Thursday, April 25, 2013

bit more tarot poetry

Another try at this particular exercise...
change never does just sprout
forth; it does not bloom
in sudden bursts of brilliant color,
come spring.

no, change wildly spins
and be must grasped painfully with teeth.
it must be chased, pulled out
from deepest depths within.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Deck comparison, Three-Fold

So a while ago I asked for suggestions to do a deck comparison type post series on. I've not forgotten about it, and decided to start off with a couple of posts following up on an idea posted by thesycamoretree: something Thothy, something RWSy, and something Else. These will be done purely by my own intuitive readings, with no reference material. Why? Because anyone can look up the difference in these decks as written down in books, so why read me rehashing the same thing?

To start off with, why not begin with the actual Thoth and RWS (Smith Centennial ed., in my case) and add the Mary-El to that mix? 

Starting off with my favorite of these, the Thoth. Here, the King has been transformed into a Knight - less the superior to the Queen than her equal, and more dynamic a concept than the King image. It can be confusing at first, but I find with this in particular its best to just roll with it, is what it is, and onwards.

The Knight of Cups rides his horse, a pure white pegasus, symbols of god and of purity and power. He rides it upwards, away, showing the kind of optimistic ambition that can be associated with this card. Take that too far and you have escape into unreality, escape into dreams, escapism into the cup or so many similar things. Here, more positively, he rides above the wild wave, controlled in his motion so that they do not touch him. Just sketched into one of these waves we can see a peacock: so much show, and isn't it true? Doesn't he grave the applause just a bit? Emotionally he does, for reassurance rather than ego perhaps, but nonetheless.

Emotional energy as power here: the glowing of the cancer crab in the cup, the wings that sprout out of his back. His armor is green, like the suit of the Fool: optimist, faithful, ready to push forward into the unknown anew, but perhaps sometimes less than fully aware of what he should be aware of. His strength is his heart, his connection to others. His horse looks back towards him, ready for the next command, ready to work together brilliantly, as they are wont to. The image scheme here (weird yellow tint of the digital image aside) is largely blue and white, appropriate for the pinnacle of the watery suit, and bringing out the contrast of the armor and the cup even more.

In contrast, the figure in the classic RWS is far more sedate. He sits on his throne, dressed primarily in blue es well. Waves surround this seat, and we can see him holding a cup in one hand, a lotus shaped scepter in the next. We see fish and a ship, just barely, in the water behind him. The ship for movement and fortune (it takes money to launch one, after all) the fish for bounty perhaps?

Looking at this card I am reminded of how, so often, people say that the courts are the hardest of the tarot deck to read. If one is talking about the RWS, I cannot say that I much disagree. We have a king on a throne, facing towards the right, holding a cup and sitting still. He looks comfortable there, I suppose. I cannot say that, from image alone and without my knowledge of memorized meanings, I can get much from this card. This is in major contrast to the Thoth's, where I am struck immediately by all the details and could go on and on about it for ages. This one evokes...nothing. I have to go back to what I 'know' this card to mean.

Color-wise, it is a nice scheme, blues and greens with just a bit of red makes a nice contrast, and I do quite enjoy the muted palette of the centennial edition.

Lastly, we have the Mary-El king. This deck dances to its own tune, its own internal scheme and ideas which are not necessarily drawn directly from either major tarot tradition. The deck creator had very specific meanings for the imagery in mind, but they don't jive with me, so I use my own take.

Immediately, I am struck by the composition of this card. I am reminded of the famous painting of Ophelia, drowned. Like this king she lay half-submerged in water, surrounded by lily pads, flowers. There are many things a king of cups can drown himself in, should the darker aspects of his nature overwhelm. But there is a different here, between this king and the girl: the trident. Poseidon carried a trident, in mythology, a tool through which to channel his godly might, and his symbol.

He does not drown, does not die, merely floats. Perhaps indeed this is merely a swim in the water, a moment of relaxation, a return to easier, less complicated times. Not all escapism must be destructive or dangerous. Sometimes a long bath or vigorous swim is just what we need to take our minds off of too stressful things, to get back the perspective we need.

