Thursday, January 31, 2013

advice about another blog

So, writing the answer post last night got me thinking a bit, and I decided to start using a new tag on this blog: free-form reading. Going to use this for readings that are meant to be more in-depth/focused than the 'quick draw' or 'day draw', ie. just randomly pulling a few cards, but in which I do not use any kind of formal spread and let the cards just sort themselves out as they will. As I wrote, with certain decks I sometimes like not being beholden to any predetermined card positions, and figured I might as well systematize that a bit here.

That said, I decided to do such a reading to get some advice about an idea I've been pondering - restarting the Arabic writing blog I hate created over the summer and abandoned soon thereafter.

A fairly unconventional portrayal of the Emperor, wearing a dress and a mask. His real face is turned away, gazing towards the background. We see there a silhouetted scene, a two sides of a precipice connected by a carefully constructed bridge. It was proper planning, organization and management that allowed that bridge to be built. Now he leans on a sword, something to steady him as he looks beyond the horizon, still supervising.

The long view, organization and discipline. This is the crux of why I am thinking of the blog. I was a bit ahead of many of my classmates even before I went to Tunisia, on account of having studied Arabic several years ago; even if you have forgotten most in the meantime, coming at something for a second time really does make it easier. I expected to be ahead last fall and I was - and still am, even with a new professor who is noticeably stricter and better at teaching. I understand concepts faster and am much more comfortable with many of the grammar structures and have noticeably more vocabulary. Part of it I think too is the age difference - being older and more experienced and having a bit of a different attitude towards classes and learning...

That being said, I KNOW that one of the best ways for me to practice, improve and remember things is by writing. Unfortunately, writing assignments longer than a paragraph or so are rather rare indeed. If I could discipline myself to do it on my own, I would gain much. Of course, the Emperor also points out my weakness in such thing - being organized in making time to keep doing it, not getting distracted. I know it would help build up my language skills further, but can I get the proper grip on myself? I tend to start projects and then...take ages to finish them... *cough*thatLenormandIwantto*cough*

The Queen of Cups, like the rest of the courts in this deck, is freed from the constraints of typical imagery. There are no thrones for these folks, no horses or chariots. Instead we see more natural habitats. The Queen is depicted under water, as comfortable beneath the waves as most people are above them. She carries a cup, unselfconsciously enjoying herself, being where she belongs.

Writing has long been my comfort zone - the thing I feel I am good at, the best way to work through complicated thoughts and emotions, me at my most eloquent. Apparently this extends to all languages - when I studied French I liked writing essays, and even in Polish, where my spelling is rather terrible...what I write tends to sound far more sophisticated than my typical speech.

I like writing, learning, challenging myself intellectually. Intuitively, this does feel like a good idea, something I want to do.

Whereas the majors in the Silicon Dawn by and large hew to the RWS tradition, the minors are quite noticeably more Thothy - a common theme in several Thoth inspired decks, come to think of it... In any case, the image here very much calls back to the 6 of Cups in the Thoth, titled Pleasure. We see a figure, half woman half sea serpent, her upper body in almost the same posture of enjoyment as the Queen. The cups here vary - beer pitchers, water glasses, coffee mugs; it all mixes together below. Pleasure can take many forms - the crux is her, at the center, reaching towards the light.

In terms of how to approach this project, this card advises me not to take things so seriously. Yes, in the grand scheme of things it is about building language skills, being methodical and organized in my learning, the understanding that if you really want something it is about more than just the time you spend in the classroom...but that basis does not mean I have to be Super Serious in how I go about it. It is not, after all, homework. It is not an assignment of any sort. The Arabic blog is for me, and we all know it is much easier to stick to doing something if you actually like doing it. The reason I am still writing in this here tarot blog is because I enjoy blogging about tarot cards.

So if I want to rant about the world, if I want to write silly short stories and fictional character studies, if I want to write about tarot cards even (which is another idea that has definitely crossed my mind), I can. I can include pictures, prompts, whatever. This is for me, and why not be as silly and random and self-indulgent with it as I want? As long as I am writing, I am doing things right.

Summarizing the reading up we have the first of the three 'official' Fools in the deck. The image is all black and white, its perspective jarring. This fool is a mere sketch, not even properly inked - so very tentative and yet already she is jumping off of that cliff into the unknown and uncertain. The similarly newly-sketched dog behind her yaps. You cannot see it on the scan, but the actual card subtly shows that even this first, virgin leap is not so wild an act as it may seem. Like the other fools this one too has wings, only visible when the card is held at a certain angle; in fact, the UV effect covers all of the woman, the dog, the cliff. Just sketched in they may be but they are, in that way, more real and solid than anything else...

There are three fools in this deck and yet it was this one that came up: the first, the youngest, the seemingly just barely there it. My Arabic too, in many ways, is like this. A year ago what I could write was so simple - short sentences, a few at a time.There were so many thoughts and ideas I just did not have the vocabulary to even begin to try to express. Even after years of study, language is such a tricky thing. The Polish I don't think I could ever really forget, though ability might deteriorate... though my English is far better, it was in fact the first language I learned to speak. French, though - I spent six semesters in college actually LEARNING it, after three years in high school spent going to classes learning not much at all. I can still understand when people speaking it, can watch programs and read news articles and get the gist. When I try speaking...Arabic words come out of my mouth. I struggle to find the French. My mother has the same a schoolgirl she studied Russian for years, and now when she goes to the hospital she gets her medical care at the nurses speak to her in Russian and she comprehends but responds in English because after living in America for twenty six years the Russian words no longer come. You can spend so much time learning and then watch it all spill out of your head again from disuse...

