Saturday, November 24, 2012

TAROT CARD IMAGES FOR MEDITATION


Now that we are into the winter months, I am no longer doing my casual first Sunday workshops, so I want to thank everyone who dropped by.  I am especially impressed by those of you who came more than once, because it means you were willing to put up with my Aspergerisms!


So, as gray winter days are a good time to curl up and meditate, I’ve been thinking about tarot card images as an aid to contemplation.  As mentioned in my post of June 16th that discussed a tarot spell for “Hanged Man” type situations, sometimes new artists’ renditions of the tarot cards allow you to come up with card juxtapositions that bring up some striking graphic interrelationships.  While playing around with the Osho Zen Tarot, (put out by the Osho International Foundation in Switzerland, with illustrations by Deva Padma, and manual edited by Sarito Carol Neiman), I found the layout below to be helpful for focusing the mind on meditation:

This is a layout where the card images flow well together, due to coloring plus the mirroring of images.  Notice also how facial imagery in the background is also part of the flow. 

If you have this deck, you could use this arrangement as a focusing exercise, by first laying down the “Turning In” card, (corresponding to the 4 of Cups).  The Osho write-up describes this as a person who “is just watching the antics of the mind.”  The act of watching the mind is the first step in Buddhist meditation training, because it helps you to understand the restless habits of your own mind, which is always in motion.  As the mind settles, however, it can then open to insight.  The Osho deck here also presents an interesting alternative image for the 4 of Cups--capturing the tensions inherent to this card, where the moving, fluid, emotional quality of Water contends with the settling quality of Earth.

To complete the layout, place “Silence” (The Star) above “Turning In,” then place the flanking images, “Inner Voice” (the High Priestess) and “Beyond Illusion” (Judgment) to show the progression from a receptive to an awakened mind.

As an alternative—perhaps if you don’t like the background images of discordant thoughts in the “Turning In” card, you could substitute the “Receptivity” card (corresponding to The Queen of Cups), or place “Receptivity” over “Turning In,” to get the card combination below:




Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fairy Tale Tarot and Paradigm Shifts



I have been going through my different fairy tale decks, which are “The Fairy Tale Tarot” by Lisa Hunt, The “Fairytale Tarot” by Karen Mahony (art by Alexandr Ukolov and Irena Triskova ), Isha and Mark Lerner’s “Inner Child” cards (illustrated by Christopher Guilfoil ), and “The Whimsical Tarot” by Mary Hanson Roberts.  (I know of at least one other fairy tale themed tarot deck that I don’t have, and there may well be others.)  The Hunt and Mahony decks use illustrations from tales and legends for all of their cards; the “Inner Child” and “Whimsical” decks use them for the Major Arcana and some, (not all), of the Minor Arcana.  I will bring them to the workshop tomorrow, in case anyone wants to work with them in the Tarot Round Robin or the Fairy Tale Village exercise.  Although I’ve had a longtime appreciation of fairy tales and folk legends, I find there are some stories represented in these cards that I’m unfamiliar with, and I have to refresh my memory regarding others, so I shall also bring the books that go with them.

In reacquainting myself with these fairy tales, I’m also considering different themes.  Among other things, I want to revisit the Western fairy tales to see if there are any cases similar to in Asian lore, where demons, monsters, goblins, etc. are converted into guardians and helpers, (and even holy men and women).  This reflects a different worldview than the Western dualism we’ve grown up with, that views everything through the lens of GOOD vs. EVIL, where the unredeemable forces of Absolute Evil are always out to get us.

In regions with a Buddhist sensibility, there are also different types of demons, goblins, and monsters—many of them quite horrifying—but when they do evil, it’s not that they are inherently committed to the destruction of everything good, but because they are ruled by their unrestrained senses and driven by greed, hatred, and delusion.  Of course, the core of the Buddha’s teaching is that all beings suffer from greed, hatred, and delusion, so everyone is enjoined to reflect, “I myself am not free of greed, hatred, and delusion …” so if I judge others, I must do so compassionately, with these things in mind.

This is a reason I find Asian fantasy genres, such as anime, (I’m a great admirer of Hayao Miyazaki, who I feel deserves more credit and honor as the new Disney), to be much more satisfying than the Good-vs-Evil, End-of-Days themed scenarios that American films and TV series have limited themselves to and seem unable to transcend.  Although our dualistic worldview has shackled the American imagination, a huge segment of the younger generation has grown up with anime.  This is something that the larger establishment seems unaware of, but I think it likely that this will eventually result in a paradigm shift that will affect all of our imaginative enterprises.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fairy Tale Adventures on October 7th

For this upcoming Sunday, October 7th, I plan to bring my “Fairytale Village” playset to the Triple Goddess bookstore in Okemos, so we can explore some of the ways that fairy tale archetypes play out in our lives.  The last time I did a public demonstration of this technique was in September of 2010, so if you haven’t previously had a chance to participate—or even if you have—come and join the fun.  (For more on using playsets in conjunction with tarot, see my article on the Dollhouse Oracle in the list of article links.)   We will also do the Tarot Round Robin, and I will bring along four different fairy tale decks in case anyone wants to try them out.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

FINDING YOUR TEACHER on September 2nd


As always, the first Sunday of September coincides with the Labor Day weekend, and I shall be back at the Triple Goddess for another free-and-casual magical chat / mini-workshop.  I come in for these special sessions even when the first Sunday is part of a holiday weekend, because there are still people who enjoy dropping in on our activities.  By the way, if you have weekend visitors who are open-minded, this is something you can take them to, where they can have a novel experience.

The theme for September is in line with back-to-school: we’ll explore ways that you can manifest / connect with a special teacher for this upcoming semester in the School of Life.  We’ll be working with Corrine Kenner’s “Wizards’ Tarot,” where every Major Arcana card represents a professor in a magical academy.  (If you have your own copy of the Wizards’ Tarot, do bring it along—if not, you can use my copy or a demonstrator deck.)  Don’t feel that you are too old or sophisticated to benefit from a teacher, because new learning experiences are always available if we are willing to open to them.  After identifying which teacher will be most immanent for you in the months to come, we’ll also look at what sort of learning situations may apply, even what type of “school supplies” you may be needing.  Additionally, we’ll explore a special technique for identifying the teaching personality that emerges in you as a result of these experiences.

