Category Archives: Tarot

Tarot Draw 13

Three weeks ago today, I was packing up for a trip to Missouri. It was the sort of flurry of activity that I tend to retreat into when I know that slowing down is going to force me to look closely at my feelings, and lord knows we can’t have that. That said, one of my self-imposed intentions right now is to be as present to myself as I try to be to others, so I decided to pause for a moment.

 

For this draw, I pulled two cards. I’ll talk a bit about the purpose of the draw in a bit.

Six of Cups
Six of Cups

emperor

The Six of Cups

So, we have a lovely picture of two children, one boy and one girl. There are six chalices filled with beautiful flowers, and the boy is handing one of them to the girl. In the background, and armed adult stands, seemingly guarding the children from possible harm. I note that there is no threat visible or even implied in the image. So is the guard superflous, or is the threat kept at bay by his presence? Let’s come back to that in a moment.

The adorable children are straight out of central casting, aren’t they? One can almost hear their ultra-serious voices declaring their affection for one another. It’s that sort of interaction that most adults are obliged to say, “Awwww,” when they observe. They’re cute as hell, but what stands out for me is innocence. They seem to have eyes only for the beauty around them – the flowers, the sky, their friendship. If their lives are destined to be complicated someday, they don’t seem to know it. Their affection for one another is the most important thing facing them, and there is an innocent, lovely vulnerability there.

Now, back to that guard for a moment. He is pretty clearly making his rounds of the area. It could be that it’s simply his job, but given the rest of the image, I think it’s a bit more than that. It feels to me like the children are innocent, and innocence deserves to be protected. The guard’s job is to keep the adorable children sae so that they are free to be innocent.

 

The Emperor

I’ve drawn this card a number of times, and I have a complicated relationship with it. The Emperor is a symbol of structure and mastery. His power is the power of tradition and law, of rule and hierarchy. He rules because it is proper that he do so, and his appearance demonstrates that clearly. I mean, look at him. He’s the very image of patriarchal authority, isn’t he? He has his crown, his throne…he appears, to me, to be absolutely certain of his place and his rule.

One thing I really notice about the Emperor is his armor. While his crown and other symbols are golden, his armor isn’t. It appears to me to be functional, not symbolic. I look at the Emperor and see someone set in his ways, perhaps too rigid for his own good, but also someone who epitomizes strength and a willingness to stand and defend his lands and his people. If not for the armor, I think I would like him a lot less.

 

So, how about those cards, man?

Yeah. We have these two two very different images, one of innocence and vulnerability, and the other of strength and protection. The first was drawn for my father, and the second for me. I drew them about 32 hours before he died. There was no question that he was very close to death by then, of course, and I was looking for some idea of what to hope for for each of us, and what to attempt to manifest in myself, and what to try and make possible for him.

I look back at those children now, at their innocence and the single-mindedness that can come about when one is safe and innocent. It’s easy to see my father there. After 67 years of life, several of them spent suffering through a series of a series of illnesses and medical problems I hoped he would be spared, he had only one task left. It was time for him to let go, to set down the burdens that had, in many ways, defined years of his life.

But it’s not ever that simple, is it? In the spiritual work that I’ve participated in and offered, we often say that doing that sort of work requires safety above all other things. Vulnerability requires that it be safe to be vulnerable.

Enter, once again, that soldier standing guard over the children. And enter, too, the Emperor. Strength and power, protection and defense of that which he loves. If the images from these cards were part of the same story, I would like to imagine that the Emperor sent the solider to watch over those children. To do what he could, however little that might be, to make them safe.

Sadly, I am no Emperor, and Dad’s work wasn’t so easy as that of the adorable children…but the intention to be strong and to embody strength and safety for him to the best of my ability? That sure felt right to me. Still does, in fact.

Tarot Draw #12 – Oh, really now?

In a little less than three weeks, I will leave my job at the bank for a couple of days so I can head to Kansas City to present at an event called “The Seduction of Spring: Persephone Ascends.” I will stop teaching clients about an updated corporate credit card management system (and stop teaching my coworkers about how to behave like reasonable human beings) in favor of joining a team of amazing teachers to facilitate workshops on personal growth, cycles of the natural world, myth and magic, and, with a little luck, assist in offering a little bit of life-changing spiritual work. You know, like you do.

(I will also, for those couple of days, take about a 90% pay cut. But that’s neither here nor there.)

Not for nothing – if you think this sort of event would appeal to you, please consider joining us. Details can be found here or, if you prefer, just drop me an email.

In any case, we’re very much in the midst of planning the details of the event. Don’t get me wrong – the broad strokes and theme were settled months ago, but as we get closer to the big day and get a sense of how many people have registered (and who they are), it’s time to put some more form into place and shape the theme into something more concrete. This is the point in the process that is either a lot of fun or a little terrifying. Or both.

