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

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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.

Polar bear

Polar bears.  The sea bear.  King of the ice.

Weighing in at nearly a ton and standing more than 8 feet foot tall, they are formidable predators.  Like all bears, they are technically omnivores but where the panda has chosen a mostly vegetarian diet, the polar bear eats predominately meat.  Apparently they have the strongest jaw of all meat eating land mammals and is certainly the most carnivorous of the bear family. This has led to their reputation as man eaters although personally I don’t think humans will have enough fat to keep a polar bear full for long…  Seals provide a much better meal, as do whale carcasses.

Their reputation probably comes about because of limited polar bear and human interaction.  They aren’t familiar with us and when they do come into contact it’s likely either because we are in their habitat or because they are starving and have encroached into human habitat to find food. In the latter instance, eating humans is better than eating nothing.  We must remember to see things within context, something that I find echoed in the hierophant tarot card more generally.

The hierophant is traditionally considered to be a religious card, one that talks of organised worship, structured rituals and the like.  In some decks it shows a priest, a pope or some other religious (traditionally male) figure and thus can seem to depict a formal belief system which values conformity, tradition and institutions.  But we have to consider this image as a product of its context, just as we consider the man eating polar bear as a product of its context.  The image of the male preacher speaking to worshippers kneeling on the floor is one that comes from a different time.  Nothing escapes the culture that surrounds its creation and thus the hierophant depicts a specific interpretation.  You can take the ideas of the hierophant and instead see it as spiritual awakening, learning from mentors and seeking wisdom.

Back to the polar bear…

They aren’t actually territorial and would generally be cautious in confrontation, preferring to escape than fight.  Just because you can fight, doesn’t mean it’s the best option.  Brute force isn’t always the best approach, actually I think it rarely is.  Are you facing a fight in your life at the moment?  Do you need to fight? Is this worth the fight? Are you fighting for fightings sake?  Would it be wiser to retreat?

Of course polar bears do need to attack at times otherwise they’d starve but they aren’t gratuitously violent, they kill when they need to eat.  As stealth hunters, they rely on camouflage, on blending it and going unnoticed.  To achieve this, the polar bear must have a deep, strong connection with the land he lives in.  Despite their stealth, their hunt success varies incredibly throughout the year and the margin for error in hunting is incredibly slim. They rely on sea ice for hunting and climate change is reducing this habitat, meaning the iconic polar bear is increasingly vulnerable.  At some times of the year their success can go down to 1 in 20 and this has huge implications for mums to be who need vast amounts of food to make it through pregnancy.

A fertile female emits a scent to attract males and this can be smelt for miles – scientists think perhaps chemical markers are left in pawprints.  Because of the vast area polar bears cover, finding a mate isn’t easy and possibly because of this, females don’t actually ovulate until mating starts.  Pregnant polar bears dig dens to give birth in, often returning to the area they were born in.  She will rest here for four months before giving birth to tiny cubs and will stay another four months with her babies, relying on her huge fat reserves to survive.

Austerity and survival feel like important words here.  They have to survive exceptionally difficult circumstances; low food supply, hard to catch prey and temperatures which can fall to -40 degrees.  They have evolved to fill a small ecological niche and signs of this adaptation can be seen in their characteristics.

Take their fur for example, there is a short dense underfur next to the skin and a longer coarser outer layer.  The latter is actually transparent and appears white because the hairs scatter sunlight and helps it to blend in.  the fur also helps the polar bear to maintain a 37 degree body temperature despite the extreme climate.  The outer hair also absorbs infrared radiation, meaning that body heat isn’t lost to the cold air.  The polar bear teaches us to use everything we have, not to waste anything and in doing so we might make it through the tough times.

Another adaptation to the climate, is the polar bears paws which are great for walking on slippery ice. Moving from water to ice is made easier by sharp, curved hook like claws which dig into the ice.

