2019

I’m a few days behind the flurry of good intentions and well meant resolves but I’ve not been well.  And that is a key reason why I don’t actually engage in new years resolutions.  My health is not predictable enough to commit to doing less of this or more of that.  My health also means most of the standard options are off limit.  I can’t eat more healthily or choose this year to be the one where I lose weigh.  I can’t declare that as the clock flicked to 12:01 I would become an exercise fiend.  This is not going to be the time I decide to earn more money, get a promotion or start out on a new career.  And anyway.  If you want to do any of these, just do it, don’t wait until the deep, dark winter when you’re feeling tired and sluggish and emotionally, physically and financially wiped out by the festive season.

It’s not just me, there are more and more posts out there denouncing new years resolutions.  In previous years, I’ve let Susannah Conway’s approach guide me.  She produces a helpful workbook which supports your reflection on the year past and helps you to identify what you want to embody for the year ahead.  In doing so, she encourages you to choose a word, previously mine have included ‘peace’ and ‘engage’.

This year I have a different approach.  During 2018 I learnt a lot about astrology and have found it to have more and more of an impact on my life and the cycles of my energy and mood and such.  I have incorporated this learning into my alternative to new years resolutions.  Looking at where the sun will be throughout the year – which zodiac sign – and what house this corresponds to in my birth chart, I have created 12 different statements or intentions.  So at present, the sun is in Capricorn and in my 7th house and I have identified the following:

I can work to break taboos by relating to others, building trust and tending to relationships.

Other intentions include:

I begin again.  I am open to healing, to nurturing and loving myself.  I reach for the resources to support me with this.

I choose to fight for my dreams and to pioneer new ways of being.

I clear away the image of being a martyr to my past.

Being only a month long, these are more mindsets that something concrete to achieve.  They are for me to mull over, to reflect on, to consider and to think about for that phase of the year.  Some will be more uncomfortable than others.  Some will probably take up more of my mind than others and I will go with that flow because I cannot control my health and I will trust that what will be will be.

Each month I will also use Carrie Mallon’s 2019 workbook to lean into the statement, reading my tarot cards and listening to my dreams.

 

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Wren

“Tiny, plump bird, mainly russet-brown with a pale breast.  It is constantly on the move and has a very loud trilling song that is heard throughout the year.”
– Peter Tate

Whilst today we tend to think of the robin as Britain’s favourite bird, the wren is a stronger contender for the title.  They were found on farthings, featured on stamps, and as we’ll see there’s a range of folklore about them.  But before we get to that, let’s have a look at the wren itself.

They are very helpful to us as they eat insects and spiders, and their small size allows them into little cracks and crevices that other birds can’t get to.  In winter, food is scarcer, possibly hidden under heaps of snow or frozen soil.  Because of their size, they are vulnerable to the cold and combat this by huddling together and becoming more friendly as the weather turns.  This increased sociability is important as a cold winter can kill anything from a quarter to three quarters of the population.  However, when times are better, males are territorial and defend their patch from other males.  There is a season for coming together and a season for putting yourself first.

Despite being one of the UK’s most widespread birds, found almost everywhere except the most remote or highest parts of the country, it is more often heard rather than seen.  There is an invisibility here, an ability to slip between worlds that reminds me of shamans.

Little Jenny wren, small and inconspicuous, has a surprisingly powerful voice.  This is because they have an organ called a syrinx with a resonating chamber and can make use of virtually all of the air in their lungs.

I listen soundlessly. I breathe in for this wren, but then I am rapt in beauty and each note reminds me of the jewels I had in my hand as a child when I pretended that drops of water were diamonds and I was surrounded by priceless treasure. Our best applause: first silence, then song.

“He is the smallest bird I see in these woods, but his song is the loudest and this is why, openheartedly, simply, gratefully, admiringly, I love him. He dazzles my ears.””
Jay Griffiths

One lesson of the wren, is that your voice is much more powerful than you think, speak up, sing loudly, don’t let your (perceived) smallness stop you.  What you have to say matters, it will make a difference.

“even on uninhabited island rocks … [the Wren’s] … lively song relieves the awful solitudes.”
– Ussher & Warren (1900)

There may also be a message here around focusing on what you hear, not what you see.  I’ve mentioned our vision-centricness before and how important it can be to tune into all our senses.  Play some music, light a candle, whatever it is that helps you connect to yourself and feel grounded.

Once lucky enough to have seen off other males and found a female to mate with, the male wren presents the female with a choice of nests.  She selects her preferred one and lines it with feathers.  Once the little eggs are hatched, both parents take a role in feeding the chicks.  It was this cooperative behaviour that led older societies to associate the wren with sharing the work load.  Today it may be a reminder not to get stuck into gendered ideas of who should do what household tasks.  Share the work and play to your strengths, even if they aren’t what stereotypes suggest you should be doing.

A Wren’s Nest by William Wordsworth starts with a beautiful stanza describing the wren’s nest, a place of comfort and of safety, snug and cosy.  The protective feeling of being wrapped up warm in blankets.

