Archive for May, 2014

Tarot of Prague Judgement

Sometimes I am amazed at the answers Tarot gives me to certain questions.  I decided to ask this one after watching a classic In Search Of episode about great lovers.  It focused on the fictional tale of Don Juan and the (possibly somewhat fictionalized) life of Giacomo Casanova.  In both cases these men are viewed as legendary lovers but when you listen to the tales of Don Juan’s conquests he seems more victimizer than lover.  He lies, cheats and steals to have his way with women.  No trick is too devious or to low.  When he is finished the women are often embittered and furious.  Casanova, on the other hand, seems to be a scoundrel and con artist in many ways but his lovers are left with fond memories and seem to bear him so ill-will.

Considering the very different styles and personalities of these two legendary lovers, I decided to ask Tarot what is love?  At it’s core, what does love truly mean?  Drawing Judgement in response to this question was surprising.  The card shows a winged angel with a determined expression in the foreground.  Behind him are several coffins that have been opened and their inhabits are beginning to emerge.  Three additional angels hover in the background offering their assistance.  Not exactly the visual I was expecting in response to a question about love.

Upon further reflection it started to make more sense.  Love, true love not the initial passion and attraction that we often claim is love, is about seeing our partners for who they really are and loving them anyway.  Real love is about constantly working to revive the relationship; to bring it back from the dead, and not lose sight of the fact that untended it will wither and die.  Real love may experience dormant periods but that doesn’t mean it’s dead, merely hibernating.  Real love is about accepting that sometimes we go through dark patches in our lives and when we emerge into the light we might need the support and love of a partner.

Romantic love is often portrayed as unconditional and never-changing.  In my experience real love is very conditional and constantly changing.  It morphs and expands and grows.  Sometimes we may think it has died but then something will reignite it and it comes roaring back in a wave of memory and joy.  I have found that sometimes those we love and who love us can be very judgemental, weighing and evaluating our behaviors and failure but loving us anyway.  Rather than wrapping relationships in rose-tinted gauze, real love accepts our flaws and screw ups.  Perhaps Shakespeare said it best – love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.  Real love is not perfect and flawless.  It is riddled with cracks and flaws but it endures; it is strong enough to face any judgments made of it.  In fact that may be part of the message here too – real love makes us strong enough to face Judgement together, powerful and enduring and not wilting under pressure.

There is a wonderful Twilight Zone episode called The Hunt about an elderly country man who loves hunting with his dog.  Before leaving he has a conversation with his wife, whom he clearly loves.  Their every interaction speaks of that love but they never say the words.  Instead they have this conversation:
Old Woman:  “Old man I never said this to you but we have endured powerful well over the years together.”
Old Man:  “Hmm? Nearly 50 years we’ve been married, eh? Come October 16.”
Old Woman:  “Long time to travel together.”
Old Man:  “Well, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
To me, that is real love.

Changing seasons, swans and herons (Oh my!)

Ducks on the "canal" 2008

Today has been a day about aroma and scent.  I was entranced by the tantalizing aroma of fresh cut grass.  It’s been so long since I’ve appreciated that fragrance.  One of the problems of a never ending cold snap is that you forget what spring smells like.  Now we’re almost into summer and I haven’t been able to fully appreciate spring’s gifts.

As a child I could smell the arrival of Spring.  It usually occurred sometimes during the Easter break.  One day I would be standing outside and the promise of spring would tantalize my nose.  It was a crisp, warm kind of smell.  It held the promise of warmer days to come with a hint of sunshine.  It wasn’t the languorous warmth that summer breezes carried, but it was welcome and much  desired.  It offered the hope that the chilly winter would soon leave and things would begin getting warmer and brighter.

