Monday, May 20, 2019

The Four of Wands

April 8, 2019: Four of Wands by Mary Allen

My card this time was the four of wands:  In the Thoth deck, a circle of gold with wands in the center and the word completion at the bottom; in the Rider-Waite deck, a picture of two people celebrating under a garland in front of a castle.  Angeles Arrien says this card means something being completed at the same time that something else is being initiated.  Biddy Tarot says this card means celebration, joy, harmony, relaxation, homecoming.  A nice card to have as my card of the month, but what is it saying to me?

Both of these meanings speak to me about my last month, albeit not in a very loud voice.  I went on a desert vacation, driving and hiking with my friend of many years, Jeannette Miyamoto, first visiting Sedona—hiking a few of the trails by the vortexes, those “swirling centers of energy conducive to healing meditation, and self-exploration, said to emanate from the red rocks in Sedona,” according to the internet—then hiking for three days in Joshua Tree park, talking, talking, talking in the car and trudging silently and separately along the trails.  The desert was blooming, small yellow and purple flowers scattered everywhere across the sand—those flowers sort of looked like the flowers decorating the garland in the Rider Waite four of wands, now that I think of it. We meditated at the vortexes, ate in a diner in Joshua Tree the town on our way back to Jeannette’s house in Idyllwild and on my way back, a day later, via the Palm Springs airport and two airplanes, to my house for my homecoming, another kind of completion.  It’s tempting to stick with all that as my four of wands experience last month.

Harder to write about are the ways in which I think I may be achieving some larger kind of completion while at the same time starting something new.  I’ve been thinking for a while that I’m probably at the end of a cycle, maybe a twenty-year cycle of writing but not publishing, working on fixing the broken things inside myself using EMDR, staying put while I healed.  Nothing has really changed that much yet, but I can kind of feel it coming in my bones.  And there have been little signs:  a nice email from my former editor letting me know I’m not quite as washed up as an author as I thought I was, a new writing project that I think could take me into the world, a kind of completion of the deep work inside me.  (There’s always more to be done, but I’m down to the really bottom of the barrel of the traumas inside me, scraping up the last most painful bits.)  

Even the trip to the desert with Jeannette was a kind of simultaneous completing and opening, completing a cycle—I’ve been going on trips to the desert in March with my friend Jo Ann for four years (it would have been five except I broke my shoulder last February and couldn’t go), but now Jo Ann’s spring break time is changing and we won’t being doing it anymore.  I thought I wasn’t going to go to the desert at all this year, but I got a last-minute chance to do it with my friend Jeannette.  And when I was down there with her, seeing her house and her life and all the rich lush ways that she’s been gifted by life, I felt a kind of opening of my inner eyes, a kind of inner revisiting of what I can have and be and do in my own life.   

*Tania will be back for the next posting at Tarot for Two. In the meantime, here's a link to a post she wrote about creating "synthesis" drawings based on three tarot cards, A Butterfly Lantern for Querents.   

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Nine of Wands, the Hierophant, and the Star

February 15, 2019: The Nine of Wands and The Hierophant by Tania Pryputniewicz

Mary and I haven’t blogged at Tarot for Two since April of 2018—and I see why—both of us immobilized (emotionally and physically, respectively). I lost my mother in January and Mary fell and broke her shoulder on the ice in February. We still threw cards over the course of the year. I’ve missed tethering lived actions to the symbols and colors in the cards but I also trust the in-breath and out-breath in our tarot practice, or “taroting” as Mary calls it. And it just adds to my gratitude for this hour together today. 

I’m looking at the Nine of Wands I pulled in common with Mary the month before last and this month’s Hierophant card. The Rider Waite’s Nine of Wands shows a wounded warrior looking out with bandaged head, scanning the horizon for trouble. It reminds me of my own habitual way of reacting that I’m trying to change—old habits from family of origin poverties and periods of instability, the ups and down I experienced as the oldest daughter in a family coping with depression and bipolar in our family orbit, something I’m just starting to explore in my writing about an Illinois commune. As the oldest child, I often chose to stand psychologically at the helm in a bit of a hypervigiliant way, worried about my parents and all of us, a habit I needed to shed as I grew.

