Tarot updates

I’ve not written about tarot in a while so just wanted to get down a few things.  I’ve not actually managed much tarot because I’ve been so tired and Aug was stained glass month.  Did I tell you about that?  I did an amazing course with a fantastic and thoughtful teacher and made a piece of stained glass from scratch!

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A card a week

Ok, back to tarot.  I’ve almost reached the end of my sort of a card a week thing.  It was inspired by Carrie Mallon’s memento mori post and I had wanted to blog about it each but that never happened. What did happen though was that I developed a deeper understanding of the cards.

Each week I reflected on the previous card and how it had featured over the week for me. I also used it as an opportunity to read Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom for the card and I updated my little white book with what I had discovered. Mostly so that it would fit better with a year cycle, I only used the minor cards and some weeks drew two and others life took over and I didn’t draw any.  This means that assuming I manage the remaining weeks, I will have completed the minors over the course of a year.  I’m starting to think about how I can use the major cards, all 22 of them, this coming year (October to October).  Had there been 24 I’d have perhaps drawn one at each full and new moon… Thoughts are welcomed!

Brady Tarot Deck

I am very excited about the Brady Tarot deck which is being created.  It is drawing on natural history and uses print making which is one of my favourite forms of art.  The images so far are beautiful and offer a lot of scope for getting to know the card as they are detailed and evocative.  The images draw of North American flora and fauna and part of the profits will go to a conservation charity.  They are clearly a work of love and passion and because of this, they are taking longer than expected, but I don’t mind at all.  I love getting the updates and am excited about seeing all the cards!

Alternative Tarot Course vs 78 Mirrors

I recently had an email from someone who was reading my blog (I love emails, go for it if you want to get in touch!) and was wondering about whether the Alternative Tarot Course or 78 Mirrors would be best for her.  As we were pinging emails, Beth from Little Red Tarot announced her new course which sounds amazing!  I can’t comment on that as I’ve not done it but I thought it might be helpful for other people to hear about the other two courses.

78 Mirrors and the Alternative Tarot Course (ATC) are both great.  And they are totally complementary.  I did the ATC very early on in my tarot journey and the 78 Mirrors as a more established self reader and this obviously affects how I engaged with the courses.  The first thing I would say is about money.  ATC is considerably cheaper than 78 Mirrors and a lot of that is because they are delivered very differently.

ATC is self guided so if you learn better on your own, or can’t commit to a set time scale course that might be best for you.  78 mirrors has more of a structure in terms of when emails get sent etc but if you get behind or whatever you still have all the info to catch up with.  What you would miss to a certain extent if you couldn’t keep up would be the value of the facebook group (I joined facebook just for the group) which was good for getting other people’s ideas and things.  Because of the number of people on the course and the way facebook groups work, I think if you got really behind in the course you’d find it hard to find the relevant bits of conversation and could miss out on the interactive side of things.

78 mirrors covers things more from a card by card perspective which builds up your own version of the little white book. On the other hand little red is more about helping you get to know the cards in your own way. for example she looks at the way elements interact with each other and what sort of a reader you want to be.

I couldn’t possibly say which was best and as I think I’ve made clear, a lot will depend on how you learn and what time you have available etc.  I’d love to hear from anyone who’s started Beth’s new course which is taking a card a day and could possibly be a sort of bridge between ATC and 78 mirrors.

Same card, different deck

The final thing I wanted to mention was a post over on Little Red Tarot about using different decks to deepen understanding.  This is one of the most powerful things I got out of Susannah Conway’s 78 Mirrors course.  For the course, she advised we had a Rider Waite Smith (RWS) deck, a take on the RWS deck (in my case Tarot Of Pagan Cats: Tarot Deck) and a third more independent one (of course this was going to be my beloved Wild Unknown).  I did not chime at all with the RWS deck but using it along side the cat deck helped me deepen my understanding of the cards and helped me to see the wild unknown cards from a different angle.  There are so many decks out there that it can feel overwhelming and you can struggle to know which one to use.  I trust my gut when I turn to my cards and whilst I almost always go for the wild unknown, from time to time I feel compelled to either combine it with another deck or use another deck entirely.  It can be expensive but there are various tarot apps which can reduce the cost.  Or if your hope is to compare cards and meanings, you could try one of the many many websites which offer interpretations as well as images of the decks.

