Oolong with Odin

I have recently begun re-acquainting myself with Runes. I have dabbled in them at various points in time. I know some of the basics of working with them but I want to explore them in more depth. I’ve begun connecting with the energy of the Rune aligned with each half-month (each Rune is assigned a two-week period over the course the year, in order). I have no idea who created this system but it seems a good place to start. I then pull another Rune each day to see what energies might impact me and how they connect to the energies of the Rune associated with the half-month. Based upon the message I get from the joined energies of the two Runes, I then draw two Tarot cards for further insights or clarification. So far it has worked  well. This process is allowing me to begin working with the Runes on a deeper level. However I kept feeling blocked; as though there was more to be gained but I could not access it. After pondering this for a while I realized that my problem is I was avoiding connecting with Odin, the Norse god of magic, runes, war and a plethora of other areas who also happens to rule the Aesir. That’s like learning to drive a car via computer simulation. You may grasp the concepts but you’ll be limited in true understanding.

I’ve been wary of working with Odin for a loooong time now. In the myths, he is often portrayed as quite the trickster. He has his own agenda and we may not fit with it the way one anticipated. I have always felt more drawn to Thor and Tyr for their more plain-spoken and honorable approach to matters. For the most part Thor is not very straight-forward and Tyr’s word is his bond. Odin take a more diplomatic approach to matters in that he doesn’t lie but may not reveal the full truth either. His connection to Loki has also worries me a bit. I can understand the benefits Loki brought to Asgard but his tricksy, sometimes malevolent nature does not appeal to me. All that has become a moot point because I realize that if I want to truly understand the Runes then I need to work with Odin.

Legacy of the Divine 9 of Coins

So yesterday I sat down and had a chat with Odin. I asked if he would find a daily cuppa tea an acceptable offering for picking his brain. In response I drew the 9 of Coins (being more familiar with Tarot I used them for this conversation) which I’m taking as a resounding yes! So I made up each a cuppa oolong tea (Flower of Asia to be exact) and pulled a Rune – Othala, to go along with the Rune of the half-month Eihwaz. I then proceeded to ask Odin questions about the connections between these two Runes and how their energies work together and complement each other. It was a very interesting process. After each question I would pull a Tarot card. If I didn’t understand the response I could pull another card for additional insight but that didn’t happen. Each response I got from Odin made complete sense to me. It was exhilarating! I’m very excited to see where this journey will lead me. For now I’m taking baby steps but very much like a toddler I’m feeling quite a sense of accomplishment already.

Dealing with The Dreads

Have you ever had a feeling of dread creep over you – non-specific and unfocused but powerful dread? For the last two weeks or so I’ve had this feeling. As the day goes on I feel it coalescing into a knot in my stomach. It just sits there throbbing and I have no idea why. I also had one of my zombie dreams the other night. I haven’t had one of them in a few years. The dreams are similar (I’m one of a group of zombie apocalypse survivors) with different scenarios. Usually what changes are the locales. What is the same is that we get overwhelmed by a horde of zombies and I’m the only one left. I am eventually buried under a pile of zombies and just then I wake up in a panic. I have no idea if I survive or die. It seems to be irrelevant. The terror leaves me breathless and shaky.

I pulled a few Tarot cards to get some insight into this feeling of dread. So I asked what was causing these feelings and drew (from the Gilded Tarot Royale} The Magician reversed.

Gilded Magician

I continued on asking how I can deal with them and drew the 8 of Cups and 4 of Pentacles.

Gilded 8 of CupsGilded 4 of Pentacles

Then I drew Death, The Tower reversed and 4 of Cups reversed.

Gilded DeathGilded TowerGilded 4 of Cups

The overall sense I got from these cards is that the dread comes from a feeling of powerlessness, lack of control and the fact that I can’t walk away. I’m stuck in this situation until something dramatic, earth-shaking and transformative finally happens. I don’t know if this is a personal upheaval or a more global one. I guess time will tell. In the meantime I need to figure out how to deal with these feelings.

I can feel my imagination running away with me. I keep thinking it’s a health issue. I’m convinced I have tumors or something but then my more logical, realistic side calms me down. Having a very practical friend who asked simple questions about certain things also clarified that (say it with me in an Ahnold voice now) “It’s not a tumor!” My same practical, Virgo to the nth degree friend then pointed out that I am of Irish descent and we do sometimes like to over-dramatize things. Immediately the pains subsided a bit.

