Astrology and me

Some of you, depending on when you first got to know me, might be surprising to find out I’m doing a year long astrology course and have just paid for a reading – both with the wonderful Hali Karla.  You might be asking yourself how someone with a masters in mathematics has arrived at this.  And I think you’d be right to wonder.

For a long time, I mostly thought of astrology as horoscopes and the horoscopes I’d come across were ones that are nicely generic and can apply to everyone at any point in their lives.  Newspapers which claim that this week pisces are going to feel hurt by someone in their lives and aries are going to find themselves facing a financial challenge.  This is so generic as to fit anyone, regardless of their sign.

My journey towards astrology started with tarot being used as a tool for self reflection.  I’ve also always loved the moon and a lot of people who talk about tarot online also align their lives to the moon.  They pay attention to what part of the cycle it’s in and create ritual around different phases.  Whilst I had unclear feelings about the power of the moon in this sense, it does give a nice symbolic way of thinking about and experiencing life and ritual has power in and of itself.  I’ve spoken about tarot and ritual before on here and I know that they both have an important role in my life; one for touching in with my heart and the other for setting intentions.

As part of my moon journey, I started listening to Hali’s monthly moon reflections.  They had a different flavour each month as she focused on which sign the moon was in.  Again, it gave me a cycle to hang my life on – life loses a sense of time and place when you retire.  And the twelve different zodiac signs cover 12 key ways of looking at and experiencing life.  This means that regardless of your feelings about astrology, if you’d followed her for a year you’d have done some deep and broad reflection.

I loved the recordings partly because of their content, partly because Hali is an artist and partly because I find her voice really soothing and friendly.  She seemed very approachable and whilst she was taking it seriously, it wasn’t too serious!

At one stage she talked about charting the moon’s journey through the zodiac signs and seeing how that appears in your life.  I wasn’t especially convinced, particularly given I wasn’t really sensing much with moon cycles, but I went along with it.  And wow.  Without knowing much about the signs, I recorded my activities and energies across a month.  As I’m retired I can mostly go with my gut and see where my whims take me.  At the end of the month I looked back and saw some interesting themes so carried on making notes.  I think the moon had been through the signs three times when I stood back and properly looked at patterns.  As I discerned differing energies and priorities, I began to look beyond the stereotypes of the signs and get a better feel for what they are and the two – the signs and my activities – aligned incredibly, and surprisingly, well.

I was somewhat shocked but there had been a couple of times when things had changed suddenly in the day and it transpired that was when the sign had actually changed.  I’ve had enough slightly weird, unexplainable things happen to me that I didn’t rule out the power of the moon and the stars.  I carried on charting a bit longer to see if the themes continued and I began to notice that some signs had much louder themes, emotions or activities than others.

I was still listening along to the monthly recordings and I was starting to pick up more about astrology and the different signs so I looked up my birth chart and began to learn a little more about it, beyond just knowing I’m a Pisces.  For example, I’d not come across the idea of rising signs until recently and just knowing I’m a Cancer rising with Pisces sun gives me a lot of food for thought.  It also gave me some interesting insight into my charting.  The signs where I wasn’t feeling such a strong pull in a particular direction were the signs which were empty on my birth chart.

By this point, I’d figured out enough about astrology to realise that regardless of whether it is ‘real’ or not, it was another good tool for self reflection.  The more I learnt the more obvious this became and this was a big motivating factor in my decision to join Hali’s In The Stars course.

For those of you who aren’t into astrology, a birth chart is made up of the 12 zodiac signs, 12 houses and 10 planets.  Each planet represents a different kind of energy or motivation, each sign is a filter for that energy, how we act it out and each house is a different life area.  So you can see how a year long course which looks at all of these in detail is going to provide a lot of food for thought and reflective material.  And this is how Hali approaches her course.

