Monday, October 24, 2011

Nine of Pentacles

This is a beautiful card depicting a woman standing in what looks like a garden of contentment. Abundance radiates from every aspect of the imagery. She is wearing rich robes, and a falcon is perched on her hand. The vineyards are bearing an abundance of ripe grapes. In the distance is her castle flanked by lush gardens. In the foreground a snail slowly makes his way across the card.

It was the nobility who indulged in falconry. To train a falcon took plenty of time, money and space. They were not in “survivor” mode like the working class, and had the means to dedicate themselves to the finer things in life. Things like wine-making and falconry. As the image in the card depicts, the nobility had the luxury of leisurely pleasures that such activities would bring them. With a slower paced life they could enjoy the fruits of their labour.

However, the snail in the card also reminds us that this did not manifest overnight. It took great planning, patience and dedication to plant and nurture the vineyards to the point where they were heavy with ripe grapes, ready to be barrelled in preparation of a good wine harvest. It takes approximately 5 years from planting to nurture a vineyard to this point, and another 3-4 years in the barrel where the grapes ferment and slowly become a really good wine to enjoy later on. About 9 years in total before that first glass of delicious wine can be enjoyed.

The number 9 on the card implies that the manifestation is almost complete, that this which has been worked for has almost reached the point of manifestation. However, there is still a bit to be done before the lady in the garden can enjoy the first wines from her vineyards.

Herein lies today’s lesson. In order to reap the rewards of our efforts to manifest what we work for, we need to put a great deal of planning, time and dedication into it. Space to grow, just as the grapes on these vineyards grow. Patience that time alone teaches us, planning so that we can visualize the desired outcome long before it manifests, and dedication towards working at what we desire to manifest.

Contentment too comes slowly, often when we have slowed the pace down enough to see opportunities and to appreciate the blessings that we have in our lives. It takes appreciation for what we have and who we are before we can taste the good wine of contentment. Nature is abundant to the point of waste, but unless we are able to slow down for long enough to appreciate and notice the abundance already present in our lives much of it goes by wasted and unnoticed.

So, we need to take the time to appreciate our abundance and good fortune in life, we need to slow down as the snail does to see these, but to get there requires good planning, discipline and patience so that we too can all drink from the good life harvest.

The proverbs that comes to mind is: “Good things come to those who wait” and “take time to smell the roses.”

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Nine of Swords

A figure sits upright in bed, her face covered with her hands. Above her, in the dark, hovers nine swords. Her legs are covered with a quilt that is decorated with red roses as well as the zodiac & other planetary symbols. The wooden bed has a carving of two figures, one on the attack and another on the defence.

This is a card that conjures images of nightmares and fears. However, the swords that are suspended in the air above the figure suggests that these fears are all still “up in the air” nothing is concrete or solid yet. Perhaps many of the fears that cause her sleepless nights are conjured and not quite based in reality. However, be that as it may, fear itself is a very real thing, as most of us are only too aware.

The roses motif on the quilt as well as the planetary and zodiac symbols speaks of secrets, and in this case the secret lies in knowing what our strengths and weaknesses are, for in doing so we learn about who we are. Once we understand our weaknesses we are better equipped to take practical steps to address these, and in some cases we are even able to turn a former weakness into a strength.

In the card the fearful figure sits in darkness, as she imagines all these swords above her. It is therefore necessary for us to move from the darkness of the unknown by admitting our weaknesses so that we are able to turn them into strengths or at least so that we are better prepared when faced with challenges. An honest self-examination is needed where aspects of ourselves that were formerly in the dark or a “secret” can be revealed and dealt with appropriately. Once we know ourselves we can cast a light on things that were previously in the dark, and gain clarity and understanding. In the light things seem a lot less threatening than what they can seem to be in the dark.

The two figures carved into the bed further reinforce the need for us to choose whether we will allow our fears to dominate us, or whether we will dominate our fears instead. If we allow our fears to rule us while we are shrouded in darkness we will surely succumb to our nightmares. Instead, we could be the other figure in the carving that is proactive and dominant, the figure that represents having overcome his fears and faced his weaknesses along with his strengths by throwing the cover of secrets off and closely examining himself with honesty and courage.

The astrological symbols on the quilt shows us that there are many aspects to ourselves that we still need to discover and understand. But, in understanding these lies the comfort of self-knowledge and preparedness. Just like a warm quilt offers comfort and shelter on a cold evening, self-knowledge offers clarity and the comfort of confidence in our abilities to face challenges that may come our way. But most importantly, by learning who we are, we dispel illusions that can create darkness around us so that we are always surrounded by the light of knowledge. It is then less likely that we will have sleepless nights, conjuring fears based on the unknown that can torment us and cause us to become fearful and weak.

Once we have eliminated the dark and seen that there are no swords hanging above our heads,  we can relax and get a good night’s rest knowing that we are well equipped with self-knowledge of our strengths and weaknesses. It is then that we can draw the quilt of comfort over us as we prepare to rest.

