Thursday, 18 December 2014

Divine connection

Well, I've drawn this card three days in a row so I guess I am going to have to take a look at it, Magician from Tarot de St Croix.

The little companion book to this deck says that the figure depicted here is the Sufi mystic, Rumi. His name was Jalal al Din Rumi, and he lived in Aghanistan, 1207-1273, a mystic and poet who wrote in Persian, and whose influence is far-reaching. The general thread running through Rumi's works is the longing for connection with the All, or as Rumi called it the 'Beloved'. He believed strongly that ritual music, poetry and dance could help with a pure connection to the 'Beloved', and it's from these ideas that the 'whirling Dervishes' emerged.

So, on the card we see a man dressed much like one of those whirling Dervishes (and looking a lot like a fairy tale wizard, too), standing in the middle of a wagon wheel, apparently pulling tarot cards down from the heavens and directing them towards the earth, while basking in a blazing sun.

Deck creator Lisa de St Croix writes, 'The Magician is the root number of the Sun which radiates above and the Wheel of Fortune on which he stands as it spins over a vast desert. The elements are represented on the tarot cards which he brings forth from the Great Mystery and circulates out toward us. His robe indicates the cosmos and the symbol on his cap refers to the moon phases.'

The tarot cards looming at us in the foreground are the ace cards, showing the elements: fire, earth, water and air (wands, pentacles, cups, swords). The figure's arms are raised in an as above-so below formation, so this card is not that different from the traditional RWS Magician. The meaning is also traditional: 'Through focused energy we are able to harness the means to create our destiny.'

It's probably no secret that lately I haven't been feeling like I have much hand in creating my own destiny. I think sometimes we misread the Magician card, and say things like, 'The Magician has everything he needs within himself to manifest all his desires.' But if that's so, why wouldn't the Magician have his hands over his heart, or have them thrust forward with lightning bolts emanating from them? No, we always see him drawing down power from above and manifesting it below. He is a conduit or channel for something. His Higher Power.

'Love came and it made me empty.
Love came and it filled me with the Beloved.
It became the blood in my body
It became my arms and my legs.
It became everything!
Now all I have is a name,
The rest belongs to the Beloved.'

The Magician is not bending energy from the Universe to his will. He is not commanding and directing the elements. He is rather completely infused with the Universe. He is in submission, he has surrendered entirely to it, and this is where his power comes from. It's not his power. It's the Higher Power.

When we don't feel that we have much hand in creating our destiny, it's a sure sign we are living by Will and Ego and resistant to the flow of the Beloved (or the All, the Universe, the Higher Power, Goddess, or even God -- whatever you want to call it.)

Reminders come from all directions.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Balance is wisdom

What wisdom does my Higher Power offer today in facing my angers and resentments?

The card King of Wands from Tarot de St Croix features Hermes Trismegistus (Hermes the Thrice Great). The illustration is clearly based on the one below by Jacques Boissard, 1605. Hermes Trismegistus is credited with writing texts that espouse a system of theological and mystical philosophy that appears to have emerged around the 2nd century, around the same time as Neoplatonism and Gnosticism. He probably never existed, and the texts were no doubt written by various authors over the centuries.

The 7 Hermetic Principles are outlined in a text called the Kybalion:

1. 'The All is Mind' -- All outward manifestations of reality are in fact based on upon mental and spiritual realities.

2. 'As above, so below; as below, so above'. -- There is always a correspondence between the various planes of being and reality. Seems similar to 'for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction', but in the metaphysical sense.

3. 'Nothing rests. Everything moves. Everything vibrates.' Modern science now proves this is indeed true. Our very atoms and the components that make them are in constant motion. Everything is zooming around.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Unlikely enlightenment

What does my Higher Power want for me today?

It wants me to listen to spiritual teachers. And building on yesterday's card, it wants me to find spiritual teachers in unexpected places.

In this card from Tarot de St Croix, we see the Dalai Lama sat before a statue of the Buddha. For me, this is the sort of scene I picture when I think of spiritual teachers. I was a practising Buddhist for many years, before branching out into a more naturalistic pagan sort of practice. So for me, this card is as 'traditional' as the Pope in the RWS deck. Yesterday's card reminded me that spiritual awakening can come from different practices, and suggested to me that I should be more open to enlightenment appearing in unlikely places.

I've been reading a book that is proving to be unexpectedly helpful to me, an unlikely source of spiritual awakening, as I am not the book's intended audience. That book is the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. (I don't even drink.) And I've found two of the most unlikely spiritual teachers, for me, that I could possibly have imagined, Charlie P and Joe M, a pair famous amongst AA members though certainly unknown by the rest of us. The pair are famous for their study sessions on the AA Big Book, and many of their sessions were recorded. I have been listening to a recording done in 1998, found on You Tube, of a weekend Big Book study retreat. The recording is nearly 11 hours long. Only 1 hour 40 minutes in, it has already helped me so much in clarifying and understanding some issues in my life. I've been listening to it 20-30 minutes per day, but today I'm off work and have a chance to listen to a lot more of it.

Charlie is from Arkansas, Joe is from Florida. Their accents are so familiar and cozy to me, as is their gentle homespun humour and the Sunday School teacher cadences of Charlie's style in particular.

These are certainly unlikely spiritual teachers for someone like me, always looking to yoga and chanting and incense and candles or climbing up a clifftop to watch a sunset for a spiritual experience. Listening to a couple of, as they would say, 'old drunks', would not have occurred to me. But here they are.