“The real purpose of astrology [is] to hold a mirror before the evolving self, to tell us what we already know deep within ourselves.”
– Steven Forrest

In the first lesson we were asked what we think astrology is and for me, it’s a symbolic language through which we can develop our self awareness and sense of connection to ourselves and to others.  It is a tool which we can use to help understand the ideas and impulses which call to be expressed or wrestled with within.  It is a way of relating archetypes to our own lives and seeing how we can work with those to become more like ourselves.

moon

How the moon makes me feel

But I said I got a reading, how can someone else’s reading of my birth chart be self reflective? Well, it turned out, the more I learnt, the more a-ha moments I had and the more I felt like I understood myself and could validate my experiences and perspectives of the world.  To have Hali do a reading for me felt like it could be a powerful way of getting external validation and direction and she is excellent at giving you food for thought.

It turns out my reading was actually pretty accurate, and not in a newspaper horoscope kind of way.  There were things she touched on that resonated deeply and other aspects that she was able to give words to which I had not yet managed.

So what do I think of astrology now?  Well, I still don’t really know.  But one of the areas we looked at this week was about how we face and interact with the unknowable.  And astrology is dancing with the unknowable.  We won’t ever know if it’s ‘real’ and if it is, we won’t know why it works.  I am moving towards making peace with that, to accepting the strange, beyond coincidence moments I’ve experienced, and towards a place where I don’t feel I need to question everything.

“Negative capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”
– Keats

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Animal Allies – Alligator

I’ve already written about crocodiles, cousins to the alligators but to refresh, let’s look at the differences:

Crocodiles Alligators
V shaped snout U shaped snout
Teeth are visible when mouth is closed Teeth not visible when mouth is closed
Saltwater Freshwater

Having pointed out the differences, they are incredibly similar in terms of biology and behaviour so if you’ve pulled the alligator card I’d strongly suggest looking at the crocodile as well.

The What

Alligators are ancient predators who have stalked around this planet for millions of years, they are living dinosaurs who have successfully adapted to surviving in this world.  They are primitive, armoured crocodilians.

So, with that in mind, it might be time to listen to your gut, trust your basic instinct right now.  Don’t overthink things, instead follow your intuition.  And whilst most water cards are about emotions and delving into ourselves, the alligator is protected by its thick skin.  There is a time and a place for shields and this might be that time.  The crab card has a lot to say about armour and shells if that is something you feel is chiming for you today.

The Where

As we’ve seen, alligators live in freshwater and there are two living species – the American alligator and the Chinese alligator, both living exactly where their names suggest.  They lurk in the shallow waters of creeks, rivers, lakes, everglades and swamps with their bodies just below the surface.  Continuing the metaphor of water as our emotional realm, we are just taking a little look at our feelings, we are glancing at them but not truly engaging with them – remember we’re wearing our armour as well.  This feels like perhaps we’re taking an academic look at our emotions and unconscious which has its place in the world.  This is a stage of analysis rather than immersion.

One really interesting thing about alligators is that they can survive in freezing temperatures – they stay just below the surface with their nostrils about it and can live even when ice freezes around them!  This seems to echo the idea of a detached look at emotions.

Wherever they are found, alligator holes tend to increase plant diversity and provide habitats for other animals, especially during droughts.  This is an important function in terms of maintaining ecological diversity as well as a reminder about the interconnectedness of life.  Even though the alligator may not be especially interested in most of the flora and fauna they give life to, they are making a difference to the community they live in.

The How

Probably the most well known thing about alligators is that they have incredibly powerful jaws which snap shut with brutal force but which are hard to open.  They use this to kill and eat prey including fish, frogs, snake and mammals but they are not gratuitously aggressive.  They hunt to survive and perhaps, more than most predators, understand what it’s like to be on the other side.  As eggs and babies, they are at risk from some of the very creatures they eat; snapping turtles, fish, birds and skunks all eat them when they are in the early stages of life.  Alligators transition from prey to predator, from hunted to hunter, from a more passive role to a more active one.  We are not defined by the status we are born with, we are all able to move up the food chain or climb the pyramid if we wish to.

Like crocodiles and sharks, alligators often spark fear in humans.  But like crocodiles and sharks, it’s surprisingly rare for an alligator to attack.  They eat food which is smaller than an adult human and are more choosy about what they eat than crocodiles.  They are also less likely to kill if they do attack a person.  So, as with the crocodiles and sharks, perhaps instead of being afraid, we should explore why we are afraid.

