Thursday, April 29, 2010

Faerie World Adventures

This Sunday I will be demonstrating techniques with the Faerie Oracle and the Heart of Faerie Oracle cards, among other oracle and tarot decks. As we work with these cards, a question to consider is, how can these fairies help us to enhance our relationship with a Universe that is intensely alive and in constant communication with us? (See my March 30th post on communications from the Living Universe.)

Wendy Froud, who has done the write-up for the Heart of Faerie cards, describes the cards as revealing, “how the wisdom of Faerie transforms life & relationships.” Transforming life and relationships suggests possibilities for shamanic engagement, because it recalls Serge Kahili King’s definition of the shaman as, “a healer of relationships: between mind and body, between people, between people and circumstances, between humans and Nature, and between matter and spirit” [“Urban Shaman” 14].

Pursuing an interest in shamanic healing, I have been re-reading Margie McArthur’s book, “Faery Healing.” (She also maintains a site at Margie defines Faery Healing as “the practice of reestablishing communication and working relationship with our kin of the subtle realms of the Earth, the Elementals, the Earth Beings, the Faeries, and ‘the small clans of the Earth’s delight,’ to use Fiona Macleod’s charming phrase” [183]. Margie’s assertion that, “To do Faery Healing we must be prepared to go into the Heart of the World, that innerworld place where the Flame of Being burns brightly and connects us all by virtue of the Fire of Life which sparks and blazes within all life,” is echoed by Brian Froud’s desire to “experience the love and wisdom that comes from the hearts of the faeries and from the heart of Faerie itself.” The second part of “Faery Healing,” provides different healing techniques, starting out with suggestions for the art of “being hollow,” “body sensing,” how to clear intention and attention—note that the Frouds also emphasize paying attention as part of your bargain for the faeries’ insight and wisdom—different levels of grounding techniques, working with the elements and quarters, shapeshifting, finding faery healing allies, and so on. Something that I hope to learn more about as we explore these things together is how the different types of fairy cards might be used to help with grounding, (for example, cards portraying beings with their roots in the Earth), issues around being in touch with your body and with Nature, (the cards have a lot of images of bodies in harmony with Nature, even aspects of nature that some might consider icky), achieving that “hollowness,” paying attention, shape-shifting, and so on.

By the way, in the March 30 post, I was wondering if others had encountered decks that give a sense of a highly animated universe, and Javier responded with a number of suggestions with links, so you might want to refer back and take a peek at some of those. I do think that there is a lot more that could be done here, by aspiring tarot artists, in conveying ways that the Universe can communicate to us through the cards.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Faeries into Poetry

Looking forward to next Sunday, May 2nd. In honor of Beltane, a time when the energies of the Faery World are amplified, I will demonstrate different types of readings with Faery Oracle cards. Because the Frouds have just released a new deck, the “Heart of Faery” Oracle, these cards will be included among the others passed out as Faery Friends talismans to take home. However, as this deck is so new, I’m still in the process of familiarizing myself with it.

To help get to know this deck, I’ve been using it in bibliomantic experiments. For example, last night I went to hear the poet Diane Wakoski read from her new work, “The Diamond Dog,” at the Triple Goddess. To help get attuned, I was going through some of her other poetry books, and because she is known for her deep imagery, where the juxtaposition of striking images provokes striking insights and sensations, I got the notion to insert Faery cards into the books, and then consider how the Faery imagery and card meanings might provoke additional insights.

So, to demonstrate the technique for this blogpost, I have just shuffled and inserted random cards into random pages of “The Diamond Dog.” Among these, I find card 38 between pages 42 and 43 of The Diamond Dog. The card features a boyish sprite with silvery opalescent wings and a silvery opalescent glow; he flies by an ancient tree whose twisted form shines silver-gray in the moonlight. A little golden door at the base of the tree features Dagaz, the Day-rune, which some notable runelorists say can serve as a portal into other dimensions. Meanwhile, goblin faces take shape in the folds of the tree. This card is titled, “The Pan,” with reference to the immortal boy. Glancing at the two poems on these pages, I notice that in “The Secret of the Ring” on page 43, the poetess speaks of glancing at her “old hands,” which, “seem ringless except in owl-light, when Silver Boy points to the stone set in an invisible band on my marriage finger.” Aside from the obvious image of the silver boy, one can see a correspondence with the old hands and the gnarled tree, which then suggests a correspondence between the envisioned diamond on the ring finger and the jewel-like door in the tree.

