Monday, December 31, 2012

Towards Creative Potential

I decide to take a page from the book of Elendil and some other Deck of the Week folk on AT and do two part new years reading: What I am Walking Toward/What I am Walking Away From. This be the first part, with second tomorrow.

Here we have the page of cups and that seven of pentacles again, the roses. The youth in the page card sits in front of a young woman playing what looks to be some kind of organ instrument. There are elaborately carved pillars behind them, and both are richly, fancily dressed. The youth isn't looking at the musician girl however, but rather longingly glancing back. What is he thinking? Longing for her, or for her abilities, her talent, her creativity? For his own past, lost opportunities, abandoned dreams? The woman plays and focuses solely on the music, her fingers and the keys

The page is about creativity and expression, a dreamer. The woman in the pentacle card too can be seen as having a certain sentimental touch - she appreciates the beauty of the flowers she tends. She works and works to watch them bloom. The page can imagine ways to express his creative potential; the woman in the seven knows how to tend to it, to allow it to grow.

In the new year, I shall try to move towards a synthesis of these. To leverage what I can do, what I can think and write and dream, into something concrete. Like the roses: something to enjoy, and something to ground me.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

a juxtaposition

The woman in this picture stands in her garden, pruning the bright yellow rosebush. I do like the color of the roses - not bright red or even pink, no romance or dramatic gestures. No, we have yellow, a neutral color, good for many occasions. The woman's dress is loose, allowing for more movement than that of many others in this deck, from that time period. She can move and work, bring out the full potential for beauty in her flowers.

Roses tend to be finicky plants, especially the kind pictured here, the ones we most appreciate in bouquets and arrangements. They require patience and perseverance of effort. You work and you wait for that work to mean something, to show. It takes time and a certain amount of faith - in your own gardening abilities and in the idea that you will be around to reap the rewards of your labors. Is it worthwhile, what we are doing? The roses certainly do look nice in this image.

Sometimes it isn't so easy to be sure; things get in the way, cloud your vision, fill your mind with more possibilities and calculations and fear than you know what to do with. Sometimes the absence of certainty and of roses to remind you of how beautiful the world can be can feel too heavy a weight.This card struck a cord even in the first edition but in this updated image especially...

This was me, once. A few years ago, my last semester of college... I would climb out from my dorm room window to the ledges that led up to the the roof. It would be in the dead of night when almost no one is already up or still not asleep, when I knew there would be no one to see. I would stand at the ledge and debate with myself whether it was time, whether I was ready to do it. Not if it was a good idea or what I wanted, but rather - was now the time? Was it ok yet?

Stand and stare down, racing thoughts and a distinct lack of clear emotion...and step back. Night after night, I would stand on a ledge under a darkened sky and finally step back - go inside and get back to writing and writing that thesis, those papers, always so much work. I never told anyone about these nocturnal escapades and soon graduated with some fancy latin words besides my degree. Sometimes, later, I would wish that I had let myself fall.

These days I mostly try to focus on the roses. May the new year bloom, in many colors.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

gifts in thinking

I've never been much  on the whole holiday spirit thing, this  one or any other, and this year was really no exception. That said, I figured that doing a draw on the general theme of 'gifts' would be appropriate enough...

The Ace of Swords comes interesting response to this reading.  Thoughts, ideas, a way to start something new, an intellectual challenge. You can give other people gifts, trinkets, money - you can even do all kinds of things for them...but thinking, perspective, approach to life...that is something you cannot impart to anyone else. You can try, sure (as many a lecturing parent would know)  but fundamentally you cannot directly influence what anyone else has going on in their head. Your thoughts, perhaps more than anything else in this world, are your own.

A change in thinking, in outlook, has to come from within. It's something that generally doesn't happen suddenly - rather, a slow shift over time, a series of small realizations; sometimes, it involves conscious work. It can be one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself though, if you can manage it -  to work through some of the  self-defeating, negative thought patterns and find the way of intellectually doing things that works best for you. There is so much more you can do in life if you are not constantly standing in your own way...

In certain ways I think extremes can be a blessing. If something very difficult or challenging happens in your life - whether external circumstances or internal  mental health type issues or both - it forces you to become aware of a lot of those problematic trends in thinking. When things are small and never quite a real obstacle individually, it is much easier to leave them as they are, let them accumulate. When they seem overwhelming, all encompassing, you simply must find a way to deal with them - you become too tired to go on with the status quo.

And so, a rest, and a reminder that attitude adjustment and growth in how  you think and how you see is a constant process, something you can always work on improving. I have a bit of time now to ponder on this kind of 'gift' as it relates to me, and some time to focus on aspects of my interests and ideas that are not related to school-work.

Of course, in terms of actual my house we have a long-established tradition of my parents simply giving me some cash for the holiday rather than anything physical and wrapped up.  I didn't really exchange gifts with anyone else this year so that is all and that is quite enough. I have a plan, you see. I am working on a design for a fourth tattoo, something to represent, actually, a lot of the ideas behind the Ace of Swords...freedom, flight, new beginnings with old experiences in mind and going forward and possibility and suchlike. I haven't gotten in quite right yet but...soon.

Monday, December 24, 2012

shipwreck that's not a disaster

So I finally got my copy of the new 2nd edition Victorian Romantic tarot. I got the mini, seeing as how I already have a full sized Russian version of the 1st edition, and have a disinclination towards owning decks that are too much alike. Must say, it is indeed quite nice, and the changes that the made... I approve. Finally have some time to properly blog with it, too.

I rather like the way there is a very distinct theme in these two cards. Both deal with a ship in water. In the first we have a gloomy, darkened sky; in the second, a raging storm. The woman in the first wears a red skit, and the same color again shows up on one of the folks in the second.

The Tower in the Victorian Romantic is really one of those cards where...the more I work with it, the more I come to appreciate the image. It's an unusual take - no tower or building of any sort at all but rather two figures, cast adrift, hanging off of the remains of a wrecked ship amidst waves, a storm torn sea. A sudden shock, a disaster of sorts it is. it really, when you look at these two cards side by side? Unlike many, I tend to see the Tower as a mostly positive card. The woman is tied up, stuck. Perhaps she could work those knots loose, free herself if she was determined enough. She doesn't though, has become so used to the thought of herself bound that doing anything else feels impossible, unthinkable. So she sits at that dock, waiting to be herded onto the ship - a plaintive look perhaps, a wish, but no action. She sits.