In areas where human habitation coexists with polar bears, polar bears are often traditionally seen as symbolising abundance and gratitude, much in the same way that the buffalo did.  Like the buffalo, a polar bear provides a lot of resources for local people such as the fur for clothes, the meat for food and the fat for fuel.  Teeth were used as talismans and were thought to protect the wearer.  After being killed, the bear was thanked and honoured and ceremonies were carried out to appease the spirit of the bear.

“Legend held that if a dead polar bear was treated properly by the hunter, it would share the good news with other bears so they would be eager to be killed by him. Bears would stay away from hunters who failed to pay respect.”
Polar Bears International

As well as being important for resources, the polar bear has also been an important figure in folklore, spirituality and culture for people living alongside them.  Cave paintings of polar bears dating back 1500 years have been found and it has been suggested that people developed igloos having been inspired by the dens the bears make.

In terms of folklore, there is a common trope where bears are human inside their homes and become bears again when going outside.  Other tales show a respect for the polar bear and suggest a feeling of kinship with them.  Perhaps some of this comes from polar bears standing on two feet, and perhaps some is because it’s said that when they walk on all fours, their back paws step where their front paws where, leaving tracks which look like they are walking on two feet.

In Inuit mythology, Nanuk was the master of the bears and could decide on the fate of hunter’s success.  Another deity, Torngarsuk, could appear in bear form and was said to be very powerful.  There doesn’t seem to be much online about Inuit mythology but shapeshifting seems to be a bit of a theme when it comes to the polar bear.

In the animal totem tarot book, polar bear is seen as a keeper of ancestral knowledge and faith is a key part of their interpretation of this card.

“The world in which I live is changing fast.  It is no longer as safe and reliable as it once was.  The signs of this unstoppable change are all around me.  But despite this, I must have faith.  I must trust that there is a larger plan that I cannot see.  I must believe that I am playing the part I was created to play”
– Animal Totem Tarot

What do you have faith in?  What could you have faith in?  Do you have faith in yourself?  In your world?

Polar bear week 2018 falls 4th November till 10th November

Gorillas

I wasn’t planning on writing about this powerful primate just yet but then twitter told me that it is World Gorilla Day today and I felt it was only appropriate to get on with it!

This is the first of the animal totem tarot cards I’ve looked on it its own and I think I’ll try writing about the animal in general then focusing a little on the imagery from the deck.  So whilst this is a post about gorillas, it’s also a post about the emperor card.

When you think of gorillas, you may first imagine something like King Kong, an immensely strong figure which dominates and which is a threat to everyone and everything around them.  Whilst it is true they have muscular strength and powerful jaws, they are predominately vegetarian, supplementing their plant diet with the odd insect.  That said, they are also very protective of their group and will see of threats and defend themselves as needed.

Given that they generally live away from humans, most encounters with them will have been threatening – poachers, farmers trying to protect crops etc – and so there will probably be a disproportionate reporting of them being hot blooded, violent beasts with foul tempers.  I think, on the whole, this is also emphasised because then it (seemingly) creates more distance between civilised man and uncivilised animal.  The fact that we share 98% of our DNA, and that gorillas have human like features, could make some people uncomfortable and spinning them into mythical creatures like King Kong eases this.  Despite part of us trying to keep gorillas at arms length, another part of us is fascinated by this creature.  So like us and yet so unlike us.

These forest dwellers live in central west Africa including the Democratic Republic of Conga and thus it is impossible to discuss them without also mentioning the humanitarian crisis and related conflicts of this area.  As well as the human impact, there has been an ecological one and gorillas are threatened because of that, habitat loss, poaching and attacks from farmers protecting crops.  At the end of this post I also look at the impact of mining on gorillas and their homes.

Whilst they can stand and walk on two legs, this is used mostly for posturing, in defensive situations and so that they can carry food.  The rest of the time, they move around on four limbs using their knuckles.  An interesting technique for criminals perhaps as it doesn’t leave fingerprints… And on that note, which I really badly segued into, gorillas have unique fingerprints like us and also have unique nose prints which researchers have been able to use to identify individuals.