The nudity of the King also works for me. It general nudity can signify great strength or great vulnerability. This king can exemplify both, at different times. A different take here, on the water element aspects of the card than in the others, but comes through loud and clear nonetheless.

The message of the day then: to move towards what you want, and do not be afraid to let yourself move forward with optimism, or to take a but of a break for distraction - but do not let that distraction take over to the point of causing vulnerability, weakness.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

balance of a king

Still hanging out with my most favorite comfort deck. Here's a quick little reading, asking for advice that I did for myself earlier today, while on the way to an internship interview (which I think went well..)

Not very surprisingly, the first card that comes up is the two of swords. A message of balance here, and strength even in the face of the unknown and uncertain. The lady here keeps holding those two swords up, both raised exactly to the same degree, in spite of that blindfold.

Which is to say, of course, that interviewing for any kind of professional opportunity is very often full of unknowns: what they really think of you, what they think of the other applicants, what they are ultimately deciding based on, what working there would even be like, etc. It's easy to be overenthusiastic or too apprehensive, easy to get overly nervous. For me too, it's easy to feel like you are in the position of powerlessness in such a situation: THEY are judging you, deciding your fate in this regard, you are the little maybe-worker monkey, aiming to please...

The second card reinforces that this too, is in fact an aspect of the whole thing where balance is needed. It reminds me of some advice an aquaintance shared with me not too long ago, about how ideally interviewing is a two way process: you too, are deciding whether going with their position is worth your while. When they ask you if you have questions, the best reply in not some formulaic why I would be a great worker in disguise type question, but you wanting to know: how does your organization fit my goals, skills, career plans.

Of course that's ideal. When you are desperately in need of any kind of income...well. But in my case, I am interviewing for internships, most of them unpaid. Yes, I need the professional experience on my resume, but they are getting my time, intellectual abilities, skills, experience, all of that for free. Not so much a position of powerlessness.

So speak to them as equals, have confidence. Other cards could also denote confidence, personal power, but with the king that first aspect in particular comes across deliberately strong. This king has power, and energy, momentum. He grips the staff, ready for action. He is not desperate, or terribly afraid of being judged and found lacking - he's doing some judging of his own. Things swing in both directions: yes, balance.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

tarot's take on some nerdiness

So recently, some friends have drawn me into the nerdy cliche that is the world of Dungeons and Dragons. Very unsurprisingly, I quite like it. Due to difficulty (different cities, conflicting schedules) of playing in person, I've recently joined a game online. Character building, story telling, writing, lots of fun and silly dice...whats not to love?

The idea of using tarot to help flesh out a fictional character is one that's been floating around my head for a while, and this seems to be a perfect opportunity to do so, using the one I've made for this roleplay game, so.

Shedding some light on Iara Carnagos, Tiefling Wizard (Mage)

I. Crux of the character's strengths:

Restriction, restraint, interference: the woman in this image is tied up and held still, both by her physical bindings and by constraints of her mind - the self-doubt, or fear, or hopeless resignation.

One does not necessarily think of this card as a source of strength, but if can be. Restraint, restraint. So many things that you could do if you were willing to pick up one of those swords... In the D&D universe, in this edition at least, Tieflings are of a demonic heritage, their ancestors having made some kind of pact with demons. They can make things burns, have tails and variously shaped horns. Many are known for being all kinds of destructive and evil.

This character of mine...she had a twin brother once, who chose to go down that path. She did not, and ended up killing him in what was mostly self-defense...a pivotal moment for her. She is chaotic, random, capricious, but she is not evil - there is a line she will not let herself cross, though she could; there are actions she simply will not take, even when refusing puts her in a quite difficult situation. She will even, on the rare occasion, actively refuse to let someone else do so.

In the everyday too...she puts up the facade of being impatient and impulsive, and do some degree that may be true, but...anything of real importance, she does consider, weigh, wait if she must. Restraint, restriction, a much bigger part of how she interacts with the world than most would realize, than she would like anyone to know and...a vital part of what could be called her better nature.

II. Crux of the character's weaknesses:

The juggler hops around, foot to foot, two coins to balance, two boats on two waves to choose between - always moving, juggling, flitting about.