Lady Frieda Harris paints the Thoth Nine of Wands as the Sun in Sagittarius. My father is a Sagittarius. With love he pointed the arrows of my dreams towards the sun. I grew up in his infectious aura of passion and play and limitless promise that inspired my love for words and poetry and music, the fire of love coming out in his hands on the keyboards of the pianos of my childhood. The Thoth image shows four staves on the top of four staves, ends tipped by moons fattening through the phases. There’s a downside of limitlessness when it is attached to mania that involves sorting through various phases and realities, inherited and actual, that I came late to understanding as a dreamer myself.

This month perceiving the world as it actually is began in a yoga studio three minutes from my house where I could begin to return to my body, the body my mother once housed, the body I have felt distant from after losing her last January. I’m waking up again as I stand and feel my feet on the yoga mat while I stretch my arms to the sky. I’m revisiting the spiritual teachings I walked through before I had children—the astrology, the tarot, the reiki—which I experienced as a young student intellectually and mystically inspired as my father’s daughter, in love with omen hunting and symbol seeking to make sense of life, something I learned from him, something that makes the tarot a natural fit for me.  Now I’m looking out at the world, through eyes and a body increasingly grounded again to the earth as it is today, shedding the past.

In the Thoth Hierophant card I see as an orange robed man: universal father, teacher, spiritual guide. I resonate with the woman robed in blue deep in the interior field of the teacher, holding the sword of the mind, as if to say, “Here is where thought takes form on the Earth.” Learning to listen, discerning, as a witness, has been an incredible spiritual gift, probably the very challenge at the threshold that has filled me with enough empathy to withstand finally seeing the effects mental illness in a family can have on children, including my child self, and there I see her, standing guard like that Nine of Wands warrior with bandage headed, looking for what might next take down the house. 

Bringing the body to yoga means eyes closed on the mat, aware how far off the ground my knees are, how tense and untrusting my body has been. But eyes closed letting go, without judgment, I feel my muscles being to let go into the field of gravity that holds me here. Growing up, I watched my father defy gravity—beautiful, miraculous to follow the imagination down associative paths in imaginary gardens. But then we all had to come back to present time and the particulars of building a life on earth. 

I too defy gravity in lucid dreams, in poems, in my art, in my tarot play, but I am a mother with children to raise and have fought to stay present like everyone else on the planet despite fear, despite challenges imagined, perceived, or real. The spiritual teacher in the Hierophant suggests a way forward, with love, eyes open, crescent moon in hand, a respect for the cycles of sun and moon, and the sword of clarity aimed at this incarnation, the feet of the one body I inhabit today, here, now.

February 15, 2019: The Star and the Nine of Wands by Mary Allen

We haven’t written about our cards of the month for a long time for various reasons, a broken shoulder, a dying mother, many other large and not-so-large developments in both of our lives.  We’ve continued taroting for two through some of it, though (I love using the word tarot as a verb) and we’re back on track with the writing now.  I didn’t write about the last card I pulled as my card of the month, the nine of wands, on 12/29/18, or the card I pulled before that, on 12/4/18, The Star was a beautiful card to have sitting on my mantelpiece for weeks on end, and it’s been talking to me all this time. 

The Star depicts a woman channeling divine energy, bringing it down to earth from above.  In the Thoth deck it shows a slightly abstract woman holding one cup in a hand raised above her head, another cup in a hand at her knee, beautiful geometrical pink energy pouring down from the raised cup through the woman and out the cup at the bottom.  A pile of clear crystals is at her feet and there’s a large pink moon, like a crystal marble, in the background, a navy-blue sky full of swirly white lines that originate in a seven-pointed star in the upper left-hand corner of the card.

I’ve started writing a novel that takes place in the afterlife, and whenever I think of it I feel something light and airy around this project.  It’s almost as if the book itself—the 65 pages I’ve got so far—sits in my computer generating a kind of airy brightness, like a visitor from the afterlife itself.  I have all the feelings of fear before, during, and about the act of writing it that I usually have, more actually, because this is fiction and I usually write memoir where you know the story; here I’m having to make the story up and I don’t even know what it is till it gets on the page—every time I add to it I struggle with the same old questions:  Can I do this?  Is this good enough? Will anyone ever read this?  Still, there it is, brought through into the world bit by bit by me, in fear and not-so-easy-ness, sitting in my computer with its own strange light-filled beingness, as if waiting for the next piece to be added to all the other pieces. 

