To a Queen of Swords…

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Queen of Swords by Martha Pawlowna Sachidowitz. Part of a playing card set drawn for Pushkin’s Queen of Spades story. 

A friend of mine, let’s call her C., often complains that she doesn’t understand the suit of swords. I find this interesting, as most of the times that I talk to her, she is behaving like a sword, always analyzing things and trying to find her balance in the midst of a hectic day. Even if it is not the dominant element, swords are there and definitely play a big part in her life. It is there in her decision making when she cuts to the chase (which she often does). It is there in the way she handles her disease (she has an autoimmune disease which can leave her quite impaired when it flares up), by carefully weighting her options and evaluating how her treatments are improving – or not – her condition. It is there in the delicate balance that exists between her own limitations and her life, both professionally and personal. In fact, her medical condition has such an impact in her life that if it wasn’t for her ability to correctly use swords, things would have turned out quite differently.

So, what does the suit of swords mean when we’re dealing with the tarot?

We start with the word. Swords are long, sharp blades capable of cutting things down. Since there are also other objects that can cut things – like daggers, knifes, sharp glass, razors, scissors, hatches, axes, paper or cold air – we can also place these under the suit of swords. Swords then indicate things with sharp edges, and indeed, sharpness is one of the first things that comes to my mind when there is a sword at play. However, there are other objects that are also sharp. Things like nails, needles and pins might not be able to cut, but they prickle. They can also open wounds just like a sword can. They don’t have a sharp edge, but possess a sharp point, which means that these two can also be grouped under the suit of swords. We can then say that this suit represents anything with either a sharp edge or point; anything that can open a wound, no matter how superficial or small. And, while most tarot decks do focus on swords, some do look beyond them, addressing this very concept of sharpness.

Swords then are things that can cut. That can open wounds and, if the cut is too deep, kill. No wonder that they are seen as the most negative suit of the tarot. They bring to mind such ideas as pain, trouble, tears and death. And yet…since nothing “is” only negative or only positive, there is another side to this suit. Cutting things down can be, in the right context, a positive things. A common example is a problem so big that it needs to be addressed in parts; it needs to be cut down in smaller pieces so that each piece can be addressed separately. This is known as reductionism and is probably one of the sharpest tools of reason. Another example is the “cutting of illusions” that while destroying a dream also gives us the ability to be pragmatic and rational; to look at things as they are and not as we wished them to be.

We also cut things down when we need to divide something – a cake, for example – into small portions so that everyone can have its fill. Think about sharing with friends and family, about things like charity (where we take a part of our possessions and give them to those in need) or even about the process of reproduction. Cells replicate by continuously dividing themselves and even in the phenomenon of birth, where the baby gets separated from its mother. In a way, it is as if the mother gives up a part of her body in order for it to have a separate existence. All divisions and all events under the suit of swords.

And then there is concept of equilibrium. If you’ve ever tried to handle a sword, even if just for a swing, you’ve noticed that that is not an easy thing to do. Swords are heavy things, but they should move as if they were weightless. The arm and the sword need to be in sinc if the swing is to have any effect. Sword practitioners spend years trying to perfect that balance between their arm and the sword that’s being held, all to get the clean, swift, graceful swing that can effortlessly cut things down. If you haven’t, go watch some youtube videos of samurais or sword practice and focus on the lightness and the fluidity of the movement. Here’s a nice video of Yoshio Sugino, 10th Dan Master of Katori Shinto Ryu.

 

Balance is also required to make a sword. The metal needs to be heated, hammered and bent, its proportions, curvature and bevels shaped into being, sharpened, treated with clays or other substances, quenched, tempered, sharpened and polished. The blade needs to be balanced in order to properly swing. The edge has to be sharp and hard, in order to cut through effortlessly, while the back of the blade has to be softer in order to absorve the shock of blows meted out by opponents. This means that the blade has to be both flexible and hard. For more on sword making, watch this video below:

 

 

So what does all this has to do with reading cards?

It’s easy to see how the ideas of flexibility, hardship, cutting down, and balance can be reflected in cards with the trumps most associated with swords, namely Justice and Death. It is when we get to the pips that things might become more problematic. And here we need to distinguish between the esoteric decks – like the Waite-Smith and the Thoth  – and the Marseille style decks with its more down-to-earth approach.

