Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Working it all through

If you have been following my blog posts, you know that I am in a transitional phase of my life. This week has been especially hard for me as I am coming to terms with the finality of the closing of one door, and the opening of a new one. As of yet, that new path is not fully illuminated, giving me moment to feel anxiety, fear, and depression.

Today, as I spent hours working on tasks for that path that has been closed down, I felt a growing resentment and anger building inside of me. It led, later this afternoon, to a tremendous wave of depression.

I yelled at the dog.

I got mad at my (wonderful) husband for just being himself.

I wanted to yell and kick and scream at life for making me hurt and feel and grow.

And it took me quite a while to realize that I was letting life win.

"Physician, heal thyself," quickly jumped into my head. How can I expect people to come to me for guidance if I can't even get my figurative stuff together?

So now, with the house quiet, the dog and husband asleep and the cats hiding doing cat things, I am healing myself.

I found a quotation upon which to meditate. I lit a candle. And I opened my blog.

Here's the quotation I found tonight. (I have hundreds, collected over many years. In college, my nickname was The Floor Philosopher!)

"Circumstances are the rulers of the weak; they are but the instruments of the wise." --Samuel Lover.

This quotation reminded me of the great power of karma. My anger today stemmed from the resentment of doing things for an institution that has decided that I am not worthy of remaining there. And yet, I am doing good work. Important work. Work that will make changes and create a footprint for the future.

And I realized, after I lit the candle and focused on what I DID today, instead of what I FELT, that today, I was letting the circumstances rule me. Instead, I should be using them as instruments to secure my new path.

For you see, today I was working on organizing a conference. I was sorting through paper proposals and arranging paper titles and feeling a tremendous exhilaration because my work had shown great results.

Due to my efforts, and mine alone, we had a tremendous response to our call for papers. Because of my diligence and dedication, we will have 100 visitors to our campus in April, to share in the dissemination of historical knowledge. This conference should serve to engage the students and hopefully encourage some of them to pursue graduate degrees in the field. It is their time to shine.

And I was the one who made it possible. Little old me. The one who isn't good enough for the institution that will be hosting this miraculous event.

Oh, and did I mention that I have recently applied for a job at another institution doing precisely this very thing? The title is Director of Continuing Education, but it is essentially organizing, planning, and overseeing conferences and other non-credit educational experiences. In other words, teaching beyond the classroom. What a dream job for me.

As my friend, Christine writes, finding our bliss does not mean that we are happy all the time. Rather, it means that we acknowledge that we are on the right path, and we don't let the negatives drag us down.

Next week, I will be spending a week on Marco Island, in Florida, with my parents. I plan to spend the time reflecting, writing, and studying for my new path. Oh, and expect a few blogs from down there, as well!

And whatever happens, I know, between the bouts of anxiety and depression that sometimes catch me off guard, that my new path lies before me, just waiting for me to take those first steps.

As I said before on this blog, we all know the answers. They lie inside of each of us. It's just that at times we need some help finding the right questions to ask.

So, I'm finding mine. Slowly but surely.

What are yours?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Major Arcana: Strength

The VIII card in the Lover's Path deck is the Strength card, the same as in the Ryder-Waite version. What a powerful card this is! In this deck, the strength card is represented by the legend of Brunnhilde and Siegfried, of the Norse and Germanic traditions.

This story illustrates how love can strengthen us to do deeds far beyond our normal capacities.

Brunhilde, the Valkyrie, was the favorite child of Wotan, ruler of the gods and goddesses. An immortal warrior woman, she was content to follow her father's will by bringing the bodies of fallen warriors to Valhalla - the hall of warriors, built by Wotan at a huge cost. Wotan had purchased Valhalla with a golden ring, which gave the power of all the world to any who possessed it. If this ring were to fall into the wrong hands, it could bring about the end of the world.

Wotan was determined to win back this ring, and regain its power. He enlisted the help of a human strong enough to retrieve it. This hero was Siegmund.

But Fate had a twist in mind for Wotan: Siegfried fell in love with another man's wife, and the other gods ordained that he must be killed by the offended man as punishment for his adultery.

Against his will, Wotan was forced to agree with the decision of the gods. To do otherwise would cast shame upon his lover, Fricka, goddess of marriage whose vows Siegmund dishonored with his illicit love.

Brunnhilde was sent as messenger to deliver the death sentence to Siegmund. But Siegmund refused to go willingly with the valkyrie to Valhalla, since the woman he loved, Fricka, now carried his child.

As he begged for his life, Siegmund touched Brunnhilde's heart. For the first time, she understood the power of love, which made her strong enough to disobey her father's will. Instead, she agreed to help Siegmund win his battle. Wotan struck Siegmund dead, for the gods' commands must not be ignored.

Brunnhilde, too, must be punished for her defiance of her father's wishes. For this transgression, Wotan made Brunnhilde mortal in flesh and heart.

As a woman, Brunnhilde had all the vulnerabilities of one. Her father ordained that she marry the first man who found her defenseless in the forest. Brunnhilde had an inspiration, however, and she begged her father not to let her be any ordinary man's bride. Instead, she countered, Siegmund's child could only be a hero like his father. She asked to be placed on an enchanted rock, in a deep slumber, surrounded by a ring of fire. Only a hero such as Siegmund's son would be brave enough to face the ring of fire to claim her as his bride. Together, they would be strong enough to reclaim the ring of power for Wotan.

Wotan agreed to this wise request. When Siegmund's child was born, he was given the name Siegfried, and he grew to be as fearless as Brunnhilde had foretold.

The years passed, and he learned of the woman surrounded by flames that no man could claim for his own. Without fear, Siegfried walked untouched through the ring of fire. As he woke Brunnhilde with a kiss, he knew love for the very first time.

Though their story would have many twists and turns, the duo would prove strong enough to retrieve the ring of power, thus saving the world.

Here on this card, the lovers are depicted as they are triumphantly united at last. The flames surrounding Brunnhilde have been extinguished, like an enchantment broken by love's first kiss. The lovers face the world, confident in the knowledge that they are strong enough to face anything. Nothing will stop them from completing their great quest.

When the Strength card appears in a reading, it usually symbolizes the transformation of weakness into strength. It represents the love which strengthens us, and the strength to do great deeds. It may also signify integrity or unrelenting courage.