The day of a gorilla involves a lot of eating, nesting and attending the social behaviour which maintains the integrity of the group.  Starting with food, gorillas spend a lot of time foraging and as vegetarians, they play a vital role in seed dispersal.  They do also enjoy ants and have been seen using tools to get to this delicious snack!

When it comes to resting, gorillas construct nests for both daytime and night time use.  These nests are made up of branches and leaves and put me in mind of blanket forts and being snuggled up on a sofa with lots of cushions around you.  For me, this comfort is so soothing and grounding and is a necessary part of my self care.  Whilst I have more blankets than anyone really needs, I made the decision to indulge because of how emotionally supportive I find them.  Ditto for my collection of teddy bears.  Whatever it is that makes you feel safe and nurtured, don’t feel guilty about investing in it.

Gorilla troops are made up of an adult male, a number of adult females and their offspring.  The silverback of the adult male is a hallmark of maturity and this silverback gorilla is the leader, the ruler, the centre of the group.   He dominates, he makes all the decisions, mediates conflict, leads the group to feeding sites and takes responsibility for all the members.  This means there are a couple of ways to lean into the gorilla metaphor depending on whether you are leader or being led.  Perhaps you are the over burdened leader who has not yet learnt to delegate?  Maybe you are taking on responsibility for things that you don’t need to.  Maybe you are relying on others to make all the decisions for you and need to step up yourself.  Maybe you are even an emerging leader who is wanting to challenge the silverback for power or are becoming a threat to the silverback, whether you mean to or not.  Have a think about where you are in this troop and where you want to be.

The silverback maintains his bond with his females through grooming and staying close but on the whole, this is the only bonding that takes place.  Whilst a troop sounds like a nice family unit, with the exception of related females, the females aren’t especially friendly to each other.  They are, after all, competing with each other for the attention of the silverback.  And this attention is particularly important once a month as females go into oestrus like humans do and hormonal changes mean the female is keen to mate.  Despite a monthly window for fertilisation, gorillas tend to have babies every 4-6 years and generally only one at a time.  This means the reproduction rate of the species is very slow.

Once a baby has arrived, the mother will use “baby talk” to communicate and she’ll use more tactile and repetitive gestures than she would with adults. Babies are vulnerable and dependant on others for survival with the care giving role provided by mother.  That said, when it comes to socialisation, the father will play a role.  He will also protect his children from aggression in the troop.  Gorillas are weaned by their third year and sleep in a separate nest from their mothers and she will begin to ovulate again. This gap between pregnancies means that the mother gorilla can dedicate her time to tending to her baby and teaching it how to be a gorilla.  She can be an attentive parent and as we’ll see, leadership is an important part of the animal totem tarot card.  Attentiveness can be an excellent, often overlooked, quality of leadership.  Nurture and help those you led to grow and develop so that one day they can become leaders themselves.

In terms of communication within the troop, and to outsiders, there are at least 25 distinct vocalisations which mean they can talk to each other in the dense vegetation.  These comprise of grunts, barks, screams and roars which can indicate where group members are, can signal alarm and can be warnings.  They also have a ritualised display which means conflicts rarely get violent.  This is an excellent example for us to follow!  Whilst you may not get far by exactly copying the gorilla’s ritual, perhaps we should all be better at having a blueprint for difficult conversations and how to resolve conflict.  Maybe we could learn from mediation where there are formal steps which offer both parties chance to speak and be listened to.

Animal Totem Tarot

A key part of the gorilla message is around leadership and it is this that I feel is most portrayed on the animal totem tarot card and this certainly echoes the message of the accompanying book.  On the emperor card we find a solitary gorilla, sitting in what appears to be a defensive pose.  He is clearly a ruler.  And whilst being the leader can bring rewards – financial, status, lots of female gorillas – it also requires dedication and hard work.  The expression and the gorilla having a stick in one hand an a rock in the other certainly suggest the protective nature of this leader.  He seems to exude a don’t mess with me vibe but it’s clear that he’s also confident that no one will try.  He looks to me like this isn’t coming easy either, his face seems wrought with the effort required to be a powerful leader.  He has a lot on his plate – the health and wellbeing of his troop are his responsibility, he must see off threats, resolve conflicts and has to shoulder the worries that come with responsibility.

