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.