In the reversed or weakly aspected position, the Strength card signifies feeling insecure or fearful and the scattering of energies. It can represent wanting others to be strong for you. It can also mean creating discord in order to weaken others.

The great lesson of the Strength card is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each of these lovers, in their own way, overcame adversity and weakness, and by joining forces they were able to transform these limitations into limitless possibilities.

When we look into the faces of Brunnhilde and Siegfried, we should see the glimmerings of our own faces. We need to grab the brass ring and stop the ride.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Major Arcana: Desire

The next card in the Major Arcana is the Desire Card (VII), or the Chariot in the traditional Ryder-Waite deck. To represent the ideals of the Desire card, we see the duo of Tristan and Isolde. The story of this couple has its origins in French and Celtic tradition. This tale demonstrates how desire drags everything along its unyielding path, creating unstoppable movement where there was once stagnation.

Tristan was a man who was familiar with loss. His name, Tristan, means sad one. His mother had died in childbirth, and his father would soon follow her. Without roots, Tristan pledged his loyalty to King Mark of Cornwall, who took Tristan under his wing as his own son.

Tristan and Mark were inseparable. Mark confided in Tristan that he desired a wife worthy of him. One day, a dove flew into Mark's window, carrying a golden strand of hair. The king took this to be a sign, and asked Tristan to find the woman from whose head it came. Only she could be his bride.

Tristan traveled far and wide, in search of this elusive beauty. Finally, he discovered the hair's owner: Isolde, the daughter of the king of Ireland, King Mark's fiercest enemy. Tristan was determined to do Mark's bidding, however, enemy or not.

Tristan began to woo the dear Isolde, in stead for his King. Convinced that the Prince wanted her for himself, Isolde was moved by the young Tristan. Her desire turned to Fury when Tristan revealed that, in fact, he was acting as proxy for the King. Without the marriage, the threat of war loomed between Ireland and Cornwall. Against her will, Isolde agreed to wed a man that she had never met and whom she did not love.

Isolde wept as she departed from her homeland. As she embraced her parents for the last time, Isolde received a gift from her mother. This package contained a magical potion that her mother promised would bring Isolde joy until death upon her wedding night.

Isolde interpreted her mother's words to mean that she had given her daughter the means with which to kill herself, thus sparing her the shame of an unwanted marriage. Isolde was determined to carry this out, but that she would not die alone. Instead, she would die with Tristan, the young Prince who had won her heart, but who had betrayed her trust.

Isolde mixed the potion with wine in a silver cup. She invited Tristan to visit her. Offering her hand in friendship, Isolde drank deeply from the cup, and then handed it to Tristan. Tristan finished the wine. AS the poison made its way through their veins, love spread like a vine stronger than thorns and far more wild, binding the two tightly to one another.

For Tristan and Isolde had drunk not death, but love that would last onto death.

Isolde's mother had given her not a poison, but a powerful love potion that could not be overcome by any earthly powers.

Nothing could undo what the potion had put into motion. As the ship sped towards Cornwall, Tristan and Isolde gave themselves up to desire's irresistible pull.

Here, on this card, Tristan and Isolde are depicted after drinking the love potion. The ocean surrounding them is as wild as the unruly emotions unleashed by the potion. The fierceness of their desire is a crushing one, as seen in the bold embrace that engages them. IT is as if they could never be separated. It is a force too great to resist, pulling them together like a powerful steed.

The Desire card suggests forces beyond control, powers to which we have no choice but to submit. The emotional landscape is far too wild and powerful to tame. We can only trust that they are in out best interest, since they are fated.

When the Desire card emerges in a reading, it represents being pulled by desire, or movement into the next phase of life. It can signify feeling the forces of fate. If the card emerges, and the querent is feeling impatient, never fear, the transitions will go smoothly, as if they are meant to be. This card symbolizes the external forces that work with you.

If the Desire card appears in a reversed or weakly aspected position, it symbolizes impatience or the necessity of waiting. It means that the querent is trapped by desires which feel unquenchable. It can also signify inconvenient timing or a disregard or insensitivity to the portents around one. It means that the querent is feeling unable to make a transition.

Desire, then, reminds us of the powers that supercede us. There are those strong, natural forces that are capable of shifting the winds, and filling our sails to take us in new and uncharted directions. These forces are too powerful to resist, so we must learn to submit to them, and accept their direction full-heartedly, and embrace them.

The Major Arcana: Love

Returning to our discussion of the Lover's Path Tarot Deck, we are on the VI card, or Love, in the Lover's Path. This card is known as the Lovers in the Ryder-Waite deck. Again, I believe that the more general Love title better reflects the true meaning of the card than the image of Lovers. For the Love card represent far more than just the fiery, romantic love of the lovers.

The Lover's Path deck uses the myth of Isis and Osiris to represent this card. Their story illustrates the power of love and its ability to transform us irrevocably. For over 3000 years, Isis was worshipped in Egyptian society as the mother goddess of the universe. She had two brothers, Osiris and Set, who were responsible for the fertile soil and the barren desert, respectively.

When the two had come of age, the sun god, Ra, married Osiris and Isis. Their love was blissful. No moon or star could outshine their passion. Since their union was happy, they wielded their power with generosity and justice. Their days were spent nourishing the world; Isis' power combined with Osiris's, producing abundant good from the rich Egyptian soil and the fertile Nile. As a result, they were adored and revered by many, and were granted greater honors than their brother, Set.

This angered Set, and aroused his jealousy. He vowed to avenge this dishonor, as his love for Osiris quickly was transformed into hatred. To be freed from this overpowering hatred, Set trapped Osiris in a coffin and threw him into the swirling waters of the Nile.

Overcome by grief, Isis transformed herself into a bird and flew everywhere in search of her lost love. She finally found his coffin embedded inside a tree, which had subsumed it over time. Isis hid the coffin, afraid that Set would discover it.

But Set learned all. Out of revenge, Set stole Osiris from Isis, and cut his brother's body into fourteen pieces, which he scattered all across Egypt.

Isis was undeterred. Fueled by her love for Osiris, she traveled up and down the Nile in a papyrus boat, searching for the lost fragments of her husband's body. It took years before she was able to collect them all. When she finally had completed her task, she reconstructed Osiris's body, sealing it with wax and gold. Then, using the power of her love, Isis resurrected Osiris for a final embrace.