There are different types of leaders and those which are compassionate, which listen, which connect and which respect those they lead are the most successful.  Build up those you lead with encouragement and positive feedback, don’t crush them with criticism and bullying.

Mineral Mining

Not related to the gorilla animal spirit or tarot card but something that needs awareness raising is the impact that mining for minerals such as coltan is having on habitats, including those of the gorilla.  Coltan is used in mobiles, TVs, computers and many other electronic devices.  As well as endangering the lives of these great animals, it is also polluting water which impacts on humans, a wide range of animals and the environment.  Disputes over who controls the mines has resulted in the death of more than 5 million people in eastern Congo since the mid 1990s.  The miners themselves work in terrible circumstances and a chunk of their meagre wages is taken by soldiers.  Families live on the brink of famine and food that is supposed to help them is also taken by the soldiers.

Each mine, whether legally operated or not, involves a set-up in the forest that requires not only destruction of the land to unearth the minerals, but numerous people to operate the mining sites.  To feed these people, wildlife is hunted from the surrounding forests. This includes gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, and many other species.”
Gorilla Fund

Reuse, recycle, mend where you can and find out more about the issues.  Use your consumer power and ask corporations to make changes.

As there seems to be no way of ensuring a particular batch of coltan has been ethically extracted and processed, some people are campaigning to end the coltan mining altogether but this would plunge communities into ruin and the violence would still continue.   

Two of wands

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Wands

Wands or staves or clubs correlate with fire and are about intuition, your potential and ‘things that aren’t touchable’ is one way I leant into this suit.  Wands are about action and movement, much like flames.  They are about optimism and adventure – think of the excitement of the spark catching and spreading almost contagiously.  Wands are also about beginnings and ideas, things which are moving from potential to reality with the help of the other suits.

If channelled, this can be a suit of success and innovation, the idealism of the wands made real, goals and dreams coming to fruition.  But whilst fire is constantly shifting and moving and dancing and reacting, it can also burn itself out.  Creative sparks and new ideas and projects, started impulsively and passionately, can come to nothing, or be replaced by newer, brighter, shinier ideas.

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.

Decks

RWS

The Rider Waite Smith two of wands is very similar to the pagan cats this time and shows a man on a castle, between two wands, surveying his kingdom, assets and resources whilst also looking into the distance, the future or his potential kingdom.

This is a card of success and dominance but also a card which shows a man who isn’t content with all he has, he still wants more.  The walls of the castle could be read as trying to hold him in and as this is a fire card, we can feel his frustration as the frustration flames ‘feel’ when they are trapped.  They are like horses chopping at the bit.

If we look ahead in the suit to the three of wands, we find this man has moved out of his castle and has set out on a journey; he has overcome his confinement.  But, Waite reminds us with his keywords, stepping out can be scary.  He pins this card down as “surprise, wonder, enchantment, trouble and fear”, acknowledging that even if stepping outside the castle is your choice, it still comes with uncertainties.

We should take a moment to note that this guy looks like he’s probably pretty comfortable, he has a castle after all.  And it is despite this that he yearns to step out and away from what he already has.  Could it be that riches and jewels aren’t enough to fulfil him?  Is he stepping out of his very literal comfort zone in search of something less tangible, more wand like?  My little white book has “success but not satisfaction” in it, is this something that chimes with where you are right now?

Tarot of the Pagan Cats

As with the RWS card, this cat is surveying her resources from a privileged place.  If we were to look at this card through the lens of inequality we could see oppression, dominant hegemony and other issues of race, gender, sexuality, disability etc.  Whilst I feel they are all important ways to read this card, I also feel that the scope of that discussion is much too big for this particular post however I would like to return to this aspect of the two of wands again at some stage.

