May 17: The Queen of Cups by Mary Allen
My card this time was the Queen of Cups. The queen herself is virtually invisible on this card in the Thoth deck, just a small dim face almost hidden among blue swirls and green reeds; there are lotuses, a stork, and a large greenish crayfish shell that are more visible than the queen is too. About three quarters of the way down the image is a line separating the upper and lower parts of the picture; below the line is water, with the queen, the blue swirls, the bird, and everything else that appears above reflected in the water below. As above, so below, is the message of this card.
This is a very watery card, but when I look at it I think of air. I’ve been thinking about this card all month when I meditate in the mornings. I’ve got a few button-pushing things going on, and when I get out of bed, find my slippers, go to the bathroom, feed my cats, I feel a bit of heaviness, a little bit of anxiety roiling around in my solar plexus, like the remnants of an uneasy dream. Then I go upstairs and sit in the green brocade chair in the corner of my attic study, close my eyes, and meditate for twenty minutes. In meditating I focus on the moment and the world as it comes wafting through the open-because-it’s-May, east-facing windows on my right: the many-layered tapestry of bird songs, the green-smelling spring air, some background sound which is probably distant traffic on Route 80 but which seems like the happy humming or breathing of the world itself. And I start to feel lighter, happier, more expansive. My upper self starts to match my lower self; the part of me above the water line, in the world, gets more like the light airy place of the unconscious.
It’s kind of the opposite of what Angeles Arrien says when she talks about the as-above-so-below aspect of the Queen of Cups in The Tarot Handbook: According to her, the double reflection of the water in the Queen of Cups “is representative of the Queen’s constant choice to reflect her feelings accurately.” In other words, as I read what she’s saying, the Queen lets the dark feelings, the pain and anxiety and other bad feelings left over in the unconscious from earlier traumas, come to the surface instead of pushing them down and keeping them hidden from herself. I can go with that too; I’m all for accepting and admitting those feelings without “blame or judgment,” as Angeles Arrien says.
Last month I did some more accepting and admitting, letting rise to the surface of those old dark feelings. I visited the deepest regions of my inner self through a therapy called EMDR and broke off a chunk of the old frozen emotions—shame, terror—that I felt around my mentally ill mother when I was a kid. Those feelings are still stubbornly stuck inside me, or have been until I’ve located them, every single one of those remnants of trauma, years and years worth of them, and broken them up with EMDR. I’ve been doing EMDR therapy for longer than I care to say and I’ve yet to come to a place where I don’t feel any of that nameless roiling anxiety, that unspecified dread, at least some of the time—maybe there is no such place—but I feel that dread and anxiety less and less. I’ve gotten lighter and lighter, happier and happier, more and more peaceful—I can feel it in my solar plexus—as a result of all that finding and releasing of childhood trauma.
Many years ago I pictured myself like some kind glass of liquid, clear on the top half, inky on the bottom—I knew I was suppressing a lot of stuff. It wasn’t a good way to live, and I thought if I could just find some way to shake up the glass, the liquid of myself would get all mixed up and become pink and beautiful and healthy. That is to say, my upper consciousness would match my lower consciousness, my interior world would be lighter and more permeable, more able to breathe, to hear and see and mingle with the beautiful outside world. And now, in this May, 2016, I think that I can honestly say that my glass of liquid is pretty much the same color all the way through, that as above so below is true in my personal universe.
But that isn’t really what interests me most, I realize, when I look at the Queen of Cups today. What interests me is the unconscious itself. In the tarot cards water is a symbol for the unconscious. With the Thoth-deck Queen of Cups the water takes up half the card, it’s all that water below the line. In the Rider-Waite deck the Queen of Cups is sitting on a throne with a pool of water at her feet; she’s wearing a kind of cape made of water too. Maybe it’s seeing her sitting on that throne that makes me think again of sitting in my own chair in the mornings trying to access the water of my own unconscious as I meditate. How you get to that water, that unconscious place, and what you find there is what really interests me.