“Men soon the faults of others learn

A few their virtues, too, find out;

But is there one—I have a doubt— 

Who can his own defects discern?”

Sanskrit Proverb

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Four of Pentacles

We are living in such interesting times as we observe the civil protests of Americans against the policies of greed on Wall Street and in other locations across America. The relevance of today’s card in light of the greed that threatens to consume us is only too obvious.

This card depicts a man clutching a pentacle to his chest in a greedy gesture, in doing so he holds his heart at ransom. Another pentacle hovers above his head indicating that his focus and attention is on nothing other than his wealth, it drives his every motivation and thought. He has stacked a pile of coins beneath his feet on which they stand, elevating him “above the masses” as it were, almost as if his money renders him higher than the citizens of the city that lies in the distance behind him and from which he has turned his back and removed himself. It also implies that he is in bondage to his wealth as he dares not lift his foot in the event that he will no longer have control of the money that he holds.

What a terribly fearful way to live… Greed. Greed serves no-one but itself. It is an all-consuming monster that lurks within each of us and can easily consume us if left unchecked.

Mythology tells us the story of a man who paid a dear price for allowing his greed to control him. This man was known as Midas. He was a good man, a kind man who took pity on an elderly satyr asleep in his garden. Midas let him go without punishment. As a reward for his good deed the god Dionysus granted him one wish. Midas did not take time to consider what to wish for, had he done that he might have chosen something different… Instead he immediately asked for everything he touched to turn to gold. And so it was.

His beautiful garden turned ridged as it turned to gold, he could not eat or drink as that too solidified and turned to gold. And finally his beloved daughter who ran to him in loving embrace turned into a golden statue. Midas was grief stricken and begged the god Dionysus to relieve him of his curse. The god took pity on him and once again granted his wish. Thereafter Midas became poorer than he had ever been but so much happier.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wealth, money in itself is not the root of all evil. It is in fact a wonderful instrument that – when used generously and wisely – can contribute to the happiness and fulfilment of many lives. It is greed, the uncontrolled urge to accumulate riches at the expense of others for no reason other than self-centred superiority that is the root of so many problems. It is when our greed becomes our motivating force that we put profits before people as the elite few on Wall Street have done to the average 99% of Americans today. This is evil and this is what we need to guard against.

Generosity of spirit is what we want to develop within ourselves instead, not only generosity with our worldly possessions, but with our time and our attention too.

I was watching a lecture about the Mayan Calender this weekend, in which it was stated that the age we live in now is the age in which ethics must and will overthrow the structures of power. I think we are seeing the manifestation of that now as we look around us at the current affairs of the world today. Greed mongers are being named and shamed by the masses who are no longer afraid to protest against unethical practices. The world is increasingly becoming outspoken against the illegal and greed-driven practices of the elite few trampling the rights of the average many. We see this too as humanitarians take matters into their own hands and demonstrate this in their actions while they speak out against countries like Israel in their treatment of the suppressed people of Palestine.

The time is now to re-evaluate and redefine what represents wealth in our world. Is it the unchecked accumulation of ill-gotten gains at the expense of others? Or is true wealth better defined by how we share ourselves and lend our support to those less fortunate than us to create a more ethical world to live in, for all.

Mahatma Gandhi said it best when he said: “There is enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Chariot

Standing high on his chariot being pulled by two sphinxes, this man radiates power, success and accomplishment. He is “on top of his game” as it were. In preparation of this instalment of Tarotelic we decided that he reminds us a lot of Ramesses II of Egypt, and here is why.

Ramesses fought the Hittites in the battle of Kadesh. Both the Hittites and Egyptians extensively used chariots in their battles. Chariots at the time were the best weapons, and only the best of the best became charioteers, much like today’s special forces. Both sides claimed victory but it was in fact a stalemate, resulting in a very clear definition of their borders and balance being restored once again. When this stalemate was reached in their battles an agreement was reached about where the borders of Egypt would be. This resulted in a situation where it was no longer necessary to fight or challenge one another any more. The black and white sphinxes depicted in the card symbolize the balance and equal victory that was achieved by both in the signing of the world’s fist official peace treaty.

Ramesses expanded Egypt to the strongest it had ever been and was also renowned for being a great builder. Many monuments were built and erected under his reign. In the Chariot card we notice many tall buildings in the background, behind a high wall that could represent a defined border.

Imagine if the two opposing sides did not concede that an impasse had been reached but pushed ahead instead in an attempt to defeat one another. This would most likely have led to defeat and ruin for both. In this lies today’s lesson that The Chariot card brings us.

