I’m being deliberately provocative with the title of this blog post. I am a female and, as such, I was a girl when I was younger. However, I was not raised to think of myself as “just a girl”. I decided to write this post after reading an article a woman wrote about gender expectations and American Gods. This got me to thinking, pondering if you will. Why have I never felt the weight of gender expectations? In fact, I clearly remember a very vehement argument I once had with a former friend about sexism and gender in the workplace. It’s entirely possible that I have been denied promotions or suffered a lower salary because I am female, but if that’s the case I was as oblivious to it as I was to the Stations of the Cross in my childhood church. I simply plowed forward and did my job. If my behaviors upset or offended supervisors because I didn’t act in a typically female way, I either addressed it head on, was oblivious to it, or ignored it.

I have never been told that I could not achieve something because I’m “a girl”. I was never discouraged from trying or accomplishing something because “girls don’t do that”. Sure my parents tried to civilize me and teach me to behave but they also encouraged me to be independent and strong-willed. They regularly gave me the “would you (fill in the blank) just because everyone else does?” speech. I was never encouraged to downplay my intelligence because boys don’t like smart girls. I was never told I was too aggressive for a girl and should tone it down (in fact my father preferred to teach me the correct way to throw a punch). When boys touched me in ways I did not want, I punched them or kicked them in the balls. My nickname as an adolescent was “the Nutcracker”. At the same time, I accepted that if I was going to hit others I might get hit back. I couldn’t use the “I’m a girl” excuse. I was fine with this. Looking back, I was truly blessed to have two parents who never, ever fell victim to gender roles and stereotypes – at least not when it came to me. I remember one Easter my grandmother bought my sister and me matching outfits – they were royal blue pantsuits (think polyester button-down shirts and pants) with T-shirts that proclaimed “Anything boys can do, girls can do better” and a graphic of a girl in a baseball outfit getting ready to swing her bat. We LOVED those shirts and proudly wore them every chance we got. In fact, that saying became our unofficial motto throughout childhood.

I was also influenced by Greco-Roman and Norse mythology as a child. I identified with Athena, the wise virgin who owed nothing to a man (okay, I’m oversimplifying because that’s what I believed as a child). I loved Freya who was the leader of the Valkyries and free to sleep with whom she chose, even if they were dwarves. It wasn’t just independent female goddesses that appealed to me – they had to have a fierceness to them, a martial aspect as well. I loved goddesses who bowed down to no man or god. As I grew older and learned about Irish goddesses I felt a strong connection to many of them too. Once again, fierce feminine figures who were not bound to a male.

Looking back, I am also a product of my generation. I grew up in the 70s and clearly remember the hoopla that following the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. I remember how excited I was when Charlie’s Angels premiered! Yes, in retrospect it was a T&A show but as a young girl, all I saw were these tough, independent women who took on bad guys every week and triumphed. I was a fan of both Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter, Isis, and Electra Woman & Dyna Girl. I read Wonder Woman and Supergirl comic books. I remember being vaguely disappointed when the ERA was defeated. I didn’t fully understand what it was or why I wanted it but I knew that its failure was not a good thing for me. I remember having an epiphany during a religious class in Catholic high school when our teacher while conducting a cakes & wine ritual, informed us that ancient frescoes showed that women administered the sacraments in the early Christian church. I was floored! It never occurred to me that women could serve as priests. I often think that this was the pivotal moment that ultimately led me to pursue Paganism.

So, it occurs to me that if we don’t want to raise our daughters to be “just girls” we need to reinforce that message. We need to support them when they show interest in traditionally “ungirly” things or behave in non-girly ways. We also need to let them know that if they choose to pursue traditionally feminine pursuits, that is wonderful too. It’s so easy to denigrate traditional feminine pursuits, interests, and behaviors but that’s just as damaging as only allowing them to pursue these things. Some girls want to be fairy princesses and some want to be G.I. Joe. Some want to play with dolls and some want to play with toy guns. Some will do both and all of that is great and should be encouraged. For that matter, we should use the same approach with boys. I guess the important thing is to focus on what the child wants and needs and make sure to nurture and support them. Sounds easy and yet somehow we make it so complicated.