Because some of the other themes we’ve explored this past year have included the magic of shining, the magic of opening, the magic of flowering, and the magic of interconnectedness, I will be curious to see if any of these ideas will be found to tie in with the magic of teaching and the magic of learning, as these archetypal influences express themselves in our readings.

Sunday’s activities will also include the “frontal lobes supercharge,” a bind-rune for mental potency, and the Tarot Round-Robin.  As mentioned in previous posts, I’m trying to keep the sessions shorter so that people don’t get fatigued, but I think the items on the agenda for Sunday will go relatively fast.

--And oh, by the way, I have been invited to demonstrate some tarot techniques at the Pagan Pride Day celebration, which will be on September 22nd, in Valhalla Park, in Holt, so I also hope to see you there!


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lammas Themes for Workshop on Sunday, August 5th


Because the first Sunday in August falls close to Lammas, (with its old pagan focus on the grain harvest and bread baking), I typically do something focused on The Mysteries of the Grain, which also gets us into Ancestor World connections and The Magic of Interconnectedness.  So, for a simple, fun activity for this Sunday at the Triple Goddess bookstore in Okemos, I will bring out the Animal Cracker Oracle, which is a fortune telling exercise that was inspired by old Prussian ritual bread baking traditions, and uses animal symbolism for fortune-telling.

For the special card reading exploration activity, I’m bringing along two types of oracle decks: Brian Froud’s “Faeries” Oracle, and Mason and Franklin’s “Fairy Circle” cards to demonstrate readings that explore ancient connections with the fairy folk.  (If you happen to own one of these decks, you are welcome to bring it along for your own use—otherwise we just take turns with the decks I have brought, or use demonstrator decks.) We will also do the Tarot Round Robin.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I am trying to trim the length of these sessions so they don’t get fatiguing, and I believe the above activities won’t run too long.  As always, these workshops are free and casual, so people can drop in and drop out as they feel like.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Planning for Shorter Sessions


I am making preparations for Sunday, August 5th, at the Triple Goddess.  However, I have noticed that these sessions have started to run rather longer, which may be asking too much of everybody’s endurance—especially in this hot weather.  I had intended these sessions to be more like “magical chats” where people could drop in, sit around and talk, and just come and go.  However, due to my obsessive-compulsive nature, I started packing in activities, and they became more like formal workshops.  On top of that, we have started doing the Tarot Round Robins as a regular thing, which people seem to like because everyone gets a “mega reading,” (and which I like, because it allows us to work with a greater variety of card decks), but this also takes up a good amount of time.

Therefore, I am thinking that I should trim back the activities to just one major theme activity plus the Tarot Round Robin, and then maybe one other short activity if the first theme activity wasn’t very long.

I do worry about pacing, because I don’t want to run through things so fast that I forget some of the major points that I wanted to share.  I also would like to be more open to my intuition, so that I can better respond to people’s questions and concerns.  One of the problems I have as an Asperger’s person is that my thoughts are always falling over each other, which makes it harder to stay attuned.  So, if you are a visitor and have asked me a question, or if we are going over your reading and you are wondering if there is more that could be said, be bold about battering me with questions to keep me in focus.  Feel free to hold my feet to the fire.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Shining Life Continued


Pursuing the idea of bringing shining gestures and shining moments into the balance of daily life, (in relation to Temperance, as well as the Two of Pentacles—the latter of which is a card that also came up a lot at our July 1st chat session), I recall a study I heard about on NPR, where people in the performing arts (such as members of an orchestra), were asked to bring some small element of change into what would otherwise have been repetitive performances, to make some small difference in their performances.  I don’t recall what methods the researchers used to gauge the audience reactions, but they did find that on the occasions when the performers were consciously trying to make a difference, the audience response was more enthusiastic, and the performances were rated more highly.  So, that extra element of mindfulness generated more shining performances.

By the way, when I talk about the magic of shining, though I may get into a lot of what may seem superficial, outward things, such as the paraphernalia one may make use of (as touched upon in the previous blogpost), or other aspects such as bringing qualities of shining into one’s personal appearance and presentation, the greater aim is cultivating an inner quality of shining, actually an internal transformation that effectively raises one’s “vibration.” 

However, I previously said I would get on to the subject of glamour bombing: this is a special type of magical performance, involving whimsical gestures contrived to bring a touch of magic into public spaces; the idea is to spark peoples’ imaginations—or at least their sense of fun--with glimpses of the fairy world.  A great number of glamour bombing techniques involve leaving curious (and often shiny) objects out for people to find.  These may be glittering signs or miniature scrolls with messages like “the gates are opening” or “the magic is real.”  Other techniques include leaving trails of flower petals or gluing mystical patterns of pennies to sidewalks.  For the bold and the dramatically gifted, more elaborate presentations may take the form of performances, such as dressing up as a fairy and putting on a little act.  The intent, here, is to give people delight: happening upon such objects or performances can create shining moments for whoever witnesses them.

Though glamour bombs tend to be ephemeral and fleeting, I would include certain types of public art such as the Ann Arbor fairy doors in this category, [see my April 28th blog entry], because they delight people with fairy imagery.

By the way, it just occurred to me that leaving a tarot card in some unexpected place can also spark magical intrigue.  One could place such cards as blessings, bringing in magical intent.  However, I’ll have to give some thought as to which cards would be ideal to leave in which places for which purposes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Magic of Shining in the Art of Life


As one of the themes for my July 1st workshop was “the magic of shining,” we touched on the idea of shining deeds/actions/gestures, etc. which then led to discussion of related concepts, including “glamour bombing” and the Judaic practice of “the beautification of a mitzvah.”  These things are on my mind, because I’ve been thinking about how to tie them in with my most recent daily one-card tarot readings from the “Art of Life” tarot deck by Charlene Livingstone.  So, I got the Temperance card, which features a Pissarro painting of a “Woman Washing Her Feet in a Brook” along with the Heraclitus quote, “The unlike is joined together, and from differences results the most beautiful harmony.”  Prior to that, I got the Two of Pentacles, featuring “Blue Dancers” by Degas, and FDR’s quote that happiness “lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”  So, I’m concerned with applying creative effort in bringing the unlike together in a shining manner.