Incidentally, in last night’s conversation with Diane, I mentioned that I enjoy her works because of her material imagery, including sensual images of things like fruits and gemstones, because for me as an Asperger’s person, it’s easy to relate to things, but difficult to get into concepts, except that material things provide me the entryway into deeper concepts. Diane replied that things serve as the entryway for her, too.

Continuing to consider the resonance between the card and the poem, I see that in the Wendy Froud write-up for the manual, she mentions how the Pan sees life and death as “an awfully big adventure.” This is a reference to the book “Peter Pan,” where, at a certain point, Peter thinks he’s going to die, and tells himself, “Death will be such an awfully big adventure!” Applied to this poem, this isn’t necessarily a portent of death--though of course, we’re all headed in that direction, and the older you get, the more you’re reminded of that fact. Rather, I think it says something about an artist’s mindfulness of death, as in the Heinrich Böll quote cited in a recent post, that, “The artist carries Death within him, like a good priest his breviary.”

Well, I could go on and on about the other poem-card image associations I have in front of me, but the silver boy image is especially serendipitous. This technique of making associations between cards and texts could actually work with any pack of cards, (even ordinary playing cards), and any book, (even the dictionary or phone book).

Friday, April 16, 2010

Perspectives on Judgment, Conclusion

Picking up on the Easter Sunday readings around the Judgment card, the remaining readings that I recall brought up the Minor Arcana cards. One was the Six of Swords, Judgment, and the Ace of Wands, and the other was the Two of Swords, Judgment, and the Four of Swords.

In the case of the Six of Swords, this suggests that although there may be tension and conflicts in the general environment, (which may well be the case for a lot of us in this hard times economy), this person should look for an “opening,” to take advantage of some peaceful interlude between cycles of conflict and hardship, for Judgment’s work of self-remaking. The Ace of Wands suggests that the process of rejuvenation will generate a strong, focused quality of energy that can be directed into new projects and enterprises. Aces also get into identity issues—and the Ace of Wands in particular—so this also suggests a rejuvenated sense of Self, where the person is also likely to be strongly self-identified with whatever new project she puts her energy into. We also touched on the idea that when the Ace of Wands comes up favorably placed in a reading, you are strong in your own energy, and that portends success.

The reading with the Two and the Four of Swords cards flanking Judgment suggests renewal through the ability to manage conflict. The Two and Four are both cards of balance. However, as the Swords stand for elemental Air, the trick is to balance something as mobile, insubstantial, and, well, “airy” as air. The Twos often require us to negotiate between the needs of Self and Other, which could involve compromising personal ideology, though the Two of Swords also has a traditional meaning of mediating between two other parties. Here, the ability to be able to see from both parties’ points of view is a key factor. In the Four of Swords, one uses the desire for stability to create a safe place amidst conflict, and in this context, there is also a suggestion that the rejuvenation process needs to be extended, indicating the possibility of a healing retreat. If we want to bring in time factors, we’ve looking at how we can use the qualities of the Judgment card to align with the energies of the season for springtime renewal, so this would suggest a recovery period that extends beyond Spring, (maybe even 4 months beyond the Easter/Equinox period). Because the first card suggested weighing the needs of another party or parties, this could mean that the subject needs to recover from the empathic strain of mediating their needs, or that the other party/parties also need to be engaged in the healing process. (The individual who drew these cards is a Pisces, so mediating with others would draw on her capacities of intuition and empathy, but she would also need time to recharge afterward.)

The other thing I’m reminded of in relation to the idea of creating a safe space is Carolyn Myss’s definition of “an elegant spirit.” Part of that definition is the fact that anyone who enters your energy field knows they are in a safe space, where they will not be unfairly judged, and will be treated with compassion. I believe that Jean Shinoda Bolen also talks about that somewhere, probably in “Goddesses in Every Woman.” This is the idea that you create a “temenos,” a temple precinct, within your energy field, and within your relationships. This idea is also reflected in the Four of Swords card.