With the esoteric decks, those concepts are present in both the drawings and the theory that goes with the card. If you can understand how an energy, for a lack of a better word, whose main purpose is to divide and to cut down, thus restoring balance where it is needed, changes along the suit, you’re all ready to go.

For the Marseille decks, however, a different approach is needed, since these type of decks are best read by looking at what they show us that to any cabalistic / magical / psychological / whatever theory. And what they show us is swords entwined in one another, forming oval structures which might contain – or not – something inside. When Swords appear in a reading, the first thing one needs to think is there’s something that needs cutting down and fast. Why fast? Because not only it’s the fastest weapon of the four suits, but also because once something is cut down that’s it. Problem solved. So, the higher the number of swords, the more urgent / pressing / complex / demanding / oppressive / painful your problem is. Or, to put it in another way, the more imbalanced the situation is and the faster you need to act and strike down everything that’s causing the mess in front of you. But it also means that the less options you have, because well, it’s the night of the long blades and something has to be done NOW! if one is to survive this.

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Tarot de Marseille by Jean Noblet, as restored by Jean-Claude Flornoy

This is backed by the cards, as when the numbers increase, that circle of swords grows and grows, expanding towards the centre and the flower that was inside wanes and wanes into oblivion. Besides, as the number of swords increase, so does that sharp cocoon thickens. What this means is that as the number of swords increase, so do things become tougher and uglier. There’s no more Mr. Nice Guy here; only the need of swift action and to hell with the consequences. If, however, the swords decrease, things become less pressing and more malleable. It’s easier to sort things out, to balance things out.

Whether one is using a Marseille-styled deck or an esoteric deck, swords take no prisoners. Taking the way of the sword is to take the warrior’s path. It is to fight every day with determination and calm; to meet any situation without strains and without being reckless. As I said earlier, my friend C. has a great deal of swords in her. It’s not her dominant element, as there’s also a lot of fire in there, which brings a certain recklessness, unpredictability and a kind of lust for life that no Sword could give. But swords are there, sharp and ready for whatever the day will bring.

How Tarot Cards Play Out in the Real World

If you’re new to the cards and haven’t built up much experience yet with readings, it can be a bit difficult to see how they relate to actual happenings in the real world. At least in terms of how I taught myself tarot, the images on the cards and the stories they could create when placed together all seemed theoretical and impersonal until I had years of real-world experience to relate to each and every one of them.

In an attempt to add a bit to the overall knowledge base regarding how readings play out in the real world, every once in a while I’d like to let you have a peek into my own personal tarot journal. The internet didn’t exist when I started teaching myself tarot, and I would have really liked to have been able to get a look at how experienced readers interpreted the cards and applied them to actual practical situations.

So, in the spirit of learning, I’ll let you in on one of my most recent practical uses of tarot for myself.

As you may or may not know, I am a single, divorced, working mother of three elementary-school-aged children (9, 7, 7). Needless to say, my romantic life has been stalled to non-existent for quite some time. Now, however, I feel happy and serene as a single person and I’m no longer looking for someone to fill up a void in my heart or emotional life.

Some girlfriends encouraged me to try online dating. So I put up a profile and started chatting with some men. One of them was really funny and attractive. We made plans to meet for a coffee. And then it occurred to me (I’m an American living in Italy, btw) – I had forgotten to ask if he was married or had a girlfriend.

Although I certainly don’t want to generalize, in my own personal experience in Italy, I’ve learned that men often don’t have any qualms about taking a lover on the side in addition to their steady girlfriend or wife. While I don’t pass judgement on their choices, I don’t want to be anyone’s other woman. 

Here’s where the reading comes in.

When it occurred to me that I hadn’t asked him, I figured I might as well perform due diligence. So I asked him outright in a message if he had a girlfriend, wife, lover, or was otherwise engaged with a significant other.

His immediate response was a flippant joke, which struck me as a way to deflect and avoid. 

That was suspicious to me, and no answer was forthcoming, so I turned to the cards. Situations like this, when you have a “hunch” but there’s an information gap, are excellent practice readings for learners. When and if you get more real-world information, you can compare it to the information you obtained from the cards and your interpretation of their message for you. The more you make these comparisons, the more your confidence and knowledge will grow.

I drew three cards: 1) What I need to know about Marco; 2) Advice/guidance for me re: Marco; 3) Outlook.

