January 15, 2016: The Prince of Disks and The High Priestess by Mary Allen
I picked two cards last time, the Prince of Disks—naked guy in a chariot holding what looks like a brown-leather globe, many smaller glowing-bath-bead-like balls behind him forming a backrest, everything brown and earth-toned, the chariot pulled by a bull—and The High Priestess, the number two major arcana card—white blurry woman semi-hidden behind a net-like screen with something that looks like a white China teapot on top of her head, a harp on her lap, a cradle of blue-ish energy with swirls at either end rising to meet her outstretched arms, and, at her feet, an array of vividly colored flowers, grapes, crystals, and a little camel.
The two cards sat on my coffee table for a couple of weeks surrounded by books and scribbled-on post-it notes and unread parts of the Sunday New York Times, not talking to me at all. Then a few days after the New Year arrived they suddenly said something.
My friend JoAnn and I decided to write about the previous year and what we wanted in the year to come. A long time ago, back in the early 1990s, we made lists of what we wanted. She wrote down the lists for both of us, and I would have forgotten all about it if I hadn’t happened upon the scrap of yellow notepaper with my list written out in her neat JoAnn handwriting, about nine years later. On the list were things like, I want to have all my time to write and not have to have a job, I want to publish a book, I want to own my own house. The very idea that I could have those things was laughable back when we made the lists and I don’t know what gave me the courage to ask for them. But by the time I found the list nine years later, I had them all: I had all my time to write because I’d gotten a big book advance and I’d bought a house with part of the money and I had a book that was about to be published. That certainly got my attention, and ever since then some superstitious part of me has felt like if I can just think positively enough, if I can just do a good enough job of envisioning what I want a la The Secret, I’ll get it, and if I don’t I won’t get it. (This, despite the fact that I’ve written down plenty of other lists of stuff I wanted and even put the lists in a receiving bowl or written them over and over on sheets of paper that I left in a folder in a drawer, and not gotten any of those things.)
When JoAnn said, a couple of weeks ago, she wanted to write about what she wanted for the coming year, I thought about all of that again. And when we did the writing I did write about some things that I kind of want now. My desires for material out-in-the-world things like new houses and not having to work and even book publications have gotten much less urgent over the years as my daily life has gotten happier—not happier because of what I have, but because of how I’ve changed internally; I can barely conjure those desires up at all, though there’s still some small superstitious part of me that feels like I should ask the universe to give me new and better things. So first I wrote about what I wanted materially, and then I wrote about what I wanted for myself spiritually, that is to say, inside myself, and I realized that the latter had become a lot more important to me than the former.
After I did that writing I went into my living room and sat on my couch and my eyes fell on my two tarot cards of the month, the Prince of Disks and The High Priestess, and what they had to say to me fairly jumped out at me. For a long time I’ve thought that the High Priestess, with her pale hidden priestess power beaming into the universe through her upraised arms and that oasis full of life and color at her feet, is about manifestation. About the spiritual power that is behind everything, not just getting a house and a publisher and time to write, but every single part of life, whether we know it or not. And the Prince of Disks, with his balls and his bull and his ruddy nakedness, looks like, I thought in that post-New Year’s Day moment, the ordinary gifts we accumulate in daily life, what we make every day with our steady efforts, which is a kind of manifestation too. I thought the Prince of Disks might be talking to me about all the work I’ve done to improve myself and my life in the last twenty years, ever since my book was published and passed more or less unnoticed into the literary ether without bringing me much in the way of further magic: Ever since then I’ve been working steadily on making my everyday life a life I don’t need divine intervention to want to be in, finding work I don’t want to escape from, figuring out how to feel better about myself, appreciating and improving the house I’ve got instead of thinking I need a new one. I’ve learned that the universe might buy you a house but you’re going to have to do a lot of work before you can even begin to like it and live in it. All of that is what I thought about when I looked at the Prince of Disks lying on my coffee table.