Tentative then, both my abilities and my confidence or comfort with them, but perhaps more solid than I think. Perhaps solid enough that I can engage in a writing blog where I am accountable to no one but myself, where I can go on about anything at all just because I want to. Perhaps it is time for me to take the leap and commit myself to trying. Let us rush and fall and fly.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Answering a few questions

So I notice that quite a number of my blogger friends have been doing the whole 30 Day Challenge thing. I admit there is no way that I could stick to that all the way through, nor do I find all of the questions interesting. I figured that answering a few in a single post might be a nice little exercise...

My parents were never super religious, but I spent a fair amount of my childhood in [catholic] church. I always had found the masses incredibly boring and never listened. At around age 12 or so I realized I did not agree with and could not believe in anything the priest was saying, so I went to my local library and started looking into other religions. Wicca was the only one that really intruiged, so I studied/'practiced' it for a couple years before realizing atheism was the path for me.

Anyway, some of the Wicca books discussed tarot cards, which intrigued me. I bought my first deck ten years ago at a local Barnes and Noble at the age of 14 - the Universal Waite deck, specifically. I disliked the art from the very beginning, but it was apparently the 'proper' deck to learn on and so learn on it I did. I consulted lwb and a book titled 'Tarot for Beginners' or something similar. I had a couple periods of totally forgetting about the deck, going back to it, etc. It wasn't until a few years later when I was in high school that I got my second deck, carefully chosen based on aesthetic appeal - the Gilded tarot. I remember opening it with such excitement on the ferry ride home and almost losing one of the King cards...eventually I gave both decks away. :0

The first spread I learned was the Celtic Cross. I found it overly long, complicated, often confusing and just unnatural. In fact, it wasn't until I totally stopped using it that I found my reading improve significantly, and my interest in and attention to the cards became more stable. I've never gone back to it since. I know its 'tried and true' and all that but really just is not the reading method for me. I am generally averse to spreads that are more than five or six cards unless there is something really interesting/intriguing about them and...this is none of those things for me, at all.

In general I don't have a favorite spread. Other than structured reading exchanges on forums and times where I deliberately choose to use a spread because it looks interesting/really relevant/I just want to experiment, I tend to play it fast and loose with spreads. Make one up on the spot that seems appropriate, or not use one at all. Sometimes just pulling cards I find that they organize themselves into 'spreads' for me...not all decks are like this, but for example with the almost seems an insult to the deck to force it into a spread when it is so obviously able to do that itself...

I sometimes use reversals, though much less than I used to. It mostly depends on the deck. In general, meaty/complex/unusual decks tends to mean no reversals, whereas 'simple' RWS variations tend to be better for using them.

I prefer reading for myself than for others generally, especially offline... mostly because I feel not so confident in my 'people skills' as they relate to tarot, and because I know my verbal communication skills are and always have been noticeably inferior to my writing skills so that...even when I KNOW what the cards are saying, getting that phrased right, on the spot, can be tricky indeed.

I know some people say they cannot read for themselves, but in my case it has always been MUCH easier to read for me than for anyone else. After all, I know all the details of my life and situation and so can make all kinds of analysis and connections to specific things, whereas for other people it is...poking and guessing and talking in a kind of general way and hoping it means something to the other person - it feels like grasping in the dark, whereas reading for me is more like picking up a tool and using it to examine things I know of in a new way. Also, reading for free on any kind of scale would be too much of a time suck, whereas reading for money feels like too much pressure and stress, worry about whether they are getting their 'money's worth' and...yeah. Not for me, at least right now.

Oh, and I have absolutely no 'special' time or place or rituals around my tarot reading. I read/do draws for myself absolutely anywhere - in bed, on the floor, in the car, on the bus, on the train, at a cafe, in the library, in a hallway, really just anywhere. Why not? In my experience it makes absolutely no difference.

When I was in Tunisia I kept doing daily draws for myself when we were on the bus visiting the south of the country. At one point the director of the language school asked me for a reading and I obliged... he spent the rest of the summer calling me 'Deghaza', which means fortune-teller in the Syrian dialect. At one point we went on a field trip to the national TV station and he introduced me to the staff as 'Deghaza', to their amusement. I chatted with several of the employees and none of them ever learned my real name...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lesson on Pushing Through

I've been feeling rather adrift, still, in various ways. Decided to do a quick draw with dear Thoth, with the question/theme of A lesson I ought to reflect on ...

An interesting duality in these two cards: two eights, two titles starting with an I. Interference and Indolence stand together as barriers, obstacles. In the 8 of swords we have blades of various sizes line up, crossed by two straight rapiers. All of them have a certain almost translucence quality to them, as if they were made of glass, made of something not quite real or solid. They seem to block the way to something - but what? Behind them the background seems violent, chaotic - dark violet with what looks like angry sparks of red energy. Even the air here is difficult to bear. Astrologically we have Saturn in Gemini here - that half-wild, disorganized brilliance thrown into a tizzy by a negative, unexpected influence. Communication has been disturbed, perverted, twisted until it hurts instead of helps progress. The air sign did not have a strong enough foundation, and now it spins off-course. The mind is sharp, full of wit, quick on the uptake with many things, but also terribly liable towards distraction, towards spirals of self-defeat and negativity, towards exaggerations of problems, impossibility.

In the eight of cups we have a similarly disheartening scene. The cups here stand in a symmetrical pattern still, tied with vines and flowers, but this card is far removed from some of the others in the suit. Here the cups are chipped, broken in numerous places. The lotus flowers room as if dying, perhaps poisoned or corrupted by the inky black waters below. The sky too is almost black, full or storms and cold and lack of light. Despair seems to be the mood here, and this card, like the previous, is also ruled by Saturn. Saturn in Pisces, here - deep emotion turned to melancholic, spirituality affected by hopelessness, compassion burned out. Indolence, giving up because why bother and it is easier to do nothing and simply watch things fall apart, wrapped up in dread of the inevitable. Focusing on the sorrow, the listlessness, the heavy clouds that linger always overhead.