Here’s what came up:

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Three of Wands, Death, Seven of Swords

[Practice exercise: If you had to simply make a sentence out of this string, keeping it in context with the questions posed, what would it say?]

Here’s verbatim what I wrote in my journal:

“Oh, see – now that’s a real shame. I had this feeling smth was going on – like he’s not really single. This spread says he has his eyes elsewhere, let the whole concept and idea of him die, and you’ll see he had smth to hide. Boo! Now let’s see how it plays out…spill the beans, Marco.”

I left it at that and decided to follow the advice of Death – let it go, close it off, leave it behind. It wasn’t easy to follow this advice because my initial impulse was to respond to his jokey message and gloss over it and explain why I had asked. Instead, I stayed silent as a tomb. Death doesn’t utter a word, not even an emoji. Total crickets. 

It was only a matter of hours before I had my answer!

He later spontaneously sent a message admitting that yes, he has a girlfriend; but, and I quote: “she lives abroad and I hardly ever see her.”

Ah, tarot. How I love thee. Let me count the ways.

Let’s now look specifically at two of the cards that, in my own experience, have shown up repeatedly in specific real-life situations.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Three of Wands has come up repeatedly in my readings for clients in situations where there are long-distance relationships and in situations where one of the partners is contemplating a move overseas (or in any case across water or a long enough distance to require relocation) in order to be with the other. I didn’t touch on the overseas part in my own brief written analysis of this reading (because I already knew that part in my head), but I did make sure to note what the figure is doing on the card: he has his back to me. Thus, what I needed to know was that he certainly didn’t have his eyes on me, but rather elsewhere, across the water. In fact, I came to find out that his girlfriend lives in Spain.

Secondly, the Seven of Swords is a card that I’ve seen repeatedly for clients when there is a situation of cheating or getting away with (or attempting to get away with) something secretly. I generally dislike assigning specific keywords and situations to a card, since it’s better to be fluid enough to interpret every card uniquely for each unique reading. However, the Seven of Swords is rather difficult for me to extricate from the context of cheating when it shows up in a relationship reading, especially as it regards trust issues or secrets.

If you’re learning how to read the cards, I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping a journal. I’ve been reading now for nearly 20 years and as you can see, I still physically jot down notes with an actual pen on an actual piece of paper every single time I do a reading for myself. Documenting your readings has immense value for your learning, especially further on in the future when you have real-world findings, information and results of the situation that you can bring to bear on your initial interpretations.

As you grow in experience, you’ll begin to amass a substantial collection of actual situations that you can link back to particular cards, and this becomes a really important toolkit you can draw upon if and when you decide to start reading for others.

Your thoughts?

If you want to experience the power of a tarot reading for yourself, please visit me over at Sparrow Tarot (sparrowtarot.com) to learn how the cards can serve as a road map to help you navigate your life’s journey.

My Little Faun

I’ve always been in love with drawing and painting. It’s not something that I’m good at, or ever was. In fact, I’m the only one in my family that can’t draw, or paint, to save his own life. My parents, however, are both very good painters, which is something that I’m really proud of. Specially my mother. She can work with watercolors and oil and charcoal and produce the most interesting pictures. Some of them I’ve been fortunate enough to get my hands on.

The reason I’m bringing this up, is that I wanted to write about a picture my mother drew. A charcoal drawing that was made some fifteen years ago. It’s a picture that I find very special and alluring and even though it is not mine (yet!), I have no doubts that it will eventually fall into my hands. After all, what kind of a panda would I be if I couldn’t charm a picture out of her? 😉

The picture is about a boy. There’s something very primal about it. It looks like a faun with its little horns an pointy ears and his face is very seductive. He stares at me, daring me to come closer, to find out about hidden mysteries and forgotten secrets. He is smiling. I can see him easily seducing everyone in a room with that smile. He knows the power he has over people and finds it easy to play with them, if he so desires. There’s a fire burning inside of him and everything is crackling with energy. Even his hair seems like flames rising ever so high, his energy and power wanting to escape somehow.

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Looking at this picture, I can see a part of me staring back to me. I can see myself as a child who loved to play and to provoke others. Mischievous, even. Someone who can make himself noticed just by walking into a room. He shines and he reminds me of that little kid that shone, defiant to all the world and its surroundings. Looking at this picture, I can see someone that I used to be a long long long time ago. Someone who is still there in a way, even though family and society have done their work on me as it usually happens. It calls to my inner most nature and asks it to manifest itself. To come out just be…

So I just stared at him and asked him “what do you have to say to me?”

