Friday, December 18, 2015

The Princess of Cups and Lust

December 12, 2015: The Princess of Cups by Tania Pryputniewicz

My card of the month this time was the Princess of Cups. In the Thoth Deck, she floats in blue sky or water, pale green slippers supported on vines or arms of a leviathan octopus. One hand loosely grasps a lotus and the other holds out a basin supporting a sleepy looking turtle whose shell floats up off his back. Turtle, lotus, and edges of the Princess gown splay out in rays towards us in a unified field of letting go.

“The heart has many mysteries and ambiguities;” writes Alejandro Jodorowsky of this Princess; she may “hesitate between fear of being hurt and the desire to give all of [her]self” ("Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards").

I’ve been thinking a lot about the heart also in relation to Quest 2016 (an online adventure for which questers quest by musing on prompts created by visionaries). I’ve responded so far by pulling Tarot cards, usually three, and in addition to writing about the cards, sketching a synthesis image in colored pencil. The heart and the eye often figure. 

I went to a wedding this month with my husband. On our way to our chairs, we walked through tunnels of green hedges laced overhead with firefly-sized points of light. We emerged in front of a fountain, its basin adrift with red rose petals.

We sat facing the gazebo in the unusually windy December late afternoon, shafts of sunlight passing through thick pale gold and lavender trunks of the eucalyptus grove, waiting, listening to a classical trio and the lilt of violin. In that waiting, stilled as we were without our children or cellphones, I considered what it would take to give more. As a wife.

After the ceremony, I stood by the heat lamps watching the women in furs. As the waiters circulated, I ate warm mushroom tops full of melting cheese and noodle sachets soft with olive oil. We could see the photographer, perched perpetually between his umbrella lights, profusely wiping his brow. When it was our turn to be documented, I brought him a cup of water.

Inside the banquet tent, the billowed ceiling glittered in the glow of three tiered crystal chandeliers. White and peach rose bouquets floated three feet off the dining tables at even intervals on slim metal vase stems, meridians of tables below lined with candles and evergreens braided with red roses. Halfway through dinner, laurel crowns winking with white lights, a dozen ballerinas fluttered over to the head table to bless the bride and groom.

Everywhere: evidence of the bride’s love of light and jewels from arbor to chandelier to table to her own beaded gown.  I watched all night, separate as usual, but a little more merged and trusting. Here was beauty; I could let go. I danced with my husband, many songs in a row.  My husband I knew best; we came to know the rest by dancing, dancing, dancing.

Somewhere during dinner it began to rain. By ten o’clock, on our way to the parking lot, my husband pulled me into one of the arbor archways, his shirt damp from dancing, his heart-heat wicking through the silk of my blue dress. He kissed me to the sound of rain on the leaves--just us—with a suitor’s kiss. I looked up into the night sky where the eucalyptus tree limbs vanished into the misting rain, tree’s upper half retaining shape as a hive of pale blue lights threaded for yards up into the sky in its own anchored star field.

On the freeway, the rain fell in thick gusts. I was afraid. But the one bum windshield wiper only folded once, kindly waiting until I had passed the ambling semi with its dragon exhalations of roiled mist and rain coursing over our hood. The gas gauge’s red needle hovered mournfully over E forcing one more stop between storm and hearth.

The kids were wide awake when we walked in. Someone had spilled red candle wax on the rug. Someone’s homework remained undone. Half-eaten tamales crowned dinner dishes strewn about the counter. The husky howled mournfully, destitute of her walk.

All night the wind. All night I heard it, waking to the cats batting at the blinds to be let in, to be let out, husband warm each time I returned to sleep beside him. All night I thought again about the pastor’s words: he said we come to know our spouse more than anyone else, even more than our children.  Since children come after the marriage, they serve to deepen it.

I’m thinking of the heart, and “heart seeing.” We see with our eyes and yet the heart sees in its own way. Here the Princess of Cups has her eyes closed, even as she lets go, trusting what she is offering to be received by a benevolent world—turtle to arrive at its next bit of land, cut stem of flower to land in water. Maybe this Princess of Cups represents the eternally young part inside of every parent…the youthful self passing through the lessons of unconditional love and letting go no matter what body-age she or he is.

I saw it most clearly during the solo dances: in the face of the mother dancing with her son the groom, for as wise as she looked she looked like a little girl too, and in the face of the father dancing with his daughter. We watched, riveted, as each pair conversed, tilting this way to lean closer to hear, drawing back to laugh and smile. Drew closer once more at dance’s end for one last hug. Then, the hands dropping to side, parent-child watching as grown-child walked away--without a glance backwards--to dance with the spouse of their newly blessed forever.

