The Moon

I’ve somehow managed to misplace the photos I took of the moon cards… When I find them again, I’ll add it in.  In the meantime, you can find most of them on google images if you’re interested.

RWS and Pagan Cats

Both of these cards depict two creatures looking up at the moon, standing between two pillars with water in the foreground and a crayfish.  The moon is looking down on the scene and in the distance are hills.

This moon is glowing brightly but remember that the moon doesn’t shine her own light, she reflects that of the sun, which is currently hidden. Even in the dark, the sun is still there.  Like the moon reflects the sun, the subconscious reflects the world around us – inner experiences reach the outer mind through imagination, dreams and creative practices.

The moon casts shadows and distorts what we see, there is a strangeness to the world when the moon is out, nothing is quite what it seems.  Magic and mystery slides in the space between dark and light.

On the rws card, the two moon gazers are a dog and a wolf, representing the tamed and wild sides of ourselves.

“A werewolf howling under a full moon is a vivid metaphor of the power of the unconscious to bring out something primitive and non-human in the most respectable people.”
– Rachel Pollack

In the pagan cats, we have a cat and a dog instead, perhaps also representing the tamed and untamed but in a more subtle way – it has long been said that humans tamed dogs and cats tamed humans.

According to Pollack, the crawfish (I thought it was a lobster but I defer to her wisdom) at the bottom of the image is emerging from the water but will never completely come onto land, instead falling back again.  This feels a bit like the ebb and flow of the tide, a phenomenon which is itself a lunar process.  It also echoes the just out of reach-ness, just beyond seeing-ness that can permeate the moonlit night.

“The deepest terrors are the ones that never fully take shape.  We feel something inside, but we never see just what it is.”
– Pollack

Interestingly, the cat in the pagan cats appears to be lifting the crawfish out of the water suggesting an attempt or desire to pull that elusive thing out of the unconscious and into the conscious realm.  If you’ve ever tried to remember a dream, you’ll know how futile this is!

In tarot, we see two pillars as a gateway, such as that in the high priestess card.  Here we are standing on one side, on the side of the known, with the unknown or unknowable on the other side.

Wild Unknown

Where the RWS and pagan cats depict animals between pillars, the wild unknown is animal free but does feature two tall trees reaching skywards towards the crescent moon.  The sky is dark, the trees white and the moon golden and I find the simplicity of this card interesting for such a complicated meaning.

The image is a silhouette and this reiterates some of the ideas of not seeing clearly, not seeing all that is in front of you and things being distorted in some way.  The two trees are illuminated by the moon, they are depicted in white, and it suggests to me that we are being welcomed through the gate I mentioned in relation to the RWS card.  This gateway is encouraging you in, inviting you to explore your subconscious and dream world.  Make friends with the darkness, with what scares you, with your inner self.

Carrie Mallon makes an interesting observation about the wild unknown moon;

The ground is not visible in this card. The Moon is a energy that can make it hard to catch your bearings. Up might be down or down might be left might be right. This can lead to wildly imaginative adventures…or it can lead to confusion and anxiety. In the faint light of the moon, you question what is real and what is imagined, what is beautiful fantasy and what is pure madness.”

Lumina Tarot

A moon goddess looks to the reader, an amethyst circle behind her and the symbol of pisces etched in with the other details.  The book tells us:

“This is a card of intuitive and psychic strength – strong messages and insights are coming to you through your subconscious.”

Things aren’t always as they seem; deception, confusion and distortion rule here.  Fears are ever present, but in the shadows, you can find gold.  Through shadow work you can explore the darker parts of yourself consciously.  The moon can illuminate your subconscious self and if you embrace and work with it, you can harness your innate power and work towards an illuminated self.  Going through the moon realm, you can bring light to your unconscious self and grow.  It has a different power to the sun.  The sun directly feeds and nourishes our bodies, the moon gently encourages and invites us to feed and nourish our souls, ourselves.  The moon is no helicopter mom, the moon is the mother that gives you the resources, skills and knowledge and steps aside for you to discover things for yourself.