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As I laid three cards of the table, The Wheel, Death and Judgement, I could tell that it was important. You are tarot readers, you know what I mean, right? That feeling of looking at a spread and thinking  “Now this is the real stuff! This is what this is really about!”? There is something in the way the cards look next to each other that will whisper this to your ears. Or is it to the eyes? Looking at the spread, I could hear it here. That little voice in the back of my mind alerting me to what was right there in front of me. In those tiny little pictures.

I looked at the wheel and I immediately recognized my little faun. He’s all grown up now, and with no fire in his head. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Wheels turn, but this one didn’t. It happens, right? Sometimes, you just look at them and they are frozen. Immovable. However, what did move were all the animals and the angels surrounding the wheel. Funny that. An immovable wheel, but everything else is moving. I started to think how things were spinning all around me in my life. People coming and going. The routines of my daily life. All the various places that I needed to go everyday due to work. And how tiring it could be just to run from place to place; from person to person. That little devil sure has had its due. And maybe more than its due. Does he actually carry the wheel or is he just being hit by that damned wheel? It looks like he is being run over. Specially if one looks at the next card.

Death is walking away from all of this. Of course it is. It’s death and this is what it does. There will be a time when everything in the Universe will be dead, and death will just walk out of it and close the door. Because it is death, so what else is it going to do? So, I’m to walk away from all of this. But looking more carefully at the card, I can see that it’s not just about walking away. It is also about walking over everything and everybody. Which is understandable. This is death, after all and no one (I’m reminded of how misery got the best of death, but that’s another story and we don’t have the time, so let’s just get along with “no one”) gets the better out of it. Death gets to do what it wants to do and that is that. Ah! so here is the defiant bit. Do your own stuff and don’t you worry with anything else. This is you in your power, walking the path that you want to walk. Away from the confusion and the pressures of the wheel.

Which takes me to the Judgement card. Someone is being called from the grave by an angel. Tradition would say he or she is being called to a new life. Stepping into a new phase, one would read in the tarot books. Which seems all good. As soon as I cut with all that mess, a new life will open itself to me. This is one of those times when I’m pretty grateful for not using a horror-inspired deck and having to ask myself if those people in the Judgement card are zombies or not. New life it is, with stuff heralded by the heavens themselves. The three figures in the wheel are here again, now all in human form. My faun / devil is at the right and has turned into a blond woman. His hair has grown back and it is as fiery as I ever imagined it to be when looking at the painting.

This is important, after all. My little faun is daring me to just let go of all the stuff I have in my life that is just dead weight. He’s asking me to cut through it all and revert to the true me. To that kid that got buried somehow, sometime ago and needs to be brought back. My little faun is asking me to become more like him and do the stuff I want to do. For it seems that little kid that I was, the kid that somehow the faun recognized in me is still there. And it’s stronger than death.

Do Expectations Create Reality?

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One of my close friends is convinced that nothing good ever happens to her. She didn’t always used to say this. But over the past year, she’s been saying it more and more, and for me it’s become a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. One thing would happen (getting injured, not getting a job, or any other number of unfortunate things that happen to all of us in the normal course of life), and immediately after, she’d say, “See? Nothing good ever happens to me.”

From the time she started making this affirmation more openly, it seems as if the “misfortunes” have increased. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that she’s convinced this is her fate, so she falls back on it whenever something doesn’t go her way. Or perhaps it seems like unfortunate things are happening more often, because she points them out more often now than she used to.

But there’s one more “perhaps”: is it possible that once you expect only bad things to happen to you, not only do they happen, but they even increase?

I come from the “everything happens for a reason” school of thought. I know that cynical people find this idea absurd, but believing it has been a real source of strength for me throughout my life. I subscribe to the idea that our souls incarnate with particular challenges built into the life plan in order to facilitate and achieve specific areas of soul growth. I suppose that’s not for everyone, but so far it’s worked for me.

Finding meaning in my life experiences, both good and bad, has helped me weather difficult periods. And when I say difficult periods, I mean even periods where I, too, could have reasonably said “nothing good ever happens to me.”