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Tipping the balance 

Yesterday was the autumn equinox. The day when night is as long as day. From today until March, days will be shorter than night.

Yesterday, I did a tarot reading. A four card draw with no particular question. The cards I drew were very relevant to how I feel about this time of year.

 

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There are two cards, the six of cups and the hermit, which are both about the unseen, about going within, about going underground.  They echo the turning of the season, the way nature is closing in and hibernating and plants are losing their leaves and focusing on their roots.

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.

I love that this resonates with how I interpret the hermit card.  I feel that it’s about taking time out from other people’s thoughts and views and finding out what my own are.  As part of my nature and writing project, for example, I’m doing a lot of reading and learning and watching documentaries which is great and I love it.  But I need to ensure that there is space within that for me to mull over ideas, to form my own opinions and to draw together my beliefs.  We live in a world where we get a lot of external stimulation, we take in a lot of information every day and that’s great.  But we also need to balance it with internal stimulation and creating (in a very loose sense of the word) our own offerings.  We cannot just take from the world, we must also give.

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

That all things have their season is a pertinent reminder for those of us who struggle with winter and the darkness.  And this sentiment is echoed in the second half of my tarot reading with the Wheel of Fortune and the frog.

Both of these cards remind us that we live in cycles, like the bear, and we should embrace them rather than fight them.  You feel the turn of the circle more if you are battling to keep it still than if you go with the flow of it.  For me, this means accepting that winter means early nights and less activity and preparing for this.  So gathering documentaries I want to watch and books I want to read, in preparation for days when I don’t necessarily want to get out of bed or leave the house.

And both of these cards, in reminding us of the cycle of life, remind us too that as Terri says, spring always comes.

Nature and writing, the prep

On the full moon in August I did a tarot reading to shine some light on my nature and writing project. The eight of pentacles came up which, astrologically, corresponds to the sun in Virgo. Which just happens to be about the time I was planning on diving in. It feels like a nice reassurance that I am following my path.

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I also selected a crystal I was drawn to to help me hold my intention around this project. I’ve talked before about this (although I can’t find the post) but essentially by doing this, the crystal (in this case rose quartz) acts as a reminder, a touchstone, an inspiration and something to turn to if I need help.

I also recently got a message from the lovely Crystal Cornwall UK saying they were having a summer sale and was instantly drawn to labradorite and ended up buying three stones as well as some other lovely crystals.  They have amazing names, are fascinating to look at and are a beautiful part of geology. Different parts of the world are home to different gemstones. For example, Whitby is well known for its jet.

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Other preparations I’m making include writing up a month by month vague curriculum as well as creating a poetry jar as words call to me.  It’s a great way to warm up if you’re going to write but also little gems come straight from the jar without too much polishing.

Winter magic
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to night

In terms of my plans (which are entirely flexible and reactive to both my health and what I find along the journey), I am currently thinking of the following:

  • September
    • Starting the Future Learn: William Wordsworth – Poetry, People and Place course.
    • Starting the Future Learn: Learn about weather course
    • Hopefully a day trip
    • Focus on: What is nature writing?  Why do we read and write it? How has it changed? And what makes good nature writing?  Looking at all genres.
  • October
    • Future Learn: Environmental challenges – rights and values in ecosystem services course
    • Local one day course – From Ovid to Oz: A Brief Cultural History of Werewolves
    • Marking Samhain, or Halloween, 31st October
    • Focus on animals in (human) society – their roles in our lives, our roles in their lives, how we interact, how we complement each other and how we see animals?  And then honing in on animals (living, extinct or supernatural) as scapegoats.
  • November
    • Future Learn: Environmental challenges – human impact in the natural environment
    • Local one day course on the human history of York
    • Focus more on plants and/or geology this month.  It may be winter and cold and dark and it may feel like everything is closing up and going into hibernation but what are plants up to and which plants are in the spotlight?
  • December
    • Local seasonal traditions
    • Mark the winter solstice
    • Focus on weather
  • January
    • Poetry focus – reading, analysing, looking for themes, writing it…
  • February
    • Focus on rewilding.  It keeps crossing my path so I’m gathering reading and links and videos as they find me.

