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.