But I never believed that. I always believed, as I still do, that things happen for a reason, even shitty things, and that there’s a purpose to life events, both those within my control and those outside of my control. It’s just that I never expect shitty things to happen as a matter of course. And when they do, I don’t automatically assume it’s because good things never happen to me—even if it’s been a bad run for a while.

Do you think there really are some people who never have good things happen to them? Or is it a matter of approach, expectations, and individual evaluation of life experiences?

Let’s ask the cards a few things:

  1. How do our expectations influence our experiences?
  2. What happens when a person is convinced nothing good ever happens to them?
  3. How can we increase the number of positive experiences in our lives?
  4. What advice or guidance should we follow when evaluating our life experiences?

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The Empress – abundance, seasons of change, natural bounty

The Empress shows how our expectations influence our experiences. She is the “Earth Mother” of the Tarot, the one who creates life, and celebrates abundance. Both an expectation of abundance, and a recognition of the abundance that already exists, serve to cultivate more abundance. As she is associated with growth and harvest, The Empress also reminds us of the cyclical, seasonal nature of life. There’s a time for planting and a time for gathering. If we expect to harvest abundance, and we also expect that the world provides for us as part of its inherent nature and the natural order of the Universe (as it does in nature, even without our direct intervention), this card shows that our experiences are likely to reflect that expectation.

Knight of Swords – conquest, fighting against, charging hard in offensive stance

The Knight of Swords tells us what happens when a person is convinced nothing good ever happens to them. They live life in this posture of charging hard into battle. Life is like this – always having to fight, fight, fight, and never getting to rest. There’s a sense of injustice to this card. The Knight of Swords is a fighter for justice, and as such, a person who thinks nothing good ever happens to them is going after life as if everything that lies in their path is somehow unjust and thus must be fought against. This is someone who sees life as an adversarial conquest. This card and its approach directly contrast with the receptive posture of The Empress, who inherently trusts that all things come in their own time, directed by nature and the underlying structure of the natural world.

Page of Wands – enthusiasm, fresh start, curiosity, creative spirit, eager to explore

The Page of Wands shows us how we can increase the number of positive experiences in our lives. The pages are like teenagers in the tarot. Although teenagers lack life experience and the hard-earned wisdom that comes from it, they do have a distinct advantage: they haven’t yet become cynical. The Page of Wands is convinced that his creative energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity will carry his new project forward. He focuses on new growth; notice how he eyes the budding leaves on the wand. If we focus on what’s growing and what’s working for us, this card shows us that we can increase positive experiences in our lives. This is another message of trusting that things ultimately do work out, and also a message of making a conscious effort about where we place our focus.

The red feather in this page’s cap caught my attention. When reading cards, if a particular element strikes you, take notice. In all my years of reading, I don’t remember this element ever jumping out at me before as a message.

I went searching for red feather symbolism, and ran across this blog post written by another Shelley, who also puts stake in synchronicity like I do. No coincidence there. In her post about a red feather, she says:

I found that feathers represent angels, and in particular, Archangel Uriel. He is the archangel of wisdom and is in charge of the red angel light ray. People sometimes ask for Uriel’s help to seek God’s wisdom before making decisions, or help with creative ideas, to learn new things, solve problems, let go of negative emotions and recognize bad or dangerous situations.

This passage seemed like it directly answered the question. We can increase the number of positive experiences in our lives by actively seeking creativity, learning new things, solving problems, letting go of negative emotions, and recognizing bad or dangerous situations. In fact, it appears that Archangel Uriel is the one to call upon for increasing positive life experiences.

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Temperance – balance, head and heart, new dawn, 1+1=3, harmony

When evaluating our life experiences, we must be balanced in our evaluation. It may be our nature to only focus on the negative, but in fact, there is a balance of negative and positive in everyone’s life. No one has all bad or all good.

Temperance teaches us about a paradox I like to refer to “one plus one equals three.” As we see in the mixing of the two liquids in the cups, when you combine two different things, even two opposite things, what emerges is neither all one nor all the other, but something entirely new and unique. We must evaluate our life experiences by recognizing that in the end, we are in constant flux and nothing ever stays the same. One experience blends with another experience to create a completely new reality. We have to keep one foot on the ground (rational, logical, intellectual) and another foot in the water (dreamer, intuitive, emotional). Like the triangle on the angel’s chest, three points are in harmony.

