Tag Archives: allies

Tarot Allies galore

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?

Card: Nine of Wands

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’.

Day 2, morning: What card has the lesson I most need today?

Card: The Hermit

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.

Day 4 (taking a pause while packing up): Who is my ally for manifestation and integration of my experiences here?

Card: Judgement

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.

A different sort of Ally draw

Most of my tarot draws this year have been about finding an ally for myself for some period of time. Generally, that’s been for a week, but sometimes for a particular event, a conversation, or a longer period of time. I like this relationship with the card images because it makes me feel like I have another tool at my disposal, someone or something else in my corner. Even if that someone/something else is my own exceptionally limited interpretation of the cards, just asking for aid and reflecting on what I see is a powerful act.

Yesterday I did something different, and drew a card with the intention of learning about being an ally. I’m am a pretty privileged person, and what with us being four weeks away from swearing in a racist Cheeto-in-chief, it occurs to me that I would be well advised to turn more of my awareness and action outward.

Question: What do I need to know about being a better ally?

Card: Ace of Cups

First Impressions: I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I like cards with people, which is why I use this deck. Basically, any time I draw a card without people I mutter something very professional and timeless under my breath like, “Stupid cards.” That said, I quite LIKE this card, and I had one of those, “Hey, this is cool!” moments when I first saw it.

About the card: So there’s this big cup, see? And it’s in the palm of a spectral hand that, I swear, looks like some of the animation from Monty Python. We also have a dove holding a host just above the cup (okay, fine, it’s a chalice). There are five funnels of water coming out of the chalice and into what I’ll call a lake or pond below. Also, some lily pads, which I’m sure mean something very insightful but that I will ignore as I don’t know what they might actually mean.

But what does it mean*? The placement of the hand feels important to me. It’s not gripping the chalice in a way that is exerting control. I grabbed a wine glass and tried holding it this way (I don’t have any chalices in my house, which I’m sure is another sign of my limitations in reading), and it was hard to carry it steadily without being very, very aware of my movements. Contrast this with, say, the Knight of this suit, who is holding the hell out of that cup. He clearly intends to use the cup – as a symbol, as a weapon, as something. Whatever his intention, I think it’s safe to say that that card is more about the knight, and less about the cup that he holds.

Similarly, note the water coming out of the chalice. The hand’s placement, again, is crucial here. It’s really in the only position it can be to not be in the way of the funnels coming out of the chalice. So again, there’s great care being taken.

In the context of this question, I’m reading that as a reminder that to be an ally is, in part, to be clear and careful about one’s own movements and intention. To support, not to direct. To be present without co-opting the message or the action.

As usual, I’m sure there’s a lot here that I’m not noticing, but this feels like a good starting point both for the card and for my understanding of the question.

*Remember, this is through the lens of my question, not anything like an interpretation of the card’s intrinsic meaning.

Tarot Ally #5

I’m still sitting with a couple of recent draws, so this one is actually from this week – so the post is either on time, or from the future, depending on your perspective.

Ally Draw: An ally for abundance
Card: 5 of Swords

swords05.jpg

Well, this is interesting. So we have several people in this card and one who is, to my eye, collecting the swords that others have thrown down or have been forced to surrender. I know that the faces in these cards are generally set in a neutral expression, but this dude looks really happy with himself, doesn’t he? I’ve worn a satisfied smirk more than once, and let me tell you – dude is smirking. It makes me want to smack him upside the head a little bit.

This card speaks to a way of being that I struggle with. Namely, the assumption that what I get must be at the expense of another. It’s pervasive in our culture and I believe that it’s the root of so many of our problems (and so many of my problems, for that matter). Here’s the thing about that view of the world: it has as its fundamental belief the idea that there isn’t enough for all of us, so you’d damn well better grab what you can and let everyone else hang. Maybe get enough for your family and kids while you’re at it, but outside of that, the world isn’t to factor into your thinking at all. That is one messed up way of looking at the world, isn’t it? And naturally it works the other way, too. When I come from that place of scarcity, of the knowledge that there isn’t enough, then I look at what others have and I’m angry that they have it…because it came from me, or at least a hypothetical me, see? Everything that you have is a thing that I can’t have. And if there’s not enough to go around, then I’m damned well going to stockpile these swords, y’know, even if I only need the one.

