Thursday, August 28, 2014

Emmett Till and the Star: Coming to Terms with Racism in the U.S.A.

My son is one of the three greatest lights of my life. His innocent devilry, his spontaneous dances, his tender embraces, they are precious beyond what words can express. As most parents do, I wish for his safety in a world full of so many ills: violence, hate, ignorance, bitterness, racism and war. My son is mixed, but most of the world will see him as black. I know at some point he will brave that big, wide world, and probably will unwittingly come face to face with some of those ills. And I also know that as a black male, the beauty of his character, the joy in his heart, and the purity of his intentions will often come second to the color of his skin. It hurts to know this, and it's something I think about every day.

I live in Seminole County, Florida, the location of that terrible incident in which Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, was murdered by the "neighborhood watch" while walking home from a convenience store where he'd just bought some candy. He was pursued because of his appearance, and when he was hassled, he did what most teenage boys would do - he gave attitude right back. And he died for it.

Trayvon Martin Rally

Two years ago a black teenage boy, Jordan Davis, was shot to death by a middle-aged white man at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida because the kid was playing his "rap-crap music too loud." The shooter said that after confronting the teen and his friends in their car, he felt threatened by them, and decided to "take matters into his own hands." A gun was never found in the kids' car.

Just a few weeks ago Michael Brown, yet another unarmed, black teenage boy, was shot and killed by a police officer in Missouri after he was stopped for allegedly walking in the street at midday. The nation cried out in anger at the injustice. There were vigils, and marches, and the National Guard was called in. People wanted answers, and none of the answers being given were satisfactory.

The reality is that there is a deep-seated fear running rampant in this country: a fear of black men. Why? They might steal? They might be aggressive? They might have a gun? They might be gang members? They might be drug dealers? I want to fault the media for some of this, but it's not just the media - it's a far larger, deeper, more subtle and destructive sickness. We've come far since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, but not quite far enough.

Emmett Till

So I was sitting on my couch this afternoon, and I started thinking about Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy (do I have to say "unarmed" again?) who was mutilated, shot, and sunk in a river in Mississippi in August of 1955 for the crime of allegedly whistling at a white woman. 1955. My mother was 3 years old. Segregation was still alive and well, the post-Civil War Jim Crow Laws still very much in effect. In 1955 anger and outrage was spreading across the country, and the Emmett Till murder was one of the great catalysts for the difficult, and at times deadly, work that followed in the fight for equality in the '60s.

I started thinking about that terrible tragedy, and about all the terrible tragedies that have occurred over the years and of late. I thought of how much I love, and fear for, my son, and how much hope I have that by the time he's 17 or 18 years old the world is at least a fraction kinder than what it is today. I decided to read on this issue.

I pulled four cards: one for Emmett, one for his murderers, and one for the energy of the environment at the time of his death. I pulled a final card to better understand the overarching impact of what happened to him.

Card 1: Emmett - 8 of Wands reversed
Card 2: His murderers - Fool reversed
Card 3: Energy at the time of death - 5 of Swords
Card 4: Overarching message: Star

Mythic Tarot
Juliet Sharman-Burke, Liz Greene, Tricia Newell

The 8 of Wands sent a lot of input my way. I sensed the desire to run away, but the inability to do so. Even the images on the cards lent something to that feeling: notice how all of the movement across the three main cards flows to the left. I noticed the dolphins trying to swim away from the other two cards - there is a quality of innocence there that has been turned on its head, been corrupted.

The Fool reversed as representative of Emmett's murderers seemed so sadly perfect. This is a card (and orientation) that speaks of ignorance, folly, and, in this case, a deeply dangerous recklessness. These were truly fools, acting out of a misplaced sense of anger and insult and hate. At least two grown men were involved in the apprehension, torture, and murder of a boy barely in his teens. It doesn't get much more senseless than that.

I call the 5 of Swords "the bully card." In the Mythic Tarot a figure brandishing five swords looms aggressively over what appears to be a young boy. That the menacing figure is an angel was not lost on me - most hate crimes stem from a sense of one party being "divinely righteous" and the other party being "less than." What happened to Emmett Till was certainly the most severe form of bullying, and what happened later in the courts was simply a continuation of that wicked mistreatment. Emmett's killers were tried by an all-white, male jury of peers (at this time in history African Americans and women were not permitted to serve jury duty), and after a deliberation that lasted barely longer than an hour, they were found to be innocent. Later they publicly admitted to the murder, and were even paid to share their story with the press. Bullies even to their own end.

Mythic Tarot
Juliet Sharman-Burke, Tricia Newell, Liz Greene

When I pulled the Star as the overarching message I had a split second of confusion, and then everything made sense. I spent a while feeling out which deck was "right" for this reading, and it took me some time to settle on the Mythic. I'm so glad I did. This version of the Star carries profoundly significant meaning for this particular topic. In this image Pandora has opened the chest that contains all the evils of the world. As they fly outward and past her on their way to plague the world, there is an angelic star shining in the background, assurance that no matter what ills befall the world, there is always hope, always a light to be found that will help guide us onward toward healing and clarity. Love has not abandoned us, even in the darkest hour of night. When I saw the Star, I saw hope for humankind. I saw Emmett Till's mother, who made a point of leaving his casket open so that the whole world would see what had been done to him. She couldn't tell people what had happened. It was an act so brutal that words were meaningless. And because she was brave enough to show the world her son's face, a deep wave of smoldering anger spread forth across every state, and there was no turning back from the fight for equality.

It was that fight that, ten years later and after many more sacrifices, brought about the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Voting Act - three major bills that changed the face of human relations in this country. All of that was for the good, but as I sit here on my couch watching these terrible news stories, and thinking about my son, I wonder if it will ever be enough. The Star is a beacon of hope that we're heading in the right direction. No matter how much hate we confront, no matter how many more battles there are to fight (and let me tell you, there are so very many!) the light of truth will never cease to shine.