That act of love resulted in the conception of a child, the falcon-headed god Horus, who would grow and thrive, a potent reminder of how love can create life even when faced with overwhelming adversity.

The image on the card depicts Isis and Osiris wrapped in their final embrace, the one that would result in their son, Horace. Life swirls around the stillness of their kiss, and several birds fly by, depicting the movement of fate, against which love can protect us, as well as Isis's search for her lost husband. The hieroglyphs painted on the wall behind them come from an ancient Egyptian love poem.

This card symbolizes love in its purest form: love which empowers us for good; love which brings joy to the heart. It also signifies the pleasure that sensual love brings to our lives, encouraging us to find healthy ways to increase and enjoy its presence.

While this card may suggest the appearance of an important love relationship for the querent, primarily and more significantly, it represents the unity of the masculine and feminine energies within ourselves. This happy state of harmony enables us to transform the world around us as if we were gods or goddesses.

When the Love card emerges in a reading, it represents love which inspires us to great deeds and harmony. It may symbolize an awareness of the nature of passionate love, and what is necessary to encourage it. It can also signify Sensuality, or an integration of the masculine and feminine energies, known as the anima and animus. It may also suggest the appearance of a new and important relationship, peace within oneself, or a love which transforms the world around one as well as oneself.

When the Love card appears in a reversed or weakly aspected position, however, it signifies that the querent is feeling unworthy of love. It might also represent manipulation of others through sexuality, or an inability to find a loving partner. It can also symbolize immaturity and irresponsibility in love relationships, game playing, or dishonesty.

The symbolism embodied in the story of Isis and Osiris is one of the overarching power of love. Despite the machinations of their god brother, Set, nothing would prove to be more powerful than the love shared by Isis and Osiris, and the ultimate culmination of their love would be found in their son, Horace. When this card appears, let it remind us of the limitless power of love to transform and transcend, taking us to ends beyond our conscious thought.

Love, after all, conquers all.

Why the Tarot?

First of all, I want to say thank you for all of the responses and support for my last blog post about my epiphany. It has been amazing to see how many people believe in me. It means the world to me.

One of the comments on the last post, though, raised an issue that I thought I should address, early on in my blogging days here. Amy, a fellow blogger, commented: "How cool for you! I used to be interested in Tarot, way back in high school. I no longer have my deck, and personally, even though I no longer believe in the supernatural (of course I admit I could be wrong ;-) ), I think the cards themselves are lovely and interesting, and I certainly think they can be a tool for insight. I think it's great that you have a gift for helping others gain insight into their lives, and great that you are pursuing it! Best wishes to you in your new endeavour!"

Her comment made me stop and think about how people perceive the tarot, and how I use it in my own processes. I thought that some clarification might be in order.

I am not a fortune teller.

The cards do not predict the future.

The cards are not a supernatural gateway to another dimension.

However, that also depends on how one defines "supernatural." I suppose there are those that might label God as a "supernatural being," since he is above the natural forces at work in the world.

Personally, I see the tarot as a means of examination, insight, and self-discovery that can help us better focus our energies and discover the path or paths that lie before us. They can aid us in divining our true selves, based upon the energies that lie within us.

That's why each querent should touch the cards personally.

They thus infuse the cards with his or her own energies, the ones that will reveal themselves in the spread of the deck. This infused energy helps as, together, we interpret the cards that appear. They serve as a guide, not as a predetermined course of events.

As with any form of meditation, there are no easy answers, just waiting to be discovered. Any path takes time, energy, and devotion to find and to follow. I simply hope to play a role in that discovery process. And as I told one of my clients the other night, we do know the answers - they lie within us - we just don't always know what questions we should be asking.

My goal, then, is to serve as the mediator, helping the individual ask the appropriate questions, and understand the possible paths.

Each of us has particular skills that we may share with the world. Some can produce glorious works of art. Others have the ability to compose breathtaking music, or to distill mathematical equations to their purest forms. Still others have mechanical abilities and can create or repair things.

My skill is the ability to see into individuals, by reading their energies. To divine their true nature. To see what lurks beneath the surface.

It is this skill that I employ when I read the tarot. In essence, I am reading the individual, using the cards as a guide. Together, they show me the appropriate questions to ask, so that we may reveal the answers that already lie within.

I hope that you will join me in this meditative process, and that I may have the pleasure of helping each of you find your own questions.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

An Epiphany

Pardon the interruption in the explanation of the Lover's Path Tarot Deck, but I felt the need to blog about my day yesterday.

I had an epiphany of sorts.

The day did not have an auspicious start. In fact, it was downright awful. After teaching at the college level for over 15 years, doing what I have always loved to do, and what I am incredibly GOOD at doing, I was told that I was not good enough to stay at the institution that had eaten my time, energy, and yes, my soul, for the past six years.

Although I knew this moment was coming, and in fact had known since October that the inevitable outcome would be that I would leave this institution, the final letter, in black and white, pierced me like the spear in Christ's side.

And the timing of this event was also quite unfortunate. It came on the last day of final exams of our term, when I am swallowed in a pile of research papers that must be graded before final grades can be posted on Monday. I am under a heavy, pressing deadline.

And now, with this knowledge, they expect me to focus and get grading done by Monday? It seemed, yesterday, to be utterly impossible.

Oh, and did I mention that this is also the weekend that my husband, Dave, who has been supportive and by my side without fail since the day we met, had to be in Harrisburg yesterday and today? So, here was my big bombshell, my Armaggeddon, and I was forced to face it alone.

I admit, I spent about 30 minutes in tears, with my office door shut, after I read the letter. I felt defeated.

I thought, "this is it. I will never be a teacher again. This is my huge exit from academia, and my exodus from teaching." It was not a move I had ever contemplated. All of my life, I knew I was going to teach. From the age of four, when I began teaching my dolls on the front porch, I saw my life's work plotted out before me. I never considered anything else.

So, you might ask, in all of this wallowing, sorry, and self-pity, where's the epiphany?

Well, here's the amazing thing: I was reminded last night that our true purpose ALWAYS emerges, no matter how hard we try to suppress it.