As always, I’d love to get to links and references and suggestions and opinions and ideas!

Pangolin

Pangolins are apparently the world’s most hunted animal and the most trafficked wild mammal.  This in itself is reason enough for me to want to write this post.  The pangolin had been on my list of animals to write about and then a couple of days ago an article popped up on my twitter feed and reminded me about their plight.

The Telegraph says that “with its armoured shell and peculiar gait, the humble pangolin looks more like an anteater prepped for medieval battle than an animal under threat.”  And this feels like a good description.  There is something naive and comical about the pangolin and they make me smile.

They are similar to the hedgehog and the echidna in how they react to danger but unlike these spiky creatures, the pangolin’s own defences are being used against them.  When threatened, they curl up into a ball and their scales protect them.  This scaly armour is too hard for even a lion to bite through.  But when it comes to human predators, we just use their helpful rolled up position to pick them up.

We exploit their very defences.  We utilise their armour for our own means.  And on the whole we don’t need to attack the pangolin.  Whilst they are sometimes eaten as a necessary source of food, they are considered a delicacy in Asia.  They are also hunted for use in traditional chinese medicine.  Their scales are dried and roasted then used to stimulate lactation, cure cancer, help asthma and more.  The scales sell on the black market for over $3000 a kilo.  In addition to food and medicine, the pangolin is also used in rituals, art and magic and their scales have even been used to make a coat…  This is wanton, wasteful killing.  This is not hunting for survival.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, half of the pangolins which are killed are juveniles.  They are slow breeders who give birth to one pup every one or two years.  This means that over exploitation of the species is significantly more likely to result in extinction.  This is a critical time for the pangolin.

On top of hunting, pangolins are also suffering because deforestation is getting rid of their habitats.  All species of pangolin are considered vulnerable or critical on the list of endangered species.

I’m finding this a tough post to write.  We all know about dolphins in trouble and the threats to elephants but because they are iconic, wellknown species, they get a lot of attention and a lot of work is being done to help them.  I don’t know how long the plight of the pangolin has been known but I do know that a lot of people don’t even know what one is, let alone the trouble they are in.

Their struggle has been made harder because they are a secretive, elusive species, making them hard to study.  They are also solitary creatures, most of which are active at night.

They are equipped with defences, but they are not cut out for the world they find themselves in today.  Whilst they have their armour to protect from wildlife, they are not very ferocious and don’t even have teeth.  If their scales aren’t enough then they have to turn to their tail which has sharp scales.  They also have sharp claws and can emit a nasty smell but if it wasn’t for humans, they wouldn’t need to use these.  The claws are for breaking into ant hills and termite mounds, not fighting humans.  Everything about this creature, screams protection – in addition to their chain mail style suit, they have thick eye lids and ears and noses which can close up to stop ants getting in.  This is an animal which is all about boundaries and personal integrity.

Other aspects to note about this creature include poor vision which means they use their sense of smell to find their food.  They also have a long long tongue which can be longer than the pangolin and is used to collect lots of insects quickly.  This epic muscle is attached near its pelvis, deep in the chest cavity.  It is sticky and powerful with spikes leaning into the stomach.  Presumably this is to keep the ants and termites from escaping or falling out.  Once eaten, the food gets ground up in the pangolin’s tummy by stones and more spines.  This is a bit like a reverse hedgehog really!

These mysterious animals don’t do well in captivity either, humankind really is not aligned with the pangolin’s needs.  In zoos they tend to get ill and die very quickly…  Unfortunately this means that once captured, a pangolin’s prognosis is very poor, even if they don’t get killed for food and medicine…  And if we treated them well, they could continue to serve an important ecological function.  The vast number of insects they eat means they are great for pest control.

To sum it up, the pangolin is vulnerable, precarious and it’s defences are being used against it.  Watch out for similarities in your own life if you are drawn to this creature.  And please, please do not consume pangolin.

International Tarot Day

Whoop!  I can’t believe I have only been into tarot for eighteen months or so.  It feels so much longer (in a good way).  As I’ve talked about before, I find them such a useful tool for self reflection and getting to know myself and hear myself.