The Hermit – After having our world turned upside down we might find ourselves in need of a retreat; to regroup. Instead of considering what we need to do to conquer the world, we ponder what will allow us to fulfill ourselves. We are still searching the darkness and trying to forge our own path through the darkness but now it’s the darkness within ourselves. We’re working towards finding truths in our soul that will allow us to lead a more fulfilling life moving ahead.

Strength reminds us that enacting these types of changes in our lives requires fortitude and inner strength; the need to stick with it especially when the going gets rough. This card reminds me of people who, after some dramatic shift in their career or life, manage to pick themselves back up and move forward again. It symbolizes those who find the inner fortitude to add a second act to their lives. The divorced woman who finds her passion in life again. The middle-aged man who discovers that he still has a lot to offer. Instead of letting themselves become defeated and miserable, they pull themselves up and find new meaning in their lives. They fight to find fulfillment and satisfaction.

The Chariot is our mode of transportation to get to that new place of fulfillment and satisfaction. Once we’ve made the decision and set the intention to find new meaning in our lives in Strength, we need to find the way to make it happen. We need to pick up the reins, grab the steering wheel and drive ourselves towards our new destination. We need to determine what route will serve us best and what speed we intend to travel. Do we want to take our time and enjoy some rest stops or do we want to get there as fast as we can? Either way, the decision and the choices are all on us. Do we believe this part of our lives has been fated? Is it our destiny to make this journey? Only you can decide that for yourself.

The Lovers reflect all the choices that still remain in our journey through life. I often like to view fate or destiny as a series of points on a map that we must experience – how we get there and how long the journey takes is up to us. I like to think it’s the combination of destined experiences and personal preferences that are reflected by the two different horses in this card. How & where we choose to steer them is on us.

The Hierophant shows us as we step into our role as mentors, lore keepers, historians. We have now reached a point in our lives when we can teach and guide others. We can show them the options available to them; share our stories. We can help open their eyes to the traditions and history that preceded them and allow them to determine who they might wish to incorporate this knowledge and wisdom into their own lives.

The Emperor is our journey to self-sovereignty. We no longer need to build an external empire, instead, we need to feel as though we are finally in charge of our own lives. We are the masters of our fate; the lords of all we survey. We no longer see success as an external measure but rather an internal one of personal satisfaction and fulfillment. It’s not about money and possessions, it’s about feelings of accomplishment and pride.

The Empress is when we finally learn how to nurture and embrace our true selves. We finally allow ourselves to explore our internal creative energy. Instead of feeling the need to focus on external objects or people, we aim it at ourselves. We tend and care for our own secret gardens and learn to feed our inner needs and desires. It doesn’t make us selfish but rather self-centered in the best possible way. Tending to ourselves allows us to replenish our resources and be there for others when the need arises.

The High Priestess guards the veil behind her. It is not something she parts lightly because one what awaits behind it is revealed, it can never be unknown again. When she pulls it aside we realize that what it hides is our true selves. We are finally ready to learn, accept and embrace who we truly are and were meant to be. We realize that we need to do things for ourselves; to nurture our souls not because they meet someone else’s need. In my experience, when the veil parted I was faced with my feral thirteen year old self – the part of me I’d tried (and failed) to civilize over the years. I was able to reconnect with that energy and unleash her into my life today. It was quite an amazing experience.

The Magician allows us to realize that (much like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz), the power to make things happen in our lives was in our hands the entire time. We are not dependent upon others to grant us power; we merely need to accept and grasp it. We often hear people talk about helping to empower others but the truth is we cannot do that. We can only help them understand that the power lies within them and only they can use it. That is what The Magician shows us at this point in our journey. Perhaps it’s near the end of the road but the message is no less valuable.

The Fool is our final stop. This is when we embrace all our foolish qualities and trust in the world again as we prepare to take that leap and move beyond this life into something new and unexpected. We are still leaping into the unknown but now all our knowledge and wisdom has combined to make us realize that we truly know nothing and the journey is always about the experiences and the learning. We have to believe that what awaits beyond is something new and exciting. Perhaps this is why so many of us believe in an afterlife – we want to believe we are leaping into something,  not just nothingness.