To be victorious in our pursuits in life we need to acknowledge our limitations and then we need all our “horses” to be pulling us into the same direction. If we are instead pulled into different directions in pursuit of success we will soon find that we are getting nowhere very fast. This would lead to self-defeat and non-accomplishment. In order to ensure that we are well on our way towards claiming victory we need to know what direction we are going to be pursuing, and we need to make the necessary compromises or concessions to enable us to travel forward in our chosen direction. Pride and bullheadedness instead may very well trip us up when what is required is for us to know our limitations and to respect our boundaries so that we can conquer new territory within these in our personal pursuits. Because there are certain things in life that do limit us that we do need to accept rather than oppose at our own peril. Once we move beyond pride to see the bigger picture we can recognize that victory can be claimed within the limits that we have set or accepted for ourselves. It is then within these safe boundaries that we can build our proverbial empires and monuments, to become as successful as what we are willing and able to.

When we know that all our resources, abilities and instincts are working together to steer us in a common direction towards achieving our goals, we can surely be fearless as we stand aloft in our own self-driven chariots on a path towards glorious success.

I’d like to share with you an old occult riddle called the Riddle of the Sphinx:

What creature goes on four legs in the morning, two at midday and three in the evening? The more legs it has the weaker it is.

The answer of course is the human! Man who crawls as a newborn on all fours, walks upright on two legs as an adult and requires a cane in old age when his legs are weak.

There is a season for all things in the average lifespan of mankind. To know our strengths and to know our limitations will greatly assist us as we move from stage to stage in the unfolding of this glorious journey on earth.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Six of Pentacles

The Six of Pentacles is what I sometimes like to refer to as the “Yule” card. In times gone by the richer families would slaughter their cattle in winter, keeping only the strong ones alive for springtime. They could not of course eat all the meat from the winter slaughter, so shared this with the less fortunate families. In some ways I guess these richer families represented a kind of Santa Clause to the families who had none and who depended on the charity and generosity that their wealthier neighbours would show them.

The scales in the card symbolises measuring out the bounty in equal shares to ensure that everyone got some. While there was enough, they had to ensure that nothing went to waste.

In return, the wealthier families could depend on the loyalty of the less fortunate to help in spring when crops needed to be planted and tended, because when winter came the less fortunate knew that they could rely on the wealthier families for food. As long as this healthy balance of give-and-take was maintained it would continue to work well. Interdependency rather than co-dependency was the key.

The number six in the card could refer to the family unit, the tribe or community, as is the case in numerology. All working to support one another and to look out for each other.

This card speaks strongly of the need for an equal exchange of energy. We all give of our time and share our resources, but are we wise enough to ensure that the real gift we give is one that empowers those who receive our gifts rather than keeping them indebted to us or unable to help themselves? Mikao Usui Sensei, founder of the Reiki system of healing taught that in order to truly help others we need to teach them to help themselves. Expecting an equal exchange of energy keeps all parties accountable and responsible. If however the balance is disturbed by giving without expecting anything in return, beneficiaries are often not empowered and soon return to their former situations without the understanding that they have a responsibility towards themselves to change their less fortunate circumstances which is within their reach to do.

When reading through the bible, the word ‘charity’ can often be exchanged for ‘love.’ If we love others we would want to see them lift themselves out of an impoverished situation and into something more empowering. Therefore we need to exercise wisdom and be discerning in our charity by guarding against perpetuating a situation that could contribute towards keeping others entrapped in indebtedness and helplessness.

I am not necessarily speaking about world hunger or poverty here, instead I am referring to our daily ability to be charitable towards our fellow man, family, loved ones and community, and towards those who look to us for guidance and answers. A Chinese proverb teaches: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

That is the kind of charity that I am referring to, giving of ourselves to empower others to give to and of themselves who empower others in return. In that lies an equal exchange of energy, devoid of resentment, indebtedness and helplessness.

In closing I share with you the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said:  "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no person can sincerely try to help another without helping themselves."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Queen of Wands

She inspires people to find hope and faith through action. With a wand in one hand ready for action, and a sunflower in the other, symbolic of the sun as a ray of hope. The queen who sits upon this throne conjures thoughts of Joan of Arc.

The people of France were feeling defeated after years of losses in battle. Their moral was at an all-time low when Joan of Arc claimed that the voice of God was instructing her to take charge of her country’s army and lead it to victory.

Joan of Arc believed that she was divinely guided to lead her people out of despair and into victory in the ongoing war. She claimed that the voices of angels and saints told her to deliver her country from the invading English. She was also told that she must lead Charles VII to his coronation.

After gaining the approval and authority to do so, she led her army and broke the siege of Orleans in only three days of fighting. She became known as the beloved maid of Orleans.

Joan of Arc crowned Charles VII King of France on July 17, 1429. In the great Cathedral of Reims, Joan fulfilled the central part of her mission when he was crowned King.
The Queen of Wands card also depicts a black cat sitting at the feet of her throne. Considering that the black cat is often seen as a sign of witchcraft, the symbolism in this card further reminds us that Joan of Arc’s fate would be sealed as an accused heretic. She was captured by Burgundian soldiers and sold to the English for ten thousand gold francs.  Joan of Arc was put on trial for heresy and burned to death on May 30, 1431.