So the only thing I can conclude is that perhaps it is some type of prophetic warning but it’s more likely stress related. It’s the holiday season – which even when I’m trying to be on my best behavior can be stress inducing, added to the responsibilities I’m handling making me anxious. That’s probably all it is. However, if something major & earth-shaking does go down, now I’ve documented my prophecy! (Kidding, just kidding).

Why did I share this? Not because I felt some need to unburden myself to the handful of folks who read this blog. It’s because there might be others out there who are stressed, anxious and feeling as though giant boulders have nested in their stomachs. Once you’ve eliminated any potential physical causes, consider that all you have to do to change these sensations is look at them objectively. Don’t let your fears overwhelm you. Talk to friends and loved ones or if they’re not available or helpful, try finding an online support network. I always find it fascinating when I realize that my mind can sometimes be my own worst enemy. I can easily allow my inner demons and fears and stresses to amp up into gigantic proportions and all it takes to cut them down to size is some practical words of encouragement and support. Don’t let whatever bats may reside in your belfry shift their base of operations to your stomach and nerves. It helps nothing and makes you miserable.

I have spent the last six years caring for my ailing mother-in-law. In that time I have seen her deteriorate from a semi-independent woman who needed assistance such as preparing meals and handling other household tasks to someone who needs help with the most basic facets of life. It saddens me because in her prime my mother-in-law was a fiercely independent woman. Despite the fact that she has a developmentally disabled son, she never asked for help. Now she is unable to walk without assistance. What makes it both sadder and a relief is that she is unaware of how helpless she is. She is like an infant – knowing only that she needs something and relying on someone else to provide it.

Dark Goddess Death

I feel like Death’s handmaiden. I am not in any way contributing to this process (although dealing with this has given me a new appreciation for euthanasia). My task is to calm her, provide what she needs (to the best of my ability) and try to ensure she’s not alone if/when her time comes. Having said all of this, I cannot help and will not justify the resentment I feel about this situation; the rage that flares up inside me at unexpected moments. The desperate wish I have that it would all just be over and I could reclaim my life again.

I am no saint or martyr. This current situation is intolerable to me. I detest it with every fiber of my being. Sometimes I practically vibrate with it. Every effort made to find assistance from external sources (government agencies, visiting nurse services, etc.) has either proven to be a dead end or beyond our financial means. I’m not willing to put this woman, who spent much of her life caring for family members, into a nursing home where she will be strapped down and drugged until her body can take no more. I may hate the lack of control and independence I have in my life right now but I would have that situation even more. I also don’t think I could forgive myself for it.

Well-meaning friends and acquaintances have spouted various platitudes about some divine being who does not give us more than we can handle. Generally my response is either a pained grimace or a colorful rejoinder which includes various profanities (depending upon how well I know the person). I bitch and moan to anyone and everyone who will listen, including the indifferent gods whose existence I honor. I get it – this will end when it is meant to end. However I must reiterate that it sucks beyond measure.

The main take-away I’ve gotten from this experience is a fierce determination not to find myself in a similar situation. I have no one that I can count on to care for me if I end up like my mother-in-law. I’ve also seen the various nursing home facilities available for elderly people in this condition and the reality is that if a family member is not a regular visitor and if one’s health coverage doesn’t provide enough benefits, the patient/family member ends up ignored, neglected, and even abused in some circumstances. That thought gives me nightmares.

Wheel of Change Death

I don’t believe we deal well with death in our modern culture. We fight it with a desperate determination that often results in circumstances like this one. The body keeps going because medical technology can maintain the status quo but it can’t do much to stop the progress of diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. So the body is kept alive and as healthy as possible while the mind continues to disintegrate.

