I recently returned from a much-anticipated and somewhat-feared solo retreat at Christ In The Wilderness, a retreat center located near Stockton, Illinois. It’s a really lovely space, and offers what is (for me, at least) something particularly precious: solitude. I spent four days and three nights there, alone with a journal, music, some books, a walking stick, rubber stamp carving tools, and my Tarot deck. It was a challenging time, but one that brought a great deal of peace and some renewal that I really needed. All in all, I feel really privileged to be able to give myself this gift.
While there, I did a series of ally/lesson draws. I began with an overarching ally for the retreat, and then looked at the subsequent cards with that first one in mind (essentially: with **insert first card here** as a larger guide, how does today’s ally/lesson speak to me?). I don’t want to forget the cards or the initial responses I wrote at the time, so here we go, for posterity:
Day 1 (about an hour after arrival): What card is my ally for this time here?
So, if wands are fire and passion, here we have this dude literally injured by passion. He’s standing in front of eight wands, each taller than him, and he has a bandage wrapped around his head, presumably where he has been struck. He’s also holding tightly (to my view, anyway) to one other wand. He’s not holding it defensively, but instead seemingly to support himself, to remain upright. His expression has a very slings-and-arrows vibe about it, all wide eyed and cautiously looking over his shoulder.
I note that while the wands behind him aren’t set at exact intervals, it seems to me that the one he’s holding did come from that row off wands standing behind him. What does that mean?
I think it means that he has chosen what passion he will claim for his own. He’s navigated other worthy pursuits, and has – eventually – said no to them. They are as worthy as his, but they are not his. He carries the scars of those “nos,” but I think they will fade. This isn’t the end of his story, but the start of a next chapter. The passion and fire he holds will strengthen his spine even as he provides the fuel for its manifestation.
What is mine to do? That which inspires me to reach for it. That which draws forth my sacred ‘yes’.
I didn’t even get to shuffle the cards properly for this one. I held the question in my mind for a second, began to shuffle, and this card just fell out, face up in front of me. I decided that this was an obvious enough signal that I ought to just go with it.
So, another Nine. Another staff, or wand. He’s an old man, our Hermit, lighting the way with a star lantern and standing straight and tall with his staff for as support. He’s looking down…to find his way? To rest? To question his purpose? I’m going to wonder about that one for a while. It’s interesting that the Major comes on the second day, not as the larger intention of the trip but in service to it. I like that – the Major 9 in service to one of the minors.
Okay, let’s look at him more closely. His eyes are closed, and he’s standing alone on a rock. Not moving, at least right now, and he doesn’t appear to be in preparation to move. There’s not a sense of…anticipation, for lack of a better word. He’s standing still, straight, holding up a lantern, but not using the lantern.
Oh. He’s a lighthouse. Warning passers-by and sailors of danger. Showing those same travelers a path to safety. But he’s not, I don’t think, concerned with whether they head that way or not.
How is the Hermit my ally today? I think he’s reminding me that my inspiration and illumination move beyond me, whether I realize this fact or not. I can be alone, as he is, and I’m still casting both light and shadow.
I’m here. This light I hold illuminates this spot. Use that information if and as you will.
Day 3, morning: Who is my ally today?
Card(s): Page of Wands (and Strength)
Goodness, it’s a Fire week, isn’t it? I love the Pages so much, and particularly this one. He is so in love with the wand he’s holding. It’s as if he intends to memorize every part of it, to take in all that it can teach him. I always have that sense of joyous apprenticeship from this card, and it stands in some contrast to my own relationship with tools. I often say that it doesn’t matter which tool or which model one uses – only that one uses it consistently. I think that’s true to a large extent, but this philosophy seems more appropriate for a King or Queen, not a Page. The Page says, “What can I learn?” while the King asks, “How can this serve?”
I love that this Page isn’t armored. He looks like I’d like to feel when learning something new – excited, full of anticipation. This story is so different from the one shown in the 9 of Wands, in large part because of the Page’s youth.
Also along for the ride today (the cards simply would not separate, so…again, let’s go with it) is the Strength card, the 8 in the major arcana. It’s the Lady and the Lion, with an implication that she’s taming that beast, that passion. She’s all in white, with flowers in her hair and at her waist – purity and nature both? The lion is all fiery, passionate orange, seemingly being calmed into quiescence by the woman.
Here’s a thought. What if it’s in reverse? What if the Lady needs the Lion’s passion in the same way that we may first see the Lion as needing her direction? I can imagine her walking through the countryside shown here to do her duty, to perform her task – as priestess, as symbol of nature or fertility, as whatever. She has that look of ceremony about her, at the least. And then along comes this powerful, wild, passionate creature that knows nothing of ceremony but is filled with life. And the beast inspires her to pause, to reconnect with that wildness and that untamed spirit. No longer just doing her solemn duty, she moves forward with a joyous, almost feral, inspiration to do her Work.
Wow. Another major, eh? I don’t get this card at all, to be honest. It’s the calling forth of the dead that I’m freaked out by, since it’s so not how I see the universe working. I’m no angel sounding the trumpets, but that’s for sure. But okay…let’s think.
What’s coming forth from the water and the crypts here? The naked dead. So, nakedness is vulnerability. We don’t bury people naked, we put them in their Sunday best. But here, they are whole and nude and opening themselves to the heavens, to the Sacred. And it’s interesting that they’re in the water, too. Softening, washing away rough edges, healing. Sustaining.
What if all of the parts of myself that I’ve locked away have been held and sustained by healing and love all this time? What is now ready to come back out into the light? Do I dare to find out?
You may have had good reason to lock away these parts of you, but now it’s time for some of them to emerge once more. Welcome them with the same joy they have in being returned to the light.