How long would she go on like that? Who knows. The storm hits. The waters rage and the ship falls apart. There is cold and there is being soaked, tossed about. There is the sound of lightning and there is fear, yes, fear of drowning, of so many things left undone, so much inspiration lost. It never is very fun, at least not the whole way through, when the tower event or situations hits. It isn't fun to be thrown off balance, to see the systems and routine you have gotten used to gone. It isn't fun to be forced to change and adapt and learn how to deal with the new.

Change can be terribly, terribly hard - especially if you aren't even sure that you want it. Sometimes, though, that storm doesn't turn out to be such a disaster at all. Perhaps you will find yourself back on the shore, clothes soaked and torn, possessions gone, shivering and alone. But perhaps to, you will look down and see that your hands are now free - that there is so much more you can now try to do, see, learn.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

snapshot of a day

still too busy finishing up to get to properly working with my shiny new victorian romantic mini tarot deck... so for now, this.

I drew these three lenormand cards this morning and they turned out to be more on-point than I expected. A day full of travel it was indeed: what is normally a four and a half hour bus ride took seven, then more time in the car getting home, my father taking a different route that had us wondering through a very Hasadic section of Brooklyn...

Productive though, in spite of that. Made much progress in completing my work on that long bus ride. The camel here looks to the right, at the sun; the ship, too, sails towards the light. Not quite there yet, the Sun in the center rather than at the end of the line which has this ship, the ongoing journey, but the light at the end is visible now.

A positive slant. The rider and sun together can mean receiving good news, news of success brought to you. I get home after all my moving about and find an email from professor whose paper I had slaved over all of last week. His comments on it were all positive - in fact, apparently I managed to impress him enough that he actually decided not to penalize me for submitting it a day and a half late...something he really seemed to be a stickler for. Sun type sign indeed. Pride, validation.

Sun in the center, and a push. The ship too, is nearing its goal, its day almost over, a journey coming to an end. Finish this paper and put the journey of this semester behind me - if I can force myself to stay awake, sleep deprived one more time...I think I can.

personal lenormand - short reading

So yeah, even when I am working very hard on getting something done and very stressed about it, I seem to have an inability to really stay focused on only one thing throughout. Add to that a need to distract myself from a kind of panic attack today over still not being done with this now-late-in-spite-of-extension paper, and...well. I sort of threw together a personal use lenormand for myself, using public domain art (wiki paintings is useful place :0).

Mostly this is inspired by the fact that my tastes apparently differ from most as far as lenormand is concerned. Granted I am a mere dabbler at this point, but.... I've heard a lot of people say that whereas they like complex imagery in their tarot decks, a simple straightforward art style for lenormands does it for them. While I don't necessarily NOT like that...well. What can I say? I've always been a very, very visual person. Besides that, doing this was a fun little distraction indeed because it allowed me to really think about what felt right to me, to find images that together hold I kind of universality which is rather lacking in most lenormands especially. Like the house card: yes, for some a house is a nice square building with big windows and a garden out front; for others, a house is a yurt. Both are houses aren't they, the same idea? So why always show only the one?

Anyway, wanted to give this a quick test drive. It's all digital for now though I may try to print me a copy eventually. No in depth reading...really have not the time or the mental capacity right now.

First row of cards quite accurately captures my current predicament. House, Book, Moon. I have barely left my house for days other than venturing out to grab beverages when I get too dehydrated. It is a mess, calling for attention. I must pack in the next few hours to go to another house, my parents', for the holidays. I feel stuck in this house, in the house with that book that taunts and taunts because I only have this one thing left to finish, this one final paper, and yet it never seems to end and my mind is not being cooperative and on and on it goes. The moon on the other side of this book, yes. My mind jumps and skips around so many things. Wild thoughts, crazy ones - creative too, inspired, except not about the THING THAT I AM SUPPOSED TO BE WORKING ON. Stuck in the house working on finishing this book work and feeling like my sanity is wearing away...

After that I decided to draw two more cards - since the first three described my situation, the last two, for a nice five row whole, to provide me a solution. A contrast here, with the Fish and the Star, the positive energy as opposed to the negative overall feel of the previous cards. Like the Moon the fish can be seen as creativity, but also work, momentum, succeeding by keeping on. The star indicates positive things indeed, success, completion, getting it done. A reassuring message for me, here. Part of my issue is that I keep thinking about failure, and well. Hope, yes. And a reminder to take better care of myself, I think, between the star and the fish....I won't get into details but last couple days with all of this I have not been...good about that, at all. Touche.

A good first reading, I think. Now to get back to doing appropriate things....

Friday, December 21, 2012

another tarot-prompted poem

(Needed a break from this...desperate academic writing I am still stuck doing. Another attempt at this particular exercise/idea....)

the strife
within us burned. 
we glowed, golden 
in our fury; shined
as we scratched,
sliced, fought.

higher, always
we climbed as the flame inched up.
it laughed in our belly. a mind
tickled the soles of our feet -
we tried to grow wings
but could not rise,
lacked speed.

now we dance,
fold into each other blind -
now we fly,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

finishing up

Decided to do a little reading for advice about getting this last final paper completed, using the 'shadow' card from bottom of the deck to start off the reading, a kind of background card.

I think there can always be a lot of ways to 'see' the imagery on an unillustrated pip could see this background as rich, golden and flowered - or you can see in it the color of wheat, harvest, fall, the end of a cycle; the flowers cut from their stems, not long for this world; the cups laying on their sides, used.

In the RWS we usually see this card as a man walking away from things, his back turned as he goes forward into the night. In the Thoth this card has a darker scheme - Indolence, it is titled. Both are true enough in their own way, in this context. I'm having trouble getting this done because a part of me doesn't much want to - it's tempting to lay about in bed, waste time on silly websites, read, catch up on episodes of shows online I haven't had proper time for in weeks. I want a break already, to leave all this work and responsibility for a while. This marathon of reading and writing and more reading and more writing has left me rather tired of it all. 

Cannot, of course. Must get this written and done and very soon. Must write and submit some cover letters, internship applications. Must pack for some visiting. Now is not the time for indolence, for running away, no matter how much, as this shadow card indicates, I might like to.