Related, but taking the (uncomfortable) role of the cat instead of the cat’s subjects, in the Thoth tarot, this card is the Lord of Dominion.  This brings with it ideas of conquering and taking over but I would rather think about these ideas in terms of personal power and, something which I struggle with a lot, the idea that I am allowed to be here and I am allowed to take up space.  I can give myself permission to go ahead with something and I can give myself validation.  I do not need to be like this cat, I do not need to seek outside myself for validation or permission or to be given the power I already inhibit.  The two of wands can be a reminder to me that I can be, and feel, empowered and that I can chose that.

This card is a territorial, war driven depiction of creating a plan to carry out your brilliant idea but as we’ll see in some of the other representations, this isn’t the only way to achieve your goals.

Wild Unknown

Against a rainbow background we have two wands which are creating a funnel.  With the rainbow representing choices and the wands narrowing things down, we can easily read this card as saying we have lots of choices and ideas and options and our only task is to reign them in and focus in on a couple.  Narrow in your focus or direction or you’ll end up like the ten of wands – pulled in ten directions and burnt out.  We are delighted to find we have lots of new ideas and now we are just whittling them down.

To turn an idea from reality, you will need to keep putting in the work though – this is only a two after all, there are still a lot of cards and challenges ahead.  But because you enjoy the work and you’re passionate about what you’re doing it won’t feel that much like work anyway!

Lumina

Step outside your comfort zone

“This is the coupling of intuitive knowing and emotional intelligence with logical action and planning.”

Where the two of swords is stuck, the two of wands is free.  Here we are moving forward, we are combining daydreaming and thinking big with to do lists and strategy.  But to do this, to really step into your dreams, you need to leave your comfort zone, only then will the planning pay off.  Really lean into the dreams, trust in your potential and follow what sets you alight.  Wands are fire after all and here you find yourself with two magic wands to carve your path with.

With these wands we can push our boundaries, channel our determination and, provided we are prepared to do the work, the world is ours for the taking!

Aside: if anyone knows anything about symbolism of the shapes in the background, please let me know!

Animal Totem Tarot

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The two of wands features the stingray and the book shares a message about the importance of swimming far and wide through the sea but with a purpose.  Swimming aimlessly is potentially deadly for many sea creatures who need to be on alert for danger.

“Gracefully, I make my way through the sea. Far and wide, near and far, but always with a destination in mind.”

We normally think of wands as a fire element but electricity and the spark of a stingray are other manifestations of this energy, also very fast and very active we are still with an element that needs us to move and do and act.  Plans need actions, achieving them requires us to take steps.  What is keeping you from taking the next step?

Associations

Mars in Aries

Both mars and aries can be considered warriors, making this a powerful combination.  Mars is about passion, aggression, assertiveness and aries is all about standing up for yourself and moving forward, very headstrong so you can see how they play off each other and make an energy which can be quite intense.  This is the part of the two of wands that wants you to charge forward, and to charge forward NOW.  I feel like looking through that lens, we can see the two of wands as a reminder to pause and assess before charging in.  You can’t fight every battle, you need to pick the right one.  You can’t do every little thing you want to, again you have to prioritise and make choices or you’ll run out of energy and other resources.

It’s also worth noting that whilst the instinct for mars in aries is to take action now, this impulse can also burn out as quickly as it flare up.  I’m not saying this is a time to stop and smell the roses, but a few seconds between idea and action might make a world of difference.

Stingray

The stingray feels quite mars in aries but less two of wands at first glance.  Their venom attacks the nerves and with the two of wands in mind, feels like the anxiousness that comes with stepping out of your comfort zone, the fear of the unknown and the worry that you may not achieve your goals.  I find it interesting that the stingray goes to a lot of trouble to blend in whilst the two of wands may be a call to do your own thing and stand out.  That said, this excerpt from my post on the stingray may be a different way of thinking about this:

“If you’ve ever seen a ray in the water, you’ll know just how graceful they are but you probably won’t get a sense of their power. In particular, some species have exceptionally strong jaws and there is an amazing picture of the jaw of a stingray over on Wikipedia.  Perhaps people are underestimating you, or you’re underestimating yourself?”