AMONG the dwellings framed by birds
In field or forest with nice care,
Is none that with the little Wren’s
In snugness may compare.

Much of what I read about the wren, and know from my own observations, suggests a delight in the seemingly ordinary, an enchantment with life, an enthusiasm and a joy that comes just from being in the world.  This is definitely something we can all learn from.  What brings you alive?  What makes your heart sing?  What feeds your soul? What nourishes your heart?

When it comes to folklore, the best place to start is the name.  The latin name is Troglodtyes Troglodyes and means cave dweller whilst the word wren comes from the anglo saxon word wrœnno which means lascivious.

A common, much repeated piece of wren folklore is about the king or queen of the birds.  A Scottish tale of the eagle and the wren involves all the birds gathering and deciding they wanted a queen, but it was impossible to decide on who.  Some wanted eagle, others wanted wren and eventually wren suggested a test to decide the matter, whichever of the them could fly the highest would be queen.  Everyone was sick of talking about it so agreed, even though it seemed an odd suggestion from little wren.  Both birds took to the air.  When wren had got as high up as her little wings could take her, she landed very softly on eagles back.  Eagle continued to fly higher and higher until she could go no higher.  When she returned to the ground, the birds declared that eagle would be their queen as she flew the highest.  The wren poked her head out of eagle’s feathers and said that no, it should be her because when eagle could fly no more, she had flapped off eagles back and thus had flown higher.  Whilst I feel like this was a great case of intellect over physical size, the other birds didn’t agree and said that eagle was their queen.  Similar tales are found around the world, including Ireland and a version from Zulu lore.  Some versions centre around finding a king but I like the idea of the wren as queen better!

“The robin red breast and the wren, Are God Almighty’s cock and hen.”

The wren as queen is also echoed in the idea of the robin and wren as god’s birds.  Traditionally, the wren has been seen as the wife of the robin and where robin is said to have brought fire to the land, the wren is said to have brought water.  Because of this duality, you might want to consider the robin as well.

In Scotland the wren is called ‘The Lady of Heaven’s hen’ and if maltreated cows milk would be stained with blood. Similarly, French peasants supposedly called it poulette de Dieu, or god’s chicken, and thought that the wren was at the stable when Jesus was born and had covered him in moss and feathers.

Other beliefs around this little bird include it being lucky if a wren’s feather falls on you, if you hear one singing it’s a sign of good fortune and it was thought that wren feathers would protect you against various perils, especially if you were at sea.

Unfortunately, other stories around the wren and the sea aren’t so positive, at least not for the wren herself.  It was thought that a sea sprite haunted shoals of herring and could conjure up storms before flying away in the form of a wren.  Obviously, this didn’t make the wren popular among some fisherfolk…  In fact, Manx fishermen took dead wrens to sea with them as protection from the storms.

They may also have been concerned because of a story from the Isle of Man about a fairy, who was really a siren, that so beautiful and had such a lovely voice that she lured and charmed many men, drowning them.  Eventually a brave knight was able to withstand her and tried to destroy her but she escaped in the form of a wren.  After this, she was condemned to appear in this form each year until a mortal could succeed in killing her.

This led to the strange annual practice of hunting the wren, a tradition associated with St Stephens day.  A wren was killed, hung on a pole and carried in procession.  everyone who gave the bearers money got a feather for protection.  This was carried out beyond the Isle of Man and we have an associated rhyme which comes from Ireland:

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
St Stephens Day was caught in the furze
Come, give us a bumper, or give us a cake
Or give us a copper, for charity’s sake

Despite, or because of, this idea of the wren as powerful and destructive, we have superstitions which protect the wren.  In England, to kill a wren, or to disturb its nest would mean you’d have bad fortune by the end of the year.  If you tried to steal wren’s eggs or chicks, your home would be struck by lightening.  The latter is explained by one blogger as being because the wren was sacred to the thunder god Taranis who used lightning as a weapon for protection.  It was also said the wren was sacred to Taliesin, the great bard from welsh mythology, quite possibly because of the wren’s beautiful song which, like the nightingale, inspired poets and musicians across time.

Another illustration of the wren’s power is seen when the evil forces of the deep dark cold days of winter are appeased by a sacrificed wren.  You really shouldn’t go overlooking something or someone just because of their size.  If this little bird can summon storms and banish winter, what can you do?

Turkey – Animal Allies

A lot of my turkey knowledge was informed by The Turkey, An American Story by Andrew F. Smith. If you are interested in learning more about the history of turkeys and how they came to be so important in America, do check it out. 

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For this card, I think we need to acknowledge different cultural meanings, I mean we do for all cards but this one in particular given how Americans associate them with thanksgiving and in the UK it’s Christmas instead.

Turkeys have come to have social, historical, cultural and culinary significant in America and without them (and deer), settlers would have had a very different time and thus the world today could have looked very different.