A mitzvah (plural mitzvot) tends to be a ritual obligation related to fulfilling a commandment, and also acts as a blessing or brings blessings.  On a practical basis, this is often applied to a family’s ritual paraphernalia.  For example, in fulfilling the commandment to observe Shabbat, one might take extra care in setting out the Sabbath table with the most beautiful tableware and settings, Kiddush cup, candlesticks, etc.  When you can perform a ritual action or blessing beautifully, artfully, elegantly, you are making a shining gesture.  If your ritual calls for paraphernalia that can be beautified, this also brings in qualities of shining.  The extra attention you put into this brings a heightened level of mindfulness to the ritual act.  In addition to enhancing your attunement with Deity, you create shining moments.

Shining gestures need not be limited to religious devotions or magical actions: they can also be brought into ordinary routines, including personal transactions.  For example, when paying your babysitter or the kid who rakes your yard, rather than just handing him or her a wad of dollar bills, you could put the money into one of those little red envelopes with gold-embossed characters used for making cash gifts at Chinese New Year—even when it isn’t Chinese New Year.  (You can get the envelopes at Asian markets.)  

Putting extra style and flair into one’s actions is very much part of the African aesthetic.  At our workshop, I mentioned Robert Farris Thompson’s theories on how “the flash of spirit” is brought into Kongo decorative and performative arts in order to activate spiritual power and magic.  We also find this aesthetic at work in ordinary transactions.  So, if I recall correctly, (sorry—I have forgotten the source), I read the account of an anthropologist who loaned a local chieftain his typewriter, and as a “thank you” gesture, the chief had his head wife’s beautiful younger sister deliver the anthropologist three mangoes on a decorated plate.  The anthropologist noted the chief could have just handed him a bag of rice as an equivalent offering, but such a prosaic gesture would have gone against the culture’s way of doing things.  Instead, having a beautiful, high status woman present an arrangement of fruits that was decorative yet elegant in its simplicity elevated the act into a shining gesture, as well as a performance.

I will try to pursue the idea of bringing artfulness and beauty into magic, as well as the magic of everyday living, (and also try to explain a bit about glamour bombing), in upcoming blogposts.  Meanwhile, if any of my readers have ideas or personal examples for bringing the quality of shining into your actions, or just doing common things with a little extra flair, I would really enjoy hearing about them.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Some Thoughts on Seashell Divination


As I prepare for tomorrow’s workshop, I have been going through my notes on seashell divination.  Unfortunately, I have not yet gotten around to writing an article on this topic.  However, although these are my rough draft thoughts, here are some things to think about when working with seashells:

Mythical Associations:  As symbols of the Sacred Feminine, it can be said that all shells are emblems of the Goddess.  Also, their elemental Water symbolism links them to the Moon Goddess, who is ruler of the tides as well as the watery world of the Unconscious, as do their often globular shapes.  Of course, shells’ spiral structures evoke the Goddess’s dance of life.  Additionally, many shell names honor goddesses, including the groups known as Venus, Astarte, Lucine, and Semele clams; the Turban and Star-Shells of the genus Astraea; and individuals such as the Junonia.  Neptune and Triton also get their due, though male mythical figures are more seldom referenced.  A study of shell names would reveal other mythical figures, including nymphs and muses.  Goddesses may also be alluded to through their epithets and other imagery and associations.  Thus, the cowries, genus Cypraea, evoke Aphrodite, who was called the Cypraen, because she was believed to have come into being off the coast of Cyprus and had a central cult there.  Cowries can also allude to Demeter, because they reminded the ancients of little pigs, and pig images were offered as votives to Demeter.  If you are attracted to a shell which suggests some mythical figure, consider what that iconology may mean to you.

Tarot Symbolism:  Persons familiar with Tarot card meanings can make some creative connections with the symbolism of certain shells.  For example, snails, especially moon snails, have obvious associations with the Moon card, and also with the High Priestess and Empress, who are often depicted with lunar emblems, and the members of the Cups court, who are often depicted with shells.  As spiral forms, shells’ growth symbolism may be suggested in card illustrations which feature spiral lines, as in Crowley’s Thoth card deck’s Fool and Star.  Tarot associations may also be made through other graphic images.  The miter shells, so named because they resemble the headgear worn by leaders in certain religious hierarchies, suggest the Hierophant, and therefore his concern with the transmission of spiritual teachings.  (The Pontifical Miter is especially suggestive of the Hierophant’s crown, and so would make a good amulet to evoke Hierophant qualities.)  Because carrier shells attach other shells to their backs as a form of camouflage, they suggest the 10 of Wands, which depicts a man carrying a heavy load.  However, some species of carrier shells limit their attachments or even remove them when they get to a certain stage, and the man portrayed in the 10 of Wands appears to be headed toward a destination where he can unload. 

Diet:  A mollusk’s feeding habits can be considered when contemplating its general symbolism.  While some of them graze on algae and other plant materials, others are predators who devour other mollusks after drilling holes in their shells, smothering them, or prying them apart.  The cone shells are noteworthy, here, for being able to paralyze their prey with their venomous stingers.  Therefore, I sometimes interpret cones and others as “The Dangerous Feminine,” which can be positive or negative, depending on the overall context of your interpretation.  That is why cone shells have been suggested for use in protective magic.

Colonial animals:  Some of the main forms in which we find corals are in tight, compact colonies (e.g. brain, star, or rose corals), branching colonies (as in staghorn, tube, or bush corals), and as free-living, individual polyps.  As corals are best known to us for their collective lifestyle and their ability to build structures, your choice of a piece of coral may say something about your linking to society and how you structure your life.  A compact form may indicate that you recognize a need to be more connected to others.  Consider how the Japanese have a word for an emotion that we haven’t recognized as an emotion: the joy of being part of a group.  Also, how can you bring collective action into your personal goals?  Branching corals may indicate a desire to take your community in new directions, while the choice of a single polyp may point to a more solitary existence.  Of course, as human beings, we are not confined to any one of these lifestyles, but can make different choices at different phases of life.
            Your choice of coral may also point to some survival strategies.  Branching corals have a fast and spreading growth pattern, while the more compact corals are slower growing, but are able to take more of a pounding from the surf.  The symbolism of the coral also gets into issues of rival communities and resources, which is why Michelle Hanson’s “Ocean Oracle” labels the coral card, “competition.”  Because corals vie with mollusks for the calcium in their environment, they produce substances that repel mollusks.