After the reading, we turned our layouts into “tarot spells,” by altering the readings (if desired) by adding mitigating cards to supply the qualities that individuals felt they needed to enhance their own rejuvenation processes, then visualizing ourselves going through that process of renewal, and then expressing our renewed selves in effective ways in our inner and outer worlds. (If you like your reading just as it is, you don’t have to modify it; just visualize yourself going through the process it depicts.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Perspectives on Judgment, Part 3

Continuing to ponder how Judgment’s principles of rebirth and renewal apply to readings done last Sunday, two of the readings contained all heavy-hitting Major Arcana cards.

One 3-card spread was Justice, Judgment, and the World, suggesting more outward-looking transformations experienced on a larger social scale, that is, personal renewal achieved by promoting principles of justice and balance. (The person who drew this is a Libra, so one thinks of Gail Fairfield’s “Choice Centered Astrology,” which describes the Libra/Venus mission as creating beauty and harmony; also, when you get cards that strongly suggest your own astrological sign or significators, this suggests being yourself.) The World can suggest expressing these qualities in your personal life and environment, but there is also a sense of bringing harmony to more extended spheres of influence. If I’m not getting things mixed up, I believe this reading was done with the Ciro Marchetti Divine Legacy Tarot, so again, you have the central angel harmonizing the principles to either side of the Judgment card as part of this renewal process, (and creating continuity between these principles). There are similarities between Justice and Judgment, because both imply some critical decision making, and there is natural continuity between Judgment and the World, because as the last two cards in the Majors, the World follows Judgment as part of the natural progression through transformation to a higher and happier state of being.

The other reading, which featured Death, Judgment, and the Tower, reveals transformative processes that are profound and ongoing. We had been talking about how the card to the left of Judgment can reveal parts of you that you may have left behind, and that you can renew yourself by rediscovering these personalities, qualities, or interests. However, the person who drew these cards was a younger person still in school, so we tended more to look at the Death card as perhaps pertaining to the different Selves one may try on and then discard in the process of making decisions about what studies and careers to pursue. This could apply to a lot of other things a person can be identified with, such as peer groups, friendships, personal interests, beliefs and causes—because they all go into that sense of Self. To feel a little more at ease with having to deal with major transformations, you could think about where, in your past as well as in your current life, have you been able to use what we might call shape-shifting skills in adapting to different circumstances, different groups of people, different peoples’ demands on you, and so on? How have you been remaking yourself.

Another thing—which I didn’t think to mention—is Heinrich Böll’s reflection that, “The artist carries Death within him, like a good priest his breviary.” I didn’t think to ask whether this individual was an art student, but I know a lot of young people deal with a degree of intensity in their artistic explorations that generates internal drama. If you identify with this, Death and the Tower can have bearing on art as a continuing transformation process. The Tower can denote a jolt of inspiration, but from the artists’ point of view, it could also be about disassembling and reassembling one’s art installations to get different creative combinations. Here, you can welcome transformations as opportunities for self-invention and creative performance.

I think the deck used for this reading was the “Mystic Dreamer Tarot,” with art by Heidi Darras and text by Barbara Moore. In this deck, the Judgment angel faces left, the direction of the past, which, being the side of the Death card, also suggests that a return to a past transformation may be a source of renewal. The Death card features a shrouded grim reaper figure, from which emerges an ecstatic spirit woman made of starlight, which further suggests that idea of creative self-invention and re-invention.

I have a little bit more to say about the Judgment readings, but as I have to devote several days to family matters, I probably won’t get back to this til next week.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Perspectives on Judgment, Part 2

To pick up where I left off, at Sunday’s session, we had been doing card search readings focused on the Judgment card, and the cards flanking it as showing an area of your life or personality that could undergo renewal and an area of life or activity where you can express your new sense of selfhood.