The character too. Class-wise, she is a mage that focuses on both pyromancy and illusion, both blasting attacks and controlling/debuffing powers. A focus on purely one of the other could potentially be more powerful, but how could she commit herself like that?

Otherwise too - she flits from group to group, short relationship to one even shorter, job to job, town to town. Tries this and that, grows bored, moves onto something else. Worked mercenary jobs involving use of knives even though that does nothing to advance her primary abilities. Studied under several wizards even though these kinds of arrangements are not ideal - some wizards only acquiescing to idea of temporary apprentice for cold hard cash.

This lack of commitment, lack of focus and attention, in so many aspects of her life...certainly it is limiting, in many ways.

III. The character's fears:

The queen sits comfortably in her domain, with her wand, her flower, her cat. She is self-possessed and confident in her place. What could one fear here?

Iara does not have or want any of these things. She has not stayed in one place for any significant amount of time since she was sixteen. She does not keep pets, or gardens, does not care for fancy robes and does not hold onto many possessions at all - in fact, one could almost call her an ascetic in the latter regard. Keep few things you do not need, be willing to let those go and start anew too, if you must.

Her friendships and flings do not last more than a few months or weeks, nor do her working partnerships and teams. And why is that?

Fear of that kind of domestication, of a place where you feel safe and things that comfort you and people you trust and feel close to. The more you have the more of a shock it is when the world starts to spin and shake and everything starts falling apart around you. The more you have, the more there is that you cannot control. If you have nothing, just your physical body, your skills, your knowledge and magic...there is so much less that can be taken from you, so much less of a chance to feel helpless.

IV. The character's hopes:

The Hanged Man rest upside down, in some ways resembling a butterfly in its cocoon, waiting in stasis as it develops and transforms. In other ways he can be seen as a mirror of Odin, hanging in sacrifice, losing something to gain more. Perhaps a useless sacrifice, needless waiting around when movement is needed.

This character certainly hopes that all of her work will be a worthwhile sacrifice, that all the hours studying and reading dusty tomes, and all the times and gold she spent with her various masters will pay off.

She hates reading, only went to school as long as she did because her twin hated it even more and quit it - she wanted to show that she had more self-control, or something. She never reads but for the magic books, for what other way is there of learning, always learning and it is just a task sometimes, flipping through so many pages as her mind wonders, another job or adventure tempts... there were other paths to magic, ones that would have been easier for someone of her temperament but she chose this one and yes, she hopes it will be worthwhile, utterly so.

IV. Crux of the character, a snapshot:

The man in the eight works, creates, engraves and molds with care for his work, though it may not be easy at times, is his craft, and his love, and his calling.

Perhaps a compulsive wanderer, perhaps not the biggest fan of the book learning to which she is obliged, perhaps a lot of things but what it comes down to: love of this lifestyle. Love of uncertainty and risk, love of seeing new places to explore, new people to work with or fuck or taunt, without the 'burden' of knowing you might know them long enough to get attached. Love of adventure and jobs and quests.

Most of all, though, the love of magic. Wonder - she can still remember the day as I child, when she first saw magic being done. Her and her brother both, a rare moment of utter unison. Pure, sheer, stunned wonder because what could be more beautiful, more awesome, than magic? She knew from her first glimpse at it that magic is what she wanted to do, her calling as it were, and though attention to it may have wavered, that certainty never did. For all that may change and all the tedious work learning might involve, nothing can touch the feeling of pure inner joy she gets when she summons a fireball, makes something change color, uses a trick to get someone to say yes where otherwise the answer would certainly be a no.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

love of work

Do what you love, and love what you do.

It's the kind of overly-cliched, happy-dandy can do phrase I instinctively tend to shy away from, and yet on the whole I find the advice to be quite true. The artisan in this card-image is making wonderful, detailed engravings on the wall. His work impresses the spectators, perhaps his clients or patrons, but it likely isn't why he does it. So much effort goes into what he does: could a person sustain that, day after day, if the process and the end result didn't fill him with some kind of joy?