I saw a post somewhere recently about why having a question in mind is important when you go for a reading.  For me, this is such a useful thing in itself.  It helps me clear my head, focus on and whittle down what it is that’s going on and in part, this is a helpful tool in itself.  To ask a question, you have to have a vague idea about what you’re feeling or thinking after all!

 

Ways I’ve been enhancing my understanding of tarot and deepening my readings have included guided visualisations, using oracle cards alongside them and looking at the astrological symbolism.

Each card has an astrological link and I’ve found these a helpful way to see further into the card.  There’s a lot of in depth info over on Virgo Vault (which goes way beyond my basic astrology knowledge but is still clear enough that if all you want is the sign, or sign and planet of a card, you can).  Labyrinthos has some nicely portrayed info about the Major Arcana.

I also use my tarot cards to do readings for, and to help me understand, my house of helens on a group and individual level.  And I have used them to kickstart story ideas.

A few posts on tarot you might want to check out, in no particular order:

The Chariot

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Please see the intro post first!  You may also be interested in my post about how I work with my house of helens.  If this is something you’d like to know more about, the approach I have developed is similar to psychosynthesis.

Whilst this post is a deeply personal reflection on my inner chariot, I am sharing it as some of this will be useful for tarot readers and for those of you who aren’t, it might provide some thinking points for reflecting on your own inner warrior.

“I know building a relationship with my inner warrior is important for me to work on. She is confident and surefooted. I feel I can trust her judgement and that it will be clear”
– Me, 2016

“Warrior of the heart, deeply rooted in love and fiery passion for life. She is aligned with truth; she fiercely rips away your masks and pretences; that which is not in service to love is exposed and brought into question. She is wide awake, totally alive and brings fire medicine, through our bodies, to awaken us to the present moment and the authentic action needed to realign us with our own truth and spirit. She has been demonised by the patriarchy which lives inside us all and so, to some, she may induce fear and loathing: if we are not safe with our own power then her power threatens us. There is truth in her demonisation because to suppress any energy so totally will only cause it to become distorted, like a ‘demon’ who wants attention and healing to be restored into balance. We might get burnt a few times while we tame our dragons but, if we lock them in a cage, they might just burn the whole house down.”
– Tabitha Chambers

The Chariot is associated with Cancer, the crab, and as such carries with her some of the traits of that sign.  In particular, and important to me, is the dual aspect of her.  She has a hard, tough shell which she shows the world but inside that she is vulnerable and loving and emotional.  She is a fighter, appearing emotionless and fierce. She is gentle and her heart overflows with feelings and yet these are pushed down so she can fight on and on until she burns out. She is intense and courageous and protective. The walls she puts up to go to battle can become permanent if she is not careful.  Remember to put down the shield from time to time, you cannot fight well if your arms are tired.

She is a warrior, a campaigner, an advocate, a world changer.  She is a powerful, potent, empowered creature who owns her sexuality.  She is wild, courageous and wilful.  She pushes against injustice and uses her strength to help others.

She needs to remind us over and over: Do not lose yourself in your passion for helping others.  And be cautious about over helping or over nurturing.  She means well but the Chariot is prone to stiffling, she feels it is easier to do the work herself, she wants to help but in doing the work for others, she robs them of the chance to develop those skills.  Empower but don’t takeover.  Run like the wild horse you are, but don’t drag others along with you.  They will journey if they decide it is right for them, and if they do, it has to be in their own time.  Take time to understand whether you run from something or toward something.  Whilst you are filled with forward focused momentum there is still time to pause.

She is determined and single minded and this can lead to a blinkered view of things.  Her intense focus on the task at hand can cause her to lose touch of the other things she values.  This can include neglecting her personal relationships which she doesn’t intend to do but her drive overpowers her and her cause is all she can think of.  This is another reason she is vulnerable to burning out.

She knows she must understand herself and explore herself before she can know and explore the world.  Until she has done this self development, she cannot be her most powerful when it comes to changing the world.  And she thrives on these focuses, self and world.  Without this direction, her overflowing power becomes something that controls her rather than her controlling it.  Without a project, she loses her sense of self, her empowered nature and becomes impatient and frustrated and lashes out at those around her.