“No other American bird has received the lavish amount of attention bestowed upon the turkey.  It is not hard to understand this fascination.  The wild turkey is not America’s biggest bird – the swan and crane are larger – but turkeys do not migrate and are abundant throughout the eastern United States… They are also handsome birds that command the attention of anyone who sees them.  A wild turkey’s habits are unusual, it’s behaviour extraordinary and its vocalisations quite singular in the avian world.”
– Andrew F. Smith

Way back, many, many years ago, wild turkeys lived in Mexico and throughout North America.  They inhabited woodlands and were nearly hunted to extinction – by the same colonists that owed their success to them…  Habitat destruction was another cause of the population collapse, again down to the colonies…  The timing echoes that of the population crash of bison and many other north American creatures.  With conservation efforts, numbers have now increased to over 7 million.

But stepping back in time again, very little seems to be known about early domestication but the Spanish did encounter domestic turkeys in Mexico in 1518 and went on to introduce them to Spain, shortly after they moved through Europe and had arrived in England by 1541.  Initially eaten by upper classes, by 1577 they had become the cheapest bird on the English market.  Come 1573, it has been noted, turkeys were a staple of the English Christmas dinner, taking a reprieve for a while but being back in vogue by 1792 when John Gay wrote:

“From the low peasant to the lord
The Turkey smokes on every board”

This tradition would travel to New England and become established by the early 19th century.  Today, turkey is more associated with thanksgiving, but why?  Well, first I want to note that Thanksgiving stories are almost all lies and I was going to explain why but it’s incredibly complicated.  What I will say is that whilst thanksgiving feasts were a thing, it was probably down to the great efforts of Sarah Josepha Hale (she also wrote Mary Had a Little Lamb) that America has a Thanksgiving holiday in November.  She strongly felt that there should be a third holiday in the year (in addition to Washington’s birthday in February and Independence Day in July).  She campaigned for many years, writing to government and prominent people to try and declare the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.  She nearly succeeded in 1859 but it wasn’t until 1863 that it was officially declared by Lincoln.  In terms of why the turkey, well, as non migratory birds, turkeys were in supply and of a reasonable size in autumn and so were an obvious choice for a celebratory feast.

“The turkey was just a big bird to raise, hunt and consume until the American War for Independence, when it began to acquire symbolic value.  The new nation needed to differentiate itself from its English roots, and “American” foods began to take on nationalistic values.”
– Smith

The increasing demand for turkey would go on to change the beast itself.  Breast meat was particularly important to consumers and so turkey breeds were crossbred to increase the amount per bird.  The result was turkeys that had such wide breasts and short legs that they couldn’t mate… This means that artificial insemination was the way forward… Nothing all that natural about the centrepiece of your Christmas table…

Whilst it is an aside, it’s interesting to find out where the phrase cold turkey came from.  First, we need to know that the turkey has been a symbol of honesty for about 200 years and led to the saying to “talk turkey”, meaning to speak frankly.  Then, over time, “talking cold turkey” came to mean speaking frankly, but with cold, harsh, unpleasant facts.  This eventually evolved into “cold turkey” and was first recorded to mean the abrupt stopping of drugs in 1921.

Another turkey related fact from America 200 years ago is the pulling of the merrythought, a custom we know today as pulling the wishbone.  As we’ll see, the turkey is a creature of abundance, so before you make a wish, consider what you already have.

There are many interesting tangents I could go off on but perhaps the most relevant when it comes to the oracle card is the idea of turkeys as stupid.  As the turkey was valued for breast meat and not intellect, we have domesticated and refined a bird which is cumbersome and not necessarily bright (although recent research suggests that chickens are cleverer than we thought so maybe the same will prove true for turkeys).  Anyway, the alleged stupidity of turkeys led to the phrase gobbledygook, meaning “language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of technical terms”.  Are you communicating clearly and simply or are you over complicating things and convoluting the message?  Perhaps you’re being underestimated or even underestimating yourself.

The reality is that wild turkeys are inquisitive, curious creatures which are interested in things that don’t benefit their survival, showing us an appreciation of things just for the joy of it.  They are playful and despite their reputation as stupid, they have a profound vocabulary which includes specific vocalisations for individual predators.

Turkeys are natural foragers and eat almost anything they can find (again we have the theme of abundance popping up), what are you overlooking or missing in your hunt for something that matches the image in your head?  Have you fallen into the rom-com trope of ignoring the best friend because they don’t look like your idea of love?

Whilst most birds are associated with air, I feel the turkey is more of an earth card – whilst they have wingspans of up to 6 feet, they are not especially aerodynamic or graceful when they do fly.  Instead they use their wings to help them jump into trees for safety.  Perhaps you could bring a dose of reality to your lofty ideas?  Bring yourself back down to earth.

Like the bison, the turkey is a symbol of fertility, gratitude and abundance.  They were used in ritual to ensure a good crop and the various parts of the turkey were used in many ways.  Obviously they were eaten as poultry, but they also provided eggs and feathers which were used to make coats, blankets and umbrellas.  They were also turned into hearth brushes, quills, dusters and used to stuff mattresses and pillows.  The bones were carved into spoons and beads.