The feeling of too many obstacles and difficulties, too much unknown and already ruined and hopeless, both on intellectual and emotional levels, could be quite problematic indeed. And what to do about that?

Go on. Push forward with chariot pulled by the confident lion, surrounded and blazing with fiery light. Light so bright that it could burn your retinas, that it could not possibly be real, you say looking at it, pondering it. Fake light, make it real because you need to to be light, fake it till you make it light and what does it matter in the end, the nature of it and where it might come from and why?

It shines, a contrast to the grim muddled darkness of the two eight cards. We have motion here, so much movement - not static despair but action, momentum. Go forward with confident air, hold wand of authority in hand and a rein, go. Push forward, through and beyond. See and feel and think of the Interference and Indolence but do not be held back by them, slowed down or stopped. Move through them, hopefully beyond them. Keep going even if they are still there. Cancer and Leo influence - creative passion, a balance of introvert and the people person facade.

He can be reckless sometimes, to a fault, but perhaps sometimes recklessness is the lesser evil: better to move wildly than to not move at all, to remain in the same, bitter place. Let restlessness drive you, harness those impulses and that inner energy and push through, even if you don't quite know where you are going.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

work and rest

An interesting juxtaposition in this draw, both conceptually and visually. We have the ten of wands and the four of work - burdensome work and recuperating rest.

The former is by far the 'livlier' of the two cards. We see a youth (the androgyny/room for interpretation in so many of these cards pleases me much, I must say) trying to carry a bundle of sticks. In contrast to many depictions of this card, here we see him dropping one - leaning down to try and pick it up without dropping more. As someone who has by virtue of clumsiness and stubborness been rather literally in this position more than once, I must say it illustrates the idea of carrying too much rather well. It's not always about the weight of the load, but rather the tiresome frustration of dropping, stopping, shifting everything and trying again, going on. You can make it, yes, but it can be SUCH an annoying process. I remember once, I had the bright idea of buying two large packs of canned soda because there was a sale, knowing damn well I would have to walk with it all the way home. It wasn't a long walk, but I had to stop multiple times because my arms were literally trembling from carrying more than my muscles could deal with.

The color scheme of this card reminds me of starts or endings, of sunrise or sunset, spring or fall. They are the seasons between seasons, and in a way this creates the suggestion here of a limited time frame. Perhaps he carries it all because the tasks cannot in this case be broken up - must be done now, all now. Better planning might help avoid this situation in the future, but what has already been set in motion must be completed: roll up those trousers and trudge.

The second card, like the rest of the swords suit, is highly suggestive of winter. This figures clothes, particularly the shirt, are not so different from the firsts, if a bit fancier - but then, you don't put on your best outfit when hauling heavy things outdoors. Someone on the Aeclectic forums posted a link to a website suggesting a lot of the clothing here isn't so much randomly whimsical as it is referencing traditional Korean dress unfamiliar to most westerners - intriguing, and though I haven't had time to look into it yet, gives a shade more depth to the images in my mind.

The second figure reclines behind a kind of curtain supported by swords which seems to function here as bars of a sort. Barred windows, that extra layer of protection between him and the world outside. A few months ago I was in a car at night, randomly cutting through (and then getting a bit lost in) the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn. As a New Yorker the sight of Hasidic Jews walking around did not make much of an impression, but what really stuck out at me was the bars on the windows - almost all the windows - of the buildings in the neighborhoods, apartment complexes and brownstones both, first floor windows and those higher up. Safety from intruders, safety from falls, from the cold, the unknown?

It really is quite nice to be able to curl up indoors in the winter, in the warmth. Here the curtain barrier does not seem fully opaque. We can still see a glimpse of the outside, as can the figure who sits within. He is watching it too, pondering. No matter how nice and safe it is, venturing outside again will be necessary. So he rests and watches and plans. Perhaps in the future he can avoid ending up with quite so many sticks...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

the whimsical and strange

I have to say that I really, really like the backs of the Dreaming Way tarot. That particular shade of green is one of my favorites, and the aesthetic of it as a has this vintage, 60's or 70's kind of vibe in my mind, a touch of gaudiness that just...very much appeals.

A gaudy kind of whimsy. I admit to having rather unusual tastes in some many ways. Sometimes in old houses with walls painted in white or pastel tones you can find areas where the paint has chipped off and beneath some kind of older, bright colored wallpaper with a flower design - it looks vaguely ridiculous by today's standards and I very much wish the whole of the house was still like that. As a kid I slept on sheets that came with the house my parents had bought - bright blue with bright yellow and white and green colored flowers, quite nicely drawn. It was a disappointment, later shopping for sheets in stores, to realize that such designs simply aren't sold anymore. Tacky, people might call them. So I settle for black, an all-black contrast to any room because I need that sense of the visually vivid in some form.

I would wallpaper a room with the design on the backs of these cards. I would hang such curtains in my windows.

Just about everyone who spends any amount of time with me in person, and around whom I feel comfortable enough to act like 'myself' rather than carefully work on the facade of being what you want to see, ie. 'appropriate adult', sooner or later tells me that I am strange, odd, bizarre.

Whimsy. I especially like the whimsy shown in this particular Page of Cups. It fleshes out the idea of the fish in the cup, takes it further - this cup has polka dots and she wears a tea pot on her head and the fish are swimming through the air and why not, all of this? Why not?

Whimsy. If not for the presidential inauguration making bus tickets to expensive, I would have gone to visit friends in New York for the weekend just passed. I had a brilliant idea of going to a bakery and having them decorate us a Martin Luther King day cake, and roping everyone into an impromptu MLK day party - because why not celebrate a federal holiday as you would other holidays, with cake? Why not feast on processed sugar to commemorate the accomplishments of that great civil rights pioneer?