Something of note here, sort of as an aside: out of the 5 draws that I’ve posted here, this is the third Swords card that has come up. Swords represent the element of Air, so we’re looking at words and stories, and while words and stories are awesome, they’re not always true. So what I think I’m looking at here in this card is a certain way of framing the idea of abundance and scarcity, not the reality of it. That’s an important consideration.

This image, at least today, embodies the opposite of abundance for me. Instead, it embodies that “I’ve got mine” attitude that sickens me…and that I fall pretty to all too often when I’m worried about my own resources, whether that worry is rational or not. So if I’m looking at this card as an ally, that makes things a little more complicated. I think it’s important to note that allies don’t always need to be friends, and the best teachers sometimes are here to demonstrate what we should avoid.

“(Insert something wise about toxic capitalism here.)”

Tarot Ally #4

Still running these a couple of weeks behind the actual draw. I’d like to say that that’s because I am taking the extra time to reflect, but mostly it’s because I don’t get around to publishing the post right away.

Ally Draw #4: An ally for optimism
Card: Ten of Swords

swords10.jpg
WELP. That happened.

A little context here, first. I drew this card on June 12th, the day that reports came in about dozens of people being shot and killed on Latin night in the Orlando nightclub Pulse. This is a horrific act of violence against the LGBT community, and I don’t have anything approaching a coherent response other than to be angry, shocked, and frightened on behalf of the people most deeply affected. During the same time, some close friends also received bad news of a more personal nature, and I was (and still am) struggling to find much of worth in this world that we inhabit. The ally I asked for wasn’t for good news, or a sense of well-being, or anything as direct as that. Rather, it’s a need for a shift in myself – to be able to sit with the darkness, and yet still see some glimmer of light, even if it’s faint.

So then we get this card, which…I guess it’s something, eh?

It’s funny, but there’s actually something here that kind of works for me. Dude doesn’t have three swords in him, or eight. He has ten. One of them is in his ear, for fuck’s sake. I mean, really? Doesn’t that seem like a little bit of overkill? Anyway, here’s an important deal for me. I’m not the world’s most optimistic person. When I get in a mood, I’m in a mood. I don’t respond well to someone trying to cheer me up, either. Rather, I’ve found that when I’m really irrationally angry or upset, I need to just ramp it up. Exaggerating the feeling, particularly as it relates to those petty annoyances and bullshit, feels a lot like this card looks. When I do this, I’ll mutter to myself about all of the other things that are apt to go wrong, the next dozen or so indignities that I’m certain to experience – generally up to and including being fired, being set on fire, and descending to the fiery depths.

The deal is, once I set on this path of embracing and exaggerating my frustrations, I can’t stop until I make myself, or at least snort with something close to laughter. It’s not the best or most mature way to handle those waves of anger, probably, but much of the time it does the job. Once I can laugh…it’s not that the anger or frustration goes away, exactly, but a little bit of its power is taken away.

So that’s what I’m thinking about this card at the moment. I mean, LOOK at it. Wouldn’t, like, five swords be enough? And doesn’t the, erm, the corpse look kind of resigned to its fate? Okay, maybe that’s just me. But listen, I have to think that the amount of overkill here is intentional. As an ally for optimism, it’s not my first choice, but I’ll take it as some support that my so-called ‘coping mechanism’ maybe isn’t the worst idea in the world.

“Gods, no, not in the ear! Not in the ear!!!”

Tarot Ally #3

For this draw, which came a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t have a specific request from the cards. Just an ally for the week, a symbol to refer back to when I needed a reminder of…well, whatever it is that this ally has to teach me.

