Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Scary Tarot Treats for the Halloween Season

Normally, after my first-Sunday-of-the-month workshops, I like to discuss some of the ideas and tarot symbols we engaged.  Unfortunately, I had to turn my attention to completing another project, and now we’re more than half way through the month, so I don’t remember much.  However, I am looking forward to the November 6th session.  Even though we’ll be 6 days away from the 31st of October, the high energies of Halloween will still be crackling in the atmosphere.  We can stretch those energies, because astrological Halloween isn’t until November 8th, (15 degrees Scorpio).

A big part of the American Halloween is its emphasis on the spooky stuff, related to our childhood—and atavistic human—delight in experiencing the shivers, (even if some of the decorations and other props can get a bit hokey).  Although Neopagans celebrate Samhain as the Celtic New Year, and therefore also a time for celebrating the cycles of life and meditating upon the past, the future, and our connection to the Ancestor World, the Faery World, and the World of Nature, we can’t ignore the tricks and treats and fun and games that make up the greater festivities of our American Halloween.  So, in honor of this aspect of the Halloween season, I’m thinking about having “Things that Scare You,” as one of our themes.  When we can “tame” our fears, (the way Mexicans do by celebrating the Dia de los Muertos with sugar skulls and other amusements that treat death playfully), we assert power over them.

I’ve been wanting to do something special with the colorful, whimsical “The Halloween Tarot” by Kipling West and Karin Lee, so here is an exercise that we may try on the 6th, in the vein of “Things that Scare You.”  Shuffle the Halloween deck (or any deck) while posing a request like, “Please show me five things that scare me.”  Then, place your deck face up, (so you are looking at the pictures), and go through it until you find one of each: a Pumpkins card (Pentacles), Imps (Wands), Bats (Swords), Ghosts (Cups), and a Major Arcana card.  It doesn’t matter what order you find them in, just pull out the first of each type that you find.

To interpret these cards then, we are looking at them in terms of how the things these cards represent—both in terms of their traditional tarot associations and in terms of the unique imagery of the Halloween deck—may in some way denote some issue that is “scary” for you.  This could be some area of avoidance or resistance, if nothing else.  In this context, even cards that people normally regard and respond to as highly positive are to be scrutinized for what kind of anxieties they may arouse.  For example, “The Sun” card could denote a fear of “shining,” of showing off your talents or stepping into some public position, while the Ten of Cups/Ghosts, the happy family card, could denote some discomfort with family commitment, and the claims that “family ghosts” may have on you.  If you happen to draw a card that would normally be your significator, it could indicate a fear of “being yourself.” 

To apply the extra layer of the Halloween Tarot symbolism, you could view the Ghosts as representing things that haunt you emotionally, the Imps as things that get in your face or try to trip you up, and the Bats as the anxieties and obsessing over problems that are flitting around in your brain.  The pumpkins are a little harder to interpret in terms of a scare factor, because, they’re so colorful and cheerful.  Perhaps in the Pumpkins’/Pentacles’ material world associations, we can see them as symbols of the futility of clinging and craving in this ephemeral mortal life.  Jack-o-lanterns give off light for a few festive evenings at a time of year when the nights are getting longer and darker, but then they’re thrown on the trash heap to rot.  (This echoes the “gardens of Adonis” of ancient times, and gets into the Buddhist idea of “dukkha” = suffering / unsatisfactoriness, that all existence is change and separation.)  However, I don’t want to close this exercise on a downer note, because it is also in creating those little festive touches that we get to exercise some creativity, and also to exercise some caring, because we thereby offer a little cheer to our fellow beings.

By the way, the little manual that comes in the box with the Halloween Tarot cards is well written up by Karin Lee.  Though the lwb’s (little white booklets) that accompany tarot cards are necessarily brief, this one is pithy in its card interpretations and philosophical content.

Although the above exercise was created with the Halloween Tarot in mind, it will probably work well enough with other types of decks.  There are also some gothic and vampire decks out there, but I haven’t gotten around to obtaining any of these.  I imagine that the tone of the readings would certainly be darker, requiring a more emotionally mature group of querents.

Once you have had some time to contemplate what sort of fears your cards may point to, think about how to take action to mitigate them, and even ways that you can confront those fears as you align yourself with the powerful energy currents of Halloween.  (Refer to some of my past years’ blogposts on the “feng shui of Halloween.”)