A sad ending to a heroine who delivered her people from the depths of despair towards victory. However, she fulfilled her prophesy, and restored the dignity and faith of her people.

Perhaps we should seek inspiration too so that we can reclaim our own hope and faith in order to take action in our lives. A little bit of inspiration can go a long way towards finding our purpose again so that we can pursue our dreams and ambitions. Remembering that the policy of paying if forward as we try to inspire others with our actions has a rippling effect that could have far-reaching positive results for those who are touched by our contributions, no matter how humble they may be.

Today, as the Queen of Wands inspires us from her sunlit throne, I’d like to close in sharing the wonderfully inspiring poem ‘Desiderata’ by Max Ehrmann;

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Queen of Swords

A proud queen sits upon her throne. Her body is turned away from the reader, instead she appears to be looking far into the distance, the expression on her face is stern. In her right hand she holds a sword upright, ready for battle. Known to be one who does not suffer fools gladly, she is incisive in her choice of words and her decisions. Storm clouds are building on the horizon, and trouble is blowing in on the strong winds.

While contemplating this card I was reminded of another queen, one known as Boadicea, queen of the Iceni who led her people to a glorious war against the Romans between AD 61 and AD 63.

In the words of Olivia Jensen, “the Iceni Celts had submitted their kingdom in East Anglia to the conquering Romans and the rule of Emperor Claudius in AD 43. In AD 61, Prasutagus, Boadicea's husband and King of the Iceni died. A dispute followed during which Boadicea, was publicly beaten by the soldiers of the emperor, and her two daughters raped.”

 Boadicea was so enraged at this violation that she rallied all the other neighbouring tribes and persuaded them to rise up with the Iceni against the mighty Rome. She started a revolution that took the Romans by surprise, because while the Iceni was too small a tribe to challenge Rome alone, in their common cause the neighbouring tribes with the Iceni were large and fierce enough to create a lot of trouble for Rome.

Boadicea and her people burnt down many Roman towns to the ground including London. She was one pissed-off queen! Fuelled by her anger and her desire for revenge she took on the might of Rome. Being tribal warriors Boadicea’s troops had no particular battle strategy, instead they fiercely rushed in where others would not dare to go, taking the Roman troops by surprise, time and again. This non-strategy approach worked well at first. The Roman troops were repeatedly taken by surprise, defeated and humiliated until they eventually brought in battle-hardened soldier troops to defeat her.

Back to the Queen of Swords card we see a butterfly adorning her throne.  We also notice that she wears a bell, dangling from her left wrist. The butterfly has come to symbolize a metamorphosis in many cultures, it heralds in something new and also symbolizes time along with many other things. The bell is used by the church to call people in, it is also used in occult circles to ward off unwanted influences. And it signals that the time has arrived for church service or occult ritual to begin.

There comes a time in most of our lives when we are prompted to stand up against injustices and violations of our rights or the rights of those who are weak and helpless. There is nothing wrong with standing up for our rights, it is a necessary action to ensure that the world we live in is just and the governments that rule are held accountable. However, like the Queens in tarot we need to exercise wisdom by choosing our battles carefully and to know when to leave well alone. Being a card of Swords we know that this queen is able to articulate herself eloquently and to use the power of the word to persuade others to follow her example, instead of allowing anger to drive her. Perhaps a lesson that we can draw from this card is to ensure that we have a strategy before going into battle. We may want to choose our words carefully and with firm determination execute a stern but strategic challenge against the bullies of our society to ensure that we are heard and not defeated in the process. We may be wise to seek opportunities to communicate our concerns, and while we should not shy away from a challenge that can benefit from our input, giving into uncontrolled anger will only serve to hurt us and others in the process.

It might be wiser to remember that the pen (or in this case the tongue) is far mightier than the sword.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Two of Wands

This card depicts the image of a man standing between two wands or staves examining the world globe in his right hand as he looks out over a vast body of water.

These pillars between which he is standing is reminiscent of the pillars of Hercules that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar, upon which was inscribed the warning “Non plus ultra” meaning nothing further beyond. This served as a waring to sailors and navigators to go no further.

In medieval times most people lived on the Mediterranean, with Morocco to their left and Spain to their right, thereafter nothing but the vast Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic Ocean was largely unexplored, it was the great unknown. There were no maps to navigate an explorer, thus a voyager would be entering the unknown with nothing but the stars to guide him. The man in this card could very well be standing at the Straits of Gibraltar, with the Mediterranean behind him, about to venture into an exploration of the unknown.

Shifting paradigms. There comes a time when each of us must stand between the pillars of Hercules where we embark on new idea, new sciences, new thought; and find the courage of our conviction to step through and into new paradigms of discovery.

One such man was Christopher Columbus who – being Italian – approached the Italian aristocracy for financial support on his envisioned exploration of discovery.  They scorned him and withheld  their support. After all the church did not encourage its people to embark on such explorations. The fear of new knowledge and influences brought into a society under the firm control of the church was far too great. The world, they said, was flat, and the fate of anyone who dared to explore the great unknown Atlantic Ocean was to drop off the end of the earth.