Clinging:  Limpets and barnacles are remarkable for their ability to cling to rocks in the roughest zone of the surf, so they suggest qualities of tenaciousness and the ability to survive in a hostile environment.  (Barnacles are more of a nuisance for humans, because they create drag by covering the hulls of boats; cleaning them off is a very difficult chore.)  The question for you as a human is how survival conditions affect your choices.  For example, in a hard times economy, a job seeker may be advised to take the first job that he or she is offered, and hang on to it for dear life.  In other contexts, limpets and barnacles may indicate clinging to people or to faith, or other such metaphors.

One or Two-piece Shells:  When we think of shells, the forms that usually come to mind are either the Univalves (aka Gastropods) such as snails, whelks, periwinkles, and conches, or the Bivalves (Pelecypods) such as the clams, cockles, oysters, mussels, and scallops.  This symbolism brings up issues of Self and Other, and how they affect our experience of Wholeness.  Selecting a clam or cockle may express your need to somewhat modify your actions and take another person into consideration.  If you select a shell of which only one half is present, there may be some issues regarding a partner who is not present for you in some way.  A special case is the jingle shell, which is seldom found with both halves, because one half is more likely to remain clinging to its rock.  Jingles as well as some other types of ark shells, oysters, and others which have asymmetrical halves may also say something about inequality in a relationship.

Well, those are my thoughts for now.  For those of you who have some treasured seashells, I hope this will enhance your enjoyment.  Always remember that they once housed living beings, so we have to be respectful of their ecological needs.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sunday’s Workshop: Seashell Oracle and The Magic of Shining


July 1st, being the first Sunday of the month, I’ll be back at The Triple Goddess doing some themes around the recent summer solstice.  So, I will be demonstrating mixed deck readings, tarot magic, and other magic techniques that explore “the magic of shining,” as the solstice is the shining high noon of the year.  (For more discussion of the magic of shining, refer to my blogposts of 6/24-25/2011, and 7/25/2011.)  Because this is also the time of year that people think of heading for the beach, we will also work with the seashell oracle and seashell spells, plus mixed readings with the Mermaids tarot and Pirates tarot, including a treasure hunt through the cards.  (For more on these topics, see my blogposts of 6/24/2011, and 7/19/2010.)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

More on Tarot Spells with The Hanged Man


One of the fun things about working with new artists’ tarot decks is seeing how the artwork can reveal new graphic relationships between different cards, and how this can be meaningful to divination and also to the construction of tarot spells.

So, my last post described a tarot spell for reversing Hanged Man-type situations, where you feel that your life is in a state of suspension.  One variation of this spell suggests laying out The Hanged Man, The Wheel, and The World while visualizing the cycle of change that can bring you to the idealized position of the dancing woman in The World, (of which The Hanged Man is something of a reversed mirror image).  Comparing how this combination of cards looks in different decks, this particular spell layout makes some striking graphic connections when you use Ciro Marchetti’s “Legacy of the Divine” tarot.  It happens that the man featured in The Hanged Man is the same figure as in The Wheel, as well as in the World; (as an Everyman figure, he is also The Fool and is featured as a prisoner of The Devil).  In the arrangement of cards which I will attempt to upload, (I hope I can insert this in the right place), you can see how nicely he can tumble from the Hanged Man position, onto the turning Wheel, until he flips back to The World position.


By the way, I like how the Cirque de Soleil-type artistry adds to the moving energy of this card combination.  In Marchetti’s other deck, “The Guilded Tarot,” there is also some graphic resonance between The Hanged Man and The Wheel, because The Wheel features a zodiac and the hanging man is suspended from a sun wheel.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tarot Spell for Hanged Man Situations


At the prior week’s magical chat session, where we were doing Dollhouse readings and Tarot Round Robins, The Hanged Man card came up several times, as did The World card.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember the contexts, but we got to talking about how The Hanged Man is often a reversed image of The World.  That has led me to think about tarot spells for reversing Hanged Man type frustrations.

In old, Marseilles-type tarot decks, as well as in the Rider-Waite-Smith, both the figures of the dancing woman in The World and the hanging man have a leg crossed behind their backs, and then the torso/head areas make something of a triangle, so that in The World you have the triangle of ascending spirituality surmounting the cross of materiality, whereas in The Hanged Man, the cross is on top and the triangle points downward.  In “The Book of Tarot,” Fred Gettings makes additional observations about the graphic similarities and mirroring between these two cards.  As The World can be seen as an ideal state of being, Gettings explains The Hanged Man as depicting how, “man as an invisible life force is upside-down, that human life as it is now being lived is somehow unnatural” [p. 147].  Gettings would apply this not just to the readings of individuals, but to the human condition itself.  However, he sees this as a phase in human life and development, for “we must presume that the condition of being a hanging man must be necessary for the evolution of the anima mundi, for the spiritual development of the world” [71].

In terms of how we experience this in everyday life, I’ve noticed The Hanged Man often comes up in life situations where an individual feels he or she is making no progress, or in more dramatic situations, where it feels like life has been turned upside-down.  So, for a tarot spell to remedy these kinds of situations:

1)  Lay down The Hanged Man and think about your current situation, and why it has you feeling tied up, or disoriented, or with your life in suspension.

2)  Think about what sort of steps you could take, or attitudinal changes you could make, to get you into a better place and bring about a more ideal life situation.  Then, select whichever tarot card best seems to you to denote the changes you need to bring about, and lay it to the right of The Hanged Man.  If you can’t think of a specific card, you could set down Major Arcana #10, The Wheel of Fortune, to denote the general process of change, including changes for the better to be brought about by your Higher Powers, when you are not well able to envision or articulate the changes you need.  Think about how the turning wheel brings that which has been reversed back to an upright position.

3)  Next, lay down The World card, and envision yourself in an all-around improved situation and better state of being as a result of having uprighted yourself and rejoined the dance of life on better footing.  Recall this idealized image of yourself throughout your days and weeks, as the new you to strive for.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

For June: The House of Your Life


Time flies, and coming up this Sunday, June 3rd, is my next tarot magic workshop at Triple Goddess.  The special activity for June is the Dollhouse Oracle.  By inserting tarot cards into the rooms of the pop-up dollhouses which I will be bringing along, you can see what’s going on in “the house of your life,” as so many metaphors for being are expressed in terms of living spaces and architectural features.  (For an article on the Dollhouse Oracle, go to http://www.llewellyn.com/journal/article/2044, or click on the link in the articles list in the left-hand column.)