The moon encourages us to dive deep, to dream deep and to transform.

“This card is ruled by Pisces, who is, in a sense, afraid of nothing, being one with the Universe and the Universe contains all.  Remember that when pondering your fears by moonlight: this thing that so frightens you – is it inside you as well?”
– Michelle Tea

Animal Totem Tarot

Once again, we have two trees as pillars, with an owl flying in front of a full moon, over a body of water where the moon is reflected in ripples.  The great grey owl has a message for us:

“The light of the moon makes everything look different.  The trees seem to become bigger and everything around them looms like an unknown landscape… But the truth is that nothing has changed at all – merely the way you see it has changed.”

We see the world though our own unique lenses, through our experiences and emotions and this changes what we see.  We see what we expect to see, we see ourselves reflected in what surrounds us.  What each person sees will be different, will be slightly distorted by where we see it from and which pool we see it reflected in.

“How you see the Moon is deeply connected to how you see yourself.”

Further, each night we see the same thing differently.  Each night has a different amount of light which transforms what we thought was static, the trees, the water, these things change with the cycle of the moon.

As the owl swoops across the moon, she seems to grow.  Things in the dark can seem larger than they are.  What is it that you are escalating?  What do you think is bigger that it is?  Are you making mountains out of molehills?  On the flip side, what are you refusing to pay attention to?  What are you ignoring?  What is having to make itself bigger for you to notice?

Brady Tarot

The Brady Tarot moon is very similar to the animal totem tarot – two trees frame the image, an owl is in flight in front of a full moon and a body of water is underneath.  This card however also features the crawfish.  In addition, there are two coyotes in the background, one looking out of the card and the other howling to the moon.  Looking more closely and into the darkness we also find two opossoms in the trees.

Pollack describes the crawfish as symbolising the primitive, instinctual part of our self, the deep unconsciousness, a place where fears and wildness live:

“The owl and the crawfish show us the power of wild nature.  The coyotes react to this energy, but the opossoms remind us to simply accept without fear or judgement.”

This card, more so than the others I’ve looked at, illustrates the night as a realm of it’s own.  It has its own inhabitants and it’s own way of being and it’s own way of seeing.  To understand the moon realm, we must immerse ourselves in this world, become one of the characters and feel our way into the part, intuitively.

“Imagination in action.  Instinctive energy, dreams, the unconscious rising up to affect our lives.  Deep instincts that may disturb our daily life.  Animal energy, wildness.  The part of us governed by the phases of the Moon.”
– Rachel Pollack

It would be impossible to talk about the moon without also looking to some of the common lunar associations.  The moon is also about the feminine, about fertility, creation, mystery and power.  It is about the daily tides, the monthly menstruation cycles, the seasons and all of nature’s rhythms.  The moon asks us to embrace the circularity of life, the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs and to trust in the darkness and have faith that light will return.

Our Tarot

Mary Shelley is centered in the card, a full moon in front of her and what look like two horns behind her, perhaps an echo of the antennae of the crawfish?

Of course, Shelley is famous for Frankenstein, an amazing tale of the things that can happen in the night, in the imagination and what can occur when man made monsters are released onto the world.  With this we have themes of death and rebirth, of resurrection and transformations.  We lean into what can happen in the shadows, in strange dreams and fantasy worlds.

“Her chief childhood pastime was writing – “as a child, I scribbled” – and she found her own dreams and imaginings to be far more interesting than her daily life.”

I feel like Shelley is asking us to pay attention to our dreams, both night journeying as well as hopes and goals.  She is asking us to express those ideas we find in the moon light, whether that is in writing like her or in art or science or whatever it is that makes you feel most alive.

How can you draw inspiration from the world around you?  What transformations are currently taking place in your life?  What visions are you bringing to life?