Support services for caregivers who are tending to family members in this condition are minimal and (in my experience) woefully inadequate. It’s wonderful that there are support groups, but if I cannot leave the family members alone how exactly do I attend? Home visits from doctors? Oh sure they still happen, just not in this part of the county. Home care assistance? It’s available but not to my mother-in-law because she’s not on Medicaid. My brother-in-law (who is deaf and retarded) is eligible but services cannot be activated without a doctor’s approval. No doctors make home visits in this area and he will not leave the house without a serious fight. It’s a Catch-22 that leaves you bitter, exhausted and defeated. I hate it!!! In fact, I cannot stress how much I hate it. The only thing I would hate more is to have to institutionalize these two people that I love. I accept that. It’s the trade-off I make in my life. I’ll put things on hold to tend to them and I can still face myself in the mirror and sleep at night. It’s not a perfect situation but it’s the best I can do right now.

So if there is anyone else out there who has found themselves in similar circumstance, please know that you have my respect and admiration. It’s a thankless task that is fairly unappreciated by the wider society. Make sure you keep in touch with friends somehow or else the isolation with warp you. Take care of yourself. Even if all you can do is spend 10 minutes every day one yourself, treat that time as sacred. I’ve done the “giving my all to the relatives” trip and burnt out quick. I have found the work of Jennifer Louden and SARK to be inspirational and helpful in dealing with all of this. I still find it difficult to balance time for me with their needs but I’m stumbling along and finding ways. And if your choices are different than my own and you had to make the agonizing decision to institutionalize your loved one, please know that you have my sympathy and support. No one else can understand what you went through and how difficult it was for you to make that decision. Don’t allow anyone to shame you because of it. We are all just doing the best we can in this life and shouldn’t be held to someone else’s standards or expectations.

Tsonokwa

 

Somehow, like a lot of people, I behave as though receiving help from others is a sign of weakness or failure. The current circumstances in my life have forced me to become better at accepting and asking for assistance from others. It’s still a struggle but one I think I’m starting to win. That isn’t my focus today. What has struck me when pondering this card and her message is that the one person I am lousy at giving to is myself. Oh don’t get me wrong – I can indulge myself with things like books, music and other possessions as fast as anyone else in our consumerist society. What I’m not good at giving to myself are the things I really need – time to myself, time to focus on my spirituality and health, and time to relax. It’s as though taking time off from my responsibilities is slacking. How the hell did this happen?

I used to be one of the more selfish people I knew. I had no responsibilities other than those to myself, my hubby and family, and maybe to my job. Not having kids left me a lot more free time than most to do whatever the hell I wanted. Of course I usually filled that free time with brain-draining TV binges and frequent nights out after work with co-workers. Mindless, enjoyable and ultimately unsatisfying pursuits to be sure. I was busy, sometimes frantic and stressed but I would have told you I was having fun. In retrospect I think I was trying to numb myself. What I needed wasn’t more things it was a sense of meaning and fulfillment in my life. That is what I was not giving to myself.

I have drawn Tsonokwa several times since working with the Dark Goddess Tarot. Clearly she is trying to give me a message which I haven’t been hearing – at least not clearly. Then yesterday I finally realized why she kept pushing me. Thanks to a wonderful mother who agreed to elder-sit for the in-laws, I was able to get away for a while and spend some time socializing with a friend. We didn’t do anything special – had lunch, chatted, shopped a bit, but I came home feeling rejuvenated and relaxed for the first time in a long time. It was wonderfully refreshing. Of course my mother was exhausted but she can head home and relax.

It’s been such a long time since I’ve been free of this vise that squeezes me on a daily basis that I didn’t really how much pressure it was putting on me. I thought I was doing okay but in reality I was draining the battery almost beyond repair. It took Tsonokwa appearing to me several times before the message finally sank in. Next tie I won’t wait so long before finding activities to help relieve the pressure and help me revive and rejuvenate myself. It’s not taking anything away from my in-law’s and it’s giving me the break I need to let me come back with a more positive attitude. Otherwise we’re all miserable.

This made me wonder why we do this to ourselves. I am under no illusions that I am the only person who deprives herself this way. Nor am I a saint or martyr. I am a cranky, stressed out, caring, occasionally deranged person who wants to do what’s right for my in-laws. Somehow what is right for me never came into the equation. It’s as though I just don’t matter and that’s certainly not the way I have ever seen myself. Clearly this is an issue that requires more than a blog post to resolve. I just wanted to put it out there for others who find themselves in a similar boat. It’s important for all of us, but especially for caretakers, to realize that caring for ourselvs is just as important as caring for loved ones. Otherwise we wake up one day and realize our head is in a vice and about to pop like a pimple. Let’s have no more of that!  We deserve better for ourselves.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you desperately need the companionship and support of friends but can’t bring yourself to ask or even tell them that you’re in a bad place? This is one pattern of behavior I’ve honed to an art form. Rather than admit how I feel, I joke. It’s so much easier to make light of things than admit how dark they’ve gotten.