They are also about sacrifice, giving yourself so that others can live and harvests which puts me in mind of the six of pentacles in tarot.  Reversed, this reminds me more of the 4 of pentacles and holding on so tightly to what you have out of fear of losing it that you can’t get anything more.

“In present day urban life, we are taught to acquire and get ahead.  The person with the most toys wins the game.  In some cultures, no one can win the game unless the whole of the People’s needs are met.”
– Medicine Cards

Giving and receiving, sharing and enjoying are important here.  To give something away can be a gift to yourself.  What is it that you have to offer the world?  What is it you are abundant in?

Questions to think about when the turkey shows up include what are you sacrificing, is it deserving of your sacrifice is it the right thing to be sacrificing yourself for?  What I have in mind as I type this is a job that’s draining the life out of you, demanding all your time and energy and ideas but which gives you nothing in return; no sense of satisfaction, no acknowledgement etc.  On the other hand, giving all your time and effort to a career you love is a sacrifice that might be worth making.

The Moon

I’ve somehow managed to misplace the photos I took of the moon cards… When I find them again, I’ll add it in.  In the meantime, you can find most of them on google images if you’re interested.

RWS and Pagan Cats

Both of these cards depict two creatures looking up at the moon, standing between two pillars with water in the foreground and a crayfish.  The moon is looking down on the scene and in the distance are hills.

This moon is glowing brightly but remember that the moon doesn’t shine her own light, she reflects that of the sun, which is currently hidden. Even in the dark, the sun is still there.  Like the moon reflects the sun, the subconscious reflects the world around us – inner experiences reach the outer mind through imagination, dreams and creative practices.

The moon casts shadows and distorts what we see, there is a strangeness to the world when the moon is out, nothing is quite what it seems.  Magic and mystery slides in the space between dark and light.

On the rws card, the two moon gazers are a dog and a wolf, representing the tamed and wild sides of ourselves.

“A werewolf howling under a full moon is a vivid metaphor of the power of the unconscious to bring out something primitive and non-human in the most respectable people.”
– Rachel Pollack

In the pagan cats, we have a cat and a dog instead, perhaps also representing the tamed and untamed but in a more subtle way – it has long been said that humans tamed dogs and cats tamed humans.

According to Pollack, the crawfish (I thought it was a lobster but I defer to her wisdom) at the bottom of the image is emerging from the water but will never completely come onto land, instead falling back again.  This feels a bit like the ebb and flow of the tide, a phenomenon which is itself a lunar process.  It also echoes the just out of reach-ness, just beyond seeing-ness that can permeate the moonlit night.

“The deepest terrors are the ones that never fully take shape.  We feel something inside, but we never see just what it is.”
– Pollack

Interestingly, the cat in the pagan cats appears to be lifting the crawfish out of the water suggesting an attempt or desire to pull that elusive thing out of the unconscious and into the conscious realm.  If you’ve ever tried to remember a dream, you’ll know how futile this is!

In tarot, we see two pillars as a gateway, such as that in the high priestess card.  Here we are standing on one side, on the side of the known, with the unknown or unknowable on the other side.

Wild Unknown

Where the RWS and pagan cats depict animals between pillars, the wild unknown is animal free but does feature two tall trees reaching skywards towards the crescent moon.  The sky is dark, the trees white and the moon golden and I find the simplicity of this card interesting for such a complicated meaning.

The image is a silhouette and this reiterates some of the ideas of not seeing clearly, not seeing all that is in front of you and things being distorted in some way.  The two trees are illuminated by the moon, they are depicted in white, and it suggests to me that we are being welcomed through the gate I mentioned in relation to the RWS card.  This gateway is encouraging you in, inviting you to explore your subconscious and dream world.  Make friends with the darkness, with what scares you, with your inner self.

Carrie Mallon makes an interesting observation about the wild unknown moon;

The ground is not visible in this card. The Moon is a energy that can make it hard to catch your bearings. Up might be down or down might be left might be right. This can lead to wildly imaginative adventures…or it can lead to confusion and anxiety. In the faint light of the moon, you question what is real and what is imagined, what is beautiful fantasy and what is pure madness.”

Lumina Tarot

A moon goddess looks to the reader, an amethyst circle behind her and the symbol of pisces etched in with the other details.  The book tells us:

“This is a card of intuitive and psychic strength – strong messages and insights are coming to you through your subconscious.”

Things aren’t always as they seem; deception, confusion and distortion rule here.  Fears are ever present, but in the shadows, you can find gold.  Through shadow work you can explore the darker parts of yourself consciously.  The moon can illuminate your subconscious self and if you embrace and work with it, you can harness your innate power and work towards an illuminated self.  Going through the moon realm, you can bring light to your unconscious self and grow.  It has a different power to the sun.  The sun directly feeds and nourishes our bodies, the moon gently encourages and invites us to feed and nourish our souls, ourselves.  The moon is no helicopter mom, the moon is the mother that gives you the resources, skills and knowledge and steps aside for you to discover things for yourself.

The moon encourages us to dive deep, to dream deep and to transform.