Not deterred and more determined than ever, Columbus turned to the Spanish Royal family for support. They were more adventurous and generous, financing his fleets the supplies needed onboard and the wages for his crews. Columbus ventured forward, exploring new paradigms against great adversity and fear of the unknown, ultimately resulting in the discovery of North America.

The suit of Wands represents action. It informs us that now is the time to act on our convictions. Time to step through these Pillars of Hercules that represent new paradigms of ideas. It is time to explore those ideas, allowing them to take us on a journey of discovery. Who knows what we may discover about ourselves and our world if we dare to question what we think we already know.

Are we ready to depart our comfort zones, our metaphorical Mediterranean, to explore the unknown? Can we allow ourselves to consider and examine new ideas and possibilities? Where will they take us? What great oceans do we need to conquer, what great unknowns will we need to face? We may approach this as Rita Dove did when she said “I prefer to explore the most intimate moments, the smaller, crystallized details that we all hinge our lives on.”

Perhaps we aren’t as adventurous as Columbus was, our discoveries less grand, but each of us are regularly faced with new thoughts and ideas that do not comfortably sit within our own frame of reference. Ideas that we might otherwise dismiss as they would require us to move out of our comfort zones in order to explore them. Today we are invited to examine those unknowns and to shift our own paradigms in doing so. What better way to do this than to follow the example of Rudyard Kipling by beginning with questioning everything. He said:

“I kept six honest serving men
They taught me all I knew
Their names are What and Why and When,
And How and Where and Who.”

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Three of Cups

This is a truly beautiful card, one that depicts 3 women dancing in a circle in a celebratory manner, each raising a toast to the sky.

The sky is bright and blue, no sign of clouds or rain. At their feet lie the fruit of their labour, an abundance of harvest.

In Norse mythology we find reference to the three creatures of time, they who determine fate. Called the Norns, they were known as Urd, Skuld and Verdandi, respectively the past, present and future. Before they came to Asgard time did not exist, therefore they were considered above even the gods, as fate could not be determined without time. The Norns would visit each being, humans as well as  gods immediately after they were born to determine their future.  Just like the Fates in Greek mythology, these three creatures determined how long every individual would live.  The Greek Fates were called Clotho (the spinner,) Lachesis (the drawer of Fates,) and Atropos (the inevitable.) Clotho would spin out the newborn’s thread of life, Lachesis measured it and decided what was going to happen to this being, and Atropos cut the thread. They were often depicted around a spinning wheel or a cauldron.

The past, the present and the future. Whom amongst us has not at times wished that we could go back into the past to change something, or that we could travel to the future to gain knowledge as yet unknown to us. It is usually as we mature that we realize we have no business in either the past or future, as all we have and are is in the present. The power of Now.

Why is it that Guru’s and psychologists say the same thing, namely the importance of living in the present? Could it be that they know something we are still learning? Living in the ‘now’ is called mindfulness. It is at the root of Buddhism, Taoism and yoga. Mindful people are happier people, they are more exuberant, more secure and more empathetic. The health benefits of living in a state of mindfulness includes reduced stress and blood pressure, it boosts the immune system and reduces chronic pain.

Everyone agrees that it is important to live in the moment, but how do we do this because when we are not in the moment we are not there to know we are not there… Overriding the distraction reflex and awakening to the present takes practice and intention. Living in the moment contains a profound paradox, we cannot live in the moment in anticipation of future benefits, because that launches us out of the moment and into the future, which subverts the entire process. It requires us to trust that the rewards will come.

As we live in the moment, the past and future slot into their rightful places and our perspective changes quite dramatically. No longer are we regretful or guilty for past mistakes, we acknowledge the value of these as they brought us to where we are now. We become more accepting of our own imperfections. James Thurber said: “Let us not look back in anger, not forward in fear, but around in awareness.”

Living in the moment has the added benefit therefore of helping us place a healthier perspective on the events of our lives, and in a sense helps us to ‘tie-up’ many loose ends that we may otherwise leave dangling to trip over.

The celebration that we see in the 3 of Cups could very well be ours as we bring into alignment our own past, present and futures. Trust is very much a ‘feeling’ thing, therefore the suit of Cups from which this card comes perfectly reflects to us that we are required to feel our way into mindfulness rather than through analysis and expectation. Our thoughts may come and go, thoughts of the past and future. A simple acknowledgement is all that is required as we maintain the state of mindfulness without allowing the distractions to derail our process.

In closing let’s contemplate the words of Jeb Dickerson who said: “I need neither future nor past, but to learn to take today not too fast.”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Knight of Cups

We see a gallant knight proudly mounted on his steed. He has a cup in his outstretched hand as an offering. His helmet and footwear are adorned with wings, much like Apollo who was known as the messenger of the gods.

