Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Favorite Majors: The Devil

So...this is clearly a pretty...dramatic major, shall we say. One with a lot of potential baggage for a reader to bring to the table - fortunately for me, no such baggage exists, and all is groovy so far as readings with the Devil are concerned :]

Another of those majors with an interesting variety of takes on it between different decks, some of which are quite stunning and others, in my eyes at least...rather disappointing. It's one of those majors where...a certain effect is really expected, to me. That said, I found it a bit amusing that my favorites for this are from what are probably my top two most favorite decks...

XV. Devil

Another win for my dear Nusantara tarot. What can I say? The card keeps the composition and much of the basic imagery from the RWS, but again, redoes the artwork in a way I much prefer over the original. Essentially, one of the things that this deck does that I really like is just...removes all the basic Christian imagery/undertones, something that has always...not connected with me particularly, in the RWS. Instead of that stiff, stern classic devil we have this figure, which SO draws my eye...he is dynamic, compelling, strange but not totally unlikeable, almost amusing in a way, with those pinstriped arms, the face. You could see how he might draw people in. And likewise, the figures here look suitably oppressed...the added modesty here is a bit funny, if you think about it, but the artwork flows so well that it took me a while to even really notice it. I love the color scheme over-all, and yeah. A definite favorite here.

Runner Up:
This card, which hews a bit further from the traditional imagery, is just perfect as a representation of this major. Why? Because the devil is sexy. Even as a computer generated image printed on a small piece of paper...he is sexy, physically appealing, alluring. An aura of danger and yet...and THAT, exactly, is so much a part of the devil, when you think about it. How would he get those followers to chain up, if he was only ever stern, foreboding, scary? And when you think about the issues this card often speaks to in a reading - addictions, abuse, self-destructive behaviors, manipulation - so much of that revolves around...that same concept, the terrible interweaving of that which calls to you and that which hurts you, that stupid appeal of things you should run far away from, the danger of things that would keep you stuck. You SEE here, even, how he is holding that fool captive, manipulating him like a little puppet, and the symbolism of the pentagram and yet...isn't he still appealing? That juxtaposition just captures the essence of this card perfectly for me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

the forest and the trees

It's interesting how well some metaphors translate into spreads of sorts...particularly since card reading is itself, from a certain perspective, essentially the reading of visual metaphors, a shorthand of familiar images and system of associations. Anyway, a draw to try to focus/ground myself for the coming week, with this sort of spread in mind:

The Forest (Big Picture) - The Trees (Details)

I must say, I rather like the little frown of uncertainty or indifference on the figure's face in this Temperance card. There is a spring nearby, carefully constructed, and the angel (love the androgyny of many of the cards in this deck as well!) does the water pouring, water mixing thing. Chemistry, alchemy, synthesis, experimentation.

With a frown on it's face. Because sometimes, taking the path of moderation, finding and maintaining that balance, sticking with the reasonable thing and avoiding those extremes - it can be the hardest of all possible options. It's easy to throw yourself carelessly, recklessly into the most clearly delineated of positions. Dogmatism has a way of taking a grip on one's soul. All or nothing, right? All or nothing, and sticking to doing things simply because you've done them that way for so long...

And so stepping back to evaluate, to say - no, this isn't working, let's tray again...that can be hard. That can be hard to internally motivate yourself to want to do. Moderation as an art requiring patience with yourself, to try again and again with the water pouring, jug to jug, until finally you find a balance, a setting, a way of going about things that is sustainable, that works for you.

It is tempting to just give up, especially with so many things in the short-term to grab the attention, to distract, to let you tell yourself that your lack of progress in these matters doesn't matter. It does, though. Need to keep trying, looking at the bigger picture, trying to find a way, a reason to fix things, to bring things into better balance, equilibrium

As for the short term, those immediate details - remember prudence. This card actually quite strongly recalls the Thoth's 8 of disks...the coins are in the same arrangement, and flowers on each coin, and the hint of vines at the top of the card...a time to prudently nurture things, let things develop, take care of the things that need to be taken care of, attend to responsibilities. In this deck, eights are associated with Justice in the majors - again, a message about balance - and with coins dealing with the material realm, the financial, the solid and earthy...

While keeping big picture search for equilibrium in mind, this is the time to attend to ensuring that all the little, immediate, concrete things that must be taken care of are, that all of those are put right, handled in an appropriate manner. Arrange them all in neat rows like these. Don't shy away from doing the work to make that happen.

Channel that virgo influence this card has in the Thoth's system, keep the tree carefully pruned, organize and arrange and procure what you need, keep justice in mind and apply it to all your current worldly concerns, and keep working at it until all is done and settled - interesting how, with pip cards, it becomes so natural to draw on the influences of just about all the different tarot systems in the reading...

Friday, May 25, 2012

5W & H - Haven't Done One of These In a While...

Back around when I first started this blog, I tried out this exercise a couple times and liked it, then sort of...slipped my mind. Realized I've yet to do it with my Thoth (which I am still working with, if not so much on this blog) and figured...might as well give it a go!

The exercise can be found in the original on Zanna Starr's lovely blog, where her directions for it are as follows:
"For the 5W's and an H exercise, we use one Tarot card to answer the questions Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? As an additional requirement, each answer can be only one phrase or sentence. The idea is to respond intuitively, without a lot of description or explanation."
Thoth Tarot - Emperor 

A strong, disciplined fellow. An authority figure, a leader who knows exactly the bounds of his duties and responsibilities. A person who is always organized, who has iron-will, who follows through on his commitments. A father figure.