We will also be doing the Tarot Round Robin, as I have decided to make this a monthly thing.  (For an explanation of this technique, refer to the post for March 26th.)  The Round Robin allows us to “crowd source to Spirit” by bringing our collective powers to bear on each individual in turn, and it also allows us to familiarize ourselves with a greater variety of tarot decks and other types of oracle decks.  Because we discuss the different cards for each Person’s reading, we also become more engaged with the cards, as well as with each other.

Going back to the idea of the house as metaphor of life: whether or not you’ll be doing a dollhouse reading, it’s interesting to think about domestic and architectural imagery in tarot readings in general.  The tarot decks in my collection actually have little in the way of domestic interior scenes or illustrations of architectural features—though the original Rider-Waite-Smith deck actually seems to have the most, (though more of them exteriors).  Since this is a theme that has not been over-worked, for anyone thinking of designing a new tarot or oracle deck, there’s no reason one couldn’t work in more architectural and domestic material symbolism.

Here are a few examples from card decks that do feature some household scenes:

-- In Ciro Marchetti’s “Legacy of the Divine Tarot,” the 10 of Cups portrays a dog and cat cuddled by the hearth-fire.  This card can hold special meaning for those of us with pet-centric households.

-- The “4” cards, being concerned with material foundations, can denote issues around house and home, so Martin Cannon’s and Ellen Cannon Reed’s “Witches Tarot” features a picture of two children running across the fenced grounds of a stately manor for its 4 of Pentacles.  This imagery recalls both the RWS 6 of Cups and 10 of Pentacles, and is less negative and judgmental than some other artists’ portrayals of the 4 of Pentacles.

-- Although Joanna Powell Colbert’s “Gaian Tarot” favors outdoor nature scenes, the 3 of Earth portrays women making herbal preparations in the kitchen, and The Emperor features a man carving a decorative post for his home.  Also, the 4 of Air features a bird’s nest with four eggs.  This catches some of the tension inherent in the 4 of Swords, because a nest is ephemeral and exposed to the elements, yet it is also a secure and cozy structure.

Collette Baron-Reid’s “The Enchanted Map” oracle has a card labeled “Home,” which is an exquisite illustration of a magically organic dwelling.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Deck Mixing with Faery/Fairy Oracles


At last Sunday’s workshop, we looked at ways that fairy energies can be experienced in everyday life.  To do this, each person had first drawn a “faery friend,” from Brian Froud’s Faeries Oracle.  (Refer to the last post on doing a little greeting ritual to enlist the faery friend’s helpful energies.)  Next, we took out different tarot decks or other types of oracle decks, while posing questions like, “Please show me how my faery friend can be active in my life.”  Then, one inserts the faery card into the deck, anywhere, then pulls it out again along with the cards to either side of it. That nature of the flanking cards can tell you something about the area of life where you have the potential to encounter some fairy magic. 

As discussed elsewhere in this blog, areas of life where a person can experience some fairy magic include anything we do to commune with nature, engaging the spirits of one’s home and land, Ancestor World connections, creative work and craftsmanship, and the life of dreams and the imagination.  Some other things to think about while contemplating your reading include: Do the fairy’s energies harmonize with the flanking cards?  If the overall reading is positive, how can you turn it into a spell to manifest those good energies?  If the overall reading is negative, how can you alter your dream of reality to bring in more positive influences?

You can also frame your questions for advice, such as, “Please show me how I can activate some fairy magic in my life.”  In that case, you would interpret the cards as offering suggestions for things you can do to access those fairy world energies.

This technique of inserting a card from one type of deck into a quite different type of deck in order to enlarge your understanding can be used for a number of other purposes beside fairy readings.  For example, if you have a particular tarot card that keeps recurring in your readings, to learn more about how that particular card’s qualities are active in your life, you could get out a different type of oracle deck, and insert your tarot card into it while shuffling and posing the question, “How do the energies of such-and-such-a-card operate in my life?”

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fun with Faery Friends


On Sunday I will be demonstrating some things you can do with fairy-themed oracle decks, particularly with Brian Froud’s Faeries’ Oracle, and, if time permits with Mason and Franklin’s Fairy Ring deck.  On previous occasions when I have taken people through exercises with these decks, some people have told me that they already own the decks, but never actually use them.  (A lot of people buy decks as collectors, or just because they like the art.)  One of the things I have been hoping to accomplish through my workshops and through my writing is to offer ways that we can add a little bit of enchantment to daily life, and at the same time get more use and pleasure out of our card decks and other materia magica.  (This includes putting everyday objects to magical uses.)

By the way, you don’t have to own or purchase any of the fairy decks or other decks to participate in the activities planned for Sunday’s session, but I will be giving out “Faery Friends,” (cards from the Froud deck), for people to take home as talismans.  (I get a supply of extra cards to use as give-aways by buying used decks in good condition; if you like the idea of handing out talismanic cards to friends, this is something that could also be done with spare tarot decks and other types of decks.)  When giving out the Faery Friends, I have people go through a little ritual, because some of the faeries in the Froud deck (as well as other fairy-themed decks) can be tricksters.  Others are associated with the darker side of nature, though the Frouds emphasize that all of their faerie personalities—even the scary ones—are there to serve as teachers.

The ritual is a simple greeting.  As you pull a card from the deck, say something like, “I greet you friends in the world of Faery.  Show me your friendly faces, show me your happy faces.  Come and be my friends today.”  When you perform this ritual, even the dark fairies or trickster fairies will use their unique talents to help you.  Fairies will help people when politely asked for help, because it’s part of the Fairy Code—and because asking for help is in itself a magical act.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fairy Doors, Fairy Shrines


While thinking about how we could use fairy cards (such as Froud’s Faeries’ Oracle or Mason and Franklin’s Fairy Ring decks) in creative projects such as altar arrangements and fairy shrines, I recalled that the city of Ann Arbor has become known for a number of “fairy doors” that have appeared on the sides of buildings about town.  These colorfully detailed miniature doors are a project of the artist Jonathan B. Wright, [urban-fairies.com].  When I did a keyword search on “Ann Arbor” and “fairy doors,” I read a number of accounts from tourists who related that looking for the fairy doors added much fun to their visits, as well as residents who feel that the doors enhance their delight in their community.  The Ann Arbor fairy doors don’t actually open up, but it’s fun to imagine what sort of miniature scenes one could peep into if they did.