As I have discussed here on this blog, I have been reading tarot, privately for myself and friends, for a number of years now. I was never confident enough in my abilities to take it seriously, although I had been told time and time again that my readings are always "spot on" and that I am "amazingly insightful" in my advice. Yet, I doubted myself.

I was scared.

Scared to find out if I could really do it.

Scared that people might not approve of my work.

Scared that it might affect the rest of my work (ie: my work at the college).

But as this tenure process has unfolded, I began to think about what comes next. What do I DO, if I am no longer teaching college level history, as I have done or thought about for over 20 years? That was such an intimidating question, with no immediate, logical answer.

Until my friends shook me up (figuratively) and said, "DUH! You need to do tarot readings and dream interpretation! For MONEY!"

So, several months ago, I began preparing to launch into this new venture, spending more time with the cards. I have begun studying runes, another ancient divination system. I have done more investigation into dream symbolism. I have cultivated my knowledge and skills.

All in preparation for my big premiere.

And the unveiling was last night. Last night, in the wake of that horrible finalization of my career in higher education. And my hubby was gone. I was alone to face my Goliath. I was nervous. I was afraid. I almost decided I couldn't do it. But that would not have been fair to my two good friends who had organized the event and have supported me from the very get-go.

So, onward I went. Determined to at least put forth my best effort, and hope that I didn't shatter my nose when I fell flat on my face.

I did seven readings last night, in the space of about 3 and a half hours. It was exhilarating, exhausting, and challenging. It made me feel alive. It made me fly. And I realized, as I sat at the table with these individuals who had come to me seeking guidance, direction, and answers, that I was still teaching. That I was making a difference. That I have a special gift that I can share with others that might help them find their true paths in life. And I was transformed.

One of the women for whom I read, a friend of the hosts, told me that I was "amazing," and she was visibly moved by the reading. She walked out of the room, to rejoin the rest of the crowd, and she jokingly remarked "Well, you two obviously called her and told her exactly what to tell me!"

I saw things for all of my querents that were blatantly obvious to me, things that they had tried to hide from the world and themselves. I urged them to face these challenges and tap into their own power. I gave them "homework." I was still teaching. It was beyond amazing.

So, this day that began with the closing of one door, ended quite clearly with the opening of a new one. Last night, I found my bliss.

Ironically enough, it was at the house of the woman who writes the BlissChick blog. How cool is that? Who knew, that to find my bliss all I had to do was go visit the BlissChick?

Though I had refused to recognize it, my path in higher education had me beaten down, defeated, and confined, long before I received the negative tenure review. Had I been truly listening to myself, perhaps I might have taken this new road several years ago. What is important, though, is that now I am listening. I am embracing this self, this purpose, this path. And I am excited to see where it takes me.

Oh, and I know that, wherever I go, Dave will be ever faithfully by my side.

Find your passion. Find what makes you fly. The tops of clouds are an awesome sight.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Major Arcana: TRADITION

The next card of the Major Arcana, the V card, is the Tradition card in the Lover's Path, or the Hierophant in the Ryder-Waite deck. What duo could better represent the ideals of this card than the fated lovers of Romeo and Juliet? They are regarded as the quintessential example of star-crossed lovers, trapped by their families' traditional hatred of one another. This story has become the basis for variation after variation in the retelling in film, opera, and literature, as their ill-fated love is played out.

The story of Romeo and Juliet unfolds in Renaissance Verona, where the feud of the Montagues and Capulets disrupted an otherwise peaceful city. The tradition of hatred was so entrenched than even a chance encounter on the street between members of the two households would end in bloodshed. Juliet, the teenaged daughter of Lord Capulet, wanted no part of the feud, but when she fell in love with young Romeo Montague, the families' traditional rivalries sprung into action.

Romeo and Juliet first met when he snuck into the Capulets' costume ball. Juliet, who was also masked, struck him with her beauty and grace. By the time he learned of her identity, it was too late: he had already been captivated by the young Capulet. He later appeared beneath her window to woo her with honeyed words. The two swore their devotion to each other and swore to be wed as soon as possible, despite the feud that separated their households.

It would be Friar Lawrence who would help Romeo and Juliet in their romantic quest. Initially dubious of their emotions, the Friar decided that their union could help heal the rift that had plagued the two families.

Sworn to secrecy, Friar Lawrence married the young lovers.

Peace was not to follow, however, for Romeo and his new bride. Later that same day, Romeo was attacked on the street by a Capulet and, while defending himself, struck his rival dead. Romeo then turned again to Friar Lawrence to act as an intermediary with Juliet.

Meanwhile, Lord Capulet had his own plans for the young Juliet. She was to wed another. She could not tell the truth, that she was already married to the family's foe, so she turned to Friar Lawrence as well.

The Friar provided Juliet with a potion that would render her lifeless for two days. That would allow him time to notify Romeo of the events and help the young lovers escape and be united.

Fate once more conspired against the pair, however.

Romeo received word of Juliet's death before he was informed of the truth by the Friar. Rushing to her side, devastated by her "death," the young Romeo poisoned himself in order to join his love in death. Juliet, awakening from her slumber in her dead husband's arms, did not hesitate to use his dagger to join him in eternity.

Such a tragic tale of love and despair seems to have no immediate connection to the tradition card. And yet, the love of Romeo and Juliet did result in the end of the feuding between the Montagues and the Capulets, giving way to a new tradition, not of hatred, but of tolerance and understanding.

Here, on this card, the young lovers are depicted as they pledge their love to each other in the rites of marriage, performed by Friar Lawrence. Two cherubs frame them, offering the choice of love or duty. Beyond them rests the city of Verona, within whose walls they fell in love.

When the tradition card emerges in a reading, it symbolizes following established social structures, or traditions which are constraining. In love relationships, the tradition card signifies the desire for marriage or some other formal, traditional structure for the sake of secruity. It can also represent an awareness of public image and the desire to control it. Perhaps the querent wants to conform in order to gain approval. It can also signify possible rigidity or reluctance to bend.

In the reversed or weakly aspected position, this card represents the need to throw out the old constraining social structures, in favor of new forms. It can also signify the fear of unconventional ideas or ways of approach. The querent may be facing nonconformity. It can also symbolize the questioning of tradition for tradition's sake.