The Perfecter – Celtic Wisdom Tarot

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

The Book says – Completion, perfect or satisfying resolution; the end or finalization of a cycle; successful achievement; triumph; self-respect; synthesis; a sense of communion with all life; clear self-expression and realization.
Reversed: Lack of momentum impedes endings; failure to achieve; inability to accept oneself; to allow changes or perfect closure, or to release potential; inability to see the wood for the trees; fixed of received views obscure self-essence.

Tarot Hunter’s Theories: This card speaks of balance and a sense of completeness. Nothing is missing; all the parts are present. There is a quiet feeling of self-worth and achievement. This can happen when we have worked hard to achieve something – a deep sense of personal satisfaction and inner peace. There is something about this card that suggests being centered; focused on our inner world and our inner needs. We no longer need to search the wide world over for excitement and adventure because at this particular moment in time we have found what we were looking for. The sense of well-being and joy just radiates from the center of this being. And it also suggests that if we

There is something about this card that suggests being centered; focused on our inner world and our inner needs. We no longer need to search the wide world over for excitement and adventure because at this particular moment in time we have found what we were looking for. The sense of well-being and joy just radiates from the center of this being. And it also suggests that if we blend our different parts and elements, allow ourselves to be at one with the world, we too can feel this blessed state. 

What I really love about this card is that it portrays this sense of well-being, peace, and blessedness as intrinsic to the being in the card. We are the source of this, not any external stimuli. All the external world can do is help us realize this fact. All the drugs, alcohol, sex or possessions in the world will not give us this feeling. They might create an illusory substitute which tides us over for a brief time, but ultimately its falseness rings through and we are left as empty and bereft as when we started. If we look within ourselves and realize the gifts we have and the fulfillment we can find; the sense of achievement and personal satisfaction that is ours for the taking, then we too can be radiant, blessed, perfected beings.

A Hierophant in flames

I have on occasion been told that I should teach something – Tarot, CPR, child abuse awareness, either because the speaker thought I would do it well or because my job required it of me. I can do it. In fact when I have been a presenter/trainer at various professional functions I often receive excellent reviews. I am a show-woman; a performer who feeds off the positive vibes I receive from satisfied attendees. However, I have always resisted pursuing teaching in a more structured, formal setting and I have never fully understood why. I do enjoy teaching but feel no need to become a teacher. Today was a chilly, rainy, grey day here so I found myself with some time to ponder this quirk.

Pearls of Wisdom Hierophant

One of my biggest obstacles is that I do not feel I have the expertise in any specific field to teach others about it. I have never been one of those folks who believes that as long as I am a few lessons ahead of my students then all will be well. I’m not criticising teachers who do use that approach (more power to you), it’s just not for me. I have a tendency to shoot from the hip; to wing it when I present a workshop. This can only work if I have enough knowledge and information in my brain that I can draw upon to supplement and enhance my notes. I can improvise but only if I’ve got a solid foundation upon which to stand which means I need to feel I have a full grasp of the information.

Transformational Sage

I’m also fairly undisciplined. I have neither the inclination nor the patience to create a curriculum. My approach is usually to created a bulleted outline of all the information I wish to be sure to present and then weave my ways among those points with some verve and theatricality. I admire teachers who can sit down and create lesson plans and curricula but I cannot. In the past this failing bothered me. It made feel unworthy. Today I realized it’s simply because my teaching style is more in line with my overall personality – fiery and rather erratic.

Wildwood Knight of Bows

If you ever look at a flame, even one that appears to be steadily burning, it flickers and twitches in an erratic pattern. Even when it seems at its strongest, it can unexpectedly die out. It is one of the reasons we cannot leave fire unattended – its erratic, unpredictable nature. Today I realized I am a bit like that flame. I can glow and dance with brilliant and mesmerizing intensity and then suddenly I’m burnt to embers with nothing left to give. That can be entertaining in a friend and even enjoyable in a one-time presenter. It’s rather frustrating in a teacher with whom one has signed up for a semester worth of courses; at least it would frustrate me to be taught by someone using that style.