I hate the idea of driving a car and hope I never have to, but if I did and if money was not an issue, I would totally choose to drive something odd: a tiny, clunky Eastern European car from the 1960's painted, perhaps in burgundy or a nice blue, for extra effect. I want to adopt rats and give them funny names when I move again, somewhere that allows pets. I want to one day have at least two cats, and have one of them be a hairless sphynx because they look so bizarre and it makes me squee in delight to see them. Phone conversations with closest friends tend to take very particular turns, often stemming from some random subjects I have recently used the vast power of the internet to learn about in detail: the life of bearded ladies, the unassisted childbirth movement, the process of draining abscesses, a particularly 'yucky' but highly effective treatment for chronic anti-biotic resistant bowel infections, the history of counterfeiting in the United States...

And, after all, why not?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

wonders and dangers in life

The world is full of so many things - opportunities, possibilities, innumerable new experiences that can broaden your perspective, tickle your imagination, shape your memories and thoughts. There is earth and there are the things that can grow in the earth. You are born a blank slate and you live and as you do, roots and trunks and branches for, reach higher upward every year. You see paths in front of you and you follow where they may lead.

There is wonder in the world, and there is also danger, conflict, pain. There are shocks, major and minor, sudden and long-in-coming. To stay still and hidden is to see so little, and yet to venture forth is to risk. Sometimes you fall. Sometimes you watch someone else fall. Sometimes the risk is abstract and sometimes very much physical. You know this, as you know of the good. And just and so often we allow ourselves to take for granted the small joys we can find in too do we minimize those dangers.

Every so often something happens to remind you of their existence: you spend an evening sitting on your living room floor giving your roommate ice and watching as a veritable stream of police walk in and out, take questions and statements, photographs. You listen to him say in disbelieve how does something like that happen right in front of your own house?

But such is the nature of life, of the World. There is always a balance, between withdrawing into yourself and engaging, between knowing your potential and using it, between guarding yourself or letting your hands be free to touch, to feel and explore and learn. Safety in the familiar or risk in the unknown - the exact measure and choice is different for everyone. You try to do what you an to make your own life and fulfilling and you can, as complete. I don't deny being reckless, to some degree. There are things I simply don't care about though I should, and there is that always burning curiosity, to see and do and run far...

Once upon a few years ago you spent a final week abroad walking around by yourself in a large foreign city because you wanted to BE there, to experience, to really see. You tell people about this, about how much you enjoyed those days, those long walks alone. You do not mention, usually, that one day among many - the restaurant and the waiter who followed you into the bathroom, who kept touching you and trying to hug you and kiss you as you writhed and said no and tried to get him to unblock the door; he did finally, and then followed you several blocks after you quickly paid and fled. It was unfortunate but it is a risk you take and such is life sometimes. You want to go somewhere strange and you do, and mostly it is amazing. You think someone is a mentor or friend and time spent with them is great until it's really not. So it goes.

So it goes and so you live where you do because you decided to spend a summer in an amazing place and thus only had a week to find somewhere to live that you could afford. So things happen, and yes, to be on guard, to be aware and ready to defend yourself if needed is good, but only to a degree. What is the point of living if you live in fear? What is the point if you make a list of so many things that sound amazing but that you will not do because there is risk? That is not achieving the concepts the world represents - for some perhaps there is no conflict, but everyone is different.

Guard but not too much, against the World. It has risks and and has wonders and to chase possibility means to encounter both.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

capability and success

So I drew these two cards yesterday morning while preparing myself to deal with something I consider deeply unpleasant. Essentially, there was a kink with my financial aid/student loan disbursement, the kind of bureaucratic issue that requires phone calls, being transferred to five different people, none of whom quite know what they are talking about, and then some running around between multiple offices. I have some issues with phone anxiety: email or other written communication I am great at, talking in person is just fine, but give me a phone and a number for someone I don't know well and I am filled with dread.

The Magician here makes an intriguing picture in part because he doesn't seem to His posture is casual, hands in pockets, almost slouchy. Not much enthusiasm at all - the color palette of the card further strengthens that impression: brownish hues, a distinct dearth of any livelier tones. Yet the tools of the suits float in front of him nonetheless, ready to be used. Perhaps this magician is not very happy with his situation, but he has the resources, the personal power and capability to deal with the situation he faces effectively.

And so it is. I may dislike doing it, but I can sound perfectly professional on the phone when I need. I can wait patiently through multiple transfers and keep my tone pleasant and polite despite my growing frustration. I can buy an additional latte to fortify myself and do the required running around. Actually, once I went back to academic coordinator of my graduate program things got a lot easier, because she is one of those people who really knows how to get things done. And so within a day the issue has been resolved, and I can say I succeeded at dealing with it.

Success yes, the much brighter and colorful six of wands. A lot of green in this card: grass in the background, leaves curled around the wands and even a green checkered cover for the horse. They move forward towards new beginnings, toward growth and development. The main figure succeeded, worked with the others, and now he can move on to other, more pleasant things.

Monday, January 14, 2013

New deck free-writing exercise

This one is an exercise I thought of doing myself. In a lot of [creative] writing classes, instructors like to introduce the idea of 'free-writing' - essentially, stream of thought type writing. You take a prompt and you set a specific time frame, usually five or ten minutes, and you literally DO NOT STOP the entire time, just write write write and see what your brain pops out. I thought it would be a nice way to warm up to working with one of my recently acquired (and trimmed!) decks, the Dreaming Way Tarot. In this case, I shall give myself about ten minutes for each of the two cards I've drawn.

I got this even though I feel that I have enough RWS tradition decks already because the art in some many of the cards enchanted me - something about the whimsical, fantasy-story nature of the images which nonetheless are not - unlike the Hanson-Roberts or Whimsical tarots - too childish or 'fluffed up'. The odd touches call to me, as odd things usually do. Like to like...