Every day it’s different for me. It takes longer on some days than on others to get my thoughts to shut up to the point where I can make contact, even briefly, with that place of the unconscious. I try to listen to the sounds but I keep getting distracted, I find myself rehearsing what I’m going to do that day or what I’m going to say somebody or blah blah blah. This morning I could kind of feel the two worlds, the two states of consciousness, one superimposed on top of the other, the thinking, the incessant blah-blah-blah-ing, on top and the unconscious, that beautiful light airy place of water, showing through underneath. And then I was there. I can always tell when I arrive there: Suddenly I feel my body relax and sink more deeply into the chair, and at the same time some part of me—my spirit, maybe—expands a little, like a flock of birds rising into the air. It truly is like visiting some other place inside myself. Sometimes when I arrive there I get a deep feeling of what I can only call being at home. I didn’t have a real home when I was a kid, my relationship with home was extremely broken, and I’ve always thought I had no early experiences of feeling at home. But it turns out I did, I must have, because I find those feelings, memories of those feelings, when I get to that place when I meditate. This morning, as well as those feelings, I felt a longing for home. And I felt, in some deep way I can’t possibly articulate, that the place inside me I found by listening to the sounds around me and getting my thoughts to shut up, if only for a few seconds, was home. I’ve come across a lot more in there too, in that vast deep airy watery place inside myself, during other very short windows that open while I meditate, and for slightly longer periods while I’m doing EMDR, and a few times in the 1980s when I got there with the help of a hypnotherapist.
As I look at the Queen of Cups now, the cup she holds in the Rider-Waite deck seems like a magic lantern containing an entryway to that magical place, and the watery blur of blue and green in the Thoth deck seems like a promise that we can all find that magical place inside of us and all around us if we just get still enough.
May 2016: The Ten of Disks by Tania Pryputniewicz
I was delighted the Ten of Disks fell as my card of the month! In the Thoth deck, the disks are thick as cut rounds of wood or foil coins full of chocolate you might get in your goody bag at a Pirate Party. Behind the ten main coins positioned in the pattern of the Tree of Life we see the pale green coins of spring, and beyond them, dusky violet coins rimmed in red.
Having sold our home, we are poised here at a respite during which we can afford to fill the family cupboard and portion funds to keep us above the poverty line. The blessing of the card extends to my many jobs I am grateful to, for the way they contribute financial and spiritual dividends: teaching, writing, and stewardship of others, including writing mothers, while raising my family.
In the Rider Waite Smith version of the Ten of Disks, we see a curtain of falling disks obscuring our view of a family: seated grandfather, several dogs, husband with back to us, wife facing us, child clutching mother’s skirt. Rachel Pollack, in Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, suggests the card in part refers to, “hidden experience in ordinary things” and suggests the family might fail to “notice the magic all around them.”
Coming out of six months of financial strain, I am acutely aware of the magic all around us again. And the practice of regularly reflecting on one’s life in journal entries or photos or blogs fosters the currency of precisely such an awareness of “the hidden experience in ordinary things.” I have found it to be true of the domestic monastery, but it applies to any life in which one stops to reflect in writing day by day (a hands on form of meditation).
I don’t know if my children and husband see the magic all around us, but I feel it in the Sundays we rise and hop in the van to drive along Route 75 parallel to the sea. A four-minute spin delivers us to Katie’s Café where its surfboard sign, hung by a pair of chains, greets us with image of a mermaid resting on her side. In we go past the paintings of surfers emerging from sunlit-backed barrels and tables adorned with glass goblet worlds holding cacti and succulents anchored in multicolored pebbles, miniatuure clay surfboards at the ready. A life-sized Neptune covers the supply closet door; even inside the bathroom we’re met by undersea imagery of kelp and fish lit by lone strobing urchin lamp.
“Welcome to Katie’s,” the barrista beams, pushing menus at us down the counter though we already know we want Davos, acai fruit bowls, Hammerheads, apple-shaped apple juice for the littlest, the middle son sporting his first ox-blood leather jacket and white t-shirt. Katie herself--if we are lucky--with her long blonde braid down her back reminds us to sign the kids up for her summer surf contest. We corral my husband from the inevitiable two or three former students or current trainees he’ll run into and snake a couple tables out back. Over the sound of the surf, the ocean breeze chills while the coffee warms our palms.
I’m grateful for these Ten of Disks mornings with gift of breakfast the five of us gather to share before the scatter: youngest to skateboard practice, the middle (James Dean boy) to work out at the gym with three buddies, the daughter to lifeguard-aide training, and the husband to tackle the Obstacle course on base…which leaves me free, free to breathe, and best of all, free to harvest the bounty in words.