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...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

stillness, change and choices

It's interesting, how still the two of disks feels in this deck, seemingly devoid of movement. In the traditional RWS image, and in many decks based off of it, you see a man juggling coins, pentacles, trying to keep them in the air. It requires a good bit of effort, that - dexterity, coordination, sheer energy.

Here, instead, you have a motionless figure, with two coins covering its eyes. It's not an unfamiliar image - the ancient Greeks and Romans used to do that, coins on the eyes to pay the ferryman to the underworld, and it is a myth and custom that is referenced commonly enough to this day, in stories, movies, tv shows. So you have a that, suggesting lifelessness, passing, but then the figure is green, with vines and leaves extending across the forehead, the cheeks. Is that not spring, renewal, birth and growth of a sort?

One coin is silver and one coin is gold - right and left, dexter and sinister, yameen and yasaar. One coin has the two-headed picture of Janus - another reference to antiquity. He was, apparently, the god of beginnings and ends, doorways, passages, gates and time. The other coin has an owl carved into it - a reference to wisdom perhaps, wisdom and a bird capable of the freedom of flight.

The thoth calls this card Change, and change see here, yes, in stillness. It is not a kind of change that necessarily brings to mind this cards, traditionally, rather than say, Death. Life begins and ends and if you do burial than yes, eventually your remains might fertilize the earth and some kind of flora might sprout forth in the same place, but usually this card refers to more immediate, more mundane change - the ones you yourself have to make, the ones in your grasp. Choices and decisions and juggling all the things on your plate.

As it so happens, in my case, right now, this card is apt.

Sometimes you can get so overwhelmed with despair, or resignation, or frustration, ennui, exhaustion, whatever you want to call it. It spins around your head and the temptation to just give up is so strong, except you can quite bring yourself to go there, but the pull of it is paralyzing in a way and it is so difficult to get anything done.

Sometimes, the unconventional, extreme type approach is the most helpful: narrow it down to a simple choice, with two options, two coins. Stillness or motion - give up or get to work, but pick one and do it right now, right here, right in this moment.

Not insignificant, I think, that I would pull this card alongside the Star. The recommended choice and change is pretty clear, here. Bathed in a kind of intense, red light, the woman walks through what looks like it could be an ordinary field, but could also be one made of so many vaguely sketched people. She walks forward, and keeps walking.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A deck I could not resist

So my tarot absence of the last half-year or so has extended not just to this blog and working with the cards, really, but also to other tarot websites I usually frequent, and to buying any new decks. After all, if I am not currently even USING the ones I have, I surely should not procure any more until that changes.

So that has been that, up until a few days ago. I was browsing online is a general way, about decks and things and somehow found myself on the Kickstarter page for a new tarot deck. I've browsed Kickstarter before, but never have been tempted enough to actually join in on funding a project. The Light Visions Tarot, it turns out, did indeed tempt me in such a way. I pledged enough to get a copy of the deck because well, it is the first deck in many months to really strongly call to me. Love the art technique and the recognizable but not just a RWS clone nature of it, and yeah.

It is also the first deck in a long time that I have bought without first reading various talk of it on blogs here or on Aeclectic. No idea about anything around this other than what the Kickstarter page says. Fortunately it is relatively easy for me, with things like this, to kind of forget about it entirely for a while, so the wait at least should not be a bother.

Friday, October 4, 2013

On and Off

When people ask how long I've been reading and collecting tarot cards for, I usually say 'ten years, but on and off' or some variation thereof.

This is what I mean. It's like a switch goes off in my head and suddenly for no particular reason I just cannot get my brain with the cards. It slides, drifts about into other things. Later, later it says, and days and weeks pass and my decks sit there, sadly untouched.

I haven't forgotten this blog though, or those I read. Did a series of readings that were kind of an interesting challenge - a character in an online D&D game I DM, reading cards for fictional characters played by other people, except me actually pulling and reading cards for it. It was like pulling teeth actually reading them, but was interesting. Perhaps will repost here once I finish with the last bit of that.

