Archive for September, 2015

Celtic Wisdom The Challenger

Celtic Wisdom Challenger

Celtic Wisdom Tarot
Text by Caitlin Matthews, art by Olivia Raynor
Destiny Books, 1999
ISBN 0-89281-720-8

The Book says: The Challenger of Will makes the soul question what is accepted and find true release from fear. He speaks words of liberation and wisdom to those who can hear them. Those who hear only what they want to hear, and demand that others obey them, petrify the living stream of tradition into dead formulas. How are you listening to yourself?
Fear, bondage, extreme challenge, misery, obsession, resentment, role-playing for effect, dependence, manipulation, humorlessness, self-sabotage, inability to realize goals.
REVERSED: Understanding, release, breaking the spell, respite from fears, obsessions or worries, recognition of the true self, challenges are opportunities for growth.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: It’s interesting but when I see this card the first thing that crosses my mind is the phrase “dialing for destiny”. The Cernunnos figure seems to be frozen, trapped for all eternity in his familiar pose. While above him the larger figure – human or god, seems to be working a cosmic telephone and dialing some sort of code. Will the code offer freedom to Cernunnos, freeing him from his frozen state? Why is he holding onto the serpent and the torc? If he releases them will he be able to free himself from his prison. Or perhaps Cernunnos is the guide, leading us through the hedge of leaves in into the heart of yourself. Maybe he knows the code for the larger figure to dial to free himself from his familial bondage, his ancestral expectations.

It brings to mind the adage about the “sins of the father”.  Are they the chains that bind this figure – the “sins” of his ancestors? Certainly we have all experienced the prison that is our family’s hopes and expectations for us. How much more prevalent was this attitude in earlier societies? Everyone had a place and a task. But what if you didn’t wish to follow other’s plans for you? Then they became an oppressive prison, a burden and an obstacle. So the challenge to us may be to break free of these expectations and obligations and listen to our own desires and dreams.

Learning through the pain

I have spent a lot of time over the last few years caring for my elderly, ailing mother-in-law. I have often written about how frustrated and trapped I feel in this situation but the last few days I’ve been looking at it from a different perspective. I’ve been considering what I’ve learned through this experience and started considering how this must feel for my mother-in-law.

Being forced to care for my in-laws has put me in a position of parenting my in-laws. As a result I am learning lessons many acquire while raising their children. I’ve learned the true meaning of sacrifice, strength and stamina. I am sacrificing freedom of choice, mobility and independence to take care of family. I am willing to make this sacrifice because the alternative of institutionalizing them is intolerable to me. That is my decision and I’m willing to accept its consequences, even though it sometimes makes me want to gnash my teeth and rip out my hair.

Greenwood Strength

I have learned that being tough and being strong are not necessarily the same thing. I may be tough and able to deal with aggressive behaviors and attitudes but this experience has given me a greater appreciation of inner strength. It takes an enormous amount of inner strength and fortitude to get up every day, especially when you’re not feeling well, to take care of others who cannot fully appreciate what you’re doing. There are few or no accolades for your efforts. Others may pay lip service to how strong or brave you are but few truly understand what it takes. It’s helped me gain a deeper appreciation for the Strength card.

Mythic Empress

I’ve been forced to embrace and enhance my Empress side. As I’ve expressed several times before on my blog, I have had a very distant relationship with the Empress. In the past, she and I have mutually agreed to keep our distance from each other. This current situation has pushed me into the Empress’ realm; forced me to sit at her feet and embody her energies. It was a true trial by fire and I’m still working on not getting burned or burned out by the flames.

Bohemian Gothic Judgment

This experience has also mellowed me a bit. I’m still judgmental (I think that’s embedded in my DNA) but I’m less harsh about it, more tolerant of perceived failings and imperfections – even my own. It’s forced me to realize that most of us are stumbling around trying to do the best we can with what circumstances and fate throw our way. Few people choose to be hurtful or mean or “evil”. Very often they believe they’ve made the best decision available under the circumstances. There are days when I feel like an absolute monster for the things I’ve said or thought about my in-laws. I don’t mean to be vicious but this usually occurs when I’m sleep deprived and overwhelmed. I’m striking out in anger and frustration but I’m not angry with them. I’m angry with the situation. Unfortunately they have less control over this than I do.

