Tarot Fail

I attempted another draw this morning, thinking that I could let the card percolate for a while during the drive home to Chicago and maybe even get it posted from the car (while someone else drives, I promise). Somehow, though, it just isn’t happening today. In unsurprising news, my mind is really full of job-related worries at the moment (or, rather, lack-of-job-related worries), so I drew a card with a question related to that.

Almost immediately, I found myself wanting to draw a different card instead. Not because the card I drew felt terrible or anything, but because it didn’t immediately fit the story I had in my head…or at least the story I WANTED to believe was true at the moment. I tried sitting with the card for a little while, but still couldn’t see past the block of the apparent image versus the desired story.

So, screw it (for today, anyway). I’ll give it another day or so and see if another draw allows me to see something different. In the meantime, I’m almost halfway home from my Thanksgiving trip and am really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed in a few hours.

Tarot Draw #2

I’ve been a staff member at Diana’s Grove Mystery School for the past two years (and a member of that community since 2006), and recently I made the decision that it was time to step away from that role. Lots of reasons why that’s true, none of which are immediately germane here. But earlier this week, I had the final ‘official’ meeting with an amazing group that I’ve been mentoring in leadership, community and ritual arts, and facilitation skills. That work has been a highlight not only of my time in Mystery School, but a highlight of my life during the time that I’ve been doing it. Fresh off the bittersweet experience of saying goodbye, I did my second tarot draw.

 

Question: What should I consider as I exit my role in my current spiritual community?

 

thestar

 

First impressions: “Damn it, a Major.” Clearly I shouldn’t have expressed my gratitude for having drawn a non-major, non-court card the first time. On the other hand, this is a card I don’t know much at all about, so of the majors it’s not a bad one to end up with.

About the card: Okay, so let’s look at this thing. I see a nude woman with blonde hair. She’s down on her left knee, with her right foot resting on the surface of a lake. She’s also pouring water out of two jugs – one into the lake, and the other onto the ground nearby. The water being poured onto the ground is going in a few directions, including a small trickle that’s feeding into the lake.

In the background, there’s one tree with a bird in its uppermost branches, and a mountain range way off in the distance. In the sky, there are eight 8-pointed stars – seven smaller ones and one big damn star in the middle. My brain wants to make the large one the Sun, but given that this card is The Star, I’m going to resist that impulse on the assumption that it’s stupid.

Some other things I notice, here: First off, the woman is huge. It could just be perspective, but I don’t think so – she looks like a giant. Clearly not just a random woman traipsing through the countryside with a couple of water jugs. Second, the water being poured out onto the ground isn’t going the right direction. I mean, part of it is trickling into the lake, but more of it is moving in other directions – including uphill. Finally, there’s the fact that the woman’s foot is resting on top of the lake – not in the lake, on top of it. That seems kind of important.

The story without words: With only one person in the image, it’s harder for me to see a narrative in the card. I’m struck by the fact that the woman is doing something that seems ridiculous, though, in watering the lake. I mean, most people don’t go to the lake and add water to it, right? It’s usually the other way around. One thing I “know” about the Tarot is that an unclothed form symbolizes vulnerability. I tend to translate that as “purity,” instead. Maybe this figure is watering the lake and the ground because at her heart, that’s what she does – she brings emotional connection with her wherever she goes. Whether it’s “needed” by the lake or not is immaterial to the fact that this is who she is and what she does.

But what does it mean?: Through this lens, I’m aware that I’ve compartmentalized my life in some ways that I’m not thrilled with (that’s part of the larger purpose of this new site, to bring more of those compartmentalized parts of my life together, but that’s a topic for a later post). I tend to see myself as a leader, a mentor, a ritual artist, a partner, a writer…all of these things, but any one of them only in certain limited contexts. I find that I often wouldn’t really think of bringing my gifts to a place where they seem like they either don’t fit or are already present. Perhaps like the woman in this card, I would do well to have fewer barriers between myself and the world that surrounds me. Maybe the point of offering my self isn’t to find the perfect venue where that self is most needed or will be most appreciated, but simply to offer those gifts wherever I go.

This all feels like a very tenuous connection to the card itself. I have a feeling I’ll be coming back to this one again to see what else comes up for me.

 

Water is needed in the desert, but it is also needed in the whole world.

Some music makes me cry

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about two pieces of music that each have a history of making me cry.