In the case of the person whose first card was the Queen of Wands, the key to rejuvenation could be to reignite some very fiery, feminine inner self. (The deck used was Ciro Marchetti’s Legacy Tarot, whose Wands Queen has a smoldering gaze.) Queens are particularly concerned with nurturing the qualities of their suit, so how might that suggest some form of self nurturing? The flanking card in this reading was the King of Cups, which could denote a different facet of self expression (with regard to taking charge in some emotional matters), but which in this particular case also seemed to have bearing on a personal relationship. In this Marchetti deck, the Judgment angel’s outspread arms and glowing hands reach out to beyond the picture space, which has the graphic effect of spiritually joining whatever is featured in the flanking cards--in this case uniting the Queen of Wands and King of Cups.

The Empress, which two persons drew, also involves re-awakening that inner feminine creativity, but as part of a grander vision of how life could be improved and made more beautiful. In some of my January and February posts, I talked about this (2010) as being an Empress year with the potential to nurture dreams, so this could be an especially significant year for these individuals, pointing to major opportunities for remaking themselves. One of these persons drew the Sun as the other card, which indicates that the Empress qualities can be allowed to shine, bringing health, happiness, and recognition. The combination of Judgment and the Sun may predict recognition that brings promotion. I don’t remember what the other person’s flanking card was, or which decks were used. (Anyone and everyone: feel free to post here to refresh my memory if I have forgotten your reading or gotten parts of it wrong.)

To be continued.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Some Perspectives on Readings with the Judgment Card

For those who weren’t with us on Sunday, one of the things we did was get out the Tarot decks and pose a request to the effect, “Please show me where I can experience new life.” Then, we shuffled and went through our decks until we came to the Judgment card, and noted the cards to either side of it. As we discussed, the card to the left of Judgment can represent parts of your Self that could stand to undergo renewal, transformation, or uplifting--often because they can represent aspects of your personality or other interests that you had to suppress in trying accommodate society and make your way in the world. The card to the right of Judgment shows ways that you can express your rejuvenated selfhood.

When I got home Sunday evening, I tried to reconstruct some of the card combinations that came up. I can’t remember all of the readings, as there are some that I’m fuzzy about, so in the future I’ll have to take notes. Now, as time permits, I’ll try to write down a few observations on what I recall. As I’m not able to get to my computer on most days, it will take a little while to work through this.

From what I recall, a number of the first drawn cards (on the left of Judgment) were what we call “people” cards, in that they feature certain Tarot personalities. Among these were the Knight of Swords, the Queen of Wands, the Knight of Pentacles, and the Empress.

The Knights represent your ability to get involved in something in a very focused way, so in the context of this reading for resurrection/rejuvenation, the people who got knights might think back on focused activities of the past that made them feel “in the flow,” “in the zone,” that made the sense of time go away or made them feel alive and invigorated with a sense of new possibilities. In the case of the Knight of Pentacles, this could denote immersion in some material world activities such as crafts, or gardening, or looking after some basic financial or maintenance concerns, whereas the Knight of Swords could pertain to involvement in ideas and causes.

The person who drew the Knight of Pentacles was using the “Universal Fantasy Tarot,” which portrays the Knight as a small, black goblin who rides a squirrel which is clutching a coin. This imagery very much suggests focusing on the little things, including what some people might look down upon as money-grubbing details. If this card comes up for you in this context, it could mean that you have been neglecting some of the basic contingencies of life, perhaps out of a desire to focus on more spiritually refined ideals. If so, the Knight of Pentacles gives you “permission” to indulge your more materialistic instincts, (consider the instinctual activities of the squirrel), as something that would be beneficial at this time. The card to the right of Judgment was the 2 of Swords, which indicates that attention to small, material details can be helpful in mediating relationships, and that this ability to create balance between Self and Other, or between other individuals, (such as two children?), can lead to greater confidence and harmony.

By the way, when we did the bibliomancy, where we pulled random books off the shelves and read passages, I think that the person who drew the Knight of Pentacles was the same person who pulled a book on gardening. I no longer remember the message, but it may have been on gardening as a focusing activity. Taking another look at the “Universal Fantasy” card, I see that the goblin knight and his squirrel are portrayed amidst a bed of golden flowers, (which also has implications for prosperity). Those of you who were taking notes might want to give some more thought as to whether your bibliomancy has any resonance with your Tarot reading.