Your thoughts?

Eros, and Why Love Happens When You’re Not Looking

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I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: most readings break down into two distinct categories overall. Can you guess them? Love and work. That’s it. It’s what we’re about.

Have you ever heard the saying that love happens when you aren’t looking? Frankly folks, I find it one of the most frustrating pithy pieces of so-called wisdom I know of, and yet I can’t despise it because I actually think it’s true. Every working, functioning couple I know of came into being in the precise moment when they weren’t looking for love.

And yet, can I just tell you how many of my dear, wonderful clients come to me specifically because they ARE looking for love? I mean, is this not the most dastardly Catch-22 conceivable? We’re human beings and we desire human connection, affection, and romantic love to share with someone special. People even tell us things like “get out there and meet someone” as if we could order up a significant other on demand. And yet, then we’re told that, after all, not to worry if we don’t meet anyone because it always happens when you’re not looking.

It begs the question, does it not: how can I look without looking?

I know you feel me here. I’ve asked it myself countless times. It’s like meditating and telling yourself “don’t think”. The more you do it, the more it happens. Human nature – a fairly predictable bitch.

Anyhoo, I figured, why not turn this beast of a conundrum over to our trusty Rider Waite Smith deck? Let’s let Eros speak to us directly on this one. Heaven knows that I myself don’t have any answers.

So here’s what I asked:

1) Why does love happen when you’re not “looking”?
2) Advice for those who are looking!
3) Message from spirit – Eros

And here’s what I got:

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1) The World
Number one is pretty straightforward, and I suppose I could have even told you this myself had I thought of it before. The World is all about being content with what you have, being sort of “self-actualized” and satisfied exactly right where you are. With The World, you don’t need or desire anything else, because you finally realize that all is all. Yeah, pretty enlightened stuff.

But truth be told, when I ask the couples whom I know about what was going on around them in their lives when they met (besides everyone telling me they weren’t looking), the key component almost always seems to be some variation on “I was happy with myself” or “I had finally accepted myself” or “I didn’t mind being single anymore” or “I decided not to settle anymore.”

Thus: The World.

It happens when you aren’t looking because you are no longer in need of anything.

Once you truly realize in your soul that you are all there is and you are all you need, love somehow strolls on in to put the icing on the cake. Don’t ask me to explain how or why. It seems to be so.

2) 9 of Wands
Advice for those who are looking is the 9 of Wands. Oh, no rest for the weary, eh. The poor guy on the 9 of Wands. He’s been through one hell of a battle, a series of battles, really. Refer back to: answer 1 above (ie, looking). I see this card a couple different ways. The first is: keep your damn guard up, because as long as you continue down the same road that you’ve always been down, you’ll most likely run into the same damn minefields and traps you’ve already stepped in. The second is: leave the battle.

Hence: see answer 1 above. [For effing eff’s sake.]

3) 8 of Cups
And what does Eros have to say about all this? Well, in the 8 of Cups (which in my experience comes up a lot around relationships when it’s time to actively move on because we’ve finally realized that it’s never going to be what we want or wish or need it to be), my feeling here is he is telling us: give it up! In fact, what happens when we stop looking is most likely that we walk away from that pretty little tower of 8 stacked cups because we realize that cup number 9 is beyond our grasp. That’s Eros. It’s not all in our hands. Ah, now there’s a concept for you.

And so, what can I tell you? Not much of what you haven’t heard before. I won’t say that looking is hopeless – I don’t think it is, necessarily. However, I also think that the process of allowing (which I wrote about on my own blog recently in the post We Have Forgotten How to Allow) has a lot of merit to it and brings with it some pretty surprising and great things.

I asked my fellow stirrers to weigh in. I wrote my interps before receiving theirs. I love to do stuff like this and discover how other readers see the same cards. Here goes:

Isabel:

1) The World
Oh but you *are* looking. Looking good! Do you know how hot it is when you need no one else to be happy? To make people WERK for an invitation into your life? Strut!

2) 9 of Wands
Just pick one already. If it’s not the right piece of tail there’s plenty more trees in the forest. Conversely, if someone picks you out of everyone, trust they have good reason to!

3) 8 of Cups
Leave behind what you already know. The hollow promises, the tears you shed. Make off with that one stick you picked and don’t look back. If it turns out to be a dead end, at least you’ll have something to light your fire with.