While doing some brainstorming today, I remembered that it’s been approximately forever since I wrote up a tarot draw here. I’ve been working with the cards a little more often recently, but none of those questions have been particularly fit for public consumption. I figured that this was a good time to

Question: What should I keep at the front of my mind while planning the Persephone event?

Well, that happened.
No shit.


Card:
The World (no shit, The World)

First impressions: Well, I suppose a more perfect card could have come up, but I’m not sure what it would be.

About the card: We have an almost-naked woman floating in a bright blue sky, in the center of a green ring. Surrounding her are four clouds, each with a different head in it. From the top left and working around, there’s a man, an eagle, a lion and a bull. The woman is holding a wand (?) in each hand and has a long piece of fabric sort-of draped arond her. Her hair and the cloth are both blowing back over her shoulder, as if caught in the wind.

The story without words: It’s difficult for me to put a narrative on this particular card. With only one person there, and that one pretty obviously not, you know, a run of the mill human being, I find myself jumping pretty quickly from “What’s the story?” to “What does it mean, man?” One thing I will say, though. The lady isn’t standing still. She looks like she’s running, or dancing. She seems to be pretty pleased with herself. I imagine that if I was able to fly, I’d feel much the same.

Okay, and one other interesting note. The imagery here is actually very similar to that of the Wheel of Fortune, where we have similar images in the corners of the card, and of course a circular pattern in the center. But while that card draws attention to the edge of the circle, The World seems to be all about being right there in the center, where one isn’t in danger of being thrown off the wheel entirely.

But what does it mean?: Well, if we consider the cards in the Major Arcana as a single trip through life, The World is at the end of that journey. I like to imagine that way back at the beginning, the Fool (or Jason) took a tumble off the edge of the cliff and entered life, learning lessons from each of the cards along the way. And now, at the end, what do we find? Dancing, and flight, and magic, and joy.

And also mystery, I think. Persephone’s story is one of cycles. She returns to to the Underworld for half of the year, and then to the world Above for the other half. The pattern repeats itself every year, and the world is changed by it. Her movement from Above to Below is, in that myth, the explanation for why the Earth has seasons. So this looks like a card of fulfillment, and journey’s end…but isn’t that also the beginning of another journey? What will Persephone learn in the next cycle? What will the Fool learn in his next life? What draws each of us over that cliff?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m pretty geeked about this event now.

Tarot Draw #11: The Triumphant, if Potentially Short-Lived, Return

The other day, I posted something to Facebook along the lines of, “Lately, I don’t give a damn about any virtue other than generosity.” I wouldn’t say that that’s literally true, but it’s pretty darn close. Certainly, calling someone generous is one of the highest forms of praise in my book, and it’s a characteristic that I challenge myself with pretty regularly.

Of course, to be generous can mean any number of things. There’s generosity of “stuff” – that is, giving gifts, sharing tangible resources and wealth, that sort of thing. That’s an important aspect, though certainly not the only one. There’s also, I think, generosity of spirit. To me, this can look like a lot of different things, but one of the most important manifestations is thinking well of another person, of giving them the benefit of the doubt. There’s generosity, I believe, in facing a situation where I can just as easily think ill of someone as I can think well of them, and to make the conscious choice to think well.

In my world, there’s also generosity of time. When my partner offers to go to the grocery store while I am working so the ingredients I need to bake cookies are available when I get home, her generosity of time allows me to be generous in turn – because then it is possible for me to spend my time baking cookies for friends. Also, there are sometimes extra cookies, and this is no bad thing.

At the end of the day, my working definition of generosity is “Looking for ways to say yes.” Because you know, I can’t always do it. Nobody can. Even when we’re feeling flush or are otherwise in a place of abundance, resources are limited. Even when the right answer is Yes, sometimes the only answer I can offer in good conscience is Not Right Now. But I do try, at least a good amount of the time, to find that place of Yes as a default position – even when the question isn’t asked directly. Perhaps a better definition is to look for a way to live “Yes” rather than just to say “Yes”.

Clearly, my thoughts on the subject aren’t as well formed as I would like. I want to be more generous, and I want to surround myself with people who embrace generosity as a way of moving through the world. I know that much, at least…but this evening I find myself curious about what I might see in a random draw on the subject. So after dusting off my long-neglected deck, I pulled one card.

Question: What do the cards have to tell me about generosity tonight?

Holy crap, it's a pentacle bush! It's a Solstice Miracle!
Holy crap, it’s a pentacle bush! It’s a Solstice Miracle!

Card: The Seven of Pentacles

First impressions: Huh. That seems oddly direct.

