Friday, July 31, 2015

The Chariot and The Knight of Swords

July 21, 2015: The Chariot by Mary Allen

My card this month was the Chariot.  I got the Chariot during my reading too, in the waxing moon position, so I figured the Chariot might have something to tell me – I still think it probably does, though I haven’t quite figured out what yet.

All the readings I found on this card were pretty vague; mostly what I got out of them is that the Chariot has something to do with change and also determination, confidence, and directed controlled energy.  I’ve always read this card as meaning the pause before – i.e., the moment before -- some big change is going to come, but I couldn’t find that anywhere in any of the online sources I consulted so I don’t know where I got it.  The closest I could come to it was in the Angeles Arrien book, where she says the Thoth “Chariot depicts a figure in contemplation or quietude sitting within a chariot readied for activity.”

Someone gave me a Motherpeace deck a couple of months ago and there the card shows a small woman riding in a conveyance drawn by two goats with wings; the woman is holding a thick brown branch with a ball on the end of it.  Most of the Motherpeace cards—which are round and were designed in the 1970s and which I’ve always thought were too dated while at the same time too untraditional to be interesting, but which, it turns out now, I kind of like—show small women doing something; most of them are naked, but the woman on the Chariot is wearing a dress.  She’s an Amazon from northern Africa and the goddess just gave her an apple for a job well done, according to the guide that came with the cards. 

I love that idea and I’m very happy in general that my card of the month was the Chariot—it’s saying something good, is pretty much all I’ve managed to take from it in my thinking so far.  Which is often the main thing I look for when I pull a card—is it a good card, or is it a bad card or a boring doesn’t-say-much-of-anything-good-or-bad card?  I love thinking that my life this past month involved a job well done, that my behavior last month involved change with directed controlled energy, but I’m going to have to stretch to actually connect that with something in real life— my real life—last month.

The only thing I can think of is this talk I gave in the middle of the month.  The talk was on a Wednesday morning at eleven a.m. and I got a terrible night’s sleep the night before, I had one of those night’s where you can’t go to sleep and then somehow you can’t stay asleep.  When I finally got up in the morning I couldn’t imagine how I was possibly going to be able to marshal the energy to go down and talk for an hour – my subject was how to edit like a zen master – in front of an auditorium full of people.  It was not going to be easy, to say the least.  (The victory of the Chariot may involve triumph over some struggle.)  But, as the Chariot predicted, I was somehow able to rise to the challenge. I reread my notes, marshaled my psychic energy, and went down and gave that talk, and everybody loved it. 

Against all the odds, and even a little miraculously, I felt good, happy, confident standing there in front of my audience – most of them writers who’d come to Iowa City to attend the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival, a program I taught in a few weeks earlier, and which my talk was a part of.  I looked out at their faces and saw that they were truly interested in what I was saying, and I felt interested in what I was saying too.  I was present in the room instead of nervous and they were present too.  Three or four people left during the talk – I could see them gathering up their bags and exiting through the back door – but my Chariot confidence remained unshaken.  There were more questions than I could answer at the end and people came up front and talked to me and everybody seemed excited about what I had said.  I was excited about it too. 

I could practically feel myself being pulled along in my Chariot – on to who knows what future triumphs and speeches and publications.   As the afternoon wore on I started to feel my tiredness, and I didn’t quite know what to do with myself while my slightly inflated ego sank back down to regular size.  But the feeling that something had gone well never left me, and I’m grateful for my time in the Chariot, and sometimes I can even remember that I’m still in the Chariot, being carried forward by life.

July 21, 2015: The Knight of Swords by Tania Pryputniewicz

My card this month was the Knight of Swords. In the Thoth deck, horse and rider skim through a blue sky high above cloud-like rivulets of water. I love the tawny caramel of horse outlined in darker brown, the elfin gold-green armor and matching pixie helmet of the knight. Three swallows fly below the horse bearing his colors in winged mimicry. Both backs of horse and rider share a body line, just as horse’s rear leg and rider’s leg fold at the same angle, seamless in their commitment to forward motion.

They’re setting off diagonally; even the birds agree. We don’t see the rider’s eyes, but the horse’s are blue, wide open. His muzzle and profile line meld into front hoove line. Four propellers, transparent as dragonfly wings, spin on top of the knight’s helmet and are labeled North, South, East, and West. Where is this duo headed with such purposeful haste? Angeles Arrien reminds us that the card, “Combining the elements of water and air, metaphorically, is a symbol for passionate thinking.”

This card fell during some intense weeks of reckoning with mortality due to my aging parents. I’m poured through childhood memories, as if on a Ferris wheel, up, up for birds’ eye view, then plummeted back to the ground level of the now where my children live. The psychic umbilical cord doubles; I stand midlife, one half of the cord trammeling back to my parents and the other surging towards my children.