This devil is a perfect example. A female devil, which is fairly unusual (the only other deck that immediately comes to mind is the Victorian Romantic) who is wearing, of all things, a bright white dress. A modest white dress, at that. There is a straightjacket over it, however - what does that mean? Is the Devil herself, though holding the chains of the human pair, trapped and constrained? Or is is simply an affectation, a preference? I can think of two contexts for such bondage: mental health institutions in the recent past and the BDSM community. Repression or fetish or both?

She is dressed and the humans are naked, bare to the world. Nudity as vulnerability, clothes as power? When Europeans started colonizing the world they thought of many other cultures as savage for, among other things, they did not wear 'civilized' clothes. Look at the paintings of old, royalty wearing so many elaborate garments they could barely move. When cloth was expensive that was what power was. Today, celebrities wear next to nothing on magazine covers and that next to nothings still costs more than most outfits you or I could afford and so it goes. So much and so little changes over years.

A final observation - the two chained people, they are holding hands, clasped together, comforting each other. They have solidarity even in this dilemma. It is generally easier to bear things when you are not alone with them, isn't it? The reason why solitary confinement has always been seen as the harshest of punishments. Does the devil not care about this subversion, or is she too tied up to notice or stop them?

In contrast to the constraints, restrictions, chains in the devil, in the Two of Wands we see the familiar image of possibility, potential. The man is wearing white too but his garments are not so stiff - rather there are odd strings pillowing in the breeze, and checkered pants. He holds a globe in his hand, the world, all the places a person could see and go. The wands stand before him in the shape of a door.

Where will he go, then? This way or that, for him to decide and proceed; you can just barely see what seems to be a split in the road before him, two paths in different directions. In freedom, too, there is limitation: you cannot have everything, see all that there is to see. There isn't enough time, enough energy even for all of it. Jack of all trades master of none, they say about those who like to dabble and flit between this and that.

Potential needs energy, action to fill it out and make it real. Perhaps here on the right there are buildings, towers and houses, on the left there is fog and road and woods, and each have their advantages, different for each individual, but you cannot split yourself in half, go each way at once. In gaining you must also lose, let go, walk away. And after that, what good does looking back do, wondering if perhaps it was the other way that would have been best, questioning? Perhaps in real life not so bad as to turn you into a pillar of salt at a glimpse but nonetheless - a sort of chain.

If the thick stiff gown of the devil represents her overbearing power, the restriction inherent in dealings with her, and the nudity of her two subjects shows their vulnerability and desperation, then this man's clothes...we see individuality, a refusal to conform to any set traditions, the willingness to do something new. Who wears a hat with such straps, or checkered pants, or so many very long ribbons on their shirt? Not all are good ideas but that willingness to experiment, to do as you like and not care what people may think...admirable in its own way.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Scratch and Sniff" Senses Exercise

So another exercise from the Tarot Playbook: this one is called "Scratch and Sniff" and it is about engaging with a card with your senses, beyond the usual 'what do you see?' approach.


Bells - this Magician makes me think of the ringing of small bells; actually, a particular set of bells, the ones used during a Catholic mass while the priest is uh, doing the whole communion wafer ritual (I never paid attention when I went and I almost always went to church that was not in English so I don't know a lot of the proper terms for things). Bells, and chanting perhaps. The sizzle of a firecracker being lit, preparing to explode into brilliant color. The sound of a camera flash.


Incense burning. Frankincense, specifically. The smell of smoke from a just blown out scented candle. Strong smells, concentrated around the magician, the altar. Perhaps too, a splash of some kind of perfume.


The magician is exquisitely smooth: the feeling of silk, of really high thread-count bedsheets. Smooth and soft, but also cold. There is no warmth here, from the silk, no comfort. Smooth and cold so that it almost feels wet, slick, thought it is not. Cold and silky and perfectly pressed, devoid of wrinkles or creases. Like his robe, like the altar-top, polished and shined, cold metal to the touch; and his mask, too.


Wine, served chilled. Rich but not quite sweet enough to be truly tasty. Perhaps some kind of exotic liqueur, the kind the makes an impression when you pour it into a class, the kind that you have to drink slowly, rolling the taste around in your mouth and you aren't quite sure what to make of it, whether you like. A touch of anise and the way it ever so slightly burns as it goes down your throat.

Or perhaps coffee - not the kind here, in America. No, turkish coffee, or syrian coffee, whatever you want to call it. Served in tiny cups, black and incredibly bitter and strong. Thick with the grounds. You drink it in some cafe surrounded by the smell of cigarettes and shisha, vaguely nauseated but quite awake, drink the black and the grounds too, and try to ignore the aftertaste.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

look at the semester ahead

So as I start off yet another semester of grad school and classes and suchlike, I thought it might serve me well to do a general reading about it - what too keep in mind, look out for, etc. Once again I am using my de la Rea tarot and the Comte de Mellet spread. This time, I got quite a few more pairs, and in reading them, a pattern kind of emerged: Major = Theme, Minor = Details.
In the first pair we have the Devil, wonderfully illustrated here by the particular shapes of these masks (the gold paint really does look much nicer in real life) as well as the smoky effect in the background. In this pair, starting off the reading, we can see a kind of question: what is lost likely to hold me back, tie me down, limit me, take away my attention from the things I should be focusing on? In the minor, the five of cups, we can find that answer. In the Thoth, which this card reminds me of more strongly due to the colors (there too, we have the kind of bright orange-red, as the background), this card is called Disappointment. We have wilted leaves, a pentacle reversed - image often associated with the Devil card as well. In the RWS we have a figure weeping over spilled cups, focusing on what is lost rather than what still stands. Cup within cup within cup here, and on top what looks like a kind of egg or perhaps a pineapple. Shall we reach it, crack it open? Or is it too high up?

Devil is the tendency to focus on the negative, to get lost in feeling sad; a tendency to be blinded by obstacles; disappointment and resignation, weeping over spilt milk, over things that one may wish would get better but they don't, at least not much.