“This card is ruled by Pisces, who is, in a sense, afraid of nothing, being one with the Universe and the Universe contains all.  Remember that when pondering your fears by moonlight: this thing that so frightens you – is it inside you as well?”
– Michelle Tea

Animal Totem Tarot

Once again, we have two trees as pillars, with an owl flying in front of a full moon, over a body of water where the moon is reflected in ripples.  The great grey owl has a message for us:

“The light of the moon makes everything look different.  The trees seem to become bigger and everything around them looms like an unknown landscape… But the truth is that nothing has changed at all – merely the way you see it has changed.”

We see the world though our own unique lenses, through our experiences and emotions and this changes what we see.  We see what we expect to see, we see ourselves reflected in what surrounds us.  What each person sees will be different, will be slightly distorted by where we see it from and which pool we see it reflected in.

“How you see the Moon is deeply connected to how you see yourself.”

Further, each night we see the same thing differently.  Each night has a different amount of light which transforms what we thought was static, the trees, the water, these things change with the cycle of the moon.

As the owl swoops across the moon, she seems to grow.  Things in the dark can seem larger than they are.  What is it that you are escalating?  What do you think is bigger that it is?  Are you making mountains out of molehills?  On the flip side, what are you refusing to pay attention to?  What are you ignoring?  What is having to make itself bigger for you to notice?

Brady Tarot

The Brady Tarot moon is very similar to the animal totem tarot – two trees frame the image, an owl is in flight in front of a full moon and a body of water is underneath.  This card however also features the crawfish.  In addition, there are two coyotes in the background, one looking out of the card and the other howling to the moon.  Looking more closely and into the darkness we also find two opossoms in the trees.

Pollack describes the crawfish as symbolising the primitive, instinctual part of our self, the deep unconsciousness, a place where fears and wildness live:

“The owl and the crawfish show us the power of wild nature.  The coyotes react to this energy, but the opossoms remind us to simply accept without fear or judgement.”

This card, more so than the others I’ve looked at, illustrates the night as a realm of it’s own.  It has its own inhabitants and it’s own way of being and it’s own way of seeing.  To understand the moon realm, we must immerse ourselves in this world, become one of the characters and feel our way into the part, intuitively.

“Imagination in action.  Instinctive energy, dreams, the unconscious rising up to affect our lives.  Deep instincts that may disturb our daily life.  Animal energy, wildness.  The part of us governed by the phases of the Moon.”
– Rachel Pollack

It would be impossible to talk about the moon without also looking to some of the common lunar associations.  The moon is also about the feminine, about fertility, creation, mystery and power.  It is about the daily tides, the monthly menstruation cycles, the seasons and all of nature’s rhythms.  The moon asks us to embrace the circularity of life, the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs and to trust in the darkness and have faith that light will return.

Our Tarot

Mary Shelley is centered in the card, a full moon in front of her and what look like two horns behind her, perhaps an echo of the antennae of the crawfish?

Of course, Shelley is famous for Frankenstein, an amazing tale of the things that can happen in the night, in the imagination and what can occur when man made monsters are released onto the world.  With this we have themes of death and rebirth, of resurrection and transformations.  We lean into what can happen in the shadows, in strange dreams and fantasy worlds.

“Her chief childhood pastime was writing – “as a child, I scribbled” – and she found her own dreams and imaginings to be far more interesting than her daily life.”

I feel like Shelley is asking us to pay attention to our dreams, both night journeying as well as hopes and goals.  She is asking us to express those ideas we find in the moon light, whether that is in writing like her or in art or science or whatever it is that makes you feel most alive.

How can you draw inspiration from the world around you?  What transformations are currently taking place in your life?  What visions are you bringing to life?

“I stand to face my shadows, I learn from them and incorporate them to give myself greater power and agency”
Jessi Huntenburg

Bighorn Sheep

“Is it time to let go of your current footing in order to end up on new and improved ground?”
– Animal Allies

 

Bighorn sheep are found in north America, and like bison, there used to be vast number of them but due to hunting and disease spread by domestic sheep, by 1900 instead of millions, there were just a few thousand left.

The depletion of bighorn sheep due to human activity has resulted in more than just fewer sheep, it has changed their behaviour.  Bighorn sheep learn to migrate from one another, passing down knowledge and wisdom through the generations.  This ancestral information takes many years to gather and can’t easily be replaced.  When migration routes are altered by human activity, or when bighorn sheep are moved because it’s more convenient for us, the sheep suffer.  It takes a lot of years to build up the detailed information they need.  It’s not just the route they need to figure out, it’s where and when the fresh shoots emerge as this gives them the best nutrition that is most easily digested.  Whilst you might intuitively expect the bighorn sheep to be following the lush vegetation, they actually ‘surf the greenery’ by anticipating it.

As well as a lesson in conservation, we can learn about valuing ancestral wisdom, about respecting and honouring our elders and about how deep knowledge takes time to build up.  This is information that goes beyond just reading or learning it, it is understanding it and embodying it.  This is a long process, one that involves building on what you have in an incremental way.  It is also a reminder about the importance of cultural preservation.