It's always been my tendency to excel in the things that I love, and to neglect those I don't necessarily get along with. My grades in high school were a very clear case in point: consistently near-perfect marks in subjects I enjoyed, like history, english, various electives; near-failing marks in those I did not - math, chemistry, physics. I really do believe that a large part of why my overall academic performance has been so much higher in college and now graduate school is because at this level, it is much easier to simply avoid things that you don't want to study (I took symbolic logic to fill a math requirement, in undergrad).

I do good academically because I genuinely love the process of discussion, reading, research, writing - enough to drive me forward even when things get insanely stressful, when the work just piles on. It takes so much more discipline to stick to something you don't have a passion for. But then, should you? Life being short as it is, is it worth it spending time working on things you have no love for, if your circumstances don't necessitate it? Persistence isn't always a virtue. Even if it may feel like failure, perhaps sometimes it is best to simply walk away.

On the other hand, a reminder too, here, about the importance of continuing to engage in activities I love, of combining productivity with pleasure, things I enjoy. The creative aspect of this picture especially come to mind - yesterday afternoon, I picked up my camera for the first time in many months. The cherry blossom trees are blooming again, and they make for such lovely pictures. I took many. Photography is one of the things I love doing, when the mood strikes me - perhaps it is one of those things I should try to do more of...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

walking, going, beginnings and ends

"What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from."
-T. S. Eliot

"March on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life's path."
-Khalil Gibran

 The End and the Beginning
Wislawa Szymborska

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won't
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall,
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it's not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We'll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Going for it - does make sense

Bit of an unintended break again I guess. What can I say? Not enough mental energy, too many things that need doing, prioritization...

Anyway, back with a quick and dirty reading I just did for myself using my most favorite tarot deck. I got an email today about a TA opportunity with a professor I really like. Torn between wanting to apply and intense uncertainty/apprehensiveness, so decided to see what the cards had to say to me.

Drew three cards in a single horizontal line, no specific positions, plus one 'theme' card. This is one of those decks where using reversals still makes sense to me.

10 of Wands, Reversed
On the far left of the line, this card seems to speak to where I am coming from in this situation. Reversed, I see here a lack of the intense burdens depicted in the image: arms not full of far too many sticks, responsibilities, obligations.

The TA position would be for summer and fall, and as of now I have no concrete plans for the summer. In the fall, in stark contrast to my usual status quo, I will only have a thesis to write and a comprehensive exam to take, and hopefully Arabic classes - important things, yes, but far less of a busy schedule than I am used to. In other words, taking this on would not be over-burdening myself, but rather the opposite - I have the perfect schedule for it. It would be doable, without too much stress.

King of Swords
The King was on the far right of the three-card line, but structurally it made sense to read both outer cards before moving onto the center. Here we have the strong, precise, disciplined king. A person who is sure of his capabilities, a person who can focus on what he wants to achieve, who can make decisions rationally, using logic and hard-gained wisdom.

And what do reason and logic say, in this situation? Do I have the ability to carry out the responsibilities of the job? Without a doubt. Would I enjoy working for this particular professor? Without a doubt. Have I anything to lose really, by applying? Not at all.

The World
At the center of the reading line we have the World card, representing completing, a closed circle, achievement and satisfaction. She is dynamic, dancing within her wreath.

Perhaps applying will actually work out for me. Perhaps I will get this position and enjoy the work. Perhaps not. Even so, I will know that I actually went through with it, did what I know I should do and applied, tried, made a step forward. I took action, and there is some satisfaction in that knowledge too. In any case, it can only work out for the best to give it a shot, this card would say.

Thematic: 8 of Coins
Lastly, drawn from the bottom of the deck, we have a theme card, by version of what others would call the 'shadow card' or whatnot. What unites this reading, the three previous draws, the overall message?

We have a man in his workshop, which here is outdoors, in the fresh air. He works on his craft, his creation, completly absorbed in it. He is productive and he is doing what he loves. What more is there to say? I value productivity more than just about anything else in my own life, and just about everything that this would involve would be tasks I enjoy doing. Even if I don't get anywhere, applying is spending my time productively, another sticker on my calendar, a small success.

Sometimes its the little things in life that keep you going.