Monday, November 23, 2015

on being in motion

The eight of wands, or Sticks as this deck calls them, is a card that speaks of being in motion, of movement - whether that be physical, literal, or in thought and realization. It is a card of going, of doing, of energy. It can also be the card of swiftness, of needing to act and to decide now rather than later, of acting in the moment.

Here we see three women moving, running and leaping forward through the woods. The women resemble each other in appearance and motion, but each goes about her way at different speeds, on the ground or almost sailing in the air above it. Their bodies are flexible, bending and stretching as far as needing to move past the trees, their obstacles.

I had a bit of a busy couple of days - not in the sense of doing anything significant or important, but just...places to go, people to see, buses to other cities to take. I have trouble not getting exhausted and overwhelmed sometimes by the logistics, particularly since I'm out of the habit of doing very much at once, lately.

Here, I see a reminder - sometimes you just need to keep moving, get your shit together and go where you need to go, do what you need to do; sometimes you just have to do whatever it is now, not later. In helps to remember that there are different ways of being in motions, different approaches to getting where you need to go, ways to adjust to your needs and capabilities; it helps to remember to be flexible, to remember that you are dynamic - make it work for you, the swiftness.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

inspiration or hope in unusual places and ways

Just a quick little two-card general advice/food for though draw with another favorite deck, Tarot of the Absurd.

First thought: two majors in such a small spread suggest quite the strong message indeed - interesting.

We have paired The Star and Justice. The Star is a familiar card, featuring as is did in the Thoth two-card reading I posted the other week. A theme, the fact that it is showing up in deck after deck? But look, how different the card is here, both from the imagery of the Thoth's and from the traditional RWS and clones. Here there is no woman reaching up to grasp, nor pouring water from a jug, nothing so esoteric. Instead we have a more bizarre image - A woman walking, perhaps even prancing over the heads of strange beasts, each of of them distinct in their oddity. She is looking down at them with a pair of binoculars, inspecting, fascinated.

Next to her we have a more familiar image for Justice, a sort of classical figure but for the fact that she seems to be dancing, or perhaps entering into some kind of performative fighting stance, rather than standing still and stoic as we more often see her. She has her sword, and her scales, and in this deck she is blindfolded, weighing without seeing what. Her scales are balanced, one empty, the other with a stream of feathers - a reference perhaps to mythology, Maat - falling out of it.

The message I see here:

That inspiration, that hope, that 'dreams' and goals and finding a way to live, are not thing we can only find in the abstract, in pondering, in books. They do not always have to be high-minded things, the products of so much thought, the kind of thing that sounds impressive. Nor do they have to be like anything you would expect, and they do not have to be distant, theoretical things. No, inspiration, healing or hope can be found in things that are strange and even ugly, unpleasant perhaps at first; they can be things mundane, unremarkable to most people, small; they can be found in the world around you, the things you walk over and past and through, the things that grab your attention and hold it and leave you longing to see more, know more, to do it again. And sometimes, finding these things and holding onto them means pushing past that first instinct to judge against already held notions, or to weigh the pros and cons logically and put into organized thoughts emotions you cannot explain. Sometimes it means trying something blind, knowing that there are things, perhaps even significant things that you just do not know, cannot know; it means going in blind, willfully, and that can feel like some kind of tricky, dangerous dance, and it might be tempting to question, to overthink, 'should I, should I really?' and weigh things against what ought and what should. Indeed, sometimes you must recognize that scary and unknowable and bizarre might be worth it even if you don't know why and how and, within reason, go ahead and see, give it a chance.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

worries and avoidance

I thought I'd try a free-association exercise with a simple one card draw, just writing whatever comes to mind. Here be the result, using the Silicon Dawn, another of my favorite decks.