There seems to be so many ways to feel into this card of power and choices and perhaps for a card about options, this is only appropriate!

Two of cups

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.

Cups fulfil their purpose by receiving and holding water or emotions or even space

Twos

In tarot, twos can, appropriately, 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 which is a very watery idea so we can really understand a lot about the two of cups by feeling into her energy.  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.

Decks

RWS

In this card we have two people, facing each other, holding a cup towards the others cup watched over by an winged lion.  Rachel Pollack describes this as a lesser version of the lovers card which again has two people, this time naked and again watched over this time by an angel.  The latter shows a mature relationship, strengthened over time, where as the former is the beginning of a relationship, the early stages.  The two of cups can also show friendships and other kinds of relationships, not just romantic or sexual heterosexual couples.

The winged lion hovers above the caduceus of Hermes, a symbol of healing and wisdom, could this be about the healing that comes from interacting with other people?

If we remember the age and context of the RWS deck and follow the gender stereotypes, we find the card features both masculine and feminine energies and ideas coming together to make a whole.  Together the couple are more than the sum of their parts.  What can you achieve when you join forces with another person?

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Pagan Cats

There are some similarities here with the RWS card but I much prefer this imagery.  We do not know the sex of the cats for a start and instead of the winged lion we have the moon which is associated with the high priestess.  The cross that joins the moon with the cups and joins the two cards could be read as a religious symbol but I like the idea of it uniting the cats with the high priestess and the overflowing contents of the cups.  Aeclectic Tarot have a very different take…

“Even the sexual sacrament is hinted at in the 2 of Chalices as the starry sword enters the cup in imitation of the sexual act.”

I’ll let you take it as you like…

Wild Unknown

In the image we find two roses which are dependant on each other to stand up, whilst the two of cups is normally seen as the love card, is this actually a warning?  One way you can become interwined, unhealthily, with another is when your identity becomes tied up in who you are as related to them.  This can be the case in relationships where one person gives care to the other and they become carer, mother, young carer etc.

Are things as they seem?  If you look closer the roses don’t have thorns.  Does this mean everything is sweetness and wonderful or does it mean they are a façade?  I’m going to unpick the symbolism of roses later on.

We could also see the two roses as mutually supporting each other instead of being ‘dependant’ and the negative connetations we tend to ascribe to that.  NB, I am not saying depending on people is a negative thing, very few of us are fully independent and instead we are interdependent and that is healthy as we are humans and humans are social creatures.  Perhaps it is an invitation to let yourself be vulnerable with another person.  Or perhaps the other person is you – do you need to work on your relationship with yourself?  Perhaps you need to integrate part of yourself or acknowledge and care for an aspect of yourself.

More traditional interpretations are around love, romance, attraction, passion…  as well as letting go of relationships which cause you pain.

Lumina

Connection and balance.  Yin and Yang.

This version of the two of cups is similar in design to the two of swords, both show an image reflected and both feature birds with outstretched wings.  Here though we have swans and between the swans are two cups, both overflowing but with different colours.

The little white book mentions balance but this is a different sort of balance to that of the two of pentacles.  That was about balancing more physical things – different tasks, different responsibilities.  This card is more about balancing relationships and whilst no relationship is always completely equal there is a natural ebb and flow, give and take, self and other that establishes itself.

A relationship but that doesn’t necessarily mean romantic or intimate, we have one on one relationships with many people in our lives.  These might be friendships, work relationships, family relationships etc.  If the relationship is unbalanced this might show as communication issues, as dishonesty or just feeling out of flow.  If this is the case it might be necessary to look below the surface.  As I mentioned with the wild unknown, it’s always possible that the relationship which is out of sync is the one you have with yourself.

Animal Totem Tarot

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A hermit crab is shown on this version of the two of cups and is chilling out with his friend the anemone, apparently friends for live!  The anemone protects the crab in return for free accommodation and they make a (non romantic) match in heaven!