Inflexible rules, laws, requirements. Ambition, assertively followed through. Leadership skills, management. The strength to make difficult decisions. Obligation. The social contract. Power - personal and institutional. Masculinity. Order and discipline, of others and of the self.

A time when a firm hand is needed. A time to be decisive. A time to charge into action. A time when you need one person firmly in control, acting swiftly. When everything must be put in its proper ordered. When stability and security are the priorities of the day.

At the top - in the throne room, in the penthouse suite, in the CEO's office. A place where chaos must be put to rest. A place with a firm history of tradition. Where a leadership vacuum waits to be filled. The 'old boy's club', the house of the patriarchy. Where there is fire to be mastered.

Because freedom and creativity can only take you so far without discipline, without follow-through, without some focus and guidance. Because everyone is beholden to someone. Because sometimes authority is what is needed to make sense of the chaos. Because sometimes, even when it isn't needed, a person like that can take command through sheer force of personality. Because most people want some kind of stability, even at a price.

In a discipline, organized, methodical manner. Following a set schedule, a routine. Listening to a set of directions. Aggressively, assertively when necessary, with force. Sticking to the rules, the established way of doing things. Driven by external obligation. Straight-laced. With a crack of the whip, when necessary. With just a bit of fear.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

ends and beginnings

So I continue my adventures in trying to find the optimal way of shuffling this particular deck. I love the art, and I love the elongated shape, but thickness of the does make things a challenge...

But so it goes. An interesting juxtaposition here - on the one hand death, old things that need to be swept, cut away, things that have outlived their usefulness, their time. All things come to an end, eventually. There comes a time where an ending is necessary even if it may be difficult to arrange, difficult to contemplate, difficult to experience. I do enjoy the way this card takes that on, though. We have the traditional skeleton in black robes, wielding a scythe, body parts and relics of glory on the ground beneath him...and yet he is dancing. He is dynamic, in motion, and he seems very much amused by the whole situation. It adds some perspective to the concept.

And next to death, we have the three of wands. At the top, a kind of animal head seeming to want to lunge forward out of a kind of decorative vine. Flowers carved out of the top of those wands - new growth, development, beginnings. Three, which is associated with the Empress in the majors - nurturing, fertility, creativity; and wands, the suit of fire, of passion, of self-development, ambition, potential. The card of new horizons, new prospects, new possibilities out there, waiting to be grasped. Al-mustaqbal - the future, the new, waiting for you.

I'm reminded by this draw of the concept behind the symbol of Ouroboros - the snake that eats its own tail. I have something similar to this specific image tattooed on my right wrist, decoration and reminder both.

All ends are inherently a beginning, and all new things inherently require the end of something that came before. Tis the nature of things. A cycle, constant. Time never stands still. Existence never remains exactly the same for long. Trying to resist this is...not only limiting, but also in many cases futile. Better to roll with the changes, transformations. Give death it's due. Excitement rather than melancholy. Plans rather than nostalgia.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

comparative Sun musings

So a recent post on the Tarot Thrones blog has had me thinking about doing something comparative with reading/my decks. I drew another Sun card today from my current/weekly working deck, and that got me thinking about variations on reading this major. And so - some Sun-centered musing follows...

So to start off with, my original draw, the Sun from the Corte dei Tarocchi deck - I actually quite like this take on the sun. I got this deck, recently, because I just found some of the cards so charming... We have the two little girls under the bright sun (love the details on their outfits!). They both seem to be suprised to various degrees my something - the one on the right looks shocked, the one on the left pensive, nervous.

An interesting reminder here, about the fact that sometimes, good things - great things - do fall into our lap quite unexpectedly. Sometimes, the things that eventually turn out to be absolutely amazing initially come at us in the form of an unpleasant shock. And sometimes, success, the prospect of some particular accomplishment - it scares us. All the work that must go into attaining that kind of can feel overwhelming. Sometimes even optimism, a positive attitude, can terrify - after all, if you have a fatalistic outlook and low expectations, you have a shield against dissapointment. To adopt a positive, pro-active approach is to open yourself up to risk, to pain.  Scary indeed, it can be.

On the other hand, in the Sun card of the Silicon Dawn tarot, we get quite a different image, and a different aspect of the things the card represents. Here we have an queen bee figure, almost a combination, really, of antromorphic bee and some kind of Indian goddess, if you look at her posture, the arms, the background of the sun.... Below, the large, rich hive is busy: worker bees creating sweet honey, everything illuminated in warm, golden hues...

Here, we are reminded of the fact that, excepting those situations where it really is just sheer luck, most of the time succes is built on hard work - work that is sometimes boring, sometimes repetative, sometimes deeply unpleasant and yet...necessary. We see that sense of inner accomplishment that comes from sticking to it, getting those things done. The inner pride, when you KNOW that it's your own hard work and skill that has gotten you what you have. Also, a reminder of how much teamwork, a larger group effort can achieve with effective leadership and good organization - in that case, the kind of collective sense of accomplishment - the elated, WE DID IT feeling.

Now with the Celtic tarot, we see yet another take on the Sun. Here, instead of golden, yellow hues, we have a lot of watery colors, a prevalence of blue. The picture looks a bit somber too...the ghostly figure floating up, the naked woman below, kneeling as if in supplication, the sun glowing dimly, as if it were about to go out soon...

To me, there's a reminder here, of the impermanence of all things. Everything comes to an end, and from all ends new beginnings spring, and so it goes. Good things - the bright blaze of the sun - last only so long. We can't expect them to go on forever, cannot expect one success to be all that we will have to do. On the other hand, in order to embark on the new, we have to accept the floating away of older things, even things very dear to us. We must be ready to adapt, to start again as many times as we must, to accept transience. The things that we can hold onto are within us: a positive attitude, the self-confidence that comes from past experiences, lessons learned.