We see a woman standing in an open doorway, shoulders hunched, posture defensive. Behind here we see a pair of arguing figures, silhouettes, the tone of the conflict made clear but without details. The color here is red, although that is less specific to the card, and more a function of the fact that the Silicon Dawn is that odd deck that associates disks with fire and wands with earth. The Thoth would calls this card Worry, an appropriate jumping off point given the imagery:

Worry, perhaps, but also a discomfort, and that kind of smothering anxiety that makes you feel like you are crawling out of your skin, and dread. You hate conflict, hate being a part of it, especially the yelling, screaming kind of conflict; now that you are an adult you have the freedom to refuse that much, at least - reasonable adults should not resort to screaming at one another, and people that do are people who would scream at you are people you will refuse to continue to associate with. There are, however, so many other kinds of conflicts, calm ones, passive-aggressive ones you can't always even recognize with any accuracy, petty conflicts with strangers. There is the dull dissatisfaction found in absences, the conflicts you choose not to have for lack of energy or because it seems futile to get into it, the things you teach yourself to just live with. There are the things you did not want but agreed to, because to say no would mean conflict that felt, at the time, too overwhelming. There are, too, the conflicts entirely of your own making, the ones in your head, the ones that don't even make sense if you try to put them into words, but which gnaw away at you in your own brain.

That jagged slash of air across the woman's dress, that disconnect, that sense of dissociation that sometimes comes when things are too difficult otherwise, the way you can, for a while at least, stare at nothing and feel nothing regardless of what is going on around you. You can turn you back on the conflicts, the worries, the things you dread, for a time. You can distract yourself and try to pretend you do not hear them, but the doorway is open after all, and they are there, and eventually you will have to deal with it, the feelings and the thing that is causing those feelings. You can only stand hunched in a doorway for so long before you must choose, in or out, and go with it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

a look at myself

The following is an abridged version of the Planetary Personality Spread shared by a member of the local tarot meetup group during her presentation last Saturday. The planetary positions on an astrological chart are used as a basis for the card positions in the spread. I thought my reading using this spread was rather on point, so figured I'd post it here.

1. The Ascendant
Your persona, what people see when they first meet you, the mask you present to the world.

As the title of the card would suggest, Temperance is in many ways traditionally a card of balance, of having patience and taking care, of moderating influences. In the Thoth, the card is called Art, Alchemy, in emphasis of the  mixing of the water in the cups, of experimenting and creating, combining, synergy and evolution. In the Nusantara, I see aspects of both of these takes: here, the figure looks harmonious, calm, at ease, carefully balancing and mixing; but there is a certain enthusiasm, a look of energy and enjoyment lacking in the traditional RWS artwork. She still has one foot in the water and one out of it, but the positioning looks more precarious, the water more roiling, the land more like the edge of a cliff. She almost looks like she could be dancing, and yet, is still quite absorbed in her task, the mixing.

What does this suggest about the persona I present to the world? A woman who tries to appear light, at ease, not particularly burdened; someone who wants to appear together, reasonable and trustworthy in their approach to the things they do; someone who very much enjoys experimenting and mixing various perspective, interests, hobbies, etc., even things one might not think very complementary or mixable; someone who tries to downplay the precarious nature of the ground she stands on (or not) and someone who has a hard time actually committing to any one thing, one foot here and one foot there.

2. The Sun
Your basic personality and temperament, your core behaviors, what drives you.

The five of cups generally signifies grief, loss, disappointment, despair, regret. Sometimes it speaks of necessary grief, the need to see harsh reality for what it is, process, and move on; other times it speaks to dwelling on the negative, fixating on what is broken and spilled and gone rather than that which you still have. Here we see a dark-clad figure staring down at the three ups whose water has spilled on the ground, back to the two cups still standing. Grey pervades the background, giving a melancholic air to the surroundings.

What does this say about my basic personality, temperament and behaviors? Well, it suggests a person who has a melancholic type of approach to life, a person that perhaps struggles with depression and has for a very long time, but also a person who has always, even in childhood, had a tendency to fixate on the negative rather than the positive aspects of a situation, a person who dwells on losses, even of small, petty things, someone who has trouble seeing things, as they themselves at least, with hope; someone who inspects and dissects what went wrong, who does not allow themselves to forget even when they do, mostly, move on.