The ill-fated story of Romeo and Juliet, as represented on the Tradition card, then, can teach us a vital lesson that we should not unquestioningly hold on to tradition for tradition's sake. Neither, however, should we toss the baby out with the bath water. There is always a balance that must be struck between the old and the new, and with the restructuring of the old ways, we open the doors to new paths and new lives, just as the deaths of Romeo and Juliet led to the new tradition of tolerance and understanding. Their deaths, though tragic, were not entirely in vain.

When I see this card in a reading, I immediately think of the musical "Fiddler on the Roof," and the classic song, "Tradition." We should never let ourselves become so ingrained in tradition that we forget to think about why we do the things that we do. It is the WHY that is the important aspect of our actions, whether in love, life, or death.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Major Arcana: POWER

We've already been introduced to the story of Merlin and Vivianne when we discussed the Magic card in an earlier post. The next card in the Major Arcana, the IV card, is the Power Card, seen as the Emperor in the Ryder-Waite deck. The lovers here are Arthur and Guinevere, whose complex legend appears in many forms throughout Europe.

Roots of the Arthurian tales also are found in Celtic mythology, where the regents sometimes wear the immortal colors of the god and goddess. The archtype of Arthur as once and future king of Britain is the supreme example of the enlightened use of power, and the modern imagination is still captivated by the tales of Camelot and the knights of the Round Table.

However, Arthur had humble beginnings. Though born of a Queen, Igraine, wife of King Uther Pendragon, he was taken by the magician Merlin upon his father's death to be raised in anonymity. Merlin was protecting the young Arthur from the lords who battled for Uther's throne.

As the fighting continued, the land fell into ruin. When Merlin foretold of a king who would come to unite them all one day, the lords scoffed in disbelief and denied the magic sign he prophesied: He claimed that only the one who could pull a magic sword from an anvil would rule England by right.

Years passed, and Arthur grew to manhood under Merlin's watch. He remained unaware of his auspicious fate. Soon, he encountered the sword in the stone. In need of a sword, Arthur easily withdrew it, thus sealing his fate as England's ruler. Though his rule was initially challenged, in time his authority was sealed unquestioningly.

The reign of Arthur ushered in a golden age for England. He united warring factions under his brave and responsible leadership. He gathered only the best knights around him, including the noble Lancelot du Lac, considered to be the best knight alive, and they served as the famed Knights of the Round Table. Arthur also decided to marry and start a family.

From the moment he first saw her, Arthur was besotted with Guinevere, daughter of King Leodegrace of the North. Merlin advised him that another woman, not Guinevere, would bring him greater happiness, but Arthur's heart was set on Guinevere. He trusted Lancelot to make Arthur's plea for Guinevere's hand to her father, Leodegrace.

Yet, when Lancelot laid eyes upon the graceful Guinevere, all thought flew from him mind. The pair was consumed by a power greater than their loyalty to Arthur. The pair were forced to contain their emotions as the marriage took place, joining Arthur and his bride.

Arthur's power, then, bought him a bride, but not her love. Guinevere respected Arthur, but it was Lancelot who had stolen her heart. Try as she might, the tragic triangle of Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere was entrenched for the rest of their lives, leading to bitter unhappiness for all of them.

Yet, even today, the magical stories of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table live on, with stories of the beauty of his reign and his bride, despite the sad queen who sat beside him, but could not love him.

On this card, Arthur and Guinevere are depicted on their throne, surrounded by the glory that was Camelot. Lancelot, always in the queen's thoughts, is visible on the tapestry that hangs behind the throne. The round table, shown behind the arches of the throne, and around which no knight could sit higher or lower in status, reveals the ultimate goal of power, which is to create peace and harmony in the kingdom.

When the Power card emerges in a reading, it represents the ability to use power wisely or the awareness of one's own power. It may also signify meeting an authority figure or teacher who can help develop that power. Sometimes, it represents responsibility towards others or the ability to lead and inspire. At times, it suggest knowledge of how to create change without giving up important values or resorting to violence or deception.

When the power card appears in a reversed or weakly aspected position, however, it symbolized that the querent may be oppressed by another's power and authority, representing insecurity and loss of personal power. It may also symbolize passive aggression or using power to manipulate others for personal gain. In other words, it represents blocked or malaligned power.

The story of Arthur and Guinevere reflects the possibilities and dangers of power. Arthur, through his responsible authority, was able to wield tremendous control over his kingdom, bowing all to his will. His power, however, could not bring him true happiness, since it could not give him the one thing he most desired: the love of Guinevere. Once again, we are reminded, as we were earlier with the Magic card, that true love conquers all.

We must, then, strive to temper our power with love, and blend the two in a conscious effort to become more benevolent in our actions.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Major Arcana: Fertility

The III card in the Lover's Path Major Arcana is the Fertility Card, represented by the pair Cleopatra and Caesar. Ryder-Waite uses The Empress to represent this card, and it represents fecundity, abundance, and growth. This amazing duo is the perfect pair to articulate these themes.

Cleopatra reigned as Queen of the Nile, empress of Egypt, for over two decades. During that time, she became known across the lands as a seductress with a highly musical voice and unusual intelligence. Made queen at the tender age of seventeen, Cleopatra was quickly forced into exile by those who resented her power.

To regain her rightful throne, Cleopatra turned to Caesar, by smuggling herself to him rolled up in an oriental rug. As the rug unfurled and the young queen was revealed, Caesar could do nought but fall in love with her, and he would help her successfully return to power.

Cleopatra would bear a child to Caesar, a young boy they named Caesarion, or "Little Caesar." The queen returned to Egypt, leaving Caesar to fight the Roman fight. He could not forget the beautiful enchantress, however, and invited her to return to Rome.

For almost two years, the duo lived together in his magnificent palace, a life of golden happiness. Caesar was so besotted with her that he erected a statue of her in a temple of Venus. Though he was already married to another woman, many believed that he would find a way to wed his queen, thus making their son heir to their combined kingdoms.

Together, the lovers were simply too strong, their empire too vast. They were doomed to fall. Caesar became dictator of the Roman Empire, and his enemies accused him of plotting to make himself King. Threatened by Caesar's amassed power and Cleopatra's ambition, several Roman senators conspired to kill Caesar on the infamous Ides of March in 44 BCE. Heartbroken, but always pragmatic, Cleopatra took their soon and fled Rome to save their lives.