Taz Thornton writes about facing fears in her book, uses the spider as an example:

“If you are afraid of spiders, try to remember when you first learned that fear, then work out what, exactly, you believe you are afraid of… Is it the swift movement?  Would they still be scary if they moved at a snail’s pace?  Is it the legs?  Who else do you know with legs?  Are they scary?  What would a spider have to do to make friends with you?  What if they started delivering your favourite treats, or spinning lovely words for you to wake up to in the morning?”

And the sex, drugs and rock and roll…

Although large male alligators are solitary territorial animals, they do need to attract females in order to mate.  This involves laying just below the surface and making low, deep bellows which make water droplets on their backs dance.  Apparently this is what female alligators are attracted to…  Perhaps the human equivalent is someone with really good moves on the dance floor?

Once they’ve wooed their mate and done the deed, the female then lays her eggs on the riverbank and the sex of the babies is determined by the temperature.  At least for those that survive and escape thieving paws.  They then hatch and the mother carefully carries them in her powerful jaw to the water.  That extremely powerful mouth which can trap and kill is gently holding her babies.  As we saw with the bear, this dichotomy of dangerous predator and nurturing mother is a powerful metaphor.

Because the young are vulnerable, mum is very protective and they stay with her for a while as they learn to hunt and fend for themselves in the safety of home.  It is good to have a safe space to explore or practice or play with ideas before letting them out into the world and having critical eyes turned on them. We must nurture our creations when they are in the early stages, we must protect them at their most vulnerable and care for them whilst they are fragile.  Only once they are surer, more confident and more fleshed out should we allow the world to see them.  And not all creations are destined to make it.  Of an average nest of 38 alligator eggs, only about 5 will make it to maturity.  Some simply won’t hatch, not making it off the ground, and others will but the harsh realities of life, the practicalities of living and the dangers of the world will kill them, often in their first year.  We all need that safe place, that space inside a shell, to test out ideas.

Those creations which do make it to maturity will need your strength, courage and tenacity to survive.  Be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to those projects you love and want to see succeed.  Do not be put off by the hardships and challenges that other creations may have experienced.  There is something here that goes back to where we started – the idea of needing a tough skin to deal with people and situations and to keep going even when faced with criticism.  If you know that this project is what you need to do, do it.  Be assertive.  Fight for it.  But don’t become stubborn.  Not all projects need to make it to completion, sometimes it’s about the journey.  Check in with yourself, your intuition, from time to time and review why you are working on this.

Be fierce and ferocious but also gently nurture, like the mother alligator.

A walk: 15th April

I went on a walk with a friend this weekend and we took a few pictures to try and identify some species when we got home.  I also wrote a list of some of the plants and animals we saw on our route.  This was a good exercise in helping me remember and learn names for flora and fauna but it also meant I realised how much we saw.

Using the same idea as the natural history guide exercise, I wrote an “I am” poem.  Again I used the guide to get a bit of info about the species and I used my jar of words.  I also pulled a tarot card to give a direction or theme for my words.  This turned out to be the ace of wands which is a perfect, spring energy, kind of card.  The words I associate with this card were used to create the first line.

I am spring, flame thrower, life igniter.

I am the Norway maple, buds forced open like shooting stars.

I am the drifting, pungent catch of wild garlic in the air.

I am the paintbrush who’s sure and steady hand splashed the purple speculum on the female mallard’s back.

I am the heart leaves of the lesser celandine, serenading without permission.

I am the boggy carpet under the feet of Canada geese.

I am the committed blackbird, bringing squirming specimens to my love.

I am the golden jacket outlining the small great tit.

I am the velcro crackle of cleavers scrambling unapologetically.

I am the listening, learning, crow, holding tight to my caw-caw.

I am the family squabble of coots quarrelling

& I am the woodpigeon, perched, surveying, taking in the power of spring.

I enjoyed pulling together the images and I really like the use of the natural history guide as it adds another dimension to the images – without it I’d not have known speculum feathers were even a thing!  The information from the guide adds more precision as well.

I particularly like the image of the cleavers and, along with I am the music played in the teeth of a dandelion, before time is wished away from last time, I’m hoping to spin out another piece of creative writing.