About the card: Well, we have a guy in simple clothing – a tunic, leggings and boots – leaning on a scythe or other harvesting tool in what looks like a garden, looking very very serious. On the left side of the image, there’s a bush that is bearing fruit. Or, you know, pentacles. In any case, he’s got seven of them, one of which seems to have been harvested while the other six are awaiting his attention.

The story without words: I can’t help but be drawn to his expression. Dude looks tired to me. His shoulders are a little slumped, and he is looking at the bush like, “Oh, come on. I’ve got six more of those freaking things to harvest? Are you freaking kidding me?” At the same time, though, there are resources there, and they didn’t arrive out of nowhere. This guy looks like a farmer, a peasant – not someone who had a great deal to start with. It seems to me that he’s catching his breath and wondering if maybe tomorrow would be a better day to tackle the next part of the task.

But what does it mean?: It’s interesting. If I ignored the person in the card, I would say, “Hey, this thing is obviously about abundance. Look, the resources are literally falling off the bush. On the other hand, if I looked only at the person and ignored everything else, I would say, “Oh, geez. This guy is just done with this shit.” The person and the surrounding image seem a little bit at odds with each other.

Of course, the one fruit that is on the ground didn’t fall there. The bush was planted, and tended, and it grew, and then the fruit was harvested. This looks like a successful growing cycle to me – the bush is full of fruit, after all. But even in the midst of that success, our hero is tired and seems to be wishing that he could have outsourced the “harvesting” part of this operation.

So what about the generosity thing? Well…our farmer can’t share what he hasn’t harvested, right? Likewise, I don’t know that any of us can share what we haven’t yet manifested in our lives. It’s often tempting for me to say, “Hey, look, I just yanked this one bit of extra energy (or extra time, or extra money, or whatever) into being. Of course I can share it.” The problem, often, is that when I offer that up too quickly, later I’m angry with myself, or resentful of the other person, because I realize just how much work is before me to get the next fruit from the tree, as it were. At the same time, recognizing the resources I have access to (even if it will take a great deal of effort to manifest it) can serve as a good reminder that abundance does exist, sometimes.

Tarot Draw #10

I start my new job in two days. At-freaking-last. It is by no means a perfect situation, but it really feels like it should be a good fit in a lot of ways. The short, mass-transit-only commute is a huge advantage to me, as are the generous hourly rate and (from the outside, at least) the well-defined scope of the job.

One problem, though. I hate starting new jobs. You wouldn’t know it to look at the way my resume reads up until about 2003 (when I changed gigs like clockwork about every 12 months), but my most comfortable work environment is one where I feel like I know what I’m doing and have a good sense of the personalities and politics of the company. I’m going to have a lot to learn here, and while everyone already knows that, I know that one of my biggest challenges will be to avoid the temptation to dive in too quickly and to push too quickly. Intellectually, I know that the early part of the job will be my only opportunity to really learn certain aspects of the project (or at least the only opportunity to do so at a time when “just learning” is my primary job function), but I have a well-established pattern of wanting to contribute immediately, and sometimes that mindset has worked against me.

I’m aware, then, that one challenge will be to deal with the discomfort of being the newbie on the project. I thought it might be instructive to draw a card today, while this is really up for me.

Question: Entering a period of uncomfortable “apprenticeship,” what card can I look to as an ally?

Card: The Devil

Well, that's cheery.
Well, that’s cheery.

First impressions: Are you fucking kidding me?

About the card: Well, all right then. The background of this card is black, all the better to add to the shiny, happy, optimistic imagery. Perched on a black pedestal (altar, perhaps?) is the Devil…well, sort of. He has wings and goat’s horns, and looks more like Pan than, say, a “traditional” interpretation of Lucifer. Above his head is an inverted pentagram. In his left hand, he is holding a torch toward the earth, and his right hand is held up in a position that I am incapable of seeing as anything but the Vulcan salute.

No, Jason, the devil is not a Vulcan. He is not telling you to live long and prosper. Let’s move on.

In the foreground are two nude people, one female and one male. They both have horns and are bound to the pedestal/altar by chains around their necks. Each of the figures also has a tail – the woman’s tail ends in a bunch of grapes, while the man’s is flaming. Looking at them, I sort of want the figures to be the same ones from the Lovers card, though the connection might go no farther than the fact that they are both naked and standing before a supernatural being.

Although…well, okay, let’s look at the Lovers for a moment.

lovers

One other thing that stands out for me when looking at the two cards (other than, you know, the nudity) is that the symbols are similar. In the Lovers, the man is standing before a flaming tree (is that actually right? It looks like it to me, anyway) while the woman is in front of a fruit tree. So we have fire and earth both symbolized in the Lovers – but there the symbols are not connected to the human figures. In the Devil card, these elemental symbols are literally part of the figures. I have no real sense of what this means, but it sure is interesting.