This year I thought those aromas would never present themselves.  The winter just seem determined to clench its fist around the days.  Even if there was one warm day it was followed by a gray, chilly one.  On days when the sun’s rays did warm us a tad we were soon enveloped by winter’s chill once again.  Even today, although I could smell the fresh cut grass and feel the rays of the sun, there was a chill in the air and a sweater was needed.
"Canal" of Greenwood Lake, NY 1998
I’ve always loved the changing of the seasons.  I may eventually grow tired of the heat and humidity or the cold and snow but I always love when they first arrive.  The seasons are the only change I actually like.  This year I actually feel as though I’ve been cheated of fully enjoying the changes because winter’s influence has held on for so long.
"Canal" of Greenwood Lake 2014
The one bright side is that we get visited by a heron (at least I think he’s a heron) sometimes on gray, cloudy days.  He’s ghostly and very difficult to see because he is so still and blends in so well with the surroundings.  Sometimes we don’t realize he’s there until he flies away.  There is something magical and spiritual about his visits.  They are special and both hubby and I love just standing there and watching him.  Hopefully now that the weather is warming up a bit it will bring more visits from this ethereal heron as well as the protective ducks and their ducklings and the threatening swans.  The swans are so lovely but they can be quite vigorous about defending their territory.  The first time I saw the gliding towards us hissing I was unnerved by their size and beat a hasty retreat.  When they take off they sound like jets.  It’s amazing.  I just want the weather to grow a bit warmer so I can enjoy these interactions once again.

The Heron

Blue Rose Magician

Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance

The white-faced, leering visage of this Magician is at one frightening and comical.  Is he an illusionist or a trickster?  Is to he to be feared or followed?  Is he mad or a genius?  I think he is all of these things and none of them.  He controls the appearance of reality and can trick us into seeing what he wants but not necessarily what is true.  A rainbow shoots forth over his shoulder.  Is it from his wand?  Is it from another source?  Is it even really there?  The only way we will ever be sure is if The Magician admits his tricks.

Magic, when done well, can fill us with wonder and amazement.  The slight of hand and distorting of reality takes us to a place of wonder and lifts us out of our day to day reality.  Sometimes it can even freak us out, especially if the magical working seems impossible.  Is what we see truly happening?  For that matter, what is it that we’ve seen?  It can be difficult to know what is real during a magic show (at least if the magician is truly skilled).

This Magician reminds me that sometimes we fool ourselves.  We have the skill and drive to create the reality we desire but sometimes we fool ourselves and create the reality others expect from us instead.  Are we tricking ourselves or truly working magic in our lives?  The Magician reminds us that we have the power to control our fates but it can be quite scary to wield that kind of power.  We can create rainbows and maybe even find the gold at their end but first we need to be truthful with ourselves.  We need to release the illusions we hide behind, take off the face paint and accept who we truly are and what we want our of our lives.

That’s what makes this Magician appear so frightening – he reflects our own fears, self-doubts and ambitions back at us.  He shows us what we expect and what we might achieve.  He represents our potential and our reality.  The question is do we want to create our own magic or let ourselves be deluded by the tricks and illusions of others?  Accepting the tools and focusing our energies to create our reality can be daunting.  It requires us to stop blaming others or circumstances for our failures.  It means realizing that if something goes wrong it is the result of our workings.  Many people are frightened of taking this step but if we aren’t willing to take it then we are subject to the whims of fate.  That frightens me even more.

Dark Carnival 10 of Axes
How amazingly appropriate that I drew this card on Memorial Day!  The card is full of violent imagery – blood cover axe heads, disembodied limbs, brilliant, vivid primary colors and wooden staves explode off the card.  There is a cross hovering in the air that speaks of sacrifice and dying in order to be reborn.  The first reaction I had when seeing this card is that it looks like a war scene.  On Memorial Day nothing could feel more right in response to my question.

So I want to honor all those who have sacrificed their lives in defense of this country.  Whether I believed in the reasons behind the wars or not these people died.  The rightness or wrongness of the politics behind the battles is irrelevant.  My family has had several ancestors who served in the military but many did not see action.  Of those only one of those was actually killed in battle on D-Day and is buried in France.

I think in this day and age, when so much of war craft is driven by technology, we lose sight of the human cost of war.  With the attention on drone strikes and bombs that can be delivered from a distance like a video game, it can be easy to forget there are actual troops on the ground who are in constant danger.  How much more difficult does everything become when the people we claim to be helping resent us and work against us?  I’m not taking any sides in that issue I simply want to take some time to acknowledge the sacrifices made by those soldiers who have died in service to this country.

