Monday, April 16, 2012

Ten of Wands

The most striking thing about this image in the Universal Waite deck is the heavy burden that the central figure is struggling to carry, it seems almost too heavy to bear. In the background we see a village, symbolizing the community that he is serving, and the ploughed fields that testify to the progress of his labours.

The historical figure that came to mind when we started discussing this card at first seems like a very unlikely match to the card, but the more we discussed this the more it seemed to fit her so well. Today we will focus on the story of Mother Theresa.

Mother Theresa chose to serve the poor people in India. A country where Catholicism didn’t have a large following, compared to the two major religions there of Islam and Hinduism. She must have often felt completely over burdened by the difficult task ahead of caring for the poor in a country where so many people are poor. She was already at a disadvantage, being Catholic, not to mention the realities of every day life under the caste system. The injustices and inequalities that she witnessed on a daily basis must have often caused her to feel as if she was fighting a loosing battle.

As if her task wasn’t overwhelming enough, she admitted towards the end of her life during an interview with TIME magazine that she had sought in vain for the presence of God, she looked for any evidence of God in the desperation that she encountered every day in India. She continued this search for the last 40 years of her life, in vain. For 4 decades she had secretly lost her faith in the God she served, yet she persisted to do what she believed to be God’s work. She worked tirelessly amongst the poor to care for them and to give them a sense of belonging, something that many of them had not had before.

She uplifted the poor in her continued compassion for them, and by giving them an identity. Finally they too ‘belonged.’ Bearing in mind the inequality of the caste system, she empowered the poor by giving them a sense of self-worth in the knowledge that they mattered very much to her. Even though they were impoverished for life, many of them were deeply and personally touched by her compassion for them and became spiritually wealthy as a result.

Through her hard work, despite often being overburdened and possibly overwhelmed, Mother Theresa uplifted her community through service and unconditional love.

Recognition came in the form of a Nobel Peace prize, but perhaps more importantly, her name has become synonymous with compassion.

Re-examining the Ten of Wands card one can only hope that this figure too reaps some reward for his tireless efforts as he too serves his community in what appears to be an overwhelming task.

Many beautiful quotes have been attributed to Mother Theresa, but the two I wish to share with you today is this:

If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one, for love begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action.

Five of Swords

This card speaks of dishonourable gains, and thus the story of Helen of Troy and the Trojan Horse comes to mind.

According to Myth Helen, queen of a Greek king, left him for someone named Paris of Troy. Helen was the most beautiful woman ever created, and her husband the king was enraged! The Greeks got together under the leadership of Agamemnon and laid siege on Troy to recover Helen from her lover, Paris. It is however widely believed by historians that this was an excuse to invade Troy motivated by greed for this was a very wealthy city indeed. Wealth that the Greeks coveted for themselves.

After 10 years the Greeks had still not conquered Troy, so in an act of deception, they decided to leave a wooden horse outside the city as a ‘gift’ from the gods. The Greeks disappeared in their ships leaving the horse behind. The Trojans, firmly believing that this was indeed a gift from the gods, brought the horse inside the fortified city, not realizing that it concealed Greek soldiers inside its belly. Once inside the city of Troy the Greek soldiers snuck out and opened the city gates, a signal for the other Greek soldiers to storm the city from the outside. The result was that Troy was conquered.

It was such a bold and cleverly deceptive strategy that in today’s modern world some computer viruses are named after this false gift, the Trojan. These viruses will apparently sit in-waiting on our hard-drive, undetected, sometimes for months before crashing our system.

The lesson that today’s card brings warns us to be wary of false gifts, of people who give with one hand but take with the other. Such people may have the ability to make us feel ‘important’  by appealing to our ego or vanity, but the danger is that they often have ulterior motives and will ultimately betray us. We would be wise to be more discerning about whom or what we invite into our lives, as none of us want to be visited by a Trojan horse!

While there is great wisdom and truth in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt who said: You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give, we each have been blessed with the gift of discernment, a gift that we should remember to use when the little voice within cautions us that all is not as it seems. We most certainly do not walk through life in a state of perpetual paranoia, afraid that everything and everyone is ‘out to get us’, no, but we act wisely in the selection of our friends and energies that we invite into our lives.

If nothing else, today’s card impresses upon us the importance to heed that little voice within, and to trust our intuition, even when – by all outer appearances – the gift we are offered may seem sincere and genuine. No harm can come from discernment, if anything we have been given this ability to protect what we hold dear from those who come bearing false gifts.