The other obvious thing that jumps out in the Devil card is that the figures, while bound, aren’t exactly trapped. The chains around their necks are very clearly loose enough that they could slip out of them quite easily. So, why don’t they? I can make up all sorts of stories as to why that might be true, of course, but I’m not really sure it matters. The fact that the chains aren’t actually secure implies that one way or the other, they remain where they are by choice. There are lots of reasons why one might choose to be (or to feel) vulnerable and bound, some perfectly healthy and others not so much. Psychology aside, once I dispense with the idea that they are being physically held against their will, a fair bit of that “Oh, crap” value of the image goes away.

But what does it mean?: All of the “Hey, you know, it’s not actually what it looks like,” stuff aside, there’s not a lot in this card that gives me warm fuzzies about my question. When I flipped through the deck to pull out the Lovers so I could compare the images, I thought, “Well, what card would I have liked to see come up today?” The most obvious one is this:

magician

Now that’s what I’m talking about. A person with well-prepared, consecrated tools and the will to use them? That would have been a little more comforting, is all I’m saying. Of course, part of the point right now is that in starting this new job, I will need to spend some time getting ready to really do it well. I have a lot of confidence in my ability to do the job (it’s nothing particularly new, just a lot of new systems to learn and some interpersonal dynamics that I expect to be rather challenging to navigate), but I’m stepping into an established group without a sense of where I’ll fit just yet. So while the Magician is a much more comforting image, it’s not accurate just yet. I’ll be there soon enough, and one of my temptations is to try and shortcut the process of learning so I can be helpful and contribute more quickly. It’s better to look at the Magician as something to aspire to, rather than my ally today.

Back to the Devil, then. What in this card can be an ally? I guess I see two things here. The first is the vulnerability symbolized by the figures’ nudity. It’s rather difficult to be anything but open in that state, after all, and while it might not be comfortable, there’s something to be said about embracing that. One of the things that I find difficult about learning sometimes is that asking for help feels uncomfortably vulnerable, after all. A reminder to sit in that place is probably a useful thing. The other helpful piece is the realization that the figures aren’t trapped, despite what it looks like at first. If I’m not trapped in this place, then I have the ability to leave it. So the challenge, I think is to choose to remain in that place of vulnerability and discomfort as long as it is the right place to be, learn what it has to teach me, and then step into what comes next.

Tarot Draw #9

I realized rather to my surprise today that it’s just 4 weeks until the Spring Equinox. In a winter that has felt very much like it’s just getting started for…well, pretty much the entire season, this seems almost impossible. Much like the weather, I’ve soft of felt like I’m just getting ready to start something for most of the winter. That’s no bad thing, but I’m feeling a need to do whatever the next thing is. Rather than angst over the fact that 2012 is already seven weeks old, I decided that today I would ask about this last phase of winter and see what the cards had to tell me.

Question: What card will be my ally in this last month of winter?

Card: King of Pentacles

king-pentacles

First impressions: Well, this is interesting. If I think about Winter as a time of work beneath the surface, I expect the fruits of that work to remain hidden for some time. The imagery on this card, though, smacks of work completed and goals attained – the fruits of a well-laid foundation, in other words, not the foundation itself.

About the card: The King is sitting on a black throne that is decorated with images of bulls. He is holding his symbols of office and is surrounded by well-laden grapevines. In the foreground we see a few flowers, and there is a large castle in the background of the image. The King is looking down and to his left, and under his cloak we can see that he’s armored.

The story without words: The King looks well-satisfied with his lot, and why shouldn’t he be? His kingdom feels like a place of plenty and comfort, at least based on this snapshot. The combination of natural beauty (in the form of the flowers and grapevines) along with that which has been crafted (the castle and his throne) seems to flow well together, and in fact kind of comes together in his crown, which is decorated with three red flowers. In short, it looks like his realm is well-designed, well-constructed and well-maintained. I suspect that a lot of thought and planning went into each phase of the construction and maintenance of this kingdom. I also get the idea that what the King has achieved has had more to do with the day-to-day work he’s set out for himself rather than random moments of insight. I don’t get a sense of, “Eureka!” from this card. It’s more like, “Chop wood, carry water.”

Kind of a side note…the imagery of this card seems incredibly masculine to me. Masculinity and femininity don’t usually speak to me very strongly from visual artwork, but it’s honestly just about the first thing that came to mind when I turned the card over, so I suspect there’s something there. It might be as simple as the darkness and squared-off construction of the throne, or I might just be projecting from the fact that the card is, you know, a King. I dunno.

But what does it mean?: Generally, this card feels like some pretty traditional forms of success have been achieved. The image is full of images of food, shelter and plenty. It seems clear that the King has achieved what he set out to do, and it also seems clear that he has both worked for it and is prepared to work more. The fact that we can see the armor beneath his cloak seems important. I just looked at the other Kings, and noticed that the King of Pentacles is the only one in this deck that is obviously armored.