In the second pair we have the Fool as the theme question: Where and how should I be more like the fool, willing to go forward, willing to take risks, willing to have faith and to move forward even if it does mean being bitten in the shins now and again? The minor here is the seven of wands, seven wands firmly rooted in the ground stretching upwards, into the sky. Seven is the Chariot in the major arcana, a card of action and movement and small victories - and wands is the suit of personal growth, of ambition and creative energies. Valour, the thoth says, as as in here shows one powerful rod overcoming and controlling the rest, behind.

To be the fool is to take action and take risks, to DO even when the outcome would be far from certain. Face the world and face insecurities and be willing to challenge myself.

Our third pair presents us with Justice and the 2 of Coins, two cards that speak well to each other. In Justice, with her scales bound to her sword with a serpent that reminds me much of the Caduceus symbol used in medicine, there is the reminder that finding and maintaining equilibrium in life is important even if it isn't a Justice card year for me anymore? And how can I work on channeling this, balance, adjustment as needed. The two of coins, of course. The RWS image of the juggler, keeping the balls in the air with a steady hand: smart multi-tasking, prioritizing, focusing on keeping up with many things at once - and not just the obvious ones like 'x assignment and y application'; taking care of oneself is something that needs to be on the list too. In the Thoth the title for this card is Change, a reminder that life is dynamic, of the need to go with the flow. There are runes on the ribbon in this card - we can use them, and cards, and whatever else to help us navigate these twists and turns and that is fine, but do not resist or despair at the unfamiliar, the end of things and start of others. The snake eats its own tail into infinity because such is the universe, hello and goodbye, loss and starting anew.

Justice is balance, is prioritizing and juggling and switching back and forth as necessary; it is keeping track of things, not getting over-focused on the one task and letting others fall to the wayside. It is taking her of responsibilities as well as the self. It is working with the changes that may come.

Finally we have Death posing a suitably appropriate closing question: what should I let go of, put an end to, cut away? What things have passed their expiration date, their usefulness? Bits and pieces of once nice things lay scattered on the ground here, where the reaper walks and cleans, in his own way. The chariot racing into concrete action is advisable - the chariot racing around in the land of fantasy and dreams, not so much. In the RWS we often see a figure confronted with too large a selection of cups filled with two many things - which to pick, which to pick? Indecision is a a very great shortcoming of mine. Just this Monday I spent about fifteen minutes in the bread aisle while grocery shopping, unable to decide on what to pick to make sandwiches on because SO MANY OPTIONS. Feeling like there are too many options can be almost as paralyzing and difficult as feeling that there are no options at all. What to do, so many things, they spin and how could we grasp at just one, how could we decide? Old things and new clutter together, make a mess, and how can you pick out what it is that you really want, now?

In Death we find a need to sort and clear away the confusion, both physically (I have business cards in my wallet of people I no longer even remember at all 0_o) and mentally. In some areas of my life, it is time to step away from the abstract, to sort out a concrete plan rather than just think and dreaming and despairing. In terms of school assignments I would do well by just choosing a topic rather than wasting time that could be better spent on researching going back and forth with 'but i could do this...or This...or That!'. The blade is no worse than the clutter, and the time comes to make use of it, to cut through that fog that can erupt from the fountain of cups.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

lenormand prospects

While visiting my parents I made use of my father's color printer and ready supply of cardstock type paper to print myself a simple, no-frills version of the lenormand deck I'd made. I brought it to my local tarot meetup last Saturday, and read with it a bit which went quite well. Several people expressed interest in purchasing a copy if I'd be willing to print it, and since it is all public domain art I used, I could, so I said I'd look into it and bring in some more copies next time if it turned out to be doable. Thinking more on the idea...well, what better way to explore the prospects than to ask the deck itself?

(This was  a simple five card line reading, but I can't take proper pictures at the moment so reading is posted here the way it is...)

In the first two cards of the row we have the Tower and the Rider. In this case, I think the whole stable, solid foundation is best meaning for the tower, and with that, a message, a forward movement. I have the right foundation to move this project forward. I have the cards all done, I was careful when making it to only use public domain images, and I even have some spare money to print some copies, assuming costs are reasonable. I live in a city so finding somewhere simple to do it, kinkos or some similar, should not be very hard at all.

The third card, in the very center of the reading, is the Lady, here no doubt representing myself. What I want and what I am willing to do, how much energy I have to devote to this, is central. This card is next to the Rider on it's left...I am the one who would have to be the rider her, moving things forward, walking around to find a printing place, doing the legwork, all of that.

On the right of this card we have the Snake, for deception and trickery and such. Given the placement and lack of other obvious influences in the spread that makes me think of self-deception. Am I telling myself this will be less work/hassle than would really be the case? Am I scaring myself off from trying by over-emphasizing those aspects? Both are possible...

It might indeed be that printing some copies of this deck, to bring to my tarot group and maybe offer online, wouldn't be as simple and casual a thing as I would like. I've never done something like this before, so I really do not know. I made this deck on a whim when severely sleep deprived and stressed. I quite like it, and my motivation for considering this is not any kind of money-related. If I did this, it would be because I like the idea of having something creative to do. If other people actually like what I did, then for printing costs + a bit for my time, if it were reasonable, would be great to offer some copies for this. If it does turn out to be more complicated or stressful than I imagine...I could see  the scythe being the end, yes. Suddenly deciding to just give up this whole idea, maybe doing one or two small batches and that's all folks, because well...I have more important things in my life to stress me out and suck up on my time, and if this were to become something other than I nice change of pace, some experience and a bit of fun...well, yes. Cutting it off and moving on.

It's interesting, that contrast between first and last card. Tower and Scythe. A strong foundation but also easily ended. Actually, that seems like the best argument for giving it a bit of a go...I can decide not to continue with this at any time. It's all about what I want to do, as the lady shows.