“It shows the coming together of two energies to create a mutually beneficial outcome.”
– Animal Totem Tarot

This version of the two of cups really emphasises the focus on friendships and on the give and take that goes on within them, the healthy exchange of energy within a two way relationship and the understanding that equality doesn’t mean things need to be identical.  What you offer your friend is likely to look very different to what they offer you.  Perhaps they can afford to splash out for your coffee and cake when you can’t but perhaps what you bring to the relationship is creative ideas or a listening ear.  We all have something different to offer.  At the same time though, I feel like the crab and the anemone realise that there are some people who take and take and never give and these people are not worth it.

Associations

Venus in Cancer and the Crab

Venus in cancer speaks to me of nurturing relationships, of love expressed through caring and being attentive to feelings of loved ones.  There is an importance placed on security and comfort within relationships and a sensitivity which can feel like moodiness.  The crab from the animal totem represents cancer and because of this we can lean into the idea of self protective boundaries and the need to retreat from time to time.  Crabs have soft, squidgy insides and these need to be looked after or the hard shell will come between them and their loved ones.

Whilst the crab in the animal totem card is a hermit crab, because it’s also the sign of cancer, I’m going to look more generally at crabs.  Whilst it isn’t the case for hermit crabs, generally crabs have shells. This hard layer doesn’t grow with them, instead they have to moult, a process coordinated by their hormones. As they prepare to moult, the old shell starts to soften and erode and a new shell starts to form underneath it. When it is time to moult, the crab takes in a lot of water, expands and cracks open the old shell. They then have to get out of the shell, a process which can take hours, and which can be difficult – imagine trying to get yourself out of your skin! Once they’re entirely out of the old shell, eyes, legs and all, they have to hide. They are incredibly soft and vulnerable at this point and need to avoid predators until their new shell has hardened.

This feels like a huge metaphor for so many aspects of our lives and I’m not going to unpick the process much, but I want to note that there is merit in avoiding people who are likely to hurt you when you aren’t in a strong place. It is ok to practice self protection when you are vulnerable. It is ok to set boundaries.

Whilst shells provide excellent armour, they can also act as a divide between us and the world. Are you feeling connected to what is going on around you? Are you putting up walls to protect yourself? Are these walls helpful or hurtful right now? Are you letting anyone see beneath your shell?  The two of cups encourages us to open up, to let someone in and to trust another with our true self.

Swan

Since writing the post about the swan I’ve got my animal totem tarot which has the swan as the lovers card, so relevant here!

“When we come together it is not so that we can fill something in each other, but instead, stand in our own glory and know that together we can create something magical.  Let the contrast of our individual states create the perfection in our togetherness.”
– Animal Totem

Roses

Obviously roses are the flower of love but they are also associated with balance and passion.  In mythology they are associated with Aphrodite the goddess of love.  They adorned her head, feet and neck and it was said a rose bush grew where her lover was slain.  Similarly, in Christianity it was said a rose bush grew where Jesus died.  Thus roses are also about devotion.

Despite all this love and such, roses can actually be deadly.  There is a disease called sporotrichosis which is caused when a fungus is forced under the skin by a rose thorn (or other sharp infected thing).  It tends to affect the skin and because it is spread by roses, it’s referred to as rose thorn disease or rose gardeners disease.

Of course, even if you don’t get sporotrichosis, being pricked by a rose isn’t all that fun…  Where there is love there is pain…

Rose Quartz

Where there is love, there is often rose quartz, a crystal associated with all kinds of love – family, friends, partners – especially unconditional love.

Apparently Cupid gave the gift of love to humans in the form of a rose quartz and returning again to Aphrodite, it was said that the stone was turned pink by the blood she spilt trying to save her lover and thus the stone became a symbol of everlasting love.

More than love, the crystal is alleged to help you to forgive, to understand, to see things from different perspectives and hence to have a healthy relationship.  This may also be helpful in having a more compassionate relationship with yourself – you deserve forgiveness, understanding and unconditional self love as well.

I hope throughout these different ways of looking at the two of cups, you’ve seen that it’s not just about romantic relationships, it’s also about friends and family and, sometimes more importantly, about how you relate to and love yourself.