So what does that mean? To me, it suggests that while the King has achieved a great deal of success and mastery, he hasn’t forgotten about the work he did that led to that success. It seems to me like he’s ready to ditch the pretty cloak and get back to work the moment it’s necessary.

Ultimately, I’m taking two things away from this card – that success is possible, and that it takes work (even work that I feel like I’ve already “mastered”). I’m still unemployed, and frustrated by that fact, but hey – the days are getting longer, and soon enough it will be Spring. Having an ally to remind me of the importance of the work that’s brought me to whatever success I have enjoyed to this point is a pretty good idea, I think.

Tarot Draw #8

One of my favorite things is to find a piece of wisdom in the last place I would have expected. There’s a sense of delight there that just feels good to me. A great example comes from the movie Men in Black, when Tommy Lee Jones’ character shares this:

“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

See what I mean? It’s one thing to find some insight in, say, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but to find it in a random science fiction movie? That’s way more fun. In any case, it’s something like this idea of unlooked-for wisdom that prompted my latest Tarot draw.

Question: What card has an unexpected gift for me today?

Card: Page of Swords

page-swords

First impressions: My first thought with any of the Pages is generally the same: “Wow. That’s a big damn ________.” I haven’t looked closely at this one before, but the same is true here. That’s a big damn sword.

About the card: The card is pretty simple. In the foreground, we have a young man holding the aforementioned big damn sword. He’s standing atop a small hill, and in the background we see the ocean, a beach, a cloudy sky with a few birds and a couple of palm trees. The page is holding the sword back over his left shoulder. Looking at the trees, the large swells in the ocean and the page’s hair, it’s clear that it’s very windy in this scene. Given that swords are associated with Air, that certainly makes sense.

The story without words: Given the way the page is holding his body (turned to the side, with one foot extended and his weight held back), what I’m seeing here is that he is practicing forms. His attention seems very focused on whatever is before him, but he’s not precisely in a fighting stance. While it’s obviously a windy day, it looks like a very pretty one – the sky is what I call a “Ferris Bueller shade of blue” and the page is dressed in a way that suggests that the temperature is very comfortable. It’s possible, I should note, that I’m noticing this in particular because it’s late January in Chicago, and blue skies and warm temperatures are both in short supply. 🙂

But what does it mean?: One of the things I’ve heard about the Pages is that they’re the apprentices of the various suits/elements. It’s not about being a champion of the element, as in the case of the Knight, or of external or internal mastery of it (in the cases of the King and Queen, respectively). It’s about dedication, to learning, and perhaps even to surrender to that symbol or element, and to what that means to you.

I find that read particularly interesting with this card, because if the sword symbolizes air, then I generally don’t consider myself an apprentice thereof. Intellect, clarity of thought, discernment in communication…these are natural gifts I possess, and also tools I have spent a good deal of time honing. This is not to say that I wield those tools perfectly, by any means – far from it. But at the end of the day, this is the element, and these are the tools, that I am most generally comfortable with. One thing I am not comfortable with, though, is the idea of being an apprentice at anything. I love learning, but on my own terms, thanks. I do like trying new things, but generally in controlled environments where I get to set the parameters (and can ensure that nobody is around to witness my inevitable stumbles). An apprentice doesn’t have the luxury of dictating the terms or parameters of his or her learning, and an apprentice very often has an audience – all the better to learn, of course. This does beg an obvious question.

What might it mean to apprentice myself to tools that I am already skilled with? What might it mean to surrender to an arena in which I typically excel?

A number of possibilities come to mind, but the one that stands out right now is this: I admit that in the grand scheme of things, I don’t know as much as I like to imagine I do, and recognize that even in this area of strength I have much to learn. I look for opportunities to throw out what I already know. In short, I ask, “What if?” a lot…and then find out.

Looking at the question for this draw, then…what’s the unexpected gift that the Page of Swords offers? I think it’s the opportunity (which I mean in both the “sweet!” and the “Oh, shit!” connotations) to explore the tools I’m familiar with, an orientation to the world that I generally find comfortable, but to do so in a way that takes an intentional step back. Not just to question my actions after the fact, but to try something new, or try something I already “know” I can’t do, and learn what lessons I can from the experience.

(One other note that doesn’t quite fit with the above…for comparison, I pulled out the other Pages a few minutes ago, and saw something interesting. The Pages of Cups, Wands and Pentacles are all facing the symbol that they are apprenticed to. The Page of Cups, in particular, makes me chuckle because my immediate impression is, “I have a CUP! Whoa, look at that CUP!!” The Page of Swords, though, is already wielding his sword (not with a particularly effective-looking grip, it must be said, but that’s neither here nor there). He isn’t quite in motion yet, but there is motion all around him. He looks to me like he is preparing to move, while the other Pages are not.)