Also, in thinking about this, I threw together a few more cards...a back I'd like to use, as well as additional reversed and renumbered Lady and Gentleman cards, for folks/readings where two same gender cards would preferable:

Monday, January 7, 2013

doing the things that need to be done

The Tarot de La Rea, I must say, is a bit of an unusual deck when it comes to my reading with it. It's a TdM in structure, but between the switched elemental associations and kind of odd illustration of the pip minors, I initially had a bit of a hard time reading with it. Some might call it an 'art deck' but I don't believe in that concept: I either read with a deck, easily and regularly, or it does not stay in my possession.

Then someone introduced me to the Comte de Mellet reading method. Historical one, it basically involves separating the majors and minors, and placing them in two stacks. You count up from Ace to King, and at each count turn over the top of the non-majors stack as well as majors...if the number you say matches the number on the minors/courts, you but the major-minor pair down as part of the reading. Otherwise you put them both in discard stacks and continue on, restarting the smaller majors stack as necessary until you finish the larger stack. You basically never know how many pairs you are going to get. I've gotten as many as eight and as few as one. Theoretically you can get zero, but I've never had that happen. Using this method with this deck, I've that the readings I get are consistently very, very accurate. It's interesting too because rather than asking a question, the deck just seems to...address whatever it is you need to know about/hear.

This morning, the spread gave me the following two pairs to ponder: Tower and Ace of Coins, Emperor and 8 of Cups.

Now, a Tower paired with the Ace of Coins is not a very reassuring combination but, upon reflection and given the second set of cards, I am pretty sure this is not an omen of impending financial disaster as much as a not so gentle nudge. See, I had a pretty standard plan on starting grad school that would have had me graduating at the end of this spring semester. Late last Fall, after pondering some things, namely my rather unfortunate lack of professional experience in my field of study, I decided to spread out my classes so that I would be finishing last (thesis) course in the Fall so as to use extra time in Spring/Summer to get some real internships. A rather scary change in some ways, because as much as I feel confident in my ability to DO work well...job hunting, particularly in my field, is a whole other story. And well...the progress in actually applying to internship positions so far has been rather....lacking. Very lacking in fact. Opportunity, or disaster, this pair reminds me - what do I want?

This is a plan that can get me far, or nowhere at all, depending on  what I do. Applying to 'real' jobs is intimidating and not something I have much confidence for, but Change often requires the frightening - falling out of that tower, hitting the ground hard. The Tower of Academia, we could even call it here. I love school. I love learning, reading and writing and I feel confident in my abilities as a student. But staying in the tower is not enough to get me the kind of career I want. Academic experience alone is not enough in this economy, this field. I need experience, professional experience, internship experience. The Ace of Pentacles opportunity requires a Tower experience, making that change, getting out of the comfort zone, venturing out into the tower beyond the familiar confines. Am I doing enough with that? This pair reminds me that, despite the free time I've had over the last couple of weeks, the answer thus far has been No, No, No.

The Emperor here, for me, indicates a need to take things in hand - a need for some organization, control, self-discipline. The cancer symbol confuses me a bit, as this major is definitely not usually associated with THAT sign, but also makes me smile because well, cancer I am. In the RWS system, the eight of cups is usually depicted as a figure departing, leaving something behind: what fears, insecurities, excuses should I be walking away from? In the Thoth this card has a backdrop of dark, cloudy skies and a title of Indolence. Haven't I been a bit indolent as of late? I need a break, I tell myself. Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. Days pass and cover letters do not get written, applications remain unsent. Personal time is necessary, sure, but when there are things to do...well, self-discipline, time management indeed. The number eight is associated either with Strength or Justice depending on the deck. In this one it is Justice, Adjustment - to balance out self-care, emotions, creativity with the getting done that need doing. A tall order, this walking away and overcoming indolence and balancing? Perhaps, but the Emperor shows that it can be down. Firmness is needed, a systematic approach - break things down into steps, write the to do lists, go.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Amazing Aces: Coins

And so we get to the fourth in the favorite aces series. I've enjoyed doing these, and it's been an interesting exercise to see how the decks I chose from for these differed from my choices for favorite majors - though of course, the fact that decks keep going in and out of my collection is a bit of a factor too. It does make me more aware of the different strengths of various decks. For example, of my two most favorite decks, not one Ace appeared here.

In any case, last but not least in the Ace of Coins (also known as the Ace of Disks, or Pentacles). This is the card I associate with material opportunities - careers, finances, physical health and all that. It's a card that that I see as being the most solid, speaking of the pragmatic. Whereas other majors may fill be with inspiration or energy, in this one I often find relief; I suppose at this point in my life I am more likely to stress about finances then intellectual development or relationships ;] It's also one of the Aces I associate most strongly with color. I like to see earth in this card - green, brown, gold. So which ones speak to me most?


I must say, I really enjoy how this Ace is presented in the Shadowscapes tarot. Iguanas are definitely not an animal you see associated with this Ace or suit often. They really work here though, both color-wise and in terms of associations -  the iguana is an earthy kind of creature, after all. We see smaller lizards too, the progression of growth and accomplishment. The golden coin we at the bottom is stamped with what could be seen as a star, or a kind of sun, or maybe even a flower - all symbols of success, fortune, hope, growth.

Of course, the colors and composition in general are beautiful, as they are in most of the cards in deck. The two branches curving upwards subtly support the underlying message here, the opportunity for earthly, material growth, as does that ring of light behind the iguana. The green of this card offers a nice juxtaposition to the silvery purple borders - many of my favorite cards in this deck have this kind of greenish scheme. A bit unusual an ace, and lovely.