Teaching styles seem to vary according to personality type. I’m sure there are teachers who are very watery & cuppish in their energies; appealing to students in a spiritual and emotional way. I’ve had several teachers who approach their job from a very theoretical, analytical viewpoint – all that swordsy air energy, as well as many that have a practical, down-to-earth approach to presenting their subject matter to students. I suppose it’s even possible that the different teaching styles are drawn to specific subjects – for example I would not be surprised to find that many teachers drawn to hard sciences have a very swords-ish approach to teaching, but that’s just a broad generalization and guesswork.

Celtic Wisdom Rememberer

So I have decided is that I may pursue or stumble into teaching opportunities in the future and I need to be careful and cautious in how I handle them. If I am asked to do a one day workshop, I can probably handle that with a minimal amount of stress on my part. Being a guest speaker or substitute presenter would probably offer the same kind of acceptable stresses and benefits. Where I would be ill-suited, and thus unfair to potential students, would be presiding over a long-term series of classes or workshops. I may be able to handle such an assignment but I do not believe I would be at my best and thus the students would be ill-served. I am fairly comfortable stating that I know my strengths and I know my bullshit. If I ever set myself up as a tenured professor type in any topic I think I’d have to call bullshit on myself. Of course that’s just me, everyone else’s mileage may vary.

Temperance – Wheel of Change Tarot

Wheel of Change Temperance

 

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

The Book says: Temperance is a symbol of the magic you experience in your life. Temperance is a card of integration; it points to the action required to actually create something new. You must be willing to stand like the goddess in the card, who physically combines the opposites, and like her you must take action. This action will place you in direct relationship with what has appeared to be separate and outside of you until now. Through the action of this important card you will find yourself involved in this dynamic part of this new relationship.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: I blend, I merge, I transform you. I am the crucible in which your different parts are heated and melded into one unit. I nurse you on blood and on milk, on fire and on water, on passion and on love. This is the message of the Goddess of Temperance. She offers us the polarities in life and teaches us how to forge it into a coherent whole. She teaches us how to integrate our different parts without diluting or losing their importance. She is not about mixing everything so that there is no distinction between them. But she does teach us how to swirl, spin and twirl those energies into a lovely design.

The goddess of Temperance reminds us that we don’t all need to believe the same things or behave in the same way. We are strengthened, enriched and enhanced by the differences. Just look at the Tarot community – we all benefit from the different and varied viewpoints we all bring to the table. On some level this card reminds me of the United States itself. We used to call ourselves the Melting Pot. But over the years we have learned the importance of honoring and celebrating our differences while we continue to work together for the greater good. The events following Sept 11th prove that we still have some work to do. But if we work with the goddess of Temperance and heed her magick and her lessons, perhaps we will ultimately be able to achieve it. We can begin to follow the Vulcan credo of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination). What a joyous moment that will be.

Last night I was watching an episode of Bewitched in which Darren Stevens once again demands Samantha stop using witchcraft. Most of the time I don’t pay much attention to his tantrums because you know somehow they’re going to be ignored anyway, but last night it really hit me. Perhaps it was because of a conversation with a friend during which we discussed deliberately dimming one’s light for a spouse, or parent or other loved one. It made me realize what has annoyed me about Bewitched (and to a lesser degree I Dream of Jeannie) for many years.

As a child I simply thought Darren Stevens and Major Nelson were silly not to enjoy the benefits their partners’ magical abilities could bring. I always though it would be wonderful to have such powers! As an adult woman facing impending cronehood I see it from a very different perspective. What I see now is a woman whose special gifts are being deliberately denigrated by a loved one. In both these examples it’s a husband/partner who does the damage but in reality I suppose it could be anyone we care about – a friend, a spouse, a sibling or even a parent. How many time in your own life have you deliberately downplayed a talent so as not to hurt the feelings of someone else?

On one level I find it outrageous that Darren Stevens feels he has the right to tell Samantha anything. She’s a grown woman and his partner not his child, but of course these shows were made at a different time with different attitudes and expectations about such things. Even if Darren or Major Nelson didn’t demand their magical partners not use their gifts, they could just as easily convey the same message by subtle emotional blackmail. Have you ever found yourself restraining your gifts so that you don’t insult a friend? I remember times when I would play trivia games with friends and I would deliberately miss answers because I was afraid they’d be insulted if I won again. Of course the implication is that if I keep defeating a friend at a game they won’t be my friend anymore. As an adult I don’t believe this has happened to me (or at least not very often) but I clearly remember times as a child when someone wouldn’t play with me anymore for similar reasons.