The Star card has been showing up for me a lot lately in readings, and I can’t help thinking that if it’s talking about anything in my life, it’s talking about this novel.  Not the novel itself but the writing of it, the way I seem to be bringing it down and through, perhaps from above, in spite of myself.  And maybe the nine of wands, strength in the Thoth deck, or, in the Rider Waite deck, even more appropriately, a bandaged soldier leaning against a staff, having come through the wars, battered but still standing—that could be a good symbol for the writing itself, the strength it takes to keep showing up for that small scary daily birthing, the work and the risk of it, and all the writing I’ve done over the years that have gotten me ready to do it now.        

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Two of Wands, The Ten of Swords and The Four of Disks

April 9, 2018: Two of Wands by Mary Allen

The two of wands is my current card of the month. It has been for a few months now because for various reasons Tania and I haven’t been able to write about our cards and pick new ones. Tania’s mother died at the beginning of January.  I fell and broke my shoulder on February 17 and I’ve been dealing with that ever since; I had shoulder replacement surgery on March 14. I have to wear a brace until the end of April so I still can’t type with two hands and right now I’m using the voice recognition on my computer to write this. During all that time I’ve had the two of wands sitting on my mantelpiece and I’ve been wondering what it could be saying to me. I’ve also thrown the cards a couple of times and gotten the two of wands in those readings.

My first thought about the two of wands is that in the Thoth deck it looks like bones—two bones crossing—even a tiny bit like the shadowy broken bones in the x-rays of my shoulder. (Ha ha:  Here’s what the computer voice recognition did with “Thoth deck” and what I said after it:  The fuck deck fuck the heck ha ha Tania said pickles the fuck Dexter fuck Dick.) 

In the Rider Waite deck the two of wands shows a man in a red cape and astrakhan hat standing between two wands anchored in the ground on either side of him; he’s holding the world and gazing off into a distant vista of water and mountains and trees. At one point, when I was sitting in my recliner, idly staring at this version of the two of wands (I have lots of time to idly stare around the room these days), it came to me that it might be saying something about carrying the world on your shoulders and being forced to put it down. Angeles Arrien says the two of wands is about balancing inner and outer power.  This time is teaching me many things about personal power, where it begins and where it ends.  Mostly I’ve learned we have a lot less of it than we imagine we do.   And there’s another kind of power that comes in accepting that.

I read online this morning that the two of wands is the card for partnerships, two people working together successfully, and that makes sense to me in terms of what’s been going on since I’ve had this broken, trying-to-heal shoulder. In October my old friend John came from Washington, DC, with the idea of trying out Iowa City to see if he wanted to move here. He was going to find a place to live but in the end he just ended up staying with me, and when I broke my shoulder it seemed like a miracle to have him here in my house. He’s had to help me in all kinds of ways and he’s done it graciously and generously and without complaining.  In the beginning I couldn’t get into or out of bed by myself—it turns out it takes two shoulders to get in and out of a bed, although I can do it now and I still have only one working shoulder.  

But in the beginning I had to call his name at four o’clock in the morning and he would be in my doorway instantly, come around my side of the bed, take my hand and help me get up so I could go to the bathroom and take another Percocet. One night when the pain was especially bad he sat on the edge of my bed and read me an essay by Emmett Fox.  He read another one to me the first night I had to sleep in the recliner after surgery—we stayed up till one in the morning in my living room, him lying on the couch across from me, reading aloud in the lamplight.  (I slept in the recliner for eight days, then moved to my bed, where I recline every night on a huge nest of pillows.  John says I’m like the princess in the Princess and the Pea.)  He’s cooked for me and done the dishes and brought my laundry down to the basement.  For the first two weeks after the surgery I had to stand there in the kitchen while he taped Press and Stick Glad Wrap over my shoulder and upper arm so I could very carefully get into the bathtub and wash my hair without getting my bandage wet.