I also created the line I am the queen of death, the glossy social climber; ivy but it was entirely out of sorts with the rest of the images.  Perhaps one to put in my pocket for a walk later in the year when the cycle of life turns again…

 

Animal Allies: Jellyfish

Oh my gosh, jellyfish are amazing!  Even if this card hadn’t been in the deck, I’d be writing about jellyfish as part of my sea month (which, by the way, may last more than a month as I’ve barely touched on sea and writing yet!).

DSC_0763ec craq

The jellyfish also ties into our sea monsters theme as many people are, understandably, scared of jellyfish.  However I’m not going to look too much at the legends and myths, instead I’m going to be looking at the metaphor of the jellyfish and what wisdom it may have to share with us.

The biology of the jellyfish

Jellyfish have been around since before the dinosaurs, and could well still be around when humans have died out.  Having inhabited the ocean for over ½ billion years, they are a highly successful species and have adapted to many world changes in that time.

There are over 1000 types of jellyfish ranging from the size of a grain of sand to longer than a blue whale.  They all consist of a translucent bell which contracts to propel them through the water and have long, trawling, trailing tentacles which they use to capture prey.  Whilst they come in different colours and patterns, they are all transparent which makes it easier for them to blend in and avoid predators.

This transparency provokes some interesting thoughts when we think metaphorically about the jellyfish and ourselves.  With the jelly, what you see is what you get, there is no disguising feelings, no saying one thing and meaning another.  What about you?  Are you letting others see you, see your truth or are you, consciously or unconsciously, deceiving people or misleading them?  What about the people around you?  For me, this idea of being able to put yourself out there, heart and soul, brings into question validation.  If I put myself out there, will my emotions be validated or will they be ignored or rejected?  Where can I be more transparent?  Am I validating other people’s emotions or am I accidentally steamrolling over them.  And this comes to play in the self to self relationship as well, am I validating myself, am I honouring the part of me that needs to be seen?

Almost formless animals, jellyfish are alien to us, and they ask us how, without a head, a heart or a brain, can we relate to or empathise with them.  They challenge us emotionally, asking us to step far outside our own existence and our own bodies to understand their life experience and perspective.  How do we understand others?  How do we get to know what they have been through?

As well as lacking head and heart, they also lack a respiratory system, instead their skin is thin enough that they ‘breathe’ through diffusion.  Structurally speaking, they are very simple creatures.  But despite this, they are helping us make breakthroughs in genetic diseases, cancers and research into ageing.  Another species glows green when agitated and the chemical involved has been used as a genetic marker, allowing scientists to track cancer cells.

Interestingly for me, there is collagen inside the jellyfish.  Collagen makes up about a third of our bodies and mine is faulty, causing me pain and other issues.  Extracts of pure collagen from the jelly can have medical applications (but ignore the junk science, drinking collagen will not correct my genetic condition) including in cataracts surgery and for rheumatoid arthritis.

They remind us not to overlook simplicity, for with simplicity can come elegance as well as efficiency.  There are merits to simplifying ourselves and our lives, to going back to basics and stripping back the clutter that we have.

Lifecycle

The lifecycle of jellies is fascinating!  Especially that of the immortal jellyfish.

The Turritopsis Dohrmi, or the immortal jellyfish, is an incredible creature.  Like all jellies it starts life as a fertilised egg, turns into larva which then attaches itself to the sea floor and becomes a polyp.  The polyp then buds and these buds break free from the polyp as ephyra – baby jellyfish.  The polyp continues releasing ephyra clones.  The ephyra grow until they are adult jellyfish, also called medusas.  Once the medusa releases eggs or sperm, it dies.

But, the immortal jellyfish can change from medusa back to polyp and start the cycle again, a sort of backwards metamorphosis.  It does this to cope with stressers such as lack of food.  In theory, if it’s not eaten or hurt, the immortal jellyfish can continue in this cycle, moving between adult and child, forever.

Life is not always linear, sometimes we move forwards and sometimes we move backwards and this is ok.  Sometimes we need to revert back to our childhood, to heal wounds, to have fun or to change our perspective in life.  Consider the jellyfish a chance to reflect on how you allow play and childfullness into your life, how you treat your inner child and where you might need to nurture or mother yourself.