Bighorn sheep have, as I think is obvious, horns…!  Rams have long, curved horns and ewes have smaller, straighter horns.  The horns are a symbol of status amongst the sheep, as well as a useful weapon.  As with other horned or antlered animals, this suggests a link to the higher plane, to gods and goddesses, an antennae that receives messages from the other world.  This ties in with Aries, the zodiac sign which is associated with the ram and represented by the horns.  Aries is the first sign of the zodiac and is a sign of new beginnings, of new starts and of action.  It’s about diving in headfirst, about charging in and about acting without thinking.  Determination, assertiveness, and initiation are important keywords as well.  Aries is also associated with Mars, the planet of war.

And the bighorn males do use their horns for conflict.  Prior to mating, males will establish a hierarchy of dominance to figure out who gets to mate with who.  This involves rutting, horn clashing, head butting and generally facing your opponents head on.  Thankfully the rams have acquired a thick skull which protects against injury during these fights.  Thus they teach us both that there are times to face things directly, to charge in head on and also, if you are going to do this, prepare for your adversary’s response.  If you are letting your tongue go wild with insults, expect some back.  If you are giving it out, grow a thicker skin.

That said, head on battles aren’t the only way.  There are three main ways of courting; a) ‘tending’ is where you find yourself a ewe and defend her from other males; b) fighting for a female that’s already being tended and c) blocking is where you prevent a ewe from even reaching the tending area.  If you play things strategically, you may be able to minimise the amount of physical clashes you are involved with.

The terrain of the bighorn sheep is certainly worth noting here.  They live on alpine meadows, grassy mountain slopes and foothills and are incredibly well adapted to climbing steep terrain which gives them protection from predators.  Their hooves are well designed for balance and grip, making them good climbers and jumpers.  They are surefooted even on slippery, scree covered slopes and only need a small space to get a toe hold.  The bighorn can take opportunities that others can’t and do so with less risk and more confidence.  This is a reminder to us to seize opportunities, to take leaps and to trust our ability to move into new areas of life with confidence.  As Aries reminds us, this is a time to act, to move, to jump.  Don’t wait, don’t overthink this, just do it!

As prey animals, bighorn sheep have evolved to have sharp hearing, a highly developed sense of smell and wide set eyes which provide a large angle of vision.  This means that its hard for anything to creep up on them, they are watchful creatures which are constantly keeping their senses alert to danger.  This is helped by their large social groups where there is safety in numbers.

The bighorn sheep is one of the most admired creatures of the Apsaalooka, or Crow, people and they have a number of sacred myths about them.  One myth explains how bighorn sheep saved a young man, imbued him with their qualities – power, wisdom, sharp eyes, surefootedness, keen ears, great strength and a strong heart.  He then returned to his people and instructed them that the river, known as bighorn river, must not have its name changed.  If they did change the name, the crow people would be no more.  Other myths focus on the virility of the bighorn sheep and how they can be a symbol of male success in both hunting and in sexual activities.

In general, this card feels like it has a very traditionally male vibe going on.  The horns are most notable on the males, the association with aries and mars is traditionally male and almost everything I discovered about the bighorn sheep was focused on the rams.  That being said, when it came to ancestral knowledge and the passing of wisdom from one generation to another, the literature talked more about the maternal line.  I think the message this card has for you today, and the success of how you implement the teachings, will depend on whether you take these traits as separate, or whether you work to combine them together in a more holistic way.

The Brady Tarot

I’ve been so excited about getting this deck! It’s taken Emi longer than expected but when you know how much work she’s put into it and just how well designed and made it is, you don’t mind at all!  Each of the 72 cards is the result of hand carved linocuts made, printed and coloured by Emi.

As normal, I (well, a lovely carer) shuffled the deck fully and then started by pulling a single card, the daughter of roots. Throughout the rest of the day I picked the deck back up and repeatedly drew the daughter of roots again and again.

The deck comes in a beautifully crafted wooden box with slide like, magnetic catch and carvings on the sides. The accompanying book fits neatly in the box and is written by the esteemed Rachel Pollack.

Having worked with them a little time, I know that each card contains many levels of meaning. Unpick one and you’ll find another. I love this because it gives the deck longevity. However much you think you know it, you’ll discover more, much like the wild unknown tarot. It is because of this that I am referencing the book more than I normally do these days.

Emi has chosen which plants and animals feature on her cards very carefully and it’s easy to overlook some of the nuances help in the image unless you know about North American flora and fauna.

My key tip for working with this deck is to look closely.  The details and subtleties aren’t there by accident.  Use the book and let Rachel guide your eye whilst you get used to how Emi has translated the cards for this deck.  Also, horns are cups, feathers are wands, roots are pentacles and arrows are swords.  The border for each suit is different which can give you a quick idea at a glance of what you’ve drawn.

