Monday, April 16, 2012

Ten of Wands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five of Swords

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 1, 2012

King of Cups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

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

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

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

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

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 

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

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

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

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

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

if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

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

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

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

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