It occurred to me that persons wishing to create little fairy shrines at home, but who don’t have carpentry skills, could purchase miniature doors from dollhouse shops or websites, and mount/affix them to walls, trees, fences, boulders, etc.  For doors and windows that can be opened, you could set them into some kind of a framed backing, with one of the fairy oracle cards (or any other fairy images) inserted, so you could have the pleasure of opening the door to greet a fairy friend.  This would also activate “the magic of opening,” and traditionally fairies do help us open to magical adventures and insights.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Upcoming themes: Faery World and the Magic of Flowering


Looking forward to my next workshop: because the month of May opens with Beltane, which is an important festival in fairy lore, I turn my thoughts to special things we can do with fairy-themed tarot decks and oracle cards.  My magical chat session for May will be on the 6th, (the first Sunday in May), at the Triple Goddess, from 1pm to 3pm.

I particularly like to work with Brian Froud’s “Faeries' Oracle” cards, because the faery personalities portrayed more directly engage the viewer.  (Some of the Froud faeries are from traditional lore, while others are “revealed” faeries.)  I also use the “Fairy Ring” oracle by Paul Mason and Anna Franklin, which portrays fairy types from the British Isles.  Along with these, we might bring in some tarot decks that work fairies into tarot illustrations.

Another theme for May is “the magic of flowering,” because this is when so many wild flowers as well as other flowers are in bloom.  (This follows the “magic of opening,” which we discussed in relation to the beginning of April.)  Faeries are concerned with flowering because traditionally, the good energies raised by their dances, revels, and processions enhance Nature’s fertility.  Because fairies appreciate beauty, laughter, and celebration, anything you do to generate these qualities energizes the fairies, which in turn sends more good energy to the green-sphere and to what my friend Fred Adams called “the Imagination of the Earth,” Gaia Chthon.  There are all kinds of theories about who or what fairies are, but I believe a number of fairy encounters are contacts between human minds and various intelligences in Nature, including the Imagination of the Earth.

So, among other things, I’m planning the usual exercises for May, which include giving out “Faery Friends” (Froud cards) as talismans to keep, pairing the Faery Friends with Doreen Virtue “Fairy Messages” cards to give the faeries a voice, and inserting the faery cards into regular tarot decks and other decks, to see how Faery World energies might open/blossom out into other areas of our lives.  Even if you’ve seen these techniques demonstrated before, there is always something new to learn about cultivating relationship with Faerie.

Monday, March 26, 2012

GETTING READY FOR THE FOOL’S BIG ADVENTURE ON APRIL 1ST


This Sunday, April 1st, I’ll be holding my first magical chat of the year at the Triple Goddess Bookstore in Okemos, Michigan.  This is a special day for honoring THE FOOL WITHIN—and we all have one—so for Sunday’s readings and exercises, we will play up our positive Fool qualities so that we can see and experience life as a journey, rather than a destination.  Themes for the day include “The Magical Fool,” “Magical Surprises," “The Magic of Opening," and “The Magic of Resurrection.”

If you can’t be with us, but would like to do something special for April Fool’s day, here is a tarot exercise we’ll be doing, with a card search based on The Fool:  As you shuffle and cut your deck, pose a request like, “Please show me the next episode in my Fool’s Big Adventure.”  Then, place the card deck face up, and go through your stack of cards until you find The Fool, as well as the cards flanking The Fool.  Take note of any significant images in your Fool card, as well as the flanking cards.

In considering the themes that tie April Fool’s Day to Spring Equinox and the month of April:  April is thought to take its name from “aperio,” “I open,” because it formerly “opened up” the new year.  However, April may also take its name from an epithet of Aphrodite, “Aphrilis,” associated with the potency of life in Spring.  Aphrodite also bestows “golden gifts” that help us open to love and pleasure.  Does the imagery in your reading connect The Fool with the magic of opening?

Another theme for Spring and April is Resurrection and Renewal, as new life bursts forth from the seemingly dead earth.  The Fool has many juven-ile qualities, so, does the imagery in your reading connect The Fool with re-juven-ation?

Sometimes it may feel like the Universe is playing a cosmic joke on you, yet, such situations can also bring you new psychic life, creative fertility, and access to knowledge.  Does the imagery in your reading connect The Fool with cosmic jokes and magical surprises?

Note that in addition to the above exercise, as well as various other spells and reading techniques that we’ll play around with, I think it would be a good idea to do the “Tarot Round Robin,” (which we experimented with last fall), as a regular thing, both to take advantage of group energies as well as the opportunity to work with a larger number of card decks.  To do this, we go around the circle, focusing on one person at a time, while everybody else draws a card for him or her from their chosen decks.   While doing this, we try to take note of whether there are any special themes or recurring images that emerge, or any special relationships between different cards.  We also try to share any thoughts or impressions that came to mind as we were drawing each person's card.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

LOOKING FORWARD TO APRIL FOOL’S DAY


Signs of Spring are everywhere here in mid-Michigan, and I am ready to begin another round of “magical chats” at the Triple Goddess bookstore in Okemos.  These are free and casual workshop-like sessions where people are free to drop in and drop out, participate, kibbitz, or just look on as I demonstrate tarot techniques and we engage other magical media.  During these sessions, we discuss each participant’s tarot readings along different themes or topics. (If you are uncomfortable about having a group analyze your readings, it’s OK if you don’t participate in these segments.)  I usually bring out some alternative oracle decks and others that I’m just starting to familiarize myself with, to take advantage of the insights that come up in the group situation.  Also, in the belief that there is a World of Spirit, and spirits of loved ones and others who take an interest in our well-being, and who are likely to converge at a high-vibration place like the Triple Goddess, we have a chance to “crowd-source to Spirit,” benefitting from the stronger connections to a greater pool of knowledge.