She goes into battle for her chosen causes so that she can bring love to others.  She is a war goddess and she is a goddess of love.  She holds both, intertwined.  If you look at the Rider Waite Smith tarot card, you see the charioteer is steering two horses, perhaps one is war and the other love?  Other explanations have suggested one is the inner self and one the outer self which ties in neatly with the cancer metaphor.  Similarly for the conscious and subconscious minds.

“This is not a warrior of the fearless kind but rather a deeper feminine warrior who feels fear and can meet it. She is able to experience all emotions in their purest form, bringing them through her heart in service to love, no matter how difficult. Fire burns in her psyche, aiding courage and bringing clarity to her thoughts, actions and words – she knows when to say yes or no, defining and protecting her boundaries, creating a safe structure to support the phases to come. Warrior woman is responsible, she keeps her commitments, she creates life for us based on freedom of choice, she stops us from taking and enduring other people’s nonsense, she gives voice to our truths and she connects us to the earth through her pure wild nature.”
– She Who Knows

If we look at her in context, she follows the lovers card.  Where the lovers are pulled by their emotions, their lusts and their desires like adolescents in the midst of hormones, the chariot controls her emotions.  Controls instead of being controlled by.  But after the Chariot comes the strength card.  Strength is neither controlling nor controlled by its emotions.  He is in harmony with them.  He feels them and releases them. He is the mature figure in emotional development.  We must remember that controlling our emotions is not the final stage of our journey.

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Many of the traits of my imaginary chariot are akin to those found in the wild unknown animal spirit horse card.  A card which closely resembles the chariot card.  Like the horse, my chariot cannot be tamed.  She cannot be controlled.  She will help me and she will work with me but she will not work for me.

My house of Helens

This post came out of the desire to write another post.  I was trying to combine them but it was getting rather epic and unfocused.  This post will also, hopefully, help me to talk about my helens with people which is something I find hugely helpful.

I think I’ve mentioned my imaginary Helens on here before but I can’t find the post and I don’t think I went into much detail.  Essentially, whilst I was in therapy, I “found” a younger version of myself and we worked with her around some stuff.  Then along came a big sister character followed by a maternal, matriarchal figure, Mana.  Then my inner warrior, who was incredibly burnt out, made herself aware to me but didn’t want to see me because I had overused her.  This was the chariot.  After therapy, I also found an older younger version called Hennie and she has a cat called Charlie.

I’ve been doing a lot of work with them on a one to one basis recently and I feel I have a lot stronger sense of Little Helen, Big Sister and Hennie.  But the Chariot and Mana still feel a bit distanced.  As I said, the chariot burnt out in terms of fighting.  This was the result of a long time of trying to get a house, trying to get a wheelchair, trying to get mental health support, trying to get work to become accessible and so on.

Each helen has a tarot card I associate with her and this has been helpful in terms of getting to know them and letting them speak through tarot.  The main reason for this post is just to give some background before I post about the chariot.  I tried writing it just for me and her as a way of getting to know her better but I do write more cohesively and coherently if it’s going on my blog…

Whilst my post will be deeply personal, it will also touch on elements of the relevant card and archetypes which I hope will be relatable to most people.  Even if you don’t have an imaginary helen in your head, you probably have a vague sense of an inner warrior or an inner child etc.

I know this is a very specific way of approaching personal development, self care etc but it really works for me.  I’d be very interested to know if anyone else does anything similar.  It all revealed itself very organically and in a really empowering way.  And continues to do so.  Like any relationship, it is necessary for me to slowly get to know them, to let them reveal what they are ready to share when they are ready.

Nothing I do with my helens is fully conscious.  For example, Hennie was struggling a lot to identify her needs, let alone try and get help meeting them.  Then one day I checked in with my house of helens and charlie cat had wandered into her life.  This is proving to be a really good way of helping her understand that it is ok to get your needs met, helping her identify charlie cat’s needs and hence her own and helping her learn how to ask for help.  If I had consciously sat down and tried to plan that, it wouldn’t have worked.  The same goes for the initial concept.  Had someone, a month before, told me I’d be working with imaginary helens as part of my therapy, I wouldn’t have taken them seriously…  I was really lucky that my excellent therapist went along on the journey with me, not pushing me into it and not pulling me away from it.