Doing what little I can

I don’t know how everyone around me is so calm. Everyone goes to work, walks their dogs, buys lunch from Pret, and through all of it I’m frightened. Last week, my dreams were all about evacuating, as if we were on the run. I’ve woken up wondering what we could take with us if we had to leave in a hurry. Logic tells me that there is nothing to fear, as life carries on for us as usual.

Still, my bones feel the urge to run. It could be that this trait is in my very DNA, passed down from generations of nomads to my more immediate ancestors, fleeing persecution. Maybe this trait has filtered its way down to me, distilled into a concentrated hypersensitivity that has me obsessing over current events. My browsing history is clogged with variations on ‘safest countries in the world’ as I try to consider options. It doesn’t help that I just read Some Girls, Some Hats And Hitler: A True StoryTrudi Kanter’s electric memoir, recalling her escape from Vienna to London in the late 1930s.

And yet, I understand that this obsession with flight seems absurd at the present time – and thank God, because our world is a fragile one. My mind flits between thoughts such as these to trying to amend everything over which I have any control, from our home’s decor to my hair colour. In all of this, mindfulness has taken a backseat.

So, I went back to my foundation and opened A%20Calendar of Catholic DevotionA Calendar of Catholic Devotion, which provides a bit of reflection on saintly lives every day. One of the saints whose story stood out to me was that of Margaret of Hungary. As a young princess, she was ‘gifted’ to a convent. After a short life choosing to work the lowliest jobs in the order, and barely sustaining herself with food, she died at the age of 28.

I have mixed feelings about this woman being canonised after such a life. Surely the saints are venerated because of the example that they provide to us, and she was a woman venerated for her obedience and extreme fasting. Today, one might wonder if she was trying to starve herself out of her own misery. Though her father tried to reclaim her in order to arrange a political marriage, she refused and instead received Consecration of the Virgins to prevent this from becoming a further issue.

My first thought was that self-starvation is still a method that young girls use to exact a measure of control over their own lives. But perhaps I am being too cynical. Perhaps the lesson here is one of self-restraint and an ability to recognise when humility is required. Thus, I would like to know how I can best overcome feelings of helplessness and learn when to be humble. It seems strange that feelings of helplessness and arrogance should go hand in hand, but I know that they do. People often deem endeavours unworthy because they believe that their individual effort is unremarkable. But each action creates a ripple in the waters around us, and here I am reminded of that famous Sydney Smith quote: ‘It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little – do what you can.’

Though it hardly seems like enough, I’ll take the time to donate to organisations assisting refugees, and try to spread kindness to those in my life. It feels pathetically small, but it is better than doing nothing. For now, I will do what little I can; when I have the resources to do more, I will be able to take larger actions.

Voyager Tarot: An informal introduction

Today, I find myself introduced to a new tarot deck. Voyager Tarot: Intuition Cards for the 21st CenturyVoyager arrived this morning and I have been waiting for the right time and question to get us acquainted. Upon opening the deck, I did find the cards’ size a little intimidating. However, I was still able to shuffle without issue. Also intimidating for a girl so cemented in the traditional was the very format of the deck – and that’s why I bought it in the end, as I need to force myself out of my comfort zone every now and then.

As a contrast to anything I’ve selected before, the Voyager has different suits to the traditional decks as well as a few different players in the major arcana. Temperance appears as Art, Judgement as Time-Space and The World as Universe. As in my Ancient Italian Tarot: 78 full colour tarot cardsAncient Italian Tarot, Justice (here called Balance) is in position VIII, while Strength is in position XI. Also in the Voyager, each image is a beautiful collage, all of them arranged to trigger the subconscious and awaken the intuition. Many remind me of the Eye Spy books, which required just the right amount of focus to see the hidden image until that image was all that could be seen.

My first question to this particular deck was about itself, and I asked what it would be bringing to our tarot readings.The result, which was clear in both the keywords and the images, made me glad that this deck called out to me. None of the traditional imagery is so hard-hitting so early on, in my experience. Tarot just got real.

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The Four of Crystals is the equivalent of the Four of Swords, and displays a smoky quartz crystal (among others) against a backdrop of nature’s geometry. Its keyword is logic. We have a smoky quartz in our home; we’ve called it the Black Hole for its ability to clear away negative energy. With this in mind, I feel that the deck at hand allows for natural logic to prevail because it banishes clouds of negativity effectively.

The next card is Six of Wands, which is usually depicted as a victory march. The keyword here is trust, and the images display a balance between vulnerability and courage. Trust needs to be in place before one can take that leap or open up. For trust to work, it also needs to be reciprocated. Therefore, I am reading this as a mutual sense of trust, which will allow the relationship to fully bloom.