Everything has felt shaky and tentative ever sense I slipped on the ice without warning, crashed to the sidewalk, and found myself in this incredibly vulnerable, trapped, and painful place. I could never be doing it without John here. Now he mainly has to take my brace off so I can go in the bathroom and carefully change my shirt—I wear tops my friend Anne made for me, with snaps on the left shoulder for easy removal and replacement.  When I’m finished changing I stand in the middle of the kitchen floor and John helps me back into the brace.  He adjusts the straps, pats me on the back, and says, “Now you’re ready to go out into the world and do stuff.”  

It’s a joke, of course. I can’t go out into the world right now. All I can do is sit and hold the world in my hand, stare out my window at the house across the street and the gray sky and the bare tree branches, and wait for spring to come. 

April 9, 2018: Ten of Swords, Four of Disks by Tania Pryputniewicz

When Mary and I pulled cards in January just two weeks after my mother died, I pulled the Ten of Swords, “Ruin” with its image of ten sword handles ringing the periphery, points poised to pierce a central heart, the main and thickest sword breaking apart. I didn’t want that card for the month and tried a Mary tactic: I chose a second card. I’m grateful Mary has taught me it’s ok to do so. You could interpret the action conversationally a number of ways, as if saying to the Tarot deck, “I don’t want this card,” or, “Show me another version of the same message,” or “Can you give me a different lesson right now?”

So I pulled the Four of Disks—a relief! But since I couldn’t entirely let go of the memory of having pulled the Ten of Swords, I kept both cards out all month. And both spoke to me as is often the case. I love Angeles Arrien’s phrase for the Ten of Swords, “Fear of ruin,” specifically love (the heart image) and finances (the scales at the top).

In the evaporative state following my mother’s passing, I lost confidence, certainly retreating from the world with a bruised heart, more prone to succumbing to fears in a Ten of Swords way, passing through the initiation of a myriad “firsts” as a motherless daughter—everything, from sleeping to cooking—no task too tiny to haul up the free-floating anxiety: Here I go into another part of my life without my mother. The hospice nurse forewarned us that it is natural to take for granted the loving net of mother presence. And then all of a sudden, she said, When you lose her, you wonder, “Can I do this without her?”

In counter to that worry, the Four of Disks in the Thoth Deck (aptly named “Power”) never fails to give me a feeling of serenity. We see a structure made up of four linked towers ringed by a moat. There’s a wide sunlit path leading to a shining golden inner courtyard. I experience that sunny safe feeling here in our Southern California home which is situated on the bend of the street, backyard sanctuary where I write ringed by tall fence boards. In the front yard, we enjoy perpetual summer: the yellow rosebush blooming and a blueberry bush offering up its blueberries all year long.

The smallest actions are the ones that heal the heart gradually, nothing fancy. Like walking in the late afternoon sun in the San Diego desert, stepping around boulders, lizards fleeing, turkey vultures wheeling overhead as my youngest scampers up and over the boulders. My middle son uses a rock to chalk a giant treble clef, claiming his love of music. My husband hikes ahead and uses his phone to look up the names of the peaks surrounding us.

I don’t mind hiking nameless hills as long as I’m with my family. I can handle this level of visibility in my role as a mother. It’s easier than the daughter-self haunting me at night, the way the dreamtime I used to love is just another time during which unwelcome and unanticipated questions rise: You lost your mother…where is she now? And I wake crying from Ten of Swords dreams replaying it all back to me, still burning off the scenes of my mother suffering as we cared for her the best we could.

Better the waking world of agency, gradually overlaid with present activity, where I sand down our rusting mailbox, primer it, and fend off my husband’s suggestions for how to do the job. I kindly remind him I’m the daughter of a piano tuner/wood-worker, and carry on, tape off the bronze medallion where the letters spell, “MAIL”, then primer it rust brown, and best of all, put on a top coat, a rich and glossy forest green.

It is a tiny symbol of my willingness to engage again, spiffing up a box that holds words, mine going out and letters from editors coming back in the slow old-fashioned way. Soon I’ll feel up to stepping out past the perimeter of our gate and back into the world, but for now, it is a beginning: Stamps ferry my words to and from my green mailbox while I stay behind my own front door.