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Favorite Excerpts from Tania’s Tarot Writing Practice

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.

April 7, 2017: The Knight of Cups by Tania Pryputniewicz

Oh the birds of San Diego are happy, warbling over one another’s songs in elaborate riffs and rounds! I’m sitting in the sun at a new wooden rectangular table on our back patio. At first I was sad to move aside the old weathered round umbrella table where I usually write, but the new one affords me room to scatter out my sketchpad, colored pencils, and my Tarot book library.

Before we hung up to write, I asked Mary where she’d be sitting. I can see her in my mind’s eye at her kitchen table in Iowa. How cheerful to be so vividly bridged these mornings, to be “taroting” (the verb Mary coined for our tarot play), together again.

For two months now the Knight of Cups has presided over my altar. A pair of heart-shaped shadows catches my eye first. They form the bottoms of the horse’s hooves as he kicks up his heels. This white horse with a blue bridle bears a rider with blue wings that echo pale blue shell-shaped sweeping waves, foamed, and one ethereal blue peacock at the card’s bottom.

I love most the rider’s wings. I’ve often thought the wings belonged to the horse, but the wings spring from the shoulders of the green-armored knight. The knight holds a chalice to the sky, a red crab emerging at cup’s rim. He’s offering up his heart and the heart’s questions. In the image of the crab I see a layer of protection, the color red so vibrant, a salute to the passionate heart. 

The images suit the heart work I engaged in this month. On the heels of completing a cycle of poems about the commune I lived on as a child, I started mining the material again in prose. I’m still excavating divorce, loss, geographical and psychological moves—not in order to blame, but to understand motivations. Like every writer, I must balance heart concerns for those I write about with concerns for younger versions of myself. I need all three tools: chalice of open heart, sheltering shell of the crab, and wings for aerial perspective.  

Alejandro Jodorowsky puts these words in the mouth of the Knight of Cups: “My sole desire, to realize this endless talent with which I’ve been invested, is to survive so that I may remain within its service” (with Marianne Costa, The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards). The part of this quote that interests me most is the line: “to survive so that I may remain in its service.” In other words, to write about difficult things, but to not get lost or feel eclipsed. To survive, thrive, and be of greater service on the other side of whatever I discover. 

When my husband and I walk the dog at 6 a.m., usually the sky and sea mirror back blues. But this morning found us under a light pink sky, ocean’s surface beveling towards us in gentle silt grey and light pink waves. Near the parking lot we passed a crab. Upside down and yards from the tide line, it glittered wet and bright red as the chalice in the Knight of Cups card. My vote: dropped by a fisherman. My husband: dropped by a bird. I love that the crab showed up scant hours before today’s Card of the Month writing.

I also see in this Knight of Cups my husband and I offering up our hearts like parallel knights in pursuit of our loves. He spends hours swimming in the sea and running on land and mentoring others to bring their bodies to peak performance. And I spend hours writing and when I can, mentoring others to find their words. As the Shadow of Oz deck so beautifully states in relation to the Knight of Cups, you must find a way to appreciate, “The overwhelming beauty haunting your situation.” For today, I carry on, blissfully haunted by colors from the blue prairie snow skies of the past to the sunrise pinks of now.

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