The final card is Three of Crystals, bearing the keyword creativity. The scope of this card is huge – from the tiniest details in crystals to the distance beyond. This makes me think that the deck will be assisting creatively on many types of problems; no query is to lofty or too minute. This keyword may also refer to my own thought processes – exposure to the cards may result in a more creative mind due to the exercising of my intuition.

Logic, Trust and Creativity are the qualities that the deck has advised will bring. It’s a strong statement, but I find myself on board. After a long search for the ‘perfect’ deck, I never thought that the one which spoke to my gut the most would look so…forward. I expected that I would fall in love with a reprint of an old deck. However, I find myself feeling a bit giddy as the Voyager cards hum on my desk. It’s a new experience.

A Special Guest Reading

Every tarot practitioner experiences fallow periods, when few people are interested in having their cards read. This is okay – it allows one to regroup and enter a period of study. Whether these periods occur because would-be querents are far too busy going full speed ahead after a burst of New Year’s enthusiasm, or are far too broke following the festive period, I am unsure. However, reading for others is a skill that must be exercised. Therefore, I turned to those closest to me to request that practice on them.

So, today we have a special guest here to have her cards read. She has recently gone through a transatlantic relocation and is finding her feet whilst raising her joey. Our guest today is my childhood friend, Redface the kangaroo. For her, we are doing a four-card obstacle spread to pinpoint what is holding her back at the moment.

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Now, Redface. The first card, representing the situation at hand, is The Devil. From this, I can see that you are in a situation that feels controlling, as if you cannot get away from it. It also shows temptation, overindulgence and a materialistic lifestyle. Often when this card comes up, it means that we are living in a cycle of obsession and guilt. However, the object of our obsession is often a scapegoat – we blame our bad behaviour on it, rather than taking responsibility for our actions. This is not something to be upset about, my love. We all fall into these slumps, and just by coming here to ask for a reading you are announcing that you are ready for a change. Awareness of the problem is the first step in changing it.

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The second card, the obstacle, is the Page of Pentacles. He signifies a new financial opportunity and the initial impetus to get started on this project. However, his energy is flighty. Because he is youthful and easily distracted, this ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ motivation is often not enough to see the task at hand to a successful conclusion. Obviously, this type of energy is unsurprising with such a young joey to watch out for. It’s a busy time for you, I know, but the ground is ripe for growing your dreams right now.

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The third card represents the suggested course of action, and we have drawn The Hierophant. He represents the formal, traditional path for solving your quandary. The Hierophant welcomes newcomers to his path, and acts as an experienced guide in leading them on their way. While he is there to lead, it is down a well-trodden path. Though this may not seem flashy or entrepreneurial, it will help you through your obstacle and also add a sense of solid community to your life. If you decide to take on a more trailblazing path later, your foundations in this traditional setting will serve you well. However, this is not the time to make that particular leap.

The final card shows the expected outcome of heeding the above advice, and the result is one of the most positive cards in the deck: the Ten of Cups. This card represents the culmination of a life well-lived: security and love. A rainbow arches across the sky, and the storm has passed. Relaxation and happy times are ahead. It also indicates that a strong romantic love will provide a foundation for this happy life, and shows that your journey will render your life unrecognisable from its current state.

I know things feel challenging now, but please trust that the tried-and-true path on which you are about to embark will lead you to the ultimate satisfaction in life. With this in mind, I hope you have a bit more confidence to take that leap of faith. Sometimes, our cycles of obsession feel impossible to leave, but we’re only ever there because we haven’t lifted the chains away.

A Change of Plans Tarot Reading

Yesterday, I received a call to let me know that an art course I’d signed up for was no longer being held due to lack of interest. As it turned out, I was the only one to sign up for it. Initially, I was so disappointed. This was going to be my chance to prove myself as a visual artist, after all! Not to mention, I spent a small fortune on art supplies, running the gamut from watercolours to acrylics to oil pastels. I figured that, with proper tutelage, I would learn beautiful brush strokes and a new way of seeing the world. Also, I would be able to feel superior to random people at parties by introducing myself as an artist, and it wouldn’t matter if no work sold in my lifetime, because everyone knows that all the good ones became famous posthumously.

So, times of disappointment often call for a re-evaluation. There are a few things that I want to do with my time, and perhaps I’ll be able to learn more and focus better in what will be my own private semester. First of all, there are some things that I would like to sew. A French jacket awaits in fabric form, as do skirts in Hamilton tartan and an ivory silk evening gown; meanwhile, a half-finished leather jacket from a sample sale demands a lining. So I know that there are some sartorial goals here.

