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.”