For these reasons, I like to emphasize--and would like to do a better job of --encouraging spontaneity on the part of all participants in expressing any thoughts that pop into their minds.  Please don’t be embarrassed to speak up; feel free to interrupt.  Furthermore, when people come together in a group, even if only momentarily, it is often because they may be dealing with some parallel issues.  Therefore, many of the things that come up in individual readings will have messages of significance to the larger group.  Whatever we may be discussing, if a certain thought pops into your head, or you feel a sudden urge to make a comment—even if it seems silly or way off base—it may be spiritually inspired, and something that somebody in the group needs to hear.

Right at the moment, I’m thinking about themes around “The Fool” card, and I’ve also been thinking about the Romany (gypsies), and the central role that the open road (the “boro drom” or “lungo drom”) used to play in their culture.  Numerous tarot writers have commented on “the Fool’s Journey,” and the Fool can be seen as a character who has taken to the road.  In the book, “A Romany Life,” written by Gipsy Petulengro in 1936, the author relates, “The fascination of the road to my way of thinking is due to two things: (1) that your time is all your own, and (2) the people you meet on your way.  The people one meets on the road are nearly always original and unusual” (229).  I believe I recall having read in John Stilgoe’s book on changes in the American Landscape, that back in the olden days, people rarely went out of their village orbit.  So, going out on the road to travel was a somewhat scary and very awe-inspiring experience for many.  That’s why there are a lot of superstitions around this topic, and it’s also an archetypal experience often treated in literature.

That leads one to think about the Fool’s Journey out on the road.  Although many of the characters in the tarot are portrayed in static or settled positions, it seems that one could design a tarot deck based on characters met along the road.

P.S. -- To people who have responded to various posts--thanks for sharing your thoughts and information, and my apologies for being so bad about not regularly checking the blogsite to enable the comments.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Nature Spirits in the Roots of Carnival


Clarifying something I said in my last post, to the effect that the Mardi Gras carnival celebrations lack the otherworldly connections of Halloween (Samhain), I meant that they have fewer vestiges of their pagan roots as they are currently practiced in the U.S.  However, the case can be made that European carnival traditions grew out of springtime rituals of rebirth that awakened nature spirits, along with the god Dionysius—who represented the spirit of green life and fructifying moisture.  The personality of Dionysius has been expressed in many forms, and his cult has had many permutations, but a major part of his story came from Thrace, (the Balkans), where he was often pictured as a young man in a mother-son relationship with the goddess Zemele (aka Mater Zemyna, “The Moist Mother Earth”), that paralleled the Demeter-Persephone mother-daughter relationship.

Similar to the Persephone legend, there are variants of the Dionysius myth where he dies and is reborn, and in other legends, he is a son of Demeter or husband of Persephone.  As the principle of green nature and life-giving moisture, Dionysius is associated not just with drink, but with ivy and other greenery, fruit trees, and trees in general.  (The forests are described as his flocks.)  Another legend credits him with the gift of honey.  His association with grapes and wine came later, as these were not cultivated in the more northerly regions where he originated, and are also products of later civilization.  Note that the idea of Dionysius as moisture principle ties in with what I said previously about spring meltwater moving through the landscape, as well as the sap rising in the trees.  Relate Dionysius as a force in nature to the lines from the Dylan Thomas poem, “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower …”

Masked processions constituted a very significant part of the Dionysian worship.  As in art, the god was always accompanied by a throng of nature spirits, so in the cult worship, his followers dressed up as nature spirits.  In part, his followers did this so they could feel closer to their god, but the Dionysian mysteries were also aimed at enabling his followers to enjoy a form of immortality by being reincarnated as nature spirits in the company of their god of nature.  So, there we have a Spirit-World connection with the modern Mardi Gras seasonal processions, even though the mystical origins have been forgotten.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Movement of Festival Energies


 With Mardi Gras coming up, I am musing on the magical potentials of carnival traditions.  Because I was not raised catholic, this holiday has no traditional religious associations for me, and as I have never had a taste for alcohol, I also to do not view it as an opportunity for excess.  Nevertheless, I have a romantic affinity for New Orleans, and whenever some intense festival energy is being generated somewhere, I think about the potential magic that can be generated.  In parts of the world where Carnival is practiced, masses of people are brought together, often in masked dances and processions, which moves streams of energy through a community, similar to what I have discussed in my posts on the “feng shui of Halloween.”  Unfortunately, although Carnival is very colorful, it lacks the profundity of Halloween, because it doesn’t make that Ancestor World connection, (even if masking opens spaces for spirits to enter).  There are many other world masking traditions, and most societies seem to have some form of these, even though not all at the same time of year or with the same celebrational intent.  Some sort of anthropological-psychological principal seems to hold that it is less important that societies have such “reversal” holidays at a particular season or for a particular reason, than that they do have them at some time of year, for some reason.

Although I say that masking traditions may be found in different seasons, that doesn’t mean that the nature of the seasonal celebration is irrelevant.  The different practices are more meaningful when viewed in context of what is going on in the world of nature.  In my present case, we seem to be experiencing an early spring, (at least here in Michigan).  As we had a mild winter, there isn’t so much snow melt to speak of, but one nevertheless sees—and hears—the continuous movement of water through the landscape.  The water is not just swelling streams, but moves through otherwise dry ditches and gutter runnels.  This can hearken to what, in New England, they call the season of “Unlocking,”  though it’s a little early still, as Unlocking applies more to March.  This movement of water also involves the movement of chi through the landscape.  By this token, anyone doing some masking and parading at this season might think about aligning with these energies of Elemental Water flowing through Nature, which is all the more appropriate, as this is the Year of the Water Dragon.  By the way, when I drove to town this morning, I saw that the sugar buckets are already out (on the maple trees), which means that the sap is flowing.  The maple sugar producers have to watch the seasonal changes closely and act on them quickly, so as not to miss out.

One can also wonder if ritual movements in early spring hearken to ancient traditions of awakening the Earth.  Although I’m getting a little too far ahead in time, I am reminded of the German belief that on the first day of May, the witches must dance the last of the snow off the mountainsides.  So, the idea is that the actions of magical people move the seasonal cycle forward—but then, the seasonal cycle moves on different time tables in different regions.  This suggests a question you can put to your tarot or oracle cards: “Please show me how to dance my way into Spring, in alignment with the moving energies of Spring.”  You might want to bring in “the principle of the fantastic” by trying this with some whimsical deck like the “Paulina Tarot,” which is partially inspired by New Orleans Mardi Gras.