Tarot Draw #7

One of the greatest experiences I’ve had in the past several years is the opportunity to offer leadership training and mentoring to a group of committed students at Diana’s Grove Mystery School during my time as a staff member. I never really expected to be particularly good at this, but I’ve found rather to my surprise that it not only fed me, but that I brought something to that work that seemed to be really positive for others. Now that I’ve moved on from that affiliation, I know that I want to find a way to offer something similar – not to replicate that experience, but to create something new that meets that need in a different way.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of months thinking about what form that might take. While I haven’t reached clarity on the form, I have developed at least a partial list of what it might include (Warning: Some sort of rambling on this topic will likely be coming here fairly soon.) Since this has been on my mind so much lately, I decided that it would make for a fine question for my next tarot draw.

Question: What do the cards have to tell me about my intention to start a leadership and mentoring group?

Card: Knight of Wands

knight-wands

First impressions: Wow. That’s a big damn horse, isn’t it? And a very well-armored knight, to boot. Interesting that his visor is up, though. If I really knew something about the tarot, I’d probably have some great insight into that.

About the card: The image here is pretty straightforward, at least on the surface. In the foreground are the aforementioned Big Damn Horse and knight. The horse is rearing back and appears to be kicking out with its front hooves. The knight is wearing full plate mail and is holding a long wooden staff in his right hand while he uses his left to guide the horse. He has a yellow and black tunic over his armor, and fiery plumes on his helmet and at the back of his arm (not really shocking, what with wands being about fire). In the background we can see that the knight is in a desert, and there are either pyramids or large sand dunes in the far background.

The story without words: It’s interesting…if I imagined what a knight looks like, it would pretty much be this picture. Warhorse rearing back, the knight wearing his standard front and center, eyes forward toward whatever might be coming over the horizon…this sounds weird even in my own head (which is saying something) but the description that comes to mind is that this looks like a…hm. A recruiting poster, of all things, or a piece of propaganda. I almost expect there to be a caption about supporting our troops, or the war at home, or something.

Anyway. Let’s put that aside for a moment, because it’s bizarre, and explore two other aspects of the image that strike me as interesting:

  • Here’s the thing about the knight’s armor – it’s freaking heavy. Contrary to what my misspent youth (and adulthood) playing tabletop RPGs taught me, one does not wear full plate armor to walk around in. Heck, one does not put the armor on in the first place without a lot of assistance.
  • It still seems odd that the knight would be in full plate armor while presumably in the midst of battle or entering battle and not have his visor down. When I look at the card, I can’t help but imagine my mother lamenting that he might put an eye out. Never mind the fact that my mother has never, to my knowledge, suggested that any activity might put out an eye. It just seems like the sort of thing that ought to be said. My mother’s fictional concerns aside, the point here is that it seems weird.

But what does it mean?: Well, these last two points are interesting to me. I’ve been pretty well fixated on the idea of collaboration lately – of engaging in projects and work that involve excellent people who share their talents and knowledge freely with one another. I truly believe that amazing things come from that sort of arrangement. I’d like to believe that collaboration is ultimately the key to sustainability. I’m aware that the idea of the knight being helped into his armor doesn’t really speak to collaboration, as such – that’s more properly service, and not service among equals. But it’s my draw, and my question, so I’m going to interpret it however I want, thank you very much. 😉

About that visor, now. Looking at that aspect of the card through the lens of my question, I’m given to believe that the knight needs to have a clear view of what he’s approaching more than he needs to be protected. I’m hoping to help create something pretty unique in my experience, and a key component in doing that is to have my eyes wide open from the beginning. But even so, I note that the knight isn’t really free to look everywhere. He can’t look back, or really even to the sides. His field of vision is limited to what lies ahead of him. I’m not a proponent of tunnel vision, mind you, but there’s something to be said for focus. Usually, that something includes me saying, “I really need to figure out how to be more focused.” I like the idea of entering into a new project with my attention focused like the Knight’s here. Not tunnel vision, but with my eyes forward.

Side note: I find it at least vaguely interesting that I’m thinking about the idea of focus while writing my first post using FocusWriter, a minimalist word processor that helps remove distractions by the rather simple expedient of taking up the entire screen with a background and text window. I’m actually a little embarrassed to see how much difference that makes for me – just the fact that I can’t see my open browser tabs and other applications in the taskbar puts them out of mind really effectively. Obviously I’ve just started using it, but so far I really like it.