In the absence of art school, maybe I can make an effort to draw or paint every day. This concentrated effort will be in the hopes of one day creating my own tarot deck.

Lastly, I would like to become physically stronger, and better able to dance on the X-Pole. It makes me sigh when I think of how strong I once was when I was dedicating my time to pole dancing and aerial hoop. I’m now a scrawny version of myself compared to the girl who could pike into a high hoop with little thought, or act as the figurehead on a pole. My own laziness is all I have to blame, so it’s time to get motivated in this respect as well.

I do sometimes miss being in school, where steady progress was almost assured because a routine would never break. All focus was regimented, and goals were clear-cut. Feedback was constant, and not just if one did something wrong. Unfortunately, not much of the information learned during that time translated into necessary skills today, but I think it’s time to appropriate the discipline of dedicating daily time to different subjects. With this new change in perspective regarding my class cancellation, I turn to the tarot.

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Please, Tarot, show me what to focus on to ensure I reach my goals.

Because today’s reading was more for my personal growth and a request for advice, I chose Art of Life: Tarot Deck by Charlene LivingstoneThe Art of Life tarot deck, which has beautiful paintings and lovely quotes on each card. The first card I drew was the Two of Pentacles. Usually depicted as a man juggling two coins, this one instead has four Degas dancers and a quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt regarding the delights of the creative pursuit. The painting has reminded me of something a dance instructor once said to me: ‘The more graceful a dancer is, the harder she is working.’ It has made the takeaway message of this card thus: It is when we work the hardest that we appear the most graceful. This state puts us in a flow of creativity that must be tended daily for it to continue. In doing so, the greatest creative satisfaction is found.

The second card is The Sun, in which the sun itself is not explicitly depicted; however, its light is still seen, filtering through trees and illuminating all it touches. At the bottom of the card is a quote from Nietzsche regarding the serendipitous nature of happiness, quietly appearing in unexpected moments. Like the sun, you do not need to be confronted with happiness head-on to benefit from its warmth and feel its glow. The Sun is a wholly positive card, often depicting the in-the-moment joy of a child. Thus far, both cards remind me that the joy of making art or sticking to creative projects is as much about the time put into the endeavours as it is about the end result.

The third card is, once more, The Hierophant. The quote also comes to us from Mr Roosevelt and portrays a very thoughtful Pope Leo X. This card links back to my Orthodox roots, reminding me that, while I will be traversing unchartered territory within my own life, I am not going to change where I came from or the foundations of my life. For some reason, a Blackadder quote has come to mind: ‘No point – the Black Bank’s got branches everywhere.’ This is reassuring to me, as it’s a subtle reminder that the old ways are always at my core, no matter how I change my outer self.

Lastly, The Chariot was not part of the reading, but I felt its quote was pertinent – and there it was, looking up at me when I settled the deck down. ‘Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

To conclude my reading today, I must keep in mind that the joy of making art is in the creative process itself rather than having made art.

Celtic Cross Spread: A Study

I find tarot a wonderfully intuitive practice to utilise daily. Its depictions help us to uncover truths about ourselves and our everyday situations. The tarot can be read on a personal level and on a larger, comprehensive level. Generally speaking, the minor arcana deal with our day-to-day questions. These are the aspects of our lives that we affect by our own action, and the things we often have control over. Alternatively, the major arcana deal with universal life questions and may imply that the situation at hand is the result of forces beyond the querent’s control. With this distinction in mind, it becomes easier to divide and understand a reading. This is particularly true if one is working to a rigid spread, such as the obstacle reading mentioned yesterday, a past-present-future spread, or the classic Celtic Cross.

It is this last spread that I want to explore today. Most of the time, I prefer the immediacy of shorter spreads, as I tend to go into a reading with a specific query in mind. The Celtic Cross, however, is a bit like a spiritual body scan. It checks out all of one’s major identifiers and displays them in a preordained hierarchy.

This spread begins by drawing a Significator before the reading proper begins. This card is chosen to represent the querent. It can either be handpicked by the reader or drawn from the deck directly. Today, I chose to ask the deck for my Significator and received The Fool. For anyone embarking on a new journey, as I am here, this is appropriate.

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The Significator: The Fool. Salt lamps found 4 Salt Candle Tea Light Holders (Bundle)here.