Miguel:

1) The World
You’re not looking, but the other part is. You become more centered in yourself. It feels like you’re alone, but you’re really not. You are shining under the World’s spotlight. And this makes everyone around you notice you. It makes them pay attention to you.

2) 9 of Wands
Don’t look. Let it all go. Try to act as if nothing was happening at all. No matter what it takes. I find it interesting that the guy is holding his own wand, even though there are 8 behind him. It’s almost as if the card is telling us to trust ourselves and our capacities. And not to be too dependent on finding love.

3) 8 of Cups
Again, walk away from love. Love is fleeting and happens by the light of the moon. It’s something conjured by illusions and light tricks. As such it’s best to remain grounded and wait for the sun to shine on what’s in front of you.

Paulinnhhoo:

1) The World
That’s when everything you need to find love comes together. All the elements are there and you are just dancing to your own tune.

2) 9 of Wands
Stop trying to find your prince charming. He’s locked away and isn’t coming anytime soon.

3) 8 of Cups
Love is not a trophy you get to conquer and put it on display. It’s something that should be held and maintained. When you do find love, keep it with you. In the meanwhile, stay away from trophy-hunting.

Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!

New Year’s Resolutions

It has become a practice, by now… A little before midnight, on the last day of the year, we think about the year that passed and what we would like to get in the New Year that is just arriving. We then compromise ourselves with certain goals that we would want to see achieved. Here in Portugal, for example, it is customary to make a wish for each of the 12 strokes that announce the New Year, and to seal our commitment to our wishes with a raisin. So, 12 raisins, for 12 wishes, at the stroke of midnight.

There’s a big fuss. Pandemonium on the streets. Happy wishes of prosperity and abundance for all. Quoting from the MC 900 Feet Jesus’ song,

“I resolve to stop smoking, quit drinking and to lose 180 pounds,” he mimicked. “And I also resolve to spend every waking hour doing my utmost best to promote peace, love and universal understanding amongst all my fellow man, no matter what their race, religion or national origin may be.”

And partying continues.

The next day comes. Most people have already forgotten what they wished for, and re-enter their mundane tasks. Some, still on the effect of their resolutions, start to act upon them. Of these, most will eventually fail. For some reason or another, they will not get what they wished for. They will not even, get very far from where they were. Procrastination will creep in. Or maybe it’s just that other matters will impose themselves. Or we will let them impose… Whatever the case, we will simply fall off the road to that golden place we so much wanted to go on the Year’s very first few seconds.

Not that it’s important to get there. But what is important is to do the work, to be diligent and actually treat theses resolutions as part of our main priorities for the whole year. And to actually walk the path to get there. And even if you don’t get there, well… at least part of the path is already made. We’re nearer to our goals and getting closer to them. And at the same time, understanding that it’s all about the travel and getting there. Progressing as people and, in the meantime, actually getting something made.

With this in mind, I posed the question: What is the best way to achieve the goals we set out for ourselves for this year? Three cards were drawn from Pamela and Joyce Eakins’ fantastic Tarot of the Spirit:

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7 of Wind (Swords) is the first card. Many tongues. Entanglement. Swords and snakes mixed up with one another. Swords that become snakes. Or snakes that become swords. Swords are supposed to cut things down. To represent our balance. Our equilibrium. Not to be all soft and messy like a plate of spaghetti. What then have we gotten ourselves into? What was supposed to be crystal clear is instead a very big mess. Maybe because we have to find the time for our resolutions? Or perhaps because we ask for more than we can chew?

The second card, The Hierophant, will tell us why: we’re used to things a certain way. There’s a sense of tradition here. And habit. Notice how the main figure is placidly seated, without a care in the world. Things will sort out by themselves, he seems to say. And then, the two figures below almost seem to be hanging out on the threads of the Pope’s sleeve. Tied up little dreams that seem amusing, but not really something to be concerned. The same light that was seen in the first card as descending from above, is now seen just hanging there… above the pope’s head. A small inverted “V” almost pointing out that yes, we should address our dreams and aspirations, but at the same time, firmly attached to a strong stone chair.

So, first step is to get up. To actually see those goals as possible, and not as some fancy dream. To wake up and clear the mess. To make way, literally, for what we want to achieve.