December 12, 2105: Lust by Mary Allen

My card last month was Lust, or Strength as it’s called in other tarot decks.  It’s the eleventh major arcana card, which follows the tenth card or Wheel of Fortune, which was my card of the month before this one.
In the Thoth deck Lust (or Strength) shows a naked woman mounted on the back of a giant beast—a lion with five heads, all but one of which are human:  there’s a king, a priest, two women, and a creepy dreamlike animal with something like a malformed small head coming out of the back of its head. Angeles Arrien (“The Tarot Handbook:  Practical Applications of Ancient VisualSymbols”) explains that Lust in the Thoth deck doesn’t really refer to lust the way we think of it but rather comes from the root luster, as in radiance.  The literal meaning of the card, if a Tarot card can have a literal meaning, is related to Beauty and the Beast.  But in the Tarot cards, of course, the beast is the beast within.  The Lust card is all about working with our negative thoughts, bringing light, more light, to the dark places inside ourselves.  The woman on the card, according to Angeles Arrien, has “overcome old fears tied with the past.” 

I’ve been doing plenty of that lately—trying to do it at least—wrestling with my childhood fear of my mother which has somehow morphed, like a shape-shifting animal, into fear of rejection by editors and agents and publishers.  I’m finishing a book I’ve worked on forever and instead of feeling happy and triumphant all I can manage to feel is dread and anxiety.  But even as I write those words the feelings change into something else; the words don’t even begin to capture what’s been going on inside of me, its subtlety, its light and shadows.  I think of how interior stuff is never so simple.  It’s as complicated and strange, as beautiful and ugly as the world of dreams and the images on the cards themselves, which are like dreams.  It, whatever it is—meaning, spirit, emotion—resists being translated into words, and it’s only through looking at the picture and at the world around us, that we can even begin to see it. 

The Lust of the card refers to light and although I’ve never thought of it this card in terms of light, maybe that is what it’s all about.  It’s the middle of December as I write this, almost the equinox, the shortest day of the year, and we’ve been having a series of short gray almost lightless days.  But a few days ago the sun came out and I went for a walk.  Even though it should be winter it still feels like late fall here, no snow on the ground, temperatures in the fifties, and when I was outside walking I noticed how every bit of the world touched by sunlight was shining:  Individual blades of grass, the little green leaves still clinging to a slender young tree, flecks of mica in the sidewalk, even the old brown dead oak leaves littering the ground were all shining as if sending out their own light; there were stars of light on car hoods, reflections blazing in windows.  Sitting at my kitchen table later on the same day my ex-partner’s twenty-seven-year-old son, who’s majoring in electrical engineering at the University, explained to me that scientists used to think that electricity, that mystery that produces light, was made up of electrons but now they think it’s something like a cloud and at the same time also electrons.  Which seems to me like the cards and even like life itself, part dream, part hard-edged reality, sometimes one thing, sometimes the other, all interspersed with no real the boundaries between them.

The interesting thing I see in the Lust card when I look at it now is the way the naked woman riding the lion, leaning back as if metaphorically slayed by the light, the power, the energy of what she’s gotten on top of, is holding a chalice full of orange light, like the sunrise, up to the horizon.  Up to the horizon because she and the beast with many heads and the squiggly circles around them (representing old troubling thoughts according to Angeles Arrien), are all below ground.

The heads on the beasts look like faces you’d see in a dream or maybe a nightmare.  Quite a few years ago, when I had my first round of struggling with being an author in the world, with being published and where I thought it would take me and was afraid it wouldn’t take me in my life, I had dreams fairly regularly that three lions came into my house through the back door.  They were enormous and powerful, I knew they could tear me to pieces at any moment, but here they were paying me a visit, showing me forbearance, giving me the gift and the miracle of their presence, letting me know that I was special enough to have lions in my house.   And that reminds me of a dream I had last night, where I was in a place (some dream landscape or building) and King Henry the VIII in his later years was there, fat, puffed up with self-importance, scary, all powerful, someone who could destroy you in the blink of an eye if he wanted to—but, for the moment at least, he kind of liked me. 

What all of this is telling me there’s no way to know.  The meaning is just as mysterious and impossible to translate as the card and the dreams themselves.  But I hope it’s saying I’m going to get another chance to ride on the back of the big old beast of luck and fate in the form of publishing and have it take me somewhere, or at least give me another chance to encounter the dream faces inside myself, my hopes and fears and the projections of my ego—my little piece of the universal ego. 

Once in a zoo in Chicago I saw a glassed-in exhibit of long-dead garter snake with two heads.  Both heads had a brain, it said on a card under the snake, but only one of the brains was capable of intelligence.  And ever since then I’ve thought of the ego as something like that second head on the snake, a second, stupid head that grows up automatically on your neck when you have some success.   Which, now that I think of it, is kind of like the creepy grinning animal or maybe snake head on the Lust card, with a small second malformed head staring out of the base of its skull.