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

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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.

My Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Posts

So, as I’ve been writing my animal spirit posts, I’ve been printing them out and adding them to a ring binder so I can use my notes without being online.  Excellent idea but because I can only do one sided printing, they have filled two very full, and heavy, folders.  Not the most practical thing for someone who can’t lift heavy stuff…

So I got my Wild Unknown blog posts together in a big document and got it printed as an A5 book!  I’m so pleased!  I know it’s just a basic word document, printed by a print on demand document printing website, but it’s also a book!!!


I’m going to do the same with my Animal Dreaming posts and my random selection posts!

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.

Spirit: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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I can’t believe I’ve reached the end of this deck, it’s been such an interesting journey!  Things I’ve found out as I’ve worked my way through this suit in particular:

  • These are powerful creatures.  If you are familiar with tarot, these feel to me like the major cards.  These are cards which are taking us beyond body and mind and focusing much more on intuition, feeling and archetypes.
  • Within this suit, we see the other suits.  We have fire in the form of the phoenix, water in the form of the sea serpent, earth in the form of the dragon and air in the form of the unicorn.
  • There is a theme of spheres, eggs and circles, seen not only in the spirit sign but in each of the images.  The circle is a powerful symbol representing infinity, wholeness, eternity, cycles, protection and so much more.  We see the circle used over and over.  We have the wheel of fortune from tarot, the sun, the moon and the stars, we have the yin yang symbol.  The circle can be read as a zero; nothingness or the potential for everything.
  • The seven cards each represent one of the seven chakras.  I don’t know much about chakras but if this is something you want to know more about, buy the guide book.  To be honest, buy it anyway.  These posts are entirely my own thoughts and are very unofficial and not at all reflective of the guide book!  The guide book, whilst we’re on the topic, has information about each card including what the animal looks like in balance and out of balance and how to restore balance.  If I’m struggling with a card when I’m reading, I find this really helpful.

Cosmic Egg: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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We saw a couple of creation myths in the golden egg and black egg but these really come into their own with the cosmic egg.

The cosmic egg gave birth to the world so is the perfect card to end on (or start with…). It wasn’t an idea I was familiar with so this is probably a basic portrayal of this card, as with the other egg cards.

The egg in the card is possibly the Orphic Egg.  It was this cosmic egg from which the greek god Phanes hatched and who in turn created the other gods.  However the egg is vital to creation in many cultures and and features in so many myths.  The cosmic egg, or world egg or mundane egg, is the ultimate beginning from which either the universe came from or a mythical being came from who would then create the world.

Let’s take a quick tour of the world and see where and how the cosmic egg appears:

  • In Hindu traditions there are a number of creation stories but the one we’re interested in tells of the universe as a cosmic egg which cycles between expansion and total collapse.  This boom and bust idea gives me hope that we’ll get through all the rubbish stuff which is going on right now.
  • The Persian story explains that a god of good created a perfect spiritual world before creating the tangible world.  This made the god of evil so angry he burst through the cosmic egg which set the sun spinning and thus created days and night and the world as we know it.
  • In China we find the black egg also called the cosmic egg.  This as we saw previously contained a chaotic mix of yin and yang.  There was also a giant called Pangu within the egg and after many years he emerged and in doing so, separated the chaos out into it’s opposites.  Yin and Yang were separated, night and day, light and dark, land and sky.  Eventually Pangu started to die and as he did so, his breath became the wind, his body became the mountains and the parasites which lived on him became humans and thus the world was created.  This version of the creation myth uses duality as a fundamental principle which feels really important to me.
  • The Finnish tell a myth of the world being created from the fragments of an egg.
  • Chronos, the greek personification of time, produced an egg from which Phanes and hence the world hatched.

It is unsurprising that so many creation myths feature an egg, after all the egg is the ultimate symbol of fertility, of life, of birth, of creation.  We see eggs used in 17th century France by brides entering new homes, breaking an egg as they did so would ensure fertility.  If you want to meet your true love, place an egg in front of the fire on a stormy night.  As the storm picks up your love will come through the door and pick up the egg.