The next two cards here indicate, I think, that finishing up this last paper of the semester will not in fact be as challenging as it might seem. The high priestess with her folds of robes, her moon, her book in hand shows how much of what I want to write I already have in my head, perhaps not well formed but intuitively there - and backed up by the research I've already done, the reading. Deep down, beyond the tiredness, I do find my topic quite interesting. This isn't a paper I am only writing because I must.

Women's issues here, too, this Priestess reminds me - I am writing about use of technology to map and record incidents of sexual violence in ongoing conflicts, about the potential use of that to help prove, prosecute, prevent the widespread use of rape as a weapon of war. About how the internet allows us access to information that would otherwise be impossible to gather in a war zone too dangerous for outsiders to enter, from which people flee by hundreds and thousands every day. Instead of suffering for however long in silence a woman can go on youtube, her face covered, and tell the world: this is what they did to me. It allows for empirical patterns analysis to prove what would otherwise be merely a gut feeling - that these crimes are deliberate tactics, that they are used in a systematic fashion in pursuit of specific aims, that the same tactics can be seen again and again in various parts of a country and that this has meaning, is not simply 'war' or 'boys being boys' or any such nonsense.

Even as I write that summary here I feel myself channeling more of this Page of Wands, standing with her powerful, flexible bow in the field of green. She stands under a tree that is full of ripe fruit ready for picking, eating. She is young and full of energy and ready to handle anything. I need to channel that energy, the confidence. The words, that fruit, are already in my head. I just need to write them, edit and revise until they sound right, add all the proper detail and citation. This is something I care about. This is something I want to do, when I let myself forget to think about how tired of DOING I am.

Monday, December 17, 2012

on movement, the death of things

We all know, us tarot readers, enthusiasts, what the Death card means. We know that it isn't necessarily, or even usually, about grandma or spouse pitching over dead when it shows up in a reading. No, it is death in a far more abstract kind of sense - the death of things, the withering away of the old, the tired. It is the end of things that are ready to be done. It is the stripping away, reaping the crop so that the earth may be sowed again with fresh seeds - reaping so as to stave away the rot.

We know this, we know. We know that things must end so that others may begin, that they must end because everything that begins also ends, eventually, and how boring would life be if things only ever stayed the same as always?

So many things we know will end before we even begin them - the trip with return flight scheduled, the relationship that is fun, but that you know deep down from the start is never going to be quite right.

We know too the metaphor of the Wheel, of cycles spinning around and around, of fortune swinging up and down. We know of wheels and spinning and death. Sometimes, when we are in the midst of something we love it can be bittersweet, this knowledge - that days are numbered, that all to soon this will become a mere memory, a shadow among many floating about in our minds. When our circumstances are terrible, in contrast, this knowledge serves as a hope, something to desperately clasp: yes, this is bad, yes this feels utterly unbearable but it too, will end, if we can only wait it out - it will end, like all things must.

Loss and death and ending can be frightening, painful...but is there anything more soul-shattering than the thing you fear will never be over, no matter how many times that wheel might spin, no matter how many other things might change, no matter how hard you might try?

They spin, those wheels and cogs, but are we moving with them or do we resist, clutch at things over and done? We long for things we can no longer have, comparing the now to the once was and feeling sad rather than trying to make the most of it; we stew on old resentments, slights and disasters, avoiding reasonable things because we insist on making sure that they never happen again, those wounds.

There is just so much energy, momentum around that spinning wheel...easier to move with it, wouldn't it be? Even when something deep inside us would like so very much to dwell in nostalgia...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Being the Logical Fool

I must say - both of these cards rather appeal to me on aesthetic-conceptual level. I love how the fool is shown from a forward perspective, angled so that you can see the expression, the smile, the look of careless freedom at the edge of the cliff. As for the Queen here...well, we have the queen associated with logic and thinking with what looks like a cancer symbol in the background, and a moon at her feet. I am a Cancer who was born on a Monday, who has long associated with the logic of this court in particular. Resonate it does indeed.

The message I see in this particular pairing is something I've been thinking on as of late - the idea of living life as the fool might, but tempered with logic, with reason. To me that means being willing to cut away the things and people and situations that aren't working for you, as soon as you identify the problem and figure out some viable courses of action, rather than letting it fester and fester because change can be so very painful and hard, or you feel guilty, or unsure of yourself, or whatever. It's about taking some risks and doing things you want to do, even if other people might consider them crazy, unwise, bizarre - as long as you think through why you want them, how you will approach them, how to ensure a level of safety that is acceptable to you, can reasonably be achieved.

Not about hasty decisions per se, but more about...think things out, yes. Weigh the pros and cons. Consult with people who have expertise, or whose opinions you trust. But once you figure out what to do, what would be best....just do it. If life seems intolerable the way it is now, figure out the least bad option for trying to change things and go for it. Perhaps things might fall apart, get worse before they get better. But it will be a change at least, yes? Something different.

In retrospect, I have no regrets about my tendency, in recent years, of moving around three different cities, different apartments, applying to schools and using loan money to go on trips to other countries in large part because I couldn't stand the way things were and wanted a change - yes, those weren't really addressing the underlying issues, but well - a change indeed. I've seen more places than I would have if I had just stayed put, tried to deal with the same old kind of unhappy. I have seen and I have learned.

Life is too short, and too full of tragedy - disasters natural and man-made, illness and loss - that you have no control over to spend it stuck at a job that you hate, in a relationship that makes you miserable, seeing a doctor who doesn't listen, whatever. Yes, sometimes circumstances really do make those very very difficult to change - but sometimes not, sometimes not nearly as much so as we let ourselves think.

When that voice tells you that the idea in your head is silly, unnecessary, extravagant, selfish, impossible - use logic, and ask, "but is it, is it really?"

Friday, December 14, 2012

card-based musing on memory, the world

I wanted to do another memory exercise but when I look at this card it elicits not so much a single kind of memory to write about so much as...snippets and thoughts about various things...