Friday, February 10, 2012

YOUR TAROT VALENTINE


With Valentine’s Day in view, I’ve been reading about it in the book, “Curiosities of Popular Custom,” (printed in 1897), along with related topics on Candlemas and St. Brigid, (because I view Valentines as an extension of the goddess Brigid’s feast, based on the ancient practice of having a festival spread over a week or more, especially due to periodic calendar adjustments).  Like many, this book brings up the theory that in ancient times, young people drew names of the opposite sex, to be temporarily paired with a young man or woman in honor of the goddess Juno Februata; this might also tie in with a belief that birds chose their mates at this time.  [Note however, that the practice in honor of Juno may just be speculation, as modern scholars can’t relate this to any classical texts.]  Later, the Church supposedly tried to suppress this custom by substituting the practice of drawing the names of saints, so a young person would give a year’s devotion to whichever saint he or she drew.  This wasn’t pursued with a great deal of enthusiasm, so the day soon enough reverted to the practice of drawing names of the opposite sex.  Especially charming is the French usage, tied in with the tradition of courtly love, where the sentimental bond was such that, “During the year each stood to the other in the relation of Cavalier and Lady of Beauty, the knight being bound to the honor and defense of his fair one, for which she repaid him in smiles and silk favors.”

Many practices and superstitions have grown up around Valentines.  One usage that was prevalent, though something people expressed more playfully than seriously, was the notion that the first member of the opposite sex that you laid eyes upon on Saint’ Valentines would be your chosen one for the year.  This even applied to married people, and people of all ages, for the famous diarist Samuel Pepys and his wife had fun with this each year.  Sometimes Pepys and his wife would arrange a morning visit to another couple—not as “swingers,” of course, it was just for fun with friends.  On another Valentines morning, Mrs. Pepys jokingly held her hands over her eyes so she wouldn’t gaze on the crew of workers painting their dining room, and on another, a sweet little boy was sent up to her room to deliver a paper valentine: he had written her name in gold on bright blue paper.  (From 1667, this may be the first recorded example of a paper valentine.)

Reading about all of this, it occurred to me that you could have a little fun with your tarot deck when you get up on Valentine’s morning.  The following exercise is somewhat more in the tradition of drawing the names of saints or the just-in-fun practices of people like Pepys and his wife, which is to say, it is for purposes of inspiration and learning more about the cards; (it is not for lonely persons to choose some ghostly lover in preferment to flesh-and-blood ones).  While shuffling, pose a question like, “Which of you will be my Valentine?”  or “Who will be my spiritual Valentine?”   Then, go through your deck until you come to the first card that portrays a distinct personality of the opposite sex.  This card character then becomes a spiritual sweetheart, so that you can spend the year getting to know this card personality by reflecting on his or her qualities.  Notice also whether this personality is reflected in people you meet of the opposite sex, (though this does not obligate you to date them). Think about how this particular tarot personality would act in and contribute to relationships.  The making of relationship is one of the principle functions of the great goddess, so here we do get back to the works of Juno Februata and other seasonal goddesses.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

BOYCOTT PEPSI CO’S CELEBRATION OF SOCIOPATHIC ANIMAL CRUELTY


I apologize for using this blog as a political soapbox, but I have become aware of an atrocity that I can’t stay silent about.

Fritos, a brand of Pepsi co, has just awarded a million dollars to Jonathan Friedman, creator of the Super Bowl Fritos ad about killing a cat, because it was apparently the audience favorite.  Anyone who has ever lost a cat or dog—especially if the pet went missing and you don’t know what became of him or her—knows what a profoundly painful and agonizing experience this is for the pet owner, not to mention the poor animal.  That is, anyone who has an ounce of empathy knows this pain.  If you do not have empathy, which of course makes you a sociopath, then of course you would not feel any sympathy either for the owner or for the animal.  [Note that although I am an Asperger person, and Asperger people are often characterized as not having empathy, I dispute this: Aspies can have empathy, we’re just not skillful at demonstrating it publicly.] 

The fact that so many people were so devoid of empathy as to find humor in this sicko ad is truly scary.  The lack of empathy is at the root of all kinds of social atrocities, and these things are on a continuum.  I ASSERT that the sort of people who think that torturing and killing cats, (as well as tormenting their distraught owners), is good, innocent fun are the same people who think that torturing and humiliating prisoners of war, or urinating on the dead, (as has also recently been in the news), is also good fun.

Anyway, I urge anyone who values human decency to boycott Frito Lay, as well as its parent company, Pepsi Co, plus other Pepsi brands including Quaker, Gator Ade, and Tropicana.  It will certainly be tough, because they are into so many different products, but you can go to Pepsi’s website, http://www.pepsico.com/Brands.html, to find out which products are part of their brand.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Looking for Opportunities in the Year of the Dragon


This year, Chinese New Year falls on Monday, January 23rd, so it’s just around the corner.  Different years are supposed to be auspicious for anyone who was born in a year ruled by the same animal sign, so 2012 should be a significant year for anyone with the sign of the dragon, (born in the years 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, and 2000). 

In my previous post, where I suggested throwing black-eyed peas as part of a New Years celebration, I mentioned the bean-throwing ritual that is part of the Japanese Setsubun festival; men with a given year’s animal sign are the preferred persons to officiate at such ceremonies.  If there are any dragons in your social circle, you might encourage them to take a focal role in whatever festivities you may be planning in 2012.  (Just as 2012 should be good for dragon people, dragon people should be good for 2012.)

The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac are also paired with the five elements of fire, earth, metal, water, and wood, and 2012 is a Water Dragon year.   12 signs times 5 elements = 60 different sign-element combinations, and every 60 years the cycle repeats.  This also means that when anyone reaches the age of 60, he or she might experience a landmark year, because it has come back around to both his or her sign and element.  Therefore, 2012 should be a particularly interesting year for anyone born in 1952.

Curious as to whether the Chinese zodiac year would give anyone a special advantage in a presidential race, I looked into the birth years and signs for President Obama and the Republican contenders, but none of them are dragons.  FYI, Obama is Metal Ox, while Romney is a Fire Pig, Gingrich is a Water Sheep, Paul is a Wood Pig, Huntsman is a Metal Rat, Santorum is an Earth Dog, and Perry is a Metal Tiger.