Hope everyone is well, at least relatively speaking. :]

Thursday, April 25, 2013

bit more tarot poetry

Another try at this particular exercise...
change never does just sprout
forth; it does not bloom
in sudden bursts of brilliant color,
come spring.

no, change wildly spins
and be must grasped painfully with teeth.
it must be chased, pulled out
from deepest depths within.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Deck comparison, Three-Fold

So a while ago I asked for suggestions to do a deck comparison type post series on. I've not forgotten about it, and decided to start off with a couple of posts following up on an idea posted by thesycamoretree: something Thothy, something RWSy, and something Else. These will be done purely by my own intuitive readings, with no reference material. Why? Because anyone can look up the difference in these decks as written down in books, so why read me rehashing the same thing?

To start off with, why not begin with the actual Thoth and RWS (Smith Centennial ed., in my case) and add the Mary-El to that mix? 

Starting off with my favorite of these, the Thoth. Here, the King has been transformed into a Knight - less the superior to the Queen than her equal, and more dynamic a concept than the King image. It can be confusing at first, but I find with this in particular its best to just roll with it, is what it is, and onwards.

The Knight of Cups rides his horse, a pure white pegasus, symbols of god and of purity and power. He rides it upwards, away, showing the kind of optimistic ambition that can be associated with this card. Take that too far and you have escape into unreality, escape into dreams, escapism into the cup or so many similar things. Here, more positively, he rides above the wild wave, controlled in his motion so that they do not touch him. Just sketched into one of these waves we can see a peacock: so much show, and isn't it true? Doesn't he grave the applause just a bit? Emotionally he does, for reassurance rather than ego perhaps, but nonetheless.

Emotional energy as power here: the glowing of the cancer crab in the cup, the wings that sprout out of his back. His armor is green, like the suit of the Fool: optimist, faithful, ready to push forward into the unknown anew, but perhaps sometimes less than fully aware of what he should be aware of. His strength is his heart, his connection to others. His horse looks back towards him, ready for the next command, ready to work together brilliantly, as they are wont to. The image scheme here (weird yellow tint of the digital image aside) is largely blue and white, appropriate for the pinnacle of the watery suit, and bringing out the contrast of the armor and the cup even more.

In contrast, the figure in the classic RWS is far more sedate. He sits on his throne, dressed primarily in blue es well. Waves surround this seat, and we can see him holding a cup in one hand, a lotus shaped scepter in the next. We see fish and a ship, just barely, in the water behind him. The ship for movement and fortune (it takes money to launch one, after all) the fish for bounty perhaps?

Looking at this card I am reminded of how, so often, people say that the courts are the hardest of the tarot deck to read. If one is talking about the RWS, I cannot say that I much disagree. We have a king on a throne, facing towards the right, holding a cup and sitting still. He looks comfortable there, I suppose. I cannot say that, from image alone and without my knowledge of memorized meanings, I can get much from this card. This is in major contrast to the Thoth's, where I am struck immediately by all the details and could go on and on about it for ages. This one evokes...nothing. I have to go back to what I 'know' this card to mean.

Color-wise, it is a nice scheme, blues and greens with just a bit of red makes a nice contrast, and I do quite enjoy the muted palette of the centennial edition.

Lastly, we have the Mary-El king. This deck dances to its own tune, its own internal scheme and ideas which are not necessarily drawn directly from either major tarot tradition. The deck creator had very specific meanings for the imagery in mind, but they don't jive with me, so I use my own take.

Immediately, I am struck by the composition of this card. I am reminded of the famous painting of Ophelia, drowned. Like this king she lay half-submerged in water, surrounded by lily pads, flowers. There are many things a king of cups can drown himself in, should the darker aspects of his nature overwhelm. But there is a different here, between this king and the girl: the trident. Poseidon carried a trident, in mythology, a tool through which to channel his godly might, and his symbol.