The fields in the background here catch my eye. As a person who has always lived in cities, the shape and color of fields has always intrigued me - probably because I'm not familiar with the practical, mundane reasons behind why they are the way they are. I remember being on planes landing and taking off. In Germany and Poland especially, at that time of year at least, many fields like that, growing smaller and smaller as your rise up into the sky. The last time I was actually close to some fields was in Tunisia, that day our Arabic teacher took us on a trip to his hometown. We stopped for a bit at his older sister's house. She and her husband had land, fields in that beautiful, rich northwestern countryside. We say in her courtyard eating grapes from a nearby tree and sweet makrouch, cookies similar to fig newtons but so much tastier, not artificial. It was Ramadan and not sunset yet so they didn't eat but insisted we did, the whole that's quite enough no no have more dance. There, instead of the kind of trees we see in this image there was a row of cactus plants.

In the foreground we see the king, with his staff in hand, a gate and little balls of fire separating him from the land. A lion lays at his feet. I wish I could say this brings something more positive to mind, but well...

The lion: al-Assad, in Arabic. Bashar al-Assad - a lion, his name means, the image it creates. The lion-named ruler surrounded by balls of fire, like little bombs, sitting alone.

He has a dagger at his waist. Elsewhere in the Arab world, in parts of the Gulf, a man's dagger is a necessary symbols of his honor, strength. During the summer we had an assignment that involved listening to a news broadcast over and over until we could decipher the words, the meaning, the event being described. Elections in Yemen, the second since the unification of the country in the early 1990's. A victory for the incumbent, of course. There was still tension in the country, need for increased security. Voting guidelines were clearly described. Voters are not permitted to bring their daggers into the polling stations.

There are not daggers in most wars today. We have moved beyond such thing, such limited destructive capacity. There are no polling stations in as-Shams, the land of the sun as Syria is also known, in Arabic. There is a lot of fire, though. It's interesting how, for me at least, this particular card, unless I am reading with reversals, generally one I consider a positive sign, situation, description of a person. But what does happen when a king with this kind of passion, drive, need for attention and power, action-based orientation...what happens when he isn't a good person despite all, when he is driven by selfish intentions, when he is isolated and pushed against a wall? A air king might submit to logic, strategic considerations; earth can be pragmatic, cut losses; water is emotional but also flexible, adaptable. What does fire do, if not burn?
Bashar al-Assad stalks around his palace, despondent.

He fears he will end up dead no matter what he does, the Russian official says.

If he tries to depart his own Alawite allies will kill him. They fear what will happen to them at the hands of the Sunnis if his government falls. Oh no no, there will be none of that going off and leaving us to our fate, they say. They remember how they were seen, before his father took control; they know how they are regarded now.

If he stays he will be killed when, if, the rebels take control of the capital. Perhaps he has even seen the youtube videos of Qaddhafi's death, that same fate: the once great, once mad dictator begging and beaten; and later the same crowd yelling, smiling, fooling with his corpse.

An eye doctor once, he was, peering into others' eyes.

Now he paces in the palace and outside the bombs continue to explode; the shelling continues; the rapes continue. A Turkish university carried out a study in one of its refugee camps, an article on the Arabic BBC says. 71% of the children there have lost at least one relative in the fighting. By and large, their mothers care for them alone. Where are the fathers, the husbands? Killed, or fighting with rebels or army or perhaps both.

(Why did you defect, the officers were asked. al-ATfal, al-ATfal, they said. The children - I could not stand it, the killing of children.)

And so it goes, smolders and burns.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

One year down and on we go

And so here we are: exactly a year ago today, 12/12/2011, I wrote my first post in this here tarot blog. Today is 12/12/2012 and thus far at least, the world has not come to an end :]

I wanted to draw a card to reflect on this milestone, and what came up but the Knight of Coins, a card I've written about several times in this blog. I must admit I rather adore how it is portrayed in this deck - I have to say, and this coming from a very avid trimmer, that this really one of the decks most improved by chopping all the borders off. The knight here, richly dressed and cloaked, moves forward on his horse through the world. He appears to be in the middle of a jungle of some sort - beautiful but a the same time, no doubt uncomfortable - sticky and hot, dark, so easy to get lost in. But this knight is not concerned, no. There is a certain serenity in his expression, a confident kind of calm. He knows he can keep going and so he does, deals with anything that comes his way, and during those interludes between obstacles he simply enjoys the peace rather than stressing and worrying about what the next difficulty might be.

Below the ground we see a helmet-stamped coin, representative perhaps of that traditional suit of armor that this particular knight isn't seen to be wearing. Sometimes the armor you need to face the world isn't outside of you, something you put on. No, its deep within, the root that steadies you, nourishes you. It's your approach, your mindset, your unconscious.

The knight moves forward and so do I. I worried when I started this blog that I would abandon it, get distracted, as I've done with among other things two other blogger blogs, which I glance at guiltily every time I log in. But no, more or less frequently, I have gone on posting here, reflecting, working with the cards. I've gotten a lot more familiar with my decks and tastes in the last year, working on figuring out which ones are true favorites, which I don't actually like quite as much as I thought I did.

And likewise, life in general. As I said in the previous post...exactly a year ago I was madly scrambling to finish a paper. Now I am doing the same exact thing. Different class though, different paper. Last year, finishing my first semester in a grad program, I was still feeling a bit insecure about whether I was actually good enough, capable enough, to do well in graduate school. Now I write and I know, if I can just get this done, that I can do well. I've gotten very gratifyingly positive feedback from all my professors this semester. Not done with things yet, not at all but...progress, yes. On and on we go, forcing ourselves to read and to type and to type. After this two more papers to write before my semester is done. Lots of reading about lots of very non-uplifting things. But so it goes, and so we go - onwards.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Amazing Aces: Wands

Getting back to this particular favorites post series, we have the third of the four aces, the Ace of Wands. The wands suit is typically depicted, in those decks that use elemental associations, as associated with fire - the light, the burning energy, the passion that the cards within it often speak to. This Ace, like the others, is about new beginnings and opportunities, yes - about those involving creativity, self-fulfillment, ambition, drive. This Ace calls for action in the post literal, direct sense: go, do, create, be brave. It is about potential ready to be worked, shaped.

It is, in fact, probably one of the Aces I would see as being easily applicable to a wide variety of situations, even those typically associated with the others suits - yes, go learn that thing that you care so strongly about; yes, initiate that romance you are daydreaming about; yes, apply to that job even if you aren't sure you could qualify. A very dynamic card, on the whole. As for which of my decks I feel depict it best...