Movement

I’m going to be really short and sweet here as I want to get onto their sting, but ponder how the jellyfish move.  They are sensitive to the water around them and they let nature guide their journey.  They don’t fight the current, instead trusting they will get where they need to be.  That said, they can propel themselves along so they aren’t hapless victims of fate.  They are going with the flow, but not entirely directionless.

Defence

One of the key interactions between jellies and humans is when they sting us.  Their tentacles are covered in specialised cells which can release venom into the victim.  Not all jellyfish have venom that affects humans but some can kill us.  Even beached and dying jellies can still sting when touched.

Obviously their sting is more aimed at prey and at predators trying to attack the jelly but because of their long, dangling, training tentacles, we can be stung as we brush past them in the sea.  And as jellyfish are transparent and can be incredibly tiny, we can’t always see the threat.  The same is true of other threats in life, perhaps the jelly is nudging you to open your eyes a bit more.  Perhaps you need to face that threat which you’re currently pretending doesn’t exist.  Ignoring it doesn’t mean it’ll go away.

The other idea that comes to mind with the jellyfish’s sting is around self defence.  That, and to catch food, is why they have the venom.  I’m not advocating that you go around injecting people with toxins but think about how you can set up boundaries etc to look after yourself.

Are you lashing out?  Are you causing others, or yourself, accidental or avoidable pain?

DSC_0765 ec grain speckle

A final thought

I was learning about jellyfish when I was in hospital and at some stages I was on some strong medication that made me a bit spacey.  When I was looking back over my notes I saw what was probably the result of one of these occasions.  There, in my scrawl, is the question:

What do jellyfish dream of?

Answers on a postcard please!

Winter Solstice, or Mana’s Birthday

We’re back to my house of helens, see previous posts for context:

This time it’s Mana’s birthday.  She is the materal or grandmother figure.  She is not a helen I know that well yet.  She is sort of there in the background watching and offering hugs and nudges where needed.

Today, to celebrate her, we will be lighting a candle as the longest night begins and offering her hugs and kisses.  There will be yummy tea drunk by a roaring fire.  Stories will be told.

We will thank the sun for returning and thank the darkness for the chance to reflect, to restore, to rest.  This has been a really important part of my change in perspective of winter, that is to honour the unique and vital aspects of the darker time of year rather than just berating it for existing.

Alone, myself and Mana will do a tarot reading.  One fitting to her wisdom and knowledge as well as the time of year.  It will reflect, pause and look to the coming light.

Whilst this is a post about the house of helens, I also want to make it relevant to my nature and writing project so I’m sharing some things I have found or know about winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

During the winter solstice, the north pole is as far away from the sun as it can get.  This means that at the same time the south pole is as close to the sun as it can get and the southern hemisphere celebrate the summer solstice.

The word solstice comes from Latin sol “sun” and sistere “to stand still.”

There are numerous stone monuments which are configured in such a way as to show when it is the solstice.  Whether they were built for this purpose is a matter of debate but given how important the passing of the year would have been for our ancient ancestors I think it’s a strong possibility.  If you live in a time when farming and hunting are your lifeline, it’s going to be very reassuring to know that the shortest day is here and from now on everything is going to get easier.

For the Mayans, the sun was incredibly important as it allowed them to create their complex calendars and “entire ceremonial complexes that were positioned specifically for the celebration of the solar cycle”.

Around the world, people celebrate the winter solstice. China’s Dongzhi (literally “the extreme of the winter”) Festival celebrates the winter solstice, along with the imminent return to longer days. At the ancient ruins of Stonehenge in England, thousands gather before sunrise to celebrate. In Japan, some partake in a traditional hot bath, soaking with a Japanese citrus fruit, called yuzu, to greet the winter solstice while protecting against common colds.

Futurity

Whether you mark the solstice or not, I hope you have a lovely day!

Trees

I’ve already done a lot of creative work around trees.  In 2016 I chose trees as my year long art focus and I blogged about aspects of that.  As part of this, I created my own tree themed deck of oracle cards which I think speaks volumes about the symbolic gold there is to find when it comes to trees.