3. The Moon
Your private side, your inner self, your core [emotional] needs.

The seven of wands shows us a man, armed with a stave and standing in a defensive position, ready to fend off attacks - from who we cannot see, only their staves, rising up towards him, fencing him in. The seven of wands generally signifies struggle, facing and overcoming challenges and opposition, perseverance, valor, fighting on even when things seem hopeless.In this deck, the man stands on the precipice of what looks like it could be a waterfall, bright colors of his clothes contrasting with a dull-colored background. He looks determined. Small sprigs grow out of the staves both he and his opposition hold.

What is this showing of my inner self, my core needs, the private me? We see someone who, though very much not a fan of any sort of conflict (notice how peaceful the mask that temperance presents above is, how uninterested and seemingly unprepared for any such engagements), is nonetheless, when backed against a wall (or the metaphorical precipice of a waterfall), responds with defiance; not anger, necessarily, and not confidence or enthusiasm, but a kind of grim, determined defiance. This is a person who sees themselves as alone in such conflict much of the time, who may not even really care about the outcome, hell, would happily throw themselves down that waterfall, but who will not be pushed, or goaded. This is a person who will not be controlled or made to do anything against their will, and whose sometimes terribly strong desire to give up is balanced by that drive to keep fighting, a person more motivated by defiance, even of oneself, that any kind of ambition or desire.

4. Mercury
How you communicate and think, your intellect and ideas.

Last we have the ace of swords, traditionally signifying  sharp thinking, insight, mental clarity, analysis and reasoning through logic, new and original thoughts and ideas, realizations, objectivity, intellectual impulses. Representing the element of air, we see the sword in this ace grasped by a hand reaching out from within a whirl of clouds; crowned, it stands against a background of long, unbroken blue sky.

How does this describe the ways in which I communicate and/or think, my thoughts and ideas? Someone who thinks deliberately, someone who values and relies and logic, objective and internal, whose judgement and even emotional responses are predicated on logical analysis. This is someone who is capable of great insight, into herself and into others, though insight does not necessarily mean appropriate action in response; someone who loves to think, and who thinks independently, sometimes very unusually; someone who is driven more by intellectual rather than mundane concerns; someone who thinks deeply but also someone who over-thinks habitually, especially when it comes to most forms of communication; and someone who is open to considering other perspectives, to a point, but who, once a decision or a realization is made, is quite capable of cutting off completely certain paths of thoughts and action, rightly or wrongly, and utterly unwilling to reconsider that which has been culled from possibility.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

realities and dreams

(I've been working my way back into tarot things with small 1-2 card draws. Figured it was time to try to work my way into writing about them too...)

Right now, what do I need to know, remember to keep in mind, understand and internalize?

For me, the Thoth is a deck I've been able to read intuitively since I first picked it up, but also one with many layers to delve into and expand on; it's also a deck that tends to give me kick in the ass type blunt messages and answers, but in a positive way. This quick draw is no exception, it would seem.

We have the The Star and the Queen of Wands, and right away the visual juxtaposition is striking: two powerful female figures side by side, a study in contrasts. The Star is sinuous, flexible; her body, like the water she pours, seems to flow. She seems softer somehow, yet also more distant, unearthly in color, unknowable with her face turned away, looked elsewhere, grasping up. The Queen, on the other hand, appears more rigid, still, looming rather than flowing. Her card is awash with warm colors, she herself abstracted yet still recognizable as a real person. She is also much more direct, face forward and head tilted downwards, slightly, towards the reader. Another difference: the star is alone on her distant planet; the Queen sits with her feline companion, resting one hand on its head.

The Star traditionally represents hope, but also inspiration. It speaks of cleansing, of healing, of reaching farther for more. In this pairing, the color contrast brings to mind the logic-feeling dichotomy - the Star speaking to the intellect, to high ideas pondered in the abstract, to possibilities, to 'dreams. The Queen, meanwhile, speaks to more pragmatic concerns, to the actual person behind the big ideas, the person that needs those little material comforts and needs to wonders how to even try to approach the big picture, and yes, in this case, to emotion.