There’s never much more to offer than physical presence so I prepare to visit. Even as I pack my green suitcase, I get a phone call from the lifeguard stand: my daughter hyperextended her arm doing a cartwheel in the surf.  I reign in my fears about dying, what’s left to say or do in my life, my parents’ lives, have they done what they came here to do--have any of us?—and I tend to my daughter, anchored to her need. But by dusk the entourage of doubts and memories return with what I recognize now as the “fear-of-death/loss migraine” in tow.

Alejandro Jodoroswsky writes in relation to the Knight of Swords, “I guide [my horse] in a large leap that projects me from realm of intellect into the mystery of the emotional.” The realm I enter does not feel guidable; I’m definitely out of my head and in the heart’s underworld of projected grief, as if out of time with my loved ones already. My husband makes dinner for the kids and by instinct they all steer clear of my door, coming only to kiss me, nudging aside the stack of pillows over my head, calling Mom, Mom, good night.

By sunrise, I know, like the knight, it is best not to look up or stop  for now, better to dwell in the green spring of the possibility that my parents, and all of us, will have more seasons together. I’ve no other task than to allow that supple strong-legged horse carry me to and away from my parents as often as I can escape while I care for my children and write my way true.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Moon and The Devil

June 27, 2015: The Moon Card by Tania Pryputniewicz

Last Card of the Month writing with Mary was on May 1, so I’ve lived with The Moon now for two months. Mary was battling resistance to her selection, The Devil, so she chose a few more cards. I love that she second-guesses the pull, knows better than to force a negative. No being punished or nailed down; we view the Tarot as a spontaneous mirror and never judge our spontaneous hands reaching out for another image.

“What did you get?” Mary asked. When she heard I pulled the Moon, she suggested that I go inward in order to find peace around the heightened survivor’s panic I’ve been unable to quell as my three kids (especially my daughter) careen toward puberty. “Use the Moon to go see what is inside you, for you,” Mary said, like there was just a trapdoor to open and stairs to descend, and all I needed to do was go. She’s right; she’s journeyed the card intimately: see her post about how the Moon card prevailed through the grief of losing her sister. 

Mary reminded me that the tall jackal figures on either side of the valley of two hills in the Thoth deck are sentries protecting us so we are safe to review our hidden selves without fear of exposure or danger from the outside world. Arrien says, “The guardians of the gate are the Ra Kings from ancient Egypt, the Sun gods, who protect our life force and energy as we change and reclaim our authentic selves.”

I love this idea that our life force is sun driven.

I looked at the card closely and right away recognized a bathtub view of the female body lying supine. The pale red and blue hills below the earth’s horizon line form breasts and the scarab (Khepi, Egyptian God of Transformations according to Arrien) encircles an underground sun with its two foremost feelers. Scarab and sun are haloed by two pale yellow circles that feel uteral to me. Especially the ring that forms a tip at the loins of the two large blue legs, ending in the hills of knees, nesting the two sun gods, one per thigh.

I think of Frida Kahlo’s bathtub portrait (What I Saw in the Water, also known by the title, What the Water Gave Me) painted from inside pain’s hyper alert state of slowed time. We could say it is Frida’s Moon map, memories bobbing on the surface of the water, stilled for her to see. And for us to witness, looking over her shoulder, blessing vicariously her story and our own buried sorrow wicked to the surface in resonant sympathy.

All month long, finding five minutes here and there in which to rest while burning sandalwood incense, I felt that quiet, protected, moony place again inside, even as my son interrupted, flinging open bedroom door to bring me his latest smoothie variations of fresh pineapple, almonds, vanilla, kale, raspberries, and yogurt over ice.

During Tarot class, I came across Eden Gray’s mention of the stream between the two cups of the Temperance Angel as transferring “the Life force from the imagination (Moon) into activity of the conscious (Sun) [in such a way that] the will is developed and imagination purified” so that nothing is ever lost. Eileen Connolly, speaking of the Star Card, reminds us “we can’t know the question nor the answer” when approaching the Superconscious or God force itself.

I spend so much time white-knuckling life, putting up shields in fear this or that might happen to my daughter or my sons; but now I see the shield keeps out the good God force too. It is a blessing to return to meditation where body and mind can replenish. I’m thinking of sci-fi movies in which cyborg assassins shut off to rejuvenate, blue and gold light sparking beneath metal frame. When those cyborg eyes click open again, the whole robot is fully restored and ready to overcome any obstacle or threat.

In the Thoth Moon depiction, between the blue hills or knees of the supine self, another world crowns with swirling red and blue path lines. It looks like a blown glass marble, pale yellow but mostly blue like the Earth from space. Maybe during incarnation our path is lined with blood. Pain forces our attention, darkens the hem of the skirt, anchors us.