The first is a chant written by River Roberts for an event in 2007. That was my first year of being an ‘official’ member of Diana’s Grove Mystery School after having attended a handful of events the year before. I distinctly remember this one as the first chant that felt like it was speaking directly to me. It’s really quite beautiful:

Cradled In The Arms of Life

Let my breath be a gift to you
Take me home again
Let my bones be a gift to you
Take me home again
Let my blood be a gift to you
Take me home again
Let my life be a gift to you
Take me home again

——
Cradled in the arms of life
Take me home again

I don’t remember very much about that ritual from 2007, but I clearly recall the group scattered about the ritual area, each person singing this chant – this offering, really – on their own before coming back together around the fire, all of our voices joining together in that stunningly beautiful way that makes me forget, for a while, that I can’t sing for crap.

The other song that’s been running through my head lately is, of all things, a church hymn that I remember singing in my youth. Even at my most cynical points as a teenager (and they were rather epic, I must admit) there was this one hymn that I kind of dreaded because it always, always brought tears to my eyes. It’s called “Here I am, Lord” and while I don’t remember the verses reliably, the chorus is pretty clear:

Here I am, Lord, is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go, Lord, if you lead* me
I will hold your people in my heart

I never really *believed* most of what was taught by the priests and CCD teachers at Sacred Heart (my mom was the parish’s religious education director for at least 15 years, so let’s not tell her that part), though I invested a lot of time there – first as an altar boy and later a lector. I didn’t feel called to do those things because I was moved to do so by some great religious belief, but rather because they were things that needed doing and I knew that I could do them well. It was never service to god, but perhaps I saw it as service to that community. I wouldn’t have put it those terms back then, but looking at it now I realize that my pattern of, “I care about this group, and here’s a way that I can serve,” was on its way to being established even then.

It’s interesting to me that these two songs strike such a similar chord for me. My introduction to each couldn’t have been more different – the hymn in the staid, hierarchical Roman Catholic church, the chant in the context of ecstatic ritual in the woods. But of course, the message I take from each is similar. To me they’re both about service, about offering one’s gifts to whatever greater power one chooses to believe in. While the elemental flavor of the chant hits much closer to home for me on a, “This is more literally what I believe” level these days, the sentiments in each touch me in very similar, emotional ways.

(* When I went to doublecheck my memory of the hymn, it turns out that I had this line wrong. Somewhere in the last 20 years, the version in my head shifted this from “…if you lead me” to “if you need me.” I find that change very telling. I don’t much like being led by the universe, but being needed? Well, let’s just say that if a pair of robots showed up at my door with a recorded message from a friend saying, “Help me, Jason-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope,” I’d find it difficult to say no.)

Tarot Draw #1

After a long day at work yesterday followed by a lovely dinner with a friend, I went home to unwrap my new deck. I’ll admit to a little trepidation as I pulled out the cards. While I’ve done a few exercises with tarot cards in the past, I’ve never really felt like I had any particular insight into the per se. The specter of, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” crops up for me fairly often, even when it has no particular reason to make an appearance. That voice was quietly present last night.

I mixed up the cards by the simple expedient of dumping them on my bed and shuffling them about for several minutes. I’ve talked to folks who say that they are often (or at least occasionally) drawn to a particular card when shuffling, but that didn’t happen for me this time. I was about to pull a card when I remembered that it might be useful to, you know, have a question to focus on for the draw.

Hey, I’m new at this. 🙂

After a bit of reflection, I decided that the most honest question on my mind at that moment was something like, “What do I need to know about this writing project I’m starting?” Not the most life-altering question, but it felt right in the moment. Some more shuffling, and then…

3 of Pentacles
3 of Pentacles


First impressions:
Thank goodness the first draw wasn’t one of the Majors. What little I “know” about the Tarot is really focused on those cards, and I suspect I will find it more difficult to set aside those preconceptions and focus exclusively on the card for those than I will for non-majors. Non-court cards will be the easiest, I imagine, so I was grateful to have pulled one of those to start with.

About the card: So what I’m seeing here is three people in what appears to be a church, cathedral or monestary of some sort. One of them is standing on a bench and wearing what looks to me like a workman’s apron, and I imagine if he were facing the other way I would see a few tools arranged there. Standing nearby are two other folks. one of them is clearly either a monk or someone blessed with a love of brown robes and the kind of hair style that I will have in a few short years. The other is rocking a fabulous orange robe. The gender of this third character is unknown, but I noticed that my mind filled in “female” immediately for some reason. Given the setting, I want to say that it’s a nun from an order with a great sense of humor, fashion-wise.

The Orange Nun is holding what scans to me like a set of plans for the cathedral/church/whatever. I really like the level of detail in the image, here – there’s just enough to make it pretty clear that that’s what it is, with just a few lines on the parchment she’s holding.