It might seem a bit strange, that the card that represents inspiration, healing, hope, insight would represent the logical part of my mind rather than the emotional, but it makes sense. Tell me to FEEL hope, to think with feeling about what I want in life, what I would like to do, where I might be going, and you will not get much of a satisfying response. How does one even feel things like that, emotionally? My mind is too much a mess most of the time to know. No, it is the intellectual, the logical that has always driven me: my love of learning and knowing all the things, and the things my need to know has lead to to learn, and my desire to do something about them, to make some kind of a positive difference, my love of knowing even if the thing I am getting to know is unimaginably depressing, everything I have ever reached and grasped for has stemmed from that part of me. The distant, spacey, sometimes lacking in common-sense and too detached from reality thinking part of me is all of that. Here, I think this Star is a reminder, to think about those things, those ideas, those interests that have inspired me in the past to anything of substance I've managed to do, think about what I would reach for if I thought I could, think detached from reality for a moment if I must but yes, that part of me is the one that can imagine how to change things, what to aim for, the part that might just find enough motivation in the big-picture sense.

If the Star is talking about what I need to do in a larger sense, the Queen of Wands here refers to the question of how, how to actually do something, how to actually grasp hold of that and actually DO something with it, some real progress: a reminder of confidence, of holding onto the things you know you are good at, the things you KNOW you can do, cultivating some kind of sense of self-assurance, self-confidence, an independent strength that nonetheless does not mean alone because a bit of comfort and assistance here and there is fine, is good, but you must cultivate that sense of what YOU can do, what you must do for yourself, turn what enthusiasm you can muster in the intellectual abstract ideas into creative energy, into some self-assurance, into some kind of determination that you WILL do this or that because you MUST and because you CAN. She is surrounded by spikes of flame, and of course fire burns, can hurt, but pain, too, is something you know well, can handle, if you just mentally prepare yourself for it, accept it, work through it.

So in summary: let your intellect and logical mind think and find and remember the things you care enough to reach for, however far away they seem, and then, approaching the how to, remember you strengths, that it may be difficult and it may hurt but know that you can do it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Stillness and Motion

(The Prisma Visions Tarot is a full-color version of the Light Visions Tarot I've written about previously, and the only deck I've bought for myself in over a year, also through Kickstarter. The quality of both decks is amazing. More information on artist's website, if anyone is interested.)

It's been months and months since I've done much of anything with my decks, months since I've written anything substantive at all. I first pulled out the Thoth because it is a comfort deck of sorts, at this point, but the cards were at once too familiar and too distant, a reminder that my reading skills have gotten a bit rusty. And so, perhaps a new deck for a new perspective...

The five of pentacles - the card of misfortune, of bad breaks, of poverty and ill health, of crisis, of loss and lack and falling down without the energy to get up. The Thoth titles this card Worry, and yes - instability, insecurity, they do tend to produce that.

The traditional RWS image is of a pair of cripples and beggars staggering through heavy snow, passing a wall and a stained glass window that brings to mind, for me at least, a church. Here, however, we have something a good bit more intriguing. The man is no longer stumbling forward. He has collapsed, too tired or lacking the will to go on. He is alone. More interesting still - there is no snowstorm howling around him; if anything, the background looks rather peaceful, warm. No, the snow is raining down on him only from out of that stained glass window, which here is tucked into a crumbling wall rather than a solid edifice. The window retains its vaguely church-like appearance, the lingering remnant of some kind of authority - but how much of an authority is it now, half-exposed in a wall to nothing that is quite clearly falling apart? The snow only falling down from that one window is so suggestive of the power of perspective, the limits of focusing on that one point. What would happen if the man were to crawl away a bit further - he turns his back to the window, but also to everything beyond it; his eyes linger on the snowflakes falling, the cold. Perhaps he is hungry - there is that fruit there, high up in the branches of the tree, but how could a man so tired, so listless and worn, hope to climb up that high? It is easier, surely, to focus on the familiar, even if it freezing and miserable.

The eight of wands next to it is even more of a contrast to the traditional imagery. In the RWS and direct derivatives, we usually have some variation of eight staves flying through the air as though thrown forward. The Thoth calls this card Swiftness, showing a prism, a rainbow, bolts of energy thrusting outwards. In either case it is a card that speaks of momentum, of rapid motion, of channeling energy and taking action, of progress, initiative, change. Here, though, the image rather strikingly seems to be one of stillness: the wands stand in place, vertical, as the thin trunks of young trees. In the background we have reeds, the hint of sunrise or sunset against still waters. If someone asked me how I thought it sounded like, inside this image, I would say quiet, it looks quiet there.

