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...

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.