To be perfectly fair, I suppose there have been times when I had a similar effect on someone else – friends and family who were reluctant to share their good fortune with me because I might feel envious. I think incidences such as these are part of all relationships. I suppose the key to them become too much of a problem is to simply be aware of and address them. However these relatively minor incidences aren’t really what I mean. Samantha Stevens Syndrome is a persistent, consistent effort by a loved one to restrain, destroy or limit one’s gifts; an external force exerting pressure for us to conform.

I think that’s the part I find most offensive – the implication or outright statement that we must conform and confine ourselves to do so. I see it most frequently in women but that might be a generational thing – perhaps it has become a more equal opportunity offense now. How many assertive, outgoing, aggressive women have I seen tone themselves down in order to be more accepted and viewed as more traditionally feminine? I was very lucky in that my spouse has no problem with my pugnacious, aggressive side – in fact he enjoys it. However I can’t say that other men I’ve met in my life felt the same way. I’ve noticed that I have an especial problem with male authority figures – the Emperors of the world. I tend to lock horns with them, perhaps because I challenge their assumptions and they push my buttons. It’s a no-win scenario all around. Of course realizing it and changing the behavior are two very different things. I accept that my attitude limits me in ways that conforming would not but I’ve accepted that.

Pearls of Wisdom Sun

So I guess the takeaway from this post is simply to put it out there – have there been times in your life you’ve had to dim your own radiance, downplay your gifts for someone else? IF so , maybe now is a chance for you to reclaim and celebrate those gifts.  Let’s stop hiding our talents, our gifts, our beauty and our brains because of the tyranny of others!

Tarot Epiphanies

I love when I have epiphanies while doing something Tarot related. The other day I was reading a post on a FaceBook group about spirituality and Tarot. For some reason my brain clicked into overdrive and I suddenly realized something – one of the reasons I’ve been so resistant to establishing myself as a professional Tarot reading is because I do see Tarot as a spiritual tool. Charging money for spiritual work has always seem vaguely wrong to me, as though I’m prostituting a gift (just my opinion and no comment on anyone else’s choices). Or at least this is what I’ve often told myself.

While thinking about it I realized that I have invested as much time and effort into improving my Tarot skills and knowledge base as I did into completing both my masters degrees. Investing that much time, effort and money into something and then not using it is ridiculous. However this has been my pattern in the past, but no more! I feel a new determination to change my mindset about this issue. It’s time to at least make an attempt to create a successful career for myself as a professional, paid Tarot reader.

So instead of struggling with feelings of inadequacy as a reader or feeling that charging for readings is somehow sacrilegious, I’m going to start working on a plan. Right now I think email readings are the best option for me. It allows me flexibility to do readings when it’s convenient for me (usually late at night or early in the morning). I also don’t have to worry about one of the in-laws having a freak-out moment in the middle of things. Phone, instant message or Skype readings would be problematic for that very reason. I can do this, I know I can. My focus now will be on revamping my web site so that I have a page from which potential clients can learn a little about me and order a reading if they’re so inclined. It’s a baby step in the right direction.

I am Mouse, hear me squeak!

Mouse

While reading Game of Thrones the other day I realized that many of the more “heroic” characters are ultimately destroyed by their code of “honor”. Knights charge recklessly into battle regardless of whether their cause is just or if innocent lives will be destroyed. Young girls carry romanticized perceptions of good knights protecting ladies fair and good triumphing over evil. The reality is often quite different.

One of the characters, Arya Stark, sees herself as a young warrior, a wolf cub eager to fight for justice and honor. She slowly comes to realize that sometimes being a warrior wolf can be deadly and that being as unremarkable and unobtrusive as a mouse is much safer and likely to prolong one’s life. We may tell tales of heroic figures but how often do they die in pursuit of that immortality?