“I stand to face my shadows, I learn from them and incorporate them to give myself greater power and agency”
Jessi Huntenburg

Advertisements

Wolfenoot

Have you come across the celebration of Wolfenoot, No Hate Only Snootboops? If not, don’t worry too much, it’s brand new and speaks to the amazing power of the internet for good.

A post appeared online earlier this year saying:

My son has invented a holiday called Wolfenoot.

It is when the Spirit of the Wolf brings and hides small gifts around the house for everyone. People who have, have had, or are kind to dogs get better gifts than anyone else.

You eat roast meat (because wolves eat meat) and cake decorated like a full moon.

A holiday to the spirit of wolves that celebrates people who are kind to dogs? I can 100% get behind this. So we will be celebrating Wolfenoot. It’s on the 23rd November if anyone else is moved to celebrate it. 😉 If you do, please post pics, so he can see how his idea has spread.

If you’re posting publicly about it, use #wolfenoot.

Wolfenoot has captured the public’s imagination and it rapidly spread. I love the idea and I love how much interest it’s attracted. As such, it was only appropriate that I celebrated wolfenoot! Yes, despite my severe allergy to dogs and probably wolfs… The young creator of wolfenoot has made it clear that any animals, pets or not, can take part.

The moon and meat are important in the celebration of wolfenoot but vegetarian options are available. The small presents scattered around the home may include lego, books and treats for pets. It is also encouraged to donate to animal related charities or volunteer if you can.

So, the plan was to spend some time outside, to try and see the full moon (it’s been a long time since I spent any time outside at night and thus have had limited moon views and even less star gazing time), to take part in themed art and themed film watching. My house of Helens were keen to involve bubbles and wolf music seemed appropriate too…

The day began with art in the park, Wolf themed of course.

Followed by a quiz to establish where in the Wolf pack we would rank.  It turns out I’m the wolf pup of the group…

I tried to find a Wolf film but landed on the dog centric The Secret Life of Pets! After the film came a moon themed tarot reading. The evening walk was lovely and fresh but lacking in moon and star sightings which was disappointing as I was really looking forward to seeing the moon. To round things off, I read a North American Wolf story from the beautifully illustrated A World Full Of Animal Stories.

IMG_20181123_185625_491.jpg IMG_20181123_185625_490.jpg

I hope you had a howly wolfenoot!

Some canine related links…

Scapegoats: Werewolves and Vampires

As well as familiar animals, extinct or not, as scapegoats, we also find supernatural scapegoats.  I’m going to look primarily at werewolves but with a side of vampire and if you’re interested in finding out more about non-animal scapegoats, just take a look at the history of witches.

Whilst I’m focusing on werewolves, it’s important to note that different were animals exist all over the world, generally using the local apex predator as the beast in question.  So we find weretigers, werehyenas and werebears accordingly.  But the werewolf was the European version of this monster.

Werewolves

Were means man so werewolf just means man wolf.  But wolves themselves can be scapegoats.  We see them as devilish, as destructive and as causing chaos.  They are mysterious, unknown, uncontrollable and a threat to humans.  They have also come to be associated with sexual drive, sexual predators and as wild and untameable.  All traits which society doesn’t tend to like, today or in the past.

Monsters, including wereanimals, chart our history of fear.  They act as vessels to place all our worries and fears onto.  Like we saw with the badger, it is easier to have a physical, identifiable thing to use as a scapegoat than it is to live alongside an unknown, unseen monster.

We are terrified of not being at the top of the food chain and apex predators make this threat real and thus wolves and hence werewolves become our enemies.  Werewolves and other wereanimals in particular seem to pose a particular threat because they can move between the civilised society of humans and the wild world of the wolves.  This creates unpredictability, uncertainty and distrust at a time when fear of the unknown was already rife.  In addition to transcending the two halves of the world, werewolves had the addition image problem that the wolf part of them was untameable and hence the werewolf could not guarantee the containment of the beast inside them.  This all echoes a war between instinct and rational, blurring the lines between man and nature at a time when a strict hierarchy was in place.