Then I looked again at the High Priestess. Was all of the above just what she was talking to me about too? Or is it possible I could get another shot at a different, more magical kind of manifestation, now that I’ve done all that work on myself and I’ve also finally, on January 3rd, finished my second book, the one I thought I finished a couple of times before and couldn’t get published despite the lists in the drawer and the requests in the receiving bowl? Could the High Priestess be telling me my luck is about to change, that flowers and a camel—different flowers, a new camel—are about to appear at my feet in some magical way that won’t require effort or grappling with expectations or low self-esteem or any of the other everyday challenges that usually go along with this life? I’d like to think so. At least, I guess I would.
January 15, 2016: The Fool by Tania Pryputniewicz
It’s my birthday today; I rose at 5:50 a.m. in the dark in a quiet state of elation which followed me into the kitchen to the spit and spin of coffee beans, the bitter smell of grounds, burbling chirp of water--all the morning rituals that make up a beautiful life as a writer and mother, knowing that on the other side of the dog’s walk, mugs in hand (half my husband’s coffee splashing out onto the sidewalk as Husky lunges after a jackrabbit), on the other side of oatmeal for the middle child and toaster waffles for the second, and after giving up on the sleeping teenager who stayed awake all night to study for finals, I will be throwing a birthday Tarot reading for my January with Mary and writing to December’s card of the month, The Fool.
In the Inner Child deck, The Fool card is titled Little Red Cap. She stands poised with butterfly on finger tip and a basket of apples on one arm, wolf flattened and wrapped around a purple tree trunk just outside of a cabin. A blue light haloes Red Cap’s hand and butterfly, her focus on that one second the butterfly trusted her enough to alight.
The authors of the Inner Child deck (Mark and Isha Lerner) speak of the red cap symbolizing the initial stage of spiritual adventure, reminding us that the jester’s cap in the traditional imagery of the Fool “signifies the presence of divine consciousness.” There’s a way in which Red Cap enters the woods oblivous to dark forces eager to divert her. I love Angeles Arrien’s affirmation: I respect the nature of who I am; there is nothing to fear (The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols).
Behind me stretches a rich December in which, like a Fool, I committed to blogging three days a week to prompts on Quest 2016. Foolish, with a weekend workshop to teach, dozens of holiday cookies to bake, and a roadtrip to Northern California looming. Like the Fool, I packed my tools in bag and set out. As we drove the ten hours north, sketch pad on lap, I pulled Tarot cards to help me answer blog prompts and doodled in colored pencil when words failed.
Keeping to it meant staying up late at my brother’s table, crook of his tiny sidelamp warming my scalp as I photographed artwork and blogged to the snores of the kids burrowed in their sleeping bags and my husband peeking out of his to ask, What are you doing now? Perfectionism, due to lack of time, waned, so each post was briefer than usual. But coloring my way through the knot of emotions road trips and large gatherings trigger gave me a surplus of peace; I was present to the kids and to my surroundings. Which inevitably fed my eye imagery for the blogposts and resulted in a win-win of quality of life, quality of art in a serene and rhythmic mobius.
In the Thoth deck, The Fool wears a suit of full green. He faces us, unflinching. In the Rider Waite Smith, we see the Fool in profile about to step off the cliff. He’s not braced against freefall, something the creative process requires. I’m thinking of lucid spinning dreams in which you accelerate at ridiculous speed flooded by equal parts terror and joy. There’s no stopping the disintegration and there’s a delicious desparation to find God leveraged by the adrenaline-surged sensation of annihilation. Which might be a form of prayer in action, a motion based experience of faith upon waking to find you still have a body, a life to live before you.
Or a way of allowing the light of source to course through us, as here in the Thoth depiction we see the Fool’s face aglow with pale gold. His raimant, too, from gold boots to gold curls under green cap, capped with divine red feather.
Given everything--the chronicles of mistrust or pain any one of us at midlife could place on the ledger to prove the world is a dark and dangerous forest--it is foolish to trust, to start again, to quest anew.
And yet, Yes, the Fool says to me, Yes; here we go again.