And thus begins the spread. I chose my very first tarot deck, the Ancient Italian Tarot: 78 full colour tarot cardsAncient Italian Tarot. When I first started reading, I wanted to be as close to the origins of tarot as I could get. In the years since I bought it, it has served me well.

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A full Celtic Cross spread, built on the Significator.

The first card is that which covers the querent, representing her primary focus. Here, we have the Ace of Swords, which indicates a spiritual breakthrough or mental growth. It also stands for new beginnings or enterprises. Quite poignant, considering my new change in focus. So far so good.

The second card displays what crosses the querent and any obstacles in her way. The Moon is in this crossed position, representing the inner self, intuition and what comes from within. The negative aspects of this card (deceit, lunacy, lack of clarity) are often the result of not listening to one’s inner self. Therefore, I can infer from this that my obstacle is a habit of shunning my inner voice.

The third card is what lies beneath the querent – her foundation. It can also bring to light hidden aspects of the self. My card for this position is called The Hierophant in most decks; in the Ancient Italian Tarot, it is il Papa: The Pope. As I am a cradle Catholic, I would be surprised to see anything else. This card is steeped in tradition and patriarchy. It can also mean that a spiritual path guides the querent’s life and actions.

The fourth card is what crowns the querent, and may also represent what is known to her. Here, we see the Six of Cups. This card is one of nostalgia and memories, usually positive. In this position, it could be seen as happy memories reminding me that I will be happy in the future also.

The fifth card stands for what has passed, possibly in influences or events. The card in this position is the Four of Cups, which represents withdrawal or ennui. It can represent a time of fallow fields, necessary to grow a rich harvest in the future. It’s pleasing for me to see this card in my ‘past’ location, as it implies that the period of less creativity was necessary for me to move forward in my ventures.

The sixth card depicts what is to come. In this spread, I drew The Lovers. This card represents a union of opposites, whether internal or external. The card also indicates that the union, which must be a choice, is sanctioned by an authority figure. This is therefore seen as a positive card, and so I will look forward to seeing which inner or outer rift will be healed and made whole.

The seventh card shows the querent’s state of mind and self-image. The Six of Wands is positioned here, which indicates victory over self-doubt, as well as success and processing forward in style. Indeed, it has felt like a personal victory just for me to get started writing this blog. Admitting my area of study, to myself and my family, has given me a new focus as well.

The eighth card represents the querent’s house and her relationship to it. The card here is the Ace of Wands, which can also represent the beginning of an enterprise. In this way, it reflects the earlier Ace of Swords, and their energies are synergistic. From this, I can gain further confidence that I have made the correct choice in my endeavours.

The ninth card can either show the querent’s hopes or fears – or what she secretly hopes for but still fears. We humans are complex creatures like that. At any rate, we can see an old acquaintance here: the Five of Coins. Again, this card represents destitution and a sense of lack. I can honestly say that this is one of my greatest fears. However, today I felt a different sense of the card’s meaning. It normally depicts two people in need of clothes and warmth passing a church. Perhaps it also implies the need to ask for assistance. For them, it could be their basic needs. For me, it could be that I need to stop being so proud regarding my study and remember to ask for help when I need it. Asking for and receiving help fulfil the hope and fear category.

The final card is the card of Christmas Future, showing what is to come. Happily, the card is a positive one in this spread. The Six of Swords represents moving away from past troubles and settling after a period of upheaval. Physical travel may be involved, or this could simply be a time of integration and wholeness. Bring it on.

Finding Clarity Through Tarot

Today, it’s raining very hard and my pets and I are all cooped up in the house together. These consist of our cat, Dixie, and our recently adopted dogs, Polly and Ozzie. On one hand, I feel great contentment here. On the other, however, I am feeling some sadness: spending time with the dogs means leaving the cat on her own, and vice versa. The dogs have only shared our home for two and a half weeks, so some periods of standoffishness are to be expected. However, I am so hoping for some love to develop between all of these furry babies. Perhaps it’s an optimistic outlook. Thus, today I look to the cards to provide me with a guide.

For this, I have done a four-card reading: Eight of Pentacles, Two of Wands, Seven of Cups and Two of Cups.

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Deck used: The Original Rider Waite Tarot DeckOriginal Rider Waite

The Eight of Pentacles indicates diligence, repeated effort and refining skills. This could mean a need to continue the efforts of socialisation, and refine the skill of reading my cat so as to not rush her.

The Two of Wands has appeared again, and here its meaning feels slightly different than it did previously. It’s a card of the unexpected, indicating that a choice needs to be made, and a surprise may be afoot.

It leads is to the Seven of Cups, which is another card of choice. This time, the choices abound, bombarding the querant with so many possibilities that selection may feel impossible. There is much creative potential, but a choice must be made with the heart.