Aside: because men were higher up that hierarchy, it was seen as more of a tragedy that they were werewolves than for women.  We see female werewolves portrayed as embracing their wolfness whereas male werewolves struggle against it, seeing themselves as victims of fate.  This means female werewolves are less angsty and more comfortable in their wolf skins.  The colonial European discourse also placed non white werewolves as a more natural concept than white male werewolves…  Even in wolf fur you can’t escape racism and sexism…

The earliest known account of werewolves is in the Epic of Gilgamesh, 4000 years ago.  In 8AD, Ovid’s Metamorphoses included a story where a king, Lycaon, was punished by a god and turned into a werewolf:

Lycaon himself ran in terror, and reaching the silent fields howled aloud, frustrated of speech.  Foaming at the mouth, and greedy as ever for killing, he turned against the sheep, still delighting in blood.  His clothes became bristling hair, his arms became legs.  He was a wolf, but kept some vestige of his former shape.  There were the same grey hairs, the same violent face, the same glittering eyes, the same savage image.

Then in around 10th century France we see the tale of little red riding hood which casts the wolf as evil, and in some tellings the wolf is actually a werewolf.  A little later, in 1180s, there is an account from Gerald of Wales about werewolves in Ireland, which included the first known record of a female werewolf.  And also in the 12th century, we have a tale from Marie de France about a werewolf.  However it seems to be around the 14th and 15th century that belief in werewolves took hold in Europe and with it, the idea of the bloodthirsty, ruthless killer who murders for pleasure not for food.  Following this, in the 16th century, we find evidence of werewolf trials.

These were blatant persecutions of the “other”.  Monsters often live at the edge of society, close enough to pose a threat but not so close that people see them as human. This meant that a certain type of person was more at risk of werewolf accusations.  People who were a drain on the village or town were also vulnerable, especially during times of famine and economic difficulties. Old people and disabled people were at risk, as were outsiders who had no emotional connection to the locals.  If you don’t have enough food for your own family, you don’t want any going to the stranger who just rocked up and wanted his share.

As well as a way of scapegoating outsiders, werewolves acted as projections of the inner beast*, projecting your fears about yourself onto someone or something else.  The behaviour of werewolves was considered to be animalistic and this unhuman behaviour in itself was to be feared and not tolerated.  Remember this was a time when humans were trying to control everything around them – we had the witch trials, animals hanged for murder and pests taken to court for eating crops.  In addition to the fear of the uncivilised wolf, the werewolf has the added danger of being part human.  They inhabit a liminal space between man and beast and act as a reminder of how close we all are to animals.  Being neither man nor beast, yet belonging to both, the werewolf traverses boundaries without any consequence and hence traverses the law.

The nature of werewolves has changed over time but in the middle ages they were considered to be shapeshifters who took on the literal form of the wolf and remained responsible for their actions.  We have evidence of a number of werewolf trials and know that on the whole, they took place in isolated communities where there were actual wolves living.  They were often overseen by the church at a time when Christianity was looking for scapegoats…

Werewolves of Poligny, 1521: The account of this was recorded 70 years later so isn’t great from an evidence point of view.  During this trial, 3 people were accused and tortured.  It was said they had magic salve from Satan which turned them into wolves.  Sympathetic wounding, where the wound on a werewolf matched that of the man, was used as evidence.

Giles Garnier, Burgundy, 1573: Something was kiling sheep and children and permission was given to citizens to kill the beast.  Garnier was an outsider, he was disliked, had an unpleasant manner and was poor.  Essentially he ticked all the boxes for a scapegoat.  Claims were made that the wolf looked like Garnier and he later (presumably under torture) confessed.  He claimed that a spectre appeared and offered him a cream which would transform him into a wolf and make it easier for him to hunt.  As Garnier was struggling to provide for his new wife he took the cream and went on to murder at least four children.  The first alleged victim was a 10 year old girl that he strangled.  He then removed her clothes, ate some of her flesh and took some more home to his wife.  The next attack was interrupted by a passerby but the girl in question had already been injured and went on to die several days later.  There were also attacks on boys and Garnier was found guilty of crimes of lycanthropy (werewolfism) and was burned at the stake.  More than 50 witnesses claimed to have seen him carrying out his heinous crimes.