This is a pattern I developed in childhood. I was the oldest child of four born to two 16 year old parents. To say that the folks in our neighborhood were waiting with clucking tongues to see what failures we’d turn out to be would be an understatement. We often needed help – to pay rent, to cover school expenses, to replace clothes and other items lost in a fire. As a result I developed a deep aversion to seeking help because when I needed it in the past, there was a price to pay.

I can clearly remember receiving donations after my family had a serious fire. The nuns who ran my elementary school and the local church had taken up a collection. Rather than let my family determine what we needed, one of the nuns took me and my sister clothes shopping. It was a disaster. She refused to accept that I did not fit into girls’ sized clothing. As a result I ended up with a wardrobe of pants that split the first time I sat down in them. When I tried to explain things to the nun her response was that I should be grateful for the opportunity to get new clothes at all.

I remember when my maternal grandmother died and my mother asked her uncle (her mother’s brother) for a loan to cover the costs of opening the grave site. He refused and Mom borrowed the money from her boss. However her uncle proceeded to tell the rest of the family that he loaned her the money and she never paid him back.

I remember attending events for my father’s side of the family and realizing that we were the poor relations. There were always subtle little comments and attitudes that I sensed. Ways in which we were made to feel inferior. My father’s two sisters both had lovely homes in the suburbs with cars and other “white picket fence” accoutrements. We were often invited to their homes for a weekend but when we invited the cousins to visit us there was a subtle air of horror on my aunts’ expressions as thought we’d suggested some type of ritual sacrifice. The implication was that somehow where we lived and how we lived was beneath their children.

As a result of these experiences, as well as a possible genetic predisposition towards stubbornness and hard-headedness (what my mother likes to call “thickness”), asking for help was not high on our list of family skills. Unfortunately this is not something I’ve felt a need to change. Any “favor” that makes me feel looked down upon tends to raise my hackles.

Why am I bringing all this up? Because I have to assume I’m not the only person suffering from this malady. I seem to have a reduced 6 of Pentacles energy. I don’t mind giving but I hate receiving. I’m starting to realize that being able to ask for help and support is actually a sign of strength, not weakness. It shows that I’m confident enough in who I am to understand accepting aid is a powerful sign of self-confidence. It shows that I can accept assistance because doing so doesn’t make me inferior or weak. It makes me practical with a well-developed, healthy ego. Right now I can’t say that but it’s definitely a work in progress.

Yesterday i drew the ogam Duir/Oak

Green Man Tree Oracle Oak/Duir

 

Based on its meaning, I asked the following questions:

What are my greatest strengths? 6 of Cups
How do I use those strengths? 3 of Swords
How do my strengths hold me back? 4 of Cups R

I interpreted these cards this way:

My greatest strength is that I remember things – family stories, fun memories, etc. and I honor those memories.  The 3 of Swords suggests I use those memories as a tool to help me get over betrayal and heartache.  The 4 of Cups R suggests that sometimes holding onto those memories holds me back because they prevent me from admitting when I’m unhappy or dissatisfied with situations.  I feel I owe something to someone so I can’t say I don’t want to do something for them.

Today I drew the ogam Saille/Willow

Greenman Oracle Saille/Willow

 

Based on Erynn Rowan Laurie’s take on this Ogam in her book Ogam:  Weaving Word Wisdom, I asked the Tarot:  Where am I resisting the flow of my life? 4 of Cups, 3 of Swords R + 6 of Cups R

Drawing these same cards today is reinforcing the message from the 4 of Cups R Saturday. If I’m going with the flow in my life then I need to be honest about what is making me dissatisfied and creating a sense of ennui. I think the 3 of Swords R and 6 of Cups R are reinforcing the concept that there is no way to stop the heartache in this situation no matter which choice I make. And all the good memories and nostalgia in the world can’t make this better. This is what it is.