Today is more than just an official day off from work.  It is a day to take some time and remember those who died in war; those who sacrificed everything in defense of this country.  We can call them heroes but that won’t bring them back.  We should never lose sight of just how ugly and brutal war is and that there is always a human cost regardless of which side wins.  I want to honor and remember those who serve and maybe pour some wine for those who will never come home.

Dark Carnival Empress

Interesting, this is the second time this week I’ve drawn The Empress.  So for two days in a row I’ve drawn a card I drew earlier in the week.  Obviously there are some messages I’m either not getting or meant to share.  My relationship with The Empress has been a relatively cantankerous one.  In the past when I’ve drawn her my response has been a groan or a rant.  Over the last few years we’ve come to terms with each other and I’ve come to appreciate her unique strengths and gifts.

Considering that much of my time is spent in the role of traditional caregiver lately, The Empress is certainly appropriate. in response to my query.  I need to learn to be more comfortable with this side of my nature; to embrace this aspect of my personality.  Like an unused muscle, that aspect of my personality has atrophied over the years but lately it’s been getting quite a workout.  This gypsy-like wild child with a smirk on her face lets us know that although she may be engaged in traditionally “women’s work”, she’s no pushover.  This ain’t Beaver’s mother.  Gazing at her I can hear the song from the old Enjoli commercial playing in my head “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never, ever let you forget you’re a man ’cause I’m a woman.”  She may raise a family, nurture loved ones and be generous and caring to those she loves, but she also gives off a vibe fierce independence and strong will.  She may not try to dominate you but she won’t be dominated either.  I like that in an Empress.

On another level she’s telling me that I am still not making the effort to carve out some time for myself.  I may be engaged in caring for others but if I don’t make caring for myself a priority too I’m going to burn out and be miserable (well more miserable).  I have to find the way to nurture and care for myself or I’ll be of no use to anyone else.  Maybe I also need to become more comfortable letting others nurture me.  I tend to resist efforts at mothering, comforting or nurturing from others.  I shrug it off or make a joke.  Maybe I need to be more open to those hugs and efforts at consolation and comfort.  I don’t have to do this all on my own and it’s not week to sometimes need a shoulder to cry on.  It’s just ridiculous for me to keep trying to be a “rugged individualist” in this situation.  That way lies madness and that’s what the smirk on this Empress’ face is telling me.  I may be crazy but hopefully I’m not stupid.  I need to start heeding her message before she slaps me upside the head with that plate she’s washing.

Serial killers & cult leaders- I’ve been interested in serial killers and other societal deviants for a long time.  I can still remember reading the book Helter Skelter when I was about 10 years old.  I can vividly recall the fear and terror that gripped NYC when the Son of Sam David Berkowitz was randomly killing in the late 70s.  The Jonestown massacre in Guyana still holds a fascination for me.   I even studied forensic psychology in college (in fact I have a masters degree in it).  I’ve often wondered what is says about me that I am drawn to such darkness in human nature.

Even while studying psychology I knew I had no desire to be a therapist.  I just wasn’t sympathetic to the neurosis and petty problems of most folks (what can I say – I was very arrogant and fairly young).  I didn’t even necessarily want to work with the criminal population.  I think my pursuit of a  psychology degree was an effort to understand what makes people tick.  I was drawn to the darker aspects of human behavior because on some level I believed if I understood it then I could avoid falling victim to it.  The fact that I had already fallen victim to one act of violence as a child was also a motivating factor.

It seems to me that humans believe we are civilized and intelligent enough to rise above our more animal nature.  However two psychologists, Stanley Milgrom and Phillip Zimbardo, each conducted a well-known and disturbing experiment looking at how humans behave in various situation.  Milgrim’s experiment studied human behavior in response to authority figures.  He set up various scenarios but the core of this experiment was that the subject was put in a room and instructed to ask questions of another person and to issue a shock if the answer was incorrect.  The results were disturbing – in the initial study 65% of the subjects administered the highest shock voltage even when clearly uncomfortable.  Over the years this experiment was replicated in different cultures and with different parameters but with very similar results.  It makes me wonder why we are so willing to take actions we consider unethical or uncomfortable because an authority figure instructed us to do so.