Dark Goddess Empress

I’m no hero, no saint and no martyr. I’m simply someone who loves her family and is trying to do right by them. I will say that I have learned to appreciate the strength of the human spirit. By all rights my mother-in-law was expected to die a long time ago but she is stubborn, tough and strong. She’s fighting for all she’s worth. She may exhaust and infuriate me sometimes but I can’t help but admire her stamina and strength of will. In fact I wish I could find a way to bottle it. I know I’m not the only one dealing with such a mess and my heart goes out to the others. We each have to make our own decisions about how to handle this type of situation based on our lives, our own obligations. This is one area that I refuse to judge anyone else. If I haven’t been in their shoes I cannot fully understand why they made the decisions they did. I can only hope that they have the support and love they need to make it work.

A true reflection of myself

For two days in a row I drew The Mirror card (The Hanged Man in traditional decks) from the Wildwood Tarot in my daily reading. The image shows a mermaid seeming to hold the moon in her hand while the other clutches a mirror to her breast. Her eyes are closed and she can see neither but she seems aware of both on a deep, unconscious level.

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Looking at this image I consider what it might be trying to tell me. Considering the questions I asked both day, the key element is one of changing perception, altering mindsets, looking at things from a different angle. I also get a sense of trusting your heart, your instincts, your unconscious. She speaks to me of looking at yourself and changing how you view the reflection. This became especially appropriate when I had a profound epiphany today (I do love profound epiphanies). While looking in the mirror the thought flashed across my brain that I looked beautiful. Not pretty, not nice but beautiful. I have recently gotten a haircut and was wearing a new shirt but that wasn’t why I felt this way. It was because I was in a wonderful mood. I felt fabulous inside and it was visible outside. I finally realized the meaning of the expression “true beauty comes from within”.

The truth is that my physical being changed little. I’m still overweight, fairly worn-out and wore no makeup. I know I’m attractive enough but that’s never been a major priority in my life – call me ugly I’ll shrug it off; call me stupid and them’s fighting words. Seeing myself in a different light today, truly believing I am beautiful, was powerful. How many of us go through life believing we’ll only be beautiful and acceptable if we meet some arbitrary norm. If we lose weight or dye our hair or fix our nose or get that new outfit. It doesn’t matter what the variable is, the commonality is that we believe some external factor is what will make us beautiful. In truth we already possess that quality if we can see it and believe in it. Of course the irony is that it takes maturity and wisdom to actually accept and embrace this fact. The expression “youth is wasted on the young” was coined for a reason.

That brief look in the mirror has convinced me that my attitude and mindset dramatically changes how I see myself and how I present myself to others. If I stop staring in the mirror looking for flaws and instead let myself be bathed in the radiant light of the moon, I’ll find it easier to let my inner beauty shine through. Maybe we should all stop focusing on our flaws and instead change our perspective and celebrate our gifts, embrace our inner loveliness. We all have the potential to be radiantly beautiful if we believe in ourselves. I’m going to start off taking one step at a time, day by day.

Wheel of Change Devil

Wheel of Change Devil

Wheel of Change Tarot
created by Alexandra Gennetti
Published by Destiny Books, 1997
ISBN #0-89281-609-0

The Book Says: When the Devil is a part of your reading; you are in the midst of an intense situation. Perhaps you are experiencing (possibly in excess) the pleasures and pains of living, in yourself or in those around you. Possibly, when you draw the Devil, the situation calls for more emotional engagement. Maybe it is a time to examine your attachments and learn the lesson of moderation. Look around you and really see the part you play in the natural world.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card explores the wildness and untamed energy of The Devil. This is the god of the wild woods who invites us to come dancing beneath the brilliant moon. His wicked grin promises fun and merriment, freeing yourself from the strictures imposed by society and everyday life. His drum will transport you to another place and time; a world free from the expectations of others and daily responsibilities. But be warned because once you have “danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight” you will never be the same. It may become easy to walk away from life’s burdens and lose yourself in his wild dance.

Think of Dionysus’ Maenads and their divine madness. They would lose themselves in the worship of the god and attack any who invaded their revels – be it son, husband, father or lover. For this god of the wild wood is a demanding and possessive god. He can take over your life and you can lose your will in his celebrations. He can liberate your spirit or enslave your soul. He is one of the guardians of the mysteries of drunkenness and madness. It is in his honor that rebels and pioneers in the 60s explored mind-altering, psychotropic drugs and how they affected their perceptions of the world. But we must be cautious of crossing that point of no return and losing ourselves in the heart of madness. This Devil is our guide to the brink of self-revelation and freedom, but if we are not careful we can become prisoners of his revels.