In closing I’d like to share a quote by Jonathan Lockwood Huie who said:

Smile at the riddles of life, knowing that life's only true lessons are writ small in the margin.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

King of Cups

When Napoleon Bonaparte arrived in France in his early childhood, the French Revolution was in full swing. Peasants had wrestled control away from the nobility, and everyone was addressed as ‘citizen.’ The former hierarchy was no longer recognized. In fact, if former nobility referred to themselves by their noble titles such as Baron or Judge instead of merely ‘citizens’, they were sent to the guillotine. Anyone who thought themselves better than the ruling class were executed. The problem with that was that this began a sort of witch-hunt, people were being round-up and executed based on rumours and corridor-whispers, often as the result of envy or malice. This led to the execution of many innocent civilians during this period. Even Maximilien Robespierre, one of the founders of the revolution, had his head chopped off for not towing the line! In short, anarchy ruled.

Someone needed to step-up and take control of this downwardly spiralling situation. That person was Napoleon. He brought back law and order and was very charismatic, gaining a huge following in the military as well as in the civilian population.

The French Revolution was a very emotional issue for many, and Napoleon brought this back into normality, creating stability where before people were reacting from an emotional basis in their ruthless executions of so many who were perceived to consider themselves ‘better than’ the masses.

It was under Napoleon’s influence that France became a dominant world power in Europe.

The Kings in tarot are generally indicative of having achieved a certain control of the element in question. King of Cups is a solid individual who has gained control of his emotions through experience and wisdom. Today’s card therefore focuses on the realm of emotions, and prods us to examine whether we have become the ruler of our emotions yet, or whether they still rule us.

In support of this in today’s Tarotelic segment I’d like to read an important poem by Rudyard Kipling, called “If.”

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;

If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,

if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Six of Cups

There is a playful element to this card, but there is also a slightly sinister aspect too; an issue from the past that we thought we had dealt with can present itself when this card appears.

Every now and then something from the past revisits us, sometimes turning our world upside down and sometimes forcing us to re-examine things in a whole new way.

This is the astounding tale of a fish known as coelacanth (seel-uh-kanth) that was thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago. Unexpectedly one such fish made its appearance in fishing nets off the coast of South Africa in 1938, and it was very much alive! Fondly referred to as ‘Old Four Legs’ and the ‘Living Fossil’ the coelacanth quickly became the continuing obsession of journalists, biologists, scientist, explorers, aquariums and divers.

The coelacanth fascinated the world and ignited a debate about how the bizarre lobe-finned fish fits into the evolution of land animals.

According to National Geographics, Many scientists believe that the unique characteristics of the coelacanth represent an early step in the evolution of fish to terrestrial four-legged animals like amphibians.
The most striking feature of this "living fossil" is its paired lobe fins that extend away from its body like legs and move in an alternating pattern, like a trotting horse.
Despite initial reactions that this was a hoax or a once-off wonder, a community of these coelacanths was discovered near the Comoros Islands near South Africa and another in the waters off Sulawesi, Indonesia. Studies in the Comoros suggest that only about a thousand remain there, and are today considered an endangered species.

Here’s the thing that we have to ask ourselves though, did evolution stand still? This fish should have evolved onto land many millions of years ago. Why didn’t the coelacanth evolve? But more importantly, based on these findings we have to ask ourselves whether there are other prehistoric dinosaurs or ‘monsters’  like the Loch Ness for example around today? For all we know there are living, fire-breathing dragons lurking deep beneath, just waiting to be discovered. Yes, there is the playful element of the card rearing it’s head again, but in light of these findings it is not all that inconceivable any more, is it?

Sometimes things come back from our past. Things that we have forgotten about or that we thought we had dealt with, often these turn our world upside down, or forces us to look at things in a whole different way.

This card reminds us to allow playfulness into our lives, but it also prompts us to ponder whether those issues we thought were dealt with for once and for all have really been laid to rest. There are times, as Carl Sagan said, that we have to know the past to understand the present.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tarot Taxi

Come join me on my new blog! Tarot Taxi covers all tarot-related topics, including techniques to improve our tarot readings, news from the world of tarot, and so much more.

'Passengers' are welcome, just follow the blog! :)

Tarot Taxi - A hitchhiker's guide through the Tarot (and other tit-bits)

Monday, March 19, 2012


The Black Death, or Bubonic Plague, swept through Europe like a wildfire. It originated in the east, and was carried to Europe on the trade routes where infected sailors arriving on ships brought the plague to European ports. From there is spread into Europe killing about a third of the population. Entire villages were completely annihilated by the plague.

 As gloomy a tale as this is, there was also a positive aspect to the plague. After the plague disappeared Europe entered an era of economic boom. Due to the shortage of labour – many of whom had been killed by the plague – peasants could charge for their labour, and were compensated, whereas before they worked for next-to-nothing. With the new boom, new ideas started blossoming and this introduced new perspectives into their world.