Alchemical Renewed

Though many decks utilize elemental associations and imagery in their depictions of the minors, few, I think, do so as neatly as Robert Place's Alchemical. I especially like how the theme of the animals continues through the suit - the baby salamander in the Ace reappears, majestic and grown, as the wand's King. The salamander makes a rather good metaphor for the Ace in general - here it is small and newly born, but already we can see the hints of its future power, the way it lays on a bed of flames at the wand's base.

The tip of the wand burns too, of course, illuminating the space. I find the clover sprouting out of the side a very nice touch. A clover for luck, a sign that now is indeed the right time for whatever this card is speaking to, that the universe is on your side; and at the same time, a reminder of the idea of making your own luck, the need to act, to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to you. The line work and coloring here is awesome, the palette perfectly suited.

Tarot of the Absurd

Can it be, one might ask? Can a black and white deck really manage to express all the energy and meaning that an Ace like this is meant to represent? The answer, as the Tarot of the Absurd here shows, is very much yes. Like just about all the cards is this lovely deck, the ace of wands has a certain playfulness to it, a touch of whimsy. Though it features a tree, something we usually associated with age, tradition, firmness, here we see it dynamic, in motion, sprouting new branches and, at the center of the image, curled around a newborn.

Yes, the tree here moves and sways and curls so as to protect this creature, newly entered into the world, just formed, inexperienced. A beginning indeed, a wealth of experiences to be had, discoveries. The baby still sleeps but the tree does not, no. Nothing here is a passive act, not holding, protecting, caring. Everything requires deliberate effort, decision. What will become of them, this tiny babe, this almost dancing tree? Time will tell indeed.

Silicon Dawn
I drew and wrote about this card in my very first post on this blog, just a day short of exactly a year ago. At the time I was desperately scrambling to finish a rather long and important paper - rather the same as I'm doing now, come to think. Changes and beginnings and repetition. The deck was quite new to me then, and I was still trying to wrap my mind the rather unusual switch, of elemental associations and to a large degree meanings, of the wands and coins suits. Of all the switched up cards in the deck, this one perhaps makes the most amount of immediate, intuitive sense to me.

Why shouldn't the Ace of Wands be seen like this, a confident silhouette of what may be sprouting out of a plant, leaves and roots and vines supporting  and pushing up. The green of the ground slowly turns to blue as we reach the top of the card, to sky, freedom, so much possibility there. We plant seeds in the ground, little kernals of perhaps, and wait and watch them grown into things to beautiful hey take our breath away, sometimes. And isn't that what this card can be, at it's best - the reason we see it and know we should go, try, take that risk?

Monday, December 10, 2012

significance of vivid dreams

I've always had occasional instances of dreams that are...particularly vivid, extended, detailed. I remember these dreams long after I wake up, unlike the usual dreams that fade away, except for perhaps bits and pieces, a few hours after waking. In fact, they stay with me almost like...memories, in their realness, memories of a dream flashing across my consciousness even a day or two afterwards. In the past, these almost only ever happened when I  stayed in bed hours longer than my body really needs...

Lately though, they've been happening more frequently, and without any over-sleep on my part. I decided to pull some cards about...the significance of this, what to make of it, what to do with it, whatever. The first card to come up was the Queen of Cups, which I admit seeps rather apt, given the issue. She holds a cup in her hands, out of which a butterfly is flying out. A bit of whimsy there - this card can stand for dreams, but also sometimes psychic me the butterfly would seem to say that this isn't really to do with the latter, which given the subject matter of the dreams, rather makes sense. Not a message for me about the future or any such, but rather...the butterfly, transformation, whimsy, flight. Behind her we see a beautiful dawn or dusk sky, a tree and some hills that look as if they came from a painted picture. Creativity there, no, artistry? The dawn sky, the same red-orange palette as we see on the queen herself, and her reminds me of a part of the most recent of my dreams. Towards the end, I found myself in a place that a dream enemy had called the 'pink world' a sort of narrow strip between two far larger dimensions, a place with narrow streets and low-strung buildings. The streets were dusty when we walked and the sky, the sky in this place was always and only ever that color, the red-orange-pink shades of dusk and dawn...

The Empress next to the queen clarifies this further, for me. Again we have the emphasis on creativity, on creation, on nurturing. I am reminded of how much of a vivid imagination I have, have always had, how intensely and rapidly and visually it likes to work. Give me a word and I can write you a story off the top of my head. Sometimes I'll tell or hear a funny joke or read something amusing and laugh far longer than anyone else, simply because I cannot get the very vivid IMAGE of that idea out of my head....

These dreams don't feel like normal dreams because they aren't really about fantasies or fears of mine but rather - they feel like stories. Like being in a book or a movie or a video game. The latest one even had point of view shifts and interludes - there were parts where I had an omniscient narrator view and other times when I was a character with limited knowledge, only the vague shadow of an idea that there was so much more going on that I wasn't aware of... These dreams have characters and worlds and a plot, all the structures of a complex story. Childhood adventures in a castle filled with magical relics but also high tech elevators; magical powers tied to trinkets like pig shaped piggy banks that must be carefully guarded; an attack, a dream-father calling forth waves only to have someone else, far more powerful, summon lightening - the image of an entire beach full of water electrified, death by electric shock borne by tides coming towards us; learning of another dimension, ying and yang; losing the father and the guide in an inter-dimensional space made up of black void and dimly glowing white walls of a maze and terribly powerful rushing water, inky black; taking refuge after, desperately confused, in the dawn-sky place....

I have a lot of imagination and creative, even artistic inclination in me. But the fact is, I rather deliberately chose to go into a field, in academia and hopefully professionally after that, that requires very little of those - that is to say, only in a very disciplined, controlled context. A bit of creativity and imagination can lead to a stronger, more original analysis; writing skill can be adjusted and tweaked to provide good academic work as well as good creative work. The stories, though, the characters, the worlds, the colors and much of that has no use here.

I read about genocides and war crimes, write papers about counter-terrorism measures and preventing the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and economic analysis of sub-state violence and this and that, and I enjoy my work, I do. When I am feeling particularly overwhelmed by personal/mental difficulties, focusing on that is just about all I can manage anyway. Apparently though, when I start to feel even a bit isn't enough, to work only on that, no matter how much I enjoy it. My mind wants to do creative things too. Stories, art, poems, something. So it comes out in dreams - unusual, interesting, sometimes distracting dreams. I suppose it would make sense to make some time for purely creative pursuits in my life, even if it does feel very full right now with other tasks, responsibilities.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

some more story time

So I figured it was high time I did another of the story writing exercises. I can't quite remember, but I don't *think* that I've done one with a pips deck before...