And, then, as the last card seems to imply, to actually go out of ourselves for what we believe in and do that extra work. Brother Water seems to tells us that the trick is in not letting everything overwhelm us. Or drown us. But there’s something more interesting in this card: the way the the colors evolve from the dark tones of the water to the white clear tones in the sky. We see clouds partings and a clear yellow light right above the head. The same light we already saw above the Hierophant’s head now shines brightly and is enough to make the figure look up instead of down. There’s faith here. Faith in ourselves and in the fairness of our goals and that fuels us to go even further.

So here then is the Maelstrom’s wish for 2015: that you have enough faith in yourselves that it will move you to actually go after what you want. To push you even when tiredness and hopelessness and all those other snakes try to sneak between your feet. And actually do the work that will get you there.

A happy 2015 for you all 🙂

Of Pandas, Death Gods and Birthdays Presents

As some of you might know, I’ve recently celebrated my birthday. And, amongst the various presents I got, there was one that felt very close to heart: a box. What made this box so special was that it was specially made for me. A reminder of what I am and what I can become. A place where I can go into to rest or to gather my strengths and even find help for problems that might arise. A talisman, if you’d like.

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On the top, there are three black spots on a white background, which represent the black spots of the giant panda, an animal I find very close to my heart, up to the point of seeing myself as a sort-of panda. The same spots are repeated on the bottom part of the box.

On the sideways, there were a mentions to two cards, a Hoodoo deity and my astrological sun sign. As you can see in the picture above, the words “the fool” and “The World” are in consecutive sides of the box, linked “over the abyss” by a line that stretches from the letter L of the fool to the letter “T” in “The World”. It reminded me of a jump of faith, the jump the fool makes so many times into the unknown, with due to carelessness or to faith. Since the words are joined, I like to think that in this case, it is because he believes in his goals. He goes after them not stopping just because there might be a problem or two. Your mind is set on your goal. Your path is drawn in the sand. Follow it, no matter where it takes, and let both your heart and your vision guide you right into your goal. Confidence. Faith. Adventure. Vision. These are some of the things I take from this. I like it that there is no dog. No need of warnings, as if nothing bad can come of it. In fact, the only animal is the panda, which has its similarities with the fool. Go forth and reach your goals, knowing you’ll stay true to yourself, this seems to say. Go forth and be yourself.

Be yourself. Be a Sagittarius. Be blessed by Jupiter, and dream of the sky. Shoot for the stars, the arrows seem to say. Go after your dreams. I’ve never seen this Jupiter sigil before. And, from what I’m told it’s a modern sigil redesigned by Jason Miller from the classical planetary sign. If it is, they sure did a good job. The lines reaching upwards again brings me that reaching for the sky. But the sigil also reminds me of a flame. Burning with passion and desire. A giver of light and warmth.

And, on the forth side, the Veve from Baron Samedi. I first encountered Le Baron when I saw Nick Philips and Kim Huggens’ Sol Invictus Tarot, and I was immediately drawn to the card. I was surprised to find it was a death god, as the card seemed to be about parties and drinking and sex and generally having a good time, all things I enjoy doing. But then I learned that he wasn’t your typical death god. Sure, he could be moody and serious when necessary, but treat him right, give him a cigarette and a nice drink and things will go as smoothly as a nice cold drink on a hot summer day.

Baron Samedi, or "the Nurturer of Wands", from the Sol Invictus Tarot

Baron Samedi, or “the Nurturer of Wands”, from the Sol Invictus Tarot

 

As attracted as I was to the card, I ended up working with him. It seemed so easy to do so. Just thinking of him and lighting a cigarette or having a drop or two of my favorite drink, a fortified wine we have around these parts called Favaios (do try it, if you have the chance) and there he is …

But a box has 7 sides and I’ve only six. The six external sides of the box. The ones that are visible from the outside. Which leaves us the inside: the box came empty and for it was up to myself to recognize it as mine and make it mine. If it truly was to become a reminder, a talisman, so it was up to me to charge it and fill it with my stuff. With everything that I found it appropriate. But how could it be any other way? It’s my energy that has to stay there. Mine and everything else I hold personal or precious or of importance. Mine to fill with olive tree branches or cigarettes or rings or figurines or anything else I might fancy. And so it was. It so it remains. A little treasure trove of everything I hold dear. And personal. And myself.