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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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