Have you ever hated, I mean seriously hated a fictional character? I have. Recently I’ve been watching past seasons of The Walking Dead and I realized that I really detest the Andrea character. I find her arrogant, completely lacking in insight or intuition, and gullible. She refuses to participate in anything resembling “women’s work” (which I completely understand) but overestimates her skills in other areas. She wants to be a protector but when we first meet Andrea, she greatly overestimates her shooting skills. She routinely resists any authority figure whose priorities are not her own. Hmm, she sounds like me.

When that thought struck me I realized that it really isn’t Andrea I hate, it’s those trait I see in her that I share. It might be comical if it wasn’t so true. Like Andrea, I often think I can do things on my own without assistance. I hate being limited in any way (whether it’s being expected to do “women’s work” or being treated as though I’m incapable of understanding a concept). I also see myself as a protector although to be fair I have minimal self-defense skills. I have a lot of moxie but very little actual training to back it up. The one area we are a bit different is that I am not as gullible or lacking in insight or intuition as the character is but that’s only because I’ve spent a lot of time working on it. And yes, I’m arrogant. Fairly self-righteous on occasion too.

Another character I’ve realized irritates me for some reason (although not to the same degree) is Buffy Summers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I couldn’t put my finger on why, I simply found her rather ditzy and annoying. But the more I watched the show the more I realized I resented and was jealous of Buffy. I would have given anything to have special powers like her (then again what teen wouldn’t?). Her blonde cheerleader persona, that was basically destroyed when she learned she is the Slayer, was one that I envied a bit on some deep unconscious level. Once again, who hasn’t wanted to be in the popular clique at some point in their lives. Of course even as a teen I wouldn’t have lasted in that clique because, also like Buffy, there were things in my life that made me an oddball, an outcast. Now I embrace those things but at the time they seems embarrassing and painful.

It’s become a fun hobby for me to take note of which characters I like and identify with (Dean & Sam Winchester on Supernatural) versus which ones annoy me. I see them as keys to character traits I want to possess or ones I possess that I don’t really like. It gives me an opportunity for insight and challenges me to make an effort to change those traits I don’t like and cultivate the ones I do. Needless to say, this works beautifully with fictional novels too.  Try it sometime, you might be surprised at yourself. And you thought TV was just mindless junk food!

Hierophantic Spirituality

Witches' High Priest

Orthodoxy & fundamentalism scare me. Organized religion sends me running for the front door. There is nothing inherently wrong with believing that your way is the “right” way. In fact I can admire that kind of dedication. The problem arises when you also become convinced that your “right” way is the only way and everyone else should be doing things your way too. I admit to having a bit of an orthodox streak in my nature and I work at trying to avoid imposing my will on anyone else.  I will admit that there have been times I’ve taken an “it’s my ball and if we don’t play my way I’m leaving” approach to things. When it comes to spiritual matters I definitely prefer a more hands-on, less structured and orthodox approach. Unfortunately when humans come together in groups, orthodoxy and fundamentalism tend to erupt.

One of the reasons I avoid most group situations is because I have a cantankerous kink in my personality. The more people tell me the way I “should” be doing things, the more I feel compelled to do it differently. I blame this on my parents. One of the mantras of my childhood was “just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to”.  That stuck. I don’t see it as a bad thing but it really makes group membership challenging. I’ve tried several ranging from a small Wiccan coven (in which I lasted all of a month before becoming the catalyst for an implosion) to ADF, the Druid organization. In both situations there were elements I liked about the groups but ultimately their long term goals were not my own. In one case I quickly realized the group was a cult of personality for the high priestess/founder. In the other I realized the group’s mission to serve as ambassadors to the general public with regard to Pagan beliefs and rituals was counter my own nature and preferences. I have no interest in leading or even participating in public rituals.

I also have a knee-jerk reaction to the concept of Pagan “churches” or owning land to build temples etc.  I realize that for many people this is an opportunity to worship among a group of like-minded individuals in safety and privacy. I wish them well in this approach.  For me, this becomes a dramatic shift in priorities that will ultimately cause Pagan spirituality to go the way of Christianity, moving from a more High Priestess approach to a more Hierophantic one.  Once an organized religion owns “stuff” their priorities shift so that maintaining that stuff becomes paramount. It’s often slow but steady. It also tends to be a short step to creating a priesthood and establishing leaders as arbiters of what the right way is to do things. It’s a shift from exploring the hidden mysteries on your own (the realm of the High Priestess) to worshiping in a church or temple led by a priest (the Hierophant’s bailiwick). It doesn’t have to be a negative shift but it often seems to develop into one.