Zimbardo conducted the Stanford Prison Study, an experiment in which volunteers were randomly assigned to either the guard or the prisoner group.  Neither group was given much instruction in how to behave or what to do but it quickly became apparently that left to their own devices, the “guards” began acting sadistically and cruelly.  The “prisoners” began exhibiting signs of depression and rage.  The experiment, scheduled to run for two weeks, was canceled after 6 days because the results were disturbing and it was decided it was causing harm to the volunteers.

What fascinates and frightens me about both these experiments is how quickly we are willing to commit cruel, sadistic and atrocious acts either because we have been told to do so or because we feel that our “role” requires it of us.  Some elements of this may be due to the influence of peers or an internal desire to appease authority figures but it forces me to wonder just how civilized and humane we really are.  Is our willingness to engage in these behaviors really the result of a deep, hidden and unacknowledged desire to hurt others?  Maybe we all have a dark side that revels in cruelty and viciousness.  We learn to control it over time because we learn that such behaviors are unacceptable but those desires are still there – dormant and awaiting a chance to express themselves.  We all want to believe we would never commit certain acts but in reality I think that we might depending upon circumstances.

In fact I believe that one of the reasons some people need Lucifer or Satan is because it’s an effective way to project those nasty, dark, vicious aspects of our personality onto an external figure.  We’re not evil, we did something evil due to Satanic influences.  Or like the young accusers of Salem who behaved in shocking, socially unacceptable ways claiming witches were making them do it.  It’s always the fault of someone or something outside of ourselves.  It’s also made me realize that humans will use various excuses – “I was following orders”, “it’s my job” and even “the devil made me do it” to excuse viciousness and cruelty.  It’s why some are drawn to cults – they can submit to a more dominant personality and not feel the need to make decisions or be responsible for their behaviors.

One thing I’ve learned about my explorations into the dark side of the human psyche is that awareness of it helps me restrain it.  Not all the time but enough to be considered tolerable.  I am fully cognizant of my dark side.  Sometimes I even embrace it and allow it some form of expression that won’t hurt anyone else.  What I’ve also accepted is that it’s not the result of the influence of anyone or anything else.  It’s part of who I am.  It is also not an excuse for cruel or vicious behavior.  Knowing the cause of something is not an excuse.  Having an addiction does not excuse the behaviors that result.  Instead of trying to correct the behaviors we have a tendency for find excuses for them (which is a topic for another day).  I think it’s time to cut through the bullshit.  We’re all a blend of dark and light.  We all have mean, vicious aspects to our personalities.  What makes us human is our ability to know that and change our behaviors so that we aren’t hurting others simply because we feel like it.  We have the ability to shine light on the darkness and not lose ourselves in its embrace.

Dark Carnival 5 of Duckets

This is the second time I’ve drawn this card this week.  I guess I need to listen to its message more closely.  Looking at the two “ghetto smurfs” (I love this phrase from the Gone in 60 Seconds movie) on this card the one thing that strikes me is that they’re together but not together.  They aren’t touching each other.  The girl has her arms wrapped around herself and the guy, with his foot wrapped in a bandage, is reading what appears to be an arrest warrant.  A 40-ounce bottle rests in the snow alone with other pieces of litter.  The girl seems to be glancing hopefully at a closed door nearby while the guy seems wrapped up in himself.  There is a loneliness and sadness to this card that goes beyond their apparent poverty.  They seem so isolated and disconnected from their world and from each other.  All one would need to do is reach and touch the other and offer comfort but their body language suggests that not going to happen.