Over time, the idea of a werewolf became one more like a psychological illness.  There was this idea of having fur on the inside so that whilst someone could appear human, they were really living by wolf instincts.  This, from a scapegoat point of view, meant anyone could find themselves labelled as a werewolf.  In particular, outsiders, people who didn’t fit it and people who might be a bit odd could find themselves in trouble.

Today, werewolves are portrayed slightly differently.  The link with the full moon is apparently a recent, cinematic addition as is the contagious bite.  Werewolves are still shown as the underdog, often as subservient or less to the vampires.  Although it is said that only a werewolf can kill a vampire…

Vampires

A lot of the motivations and concepts behind vampires are the same as those for werewolves and other monsters.  They are blamed for misfortune and for terrorising people however they have undergone more transformation over the years than the werewolf.

In the early days of vampires, they weren’t blood suckers, that came in the 19th century, and the main fear was due to their immortality.  They inhabited the borderland between life and death and that terrified people.  They weren;t the handsome and charming creatuers of Bram Stoker’s novel, they were filled with disease and pestilence and thus posed a seemingly real threat to people.  These vampires were said to kill people by spreading illness.

Again, we see trials surrounding alleged vampires with various forms of evidence.  Some was around a lack of expected decay in the corpse and another form of evidence was that an unnatural amount of people got sick shortly after the vampire had died.  Obviously there had to be reasons to suspect a vampire before you dug up a corpse.

Accusations tended to follow when there had been an unusual amount of death.  This made people nervous and they needed something to blame it on so that then it could be controlled.  The corpses became the scapegoats.  This also meant that vampires became associated with the plague, and hence with rats and pests.

Within these trials are a number of other themes; the dead person often died young and unexpectedly in a violent way, they were disliked in life, a high number of ghost sightings after their death, growth of hair and nails, blood at the mouth of the corpse and “wild signs” (an erection).  Bodies were dug up to check for evidence and if a vampire was suspected, a stake was put through them to pin them to the ground or the corpse was burnt.

Then, with the publication of Dracula in 1897 we saw a very different kind of vampire popularised.  This vampire was an outsider at a time when people were starting to move around a bit more and Stoker probably used this to prey on people’s fears and unsettled feelings.  He was also hard to spot, being a well dressed man who was a successful seducer, not at all what you would expect from a vampire if you were familiar with the older versions.  This contributed to the popular image of the vampire as intelligent, clean and well turned out.  Apparently it was also Dracula which solidified the association between vampires and bats although it had been around as an idea previously, Stoker just made it more popular.

The modern vampire appears deceptively human and yet they are without a soul, who knows what they will get up to.. They are still repeatedly cast as other, such as foreigners or sexually deviant creatures but are now more likely to brood than disgust.


*This way of projecting the dark parts of ourselves onto others is something that Jung calls the shadow self and is an interesting topic of its own.

Wolf: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

wp-1484329847495.jpg

The lone wolf… I want to get this out of the way because I think the concept of the lone wolf is not a helpful one when it comes to this card.  We have this idea of a rebellious, angst ridden loner but in reality wolves are social animals.  A lone wolf may arise when an adult male challenges the leader of the pack and the loser is then pushed out.

The reality of this solitary existence is tough.  It is much harder for a single wolf to hunt and to survive.  For example, one on one a male elk would have the advantage; the wolf needs his pack to make this kill.  Lone wolves are most likely to be looking for a new pack,  the place they fit in, a tribe of other wolves who understand them.  Have you found your clan yet?

“The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
– Rudyard Kipling

On the subject of packs, wolf packs consist of an alpha male, an alpha female and other wolves who all have a defined place in the team.  This means that when they are hunting, they can carry out highly coordinated and successful teamwork.  These loyal animals have a strong sense of brotherhood (or sisterhood) which helps the wolves survive and are much more nurturing than some stories would have you believe.