I have also written a few plant spirit posts about particular trees and also trees which have been important in my life.

There are approx. 100,000 species of trees which we identify by looking at their leaves, tree shape, bark, bud and flowers, fruits and seeds.  There are native and non native, coniferous and deciduous, tall and small and all have their own marvellous qualities and associations.  For example, Oak, quercus robur, means strength.

“Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop”
– rumi

We find trees scattered throughout our language.  We have family trees, we have tree hugging, we can’t see the wood for the trees.  We have trees which commemorate, we have trees which are engraved with long dead relationships.  We have trees which act as landmarks.  We have witness trees and trees in place names.

Trees inspire and shelter, they are majestic and wise, reliable and reassuring, a solid presence throughout a human lifespan.

They are habitats and food, with their own complex web of predators and pests, parasites and symbiotic relationships.  They are layers of life, rings of the years, memory keepers, teachers.

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.”
– Hermann Hesse

6 of cups

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In the wild unknown tarot, the six of cups is depicted with a tree.  As with other examples I’ve discussed, this is one case where the wild unknown card feels so much more poignant to me than other decks.

In a lot of tarot decks, the six of cups is about childhood, nostalgia, naïve happiness, and generosity but this has never been a meaning that has chimed with me.  Instead I choose to look at it from a different perspective, asking myself what fuels me, what brings me to life, what grounds me.  If you look at the image of the tree with it’s multi coloured roots, you’ll hopefully get a sense of what I mean.  Where other people look to childhood memories to make them happy, I chose to look at anything which makes me happy, which feeds my soul.

“Storms make trees take deeper roots”
– Dolly Parton

In order to stay strong and to thrive in this world, you need to pay attention to your roots.  Dig deep, ground yourself and nourish the very core of your wonderful self.

There is also an aspect of balance in the 6 of cups – the outer world of the tree mirrors the inner world of the roots.  This reminds me strongly of the bear animal spirit card and the idea that there is a time for everything, but no time can be a time for everything.  A link I’ve shared quite a bit is one to Terri Windling’s blog post about bears and it feels so relevant here.

For [Terry Tempest] Williams, the bear embodies “opposing views, that we can be both fierce and compassionate at once. The bear is above ground in spring and summer and below ground, hibernating, in fall and winter — and she emerges with young by her side.

The winter months have always been a challenge for me. I love sunshine, dry weather and warmth… now, however, I am learning to appreciate winter’s stark gifts: it slows me down, turns my thoughts inward, keeps me closer to hearth and home, strengthening the introverted side of my nature, without which I couldn’t write or paint. I am learning at last to follow the bear; to trust in the process of hibernation and gestation. I am learning patience. Slowness. Stillness.

All things have their season. And spring always comes.

– Terri Wilding

From tiny seeds…

Aside: this has turned into a post with a lot of quotes… Not my normal style but I couldn’t decide which ones to cut…

We’ve seen a lot so far about the harmful and healing properties of plants, about plants as active agents who stand their own ground.  Now I thought I’d take a closer look at the plant itself, starting with at the beginning of the story with the seed.

Seeds are like teeny tiny tardises.  They often look insignificant but give them time and the right conditions and they can grow up to be giant redwoods or an endless tangle of thistles.

What is a seed?

A seed is an amazing package of plant food and growth instructions carefully enclosed in a protective coat.  Once the seed starts to grow, this food will nourish the plant embryo.  Seeds are on their own in this world.  No parent to protect them and love them and tuck them up in bed at night.

What happens to a seed?

Left to their own devices, seeds wait.  And they wait.  And they wait.  Until conditions are just right for them to grow.

There is a perfect time for everything. If the tulip surfaces in the heart of winter, the bitter winds won’t give her a chance.
Rebecca Campbell

Most seeds wait a year at least and one seed is known to have waited over 2000 years.  They have to time things just right.  If they start to grow too soon they will die and if they wait too long they will die.  Life is tough for seeds.  And whilst they wait, they are alive.  They may look like dried out dead things but this isn’t the case.  They have to be able to sense conditions so they know when the wait is over.  Sadly, most seeds die before conditions are right.