When contemplating this card, the legend of Sir Galahad came to mind. The brave and pious knight of king Arthur’s round table at Camelot. He was the son of Sir Lancelot, and the chosen one whom Merlin had prophesied would surpass his father in valour and be successful in his search for the Holy Grail.

This was a dangerous mission, many knights before him had died in pursuit of the Grail. He had been warned of the dangers, but chose to continue on his quest. He defeated rival knights with little effort, kept to himself, didn’t speak much to his companions, and was described as sinless and pious.  It is believed that because of these virtues he was able to lead his companions to the Holy Grail with relentless determination.

Of the three knights who undertook the quest for the Holy Grail, with Sir Bors and Sir Perceval, Galahad was the one who actually achieved it. When he did he was consumed by a bright light and died, taken up into heaven like the biblical patriarch Enoch or the prophet Elijah, leaving his companions behind in awe and wonder.

It is the spirit of youth that drove this knight on his quest for the Holy Grail, while brave and virtuous he lacked the wisdom of the Queen or the experience of the King in tarot terms. It is therefore that he ignored the warnings of danger before ultimately being consumed by the light to join his maker in death. He was told of the risks, but went ahead regardless.

Today’s message is all about taking the risks needed to accept opportunities and gifts presented to us. At times it becomes necessary to tap into the spirit of the Knight of Cups, and to accept the quest of the Holy Grail spurred on by the message of the gods as symbolized by the wings of Apollo.

The Holy Grail may present itself to us as an opportunity to learn something that will make us better people.  After all the Grail is exactly that, an object so holy that only the purest in spirit may stand in its presence. It is attainable only to those who have prepared themselves spiritually as the saintly Galahad did, and it is for this reason that we need the energy the drive and the determination of this knight in pursuit of our own Holy Grail. Our spiritual development prepares us to stand in the presence of this sacred discovery, namely that spark of divinity that is present within all of us.

Today this card also nudges us to accept the gifts offered to us by the messenger of the gods. Gifts that will come in different forms for each of us, depending on where we are in our spiritual development. The point is to recognize it as a gift, and to accept it in order to further develop our beautiful spirits. A gift can come in the form of a message that has the potential to impact us in a way that will allow change.

Yes, we may lack the wisdom or knowledge of how to fully utilise this gift when it is presented to us, but that too is part of the learning process. As we accept who we are, and allow our inner guidance to present us with messages, gifts and even opportunities designed to grow our spirit, so too shall we mature in wisdom and knowledge of application and effect.

When we accept a spiritual gift or message, we may want to remember that these gifts are not meant to build character, they are meant to reveal it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Three of Swords

The imagery on the Rider Waite Smith card shows a heart impaled by three swords. Sharp as they enter the heart, and blunt as they exit. The suit of Swords refers to the realm of thought, or the intellectual realm.

We have all experienced how our sharp reasoning abilities can become dulled and blunt when we allow our emotions to dictate our thoughts, particularly if we become obsessively emotional about something.

The 3 swords impaling the heart has been interpreted by many other tarotists to mean a love triangle. Today I’d like to play with that interpretation a little.
When considering the heart one can hardly do so without reference to Cupid, the cherubic archer of Valentine's Day. This myth of Cupid reads like a faerie tale:
Once upon a time there was a king with three daughters. They were all beautiful, but by far the most beautiful was the youngest, Psyche. She was so beautiful that people began to neglect the worship of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. Venus became very jealous of this girl who was a mere mortal, and asked her son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with a horrible monster. When he saw how beautiful she was however, Cupid dropped the arrow meant for Psyche and pricked himself with one of his own arrows instead, thus he fell in love with her.
After many trials and tribulations, and much heartache, much of which was metered out by the angry and vengeful Venus upon Psyche, the tale ends with Cupid and Psyche marrying and Psyche becoming a Goddess herself. Venus thus eventually accepts their union as the admiration of mortals is no longer drawn away from her by another mere mortal.
In this tale we see the destructive elements of this love-triangle when Venus can no longer reason without her emotions getting in the way. We see how jealousy and anger blunted the sharp reasoning abilities of the Goddess Venus, and how her desire for revenge on the beautiful Psyche results in the one she loves, her son Cupid, falling in love with her nemesis, Venus’ revenge resulting in heartache for him as much as for Psyche. We see how Venus’ love for Cupid and her loathing of his lover Psyche, are closely interwoven, reminding us that there is a fine line between love and hate.
There is an Arabic proverb that says: “Love sees sharply, hatred sees even more sharp, but jealousy sees the sharpest for it is love and hate at the same time.”
We are reminded that the heart is a universal symbol that renders us all equally vulnerable. No-one is immune to it. Even the cold-blooded and seemingly indestructible cannot escape this vulnerability. It is no co-incidence for example that the one way to slay a vampire is by driving a steak through its heart.  Everyone is vulnerable to love. Love however cannot be experienced without allowing our vulnerabilities to be exposed to one another. Therefore, nobody is immune to heartache and disappointment either.
We would do well to consider how our thought and reasoning processes can be dulled and blunted when we allow our emotions to overrule our common sense, or when we act out of vengeance from a place of hurt, as we often lack control of our thoughts that are no longer sharp in such situations.
Thus the moral of our story today is that we should carefully consider how our angry and sometimes jealous words wound not only our perceived enemy, but how we and those whom we love are drawn into and affected by the pain we often sharply measure out.  Few have said it better than Def Leppard who sang: “Can’t stop the hurt inside, when love and hate collide.”