Reading Alejandro Jodorowsky on the negative aspect of the Star card, I came across this line, which at first made me defensive. He writes: if we want to view the Star card negatively, we could say, “she is squandering her energy on the past, haunted by the unresolved neuroses of the inner child.”

I could take this to mean I’ve squandered my time on projects that were twenty obsessive years in the making, such as November Butterfly in which I wrote about women across time and our inherited relationship to victim stance, charisma, danger and power. But just the act of taking that time to write about my trauma and that of others has allowed the “neuroses of the inner child” to speak, and freed her clutching grip on large portions of my psyche. As a result, there’s room in my inner house now for the kind of joy I’m experiencing in meditation, actively practicing Connolly’s concept of immersing without resistance to the ever present God force.

I’m reminded of a particular type of flying dream I have now and again, bordering on horrific, in which my body disintegrates as a fractional core self hurtles forward in forced acquiescence. The terror is always balanced by an intense joy—as if my cells are singing in celebration of God/life force.  I tried to paint the sensation years ago when I lived in Iowa City, titling the blue and dark orange melting figure, The Fear/Joy.

How do we take the lesson of trusting life again “off the cushion” and into the day? ("Off the cushion" is a line from a beautiful meditation astrologer Bonnie Orgren shared with me, The accomplishment of Kwan Yin, by Donna Mitchell-Moniak). I practiced earlier this week while walking my Siberian Husky, letting the black loop of her leash rest lightly in my palm and borders of my body blend out to meet the black-eyed Susans swirling on their pale lime stalks, extending the blending of boundaries down to sand and beyond to the wan blue bay water receding towards the Blue Bridge…

…which worked until my Husky spotted a tiny wild rabbit, and we were off in reckless pursuit of a bobbing white tail vanishing through sage bush until my weight countered the dog enough to drag us to a panting halt beneath the high noon sun. I’ll try again when I’m not attached to the other end of a leash.

June 27, 2015: The Devil Card by Mary Allen

My card of the month was the Devil.  Oh no, the Devil! I thought when I pulled it, and I pulled another card to see if I could get something that would tell me something different.  That time I got the 7 of Wands (Valor) which I thought might be telling me the same thing as the Devil so I picked another card (2 of Swords, Peace) and at that point I just gave up.

The Devil in the Thoth deck has a picture of a goat stuck to a big brown wooden something that can only be described as a dick and at the bottom of that are two oval balls.  The balls have small ghostly contorted figures of men inside them; the goat himself has long twisty horns, a third eye in the middle of his forehead and a rakish crown of blue flowers sitting askew on his head.  As depictions of the Devil goes this one is pretty benign even if it’s a little embarrassing. 

The Devil in the Rider-Waite deck has harpy feet, bat wings, and a reversed pentagram on his forehead, and the Devil in the Tarot of Marseille (this was the first tarot deck I ever had, bought on a whim when I saw it at a bookstore, the images turned out to be way too abstract for me to even begin to make heads or tails of) – that Devil has boobs, a face on the belly, eyes on the knees, male genitalia, and its own set of bat wings.  What could all these images possibly be telling me during the last month?

I’ve decided to go with the interpretation in the Angeles Arrien book, which, like the Thoth Devil it describes, is the most benign one I can find.  She says the Devil represents (or reinforces, or comments on or whatever) maintaining stability and humor in all aspects of life. (I guess being strapped to a big dick equals stability, the humor needs no explanation.)  She also says, and here’s the part that speaks to me about the spiritual pathway I’ve been traveling since I picked this card (a good month and a half ago now):  The Devil represents the need to face whatever we might consider our bedevilments or problems.  

I think I can honestly say I did that during the last month or so.  Prompted by some inner necessity, and without even thinking about this card, I typed out a list of the main thought patterns that still bedevil me in my life – things like not being able to get and hold onto any clear adult sense of myself; the idea that it’s somehow not safe to feel like everything is safe and good, etc.  (There were six of them, like the six wand-wielding men battling the one man who’s standing on higher plane above them, in the Rider-Waite seven of wands, my second card of the month.) 

I also typed out a prayer listing six alternative thoughts I’d rather think:  Thank you for helping me know deep inside that it’s safe and good to feel safe and good, etc.  And every day since then I’ve been reading that prayer a couple of times a day.  And every time, after I do that, I feel something light and airy opening up inside myself; I’m filled with happiness and optimism and peace – peace like the meaning of the two of swords, my third card of the month. 

Maybe the next time I pull the Devil or something like him as my card of the month I won’t be so scared, though I doubt it.  I’ll just pull another card and maybe another one after that, and try to listen to whatever Life has to say to me and remember that life is safe and good and that it is safe and good to feel safe and good.