Tuesday, December 8, 2015

thoughts about thinking

It's been a while since I did something a bit different, a bit more experimental, so. This is a reading around the general theme of Why do I tend to cling/fixate so much on negative thoughts about myself? Rather than doing the usual process, though, this is going to be an exercise in free association - write down any thoughts as they come about each card, one sentence per idea. Also, it somehow turned into exercise in the second person...

3 of Cups
You tend to think less negatively when doing things with friends - it's a chance to get out of your head, to distract yourself with something enjoyable.

On the other hand, there is feeling alone even surrounded by people you know and like, and wondering why am I always like this?

Like many people, you can't help comparing yourself to the people around you, and noting the shortcomings on your part.

There is pretending you feel what they do, all of you drinking from your cups and talking about this or that, nodding, and not saying so much, never talking about so many things.

Sometimes, surrounded by people, you feel unreal; seeing them, and knowing yourself as only you can, you wonder if you are even really a person.

You enjoy time with people, the talking, the contact, caring and being cared about but there are limits - you are the one dressed in the monochrome, sitting a bit apart from the others.

You like to be amused and amusing, use humor to mask darker things, learn the language of minimization - make your problems sound not so bad, not so concerning, choose words carefully.

You enjoy the meetings and celebrations and interactions, but there is a burden to everything that needs to be left unsaid, the distance it creates, the juxtaposition of the you that drinks from the cup and laughs and chats and the you that they are not allowed to see.

The Empress
She walks through a field ripe with grain, with plenty, but there is something melancholy about this Empress, something detached or even uncaring about her demeanor.

No matter how rich and fortuitous and pleasing your surroundings and material circumstances might be, they cannot fix your internal troubles; there is a real limit to how much they can even improve your mood.

The symbolism here is a bit funny for you - pregnancy is supposed to represent positive things - giving birth to new endeavors, the act of creation - but you have always been profoundly uncomfortable certain aspects of the stereotypical feminine.

You have always been uncomfortable with the way some would reduce your function, your purpose, to that of baby-making machine; the idea of you yourself inhabiting the body of this Empress makes you want to scream.

There are so many small things about being a woman, and what that should mean and what that de-facto means and what certain old white dudes would like to say about it that you hate, that you rebel against intellectually and viscerally, and yet you wonder how much of that has shaped you anyway.

Sometimes you wonder if you'd have ended up the same way, if you'd been born a man.

Going back to the intended metaphor, you wonder too you are even capable of creating much of anything anymore and that bothers you, in a small, constant way.

The expression of Strength mirrors that of the Empress, but seems subtly different - calm but more positive, trusting, perhaps.

There is a difference between confidence and trust, and apathy and indifference, though the external expression of the two feelings may indeed look the same.

The lion is calm too, eyes closed, following, trusting, at peace. The woman's hand rests on his brow, connection, work.

If the lion is the beast of unconscious thought, of cogs of the mind that spin as they will, the woman has trained it, has learned to work with it, knows the nature of the beast and has learned to control it.

Knowledge and action are two different things entirely, and you have only ever excelled at the former; self-awareness does not mean self-control, and you have never been good at bridging that gap.

An animal does not become obedient naturally, by itself, without concentrated, focused effort over an extended period of time. Are thoughts too, then, trainable? If so, how much have you really tried, to train them, to relearn patterns? How much effort have you been willing to extend?

Though the lion, lets not's not forget, is a dangerous beast with sharp claws and teeth, and training and controlling one is hardly a safe and easy prospect. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

on longing and dread

Just asking this question: Where am I at - with things in general, in my head, etc.?

Besides neatly illustrating the unusual way that the Silicon Dawn switches the elemental associations of the wands and pentacles/disks suits, the Six of Wands and Seven of Disks offer an interesting contrast of imagery here...

The Six of Wands shows an insect-like figure, the queen bee perhaps, generously sharing her pots of honey with a group delighted to receive it. She is in a comfortable position - confident and successful, able to share the fruits of her successes with others, the work she did so that she could do just that - to give but also to be appreciated for giving, for sharing. Even truly altruistic acts of giving, sharing, working to help others have an aspect of that after all, don't they? If nothing else, there is the feeling of knowing whatever you produced or gave or shared or did is good, is something others enjoy, want, appreciate having, that you are able to do that, the validation of knowing that about yourself. Here we see the benefits of a positive cycle, of acts that improve your own position in life, and which allow you to do something that also benefits others, enriching their lives as you enrich your own. It is an image of the kind of meaningful existence I long for these days, and which usually seems quite far out of reach.

On the other hand, in the Seven of Disks we see a centaur-like figure standing in the looming shadows of forbidding buildings, tall, colds exteriors that threaten to crush, to suffocate. A bird caws in one of the windows, perhaps shrieking at the potential intruder, perhaps trying to escape. Everything feels too intense here, dangerous, and there is no clearly outlined path, nowhere that really looks comfortable or safe. There is dread, there is the sense of being overwhelmed, paralyzed perhaps with fear or uncertainly. What's interesting is that there is no clear threat, for all the fear and dread and looming pictured, nothing that we can point to, there, that is the danger. How much of the image is a matter of perception? Are the building truly looming in a threatening way, or does it just seem that way to the figure? Some days even the most mundane things can feel overwhelming, sometimes a simple board game can serve as a reminder of all your feelings of being a failure and isn't it fitting that 'Failure' is what this card is titled, for example, in the Thoth? How much is merely perception, and what kind of difference does that make to the figure cowering, in that moment?

This is where I am, it seems, stuck between longing and dread: wanting to be able to create and contribute and give, but feeling stuck, overwhelmed by so many ordinary, everyday things.

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?