Perhaps these cards are giving me the message that I need to stop fighting the inevitable. It’s not a sign of failure on my part (even if it feels that way right now). It’s not because I’m weak or incapable. Their needs are just beyond my ability and capacity to provide for or fulfill. If I keep caring for them it will mean my life is on complete hold for an indefinite time. I don’t know if that’s fair to me or them. It will cause me to become resentful and angry. That won’t make me especially nurturing or caring.

I also have to think of their needs. Is it fair to my brother-in-law that his social contacts and experiences are limited to me and hubby? Is it fair to my mother-in-law that there might be treatments that might improve her life but we can’t provide them for her? Is it fair that hubby and I can’t even go out to dinner for an hour?

I don’t kid myself that life is always fair or just. It’s also sometimes very ugly and cruel. However in these circumstances there might be steps I can take that will change that. There might be resources available that will make things a bit easier and less stressful on us all. Accessing those resources isn’t begging or a sign of weakness or mean that we’ve failed. It means we’ve accepted the truth and realize we need help. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. It’s time I embrace that concept.

 

 

Hidden Realms Queen of Swords

Protection and solitude seem to be my keywords today.  The Queen of Swords reversed suggests that its time for me to sheath the sword a bit.  Intellect and objectivity are useful tools to a point but they aren’t helpful right now.  I think the weather. the situation and the sense of isolation are all wearing down on me.  I just don’t have the ability to take a walk and get away for a bit.  The snow has become a huge blanket coating the world and wrapping me in white oppression.  I feel as isolated as the Queen of Swords is often portrayed.

Looking at Mama Badger on the 4 of Pentacles I get the sense of being sheltered, protected and secure.  In many ways I’ve been playing Mama Badger and now I think I want someone to embody that energy for me.  Her young are hidden beneath the earth’s protective layer.  She guards them and tends to their needs because they are too defensive to care for themselves yet.  If I have to be isolated and alone I’d love to be babied too (for a little while at least).

This reading also reminded me that I’ve never really been mothered in that way.  It’s not my mother’s fault – she was hoping to find simple, unconditional love from her children.  Instead she had me with my angles, attitude and vague air of judgment.  I think my mother always felt that I found her wanting in some way; that she disappointed me.  As a child this was likely true.  The younger I was, the more certain I was of my correctness and more judgmental I was.

I’m sure I was something of a trail for my mother.  I have often said that I have always known she loves me but sometimes she doesn’t like me very much and she doesn’t truly understand me.  So there were often times I wanted to be nurtured but didn’t know how to ask and she didn’t know how to offer.  The Mama Badger on the 4 of Pentacles brings this back to mind.  I may yearn for nurturing, but like  a badger I can be dangerous and off-putting if approached.  So even if I wanted to feel protected and nurtured, I often resented the restrictions that came along with that.

Tarot of the Crone 6 of Swords Crone 9 of Disks

The other day I pondered what conflicts me about more assertively pursuing a career as a professional Tarot reader.  One of my main issues is the need to promote and market myself.  Another is that I’m not fully comfortable accepting reading requests when I know there will be times I’m not in the mood to proffer the requested service.  I’ve reached out to several friends about the issue and received some very helpful advice many of which involve changing my mindset about the entire process.

So today I decided to take another look at how to works towards settling this matter.  I drew the 6 of Swords which reminds me of a faceted gem or panes in a window.  On one level this image speaks to me of being a piece of a bigger whole; to make sure that Tarot readings are one part of who I am and what I do.  It’s a reminder that I can compartmentalize aspects of my life so that they create a comprehensive and complementary mosaic.

The 9 of Disks reminds me that no one can do it alone.  I need to make sure I have a community of friends and loved ones that can help me through times when I’m frustrated, annoyed or feel like a failure.  I need to build a safe space, whether virtual or real, where I can be myself and let it all hang out without worries that I’ll upset someone or be perceived in a negative light.

The two of these cards together remind me that life if a puzzle, a patchwork quilt of different experiences, different relationships and different desires.  I don’t have to always be “on” or in the mood to do readings for clients but what I must do is treat it as a profession and provide services to the best of my ability.  Even if I am not feeling in the mood the client has been brought to me by the Universe for a reason.  I own the client and the divine my respect and diligent efforts to give the best possible service.  My ego needs to be taken out of that equation.  It might be easy but at least now I have a clearer and more realistic attitude and approach to the situation.