Finally, in one more take, we have the Sun of the Magical Forest tarot, a personal favorite of mine. Here we have a rather clever take on some of the traditional RWS imagery - the youth, in this case a kangaroo joey, still in his mother's pouch with the red flag of success, with sunflowers all around and the bright sun overhead...

This card in particular makes me think of the effect that the right enviroment can have on outlook and on success - the joey here is safe and secure in his pouch, developing at his own pace, protected from the world until he is ready to face it on his own. In the meantime, he builds up his confidence with small accomplishments, gets experience under the belt. The field of flowers and the bright sun are just the right kind of setting for healthy growth. The right kind of support can be a real advantage. On the other hand, having the joey to protect gives the mother kangaroo a sense of purpose, a reason to seek out that bright sunlight...sometimes having that externalized sense of responsibility, needing to care or help out someone else...can do as much for the person or purpose we are trying to assist. Symbosis. Positive cycles and spirals.

Monday, May 21, 2012

another deck, another quote set

“Do not wait for the last judgment. It comes every day.” 
-Albert Camus

"Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice: it is not to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved."
-William Jennings Bryant

"In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing."
-Theodore Roosevelt

Saturday, May 19, 2012

exercise in deliberate succinctness

So I freely admit I tend to fall on the verbose side of the spectrum when it comes to writing and readings and such...but it's always useful to change things up from time to time, so. A bare-bones, getting down to the gist of things type of reading exercise here.

King of Swords [reversed]

It is tempting, sometimes - even when you KNOW that it is not the logical thing to do - to avoid being decisive, to avoid taking control of a situation in a concrete way. It is tempting to ignore logic entirely, to dodge the call of responsibility.

7 of Swords

It is much easier, to simply ignore the problem. It is easier to go to sleep, to dream and distract yourself, to close your eyes and do not. But telling yourself the problem isn't there or isn't serious doesn't make it so. You are only giving the mice a chance to multiply, allowing things to advance, get worse, get even more difficult to deal with in the long-term.

5 of Coins

Eventually you will need to get out there, in the snow and the cold, and deal with the situation. Yes, it will no doubt be unpleasant and frustrating and possibly quite difficult. Certainly, far less comfortable than staying in bed with eyes shut pretending everything is fine. But it is necessary to deal with that hardship, to resolve the issue. And there is some support for you while you do it, if you are willing to accept it.

My attempts at being brief never turn out as brief as I set out, but this was quite to the point, methinks. And useful to keep in mind. Tonight, the cards and the cats remind me of quite the same thing a friend was trying to get through my sometimes thick/avoidant skull during the day. I guess it's time I actually try to listen? ;]

Friday, May 18, 2012

the funny thing about anxieties...

So...interesting pair of cards coming up today. Interesting that they come up as a pair, that is: the 9 of swords and the Sun card - quite a contrast it seems, between those. In the first we have a cat on that familiar patch quilt, except here, with the suits and elemental symbols filled in it almost looks like a chess board of some sort - a challenge, a competition.

The cat sees danger everywhere. Beneath his feet. Around him. The swords box him in, cage him where he stands. Sharp blades are pointed towards his body. Who knows how long they will hang like that, threatening? Waiting for the sword to fall, waiting for the other shoe to drop... And doesn't that really describe the state of anxiety perfectly? It is the WORRY that kills you as much as whatever the negative event actually is...the pondering worst case scenarios, the dread...

And of course, when things are a mess, that kind of anxiety...well, at least it makes SENSE, is not...unexpected. But what about when things are going well, coming together? What about when you've just managed to succeed at something challenging?

Shockingly (ha!) enough, the brain will still find something to worry over - what if it all goes wrong now? What if you screw up and all that work is wasted? Now that you've set a standard, if you make a mistake, drop the ball, it will be even MORE of a disappointment to you and to others; the stakes are higher...

And of course, there is internal nitpicking. Did well? Well enough, sure, but surely you could have done even BETTER if you had tried harder, if you were really good enough, if you really belonged in this position, if you really had the skills people think you have...

Considering how easily these kinds of thoughts can come...I suppose it's not all that surprising that Impostor Syndrome is as common a phenomenon as it is.

Fundamentally, I guess, and depending on your exact nature, approach to things, how much work you may have done to deal with negative patterns of thinking, anxieties and worries are pretty much part of the deal of being a living, functioning human being, regardless of the external. Things are a mess? You worry. Things are fantastic? You worry. So it goes. The trick, I suppose, is that act of managing your thinking, keeping things in perspective, accepting irrational thoughts while recognizing that they are irrational and calibrating your actions accordingly.

Sometimes you just need to make a conscious effort to turn your thoughts away from the swords and towards those sunflowers in the background.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

dashing towards our hopes

I decided to try working with the Arcana Stones again this morning, this time in a shorter, more casual fashion. Ended up with one stone on one card: a nice, succint message for the day.

We have the Knight of Wands here, on his black horse. Saying this reminds me of that Knight Study series I was supposed to finish here, can tell a lot about each of the knights from the position of their horses. Here, we see the animal rearing on its hind legs - that extra momentum, the energy pulling it up, but also a degree of combativeness not seen in any of the other suits. Fire, after all, is the most easily dangerous of the elements; fire burns.

