Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Four of Cups and The Eight of Cups

April 22, 2015: The Four of Cups by Mary Allen

My card this month was the four of cups.  The four of cups in the Thoth deck depicts four cups with water pouring out of a lotus fixture at the top, and is, according to Angeles Arrien, supposed to represent emotional luxury and fulfillment -- both internal and external fulfillment. 

At first I couldn’t figure out what in my month had anything to say about me having both internal and external emotional fulfillment.  Maybe the card was just wrong this time? 

Then I remembered that I did have a big moment sometime during the month when I felt a deep sense of satisfaction in the life I’ve made for myself.  I was at a twelve-step meeting with someone who was talking about moving to another part of the country to take a new job and I realized how absolutely unappealing that was to me. 

And in that moment it came to me how truly happy and satisfied I am with the life I’ve got, the life I’ve built for myself with the help of Life over the years – a life that is truly both internally and externally satisfying.  A life with writing -- which is a deeply internally emotionally fulfilling thing -- squarely in the middle of it, a life in which I write faithfully at least two days a week every single week, and in which I get to help others write, and even get paid for doing that.  A life in which I get to live inside my own house and my own self-made life, feeling both internally and externally fulfilled. 

I felt incredibly grateful when I thought of that and the feeling stayed with me for days.  And now writing about this card has reminded me of it and brought that gratitude back.

April 22, 2015: Eight of Cups by Tania Pryputniewicz

get it right girls! After all we went through, the least you can do is thrive!

I initially disliked this month’s card, the Thoth Eight of Cups, balking at the one word caption, Indolence, with its hues of purposeful laziness, petulance and excessive wealth, fearing it meant I was doomed to squander my month stewing in unhealthy emotion.

In the Thoth image we see even rows of storm clouds bordered by moody mossy Neptunian hems of green that gradually subside to a lighter blue, with one brief lemon ray to indicate sky before the plunge into a green you could mistake for the sea or a desert out of which sprout peach cups.

A cluster of five cups seem to float in tiny pools sprung up in the desert, but when you look closer, you see a wan peach lily-like plant supporting two down bent blossoms dripping water into the middle row of cups. The very center cup, perhaps the severed root of the flower itself, is empty as are three cups in the sky floating on lily pad leaves.

Angeles Arrien says the card depicts a state of feeling depleted, which feels accurate for me. I’ve been in an exhausting rut, reacting to my 14 year old daughter’s life, fearing the power struggles might go on forever. I keep forgetting that I have a choice about how stressed out I become. Wanting some relief, I turned to the Rider Waite Eight of Cups, called by some “Success Abandoned.” Here, a figure in red cape turns away from eight full cups to go after an elusive new goal.

In synchronicity, working with my Tarot writing students this month, I come across the Poet Tarot Deck’s Wheel of Fortune card featuring Edna St. Vincent Millay. When I look for example poems by Millay, I discover a selection on google books discussing her natal chart and birth placement as a Pisces Eight, which connects her to the Eight of Cups. The Poet Tarot handbook assigns Millay to the Wheel of Fortune Arcanum due to the ups and downs she experienced during periods of wildly vacillating public support. Still, she wrote. Regardless. Maybe the Eight of Cups “elusive new goal” is simply to write that next poem….

But just as I question Indolence, I’m wondering about Success Abandoned. I prefer the Rider Waite’s red cape to signify the figure’s vitality and warmth, an inner confidence. And prefer to think the figure is drawn to new pools, stopping to look into each new mirror, as writers are apt to do, much like the children in C.S. Lewis’s "The Magician’s Nephew," remember them? Polly and Digory?  The two kids steal a couple of magic rings, which have the power to transport them (yellow: go, green: return) to a strange forest pocked with pools that are portals to other worlds.  They end up on the run from a powerful witch named Jadis, a tall and terrible stone queen they wake from enchantment who manages to trail them back into our world.

Last year when I was reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my own children and writing daily Haiku, I wrote three for my husband based on The Magician’s Nephew:

Sleep: our yellow ring.
Dawn: our green. True magician:
Love’s concentric rings.

The woods between: you’re
Digory, I’m Polly, with vague
Shared past, still willing.

Not for thrill of new
or fear of witch. But that you
came to retrieve me.

On the run, hiding in the garage from the kids, leaning up against the washing machine, my husband listens to me, calms me, when things get too intense. Though I’m grateful he’s so present, can take over here and there, I am most of the time the first body absorbing the emotions circling our home at any given moment. Only after reaching out to my friends to say how down I felt do I realize how much I’ve gotten used to a perpetual state of Eight of Cups exhaustion.

Dance! One friend says… Shake out the anger! Walk away!

Read "Gift from the Sea," another says, and it pulls me up short, puts my struggles in perspective, to discover the grief of Anne Morrow Lindbergh (she lost an infant to a kidnapper). And yet, Lindbergh writes. Seashell by seashell (her chapters named after shells), Lindbergh considers her family of five, displays for us her ledger of joys and challenges with equanimity.

Read Sharon Olds! Another says. And I do…and I see everywhere around me women not giving in to their exhaustion but finding a way to make a path, word by word, to wholeness.

This month and last, then, I’ve had two of the Eights that correspond to the Major VIII, Strength. These minor Eights—chosen blindness (Eight of  Swords), and chosen exhaustion (Eight of Cups) are meant to remind me to call on the best of Arcanum VIII, Strength, to heal. When I look at the Rider Waite Strength card, girl bending gently at waist to restrain lion’s jaw, I’m initially angry to see such a harmonious rendering of what I perceive as a far bloodier internal battle to gain equilibrium.

In this case, I prefer the Thoth Strength card: a naked woman astride the many-headed lion, cauldron of her uteral blood raised to sky and worms either coming to feed or scattering away from her chalice of self. This woman is thoroughly underground—only her blood breaks the horizon line—blood she discards monthly, blood of childbirth, blood that goes into the bloodline of her future children.

The kind of wrangling to right a teenage daughter and oneself means wrangling with one’s own matrilineal lines of power and pain. It means respecting the trials of my ancestors—my two grandmothers—one withstanding the shock frequencies of EST passing through her brain, the other waiting up all night for her husband to come home from the bar, and further back to distant Polish and Italian and Irish foremothers walking barefoot in their gardens or the gardens of others they tended.

Perhaps the storm clouds in this month’s Eight of Cups are ancestral, a backdrop of the crush of emotions that pour in to the charged, lemon bright air of the now between my daughter and I, a sort of mixed blessing and challenge: get it right girls! After all we went through, the least you can do is thrive!

What I can do for now is give thanks for the strength of my grandmothers, for the lens of the Tarot, for Mary’s friendship, and for this lifelong affliction/blessing of writing that allows me to breathe and try again tomorrow.

Related link:

Tania's next Tarot Writing class, Wheel of Archetypal Selves: Stasis to Radiance, Hanged One to Star is forming online. To read a course description and to sign up visit her website.