Monday 27 August 2012

Mantra and Tarot: Fool, Magician, High Priestess

I use mantra in my meditation practice and have been building a set of correspondences between mantra and tarot. These mantras can be used to enhance tarot spells or meditations on the cards. I arrived at these connections using three main sources: Healing Mantras by Thomas Ashley-Farrand, 78 Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack, and my own intuition. 

The Fool:  'Om vajrasattva hum'
Universal Waite 
Vajrasattva is the being who purifies and protects the sincere seeker. The mantra helps us purify our minds of doubt and fear and any other taint or negativity we might find there. It helps us move toward the pure state of the Fool, true innocence. 

Lotus Mudra 
The Fool enjoys total openness to life, complete freedom from fear and doubt. He represents that pristine state that humankind, in many world myths, experienced before some primordial 'fall'. The Vajrasattva mantra is meant to help us achieve this kind of purity of mind and spirit. 

The mantra is chanted, traditionally, 108 times using a mala. I suggest using a crystal mala made of agate or tourmaline, or hold an agate or tourmaline in one hand as you chant. Or, you could chant it while holding your hands in the lotus  mudra at the heart chakra, to symbolise purity and openness. 

Friday 17 August 2012

Now this brief interlude: the Art of Life Tarot

I admit I haven't read any further in Rachel Pollack's 78 Degrees of Wisdom. (I've been distracted by a novel I picked up at work called The Uninvited by Liz Jensen. A quirky and absorbing read.)

I did, however, receive the Art of Life Tarot yesterday. I blame Chloe of Inner Whispers entirely, I would not have considered it if she hadn't mentioned in passing that she'd ordered it herself. :) I was, as usual, beside myself with excitement when the postman arrived with a parcel.

Art of Life by Charlene Livingstone, US Games
To begin with the packaging is very clever indeed. A sturdy box with a fliptop lid that quite simply folds back to be propped into little grooves on either side to create a frame into which you can slide any of the cards for contemplation and admiration. That's so fantastic I think I may change my previous declaration that 'all decks should come in a tin' to 'all decks should come in a clever multi-purpose box in keeping with the theme of the deck'. Did I mention I love the box?

The cards inside are fairly large. The cardstock is a little on the thin side but sturdy enough to riffle shuffle without fear of damage. The backs of the cards are decorated with a detail from a Klimt painting, a tree with little birds in it.

Each card consists of the traditional tarot title at the top, a painting (all of them quite well known, which some art lovers may find too familiar for the intended use, but which for me is okay, because I don't really know that much about art, and I don't mind the images being familiar), and a quotation from a variety of authors. The paintings and quotations have been selected by the deck creator to embody the essence of the particular card. For the most part, I believe she has succeeded in this.

The card at right, Three of Swords, contains a picture of a dejected man. (When you check the credit under the image, it's actually 'The Agony in the Garden', which means it's Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Now that is surely a 3 of Swords moment! Good heavens!) But without intellectualizing any Jesus references, you can certainly see the suffering and dread in the figure. The images in all the cards go a very long way to expressing the emotion of the traditional tarot card meaning. Then there is a quotation provided, and its role seems to be to embody the essence of the uplifting message inherent in the card. This is true for every card. The meaning of Three of Swords is heartbreak, dejection; the Thoth deck labels it 'Sorrow.' But in this deck, you don't get key words, you get inspiration. 'Difficulties exist to be surmounted.'

I think this is a lovely deck and I am glad I bought it! It's quirky and interesting, and could be a way into tarot for those who are resistant or fear it. (I'm thinking of a work colleague who turns her face away as if avoiding  Old Nick himself when I open a tarot deck, but yesterday I told her, 'These are art cards, each one has a painting and a quotation' and she was quite interested. :) )

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Seven Days of 78 Degrees: Day Five

It's already Day Five of my 7-day review of Rachel Pollack's 78 Degrees of Wisdom. I feel a sense of relief at coming to the end of the minor arcana today. It's a bit of a slog to read through the full minor arcana card by card, when all the interpretations have been very familiar to the point of it feeling like a revision guide. While this is encouraging as it affirms my tarot knowledge, it can make for tedious reading if no new insights pop up from time to time.

One thing I  notice is the reversed meanings of the cards seem to have no real pattern. Sometimes they are given as a deepening of the upright meaning, sometimes they are the opposite of the upright meaning. This isn't a huge problem, but I do tend to look for patterns and so when one doesn't make itself apparent, it does not sit well with me. Also, the meanings are deeply and completely RWS interpretations, and I am in a place now where I am exploring other systems or ways of looking at the minors, and would have enjoyed seeing something a bit broader. Perhaps the book should be titled 78 Degrees of Wisdom: A Close Look at the Rider-Waite-Smith.