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Seven of Swords

This card often conjures feelings of being robbed or cheated out of something. However , today I’d like to focus more on the intent of the character in the card who seems to be doing the cheating or robbing.

Loki, from the Norse tradition, is the god of thieves and mischief. In one myth he tricked Hod who was blind, into killing his beloved brother Balder, son of Odin, with a dart made of mistletoe – the only plant which had not sworn to never harm Balder. The imagery on this card is reminiscent of the wiles of Loki, and particularly prevalent on the face of the main character as he sneaks away in mischief.

In the seven of Swords card, we see a figure tip-toeing away; silently carrying away swords that clearly do not belong to him. It is apparent from further examination of this card that the scene is one of a jousting tournament. Tournament tents colourfully displaying their competing flags stand in the background. In the distant background a circle of knights stand together discussing the tournament in preparation of the competition. The scene is set for knights to display their skill and strength in this most important tournament. As was customary, the knights would bring their squires to such events. Medieval squires were the servants of the knights, in their training to become knights themselves. It was a very noble profession to be a knight, and a privilege to be a medieval squire, as that meant, more often than not, a potentially promising future if trained and knighted.

Back in the card, one can almost hear the squires of the various knights, hard at work in service of their masters to ensure that all the preparation are taken care of and that they have been thorough in their duties towards their knights.  The squires – like all squires of the time – are young and still need to prove themselves. They are in the service of their knights who will eventually train them to become  knights too. It would be self-defeating and self-destructive for these young squires to risk their entire future by being derelict in their duties towards their knights. Nothing could be more important to a young squire than  to ensure that all his master’s needs and expectations are taken care of, and that he has been diligent in his duties towards his benefactor.

Our attention is drawn back to the predominant figure in the card, that of the squire who is carrying away the very swords needed by the knights to perform their duty at the tournament. Judging by the expression on the face of the mischievous squire, he is not concerned at all with the consequences of his trickery! He has a self-satisfied grin on his face that tells us he finds the situation rather funny. A practical joker, that’s what this squire seems to be. Loki in all his mischievous glory. Which is all good and well, but how will the knights react when they discover that their swords have been misplaced, hidden or stolen from them? How will this impact on the tournament itself, that is kept waiting, while the tools of the trade are missing? Can you imagine the fury of the knights as they suffer humiliation at being disarmed? The fear of punishment and loss of future opportunities that potentially face the other young squires as their masters and knights look to them when it is discovered that their swords have been stolen, is almost tangible. Yet, it seems our irresponsible squire has not considered the impact of his practical joke on those around him, or himself. It seems that not a moment’s thought was given to the despair and confusion that this situation would cause for the knights, their squires and the tournament hosts. The severity of the situation is entirely lost on this squire.

This card reminds us that we should be mindful of how our actions may aversely affect others, even if our intent was not to harm. It cautions us to take responsibility for our actions, and to recognize when we have inadvertently hurt others simply because we weren’t paying attention, or because we didn’t consider the potential consequences of our actions.

When we do things that cause others pain, we cause ourselves pain.  When we do things that cause us to work against our own hopes and dreams we are self-sabotaging. Consideration of others happiness and welfare is paramount in our quest for self-development, but, as with so much else it all begins with the relationship we have with ourselves.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Five of Cups

A robed figure stands alone, his head is hanging low, and his shoulders bear the burden of loss. Before him lies a river, impassable except for a single distant bridge. The bridge leads to the other side on which we can see a castle and green trees & lawn. He however is isolated, surrounded only by 5 cups; 2 upright and 3 that have been knocked over, spilling their contents onto the barren earth he stands on.

This is a card of loss, sorrow and isolation. However, all is not lost, there are still 2 upright cups positioned behind the robed figure. Unfortunately he does not seem to notice them as his focus is directed on what he has lost – namely the 3 overturned cups. If only he would lift his head a little from the weight of his sorrow, he would notice the bridge to his right. Being positioned to the right of the traveller we know that it lies in his future, as opposed to the overturned cups that lay to his left and thus in his past.

The bridge shows that there is a way out of this pain and suffering. A way to overcome this sense of loss. It offers the robed figure a means by which he can reconnect with the other side, the side where the castle stands, strong and secure. But, in order to do this, he must lift his chin, leave his past behind him, turn to the future and cross the bridge.

