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.

Queen of Cups

She sits upon a throne, noble and confident. Her throne is adorned with mermaids and shells, creatures of the sea. In her hands she carefully holds the cup of visions into which she stares. She is the queen of visions, the queen of intuition. She can foretell the future, and she can understand the language of intuition.

As she is queen, and sits upon a throne it is clear that she is an adept, not a novice. She is in command of her gifts, and uses them wisely. When she appears to us, we are gently guided by her to get in touch with our own intuition, to embark upon our own vision quest, and to seek the answers from within.

It is believed by some that upon his crucifixion, the pregnant  wife of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, escaped persecution by travelling across the oceans to the shores of France, where she became known as Mary of the Sea. She carried with her not only the bloodline of Jesus, but many mysteries that became the vision on which the foundation of several secret societies was based.

Also, the legendary tale of the Holy Grail comes to mind, a cup   possessing miraculous powers, which according to old Christian lore was the  vessel that caught the blood of Christ during his internment. But as the legend of the Holy Grail shows, it is only the spiritually enlightened that eventually discovers that the Grail is not the elusive object  that many a king sent subjects out to find in vain, it is in fact closer than imagined. It is the reward of intuition and wisdom within, that has been with mankind from the beginning.

For many cultures the sea brings in knowledge, whether it be through new inventions or foreign invasions. Our queen of Cups is sitting on the beach, intently staring at the cup of visions, maybe the Holy Grail, in her hands which enables her to attain knowledge of the future.  

When this card appears we might be gently guided to listen to our own intuition, to honour our own visions and dreams, the subtle hints of knowledge that lie deep within.
We might ask how do we honour our dreams? One sure way to do this is to keep a dream journal and to record our dreams upon waking, for they will soon fade and disappear into obscurity, forever gone. However, if we record these important visions born of our dream world, we may decipher and discover the knowledge that they carry to us, through the deep and unknown oceans of sleep.

Like the Queen of Cups, if we honour the wisdom of our intuition we too will eventually become adept at understanding the symbolic language of visions. We too will be able to seek the council of our intuition, and perhaps in time will develop intuition based wisdom that will reaffirm our connection to Source. We all have within us the power of insight, the power of intuition and the ability to see visions.  By developing the ability to listen to our intuition we are all divinely guided into the future.

If we take only a moment each morning to tune into our intuition, almost as-if holding a sea-shell to our ear and listening to the sounds of the ocean, we may find that we are a lot more in tune with the ebb and flow of our daily lives. We may find that life holds less unexpected surprises and more subtle hints that steer us along our path to enlightenment and self awareness.

The Hermit

A solitary, robed figure stands alone. Staff in one hand, a lantern in the other. The landscape around him is barren and wrought with difficult icy peaks. His hooded head is downcast, seemingly searching for a sign in the dim light of the lantern, to lead the way.

He is on a solitary journey, one that can only be travelled alone. Called by some the ‘Dark night of the Soul.’

In his lantern shines the six-pointed star, the essence of which seems unattainable and unreachable. The six-pointed star is known in some circles and the Seal of Solomon. Made up of 2 triangles, one pointing up the other pointing down, symbolizing the axiom, as above so below.

Just as one needs to engage in an exercise regime to keep the physical body fit and healthy, so too must one exercise the inner spiritual body to keep it conditioned so that we may benefit  from its wisdom and guidance. A Guidance – like the light from the lantern in the Hermit’s right hand -  that illuminates the path when all around us is dark.

The Dark night of the Soul is an ordeal often experienced by the seeker before gaining a higher consciousness and awareness. It is often a painful experience that requires courage and self-reflection and honesty to endure the ordeal. Many see this as an important initiation into the higher mysteries. As it is a necessary albeit painful step of inner reflection before we can step out into the light, in other words attain illumination.

This reminds me of the story of the Egyptian god Osiris, who goes into the underworld every night through various ordeals to triumphantly resurrect again the next morning. It was Osiris who was cut into many pieces by his jealous brother Set that Isis managed to reassemble all but one body part, the phallus. She used magic to impregnate herself thereafter and thereby gave birth to Osiris’ son, Horus. The cycle being complete.

This is the ordeal of The Dark Night of the Soul, experiencing a pulling-apart of ones soul, to be reassembled again once each part has been rediscovered. To be reborn with a fresh a new outlook, as symbolized by the newborn Horus. As spiritual beings on a quest for self awareness, this is a necessary ordeal to experience the reconstruction of the new you. Someone that has a fresh perspective on creation and destruction, for one cannot exist without the other.

Are we in a position to take the Hermit’s journey? This is not an easy path as it confronts many insecurities that lurk deep within. We  might ask why we would want to explore this path to begin with, why not steer clear from the ordeals that it promises. But we already know the answer to this as the Goddess in the Charge reminds us:

And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without..