The plague was indiscriminate. It did not target specific groups, and nobody was immune to the long, black fingers of death. Almost everybody lost someone to the plague. Endings came to all, nobility and peasants alike, regardless of how prepared they were. However, in the end Europe came out stronger than it was before.

The plague also caused many peasants to question their religion for the first time, they became untrusting of their religion when ‘God’ had failed to protect them or come to their aid as the Black Plague swept through their villages, killing off a third of the population. The church suddenly no longer enjoyed subservience and obedience from the peasantry, and thus had to have a heavier hand in the suppression of its people. As a result of the questioning of their faith, movements and sects started to form and the church saw large flocks of members moving away from the church to towards these different sects as people were looking for more than the church could offer.

It does not matter how well prepared we are, sooner or later tragedy strikes us all. It is how we deal with it when it happens that is important, so that we can emerge stronger on the other side. When tragedy strikes we react, which is very normal. It is however wise to keep some measure of check on our reactions, we need to know when to stop grieving so that we can open the next door presented to us and step through it to into a new phase of our lives. Because with endings come new beginnings too, and this is in essence what the Death card addresses. Endings of all sorts, be it the ending of our current employment, our relationship or the physical death of a loved one. We should not stop living because we have lost someone or something, we should take the time we need to grieve this loss, yes, but then we should focus on lifting ourselves again to step over the next threshold to embrace the new things that life has in store for us.

As gloomy as the imagery on the Death card appears to be with bodies lying everywhere, a priest begging in vain for mercy while Death rides through on his steed; on the horizon the sun is rising. A bright golden orb of warmth and hope starts to dominate the sky again. Signalling new beginnings in the aftermath of the endings that Death brings.

Growth almost always comes from death and endings. Some things are forever changed, cures are found, prayers refined and people forge on towards the next chapter in their lives.

In closing I’d like to share a wise quote by Joan Borysenko, who said:

“The question is not whether we will die, but how we will live.”  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Knight of Wands

When this card appears in a reading it can mean that relocation is imminent. With relocation comes change and challenges, but there is much that is positive about this too.

Ibn (pronounced Iben) Battuta, born in 1304, was a Muslim from Morocco. He wanted to travel to Mecca, a pilgrimage that is required in the Islamic faith. This was long before steam trains and many other means of transport was available. Ibn’s only mode of transport at the time was by foot, on camel or horse back, or by sea on one of the explorer vessels.

He travelled a distance of about 75,000 miles, lasting 29 years. A journey that he started at the age of 21.

His travels took him from Morocco, up and down the coast of Africa, to Egypt, Arabia, Russia, India and finally to China before he made his way back to Morocco again. During his travels he dined with nobility and peasants, he became super wealthy and lost it all again, he had encounters with pirates, kings and everything in between. He even managed to evade the black plague.

In short, he led a full life in the act of relocating from one area to the next. Doing what was unheard of for the time, and never pausing for long enough to allow the fear of the unknown to thwart his efforts. If Frank Sinatra knew him he would surely have dedicated his son ‘My Way’ to Ibn Battuta.

Many of us are intimidated by change. Relocating from our familiar surroundings, be that our home or our job, our state or even our country can be a frightening and intimidating experience for most of us. However, we could take a page out of Ibn’s book and LIVE the experience instead of shying away from it. We will collect gems along the way, and we will lose some along our travels. We’ll meet people from all walks of life, many of whom will add riches to our experience. By welcoming change and the occasional prospect of relocating when the opportunity arises we effectively are welcoming the act of momentum into our lives rather than the inaction of stagnation. This movement can come in many forms, breathing new life into our relationships for example, by taking action together and welcoming change can be one such way. Imagine taking our relationships to another level where we allow ourselves to embrace the possibilities that placing one step in front of the other on a sometimes-rocky road. This can give us joint purpose and a meaningful shared experience. Instead of shying away from the ‘rough patches’ in relationships, holding onto one another’s hands and trusting that our partner will pick us up when we fall, dust us off when we eat dirt, and that we will do the same for them. For, the road isn’t always rocky or perilous, there will be times that we will share a sunrise together and bask in its glow, happy that we have someone to share the moment with. Other times when we feel joyfully overwhelmed by the sheer richness and beauty of the journey.

When the Knight of Wands appears for us as it has done today, we might want to ask ourselves what aspects of our lives we could inject a bit of momentum into, banish stagnation from, and even welcome the challenge and change that the motion of action promises us.

In closing, I’d like to share a quote by George Meredith:

“A human act once set in motion flows on forever to the great account. Our deathlessness is in what we do, not in what we are. “

Or, in the words of Richard E. Byrd:

“A static hero is a public liability. Progress grows out of motion.”