Upon her return to Egypt, Cleopatra consolidated her power, using all that she had learned from Caesar. She would also easily seduce Mark Antony, one of three rulers who would divide the spoils of Casear's Roman empire after his death. Mark Anthony helped Cleopatra extend her reign, conquering Crete and Cyrenaica, making her Queen of Kings. This prompted the Roman Senate to declare war on Egypt.

This time, affection was not enough to protect the queen and her empire. Even with his military aid, the Egyptian forces were easily overcome in a battle at sea. Realizing that defeat was at hand, the lovers Cleopatra and Mark Anthony took their own lives.

With the end of Cleopatra's reign, the golden age of the pharaohs came to a close. She was the last monarch of Egypt, despite her determination, Egypt would become a province of Rome with her death.

On this card, Cleopatra and Caesar are depicted in the fecund glory of their ruling years. Pregnant with Caesar's son, she is draped in jewels, representing the richness of their union, and frought with the optimism that their unborn child will take their empires even further. Caesar wears the crown of laurels of the victor, and they are surrounded by the symbols of their expanding empires. Of chief symbolic importance are the multiple cats that roam at their feet. Cats, great and small, symbolize the fertile powers of Bastet, the regal Egyptian cat goddess.

The story of Cleopatra and Caesar, then, represent the host of possibilities that lay before them at their zenith. Hope, optimism, fertility - all are symbolized in the images of the Fertility card depicted here.

When the Fertility cards appears in a reading, it symbolizes power, ruling over one's life, expanding horizons, or experiences of fertility and abudance. When this card is selected, it may symbolize a new marriage or special relationship which supports one's growth. It may also signify practical action which manifests itself as a physical product - children, artistic endeavors, or wealth. It can also specifically symbolize pregnancy.

In its reversed or weakly aspected position, the fertility card signfies deprivation or sterility. The querent might be feeling the lack of material resources or limitations that are overwhelming. It symbolizes the need for more abundance in life.

I remember doing a reading for a friend, and the Fertility card popped up. She was appalled and said "Why, I CAN'T be pregnant!" I smiled, and patiently explained to her that perhaps she was "pregnant", but that the "child" might be something other than a human baby. As we feel the magic of the Lover's Path Tarot, we must remember that each card had a wide range of meanings, and that they must be interpreted in the context of our own lives. The completion of a manuscript or artistic work is as much the process of giving birth as the physical act of giving life to a baby.

Let us all be fertile in our lives, and produce many great works to share with the world.

The Major Arcana: Wisdom

Following the Magic card is the Wisdom Card, depicted by the lovers Shahrazade and Shahriyar. In the Ryder-Waite deck, the II card is The High Priestess. Here, Shahrazade fulfills that role.

We encounter the story of this powerful woman through the collection of tales known as The Arabian Nights, or A Thousand and One Nights, which first emerged sometime during the tenth century. These tales were popularized during the 18th century, as Europeans became preoccupied by the lands of the Orient. The title of the work refers to the framing device it employs: it is the tale of 1001 nights, over which Shahrazade, the wise bride of King Shahriyar, tells the many stories of the work, in order to save her life.

Shahrazade was not the king's first wife.

Shahriyar's first wife, whom he believed to be completely faithful, was caught in the throes of infidelity. The king was so outraged that he ordered her execution for her indescretion. It was this series of events that would change Shahriyar from a benevolent leader into a distrustful despot. From that moment forward, he suspected all women of treachery and deceit, and refused ever to be betrayed again.

To ensure this fidelity, he swore only to wed virgin brides, whom he would immediately behead the morning after the wedding night.

Naturally, this practice could not continue. Girls were frightened for their lives, for they could not refuse the king without putting their families at risk. It was Shahrazade who would find the solution.

Shahrazade courted the king.

She volunteered to by Shahriyar's next bride, and he was so impressed by her bravery that he wed her. However, he steadied his heart at her beauty and wit, and resolved that the tradition would continue, and she would die just like those who preceded her.

The wedding night passed.

Then, just as the king was about to fall into slumber, his new bride began to tell him a tale. Despite his exhaustion the king was spellbound by her storytelling. The tale was filled with unexpected plot twists, reversals of fortune, courageous heroes, and fantastical genies and monsters. Shahrazade had managed to pull together the elements of all of the world's greatest literature in a single tale.

The storytelling lasted long into the night, and just as the sun was about to rise, the tale reached its most exciting climax.

And Shahrazade stopped speaking.

The king, determined to hear the end of the story, realized that he could not kill his bride now. She had to finish the tale.

Night after night, the young bride continued to weave her tale, as her husband hung on her every word. Tales intertwined with new tales, endless in their clever variations.

The result was always the same. Morning after morning, Shahriyar spared her life. Soon, a thousand and one nights had passed. During this time, Shahrazade's wisdom secured the king's love and trust. In doing so, she saved her life, and those of her fellow women. In her infinite wisdom and creativity, Shahrazade was able to find the means to right the wrongs of the existing situation.

On this card, Shahrazade is portrayed as she tells a breathtaking tale to her enthralled husband. Notice that the sun is rising behind them, revealing the end of yet another Arabian night. Her face is serene with the knowledge that she will live to see another day.

When the Wisdom card appears in a reading, it signifies knowledge and intelligence, or wisdom gained from education. It may represent translating book learning into understanding, or a teacher who will share with you what you are seeking. It may also signify using education to improve your life and the lives of others, or using wisdom to transform a difficult situation for the better.

When the card appears in the reversed or weakly aspected position, it symbolizes an unwillingness to learn, or an overreliance on the intellect or facts, rather than following intuition. It could also represent superficiality or intimidation by intelligence or education. Often this card signifies that the querent is feeling limited by a lack of knowledge or understanding.

We saw with the Magic Card that the power of love could overcome even the most powerful of magical spells. Here, we see that wisdom and enlightenment can provide solutions to even the most vexing and dangerous of situations. Simply by using her talents and her knowledge, Shahrazade was able to transform a deadly situation into one of long-lasting love and trust.