Being a Knight, the card speaks not just of wild energy, of fierceness, but rather of all that controlled. The rider is experiences, wise enough to know when and what to harness, and how, in order to achieve his goal. He rides with his flaming baton at the ready. Like the other knights, he has his armor to protecting him - more physical in nature than that of the Swords Knight, but not so heavy as that of the Disks. Behind him we see the backgroound of curling glames, so much light and heat.. So much to do, yes, to take control over, energy directed in to action. He rides and he fights and he takes on what he must take on in order to achieve...

But what, exactly, is he doing all of that for? What drives him? I write a lot, both here and especially in my personal journey, about getting things done simply because you must, because it is necessary and there are no other options. And that is, indeed, a valid driving factor - yet, you cannot really get this kind of passion if THAT is what underlies everything. No, for this kind of more energetic, more enthusiastic, more driven need to have some kind of...hope, dreams, ideals.

The stone here is blue lace agate, signifying the Star. Aquarius major, the cool blue a contrast to the fire of the knight and yet... The star: dreams, hopes, the forces that keep you going. Wishes, grasping towards those far pinpoints of light in the night, in the darkness...

When something...Star-like is visible, near-graspable, clearly on the becomes easier to motivate ourselves to approach the things, the obstacles, whatever, that seperate us from it with this kind of fiery enthusiasm: Scorpio and Sagittarius, grim determination and sheer optimistic drive, all focused towards that pretty, shiny blue in the distance...

Which is to say, this is whole reading is pretty much speaking to my efforts at getting my shite together/getting organized for my rapidly approaching Tunisia adventure. All the things I've been doing, and need to continue to do. It's not really in my nature to get truly 'excited' by most things, but...a little spark, slowly growing as everything comes together. Need to channel and direct that energy, keep knocking those things off the To Do list...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

things you cannot escape

They come, hurtle towards you far faster than you could run even if you had a time to: the things that you cannot avoid, cannot escape or hide from, cannot shove aside to be dealt with another time.

Perhaps you would like to dive off of your stone throne, king, into those wild, dark waves. Perhaps you would like to hold your breath and swim and swim until you grow dizzy from lack of oxygen and too much buoyancy. Perhaps you would like to shut your eyes and your mind, to distract yourself: the contents of that golden cup call. Perhaps you would like to turn away, to put yourself to sleep, where you could dream of ships and sails, impossible illusions, anything but the concrete, in front of you here and now.

But you cannot do any of those things, not for long, not this time. They sail through the air towards you - events, changes, that impossible to resist momentum, swiftness. You see them, know what you must do, how quickly and surely you must act even if you wish that you could wait, procrastinate, ponder a bit longer, dream distractions. You see them and you know how you must prepare, the circle you have to complete, bit by bit.

They will arrive soon, slam into the ground around you whether you wish them to or not. You must be there, fully there, to greet them. It is far too late for anything else.

My Favorite Majors: Temperance

So, this is another middle of the road type major for me - neither a favorite nor particularly challenging to read. Like all the rest, it has a range of meanings, but by and large these have always made intuitive sense to me, paired well with the imagery of the card. Aesthetically...I must say, in the RWS deck this very well might be my least favorite of the majors, though in other decks - both clones and decks that hew further away from the RWS tradition - the card is often done quite nicely, though with...varying degrees of depth, I'd say.

Anyway, it wasn't TOO hard to choose favorites for this one. In this case, one I chose more aesthetically and the other more conceptually...

XIV. Temperance

So, choosing pretty blatantly for aesthetic appeal here but...I just really, really love what Ciro did with this card in the Legacy of the Divine tarot. The perspective is quite unusual, and really adds to the effect of the card. The colors are great - I love the deep purple, the bronze. I love how life-like the water and fire looks, and the light from that stained glass dome, illuminating everything? It's just lovely. It's a very original take on the card, and yet it keeping with most of the traditional RWS aspects - the mixing of water and fire, the angel figure... Also very in keeping with the theme of the deck as a whole, very fitting. I love to just...look at this card. Its really mostly a combination of the lighting and the perspective that does it for me but...yeah. An awesomely done Temperance card.

Runner Up:
Ok, so really it's a combination here. I do love the artwork of the Thoth - the use of color in this major especially draws me in. But primarily, as is the case with a lot of this deck, this card especially appeals to me conceptually. I like the renaming of this card...I don't think it's as perfect a subsitute as the Justice/Adjustment switch, but I do like the extra layers of nuance and meaning it adds here. I love the androgynous nature of the figure, the merging of male and female, black and white, balance. So many details here that speak to balance, to mixing, to synthesis and experimentation, creation and renewal...the switching of the colors of the eagle and the lion, the bright green, spring-like, of the dress with the bees, the rising up out of that cauldron (engraved with the symbols of death as a reminder...) where water and fire are mixed of that rainbow of energy....this card is so symbol-packed, and yet, to be honest, as much as I appreciate how much there is to glean from all of's now what draws me to this card. At a much more visceral level...this card just makes perfect sense to me. When I draw it, it reassures me - I know what it's telling me to do in the context of the reading. In a way, the whole card has a kind of rainbow-ish feel to me that just...encompasses Temperance perfectly...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

pleasant little adventures

So decided to do a final little two card draw this morning before switching off to a new week's deck...

Seeing these, it immediately brought to mind my day yesterday. I really like this deck's take on that three of wands...we have the ship in the sea, sailing, the possibilities, opportunities, horizons, travel aspects of this card...but also the dolphin the the foreground. We have a dolphin playing, enjoying itself. A bit of whimsy. A message to make the most of the moment, of whatever you happen to be doing. Enjoy the adventures you happen to go on. The sun really emphasizes that point too. Two kids, playing together under the sun's bright light - optimism, fun, a good attitude.