There were once two kings whose nations bordered each other. Though close to one another, the nature of their lands varied greatly - the first king ruled a mountainous region. His was a harsh domain, bitterly cold in the winter. His people were tough - they raised goats and they mined and traded. His resources were scarce, demanding careful, prudent management. He worried and thought and worked. His neighbor, in contrast, ruled over a land of rich and fertile valleys, rich with rivers and springs and rain. His people grew more food then they could eat, hunted plentifully, were surrounded by beautiful flowers in spring. This king had time not just to rule but to dream, to paint and write poetry.

One would think that these differences might lead to war, sooner or later, between the two countries, but here that was not the case. The two kings had long been friends, and as time went on they found themselves growing closer yet, looking forward to each of their state visits, diplomatic missions, negotiations. There embraces are meeting and parting went on longer than one might expect. Over time the two men realized that their feelings for one another were deeper than that of allies or even friends. There was love between them, passion repressed - for they both knew that anything else was impossible. The mountain king was twenty years older than the king of the valleys, and looked even more the elder, drained my so many years of work and worry. It would be unheard of, inappropriate, impossible yes, always.

And so the years passed. The mountain king would find himself thinking of the other as he climbed through mountain passes with his men, inspecting and giving orders. The valley king would paint his colleague, again and again and again, write poetry that was never heard. Neither married.

Finally, after many years had passed in this way, a terrible storm swept through the land, strong enough to bring creatures from the sea into the valley and wash away many structures. The mountain king ordered his people to go down and help their neighbors. The two leaders felt, then, a wild shift in their thinking, perspective. So many years wasted, gone by in longing. And so they talked and planned, and in the end they announced something great: a union of their two lands into a new, greater nation. They would rule together, partners in all things, and upon their deaths the mountain king's niece and the valley king's nephew, who had taken already to one another, would be married and take their place. The two kings held hand, embraced, and so a new nation was formed. Problems continued, of course, obstacles, minor and less minor disasters - but for the rest of their lives, the two kings would face all of those together.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

learning journeys

Trying to get back into the swing of things with properly posting here, working with more of my decks, etc. The Crystal (Vetro) Tarot is one that I've had for a while, and love artistically, but have not really worked all that much with. I think it's high time it got some attention...

We have here, in this subject-less draw (I do want to get back to doing more spreads/exercises...) the six of swords and the Hermit. I must say, spending some time working with both RWS and Thoth traditions really does enrich the reading experience as a whole. The six of swords, which can be about journeys, movement on to better things, new experience; and also about science, logic, discovery, mental and intellectual expeditions. We have waves in this picture, behind the swords, and something that at first looked a bit like a boat but upon closer inspection seems to be a crab or lobster of some sort. The moon is there too, in the sky - actually, beyond the sword arrangement the card as a whole seems to have a bit of an unusual resemblance to the Moon major. What to make of that? Stepping into the unknown, the unclear, the obscure...being willing to venture for not just into new things, but things that are so unfamiliar as to be a bit frightening...

And next to it we see the hermit, who himself tends to go off, on journeys not unlike those in the six of swords card. He goes off alone to ponder, to think and to see, to gain wisdom without distraction. He withdraws into himself, but this is not stagnant introspection - he is not the Hanged Man, sacrificing his body for knowledge. No, on the contrary - he frees himself from the binding of society so as to walk his own path. He relies on himself - his stick to steady him, his light to guide the way. The sky is so rich behind him, dusky orange, beautiful.

We learn most by challenging ourselves with the unfamiliar, by moving forward even when staying put would do, be tolerable. And it is so much easier to make external progress when we can truly say that we know ourselves, are comfortable with our own abilities and strengths.

I've always been one for movement and doing, but often, to be honest, it has been driven largely by the need to get away, start over, lose myself in unfamiliarity so as not to think of things far too tiresomely constant. In some ways, now, I feel like things are beginning to be more about moving forward for the sake of it - because I love learning, love the new, want to experience beauty, things that thus far I've only managed to see in pictures, reflections, always distant...

And as, over the last few years, I've been training myself to communicate, to engage with the world and with people...I realize that in many ways, the years I spent mostly withdrawn, largely alone, internalizing everything, reading and reading, doing my own somewhat unusual thing...there is value in that. I find in conversations with friends that I tend to be...a good bit more self-aware. An understanding of how my mind works and how to work around that efficiently, a well-developed worldview, empathy and perspective and a certain logic to apply broadly.

Forward forward, then - metaphorically, physically, creatively. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tarot Poem Prompt

I admit that I sometimes dabble in writing poems. By and large, I only write them when an idea for one pops into my mind of its own accord; doing anything else tends to just feel forced. That notwithstanding  I decided to see what would happen if I drew two tarot cards and tried using them directly as a prompt for a short poem. Here be the result...

victory in truce

a victory it is, of sorts -
not quite bartered away
or sold, that very last bit of your soul.
it lies here, between us - your dreams,
your words, your thoughts
only half-buried, tamped down
and heavily glossed.

it scratches at the back of your throat
as you stand in front of the waiting crowd,
smile, accept their applause.

Monday, November 26, 2012

life as an adult

A puss in boots, sword at the ready: a new adventure awaits. The feline page of swords in this deck reminds me, in more ways than one, of childhood. I think of the story books I used to read, the ones that were never quite just about entertainment - Polish language all of them, first read to me and later on, me made to read them myself, out loud, language study drilled into my brain. I remember cassettes in the same language, stories listened to in long car rides back and forth between New York and Pennsylvania.

I remember playing at sword fighting with my then best friend, searching for perfect sticks, fallen tree branches we could use for our duels, pretending we knew something about proper posture and movement. Sword fighting in her grandmothers backyard and next door in mine as rain drizzled over our heads.

Everything felt so much more possible when we were kids. The first time I met her I insisted that I was a witch - according to my child logic, the fact that I could balance on my stairwell railing and jump off the side of it, several feet down, without hurting myself was somehow evidence of that. So many plans and possibilities and dreams that seemed real, then.