In life we all have reason and opportunity to occasionally indulge in a bit of self pity, often  for a little longer than necessary. Like the robed figure on the 5 of Cups we too all to often focus only on what was lost on such occasions, and seldom on what might be gained. Yet, sometimes we can change the course of our own future histories, if only we’d consider what may be gained.

Rome had been divided amongst 3 leaders, Julius Caesar was one of them. Because Ceasar became very popular with the common people of Rome the other two became jealous of him.  They forced Ceasar into a situation where he had very few choices; he could continue to suffer humiliation and abuse at their hands thereby playing the victim, or he could do the unthinkable, he could cross the river that divided Gaul and Italy – called the Rubicon river with his soldiers to confront his enemies. He knew that once he and his men had crossed the river, history would be forever changed, it was an act that could not have been anticipated or undone. This was not a decision that Caesar made lightly. Caesar understood that a critical decision confronted him as he looked out over the river Rubicon, which formed the frontier between Gaul and Italy. He turned to his soldiers remarking “we may still draw back, but once across that little bridge, we shall have to fight it out.” Caesar and his men saw an apparition that snatched a trumpet from one of his trumpeters, ran down to the river, blew a thunderous blast, and crossed over.  Caesar exclaimed: “Let us accept this as a sign from the Gods, and follow where they beckon, in vengeance on our double-dealing enemies. The die is cast”’

To get back to the 5 of Cups card, perhaps the gifts of the upright cups that stand unnoticed behind the figure on the card contain the courage and faith needed to take that step away from self-pity & victimhood.

We all have – within us – the ability to cross the proverbial Rubicon, we have within us the ‘better army’ capable of facing and conquering our enemies  namely self-pity and doubt. We simply need to lift our eyes when drowning in loss and sorrow, and turn our attention to the future rather than the past. We need to pluck up the courage to do as Caesar did and face what – at the time feels like – the impossible. Making a life-changing decision and creating a better future for ourselves…

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Emperor

The Emperor is a father figure. A stern disciplinarian. One who shows and gives us direction. He is loving but firm. The Emperor is not to be messed with or disrespected. Mars and Pluto are his ruling planets.  And as we all know, Mars is a symbol of war, it is anything but passive.

The Emperor – in the Zodiac – is Aries, the Ram. In the illustration of this tarot card we see the Ram repeatedly carved in on the throne of the Emperor. The Ram butts his way in, he does not require permission to lead the way, and is one amongst only a few animals who is not daunted by the sheer intimidation of mountains on his path.  The ram light-footedly leads the way up the very same mountains that many others would avoid altogether.

With Aries being the first on the Zodiacal procession, so too is the Emperor who looks to his right (namely the future) and leads the way.  As any good father he provides guidance and direction. Teaching us that order and discipline have a valid place in our world.

The Emperor is the 4th card of the major arcane in the tarot deck. In numerology the number four is a fixed number, solid, inflexible, and square. It is associated with the element Earth. Thus, the Emperor is grounded, practical and pragmatic. When this card appears for us, there is nothing airy-fairy about the energy emitted from it. The Emperor demands in a no-nonsense way that we demonstrate order and structure, and that we remain grounded in our efforts to reach new heights in discipline.

There is much we can benefit from a structured and orderly discipline, especially as Pagans who often reject authority. However, in this context the authority that the Emperor is demanding we adhere to is the authority that we have over ourselves. The authority to push ourselves harder in pursuit of higher levels of attainment in our meditative and magical practices. None of these miraculously appear without adhering to a strict discipline of practice and routine. The no-exception rule of a daily regime of yoga or meditation or some other discipline that will strengthen us and enable us to travel as confidently and light-footedly as Ram does across the rocky mountains to reach the summit of self awareness.

Once we are trained and disciplined we become the Emperor who leads the way. The Emperor who displays discipline and structure, and who gives direction in an otherwise scattered world.

Today we ask ourselves what areas of our lives we need to take control of and exert discipline over. What areas of our lives do we need to firmly lead out of chaos and into order? It may be something as simple as straightening out our living environment, creating order and structure in our living space so that the energies may again flow freely instead of stagnating and causing blockages. Or we might be prompted to take a long hard and honest look at ourselves and come face-to-face with the reality of our ungroundedness. In doing so we may achieve heights that previously seemed unattainable to us.

Perhaps we should consider the message that this card brings to us today as a sign that we can address those issues in our lives that we have been putting off for so long. Let us not become overwhelmed, instead we should try to focus on only one thing that can be improved in our lives today if we were to commit to a routine or discipline for a set period of time. Do we want to lose weight and get into shape perhaps? Now is the time to take the Emperor approach to that goal. Or, perhaps we want to gain control of our finances again, eliminate our debt and get into a position where we can begin to save money every month.

Whatever areas we need to work on, I have no doubt that we will all benefit from the rewards that we will create for ourselves if we follow the advice of The Emperor, get off our proverbial butts, and take the required action to instil the necessary order, routine and discipline that is needed to achieve those goals.