He does not drown, does not die, merely floats. Perhaps indeed this is merely a swim in the water, a moment of relaxation, a return to easier, less complicated times. Not all escapism must be destructive or dangerous. Sometimes a long bath or vigorous swim is just what we need to take our minds off of too stressful things, to get back the perspective we need.

The nudity of the King also works for me. It general nudity can signify great strength or great vulnerability. This king can exemplify both, at different times. A different take here, on the water element aspects of the card than in the others, but comes through loud and clear nonetheless.

The message of the day then: to move towards what you want, and do not be afraid to let yourself move forward with optimism, or to take a but of a break for distraction - but do not let that distraction take over to the point of causing vulnerability, weakness.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

balance of a king

Still hanging out with my most favorite comfort deck. Here's a quick little reading, asking for advice that I did for myself earlier today, while on the way to an internship interview (which I think went well..)

Not very surprisingly, the first card that comes up is the two of swords. A message of balance here, and strength even in the face of the unknown and uncertain. The lady here keeps holding those two swords up, both raised exactly to the same degree, in spite of that blindfold.

Which is to say, of course, that interviewing for any kind of professional opportunity is very often full of unknowns: what they really think of you, what they think of the other applicants, what they are ultimately deciding based on, what working there would even be like, etc. It's easy to be overenthusiastic or too apprehensive, easy to get overly nervous. For me too, it's easy to feel like you are in the position of powerlessness in such a situation: THEY are judging you, deciding your fate in this regard, you are the little maybe-worker monkey, aiming to please...

The second card reinforces that this too, is in fact an aspect of the whole thing where balance is needed. It reminds me of some advice an aquaintance shared with me not too long ago, about how ideally interviewing is a two way process: you too, are deciding whether going with their position is worth your while. When they ask you if you have questions, the best reply in not some formulaic why I would be a great worker in disguise type question, but you wanting to know: how does your organization fit my goals, skills, career plans.

Of course that's ideal. When you are desperately in need of any kind of income...well. But in my case, I am interviewing for internships, most of them unpaid. Yes, I need the professional experience on my resume, but they are getting my time, intellectual abilities, skills, experience, all of that for free. Not so much a position of powerlessness.

So speak to them as equals, have confidence. Other cards could also denote confidence, personal power, but with the king that first aspect in particular comes across deliberately strong. This king has power, and energy, momentum. He grips the staff, ready for action. He is not desperate, or terribly afraid of being judged and found lacking - he's doing some judging of his own. Things swing in both directions: yes, balance.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

tarot's take on some nerdiness

So recently, some friends have drawn me into the nerdy cliche that is the world of Dungeons and Dragons. Very unsurprisingly, I quite like it. Due to difficulty (different cities, conflicting schedules) of playing in person, I've recently joined a game online. Character building, story telling, writing, lots of fun and silly dice...whats not to love?

The idea of using tarot to help flesh out a fictional character is one that's been floating around my head for a while, and this seems to be a perfect opportunity to do so, using the one I've made for this roleplay game, so.

Shedding some light on Iara Carnagos, Tiefling Wizard (Mage)

I. Crux of the character's strengths:

Restriction, restraint, interference: the woman in this image is tied up and held still, both by her physical bindings and by constraints of her mind - the self-doubt, or fear, or hopeless resignation.

One does not necessarily think of this card as a source of strength, but if can be. Restraint, restraint. So many things that you could do if you were willing to pick up one of those swords... In the D&D universe, in this edition at least, Tieflings are of a demonic heritage, their ancestors having made some kind of pact with demons. They can make things burns, have tails and variously shaped horns. Many are known for being all kinds of destructive and evil.

This character of mine...she had a twin brother once, who chose to go down that path. She did not, and ended up killing him in what was mostly self-defense...a pivotal moment for her. She is chaotic, random, capricious, but she is not evil - there is a line she will not let herself cross, though she could; there are actions she simply will not take, even when refusing puts her in a quite difficult situation. She will even, on the rare occasion, actively refuse to let someone else do so.