The first thing a seed needs to do when they decide the time is right, is anchor themselves.  Then the root grows down into the soil to find water.  This leaves a critical few days where the remaining food is used to start growing upwards.  At this time the plant can’t produce its own food and this is one reason why humidity, light and other conditions must be perfect.

To help the plant out, the embryo contains two tiny leaves which are used to help the plant limp along until it has enough food to grow proper leaves.  Once the plant has leaves, it can start to photosynthesise and produce sugars.  Meanwhile, the root network below ground will have been developing.  Both as an anchor for the plant and to find water.  The roots also intertwine with other plants’ roots to create a web through which messages can be sent to alert neighbours to danger etc.

But as we have a tenancy to do, humans interfere with seeds.  We use them as food – sunflower seeds – and as medicine – poppy seed heads – and even in paints (linseed oil), preventing yet more seeds from living out their long lives.

How do seeds differ?

Size is an obvious way that seeds differ.  We have coconuts which are seeds as large as your head and we have orchid seeds who are so tiny that a million of them is the equivalent in weight of a paperclip.  They also come in a variety of shapes; bean shaped, square, triangular, egg shaped, ovals and more.

They vary in appearance depending on how they are dispersed.  For example, those spread by wind need to be lightweight and include fluffy seeds like dandelions or aerodynamic ones like sycamore seeds.  There are seeds which are carefully contained within yummy fruits so that animals eat them and spread them.  Some seeds even need to be digested to maximise their chances.  I can’t remember what species but some seeds have a protective coating on them which gets stripped by stomach acid.

Once fire has cleansed and healed the land, new life is born.  Seeds that require intense heat to burst them open start to grow and blossom.
Speaking with nature

Seeds of different plants also need different conditions to flourish in.  For example there are some plants who’s seeds spring into action following intense heat such as a forest fire.  This means they take advantage of increased light and reduced competition.

Metaphors

Seeds also provide us with a huge array of metaphorical value.  We have the concept of men sowing their seed through to great things grow from tiny acorns.  They feature especially in religious contexts and in personal growth.  They are also used a lot to depict a small action today having a huge impact in the future and doing work now for future gains.

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.
― Robert Louis Stevenson

A tree is no more valuable than a seed. Both are simply at a different stage in their development.
― J.R. Rim

There is also something awe inspiring and almost magical about what is contained in a seed.

From one seed a whole handful: that was what it meant to say the bounty of the earth.
― J.M. Coetzee

Dreams are the seeds of change. Nothing ever grows without a seed, and nothing ever changes without a dream.
– Debby Boone

Resentment buried is not gone.  It is like burying a seed – for a season it may stay hidden in the dark, but in the end, it will always grow
– Beth Underdown

Ace of Pentacles

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Whilst we’re looking at seeds and their imagery, I’d like to turn briefly to the ace of pentacles from the wild unknown tarot deck.  This card, for me, sums up the power we all have within us.

Side note; I compare different ace of pentacles cards in my post about the RWS deck which gives a flavour of the other ways of looking at this card.  I find the wild unknown version to be very empowering and relatable.

The ace of pentacles asks me what is it that must be planted, what is it that is growing inside you and needs nurturing?  It is about the potential for strength, greatness and manifestation.  A reminder that it takes time and effort for a tiny seed to grow into a might tree as well as practical resources like light, food, water and love.

Right now that spark of an idea or a plan is carefully protected from the outside world, waiting for the right time to venture out.  Equally, they will only grow if we let them out into the world.  We cannot keep the magic curled up inside us forever, to do this is to deny ourselves of our potential.

Within my homemade little white book, as well as meanings of cards, I include quotes which feel relevant for each card.  Here are a few for the ace of pentacles:

“May we ground the seeds of light that are in our hearts.  May we anchor them into the earth.”
– Rebecca Campbell

“You have an acorn in you, you are a certain person and that person begins to appear early in your life, but it’s there all they way through your life”
– Thomas Moore

“All plant life starts with a seed.  A seed is filled with potential.  Nature’s intelligence has created a blueprint that programs each seed to thrive and be healthy.  When we learn about the power, potential and inner wisdom that each seed has, we learn a lot about ourselves”
– Speaking with nature