Alchemical Renewed

Once again, the Alchemical tarot presents a take on an ace that I rather adore. The clean lines and line-type shading work really well in this image. Earthy, nature scenery dominates the picture: a hill covered in grass, flowers, leaves and weeds. At the top of the hill we see a sturdy tree with bright green leaves, and right in front of the coin we have a rabbit, hopping forward. Rabbits are associated with fortune, aren't they? Well, their feet at the very least, but that is a horrible custom and I think whole, living rabbits make much nicer omens of good luck.

On the whole, the image is rich in color, in life. It makes me think of spring time, or early summer: beautiful weather, a great time to make a start of a new thing. The rabbit is a fast-moving animal, energetic. The trees and flowers show that the soil is fertile. The time is right, the situation is ripe, things can go your way, this card says. The animal theme continues in this suit as well: in the Ace we have a rabbit, full of energy but small, vulnerable; in the King we see a lion, mighty and powerful, on top of the animal kingdom.

Legacy of the Divine

Interestingly enough, LotD, one of my favorite decks overall, is a mixed back when it comes to Aces: two of them I really like, and two I don't much like at all. This, along with the aforementioned Swords ace, is one of the good ones. Again we have a nice big golden coin, with a star design and a convenient elemental symbol, surrounded by nice, green, earthy imagery. We have a bee and some acorns, which can signify hard work and potential for growth, expansion, wonderful things. Acorns can also be seen as a kind of nourishment - the resources needed to get you through hard winter times and towards those goals and achievements. We can also see, in the lower right corner, a hedgehog. Not a particular noticeable animal, not striking to the eye, and yet - he has his quills to defend him, and he moves steadily, close to the ground. Again, much of my liking of this card stems from its general atmosphere - the impression of richness, of fertility, lots of room for expansion, success and comfort.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Poem for a Court Excercise

So I just got myself The Tarot Playbook, which I've had my eye on for a while seeing as how I generally quite like doing out of the box type exercises with my tarot cards. I decided to start off my just opening to a random page, which got me one called "How Do I Love Thee". Basically, the assignment is to pick a court card (I drew one randomly), find four traits you like most about them, choose four adjectives to go with each trait, and then compose a love poem for the court using those adjectives. I am very much not a love poem type person: not from the reading end of things (newest poetry book, which I got along with this tarot book, focuses largely on Armenian Genocide...) and especially not from the writing end, so a  challenge indeed. I don't think this is quite lovey but, well ;]

youthful rider:
offbeat, always confident -
silly, or focused?
we wonder, stare
at red robes so fiery,
royal and long
and yet your horse is winking.
how can you be the charming
knight with a hat so rounded?
can valour controlled
be so full of color?

perhaps it does not matter.
it has always enchanted us -
oddity, the knowing smirk.

Friday, January 4, 2013

2013 Year Card

2012 was a Justice year for me, and overall I found the year card exercise at the start of the year useful. Not so much predictive, per se, as guiding. The idea of seeking equilibrium throughout the year stuck with me, and helped me figure out some things. 2012 was definitely more about balance than any possible legalistic interpretations of the card, as I had thought right off - fortunately I do not currently have any legal issues to deal with.

That said, I thought I would do this again. For 2013, my year card is the Hanged Man.

I admit that the prospect of the Hanged Man as a year card does not immediately fill me with excitement: a year of hanging, suspension, feeling stuck in place? That does not exactly sound like what I am seeking to achieve. But of course, that is only one of many takes on the hanged man. This is a card associated with the water element, as the de la Rea here shows. Water is flexible, associated with dreams and emotions, depths, the obscure, neither fully solid nor gaseous.

The Hanged Man is associated in many tarot texts with the Norse god Odin, the AllFather, who hung himself from a tree for nine days in order to obtain runes, the key to all knowledge. He sacrificed his body, his power in exchange for that wisdom. He did not fight that sacrifice, did not try to cheat or find some kind of alternative. No, like this major shows in almost all decks: he hung with serenity, with acceptance of the situation as is.

Acceptance and even hanging do not have to mean stasis, doing nothing, giving up. Again, the reminder that all things have a cost - currently I am sitting on a bus driving back to DC. I am intensely motion sick and I am watching a very beautiful sunset while going over a bridge that enchants me from an aesthetic architectural perspective. Most things are like this, pros and cons. I could sleep and feel good and lose time and miss out on many lovely sights. Costs, decisions. Sometimes we reach a crossroads, a certain point where yes, there is stasis, repetition, doing the same thing again and again long after we have grown tired of it. What then?

A willingness to let go is called for - of the familiar, of the comfortable, and of control and distrust, at least to some degree. The hanged man in the Corte dei Tarocchi is particularly interesting to me in that he is not hanging from a branch or tree but rather from a rope of leaves held in the beak of two birds. How absurd! How could he believe that they would hold him up? He does though - he is willing to place himself in that position, and calmly.

The figure here is upside down, and at first glance it's easy to think that maybe we have drawn this card reversed. That is the spirit of this card too - the energy to turn things on their head, to look outside the box, the established way of doing things. You hang between realms and between phases of life. You let go and you find, grasp. The key is the serenity, the acceptance. This is not sacrifice for its own sake - there is a reason for this, something for which to strive.

In a way this image is not unlike a butterfly or moth still cocooned, waiting beneath the waves with held in breath. I used to do that too, as a kid. I liked to dive into parts of pools that were twice as deep as I was tall even though I couldn't really swim and I liked to hold my breath under the water for as long as I could, until my lungs burned. Why? It felt freeing. There is freedom in the way that you can move underwater even though, of course, all swims and baths must come to an end.

And so, a year under the Hanged Man's influence. A year for development and growth, sacrifice and letting go and finding the new, the better, the wiser and more fulfilling. A year for thinking differently, for stepping away from some of those careful caveats and limits of what you will do, for acting within a frame of acceptance - of self and of situation, of how things are and how things could be and what must be done to bridge the two. Of not only weighing out those costs but taking them on in self-awareness. Strength within constraint.