May you be open to all the teachers that cross your path.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Experiencing the spiritual

What does the Universe wish me to submit to today?

It may seem a strange question, but I know what I mean by it, and those of you who also know may appreciate today's draw. In answer to the question, I've drawn Judgement, which is traditionally interpreted as 'heeding the call' to a new direction, etc. This card is very different in appearance, though the meaning is similar. We don't see any angels calling the dead to rise to new life. Instead we see the interior of the cathedral in Sienna, Italy.The guidebook points out and explains the various things going on in the card. In the background, a man prays. In a sunbeam, a child plays on a pattern on the floor representing the Wheel of Fortune. The lady in the card, according to the creator of the deck Lisa de St Croix, is her mentor Carrie Paris, practising a meditation technique. On the floor is a black and white fresco. So we see three different approaches to a spiritual experience -- awed worship, pure joyous connection in the moment, and a more mystic and internalised approach. The guidebook says: Judgement asks you to look at your beliefs and decide if they work for you.

Actually, I have been thinking a lot lately about my concepts of how to connect with what might be called a 'Higher Power'. Today's card answers my question by suggesting that I let go of my determination to hang on to these ideas about spiritual practices, and give new or rejected ones another chance. Let go of my willfulness and find a new way of experiencing Higher Power.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Be a booster

What is the will of the Universe for me today?

The Tarot de St Croix offers Six of Cups in answer to this question, a card that is generally interpreted to mean innocence, or nostalgia for simpler times. As usual, there is a bit of twist on this. The guidebook says:

The little girl is focused on giving her playmates exactly what they most desire, symbolised by what is in their cups. 
Meaning: By opening your heart to friendship and love, it is returned.

That's fair enough, let's take a look. We have a teddy (probably Winnie the Pooh) with honeycomb and honey. Then a troll doll with a swirl -- no idea what that is. A monkey with a banana. Raggedy Andy with a heart. Somewhat disturbingly, a golly having a rainbow poured into his cup (not sure I'd have gone there). And finally, a bunny with some carrots.

My message is made clear--today is a day for paying attention to others and helping them get what they need. I will do my best. It reminds me of a song from my childhood:

Booster, booster, be a booooooster!
Don't be grouchy like a roooooster!
Booster, booster, be a booster!
And boost our Bible school!

(Okay, the relevance fizzles out at the end, but that's how the song goes. :) )

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Tarot de St Croix - Five of Pentacles

What can I do today to help keep me on the course that will change my life for the better?

I've drawn the Five of Pentacles from the Tarot de St Croix, and at first it might seem like that is not a very encouraging card as a way to stay the course to a better life. We associate this card to feelings of being shut out and bereft. But the guide book says plainly:

'Balance your struggles with hope.'

In this scene, we see men waiting online, standing against a wall for protection against the cold wind. They are day laborers, waiting for the opportunity to work. Each day they stand on the chance that a local employer in need of manual labor will pick them up for a day's work. The selection is usually based on chance, a few men counted off and loaded into the back of a truck to be transported to the day's job.

Behind them is a church, and above them, looming and gigantic, is Our Lady of Guadelupe. The vision of the Virgin Mary took place in 1531, on a site (Tepeyac Hill, Mexico City) that had originally been a place of worship of a local goddess, the mother goddess Tonantzin, which the Spanish destroyed in 1519 to replace with a chapel to the Virgin Mary. The locals continued to worship there, and some addressed the Virgin as Tonantzin.
(Tonantzin comes from Aztec mythology and can be considered Mother Earth, Goddess of Sustenance, Honored Grandmother, Mother of Corn, Bringer of Maize.)

So, whether the Virgin Mary or Tonantzin, Gaia or Maid-Mother-Crone, we have the Goddess looming large over these men in their situation of desperation. She is a reminder not to give in to despair. Whatever our struggles, we should balance them with hope.

May the grace be given to us today to balance our struggles with hope. 

Tarot de St Croix, Devera Publishing 2013

Monday, 8 December 2014

That's quite a pin you have there, Athena

What can I do today to help keep me on the course that will change my life for the better?

This was a good question the other day, so I think I will ask it daily for a while. Today's answer from Tarot de St Croix (2013) is Queen of Swords. The LWB puts it succinctly: 'Make decisions with clarity and focus.'

The card depicts Athena, goddess of wisdom, with an owl on her shoulder and a brooch of the head of Medusa on her cloak. In mythology, Medusa was killed by Perseus and her head given to Athena to put on her shield, because Medusa's head could turn onlookers to stone and therefore made a handy weapon. The Medusa story is disturbing. In the version by Ovid, Medusa was a beautiful maiden who became a votive in the temple of Athena. Poseidon turns up there and rapes her (the gods do a lot of raping; most of the stories are not very nice at all and in fact I find them quite unfathomable, but then, I'm not an ancient Greek person. Maybe it made more sense to them. Though actually, Ovid was Roman, so this later retelling probably reflects the mores of ancient Rome rather than ancient Greece.) For being raped in her temple, Athena turns Medusa into a monster with snakes for hair. Medusa flees to live in a cave, pregnant by Poseidon. When Perseus chops off her head, Pegasus and Chrysaor spring from her headless body. Nice.

Some feminists have taken on Medusa as a symbol of 'female rage', saying that female characteristics have been 'demonised' in her. Shrug. Don't know. It would make for an interesting evening of Google searching to pursue this line of thought, I bet.

My advice for today is to stay clear and focused. Got it. Do I get to turn people to stone? We'll just have to wait and see. 

Tarot de St Croix, Devera Publishing 2013