Pleasingly, the ultimate card dispels any doubt of the outcome. The Two of Cups is a card of harmony and sharing. Presumably, this outcome is in our future provided that the other conditions are met.

While this reading was overall positive, I still felt a lack of clarity. This should not be seen as a fault of the deck, but rather my own lack of directness when asking the question. Thus, I decided to try again. This time, I indicated beforehand which spread I would be using: one for overcoming obstacles in four cards. Card 1 in this spread represents the situation at hand, card 2 represents the obstacle, card 3 is the appropriate course of action and card 4 is the expected outcome.

Immediately, this reading felt more applicable. Sometimes, the tarot can provide us with lots of information, but it makes little sense without a structure that must be in place from the beginning.

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The Situation card is the Eight of Swords. Though this card is quite negative, it implies that the situation is one of the querant’s own making, and her way out will become clear once she chooses to move. After all, the path out is clear to anyone viewing the situation.

The Obstacle card is the Three of Swords. It implies that a third party has entered, resulting in heartbreak and sadness. Thus, I feel that the obstacle at hand is Dixie’s way of life being invaded. Perhaps the three swords represent each of them, resulting in a drastic change in their collective way of life. And how appropriate that the background in the card should mirror the sky today.

The Action card is the Queen of Cups, which feels like very subdued action. This queen is intuitive, generous and loving. Perhaps she needs to be located, as in an animal expert or trainer, or perhaps she represents who I need to become to resolve this situation: a woman in tune with the needs of my animals. My favourite resource for all things cat-related is Jackson Galaxy; I expect it’s time to consult him on socialising cats and dogs.

Lastly, the Outcome card is the Seven of Pentacles. This card represents the benefits owed after hard work. The subject looks admiringly on as his crop grows, lush and full. His work isn’t done, as he still has his rake or hoe close to hand, but he is able to pause and acknowledge that he has done right by his harvest. Ultimately, that is all I want to be able to say about my own caregiving.

Today’s Tarot Reading: Two of Wands, Five of Coins, The Lovers

Sharing my personal tarot readings is a bit like sharing a journal entry – they can get pretty personal. The reason many of us turn to the wisdom of the tarot is to answer niggling questions about ourselves, and today’s was no different for me. As previously mentioned, I’ve had some difficulty adjusting to my new residence, and seeing my cat’s stress markers heightened made me feel all the sadder.

I’ve spent weeks daydreaming about our old flat and thinking that, if only I could get it back, I could redecorate and show my husband how perfect it was. Today, though, I’d finally had enough of my own moping. Time to turn to the tarot.

My query was, ‘Tarot please show me how to progress myself from living in the past.’ The cards I drew were: Two of Wands, Five of Coins and The Lovers.

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Deck used: Golden TarotGolden Tarot by Kat Black

With a three-card spread, I usually see this as a past-present-future journey. However, that didn’t feel like the message the cards were conveying today. In the first location, we have the Two of Wands. This indicates future planning, forward motion and understanding. There is also something regal about the man we see – though he carries a wand and globe (stating, in tiny letters, continent names), they could as easily be the orb and sceptre. This suggests that a noble path is involved, even if it only feels like putting one foot in front of the other.

The following card was (once again) Five of Coins. Having recently had this in a one-card reading, I’m not overly surprised to see it again. After all, cards can keep reappearing until the issues are fully dealt with, and the card gets to the heart of my query. My focus is still on what I lack, remembering only the elegance and simplicity of apartment-style living. Therefore, this aspect of myself, which manifests as a humbling feeling of lack, is more in my own mind than my actual state. I am living in the past rather than moving into the journey suggested by the Two of Wands.

The final card is The Lovers, which is the only Major. This indicates that the resolution is to be found outside myself, in the purity that is love itself. The Lovers is the counterpart of The Devil, which indicates that desires are often the result of temptation and misguided choices. In The Lovers, however, the couple’s union is blessed by an angel and watched over by a bird of paradise. While the couple seems a bit tentative, the card’s presence indicates that problems will be overcome by relying on one another. Moreover, loving another person can help make one more forgiving, even of one’s self. I also need to point out that there is a little dog depicted in this card, which some would say is an Italian greyhound. However, at first glance it looks like a hairless dog to me – here’s hoping that one is in my future!

In short, the reading indicates that future planning and forward motion will bridge a gap of perceived lack to reach love and contentment. Even when times feel bleak and change has rocked the metaphorical boat, there is always progress to be made, and always love to give.