I once took a two day introductory workshop to Harner shamanic techniques. During the course of the workshop I learned that one of my power animals is Cougar. I found this thrilling – I can embrace and identify with cougar energy. Another power animal is Mouse I have to say that I was not as pleased with this. Mouse has always seemed weak, insignificant and unimportant. The more I thought about it the more I realized how important it would be for me to embrace Mouse energy. I remembered the tale of the mouse who pulled a thorn from a lion’s paw. I watched mice scurrying around in fields (and even rats in the NYC subway system – different energy but similar concept to the point I’m making). These tiny, “insignificant” creatures manage to survive by staying under the radar. They bravely scurry on the edges of our world and our consciousness. As long as they don’t draw attention to themselves, we ignore their existence and they continue to thrive. How often could that lesson have helped me in life?

Looking back I can find many examples of times when my aggressive Cougar nature and energy caused unnecessary problems. It created tensions and confrontations which could have been avoided. If my ego had allowed me to sit in a corner, unnoticed and unremarkable rather than shouting “look at me, look at me”, I might have found numerous situations to be less confrontational. There have been times when I’ll channel aggressive energy (I often envision myself as manifesting The Morrigan) while walking alone down dark NYC streets. I hope to project such a fearsome vibe that no one would dark mess with me. Then I realized that sometimes that kind of vibe challenges other to prove themselves more aggressive. So I decided to try projecting more Mouse energy – “I’m invisible. I can pass through crowds without being seen.” I was careful not to project fear but instead focused on being unnoticed. Regardless of which energy I projected, I say that I was never bothered.

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Readings the Song of Ice and Fire series and seeing the various personas projected by the different characters made me realize that sometimes acting fierce and aggressive can attract very confrontational energy to you. Choosing to be more circumspect and unobtrusive can help avoid unwanted attention and be more peaceful. I’m not saying that one should always embody Mouse energy. There are times when being confident, aggressive and even boisterously Cougar is more sensible and natural. I’m simply suggesting that is room in this world for Mouse energy too and being able to determine which energy is appropriate to the situation can help avoid unnecessary aggravation, confrontation and stress. There is a lot of strength and bravery in living a Mouse existence. Their unobtrusiveness is their survival mechanism. In a world filled with claws and teeth and traps, the fact that Mouse survives at all is something of a miracle. This realization has helped me appreciate, honor and embrace Mouse energy. It is as powerful and necessary as Cougar energy but much easier to keep under the radar.

Today I could not think of a topic so I asked the Norse Tarot “What should I share with others day?”  I drew The Empress aka Freya.  This tickles me because I am very drawn to the goddess Freya (I consider her one of my matron goddesses) but I’ve always been rather disconnected from The Empress.  I also don’t know if I would have selected Freya to represent The Empress’ energy.  Frigga seems more appropriate for this archetype while I see Freya as more connected to the High Priestess.  However I can also see arguments for this association too.

Norse Tarot Empress

So what have I learned about The Empress energy?  It is severely underappreciated and neglected, especially by women.  One of the aspects of The Empress that has always kept me at arm’s length is caregiving.  I have avoided being a caregiver for as long as I could.  I have never felt the desire to have children (and have never understood the urge to do so).  On some deep level, I have always known becoming a caregiver would require me to be more selfless and giving than I have ever felt capable and comfortable with being.  I have always been somewhat self-centered and narcissistic.  I had things to prove and goals to achieve.  I was going to be more than just someone’s mother and wife.  I also learned the hard way that children could chain you to an abusive husband and destructive marriage.  I was not going to repeat the mistakes of the women I’d seen around me.

I still think that was the right choice for me and that has been reinforced by my recent experiences.  I know that I was not meant to have children.  I can be quite protective of children but still feel no desire to have any of my own.  However becoming the primary caregiver for my in-laws has shown me that I do have the capacity to be a caregiver.  I’m not perfect – screaming and frustration seem to be par for the course., but I can do it.  I have the ability to put the needs of others ahead of my own.  I may not like it but I can do it.  Maybe at her core that is one of The Empress’ strengths.  She can put aside her own needs in order to care for others.