Perhaps it is because you have yet to collect so much baggage, as a child. So many memories and experiences, anxieties and fears, habits, compulsions. There aren't yet so many chains wrapping themselves around your body, trying hard to hold you down in the same place. The cat with the sword moves forward with confidence, ready to take on the new, sure of its own mind and intentions. The plain in front of it is so wide, so empty of obstacles. Clouds dance and sail through the skies.

When you are older you do not look so far ahead. You set small goals, reasonable hopes and even so...trying to conquer a single thing can be so draining, feel so impossible. You find so many tangled knots unwilling to be undone. A string of self-defeating behaviors and habits and issues and each time you try to leave one behind you find, after a time, that you have merely replaced one bad with another.

And all the while, trying to balance dealing with those chains with new beginnings of a different sort. Will they hold you back from moving forward in other ways? Or will it be a step forward here, a stasis there, all dichotomy and juxtaposition? Life is rarely so very clear, once you get beyond a certain age.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I may not be a fan, at all, of the culture and celebrations and historical background of this holiday, but well. The idea behind it, at least, is worthwhile. So a simple question:

What should I remember to be thankful for today?

The goggle-eyed frog in this picture stands at attention, a defensive stance. He carries a wand, and we can see eight others behind him, forming a sort of fence, a barrier, a safeguard.

Certainly the frog is doing what he can to stay alert, to protect himself and what's his. But what draws my attention in this image are those wands - those pillars of support, those tools. Where would he be without them? How safe can you be if you have nothing to rely on?

Reliability, support, a foundation - something you can fall back on when need be. I have parents that continue to be willing to help and support me, to the degree that they can, even though I am an adult now; I have friends I can talk to, trust. I have cards and books and the healthy coping mechanisms I have managed to slowly develop over time.

More basic still: I have a safe place to live. I have access to food, clothing. I do not live in a country where I have serious reason to fear for my life when going about daily activities  All my life I have had access to clean water, basic medical care, education.

Of course those are the bare basics, but unfortunately, so many people do without them. Doing research for another presentation, readings about Armenian genocide...depressing, that, very much so.

I have tools, internal - my mind, my resilience - and external, situational. A basic level of stability from which I can build, grow. Its such a basic thing, so close to us, that it is easy to forget about. Made up of so many things that you don't even think about until or unless you suddenly find them gone. But they are worth remembering, and appreciating. 

In so many ways, where you start in life is just a crapshoot, a throw of the metaphorical dice. It's easy to focus on the obstacles, on what you were born lacking - but important also to remember the advantages, those wands, the comfort of fortifications.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On the move

A spot-on reflection of my life right about now, and I suppose an explanation of sorts for why my posts have gotten a bit scarcer as of late here. (I have a history of starting blogs and then abandoning them and don't want that to happen with this one, so I always get a bit nervous when I notice I haven't been posting much.) It's kind of funny, but I haven't been feeling all that much enthusiasm for a number of my decks that hew very closely to the RWS images of late, but the Magical Forest remains an exception to that trend. There's a certain mood to this deck, a certain use of color that continues to enchant me.

On the move, yes. The wands are flying through the air on their way to this or that goal. The golden tone of the background reminds me of dusk, and of fall. I always have such mixed feelings about autumn...on the one hand, I adore the color of changing leaves on trees; on the other, winter is by far my least favorite of times, and the coming of it fills me with a certain bit of dread. But so it goes, and so it is Fall, and things are moving swiftly indeed.

A lot of deadlines are coming up, papers and presentations to get done, research and writing. I had two presentations just yesterday, and two more next week. Reading to do, and so on. Entire days spent in classrooms or the library at school. However, there is a difference between now and times like this in the recent past: that three of coins. We see work here, creating of a hall, a temple; work that comes from within, that you do as much for yourself as for others. Work that you can enjoy the process of doing. This time, there is a lot less stress, and a lot more positive productivity involved. I feel capable of getting things done. I actually had - fun - writing a paper I had to hand in and present on yesterday. I spoke for fifteen minutes in Arabic about Tunisia and my stay there over the summer, filled a powerpoint with fun pictures, impressed my professor.

I would like to say this is all me, just me developing a better approach to things, but well. Credit where credit is due: by taking action a few weeks ago...I think I may have finally found a professional who actually *listens* to me, and medications that actually help with some very long-term issues.

Traveling tonight to spend the holiday with parents, but not much of a holiday it will be with all the schoolwork to get through. I've also taken some action in terms of setting up a plan of sorts which, if things go as I hope...I would spread my remaining classes out so as to graduate from my program at the end of next fall instead of this spring, take an extra semester of scholarship supported arabic study, and use the extended time to work on developing my resume/gaining much needed experience in my field. I've been reaching out for help from the staff of my program, their career resources. It's more things to run around and take care of, but well.

Swiftness in Work. I still use the Thoth regularly for myself, though I try to focus on other decks here for variety's sake...finding that it's titles stick in my head regardless...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

making your own happiness

The magician here stands before the Stonehenge, a place man-made ages ago that continues to awe and impress to this day. He points is wand upward, ready to work, to channel power from above into the earthly realm. He is ready and able to make use of all the tools at his disposal.

Next to the ten of cups, I see here a reminder of the importance of taking an active role in shaping your life, in creating that environment of comfort, fulfillment, happiness. If you simply wait for things to get better on their own, for good things to happen to you, for someone else to swoop in and fix what isn't working, you might be waiting a long time indeed.

Even more important, the magician is making reality as he conceives of it. Want and will and action. Making your own happiness isn't only about the's about figuring out what you want, what that means for you. In a lot of ways, the more I think about the ten of cups, the more I question this kind of commonly portrayed representation. Is this what true happiness and satisfaction is supposed to be? A heterosexual partnership and kids, a life at home? Does that make me inadequate, if I am alone? Does that mean that a person who chooses not to have kids will never be truly fulfilled, or the person that doesn't like to settle down? At this point in my life, this image makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable. If I were this woman right now, I would not be happy. I would feel trapped, constrained, overwhelmed.