And yet - look closer, study the image for a bit longer, and you notice how odd it is, really, all those colorful flowers just blossoming like that, directly from the trunks of the trees. You see the white wisp of energy, of motion, of something curling and climbing up the rightmost of the trunks, the wands. It is, perhaps, a more subtle kind of motion than the stave flying through air, smaller, simpler, but perhaps that is the point - this is something graspable.

Something graspable, something slow and grasping, something crawling, dragging itself up.

Someone might tell that man collapsed in front of that window to drag himself up by his bootstraps, to stand, to walk away from that ennui and cold. Yes, you have lost so much, yes, you are tired and so very cold, but see what kind of a difference just a few steps would make? You could climb over that crumbling wall easily to the other side, see what is on the other side, see what that bit of the world is like, try. Someone could say, and it would be words, all of it, sounds, abstract and distant and a little unreal, everything. Unreal, the word could, to a person too exhausted to want to exist any longer, too tired to want to bear any more weight, a person simply done with trudging, a person capable of finding a sort of numbing comfort in pain. Swiftness, momentum, the thought of sending staves arcing through the air in rapid motion - that kind of effort is laughable, when one doesn't have the energy to stay standing.

But that climbing shoot, that barely visible at first glance, perhaps that is graspable. Perhaps the man could crawl, inch by inch, a bit further away from that too-familiar window, that stream of snow. Perhaps that crawling, grasping might turn into something more, in time. How much energy does it take, to find motion again in the quiet stillness of broken, crumbling ruins?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The nature of the rut in which we are stuck

As the title suggests, I have indeed been feeling rather stuck in a rut when it comes to most dealing with life type things for a good few months, and have been growing increasingly frustrated with the situation. This has not, unfortunately, been particularly conducive to getting back into the swing of things with working with the cards. This afternoon I decided to try to kill two birds with one stone and ease myself back into more regular tarot reading/blogging by pulling a few cards from my all-time favorite deck, the Nusantara tarot. 

So - some advice about what to do about getting out of this negative/unproductive state I seem to be stuck in lately...

It's funny how illuminating a simple two card draw can be. After looking at these for a few moments, I realized that what I have is both the a description of the crux of the issue, and a general guide to the solution.

The World card, of course, represents accomplishment, self-improvement, fulfillment. It shows the unity of various aspects of the self, and celebrates what this can achieve. It is ostensibly the 'goal' towards which one strives, and in this context, it certainly represents a better head-space than the one I've been in of late. What's interesting here, however, is that here it appears first, the position suggesting foundation rather than endpoint.

One the other hand, we have the Eight of Cups. The traditional RWS imagery of this card always brings to mind nostalgia for me. This card speaks of the things you walk away from, the things you might desperately miss but need nonetheless to leave behind.  In the Thoth, this card is titled Indolence - that too fits, indicative of the consequences of not turning your back. The alternative of moving forward is to wallow... a self-indulgence whether it be laziness, self-pity or whatever else. The card is not, however, all about the those cups the man walks away from - the point is also the mountains he is walking towards, the new path forward and toward the unknown.

That image, following (rather than preceding) the World card, points to the crux of the message for me here, I think: that I need movement and forward momentum to thrive. Most of all, I need to feel that what I am doing serves some kind of purpose, brings me closer to achieving something, makes a difference to someone, improves the world around me, or equips me to better do those things in the future... something. Without that, regardless of whether what I am actually doing day to day is enjoyable, and regardless of whether the people around me are awesome and supportive... on a fundamental level I struggle with feeling unhappy and unmotivated. Without something external that is meaningful enough to set up life around everything just feels...endlessly pointless. Why bother trying and why bother writing and why even bother eating for that matter? It becomes a vicious cycle, deepening and perpetuating the rut, the negative thoughts, the weight of inaction.

Also, more literally, movement, in the sense of travel and exploring and experimenting with new things - these are the experiences that inspire me most. By best memories, the times I enjoyed life and everything around me the most are by far those from when I was traveling and visiting other countries - Tunisia, Egypt, Sweden...