Hidden Realm High Priestess

Look at Christian history. Once the apostles got hold of things and made Peter the first pope, they began codifying what Jesus taught. They left out writings about Jesus that didn’t fit their views such as the Book of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. I realize these might not be “regulation” gospels but they certainly could be. They offer a very different and perhaps more honest view of who Jesus was and what he taught.  However these teachings threatened the legitimacy of the early church.  The Jesus of the gospels is open-minded and welcoming of all peoples but the Christian church quickly became codified and orthodox. If I remember correctly there were even arguments in the early church regarding whether Gentiles could be allowed to join.  Things grew increasingly worse once the church grew into the Holy Roman Empire. After acquiring buildings and lands from the collapsing Roman Empire, the Christian church took on a very aggressive approach to converts and trumpeting the “word of God” to any and all who could hear.

Tarot of the Holy Grail Hierophant

We also seem to forget that one of the reasons early Christianity appealed to so many was because the various Pagan traditions in Rome at the time had lost their soul. They became about right acts and public observances. Many Roman citizens paid lip service to the gods by offering sacrifices but they held no true belief in their hearts. It’s as though codifying and establishing orthodox practices sucks the life out of spiritual paths. The idea of Pagan “clergy” also bothers me. I am in no way trying to condemn other people’s choices, but for me clergy sends the message that I need someone to function as an intermediary between me and my gods. It also seems like I’m being told these folks know more or are better trained to do this work than me. That irritates me. It also creates a class system in Paganism, whether intention or unintentional. Humans have a tendency to lend more credence and weight to words stated by someone with a degree of some type. It doesn’t seem to matter if what they say makes sense. The fact that the speaker has a jumble of letters after his/her name makes their pronouncements more valid to others. Down this road always seems to lie dragons of some type.

I realize that many of us seek out groups that share our spiritual beliefs because deep down we want to be sure we’re doing it “right”. We don’t trust our instincts or our connections to the gods. We want a leader, a priest or priestess to show us the “correct” way. I suppose for some folks that is great but to my mind that path leads to the same trajectory that Christianity and various Pagan traditions before it followed. The harder we try to establish ourselves as legitimate in the eyes of others, the quicker we lose our connection to the divine. We find ourselves jumping through hoops created by some external authority with little understanding of who we are or what we do in order to be validated and legitimized. I say fuck it! We do we need to meet some arbitrary guidelines created by outsiders. Instead of pursuing accreditation according to their terms I’d rather see us continue to do things our own way. Unfortunately I don’t think that will last. I may not live to see it but I have no doubt that it’s the end result of trends like paid clergy, tradition neutral training programs and the purchase of “church lands”.

Blue Rose Temperance

Blue Rose Temperance

 

Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance

The Book says: It is a new dawn for our Fool, who, reborn, emerges from liquid depths, hampered no longer by the mundane veil of the ego. Here is our magnificent butterfly, our magical bird, arising like a phoenix from liquid made into gold by the alchemy of fire and water, heat and cold, spiritual and material – the magical fusion of dreams, hopes and goals.

The Fool greets the new dawn with magnificent wings aglow with new color and with the full beauty of the soul exposed for the first time since before the journey began. The landscape is molten, fresh and new. Elemental. Untraveled. Untraveled because the last half of the Hero’s Journey is through the soul’s inner landscape, where no one else has trod. For each Fool travels along final pathways uniquely created especially for that singular and individual being.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: For some reason the imagery on this card reminds me of a 70s Christmas cartoon, The Year Without a Santa Claus. Two of the characters in it are the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser. Both stubbornly insist that their climate is the best and refuse to acknowledge anything positive about the other’s environs. Eventually they come to appreciate each other and realize that both are necessary and beneficial to the world.  That is what I see in this card – the cold and the hot unite to form a beautiful and diverse unity.

In the northeastern USA we also see this as the seasons cycle and change. The snow and chill of winter eventually gives way to the warmth and green of spring. But that does not mean one is better than the other. Without the water from the melting snows we might not have the water needed for the plants to sprout forth. At the same time the melting water can become a torrent and sweep away the weaker, less hardy plants just popping forth. And in the beginning of spring the warmth and light of the sun is a welcome break after the brittle cold of winter. But by the time Summer rolls around the heat can become oppressive and overwhelming, and we eagerly await the cool breezes of autumn.

Temperance reminds us that moderation and the middle path is what helps us survive the extremes life can throw our way. If we can learn to walk the path between these two extremes and not let ourselves become lost on either side, we can find the inner peace and healing offered by Temperance.

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