Satisfaction means different things to different people. The important thing is figuring out what will bring you closer to it, and then working towards that, whether the steps be big or small.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

a matter of focus

Today's draw brings back some themes from the previous reading, coming at them from a bit of a different perspective. Here again we have one of those less than joyful cups cards, the five. Usually this card shows a figure brooding over the broken or spilled vessels, ignoring the whole ones. Here we have something a bit different. The cloaked figure seems to be ignoring both. Instead he looks out at the water, fishes skipping through it, the way the sun and the color of the trees reflects on its surface. Perhaps he is taking a moment to think beyond the cups, beyond the immediate, positive or negative. He could be brooding, sure, looking at the water and not really seeing any of it, too absorbed in his own thoughts, problems. But maybe he is, in fact, appreciating the beauty that nature provides us, the little details that can bring us such joy and can be so easily forgotten, overlooked.

Perhaps he is using this time to meditate on the large picture, to think abstractly. The energy of the fish in the water, the warmth of that sun, the slow passing of clouds in the sky - what can that inspire within us? There is always possibility, somewhere around us. Even if it is still vague, a chalky sketch on a plain far ahead of us, a hill we will have to climb up and conquer. There is possibility and opportunity, and so much of that may not be what we planned or expected - it too, like the reflected color of tree leaves on water, can be overlooked so easily, if we insist on remaining absorbed in what was, what could have been.

There are so many things in life that we may have wanted, dreamrf of, planned for that, it turns out, were not to be. Will we spend more time dwelling on that, letting it cloak so much else, or will we focus on the new, on the future, on that vague outline that can slowly grow, become real to us?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

current strength and weakness

So to start off a new week with a rather more conventional deck than the last, I'd thought I'd do a bit of self-inventory. A short sort of spread, two cards:

What is my greatest Strength right now?
What is my greatest Weakness?
Again here we have my year card, Justice. As I wrote a week ago or so, I've been making some strides, small though they may be in the grand scheme of things, to bring some more equilibrium and balance to my life. In the last couple of weeks I've gotten a better handle on some more problematic habits of mine; I also feel more caught up on/on top of my school-work than I did earlier this semester. I've been working more actively on trying to build on my to do list system, to get more organized about things in the longer term as well.

The Druidcraft tarot is known for its rather big-footed people, and this card is no exception. Here, the bare feet on stone remind me that I have gotten more grounded, particularly in the daily type of things I need to be doing. The owl reminds me of wisdom I have, experience, the sword of my ability to harness logic and critical thinking to my advantage. Self-reflection and self-awareness. I generally have confidence in my ability to assess things and think of solutions, when I make an effort at being objective. Both with personal and professional/academic issues, I think this objective, balanced logic of mine is a major strength indeed. I trust my judgement, my ability to weight things. I can follow authority when I feel it is worth following and question it when it needs questioning, and I can separate my personal feelings from my objective assessment in both cases (ie., I hate this, but it is the right thing to do; This is great for me, but the fact that you allow it shows your incompetence.)

The second card in this spread reminds me that, despite my awareness of this and the work I've done to try to develop a more pro-active and positive-minded approach to things, I nonetheless still tend to...focus over-much on the negative. I see both positives and negatives, can appreciate the good, the progress, and yet in my mind I tend to minimize the formerand dwell and brood on the latter. This card is especially apt because for me, it often isn't the dramatic kind of sorrow of the five of cups, but rather the kind of listless apathy of this four - I see the bad cups, the defective cups, the problematic empty cups, and I dwell on them. I think about the future and consequences and implications if the problems remain unsolved, but solving them seems so impossible, such a pipe dream. I dwell and do nothing, despair and resign myself and rediscover my apathy and worry some more and withdraw again into nonchalance.

Of course, changing thinking is especially hard. Action however, is less so: you can, deep down inside, believe that you will never get those cups filled up again, but that doesn't mean you have to continue to just lie there on the branch. You can force yourself up, force yourself to pick up those cups and get to walking towards the water. Perhaps you are right, perhaps you will never make it - but you can certainly still try. My weakness is this kind of resigned apathy that tempts me to give up before I've really even started; self-paralysis, inaction. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

power of vision

We have here the page of swords - her head, her face, is concealed, outside the image. What we see instead is her body, arms wide open, ready for whatever may come. A bright red dragon tattoo stretches across her skin. Dragons, power, confidence, strength. In the red we have passion, fire. This page has intellect to guide her, too, ingenuity, imagination. She is young, ready to venture into the world, ready to take on challenges, ready to prove herself.

But for what? In the three of wands we have opportunity, potential. Red again, for energy and passion, for vision. The snake slithers and travels up, the other two wands taking on various complex forms. The ability to see what you want, to believe that it is possible to achieve. Inspiration, from above or from deep within yourself. The tools to make that idea real.

I have a lot of reading for my classes about insurgents, rebels, terrorists. Readings about what drives radicals, why religious terrorist groups are more deadly and dangerous than the secular leftist and nationalist groups that preceded them. Quite often, these groups are made up of many young men, pages, somewhat well educated; many leaders, historically, have been trained as doctors and engineers. And what drives them to take such extreme action? What motivates recruitment? Why do some groups succeed in preventing defection, infiltration  internal disunity? What drives someone to sacrifice their life for an abstract cause?

Vision, vision. There is so much power in a clear vision of what you want, what you believe in. If you can so clearly see it is easy to do so much to grasp it, to take the power within yourself, that dragon, and harness it ruthlessly - especially if you are young, without the baggage of so much experience to weight you down.

In less extreme circumstances too. One of my main meta-issues right now is a general sense of feeling adrift in life. One would think that being in a Master's program is a pretty clear indication of knowing, at least in a general sense, of where you are going or what you want, but I find that isn't the case at all. I question more and more why I am doing what I am doing, what, if anything, it is going to get me, besides a mound of debt I can't imagine being able to pay off. I question why I do most anything, sometimes.

Those times in life when I have had that vision, a sense of knowing what I want, and believing that I could get it, seeing a way...I have managed to do much, even when faced with significant challenges. I love learning, thinking, analyzing, writing, trying new things. All of that can serve me well. But when the vision isn't there, when everything is such a blur, it's easy for pessimism to set in. Then, even the simplest things can seem so tediously pointless.

I think this is a reminder for me, a push to think and clarify. What is important to me? What do I want? What do I think I can achieve in the short-medium term? Crack that eye open again, at least a bit.