For anything associated with creation, we find mention of destruction.  The yin and the yang.  In this case, we find eggs left in tombs, eaten after funerals and we associate eggs with the death of Christ.

The egg is a strong feminine symbol and the universe emerging from an egg really emphasises to me the feminine aspect of the world, of nature, of everything.  How fucking powerful is the feminine that it can create everything.  And perhaps that explains patriarchy and women’s oppression – it must be terrifying to be faced with such immense innate creative power and we know that if we fear something, we try and kill it.

Oomancy is divination by eggs which seems interesting, particularly if you believe that life is all mapped out.  If you believe that then it seems only a short jump to the idea that the egg as a representation of the cosmic egg, contains a map of the future.

According to one theory, which I don’t know much about, there are various eggs which each represent the different stages of the process of creation.  Knowing this, perhaps we can see the golden egg, black egg and the cosmic egg as part of a narrative.  If this chimes with you, have a look for writings by H.P. Blavatsky.

These ideas of the world coming from a cosmic egg goes in two directions in my mind. On one hand, the universe can be a terrifying place and overwhelming and the idea that it fitted into an egg feels comforting. Particularly if you take the egg shell as a strong supporting boundary or mother figure holding us. I know we’ve cracked out of the egg but thinking about the universe still being in the egg feels useful to me. The other direction my thoughts are taken is around the potential and promise and creative energy that was in the egg and now in the universe and in turn in each and every one of us.

Unicorn: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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Unicorns are the spirit world’s horse, untameable like the zebra, and admired by many.  They are often portrayed as white which ties to their link of purity and virginal women.  They are elusive and powerful, fierce and admired.

We see unicorns in a number of cultures, including mention of it in ancient myths from India and China.  An ancient Greek writer tells of a creature with a white body, purple head, blue eyes and a long horn which was red at the tip, black in the middle and white at the bottom.  Although it seems odd to us today, this is probably a reference to a rhinoceros.

The bible mentions a horned creature called the re’em which some translations refer to as a unicorn.  There are a lot of articles online which discuss this and look at what the re’em really is but for our purpose, a look at the symbolism is perhaps more useful.  The unicorn is considered to be a symbol for Christ, the child of the virgin Mary as well as a symbol of virginity itself.  At the same time, the horn is considered to be a phallus but this makes more sense when we look at placement.  Instead of a penis which would be used to procreate, the unicorn is seen to have a horn which instead is used to connect with spirit, a symbol of spiritual connectedness.  The unicorn transcends sexuality and all the Christian connotations that come with it.  This idea is also visible in the use of unicorn amulets as a symbol of fertility and sexuality and the idea that the wearer would increase their sex appeal; something which seems at odds with the unicorn as “personification” of virginity…  This is a subject for another day but for a religion which likes to control sex, they do seem quite obsessed with it…

Unicorns have a spiral horn projecting from their forehead and this horn is said to have a number of magical properties including the ability to purify poison.  Their horns were considered highly valuable and there was a profitable trade in them, although most were narwhal horns.  The horn could also purify water and make it holy so that other animals could drink it.  This was one of the reasons why there was a lot of prestige attached to hunting them although it was said that only a virgin could capture them.

The horn is obviously a key aspect of this creature and it has been said that all their mighty strength lies in it.  We have touched on the horn as a link to the spirits and gods and this echoes the ideas we have seen with other horned animals.  The spiralled aspect of the horn is important to some people.  It is often depicted as two “threads” entwined around each other and in these images, one thread could represent the mundane and one the spiritual, one the inner self and one the outer consciousness, one earth and one heaven and so on.  As such, the unicorn horn then represents the interactions between these two “worlds” and link the tangible world to the spiritual one.  Thus the unicorn becomes a vehicle for us to reach the gods.