It was a very sunny Saturday yesterday. A got myself motivated, gathered up the energy to get up early and go out. There was an open house event at the embassies of the EU. I visited the embassies of Finland, the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Croatia, Lithuania, and Romania, as well as going inside the big Islamic center/Mosque which was also having an open house type event. It was a lot of walking, a nice day spent exploring. I enjoyed spending the time alone doing positive, interesting things. And in a legal sense, I visited the sovereign soil of quite a few nations indeed, ha.

So yes, I felt quite a bit  like that dolphin, moving around, checking out the possibilities, take advantage of an opportunity (the event is only hosted one day a year) and enjoying the weather, the sunshine.

I also like the dynamic movement of the two cards...the dolphin is swimming, dancing in the water, and the two kids are dancing on the grass...a message there, I think, about making your own pleasures, about taking an active part rather than sitting around and just...thinking. Or even just the fact that, nice as sedentary activities can be...when the weather is right, doing things that require some physical movement - walking, running, skating, biking, dancing, swimming, whatever - can be really beneficial, both physically and mentally.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

sweet, sweet freedom

So after yesterday's long reading about how to approach all the many things I have to do, todays cards have quite a different message/focus for me:

Enjoy the newly regained freedom that comes with no longer being deluged with four classes worth of graduate schoolwork. Enjoy the intellectual freedom especially. Because on the one hand, yes, I do enjoy being challenged, being pushed to the limits of what I can do, having so much to read and write all the time that just keeping up with that takes up the vast majority of my brain power.

On the other hand though, after doing that from September to May...being free to just READ whatever I want, as much as I want...all those books I've had piling up around fiction, fantasy, non-fiction about things I want to I can start making my way through them. It feels really nice to be able to jump into reading ANYTHING that I want to read because there is nothing that I HAVE to read.

It's nice to be able to watch episodes of TV shows online without feeling guilty because I am WASTING TIME that I ought to be using to get x, y, and z done. It's nice to have the option to work with some decks that require more reading/study, to work on my self-help books a bit, to actually properly sleep.

So yeah, obviously, as the previous reading focused on, there is a lot I still have to do and sort through as I [rather rapidly] move forward with things...but nonetheless. I think the message here is to have some patience with myself. Let myself rest, do a few things, silly things even, frivolous things, that make me happy. I like this 7 of pentacles because, rather than focus on the growing aspect of farming, like many decks do, it focuses on the harvest time, and a completed-harvest at that. A different kind of patience, a different kind of rest.

(Also, not sure how it could apply to me, but I rather like the theme of the dog in these two cards. The loyal companion, reliable source of comfort...sometimes it snips at your heals, warning you of danger. Sometimes it lies beside you, as ready for a rest as you are...)

So yeah, it's nice to have a bit more time for me again. :]

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Something rather different!

So I attended a local tarot society meetup last Saturday, and there procured a set of Arcana Stones. These are a nifty take on divination - Rachel chose 22 different crystals to represent all of the major arcana in the tarot. The stones are a self-contained method of divination, with a drop sheet based on the astrological houses to use with them. But seeing as a) I haven't had time yet to have a proper read through of Rachel's booklet about the houses and b) I really like using tarot cards themselves, I thought up a combined method of divination that uses both a tarot deck (the Thoth, specifically) and the stones.

Since I just finished up my last exam today, I decided to do a reading for myself on the topic of Advice for the next few weeks/What I should focus on between now and when I leave for my adventure in Tunisia.

What follows is my attempt at explaining the method/reading, which hopefully will make as much sense in words as it does to me in my head. ;]

So first, I shuffle/cut/fan the deck according to my usual reading method, and lay out a certain number of cards, face down. I like evenness when doing this, so either multiples of two (4, 6, 8) or a nice square made up of nine cards. Mostly this just depends on how many cards I want to potentially have in a reading/how big of a spread I feel like dealing with. For this, I decided six cards would work for me. After I have the cards out, I take the black satin bag with the stones, shake them up, and with eyes closed grab a small handful and drop them, without looking, down on the cards.

Stones can either be directly on top of one card, or linking two cards together. Any stones that don't fall on a card get removed; any cards without a stone on them are likewise removed. Then, the cards are turned over, with the stones left on them. Cards are read normally, but with the stones and the arcana they represent adding additional layers of meaning to the cards they are on or the cards that they are linking. Rather than a formal spread, I read the message intuitively.

So, we basically see two separate but related messages here, as the visual shows. On the left we have the Aeon and the 10 of Swords. The fiery reddish tones definitely a theme here. Essentially, the Aeon, Thoth's counterpart to Judgement, is a card of decision, of the fading of the old to make way for the new. We see have illustrated the ancient Egyptian belief about the dusk and dawn, the rebirth of the sun each day. It's a dynamic card, movement towards a new age. And indeed, a lot of things are obviously in flux for me. The end of the school year, the end of my living situation, the beginning of a long summer full of many new things to do, plans. Connected to this card in the 10 of swords, which is also a change...of sorts. Ruin, destruction, the end of things which must end, pain and chaos. the piercing of that heart in the center of the swords...As I have mentioned before, this has rather been a year of highs and lows, and there are definitely aspects of my own actions, approach to things that have been less than positive, that I would be rather better off leaving behind as I go into that sea of change that is the Aeon...

