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.