I will say that the explanations of the cards are all very lucid, thorough and easy to understand. I would recommend this book as a reference to be kept on the shelf beside other good guides such as Sarah Bartlett's Tarot Bible and Pictures from the Heart: A Tarot Dictionary by Sandra A Thomson.

I look forward to reading the chapters on divination and tarot spreads.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Seven Days of 78 Degrees: Days Three & Four

I'm over half way through the book now. I must say I am increasingly amazed at how much of my tarot practice is virtually identical to that Rachel Pollack describes in 78 Degrees of Wisdom. Because she doesn't do much in the way of referencing her sources, I am not sure how much of this material comes from her and how much from Waite, Jung, etc. I must also admit I was hoping for more of a scholarly treatment of the cards and their history, or a deeper pulling together of various esoteric traditions and correspondences. Does this mean that I waited long enough to read this book? If I had tried to read it before I virtually already knew most of it, by osmosis or whatever means it has got into my head, would it have blown my mind? Or blown me away? Who knows, eh. 

So far the thing that is ringing for me is Pollack's statements about free will in her discussion of the Justice card. I am accustomed to taroists saying, 'Oh, the cards don't foretell the future. A reading is not set in stone, you have free will and so things might change.' I have said this myself many times. But actually...I think Pollack has a very good point when she says that free will is something we have but do not use nearly as often as we think we do. A simple decision is not exercising free will. And turning left instead of right one day won't render a tarot reading invalid. Even doing something drastic like resigning from your job to go and farm  turnips in Tuscany won't necessarily render a tarot reading invalid. According to Pollack, a tarot reading will stand until you do some deep inner work on what got you to the point from which the reading is projected in the first place. This is a lot more than just saying,'Well, if the reading says I will be unhappy in my work, I'll just quit and get a new job' and expecting then to be happy in your work. Some deep exploration must be done to find out why work makes you unhappy, and change that, not just change jobs. This is not an entirely new concept to me...but it's one we as taroists may have a tendency to play down in our rush to assure our clients that a tarot reading is not the final word on their life. When we say, 'You can change it,' we need to be very clear about how much effort that really entails.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Seven Days of 78 Degrees: Day Two

Hello again for Day Two of my 7 day review of Rachel Pollack's 78 Degrees of Wisdom. Today's reading, Chapter 5 'Turning Inwards' covers Pollack's '2nd row' of the majors, Strength - Temperance.

'Many people feel a lack of spontaneity in their lives. They look around them or read books on psychology and observe, with a certain jealousy, or even shame at their own repressions, the characteristics of spontaneous people. And then, rather than follow the fearful process of releasing their hidden fears and desires, they carefully imitate spontaneity. They have extended the Chariot to a new domain' (Pollack, 73).

Saturday 11 August 2012

Seven Days of 78 Degrees: Day One

Welcome to Day One of my 7 day review of 78 Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack.

I've now read Pollack's take on her first row of the Major Arcana, Magician - Chariot. (She treats the Fool separately.) All of the material so far sounds really, really familiar. Obviously Pollack's work would have influenced other tarot writers whom I've read, but now that I think about it, I believe one of the first books I read about tarot was Illustrated Guide to Tarot by Rachel Pollack. I found it in the library and thought it looked pretty thorough. Of course at that time I didn't know a thing about Rachel Pollack, or any other big name in the tarot world. I didn't know anything about anything! I then went on to buy Mary K Greer's books Tarot for Yourself and 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card as well as a blank book. So I went the Mary K Greer route and decided at some point, after reading reviews at Amazon, I'm guessing, that Rachel Pollack was too advanced for me and it would be best to stick with more practical books. Still I've managed to absorb a lot of her ideas without reading her, it seems.

A few things stood out to me in these first chapters:

Friday 10 August 2012

Seven Days of 78 Degrees

I just got this book today, a classic text on the tarot. My intention is to post about this book for the next seven days, 11 - 17 August.

I have steered clear of Rachel Pollack for the first years of my tarot study because I felt I didn't have enough background to follow her, but I will be attending a tarot conference in October at which she is key speaker, so it seemed like the right time to read something beyond her Haindl guides.

I hope those who have worked with this book for years will chime in with their own wisdom and encouragement.

King of Pentacles: Steady now

Pathfinders Tarot, 2011
Today's draw is King of Pentacles. Today will be a day in which I feel mature and capable, with everything under control. I get the feeling nothing unusual or alarming is going to happen today. Just another day at work to get through. That's good news!