And indeed, the stone that links these two cards is the Rose Quartz, representing Temperance, or Art in the Thoth. Art is an alchemist, a mad scientist, a healer. It's a card of synthesis, of combining and taking away, of healing, of a more moderate, balanced approach to things, experimenting and renewing and..yes, an ongoing process, and one to keep in mind as I move ahead. I have done new things, lived with old, familiar things...and now, with all this changing and packing and sorting, what better a time to decide what would be best to keep and what to let go of? A time for balancing, for equilibrium seeking; and indeed, the stone of the Aeon card is Aventurine, representing justice. The cool blue-green tones to balance out all the red...balance, using my mind to figure out what is worth taking with me into the new 'age' of the next few months and what best to leave behind. What will serve me and what will hold me back? What kind of chaos am I ready to let go of?

The second set of three cards enforce this theme on a more practical level, which makes sense given the disks suit we see here. We have at the bottom the 6 of disks, for success, especially materially. the balanced glow of that star, the rose at the center. This I see as the school year completed, half of my Masters program behind me, difficult classes and assignments and all of that, the sense of accomplishment and relief because finally, finally I am DONE. But the stone on top of this card is Mahogany Obsidian, representing Death. Yes, transformation, evolution - I barely have time to dwell on this success, because already there are all these new important things I MUST focus on because there is so little time to get them done in. It is time for a shift in focus, away from what I have gotten done and towards the new. In fact,this card is connected to the next with Botswana Agate, which represents the Wheel: what clearer way to emphasize that things are rolling forward?

How? Well, we have the Empress. Time to nurture, to grow, to focus on creativity, on inspiration, on using my inner resources to make things happen. I will need some ingenuity to get things done, and well, once I get the bulk of logistics preparation done with, I do hope much of my summer and my time in Tunisia will be a time where I can really focus on doing creative things and things that inspire me - taking pictures, writing, reading, working with tarot, exploring, teaching myself new things. I am also struck by the idea that the whole nurturing message - if I made more of an effort to take care of myself better now that I have more time to...well, easier to get things done if you feel physically healthier, right? As for the stone on the Empress, the Fluorite represents the Hermit, which makes perfect sense: by and large, much of what I am going to be doing, and what I have to do, is going to be me going at it solo. Motivating myself, and getting the most out of these experiences by myself, is a good thing to aim for. At the same time, Hermit can also sometimes indicate a guide or mentor, that shining light - don't be afraid to ask for help when appropriate, if doing so will make moving forward easier.

Finally, we have 5 of disks, Worry. No stone directly on this card, which I take to mean that it's more of an addendum than a strong message in itself - and well, yes, the whole reason that I am doing a reading on this subject is because I feel a bit stress, overwhelmed, and worried about all that I have to do in the next few weeks, the material realm logistics of everything...I always have this feeling that I am 'good' at academics but less capable at 'life skills' and so much of what I have to do falls under umbrella of the latter...but the connecting stone between this and the Empress is Carnelian, which represents the Emperor: organization, self-discipline, a strict, methodical, no-nonsense approach to things. Combined with the raw creativity and inspiration of the Empress, this approach WILL lead to getting things done, thus addressing the concerns of this card. Just...really need to channel that organization and self-discipline, the Aries energy, fire.

So yes, I quite like this reading method and will likely be playing with it more in the future. Though possibly with fewer cards because even just the five...this was a bit long to type up, and in addition to being lazy, I wonder too if this makes for over-long tl;dr reading.

Some more two-card quotes

Because it's nice brain exercise to look up quotes that seem appropriate to a pair of cards, and a nice way to get to know a new working deck a bit better, and well...why not? So then...

"Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake."
- Henry David Thoreau

"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead."
-Louisa May Alcott

"To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to."
-Kahlil Gibran

Monday, May 7, 2012

another story time

So since it's been a while since I last did it, decided to try the story exercise again with new week's deck, the Sheridan-Douglas...

There was a girl once, a girl with a strong mind and many ideas. They floated around her sometimes, twisted and curled, giggled and spoke. There were so many possibilities and dreams, too many for a girl of her youth to know what to do with. But the girl lived in a place, a land, a house surrounding by cups, and in those cups there were nectars, juices and wines. They tasted sweet, and they made her head spin. They made her body light, and they made her laugh at almost anything. It was easy to smile, to be satisfied with simply sitting there, drinking from those cups as one day melted into the next and nothing was changed and nothing was done, but what did it matter, when there was always another cup nearby to empty?

And so the days went by, and nights. Slowly the girl grew tired of the sickly sweet taste that always surrounded her. She grew tired of the meaningless laughter, of only-half feeling her body, of so much time passed with nothing to show, with ideas always ideas that merely floated, slowly, away from her. One night she realized she'd had enough, that she would never be able to stop so long as she stayed here, in the land of the cups; she realized that as long as she stayed she would never make anything more of herself. On that night she packed up her things, the few she couldn't do without, and she walked away. She walked over the bridge that separated this land from the outside world, walked without looking back, without pausing, without giving herself the chance to change her mind, to succumb to the temptation of one more sip.

The new lands she entered were strange, quite unlike the one she had grown to know so well. They were harsher and colder, more difficult to climb through. There were challenges that she could never have imagined. But now all her funny ideas, the ones that used to tickle and curl and float away as she drank and she could reach out to them, grasp them, harness them to her will, to her plans: and these plans worked. Slowly she succeeded, grew more powerful, earned allies, earned friends, until finally the girl, now a woman, sat on her own throne, the ruler of her own domain. Now her ideas went forth like little flames, illuminating the land for her subjects, feeding the common good. Now, when she smiled, it was the smile of accomplishment, and smile of looking down at all the good she had achieved.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Remembering and Forgetting

So, as things start entering into a new phase, new ventures and adventures and major changes, wheels spinning, all of that - decided to take a moment to reflect a bit on the recent past, the last few months. A simple two card spread reading:

What is worth Remembering - What it is best to Forget

I. Remembering...
Seeing this card, I am reminded of just how difficult a few months it has been, in many ways. I try to stay positive here - the cards, after all, are my outlet for gaining perceptive and insight as well as motivation for self-improvement, and so using them to just dwell on the negative is not what I am wont to do - and has been hard, sometimes. Between being overwhelmed with schoolwork, not having the best time with mental or physical health, frustrated by attempts to rectify either...