Page of Pentacles

I got a new deck last week and the only card I’ve pulled has been the daughter of roots, equivalent to the page of pentacles.  I’ve pulled it so many times that I feel as if it’s trying to hit me over the head with a message that I am just not getting.  So, I thought I’d write a blog post and see if that helps me to figure things out!  Given the insistence of this card, I’m going to have a look at all the decks I own so this will be a much more detailed, and longer, post than my normal tarot ones.

Some keywords, just in case you don’t want to read over 2000 words…:

learning * practical * planning * opportunities * focus * responsible * slow and steady * taking the first step * experience * curiosity *

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Left to right: Wild unknown, pagan cats, animal totem tarot

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Left to right: Brady Tarot, Lumina, Our Tarot

Rider Waite Smith and Pagan Cats

If you’ve been reading my blog a while, you’ll know I don’t like the RWS deck but I do acknowledge it can hold some interesting takes on cards.  My closest deck is the Pagan Cats and I prefer this non human take although it does still have some of the aspects of RWS that I find problematic.  In previous tarot card posts, I’ve considered these two decks separately, but in order to try and achieve some conciseness here, I’m going to merge them.

Both cards have a figure standing in a field, trees and mountains in the background and a yellow sky taking up much of the scene.  The human figure of the RWS card stands tall in the centre, a golden pentacle balanced on or just above his hands.  The cat again is dominant in the image, taking up a lot of space on the card, and is sitting with a forepaw resting on a pentacle.  Her eyes are watching it intently and she seems to be focused on the pentacle to the exclusion of her surroundings.  Michelle Tea describes the figure in the page of pentacles as being meditative, as transfixed by the pentacle and says that “extreme focus is the way to go when the page of pentacles pops up”.  This student is fully immersed in their studies, fascinated by what they are learning and discovering.  They are putting in the work for the pleasure of the work, not for the status or acknowledgement or prestige that might come from it.

I like that both characters are placed in the landscape as the pentacles are about earth and land and the physical side of the world.  Both feel very steady and surefooted despite having the naivety of youth and a tendency to stumble that comes from inexperience.

For the Pagan Cats, the little white book reads: Someone who is learning something about the physical world, resources, or finances.  We can see that the pentacle itself is representative of a resource, of money or some other thing that you can hold and touch.  Throughout the tarot, pages are the cards of study, of the student, of exploring and of messengers.  They are youth, they are newness and they are innocence.  This page is learning the ways of the material world, of work, of health and money.  Importantly, they are learning by doing, because the pentacles is all about the hands on experience, about learning from mistakes and of building up those skills.

“If the Page of Pentacles is appearing in your life as a person, you can depend on them.  There may be something about this person that raises a bit of scepticism – their youth, their lack of experience, perhaps their very sheltered life.  Regardless of that, their wish to apply themselves and make up for these deficits is real, and they possess the latent skills they need.”
– Michelle Tea

Wild Unknown

In the Wild Unknown Tarot, pages are called daughters, a convention I much prefer as it steps away from ideas of regal-ity and ruling and leading entire countries.  A young deer stands under a rainbow, peaked by a pentacle.  Like the RWS and pagan cats page, the deer isn’t in motion, she has paused and has a contemplativeness to her.  Despite her youth and her unsteady legs, she is ready to meet the world.  The use of a young deer reflects the child like way in which this deer explores and appreciates what’s around her.  She is discovering and learning for the joy of doing so, she is curious and interested and wants to get out there and do stuff.  Even though she’s depicted standing still, this little deer won’t stay still for too long.  The rainbow over her head reflects her innocence, her optimism but as an earth card, we know there is a practical side to her.

She doesn’t expect the world to be all rainbows and unicorns.  She knows she’ll have to put in the work, turn up on time and see things through.  She will be reliable and trustworthy, practical and responsible but it is exactly these traits that will help her get where she wants to go.

Lumina Tarot

Here we find the maiden of pentacles instead of page or daughter!  This seems to be the most variation I’ve had on any card I’ve written about!  A young woman is sitting with her legs underneath her, a loose dress draped around her, her neck and chest mostly exposed.  Her cupped hands are releasing flowers and her head is lifted skywards.  Just behind her, a young looking bear rests with a pentacle on its forehead.  The green of the card gives the scene a fresh, peaceful kind of feel.

The associated book says of the card: field of blossoming dreams and inspiration.  And just knowing that, we get such a different vibe from this card that we have with the others we’ve looked at so far.  The book goes on to discuss the manifesting of desires and visions into reality, birthing and nurturing projects, exploring ideas.  Whilst you may feel excited and want to share all of these, remember that they are young, like the maiden, and need nourishing and protecting whilst they grow.

“You may have just come out of a winter period or time of introspection, and can now feel the stirring seeds of a project which requires exploration and energy.”

This echoes ideas I discussed when looking at bears; there is a time for thinking and a time for acting.  And action is something that is crucial in our understanding of the maiden of pentacles.  She is not just about pretty ideas and nice daydreams, she is about putting the work in and doing, not just imagining doing something.  To turn potential into abundance requires you to act, to put one foot in front of another and to keep moving, slowly and steadily, forward.