Dark Goddess 6 of Earth Dark Goddess Ace of Earth

Generosity, giving, abundance and prosperity as well as the opportunity to give and be generous with others are the gifts that appear to be offered by Tsonokwa.  I have always loved the idea of potlach practiced by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest.  I don’t remember when I first heard of it but it appealed to me.  There is something very liberating about being able to distribute all of one’s wealth and possessions to others.  It is also a bit scary because giving up those things can also symbolize giving up who you are as a person right at this moment.  In American culture we often are our things.  The joke “he who has the most toys wins” has much more truth to it than we admit.  How many of us in this consumer society consider ourselves a success when we can buy whatever we want and can afford to discard items that are out of date?  We become greedy and hoard our possessions.  We want more.  As soon as the newest iPhone is released people flock to grab up a new one even if their current iPhone is working fine.  How many people fight and claw their way into stores on “Black Friday” to purchase items for themselves?  Tsonokwa reminds us that giving to others is often more satisfying than giving to ourselves.  Something I think we often lose sight of in our current world.

Gaia the Earth mother reminds me that I don’t near to fear that giving will leave me drained.  I can recharge and find new and abundant ways to recharge my batteries.  Looking at Gaia surrounded by the beauty and bounty of the earth, the idea struck me that spending some time each day just quietly sitting in nature might help me relax and recharge.  Even on the coldest day I can take a few moments outside to just seek the quiet and stillness.

The thing I find most frustrating about much of what I’m dealing with right now is that I know what I should or could do but I don’t do it.  I’m incredibly unmotivated.  I need to nurture and tend to myself and not lose sight of the fact that it’s not selfish to make sure I’m not exhausting all my resources.  They key to a successful potlach or the 6 of Earth is that there is reciprocity.  You may give a lot but you can expect others to give to you when you need it.  Perhaps I’m not being clear enough that I could use help.  Sometimes I make light of the situation rather than making clear statements.  If I want to manifest these changes then I need to change how I approach the situation too.  Otherwise I’ll find myself left in an empty, barren garden with nothing left to give.

Dark Goddess Strength Dark Goddess Empress

This is the third time I’ve drawn Strength from this deck.  Twice she has been reversed which suggests that while I have the inner strength to endure and survive a variety of experiences, sometimes that strength is too much.  It holds me back and prevents me from seeking or accepting advice, aid or support.  I get very caught up in standing on my own two feet.  I’ve always been proud of the fact that no one has ever handed me anything.  I’ve had to work for everything I’ve achieved.  That’s part of what makes it so difficult for me to admit I need help now.  The reality is that I do need help – I’m just not clear what type of help I need or maybe I just don’t know where to begin looking for it.

The Empress speaks to me of nurturing, prosperity, abundance and mothering.  It’s an amalgam of needing to be mothered myself and needing the financial resources to make some of this easier to handle.  I am The Empress to my in-laws right now and I hate it.  I never, never wanted to be anyone’s mother.  I know my limitations; the temperament, traits and skills necessary to be a mother are not in my repertoire.  Hell, I didn’t even like baby dolls when I was a child.  I have the utmost respect for women who stay home to raise their children, but I feel as though I’m slowly suffocating.  I have no time or energy for my own interests.  I don’t have the money to meet friends for lunch and even when I manage to find the cash I feel rushed and don’t enjoy myself.  I’m selfish and jealous of my time.  Having to devote myself to the care and nurturing of an ailing mother-in-law is something I feel that I need to and should do but it’s not something I enjoy.

So then what the hell are these two cards trying to tell me?  Strength reversed I rather think I know already – stop trying to be so strong on my own.  The Empress in this deck is the Black Madonna, a rather radical version of the Virgin Mary.  So her message to me might be that I need to take a radical approach towards nurturing and caretaking.  In some ways what I am doing is similar to raising a toddler however my mother-in-law will not improve and will never get better.  All I can do now is try to ensure she is comfortable and ease the years that remain to her while trying to maintain my own sanity.  I don’t know the answer to how I can achieve this but if I focus my energies on the issue perhaps I’ll find a solution. Or maybe I can brainstorm with some friends and see what they suggest.

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