It seems that as a society we are more disconnected and isolated.  Although we have perpetual access to each other via cell phones, text messaging and online social media sites, we rarely connect on a physical and human level.  How many people have hundreds of Facebook friends and yet would consider themselves lonely?  How many times do we yearn for a simple hug or comforting touch on the arm and instead we are offered a plethora of platitudes on Facebook?  I think this card serves as a reminder that all we really need to do is reach out and touch somebody’s hand (to quote the song).

I’ve recently found myself pondering this tendency in myself.  Over the years I’ve lost contact with many friends.  Some of this is simply the natural process we often go through as we grow and change, realizing we no longer share interests.  Some of if is because I feel as though I no longer have anything to offer in a relationship.  My world is so narrow that all I have to talk about is caring for the in-laws (okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement but not much).  I also have a tendency to feel as though I’m interrupted people’s lives when I call them. I think I need to make more of an effort to keep connected with friends and loved ones.  If they can’t talk to me then I have to hope they’ll feel comfortable enough to let me know.  Of course this says more about me than anything else.

On another level I think the reversed nature of this card is telling me that even though finances are tight and we are in a physically restrictive environment (we just don’t have the freedom to come and goes as we’d like), hubby and I do have each other.  We do support each other.  We try to give each other much needed breaks and work through our frustrations.  It’s not easy but we manage.  We may not be in the best shape financially but at least we are there for each other and care for each other.  Our shared experiences, even the miserable ones, have created a strong, enduring bond.  That’s the important thing right now.

Lately I have been relying on tea and Tarot to help me deal with the insanity of the situation in which I find myself (wine too but that’s a topic for another day).  I’ve always been a tea drinker but in the last 3 years or so I’ve become more adventurous.  I’ve begun exploring loose tea, teas from different locales, oolongs as well as black teas as well as trying different vendors.  I’m quickly realizing that my tea obsession is right up there with my Tarot obsession.  This made me wonder why roles they fulfill in my life.

SoHo
I think the tea (in addition to being tasty) allows me to take some time for myself.  The process forces me to slow down for at least a few minutes and just focus on me.  Tarot offers me the same opportunity – for at least 10 minutes every day I take a breather and focus on me.  That may not seem like much but for me it’s a brief respite in the midst of what tend to be exhausting, chaotic days.
Butter TruffleTchaikovsky Tea Time
Drinking coffee, for me, was a necessary evil.  I needed the caffeine jolt to get me kickstarted every morning (I’m just not a morning person).  Tea drinking is a labor of love, a tiny touch of civility and relaxation in an otherwise externally focused, frenetic day.  It allows me to feel as though I’m nurturing and caring for myself.  On gray, gloomy days, tea allows me to feel snuggly and warm  On warm, sunny days, tea allows me to slow down a bit and just enjoy the beauty of the day.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
It’s also interesting what insights I’ve learned about myself via tea and Tarot.  The types of Tarot decks towards which I gravitate tell me that I’m not pastel, light kind of person.  I have nothing against decks that focus on positivity and lightness but they don’t resonate with me.  I need darkness to balance the pastel.  I need shadow to offset the light.

My taste in teas is similar.  I tend to avoid green and white teas in flavor of full-bodied blacks and oolongs.  If a tea is described as having green, vegetal flavors I know it’s probably not my taste.  If it has chocolate or honey flavors I’m putting it on the wish list.
Teatime Bliss
Both tea and Tarot can allow us time to focus on ourselves.  They give us space to relax and reconnect with our inner selves.  Both have enough variety to suit every taste and palate.  They also both have connections to fortune telling – reading tea leaves and Tarot cards are both well established divinatory techniques.  So the next time you are doing a Tarot reading for yourself, considering having a hot cuppa as accompaniment.

Transformational Tarot Magus

The Magus
Transformation Tarot
Created by by Arnell Ando
Published by US Games ISBN:1572815396

This Magus is true magic man.  He reminds me of a DJ spinning a spell with each record he plays.  He weaves a tapestry of truth and fiction, of reality and fantasy with a deft hand sweeping his listeners along for the ride.  He uses the songs available introduce us to all the amazing possibilities of human experience.