What can you do for your own tribe?  Where do you fit in your tribe?

A lot of how we see wolves comes from our historic relationship with them as hunters.  In some countries they are feared and seen as creatures of evil because they kill livestock.  In other countries they are revered.  For example in Japan, the wolf has been worshipped because it kills the deer which eat the crops.  How you feel about the wolf depends on where you’re standing.

One of the many things I love about nature is the symbiotic and mutually helpful relationships that have evolved.  The wolf is no exception, working with the raven to find prey.  Flying overhead, the raven can spot prey that the wolf can’t and led the wolves to the food.  In return, they get a share of the kill.  There is no raven in the Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck but once I’ve made it through all the creatures, I may do a post about them as I think getting to know coexisting species adds to our understanding.

Wolves are in their prime during the colder months, utilising the weakness of other species during winter to bring them down more easily.  As cubs, they play with each other to fine tune their hunting skills, this also serves to help strengthens the bonds between the pack.  Their success as predators comes down to the combination of intelligence and their instinct.  They listen to their gut and act, fast.  They can’t sit around thinking and umm-ing and arr-ing and doubting themselves, they have to trust the feeling and go for it.

When it comes to communication, wolves are excellent.  They have their well known howls which can be used to share messages with the pack as well as to mark their territory.   This is very important for this highly territorial creature who will defend their space if it is encroached on.  In terms of our own lives, most of us have very clearly marked physical territory – our home, our car, our desk at work – and these are generally not threatened.  But what of our beliefs and our values?  This seems particularly crucial right now given the world’s political situation.  How are you standing up for your beliefs?  For your values?  When it comes to defending your territory, there is safety in a pack and strength in numbers, have you found yours?

We have this iconic image of the wolf howling at the moon.  In terms of symbology, the moon is linked with our unconscious self, with mystery, with the shadows.  To howl at the moon is going beyond glancing at the unknown, beyond saying hi to it and is full on shouting here I am, I see you and I’m not afraid of you.  This echoes the strength, bravery and boldness of the wolf.

At the other end of the scale is silent communication through body language, essential if you’re trying to stalk prey!  They also communicate through their sense of smell.  Again, this is used to mark territory as well as communicate social position and as a signal that a female is ready to breed*.  How are you communicating?  What is your body saying that your mouth is not?  Are you listening to what others are saying or are you too busy thinking of a reply to really hear them?

I was watching a documentary about wolves and a man who knew a lot about them said:

“the wolves are dust, they can neither be read, nor be captured”

I couldn’t figure out whether he said read or bred but both make sense, with “read” invoking a sense of mystery which surrounds the wolves.  This unknown element of the wolf is probably heightened by their preference to avoid humans.  In areas where wolves venture into human worlds, its generally because their own habitat has been encroached on.

If he said bred, that also makes sense – despite domesticating dogs, we haven’t been able to tame wolves.  They remain wild and a symbol of the wilderness.  Something which sometimes scares us, partly as it is unknown but perhaps because there is something uncontrollable about it.  Something untameable.  And yet, the wolf has tamed it, or at least found a way to live in this environment.  I watched a great video about the wolf which unfortunately I can’t find and it talked of the contradiction between the wildness of the wolf and the order and organised nature of its pack.  It can be hard to see how structure and the chaos of the wilderness can work together but the wolf shows us that not only is it possible, it’s advantageous.  Without their pack system, the wolf would not survive in this habitat.

Like the fox, these enigmas have been associated with shapeshifters in folklore and it is possibly this which has led to the idea of the werewolf.  In turn, this concept further enhances the idea of wolves as terrifying and dangerous.

Personally, I think this noble, loyal creature has had a bit of a PR nightmare and we should look past this to see it for what it truly is; an intelligent, highly skilled communicator with a dedication to family.


*random bit of information: when wolves mate they become locked together for up to half an hour…