Tarot Draw #6

Well, it’s 2012. Now begins the period of time where the nights get colder, good Chicagoans have reason to complain about the weather, and I write the wrong year on my checks for the next couple of months. Happily, this time of year lends itself to a rather obvious focus for a tarot draw. So, let’s do this – tarot draw #6, at last. 

Question:What card will be an ally in the coming year?

Card: The Wheel of Fortune

thewheel

First impressions: Um. Shit. My lack of expertise in the Tarot is, I think, well-documented here (enough so that I’m tempted to create a template along the lines of, “I don’t know a damn thing about these cards, but…” to go with each post), but even I have some reaction to this card. When a friend who’s inclined to tell me what their year card is tells me that they’re entering a Wheel year, I know enough to shake my head and say, “Oof.”

About the card: There’s a lot going on in this card. Let’s start in the middle and work our way to the edges. In the center of the cards is, um…a wheel. Go figure. There are a number of symbols on the wheel that I have to confess I don’t recognize at all. A sphinx is atop the wheel, holding a sword. On the left is a snake, and to the lower right there’s an Anubis-like creature. In the corners of the cards, in the clouds, we have four winged creatures – a lion, a bull, a bird that I kind of want to call a phoenix and a person (my Catholic upbringing wants me to call any person with wings an angel, naturally). Each of these creatures has an open book.

The story without words: With the center of the card dominated by a non-living image, I don’t get an immediate story to attach here. I’m sort of intrigued by the creatures in the corners, though. I note that none of them appears to be writing in the book they hold, which leads me to conclude that they’re reading instead. Either that or they’re each holding a book and wondering, “Why the hell am I up in a cloud with an immense wheel in front of me? Also, is that sphinx going to whack me with that big damn sword?”

Okay, let’s go with reading.

But what does it mean?: So what I “know” about the Wheel is that it symbolizes change. There are things that happen in the world that we can’t control. Many people view those things as the hand of god, or of fate – that is, they view it in the context of something that’s directed in some way. I don’t really go in for that, as a rule. I note that the card is called the Wheel of Fortune, not Fate. I believe pretty strongly that we all face challenges in the world and our circumstances, not because of some divine structure but because stuff happens. Some of that stuff is good, some is decidedly not good…but most of it simply falls in between. Most stuff exists in a sort of quantum state that both sucks and is awesome – our observation of that stuff, and what we do with that stuff, has some impact on it, of course, but in my experience most “stuff” has impacts that aren’t so easily categorized until much later.

That said…stuff happens, and none of us can be fully prepared for it. But the point of the card seems to be that just because I’m not completely prepared doesn’t mean that I’m helpless. I have tools – the sword that the sphinx holds can be seen as that sharp edge of discernment that I can use to cut away what doesn’t serve me (or some of it, anyway). Apparently there are flying bulls with books I can borrow, too. I have knowledge, and stories, and symbols, and from time to time I have the sense to make use of all of these things to deal with what’s happening around me. The world is rich in tools and lessons, if I but have the wit to realize that what is going on now is not what will be going on then.

Not a bad ally to have in a year that promises to include a whole lot of change, now that I think about it.

Tarot Draw #5

So, it’s been about 2 weeks since my last tarot post. That whole “I’ve missed posting here and I want to do more of it” thing hasn’t exactly led to an upswing of writing so far, apparently. I’m clearly still struggling a little bit with setting a routine around regular writing for the website, though I’ve managed to finish a couple of other non-website related pieces of late.

In any case, I actually drew a card last week and just haven’t gotten around to writing anything about it until now. In a shocking development, the question is job-related. I’ve spent some time recently reflecting on what kind of work I really want to do, and this draw was related to that reflection.

Question: What’s one thing my next job needs to include in order for me to be content?

Card: Two of Cups

2 of Cups
2 of Cups

First impressions: Huh. This card has always screamed “Relationships” to me. I certainly haven’t looked at it through a professional or otherwise work-related lens before.

About the card: The card contains just two people, a man and a woman. They’re both well-dressed and are facing each other in the center of the card. Each of them is holding a big damn cup – the woman is holding hers in both hands, while the man is holding onto his cup in his left hand and reaching out to hers with his right. Between the couple there’s a caduceus and above that a winged lion’s head. In the background there’s a pretty little scene with low hills and a building that looks to me like a cottage or house.

The story without words: The scene here reads pretty strongly as a wedding. There’s clearly something ceremonial about the way the way the cups are being held…or exchanged, really, now that I look at it again. Rather than the man reaching out toward the woman’s cup, maybe he’s just handed it to her and is pulling his hand back instead. That makes quite a bit more sense, actually (I mentioned before that I’m slow, didn’t I?). The caduceus symbolizes balance and healing, which certainly fits with the notion of this being a commitment ceremony of some sort.