I think it's interesting that this King of Pentacles has 8 pentacles in the trees in the background. For me, 8 of Pentacles usually represents working steadily at a rather mundane or rote task. Another hint that it's going to be a typical work day. We shall see!

ETA: Well, the day is reaching its conclusion. As predicted, it was a day like any other. I was the only supervisor present and was consulted on some basic issues. Did my work, came home.

If anything 'sybaritic' happened it must have been the iced fairy cake I had at work, or perhaps the spoonful of almond butter when I got home. Or it could be this unusual-for-a-weeknight cup of coffee hubby just brought me. On the other hand, I did receive 2 parcels today -- my copy of '78 Degrees of Wisdom' and a new workout DVD I ordered several weeks ago. Getting parcels all the time--if that's sybaritic, I need to move to Sybaris!

Tuesday 7 August 2012

King of Wands: Boldly Go

Pathfinders Tarot, Fontana 2011
Today's card is King of Wands from Pathfinders Tarot (David Fontana, artwork by Sylvie Daigneault, published by Duncan Baird, 2011). 

Who is this guy, the King of Wands? Fontana's guidebook to the Pathfinders Tarot has only this to say: 'The King of Wands represents the assertive yet measured and therefore well-balanced aspect of the ruler.' By that definition, the King of Wands is the perfect leader. Assertive? Yes. Measured and well-balanced? Not exactly! 

The King of Wands is self-assured, charismatic, goal-oriented, tenacious, determined and motivated. He will naturally take charge of a situation if there isn't a stronger character about (which there usually isn't!), and people just naturally do as he says, his aura of command and capability is that compelling. But he can be arrogant and dismissive of the opinions or advice of others. The ends justify the means for the King of Wands, and he is not concerned with rules, precedent, or tradition, if they get in the way of what he sees as the most direct path to the success of his mission. All is well that ends well, and he knows that a few broken rules or brusque words along the way won't matter to anyone when it's all over and everyone can see that he was right all along. They'll not only thank him, they'll laud him as the hero and strategic genius that he is! Which plaudits he will accept graciously,  tucking this experience into his vast mental store of maverick actions that got big results. 

Captain Kirk, King of Wands
Who is the King of Wands? For me, it has to be James T Kirk of 'Star Trek'. He's all the King of Wands could ever wish to be. Confident, charismatic, blessed with complete and utter self-belief. A quick thinker where it counts, unconcerned with petty details because he knows those around him will take care of all that and provide him with any facts he made need in order to make one of his brilliant tactical commands. 

A man's man, a ladies' man. Everybody loves and admires him, even those who neither love nor admire him! 

Think about it. He's always putting his entire ship and crew in jeopardy, while shouting that he will do anything to save his ship and crew. Why would he do that? Only because he truly believes that no action he decides on could result in failure.

He cheats the system at every turn. He always has! He cheated his way into Starfleet on the Kobayashi Maru, a test designed to assess a candidate's reaction to a no-win situation. As King of Wands, Kirk does not believe in a no-win situation, and so he cheats by reprogramming the battle simulator to allow for a win. Rather than being kicked out of Starfleet, he receives a commendation for original thinking. Now, can you get any more King of Wands than that? 

Monday 6 August 2012

Sample Super-Quick 3-Card Reading: Aquarian Tarot

A practice reading. Hypothetical querent looking for a general reading. Cold reading.

Aquarian Tarot, US Games 2006 (original 1970)

You seem to have got it in your head that there's no rest for you, that in order to create a decent home life you must constantly be 'doing' for them, sacrificing your time to their needs. You think it's only fair that the family come first and you come last. 

There is another side to 'giving' and a 'happy family' that you aren't seeing. You and your family would likely be more contented if you all spent some time thinking about others and not yourselves. Consider ways that you and your family can act together for the good of someone else. This would prove both relaxing and rewarding to all of you. 

If your first thought is, 'Oh great, here's something I'm going to have to organize and then make my family do,' then you really are mired in backward thinking! Involve them, and see what happens. They might just take the reins and you'll find yourself able to kick back and enjoy. They might even go out and leave you at home to take an actual nap.

Sunday 5 August 2012

Sample 1-Card Reading: Anna K Tarot

A practice reading with a specific question, for a hypothetical querent.
'What is the best way for me to be supportive of my child right now?'