I don’t see this as a permanent condition or one that needs to be replicated ad nauseam (at least not in its healthiest expression) but when the need arises, The Empress can step up.  At the same time The Empress knows when to say “enough is enough” and put herself back in the center again.  Just as Freya knew how to get what she wanted, so is The Empress.  Freya realizes that love and death are part of the same cycle.  She may be famous for taking lovers as she chose but she was also the leader of the Valkyrie.  Half of all the chosen slain came to rest in Freya’s hall.  She might seem like the golden goddess of sex and love but she has a fully developed and well-honed dark side.  That was always my problem with The Empress – I could see her darker, selfish side.  She seemed like the perfect mother to me.  In my life experiences the perfect mother was an illusion that hid an emotionally needy, soul-sucking, weak personality.  Of course even this wasn’t necessarily true it was simply my interpretation of behaviors without knowing the causes.

I have come to appreciate The Empress’ energy, strength and gifts.  She can be selfless and giving but she can also be self-focused and hardline.  She may coddle and nurture but if she feels its becoming a long-term habit she will kick you in the behind.  I see her as having a low tolerance for bullshit.  At the same time she is caring and gentle when necessary.  For too long we have all bought into masculine definitions of power and strength.  Even women came to believe that true success could only be achieved via masculine outlets.  Now I think we are developing a more fully developed view of success.  For some women it may indeed  occur on a more masculine field of play while others may prefer pursuing creative outlets in more traditionally feminine fields.

I realize I will never be fully happy or comfortable as a caregiver and nurturer, that’s simply not in my personality.  However I have grown to deeply appreciate her gifts and strengths.  I have embraced this aspect of my personality and learned that Feminine energy and power are not weaker, they are simply different but just as important as masculine ones.

Wildwood 3 of Bows

The hooded figure on this card holds up his hand as he stands before a large tree just beyond two staves planted in the ground serving as a gateway.  Is he greeting me or warning me back?   He seems to guard a path that splits off behind him.  Is he a guardian of the crossroads?  How does his energy merge with the energy of this card?

The keyword on this cards is fulfillment.  In traditional Tarot interpretation it is often seen as representing projects or creative endeavors coming to fruition; seeing the fruits of our efforts come back to us.  In this card I get a sense that this hooded man is both guardian and guide.  Our efforts have brought us to this point but now the choice to go on must be made and he is there to remind us that all choices carry some peril with them.

Behind him on the left side the road seems to dip a bit lower while on the right it rises up.  Will the lower path take us to the Underworld?  For me, today, that is the sense I am getting.  With each week that passes I get a stronger sense that shadow work and embracing the dark side is becoming more important to me.  There are dark sides to myself and to the world that I still need to explore.  I’m very curious about this dark side.  I’ve always been partially drawn to it but I resisted its call because part of me felt that I needed to stay on a more “normal” path.  I was already odd enough without adding a layer of darkness.

I have been known to joke that I’m as deep and mysterious as a babbling stream.  To some degree this is true because this is the persona I don when I interact with people.  I’ve tried being more withholding and aloof but it never seems to work.  I think it’s a defense mechanism that I developed over the years to hide my shyness and genuine introverted nature.  As a child I would much rather lose myself in books of fantasy or mythology than interact with peers.  With rare exception, I just didn’t get it, I didn’t understand kids my own age.  I still don’t understand many of the drives and desires that motivate my peers.  Although there are times when I desire company and people, most times I am find being alone.  I find myself seeking answers to supernatural phenomenon and mythical creatures such as Sasquatch and UFOs.  I’ve already mentioned my fascination with serial killers and criminal behavior.  The darker side of human nature calls me.

I remember many years ago when I read The Mists of Avalon that Viviennne (at least I believe it was Vivienne) mentions that there are four faces to the Goddess and that Morgause manifested the fourth face – the dark mother.  This concept has called to me since.  As a child I understood Medea’s choice to kill her children in revenge for Jason’s betrayal.  As an adult I understand the rage and pain that drove Betty Broderick to shoot her husband and his new trophy wife.  I am not condoning these behaviors but I do understand them.  I identified with Persephone as Queen of the Underworld.  The need to separate from one’s mother and forge an independent identity (even if it is somewhat forced upon you) resonated with me.  I connect with Sekmet’s rampage through Egypt until she is calmed by blood-colored beer.  Even now I am (in many ways) dealing with death and dying on a daily basis.  I have walked through many dark places both internal and external and emerged transformed.  Maybe the message for me today is that my focus needs to be on finding a way to use those experiences to help and heal others.  It’s a lot to process.

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