We should follow Shahrazade's lead, and listen more keenly to our intuitive nature. The proper path is not always the most clearly lit; sometimes we must follow deep into the night to find the dawn that will show us the way.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Major Arcana: MAGIC

The next card in the Major Arcana, the I card, is titled Magic in the Lover's Path. Traditionally represented by the Magician in the Ryder-Waite deck, I find that the transition from Magician to Magic is a subtle but significant one.

Here Magic is represented by Merlin, perhaps the most famous of all magicians. Merlin is the mystical figure associated with the tale of King Arthur, some claiming that it was Merlin who persuaded the Lady of the Lake to bestow upon Arthur the magical sword, Excalibur. which would empower him as sole monarch of the land. Others have also credited the construction of Stonehenge to Merlin; this massive and mysterious stone circle set in southwest England is full of magic and power.

Yet, as powerful as Merlin's magic may have been, it could not compete with the magic of love. After many years serving others through his magic, Merlin would finally find his love. He encountered and became besotted by Vivianne, an ethereally beautiful woman sometimes associated with the magical Lady of the Lake, and she begged him to take her on as his pupil. As a validation of her worth, she traveled with Merlin, living humbly alongside him with the beasts of the forest.

His devoted servant, she fulfilled all of his needs save one: she would not love him.

In time, the proximity of Vivianne got the better of Merlin's power, and he gave in to her against his better judgement. Unable to resist her pleading, he taught her all the he knew of the magical arts. And when he had no more to teach her, he begged her to take pity upon his devoted heart.

Vivianne decided to put Merlin out of his misery.

She gazed upon Merlin, now completely under her spell, and administered the coup de grace. Arthur's end varies, depending on which version of the Arthurian tales you read, but they all have the same result. Merlin would never return to Arthur's court.

Whatever happened, Merlin's end was clear. The magic which empowered him had been undone by the only thing more powerful: love had trumped his sorcery.

Here, Merlin is depicted at the moment of his transformation from beguiler to beguiled. He is surrounded by the instruments of alchemy, which he had taught Vivianne to utlize. As Vivianne casts her spell, Merlin is overcome by love, by magic, and by awareness come too late: He now knows something more powerful than himself.

The lesson of the Magic card is that we should never become too confident in our own powers, and should always remember the mystical and overshadowing power of love.

When the Magic card appears in a reading, it represents that the querent is developing the magic within. It could also mean casting a spell on someone else to create positive change. Self empowerment and actualization, a yearning to grow beyond perceived limitations, or the ability to transform your life through originality and personal power may also be symbolized by this card. When this card appears, it could signify renewed creativity and vigor or a yearning to grow beyond limitations. It is one of the most powerful, transformative cards of the major arcana.

When the Magic card appears in the reversed or weakly aspected position, however, it represents blocked power, when the querent is feeling under the spell of another's power. It could represent manipulation or the exploitation of others. It also represents a need to control situations behind the scenes and secrecy, or trickster behavior that creates distrust. A reversed Magic card should indicate to the querent that he or she should be very wary and introspective regarding deceit and manipulation.

On a personal note, when I see the Magic card, I am always reminded of the person who first helped me develop my own psychic abilities, for he had a great deal of his own magic, which he then shared with me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Major Arcana: Innocence

In the Ryder-Waite deck, the first card of the Major Arcana, the zero card, is usually called The Fool. Here, in the Lover's Deck, it is the Innocence card, and it is represented by the lovers Tamino and Pamina, from Mozart's opera The Magic Flute. This was the last opera Mozart composed, and he completed it in 1791. One of the inspirations for the plot of the opera was the rites of the Freemasons, to whom Mozart belonged. The opera recounts the story of a princess, Pamina, and a prince, Tamino, who learn to trust their hearts, innocent and inexperienced as they may be. Thus, they are the perfect symbols of this first card, the Innocence card, of the major arcana.

The basic plot of the opera revolves around the two young lovers. Pamina's father, on his deathbed, bequeathed his magic flute, whose song could offer solace, to his queen. He gave his solar orb, which gave the power of the sun, to Sarastro, his most trusted friend, to hold for his daughter until she came of age. The queen grew jealous of this power, set aside for her daughter, and the desire to posess this gift grew exponentially over time. The queen learned the black arts and soon became known as the Queen of the Night.

Meanwhile, Sarastro took Pamina away to protect her from the Queen. She grew up, and the Queen spent those years, helpless against the power of the orb, plotting to regain it. One day, she came across the young Prince Tamino in the woods. She introduced herself to him, asking Tamino to rescue Pamina and the solar orb from the evil clutches of Sarastro. Tamino, believing the young Pamina to be a damsel in distress, readily agreed, and the Queen gave him the Magic Flute to aid him in his quest.

Off Tamino flew, to Sarastro's palace, where he confronted the great man himself. Sarastro told Tamino the truth about Pamina and the Queen, but Tamino did not believe him. In search of guidance, Tamino played the Magic Flute, which told him to believe Sarastro and follow him to Pamina.

As soon as the two young people saw each other, they fell in love. Sarastro was pleased by this turn of events, but warned that Pamina's father would expect Tamino to prove himself through a test of bravery. The test, Sarastro explained, would pit Tamino against earth, wind, fire, and water. The test began at the foot of a mountain, where he found a deep cave from which ribbons of fire and a waterfall circled by winds emerged. Pamina declared, "I shall lead you, but love will guide me."

Tamino raised the Magic Flute to his lips and began his journey. Pamina took his hand, and together they approached the cave, using the flute's song to ease their fears. The duo was protected by the flute, their hearts calmed by the notes. Together, they would emerge unscathed from the elements in triumph.

The image on the Innocence card is that of Tamino and Pamina at the moment they are being tested by the primal elements of water and fire. Tamino is blindfolded, representing the innocence that limited his view of the world. Blind to the world, he must rely upon Pamina's guidance to survive the tests of the elements. They must trust each other. Pamina, in turn, must trust that true love will guide them to safety. Though she is also innocent of the elements, she knows enough to follow her heart and trust in its guidance. This serene trust is the greatest gift that innocence has to offer.

Personally, I feel much more comfortable with the image of Innocence rather than The Fool of the Ryder-Waite deck, as I believe that it imparts a greater sense of purity and trust, rather than the negative characteristics of deceit and illusion suggested by the Fool.