But what does it mean?: Looking at the card, I’m reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s words about marriage in The Prophet, which include the following:

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Gibran’s words speak pretty clearly to my own feelings about partnerships of any sort – be they romantic, platonic, or professional. My best relationships have always been about exchange, and the best projects I’ve worked on – professionally or not – have ultimately been about collaboration. What really feeds me, what I really crave, is that sense of working with a team of excellent collaborators. And that’s really what I see in this card – individuals coming together to create something new, something unique. The fact that there are just two individuals in the card and they’re pretty obviously getting hitched is, at least in the context of my question, beside the point. Mind you, I don’t know if my next paid work will include this kind of collaborative exchange, but even if it doesn’t, this card is a good reminder that that is something I want in my life.

Tarot Draw #4

As I settle into my job search (it’s going fairly well, all things considered, and thank you to those of you who have asked), I’m finding a somewhat surprising lack of perceived time for writing. I have a bit of freelance work going on at the moment, and that’s work I can do from home – which is a blessing that I’ve never had before, and in a lot of ways I love it. In some ways, though…well, I’m realizing just how set some of my patterns are. The computer I use for the freelance project is one that’s never really been used for work before. It’s a happy little netbook that I’ve used almost exclusively for either writing or (let’s be honest here) futzing about on the internet. And while I can take a break from work at any time, I’m finding that I have a curious block when it comes to actually writing for pleasure in the physical space where I’m working.

All of which is to say, it’s been 8 days since my last post, and I’ve missed it. I’ll try and do better.

Recently, an idea was posted to the email list used for Mystery School – basically, the suggestion was made to use the Tarot to look for something to take into the mysteries of the coming year. That felt like a good place to go with my next draw, so without further ado…

Question: What is one thing I can take with me into the coming year?

Card: Ten of Pentacles

10 of Pentacles
10 of Pentacles

 

First impressions: Wow. There’s a lot going on in this card. People and dogs and buildings, oh my! This is one of the (many) cards that I have no background with whatsoever, so this should be interesting.

About the card: In the foreground, we have an old gentleman sitting down, facing away from us. He’s sitting down and wearing what look like very lavish (and certainly very colorful) robes. I’m not sure what all of the designs on the robes are, but there are what appear to grapes in the design somehow, though this might just be me looking for something that isn’t really there. Anyway, our old guy is petting a dog and looking out through an archway upon what feel to me like his holdings (we can see a field and some trees in the background, along with some buildings). On the inside of the arch are a couple of banners, one with a castle in the design – it feels like a coat of arms of sorts, so I’m reading the old guy to be either a lord or at least the most influential person around these parts.

There are 3 other people in the scene: A younger man, facing away from us and toward a woman, who has a small child standing beside her. The child is petting the rump of another dog.

The story without words: When I look at a card, generally I’m waiting a day or so before writing about it. Mostly that’s out of laziness and lack of time, but this time that delay was kind of useful, because I missed something rather obvious on the first viewing. At first, I read the younger man and the woman as a couple having a conversation. The obvious narrative conclusion was that they were the parents of the small child. But when I looked at the card again today, I saw that the man is actually holding a spear. Noticing one item changes “husband” into “guard”. More to the point – it changes the younger man from being “the woman’s husband” to “the old man’s guard”.

Funny, how adding a weapon shifts the narrative so fundamentally.

The story I’m seeing here, now, is that the woman is seeking entrance to the older man’s home for some reason, and the younger man is at least questioning her, and perhaps keeping her out entirely. The presence of the child makes it *feel* like she’s looking for aid of some sort, but I’m not sure why. The older man is dressed rather extravagantly, to be sure, but nobody in this image is wearing a beggar’s rags or anything.

I think I liked the card a little better before I saw the spear, actually – then it was an old rich guy watching a couple talk outside his house. Now, I’m wondering about whether or not he’s even going to give the woman the time of day.

But what does it mean?: I’m not getting a whole lot from the card, honestly, other than a general sense of material wealth on the part of the older man. There also seems to be…hm. This is harder to define, for me. A sense of propriety, or convention, I guess. It doesn’t seem like the woman and her child are being turned away out of hand, but I do get the idea that there’s a particular way that one is expected to approach those with wealth, and the older man wants those forms to be followed.

How that actually speaks to my question about the future, I have no idea. I don’t feel like I’m taking a lot of material wealth and plenty into this coming year, and I’d like to think that part of what I can do with the coming year is to set aside some convention. I’d like to find ways to do more of what I love and have less of a sense of obligation. I’d like to feel at ease with less, rather than feel like I’m trapped in a particular job because of the perceived financial security it offers.

They aren’t all going to smack me upside the head with obvious insights, apparently. Also, one of these days I’ll stop turning all draws into questions about my job search. Probably not anytime soon, mind you, but one of these days.