piscean imagination and compassion.

Pisces is a mutable sign and, especially in the wild unknown card, we can see the dance between pulling in energy and putting it out into the world, a dance between the inner and outer that helps to align both worlds. The balance of giving and receiving and the reward of being and feeling authentic when your outer self aligns with your inner self.

A low expression of mars in pisces can be going with the flow and not taking any initiative yourself – this might be the case if the card has shown up reversed or if you are following other people’s idea of your life path. Not knowing what you want can be another characteristic of mars in pisces and if you don’t have an idea about where you are going it’s going to be pretty hard to get there. Perhaps this card has shown up to encourage you to dip into that mars active energy to help you set a goal or figure out what you want.

Alyssa Trahan uses the analogy of white light being made up of all the other colours being equivalent to pisces being made up of the other signs. Given the rainbow symbolism it felt relevant to mention this.

Butterflies and Moths

As well as considering butterflies, I’m going to look at moths as they are so similar but also because I think considering them together sheds additional light on both of them.

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The mother butterfly essentially exists for her potential children. Once she has emerged from her chrysalis, she is very focused on mating and then laying her eggs in the perfect place. She will die before she sees her children but that doesn’t stop her loving them intensely. She looks for a spot where her babies will have the best food and the best chance in life.

Often the butterfly card brings with it a message around change but in the context of the ten of cups it feels more like we have been through the painful process of metamorphosis and we are reaping the rewards. Earlier cards in this suit depict the pain and suffering and turmoil necessary to reach this amazing, fulfilling place. You have been on one hell of a journey and now you get to pause and enjoy the benefits.

Butterflies are associated with joy and happiness and seen as wish carriers and dream bringers.

“Butterflies live so deeply in the moment of being that they can conquer time itself”
– Matthew Oates

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Where butterflies give us to positive side of the ten of cups, the moths show us the shadow side.

Moths are drawn to light but unnatural lighting is drawing them away from their path just as consumerism and capitalism can draw us away from ours. We search for something which will fill the hole in our soul and end up trying to fill it with materialistic possessions that we use to declare our status. Think back to the idea with the pagan cats of keeping up with the jones’s…

Spend some time with the moth and the butterfly as you reassess what you want from life, where you want your own unique path to go. Refind your sense of self, rediscover your passions and your values.

Pause, breathe and be aware of burning out because you are living someone else’s life.