In the everyday too...she puts up the facade of being impatient and impulsive, and do some degree that may be true, but...anything of real importance, she does consider, weigh, wait if she must. Restraint, restriction, a much bigger part of how she interacts with the world than most would realize, than she would like anyone to know and...a vital part of what could be called her better nature.

II. Crux of the character's weaknesses:

The juggler hops around, foot to foot, two coins to balance, two boats on two waves to choose between - always moving, juggling, flitting about.

The character too. Class-wise, she is a mage that focuses on both pyromancy and illusion, both blasting attacks and controlling/debuffing powers. A focus on purely one of the other could potentially be more powerful, but how could she commit herself like that?

Otherwise too - she flits from group to group, short relationship to one even shorter, job to job, town to town. Tries this and that, grows bored, moves onto something else. Worked mercenary jobs involving use of knives even though that does nothing to advance her primary abilities. Studied under several wizards even though these kinds of arrangements are not ideal - some wizards only acquiescing to idea of temporary apprentice for cold hard cash.

This lack of commitment, lack of focus and attention, in so many aspects of her life...certainly it is limiting, in many ways.

III. The character's fears:

The queen sits comfortably in her domain, with her wand, her flower, her cat. She is self-possessed and confident in her place. What could one fear here?

Iara does not have or want any of these things. She has not stayed in one place for any significant amount of time since she was sixteen. She does not keep pets, or gardens, does not care for fancy robes and does not hold onto many possessions at all - in fact, one could almost call her an ascetic in the latter regard. Keep few things you do not need, be willing to let those go and start anew too, if you must.

Her friendships and flings do not last more than a few months or weeks, nor do her working partnerships and teams. And why is that?

Fear of that kind of domestication, of a place where you feel safe and things that comfort you and people you trust and feel close to. The more you have the more of a shock it is when the world starts to spin and shake and everything starts falling apart around you. The more you have, the more there is that you cannot control. If you have nothing, just your physical body, your skills, your knowledge and magic...there is so much less that can be taken from you, so much less of a chance to feel helpless.

IV. The character's hopes:

The Hanged Man rest upside down, in some ways resembling a butterfly in its cocoon, waiting in stasis as it develops and transforms. In other ways he can be seen as a mirror of Odin, hanging in sacrifice, losing something to gain more. Perhaps a useless sacrifice, needless waiting around when movement is needed.

This character certainly hopes that all of her work will be a worthwhile sacrifice, that all the hours studying and reading dusty tomes, and all the times and gold she spent with her various masters will pay off.

She hates reading, only went to school as long as she did because her twin hated it even more and quit it - she wanted to show that she had more self-control, or something. She never reads but for the magic books, for what other way is there of learning, always learning and it is just a task sometimes, flipping through so many pages as her mind wonders, another job or adventure tempts... there were other paths to magic, ones that would have been easier for someone of her temperament but she chose this one and yes, she hopes it will be worthwhile, utterly so.

IV. Crux of the character, a snapshot:

The man in the eight works, creates, engraves and molds with care for his work, though it may not be easy at times, is his craft, and his love, and his calling.

Perhaps a compulsive wanderer, perhaps not the biggest fan of the book learning to which she is obliged, perhaps a lot of things but what it comes down to: love of this lifestyle. Love of uncertainty and risk, love of seeing new places to explore, new people to work with or fuck or taunt, without the 'burden' of knowing you might know them long enough to get attached. Love of adventure and jobs and quests.

Most of all, though, the love of magic. Wonder - she can still remember the day as I child, when she first saw magic being done. Her and her brother both, a rare moment of utter unison. Pure, sheer, stunned wonder because what could be more beautiful, more awesome, than magic? She knew from her first glimpse at it that magic is what she wanted to do, her calling as it were, and though attention to it may have wavered, that certainty never did. For all that may change and all the tedious work learning might involve, nothing can touch the feeling of pure inner joy she gets when she summons a fireball, makes something change color, uses a trick to get someone to say yes where otherwise the answer would certainly be a no.