There have been times when I really wanted to give up - wanted to say that this was all just more than I could handle, that there was no way I could get through all this without failure, defeat... The woman sits here, curled up, naked, those cold swords in front of her and yet...she looks back. Her eyes aren't buried in her hands, crying in pure despair...even here, she looks for a way out, a way to make the best of her lot, assessing...

And indeed, I have worked and tried, begged for extensions and apologized when needed, foregone sleep, sometimes resorted to not the best or healthiest methods of coping, but carried and and carried on and I have gotten through. Academically, I am confident that my performance will be nowhere near failure. As for other things....yes, ongoing problems and issues I must still work on but...not defeat. As long as you keep trying, keep struggling, force yourself can move past, move beyond, claw your way up through even the most difficult...

It also occurs to me though, looking at this card...well, she had to get to that position somehow, didn't she? Perhaps if she had tried to do things a bit more wisely, she wouldn't have ended up naked in front of those swords. How much of my stress could have been avoided if I had...dunno, taken on less, managed my time better, tried to deal with more of the underlying issues...worth further consideration, but that exactly is the point: what to take away from situations like not is not only wisdom about DEALING with them, but also some consideration about how to PREVENT/MITIGATE them before they get to more distressing levels...

II. Forgetting...
It's interesting how, in contrast to the woman in the previous card, this one - with the same hair, same coloring - is fully clothed. And so properly clothed, at that - stiff and formal. Putting on appearances much? Pride?

She looks forward - at first it seems she is very focused, but looking more closely...appearances again. Perhaps in fact she isn't 'there' at all. Look at the body language: day-dreaming, stuck inside her own world, her own head. Too many things going on.  Too many distractions. Too many options and possibilities and cups, floating around her. Too many thoughts and too many things to do.

This card is indolence in the Thoth and turning away, moving somewhere new in it's neither of those, quite, and yet a bit of both. Unable to fully be in the moment, a certain kind of disconnect, floating, there but not really engaged, the distraction...

True enough of my experiences really, at times. I can really connect with the idea of...SEEMING to be there, focused, proper and yet really...not 'there' at all because there just so many things going on... The less useful aspect of the same circumstances described in the previous cards. Dwelling on those distracting things, non-proactively, will only distract further. Best leave them behind. The whole mindfulness concept: really be in the moment of the moment you are in.

Friday, May 4, 2012

So, officially:

So yes, I have been hinting and alluding to, but as it is a strong tendency of mine to...not like to talk about potentially exciting things too explicitly, or even much at all, until there is a real element of certainty...

I sent my deposit via wire transfer this morning and I'm in the process of figuring out/booking plane tickets, so I suppose this is pretty near-certain, now -

I am going to Tunisia. Ten weeks, from the start of June until mid August. I will be in a language school studying Arabic in Tunis. I found it myself and worked it out on my own, so its significantly cheaper than anything I could have found arranged through my school or the like. Still a bit irresponsible, in that...I am using student loans to pay for the whole thing but...

Sometimes you really just have to purse the things that call to you in life. To make things happen, to DO instead of just thinking or wishing or dreaming of doing. I am going to Tunisia, alone, so that I can study Arabic and practice French and explore and take pictures and maybe find somewhere to volunteer and yeah...

Very exciting stuff.

Sadly, there is still a LOT of things I need to take care of before I go, and not so much time to do it all. Yes yes, we know, that seems to be the story of my life lately...

Got this card twice in as many days. The message is apt. There is that mask of anxiety, of fear, of feeling so incredibly overwhelmed. But it IS a mask, something to hide behind, something I hold out in front of me like a shield.

Behind it, if I dig deep enough, there is that stubborn, stoic face. Beneath the mask of panic is the cool head that can face anything, can somehow manage to deal with all of the things that MUST be dealt with. Just need to...find the strength, and the wisdom to...remove that mask. To find the edges where it splits, where one reality separates from the next - the inner and the exterior.

Yes, it is time to find and channel the me that exists beneath that all too easy, desperate gasp of this is too much, I cannot handle this.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

variations on hope

These cards...the effect of the gold emboss that just can't be translated onto a computer screen...definitely more stunning to have them in front of you...

Anyway, I really, really like this take on the Star, I must say. Usually the star is such a positively drawn card, so hopeful...and yes, it is after all, the major that deals most specifically with the concept of hope, and a way, by illustrating it so nicely, it almost takes away from the flip side - the fact that, when you need hope most...the times when seeing that star card's message can be most helpful...those are the times when things aren't going so well at all.

We see two figures here - bony, scrawny, near-naked. One of them buries her head in the embrace of the other who holds her, comforting. Sometimes that's what hope is: the person or thing that you can turn to, when things are most difficult. The shoulder you can cry on. Reasuring words. A hug, a pat, a friendly squeeze of the hands. More, less. The knowledge that someone is there, listening; that someone still cares enough to stand there with you in the dark, among the small, glittering stars.