Given that...well. Since finishing my grad program, I haven't had that sense of working towards a goal and doing something I love the way I did with my studies. There is no structure to time and activity to guide me, no reading or discussion or learning with career in mind to inspire me. Instead there is job searching that becomes more discouraging and difficult to do the longer it goes on, and too much time wasted on meaningless if enjoyable in the moment pursuits. I need external responsibilities in order to have that sense of forward movement. Not sure how to remedy the situation in the short term, but it is the only solution that makes sense. I cannot just exist, just be - my brain equates that with being a waste of space, my mind becomes bored, and my more self-destructive tendencies strengthen.

 I need to find a reason to move forward, something that allows me to feel that sense of movement, - an impetus to leave behind some of that negativity. Motion, forward motion...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

2014: Another Year, Another Year Card

It's been a bit of a while now, since I seriously worked with the cards on any kind of regular basis. It was only when I finally dragged myself to the local tarot greet meetup last Saturday for the first time since last fall that I even remembered to think on the new year, and the new year card that comes with it.

Last year, the card of focus was the Hanged Man. It was a bit of a funny year, really. I intereworked and I moved, I wrote a thesis and struggled to finish my masters program. Yet, in many ways, it was a year of stasis. For a large part of it, I could not bring myself to work with the cards, though I missed it. The future loomed, and yet was not immediate. I tried and struggled, got so stressed I could not eat or sleep for three days, and yet still - was not able to finish my thesis work by the end of December as I should have done.

(Later there were profuse apologies, a polite, professional sort of groveling, an extension into the new year granted.)

6 + 27 + 2014 = 2047, added together gives us 13. Death is the card of the new year. Given that I've only gotten around to writing this entry now, in April, I do already have some insight into how 2014 might be influenced and guided by this particular major...

I fell in love with the Silicon Dawn's depiction of Death from the moment I first set eyes on in, even using it as an avatar on various corners of the internet, something I rarely do with tarot imagery as a rule. The monotone palette is perfect appropriate, and yet, even with such limited colors, this card feels far more vibrant and dynamic than the more traditional image seen in so many other decks: not the reaper on a horse, or standing still, scythe in hand. Here, Death leaps through rain that washes away the old even as it nourishes the start, here and there, of new life. Death advances, illuminated by moonlight, and below other, more human figures run, ride forward too. A flood, destruction, so many things wiped away and yet what you see and focus on is the sense of movement and forward momentum, the sheer energy shown so clearly.

Death is not so dire a card, newcomers to tarot are so often told, and indeed. Like the ouroboros snake I have tattooed onto my wrist as a reminder, Death too is a card not only of ends but of beginnings, of doors and gates that you move through, of the things you leave behind and the things you move forward into. We transform and we become, and what we think we know changes, and we are reminded again and again, that nothing is permanent, nothing lasts, all things must come to an end.

Last year did not feel uneventful, and yet, even in these first three months of 2014, there have been such great leaps of change. I did finish the thesis, albeit a bit later than I'd have liked. I graduated, my time as a student once more at an end. The real world, the need to find a real job, to pay those loans, to be a proper adult is more immediate, has settled in - a heavy, unpleasant weight.

That is though, in truth, by far the lesser of transformations - that was expected, the logical conclusion to the last two and a half years. No, what has me reeling was the fact that I, so very much an I Don't Do Relationships person for so very long, suddenly find myself involved in something very real. Not a brief, casual fling devoid of feeling, this, but rather a connection involving the heart, that fickle, vulnerable thing. A new year began and a friendship became something more; with it, the realization that someone could see the strangest, most disturbed, most difficult aspects of who I am, a decade's worth of scars, and still love me, want me. I found that I could feel the same.

And so, already my outlook and the way I interact with the world around me has been radically altered. On both counts, the end of some things brings with it stress, doubt, difficulty; it also brings unexpected joys, be that enjoying the touch of a person you love, or having the time to play a video game you enjoy without guilt for the first time in over two years.

Really, I don't know whether I should be excited or terrified to see what else the rest of this Death year might bring...