The story without words: My gut read here is that the guy on the bench is talking over his work with the other two. I imagine that he’s pretty busy, given that he’s still working while they talk about it. What’s interesting to me is that my initial feeling is one of empathy for the worker, as if there’s something going on here…not an argument, necessarily, but a discussion about whether or not he’s manifesting the plans as expected.

But what does it mean?: Looking at it through the lens of my question, I’m struck by my assumption that there must be some conflict going on here between the “vision” and the “implementation”, between the planners and the artisan. There’s nothing in the image to directly suggest that (nothing I’m seeing consciously, anyway) but I went there awfully quickly. If all of the characters in the card are me (my double Leo self LOVES that idea, by the way), then there’s a pretty clear parallel with my discomfort around actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) when I’m not sure if I’ll be able to bring what I have in mind into the world as I had originally hoped. I’m really wondering what I’d see if I had drawn this card with a different question in mind. Would I have seen three people collaborating over a shared vision instead of the tension between vision and action? Interesting stuff.

So, there we have it. First card drawn, first rambling post complete. Success!

By way of replacing the placeholder post

So, um. Welcome, to the tens of people who might at some point read this. How’s it going?

It should be noted, I think, that sometimes I struggle to find clever things to say when I begin writing. It should also be noted that this affliction often continues well past the beginning.

As 2011 winds down, I realize that I feel adrift in some important ways. Adrift, and somewhat scattered. There are reasons for each that I will likely natter on about at some length sooner rather than later, but for now I’ll simply say that these things are true, and leave it at that.

I’ve been thinking for a while that I’d like to craft some kind of a regular intentional practice. I’m not sure I’ll call it a spiritual practice, because that term feels like I should be doing something more important than rambling in a blog (even if it is a blog whose title and URL that I spent an embarrassing amount of time pondering). So it’s not that I don’t feel like this is an important thing – I do…or at least I feel like it can be potentially important. My reluctance hasn’t been a lack of motivation, exactly, but rather a nagging, irrational worry that one of two things will happen. Those worrisome things include:

  1. When I inevitably fail to meet my internal standards for said practice (and really, it is inevitable that I will do so at some point), I will feel shame for my momentous failure and simply cease trying.
  2. Regardless of my success or failure, I can’t help but wonder if anything I try to manifest along these lines will really be important. It somehow feels like such a thing should be something…I don’t know. Momentous, I guess, and I don’t particularly imagine myself doing that.

I’ll avoid the “spiritual practice” label, then, because…well, just because. But an intentional practice –that feels like something that can be important to me even if it isn’t Important in the larger sense. This past weekend, I came up with the rather surprising idea of doing a regular tarot draw, just one card, and writing about that card, what it says to me, and the process of doing this regularly.

Why tarot? Well, that’s a little complicated. I’m kind of surrounded by people who know more about the tarot than I do (which is to say, they reliably know more than, “Hey, that’s a pretty picture,” which is about where I am much of the time). I certainly have no great insight into the tool, and I’m not particularly drawn to develop any deep expertise in it. Like astrology, or personality tests, or any of a number of other predictive or descriptive tools, I think there’s a lot of “eye of the beholder” going on here. With tarot cards, as well, there’s also the inherent randomness of shuffling the cards and drawing one. While journaling a bit about this notion over the weekend, I wrote:

“The universe is random, but my soul is not. A single card drawn from a deck of 78 is random, but what I see in that card is not.”

Or, you know, maybe it is. I have no idea what I’ll find to be true for me here, whether I’ll develop a deep appreciation for the cards or uncover a hidden talent for interpreting them (that, I can pretty much assure you, will not happen) or if I’ll simply get a couple of weeks into the process and say, “Huh. It turns out I really don’t know anything about this after all. What a completely unsurprising development!”

In any case, I’m kind of excited to get started. Of course, I somehow managed to forget the fact that I don’t actually own a tarot deck of my own. I could borrow one, I suppose (there are at least 3 in my household that I can think of) but I don’t know. It feels like if I’m going to be writing about some number of cards before I get distracted by a shinier project, I should own a deck. Last night, I visited that great home for spiritual development, the Commonwealth of Amazonia, and ordered a deck (standard Rider-Waite deck, for anyone who’s curious. I know there are a lot of other options out there (many of them freaking beautiful) but I know that I tend to process visual information pretty literally, so simple is better for this guy.) As I am a Prime Member of the Amazonian Commonwealth, said deck is winging its way to me as we speak and should arrive tomorrow evening.

Where interesting projects arrive, sometimes for mere moments