Ally Draw #3
Card: Page of Pentacles

page-of-pentacles

Oh, the Pages. In some ways, they are my favorite cards because they seem to be absolutely in love with the symbol that is represented in their card. For this one, it looks like almost a religious reverence. The page is holding the pentacle aloft, focused completely on it.

It’s one of those things that I really never do myself. I’m so quick to look ahead and seek out ways to apply my gifts, if that makes sense. I’m a terrible apprentice, and that’s a shame, because if this card is any indication, it looks like a pretty good gig, to really fall in love with the tool before me.

So if this page is telling me anything, I think it’s a reminder to truly give myself over to a single task and a single desire from time to time.

“You contain multitudes, and your love is abundant. But for now, for this moment, embrace one thing. Your other loves are not diminished by your dedication to this one.”

Tarot ally #2

In my second weekly draw, I found myself in need of an ally for clarity around a few challenging conversations that needed to happen. Nothing terribly stressful or troubling, but those conversations were up for me when I was drawing the cards that Sunday.

Ally Draw #2: An ally for clarity
Card: Four of Swords

swords04
Newsflash: This image seems to be all about silence and space. We have four swords decorating a crypt, which seems maybe a little morbid, but actually kind of rocks. I’m good with words – I’m a decent writer, and an excellent speaker. Words are the tools I use to effect change in my communities and, in very small ways, in the world. But I know, too, that I can forget about the power of silence, of taking a breath and pausing from time to time. The image in this card is a needed reminder of that. I’ll take the opportunities to allow time to pass, to breathe and use my words more sparingly. Clarity isn’t just about making my own needs and messages understood, after all. It’s just as much about (or, if I’m doing this well, even more about) understanding others. It’s hard to do that when the only words I’m focused on are my own.

“Allow space. use discernment, and cultivate the gifts that can only come in the quiet places of your life.”

 

Tarot ally #1

Now that the remodeling is done at home, I’ve been feeling more time and space to relax and breathe. In addition to wandering around the apartment and saying, “Look! There are multiple rooms available to me!” I have started doing a weekly tarot draw on the weekends – just a single card, asking which ally I might work with in the week ahead.  I might not share all of those here, but it’s been a nice little practice for me so far, and I find that being more public about what I’m doing helps me continue to do it. This just started a few weeks ago, so it’s just a matter of making a few catch-up posts here.

As I’ve noted before, I am nothing like a Tarot expert, and my knowledge of what any given card REALLY means is accidental at best. My interpretation of these draws, such as it is, is very much through the lens of the lens of the ally I’m seeking.

So. Disclaimers aside, here we go.

Ally Draw #1: An ally for peace
Card: Queen of Cups

Queen-of-cups
I am so fortunate in my life that when I talk about a time that isn’t peaceful, I’m not talking about physical violence, or a lack of survival-level resources, or housing instability, or anything like that. In my privileged existence, peace – or the lack of it – is very much connected to my emotional state. I’ve had some stuff going on of late, and it’s good to note that “stuff” for me isn’t major, terrible upheaval. But I’ve still felt disquieted, like there’s something on the horizon that’s concerning.

So I’d like some more calm and interior peace, if you will. And if I’m going to ask for advice or help, who better than this queen to approach? She is sitting on her throne, but so close to the water that is her domain. Is the tide coming in, or going out? Either way, what it tells me is that the emotion is not something that she is divorced from, that she keeps separate. Rather, she welcomes it and its gifts. They bring riches to her, and yet she remains who she is.

The queen is not emotion, is not water herself, but instead she accepts it – takes in what is needed, fills her cup for when times will be dry, and allows it to flow away in its own time.

“Stop trying to control, to corral.
Instead: trust, and accept, and have faith.
Do not forget who YOU are. You are a being of love and connection. You must allow the water to soak down and feed your roots as well as quench your thirst.”