I do not recall which deck was used with the Knight of Swords, but the other card in the reading was the Magician. Because the Magician is concerned with achieving worldly mastery through exploration of the elemental qualities of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water, this spread would suggest applying Knight of Swords intensity to the quest for knowledge and skill.

In my next installment, I’ll get into the Queen and Empress. In the meantime, Barb Moore has been posting a really excellent series of articles on the Court Cards on the Llewellyn Journal webpage. The one on the Knights can be found at Barb does a really great job of getting to the essence of the court characters, to better understand what they mean when they come up in your readings.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More Magical Uses for Easter Eggs

At Sunday’s Magical Chat, in discussing magical uses for Easter eggs, we talked about how eggs are used in different shamanic healing techniques, and my idea of how one could enhance such techniques by using eggs dyed in herbs and spices with beneficial qualities. An example was turmeric, which can be used to color eggs, and how in India, both Hindu and Muslim brides as well as babies may be rubbed with turmeric because of its auspicious golden glow. Looking through various sources on natural dyes for Easter eggs, I see that some other substances used to color eggs include beets, red cabbage, red onions, walnut husks, coffee grounds, caraway seed, sage, spinach, marjoram, young beech or wild apple leaves, and cherry or crab apple bark.

Also, I have been looking through my notes on traditional healers, and thought you might enjoy reading about some specific instances where eggs are used. The following comes from “The Mixe of Oaxaca: Religion, Ritual, and Healing,” by Frank J. Lipp. The author had gotten a bit of fright after falling into a ravine on one of his rambles. Because the Mixe (like many traditional peoples) believe fright deranges your energy body with a form of soul loss, he called in a healer. Lipp relates, “Beginning with the most painful area, she then rubbed my head with two eggs. The state of fright is not absorbed by the eggs but ‘taken off’ before it can spread through the body …” [Lipp 178]. The curer afterward buried the two eggs as an offering to the “Night Wind,” which she considered to be the malign spirit that seized his soul on the mountainside where the accident occurred.

This practice of rubbing the body with eggs is very widespread, especially in Latin and Middle Eastern culture areas, as well as South America. In her book, “Woman Who Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health,” Elena Avila explains how she has found the egg useful in her practice of curanderismo: “I have been astonished at how rubbing an egg over someone’s body has helped me to read their energy. This tool has become a doorway that helps me to read peoples’ souls.” (The egg rub is part of the “limpia,” a spiritual revitalization process.) Avila is also able to use the egg in divinatory diagnosis, by breaking the egg and dropping it into a glass of water to “read” it, once the ritual treatment is finished. She says, “What I do at such times is to look at the relationship between the egg yolk, which symbolizes the individual, and the egg white, which represents the energy that does not belong to the client because she has just released it in the ceremony of the five directions.” [Avila 36, 166] Note that Avila uses the term “energy that does not belong to you” as a way of describing intrusive energy forms that others might label as evil spirits.

The next example is more unique, because it involves eating an egg as a way of recovering a lost soul fragment. This comes from Venetia Newall’s “An Egg at Easter,” and the original source is a 1966 National Geographic article by Peter Kunstader, who was working in northern Thailand, and reported a situation where, “a member of the Karen tribe [was] cured of fever when one of his thirty-two souls—which had escaped and so caused the illness—was recaptured inside a hard-boiled egg. Friends called to the soul repeatedly and, when they were able to balance the egg on a small stick stuck in the ground, they knew it had heard and gone inside. The sick man was then given this to eat and made a good recovery” [Newall 109]. This concept of having multiple souls is also very widespread, so dealing with soul loss is something which plays a primary role in shamanic cultures everywhere.

If you’ve ever experienced feelings of disorientation or fragmentation, you could be said to be experiencing a form of soul loss. To perform a little self healing after traumatic incidents have left you feeling a bit “beside yourself,” you could decorate an egg with your name, your birth-date, your astrological symbol, and other symbols that are special to you, then ceremonially eat the egg with the idea that you’re pulling some of your own energies back into your body. This would also be a nice treat for a child who has had a bad day at school, or any of the other number of upsets that children are sensitive to.

Incidentally, the idea of charming the wandering soul fragment into an egg reminds me of Russian fairytales in which a sorcerer hides his heart or spirit in an egg.