This Magus doesn’t play the music for anyone else; she does it for herself.  Her primary goal is creating the musical magic that is an expression of her heart and soul.  She is also a trickster who breaks down walls that divide us through the songs she plays.  She channels her powers through the music and out into the world helping to create the reality she desires.

How can I embody this Magus’ energy?  Surrounding myself with sights and sounds that express who I am and who I want to be,  Music is one powerful tool to do this.  So is drawing, writing and dancing.  I can use them to channel my energies in ways that will help me manifest my desired reality.  What magic is more powerful than that?

Dark Carnival 2 of Duckets Dark Carnival Queen of Axes

Dark Carnival Tarot
Created by Rachel Paul
Self-Published

Dark Carnival Strength

I first learned about the Dark Carnival Tarot at the 2013 Readers’ Studio when I won a print of the Strength card from this deck.  When I looked at the image I was blown away by the art.  It has a graffiti style with a very gritty, urban, edgy feel to it.  The cards drew me into a surreal landscape that is both familiar and frightening.

In the companion book, Rachel introduces the reader to the Dark Carnival/Juggalo worldview with its bizarre face paint, supportive community and sometimes gratuitously violent imagery.  I had never heard of this movement before and found it interesting.  I may never enter Juggalo-world myself but, other than the music, it’s not all that different from the one in which I grew up.  Perhaps that’s why this deck appeals to me so much.  Despite its otherworldly, sometimes creepy imagery, I have a feeling this deck will kick me in the teeth when necessary to force me to face facts and not sugar coat my bullshit.

The suits in this deck are Gats, Faygos (you have no idea how excited I was to realize I know what Faygos are –  they make a diet chocolate soda I love), Axes and Duckets rather than Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles.  Each suit is inspired by a Juggalo musical artist:  Gats – Violent J; Faygos – Shaggy 2 Dope; Axes – Twiztid and Duckets – Blaze.

Dark Carnival King of Duckets Dark Carnival Warrior of Faygos

The Court Cards are either real or symbolic characters who populate the Dark Carnival/Juggalo world with names like Big Baby Sweets (King of Duckets) and Boondox (Warrior of Faygos).  Even as I write this I have no idea who these artists are but I don’t think it’s necessary.  I’m sure knowing gives the reader additional insights into the meanings of these cards and the energies behind their imagery but I don’t think it’s essential.  I know who Insane Clown Posse is and I’ve heard of a few of the other groups but this a lifestyle with which I’m totally unfamiliar.  It rather reminds me of a grittier, more urban group of Deadheads but that might be quite a superficial understanding.

Dark Carnival Juggla Dark Carnival Emperor

The Majors are Juggalo takes on the familiar archetypes.  Most maintain their traditional names with some having a more Dark Carnival tag added on.  For example The Magician becomes The Juggla, The Emperor is aka The Carnival of Carnage, The Star is aka The Spirit of Detroit.  Even amidst the chaotic, violent, vivid imagery there is depth, hope and insight.  Although the companion book is written in a manner reminiscent of a gangsta rap song, it has a similar depth of feeling, rawness and emotional honestly.  There is something searing and honest in this deck.

Dark Carnival Star

Rachel Paul is not trying to sugar-coat anything or pretty up reality.  She is tearing back the curtain and saying “this is my world, my reality and welcome to it.”  She reminds us that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that life can bloom in the middle of a garbage strewn lot.  This deck proudly proclaims “the world is full of chaos and craziness but if you can find the truth at its core you will also find depth, meaning and beauty.”  This deck reminds us that there are various worldviews and lifestyles out there.  Each is just as valid and legitimate as another.  The Dark Carnival Tarot offers a glimpse into one of them.

I’ve used this deck for my daily draw for the past few days and must say I find it easy to read.  Although the companion book offers additional insights and background information, I think anyone familiar with Tarot could use this deck right out of the bag.  The art might not be to everyone’s tastes but if you are open to its energies I think this deck will prove quite useful for shadow work or pushing you beyond your usual preconceived notions.  So take a chance and step in the tent of the Dark Carnival Tarot.  Who knows what wonders might be revealed to you?

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