And sometimes hope can be found in the other end of that too. Sometimes, when you just can't seem to find it for yourself...the act of helping someone else, the act of offering support, of having to reassure, say nice things because someone is crying, upset and you want to make them feel can brighten, lighten things for you too. If you say it to someone else enough, it may start creeping back into your mind too, bit by bit, the light. Things you may not be motivated to do for 'me' you may in fact get done if it is 'we' that you can focus on...

Hope in giving and hope in getting, in being alone and in finding someone else. Hope born of difficult, of shivering in the dark, of learning to do without clothes. Hope in a touch, hope in breaking away, hope in the promise of something more, eventually. Hope etched into skin and hair. Hope in the distance, in the abstract. Hope in memories and dreams. Hope hidden in the corners where you'd never think to look, normally. Hope from the people and places you'd least expect. Hope from within you, long after you thought you had none of it left. Hope that blossoms in the moments when you are certain you have nothing left to spare. Synthesis, Symbiosis. Hope in touch, in sound, in the glittering gold detail.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

making things happen

Having those two options in front of you - the choice, those possibilities - is certainly difficult. You ponder and write and try to figure out what exactly it is that you want, and how to come to a decision...

But what about after, when you finally settle on an answer, finally commit, in your own mind, to truly putting your all into making that vague plan into a concrete reality? It is easy to stare nervously, anxiously at the doorway in front of you. It dwelling on the sudden realization of all that you still have to do with a certain sense of dread. It is easy to wish and to dream, and it is easy to worry and fret. Yes, it is easy to stand in place doing all of those things.
What is harder - necessary, but certainly harder - is actually buckling down and taking care of all of the concrete details, the tasks ahead of you. To look down at that long To Do list, take a deep breath, and start to actually take care of those things, one at a time.

What is necessary now, once you've determined that you WILL pursue this, is to slog on through the muck, to trudge forward through all of the little obstacles, the difficulties, the tediousness. A pragmatic approach is necessary, and a certain bit of determined stubborness. Force yourself on even when you aren't feeling it,  when you just feel overwhelmed. Force yourself forward even when you fell terribly, terribly tired.

The truth is that yes, I have decided, truly decided, to try to make something that would, to me, be an absolutely amazing experience a reality. And to do that I must get very many [often frustrating] things done in a very short period of time... I find  that I don't read as much with reversals these days as I used to, but with this deck, doing so feels particularly appropriate:

The Tower is usually about great, sudden, painful change. Necessary trauma, the tearing away of the old... Here, reversed, we see a different kind of transition: they are not falling, these haunting, skeletal figures, so tired and starved. No, instead they are floating up - floating on a stream of the etheral dreams, floating away from below, the suffering etched onto their bodies, their skin.

Sometimes when that sudden traumatic change just isn't possible... Another approach: the slow building up of something new, brick by brick, limb by limb. An escape, if only for a time, from the familiar, those thorned restraints. Perhaps this cannot be that true, permanent shift, the violent knocking away but... it is a hint, a taste of that freedom. It is the chance to see how it feels to fall, to throw yourself into something higher up.

My Favorite Majors: Death

Well, If I had to choose one major - the one I found most interesting, most compelling, both visually and conceptually - it would likely be Death. What can I say? There's just so much in this card, tightly woven together: the positive and the negative. Death, withering, ends to things you do not want to end, and yet also the necessary, rebirth, the new that you find in the ash of the old...

It tends to be a really interesting card to look out for in decks, in is one of those cards that varies HUGELY, from those decks that portray it as happy-happy 'transformation' to those that present some pretty grim scenes, and everything in between. You have it as a hooded figure, a skeleton holding a butterfly, a phoenix...sometimes it is cute, and sometimes it is disturbing...many things to look out for, really.

In terms of favorite, there was absolutely no consideration. I KNOW what mine are, for this one. Also, unlike all of my other posts in this series so far...there is no favorite and a runner up. They are both simply co-favorite. I just cannot choose between the, cannot say which I like more.

XIII. Death

The Silicon Dawn is an awesome deck in general, but this card in particular grabbed my attention in a very intense way from the first moment I saw it. First of all, I love monochrome color schemes. Monochrome on a Death card? Most excellent, most appropriate. I love the details - the large, full moon, the rain, the big black puddles underfoot. The downpour, the washing away of the old. You lose, but you also grow lighter, freer as a result. The black rose in the foreground - things are still growing, new things...the people running and riding away and toward in the background...

Most of all though, I just love that death figure. I love how wild she looks, how strange, how primal, how free and careless, how recklessly she leaps, jumps forward, the white ribbons streaming behind her. Death as a force that moves, unstoppable. Death as something you leap into, grinning. A silhouette against the backdrop of that mad, unknowable glow of the moon... Death, both terrible and amazing, the most difficult and most simple change, transformation of all...

As much of a fan as I am of it now...I hesitated to get the Thoth for quite a while. RWS-based was my system, after all, was what I knew and liked and could read with. Looking at scans, this major was one of the cards that helped convince to me to give it a go. Aesthetically, this take on Death just really appeals to me. I love the contrast between the bold blackness of the skeleton and the colors that surround him. I love the unusual perspective and composition, the clever way that his arms wield that scythe, cut those life-strings, while his legs form an arch, a gateway, opening up to new things. The Thoth is a deck packed with symbolism and this card is no different: we have the ancient Egyptian double crown on his head, the scorpion, the fish and in the corner the eagle, hope...death and life again. I love how striking the colors are. I love the geometry in the card. It just...draws me in, again and again. To me, it perfectly represents the major, all of the concepts that Death is supposed to encompass. It's bold and dynamic and I just...really, really enjoy it.