When the Innocence card emerges in a reading, it can have a number of meanings. It can represent the beginning of a great journey, or the launching of new ventures or risks. It signifies the innocence that allows one to be open to possiblities and protects from difficulties. This card symbolizes the process of facing one's fears and trusting the heart. A sense of optimism emerges. One might be feeling protected by divine forces, such as Pamina did when she followed her heart to lead the duo to safety.

When the Innocence card emerges in a reverse or weakly aspected position in a reading, it may signify that the querent is ignoring his or her better instincts. It might symbolize cynicism or pessimism, and a distrust of the self or others. This would be a signifier that the querent is not listening to those divine forces, and is unwilling to take the first step to make a new start and take a new path.

The Innocence Card is the first card of the major arcana, representing only the first steps in a long journey of development. It is a powerful card, nonetheless, because as we are well aware, every journey must begin with that first step forward. Without that single step, there can be no others that follow.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Translating the Lover's Path (Part I)

So we saw in my last post that my deck is the Kris Waldherr creation called The Lover's Path, a particularly aesthetically pleasing collection of images and meanings. Since most people are more familiar with the Ryder-Waite or other more conventional tarot decks, I would like to spend some time introducing the cards of the Lover's Path here. As we discuss the cards, and you see the images, I hope that you will find the magic in them as I have.

Traditionally, there are four suits in the tarot, representing each of the four elements: Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.

Water, the element of emotion, is represented in both decks by Cups (also sometimes called Chalices). Water is ruled by the moon, and just as the sea is pulled by the power of the moon, our lives are pulled by our feelings. Our emotions sweep us along, sometimes calm, sometimes stormy, always sustaining us, giving life a richness beyond jewels.

In the Ryder-Waite deck, the next suit is usually called Wands, and represents Fire, symbolized by the powerful sun. In the Lover's Path, this suit is called Staves. The electrical force embodied within the suit of staves is as powerful as fire, and as expansive as the sun's life-affirming energy, leading us along a path of action or change, and teaching us how to take charge of our lives.

Air is typically seen as swords, although here we see Arrows. Just as fire burns us to take action in our lives, the arrows prick our consciousness into awakening. Arrows suggest the incisive forces of the intellect, and cause us to reflect and be introspective. They focus the fiery energy of the staves and help us to understand life in all its complexities. Arrows represent transformative possibilities.

And finally, Earth, the material element, is called Pentacles by Ryder-Waite, and Coins here in the Lover's Path. Coins represent the best the world can offer us, by assimilating the lessons of the three previous suits. Coins suggest practical measures for creating stability in our daily lives. Coins are associate with the earth, whose most precious metal is gold. The earth is necessary for our very existence. It is integral to our survival. Our religious beliefs tie us to the earth in many concrete ways. The gold of the coins suggests the forces of prosperity created along the path of manifestation. We can only attend to these powerful forces once our personal needs are fulfilled, thus allowing us to create heaven on earth.

Every path must begin somewhere, and the Lover's Path begins with the stories of the Major arcana cards. The twenty-two cards in the major arcana tell a story of progressive life lessons, each an important archetypal experience. The lessons on each card come from emotional states and experiences, which togehter represent the hidden geography of the heart. By reading the Major arcana, we can discern the twisting and turning paths of life's journey.

The journey begins here with the Innocence Card (Card (0) and ends with Triumph at Card XXI. The major arcana cards share the love stories of twenty-two famous couples, each of them affiliated with a particular major arcana card. These pairs have been carefully chosen from the most inspiring legends, myths, and historical events in history, and the stories provide mystical illustration of the emotional principles associated with each card.

When major arcana cards appear in a given reading, they can represent recurrent life themes and important transitions at hand. They are the most powerful cards in the Tarot deck, and represent great energies and powers. They suggest that there is much more to a given situation than meets the eye, and signals to the querent that he or she must look deeper, beneath the superficial responses to the question at hand.

The power of this particular deck will be revealed as we examine the images, symbolism, and signficance of each card in turn. And you do not have to be a Lover to appreciate the wisdom in its message.

Please join me for future installments of Translating the Lover's Path. It will be an exciting journey. I promise.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Introducing My Tarot Deck

When I began my journey with the Tarot, I was introduced to it by a friend, as so many of us are. And, as tradition dictates, I was not allowed to purchase my own deck of tarot. Instead, she took me to the store, where I perused literally fifty different decks, before carefully choosing the Lover's Path Tarot, created by Kris Waldherr. The choice of a deck should not be made in haste. Rather, the new deck should call to you, reaching out with its energies, for you will be forging a relationship with these cards that will be meaningful in both tangible and intangible ways.

This deck spoke to me.

In particular, I loved the imagery on the cards. The art was inspired by the creator's visit to Italy, and the images reflect the rich world of the Italian Renaissance. And, as she states in the companion book to the tarot deck, she became enchanted with the labyrinth of Venice, because she "could never be certain what would appear before me around a corner." That, in essence, reflects the art of the Tarot. It helps us to discern what is around each new corner. She states, "Often, just as I convinced myself that I was irrevocably lost, I would find myself exactly where I intended." How often have we found that, just when we believe our path is irrevocably twisted away from our goals, that we have arrived just where we need to be?

This is the gift of the Tarot.

And it is in this deck, in particular, that I have found the means to help find our way through the labyrinth that is this life.

So, I thought, what better way to start this new blog, that through an introduction to the tool that helps me decipher the twistings and turnings that surround us?

This deck, like most traditional tarot decks, contains seventy-eight cards, divided into twenty-two major arcana cards and fifty-six minor arcana cards.

The major arcana cards are each affilitated with the story of a famous historical or mythological couple, exploring the many experiences of love and the major archetypes and universal questions of life's journey. Each card is thus named after archetypal emotional states represented by the stories, and in turn, are related to traditional tarot symbolism.

The minor arcana cards explore the great themes of the major arcana, but now brought to earth, and made relevant to our individual experiences. The minor arcana are divided into four suits: cups, staves, arrows, and coins, related to the elements of water, fire, air, and earth. The cards in any given suit retell one of the classic love stories, with each card progressively depicting an important scene from the story. Together, they impart the lesson associated with each suit.

So, watch for a series of posts introducing the cards of this deck, with explanations and images of the various cards in the Lover's Path. I hope you will find it as exciting to learn them as I did, when I first held their energies in my hands.

Welcome to the Lover's Path.