Anna K Tarot, Klaffinger 2008
Do some soul-searching, and face up to all the fears you have for your child right now. List them. You could even write them down. What are you afraid might happen?  Remember that most of the things we fear and worry about never happen. Thinking about them won't make them happen. Worrying about them won't make them not happen. 

So...make two lists. On one side, list your fears. Then on the other side, list the ways you can see your child preparing himself  to face that very thing. Because chances are, even though you might not consider his way of preparing for or dealing with the issues you fear to be the 'right' way to handle it, your child is doing something. The Moon asks you to accept both your fears for your child, and your fears of the possible outcomes of what you see as the flawed solutions to his potential problems. 

Once you have faced these murky depths you harbor in your heart, you can realize that worrying about these imagined bad outcomes does no good. And you can let go of those worries and trust that your child is capable.

What is the best way to be supportive of your child? The Moon suggests you should have trust in his capability to deal with whatever life might throw at him, rather than projecting your own fears onto them. Just be there for your child should he actively seek your help, and dismiss worries from your mind as they arise; dismiss them as the things they really are -- scenarios of your imagination.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Card of the day: 6 of Swords

Original Rider-Waite

Yesterday was a pig of a day. Youths causing trouble in the public building where I work.  A rather lengthy discussion with a senior manager about an issue that's been troubling me for a long time. Then I get home and have a big row with my partner. Not fun. I feel quite wrung out.

My daily draw this morning turned up the 6 of Swords. How very apt. For me, this card is the aftermath of troubles. It's that feeling that is a combination of relief and weariness, a hollow delicate feeling, as if you're tiptoeing around like some wary fawn in the forest, hoping nothing gets you. Like the figure in the picture, you feel huddled down and passive, hoping that the boat doesn't tip you out, not because you're afraid to drown but because you can't take one more thing happening. 'Please God just get me past this', the card says. What a relief to know that you are already on your way.

Friday 3 August 2012

Sample Super-Quick 3-Card Reading: Golden Tarot

A practice reading for an imaginary querent.

Golden Tarot, Kat Black 2003
Your frantic search for enlightenment, for answers, for happiness... has led to excess. It's rather urgent that you tone it down. Slow down. The key to true happiness is the 'middle way', and you are going to have to go in the opposite direction for a bit to achieve this, to balance things out. In other words, to achieve balance, you need to become extremely disciplined for a time and back off from the things you've been doing.

Look at the ways in which you are going overboard in your seeking. Step way back from those areas. Become downright circumspect. Teetotal. Party pooper. Stick in the mud. However you see being 'moderate' in the areas where you currently are overindulging. Be that! By doing this  you are quite likely to find your 'middle way' to the happiness you seek. 

(Practising to escape the habit of 'teaching' the cards in a reading.)

Thursday 2 August 2012

Full Wort Moon

Lebanese Tarot, Mehlinger-Jawlakh 2007

The moon was but a chin of gold
A night or two ago
And now she turns her perfect face
Upon the world below.

Her forehead is of amplest blonde
Her cheek like beryl stone
Her eyes unto the summer dew
the likest I have known.

Her lips of amber never part
but what must be the smile
Upon her friend she could bestow
were such her silver will.

And what a privilege to be
But the remotest star!
For certainly her way might pass
Beside your twinkling door.

~Emily Dickinson

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Tarot Blog Hop: Lammas

If you've come here following the Tarot Blog Hop, welcome! You can find links to the previous and next blogs in the Hop at the bottom of the page...

Choosing my pentacles card to represent Fruits of the Harvest was no trouble at all! The Pentacles suit has always been a favourite of mine. I just love them, and fancied myself a Queen of Pentacles for a long time--but that was just me wishin'--I've got way more of the Queen of Swords in me than Earth Mother, but still...

I've always been attracted to fields of grain, sheaves, cornucopias spilling with fruit and vegetables, and images of men and women working in fields to bring in the crops that will feed them through the next long year. I once tried a meditation in which I asked for my own personal god/goddess image. I don't know exactly what I was expecting to appear, but to my surprise, I got a sudden and vivid close up image of a head of ripe grain, glowing as if surrounded by a halo. Not sure why I was surprised, really. I've always had a reverence for grain. Stores of grain, loaves of bread, bins filled with dried pasta. There are few things lovelier to me than a window display in an artisan baker's. Is that odd?  I suppose it speak deeply to my love of security, of comfort and of assurance that ample provision has been made against hard times that may come. 

Which brings me round to the Pentacles suit. Surely no other suit in the tarot deck speaks so profoundly to these earthly concerns; and of the pentacles suit, no card so directly as the Nine of Pentacles. 

Morgan Greer, US Games 1979