Animal Totem Tarot

I will be looking at this card in more detail when I consider the alpaca, but for now, the message of the alpaca is:

“My mother says that all great things once started off wee, that small is not the opposite of large – it is the beginning.  I know that I am not big enough yet to be of any real benefit, but over time I will become worth my weight in gold.  Never think something is too small to be worth your time and effort, for you just never know what huge miracle it could unlock once it has reached full potential.”

I like this take on the page of pentacles.  It ties in with what the lumina tarot is saying about taking little steps, slowly but surely and however small an action may seem, it can help you towards your goal.  Returning to the idea of this card as student, we are all, always a student of something, none of us are masters of everything.  Do not let this put you off trying something and do not expect to be able to do new things the first time you try.  You cannot go from never running anywhere to completing a marathon without practice and planning and putting in the work and giving it time.  In a fast-paced world, it’s easy to think we should be able to understand and do everything, for ourselves, instantly.  But then we wouldn’t have professionals and experts.  They become experts because they have spent time learning and working in that field and there are somethings that only come from experience, that you can never be taught or told.

Note that the alpaca is standing to one side of the pentacle and away from the baskets of wool, she knows that she’s not reached that stage yet and she is happy regardless.  She knows that as she grows and learns and experiences, she will make steps towards the pentacle and towards producing the lovely wool that alpacas are known for.

Each card in this deck comes with some journal prompts and for the alpaca, one of these is what gifts are you learning to grow into?

Our Tarot

I’ve not written about this deck yet and it’s very different to my others but I loved the premise.  I’ve not really used it yet so am not that familiar with the nuances but the basic idea is that each card features a collaged image of an historical woman.  For the page of pentacles, this is Mary Lou Williams, not someone I knew before but that is in essence an important part of the deck – to raise awareness of overlooked women who’ve made important contributions to the world.

Keywords for this card include: manifesting, learning, material opportunity, collaboration

Mary Lou Williams was a self taught, very gifted pianist who was born in 1910 and was playing by the age of three…!  Despite her innate talent, her gender stood in her way, holding her back from joining a band until the bandleader could be convinced to have a woman play.  Regardless, she continued to play and work in the music industry, recording national hits, playing numerous gigs and producing music for other bands.  She formed a record label and established a jazz festival as well as teaching at Duke University.

She had grown up in a struggling family with lots of other children and not that much money but regardless, she had seized upon, and created, opportunities, such as when at age 6 she began playing piano at parties.  Where some depictions of the page of pentacles are about actually taking opportunities, this version is much more about seeking them out and spotting them, even when they are in unusual places.  There’s also an element here of not letting convention stop you, don’t let others tell you it’s not appropriate or not right for you to pursue your passions.  If there’s something you love doing, do it.  Do it for the pleasure of doing it.  Do it because you love it, not because of what money or status it’ll bring you.

“The page of pentacles encourages you to seek inspiration in your surroundings without being afraid to ask for help.  How can you share your gifts and skills with others?  What work do you find yourself most drawn towards?”
– Our Tarot

The aspect of collaboration – performing with others, writing songs for others, producing music etc – is one I really like with this card.  One of the things I love is learning with other people, you bounce ideas and thoughts off each other and deepen your understanding of the topic.  I am also a big fan of merging subjects together, sort of making the topics collaborate as it were.  When it comes to art, I have almost always engaged in mixed media, long before I knew it had a name.  I love taking different strands, different threads and weaving them together, whether literally or in this case when I’m learning and sharing that knowledge.

As a very much aside, Mary Lou wrote a set of songs called the zodiac suite and as the Page of Pentacles is associated with Capricorn, I thought that might be interesting to listen to.

The Brady Tarot

Finally, we reach the deck which kickstarted the entire post, the Daughter of Roots from the Brady Tarot.  Again, this is a very new deck and I’ve not had chance to get to know it yet, especially because I keep drawing the same card over and over!

On this card we have another bear! As well as a woodpecker (I’m going to be doing a woodpecker post at some point in the future).  The book echoes a lot of what we’ve already seen:

“A student, either literally, or someone who likes to study and is fascinated by new things, new ideas or knowledge, without much concern for how to apply or use them.  Though this study will likely involve commitment and hard work, the impetus does not come from the expected rewards but rather the joy of learning and the inner spirit of the subject.”

This is me down to the letter.  I love learning and I do so because of an innate curiosity, a need to know rather than because I have to or because I want to do something with the knowledge.  It is the experience, the fascinating discovery, that matters, not the outcome.  Specifically, this version of the page of pentacles, is inviting us to dive into the mysteries of life, to study those things which are less obvious at first glance, to look deeper, such as you do when you step into the world of tarot.

The bear seems almost to be watching the woodpecker, who is perhaps weaving the lattice of branches, with wonder and admiration.

Even though the bear is in a tree, there is something about it that feels very grounded, despite being half on and half off, the bear seems to be at one with the tree.  I also feel like the roots, echoing the lattice work, are a reminder to both go deeper, but also to remain down to earth.  The back leg of the bear dangles towards the ground, almost instinctively drawn to stay steady.