In Martin Luther King's own words during his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

"Yet when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvellous age in which we live - men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization - because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness' sake."

I will believe in that - for me, for my son, for my husband and daughters, and for the world - and keep moving forward.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Secret (Renaissance) Tarot: A Review and Reading

When I putter about online I happen across wonderful, tempting things (usually when I'm least expecting it!). About a week ago I saw an image of the Sun card from the Secret Tarot by Jane Lyle, with art by Helen Jones, and I really liked it. These days I suppose you could say that I'm finicky about decks… I'm not interested in collecting; I buy decks that I love, that I think I'll enjoy reading with.  And since I have so many that I love working with, I take my sweet time when considering a new purchase. Me, make impulsive buys? Never! Well, okay, almost never.

I saw the Sun card from this deck, and immediately hunted it down on eBay, without even doing a Google search for more card images (shocking, I realize)! For under $20 and free shipping I jumped on board, and I'm happy I did.

This is a highly unique deck principally due to the artwork. Rather than paintings, drawings, or even woodcuts, Helen Jones molded figures and shapes out of something rather like clay, giving the cards a slight 3D appearance. I'm not a big fan of photographic decks, but I don't get that feel from these cards. The Majors are absolutely gorgeous. They're full of detail, and represent the essence of each archetype clearly and powerfully. Each card features highly recognizable symbols such as the High Priestess sitting on a crescent moon, a pomegranate settled in the palm of her hand. The Hermit walks toward the edge of the card holding his lantern aloft, a white-headed raven perched in the bare branches of the tree above. The Minor Arcana are far less detailed, predominately featuring the appropriate number of suit symbols, but with just a touch of extra detail to help fill out the story. For example the 9 of Swords features 9 swords arranged in an arc above the head of a figure in the fetal position. The blades point downward, representing the mental pressure, anxiety, and anguish that are principal elements of its meaning. Simple images that speak very articulately! The Court cards are richly colored, and my favorite is the Queen of Pentacles. The golden figure is complimented by a rich green backdrop, surrounded by a vine covered with bright red strawberries. Hey, it screams "Christmas!" - my favorite holiday, and the time of my birth! That seems appropriate since this Queen represents the earth signs, and Capricorn begins around Yule.

Secret Tarot - Jane Lyle and Helen Jones

The accompanying book is well done, and features in-depth descriptions of all cards, including reversals. I was intrigued and pleased that Jane Lyle speaks some about elemental dignities, because this seems to be a topic not very easily found in most contemporary, easy to find Tarot literature. In the back of the book she includes sections on topics such as methods of determining time frames, and she concludes with an overview of Tarot spreads such as the Romany, Astrological Houses, and Celtic Cross.

I've read some reviews of this deck that expressed disappointment regarding the card stock, but I've found the stock to be sturdy and easy to shuffle. The backs are royal blue with a reversible, gold diamond design. If I were to complain about any aspect of this deck, it would be regarding the figures on the Minor Arcana. They don't have defined faces! At first I found this slightly creepy, but now I don't mind it so much. But I think that giving them some extra character would have been nice.

So on to a short reading….

I decided to ask about what I should be focusing on most in my life right now, and pulled:

5 of Cups reversed - 4 of Swords - Fool

Secret Tarot - Jane Lyle, Helen Jones

The 5 of Cups reversed tells me that I've recently been experiencing a period of emotional transition, moving from feelings of sadness and regret on to a focus on the positive elements in my life. When we took our trip to Michigan earlier this summer I realized how much I missed it, and started to consider the possibility of moving back so our kids could be closer to their grandparents. I missed the northern weather, and the abundance of familiar herbs. I dove into job hunting upon returning to Florida, but the only positive-looking opportunity didn't pan out, so I was back to square one. I had put so much energy into the possibility of a sudden move, that it was difficult to readjust to the idea that it simply might not be the right time for this transition. When Jorge returned from Europe we spent a couple of weeks planning and thinking and talking, and we decided to release that idea, at least until next year. He himself had a couple of exciting opportunities to explore, and that became our new focus. So I started remembering the good things we have down here in the deep south. My job is secure and flexible, the kids are settled happily in their schools. Autumn is coming which means that slowly the weather will begin to feel less stuffy and hot, and the winter is pretty nice on the account of having no snow to shovel!  So things started feeling more positive.

The 4 of Swords is certainly how I'm feeling at present. In some ways it feels like the calm before the storm, except the storm isn't anything negative, it's just a lot of movement.  Having packed away one possibility, we're focused on others, but those new opportunities don't require any significant shifts for at least another month or so. So in the meantime I'm resting, gathering and balancing my thoughts, considering where we've been and where we're headed. 

And that sense of the "calm before the storm" that I'm having is confirmed by the final Fool card. When we realized that moving back north wasn't a solid option for the time being, I was left feeling a bit like I was floating adrift at sea, untethered. I really thought we were going to do it, and then we just didn't. I felt all this energy swirling around us, that sense of immanence, but had no idea what it meant anymore. It didn't dissipate when our plans shifted, it was still very palpable. And it feels good, even though I can't entirely put my finger on it. The Fool feels right. It's the energy of new adventure, new developments, new paths. Some of that I can confirm, but I sense that there's more to it than I can understand at this moment in time. 

So the focus turns back to the center, theme card - the 4 of Swords: Savor this time. Plan wisely. Gather your energies, and then let go as your journey unfolds before you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Reading with la Baraja de Las Indias (Baraja Española)

My husband picked up a wonderful Baraja Española for me on his last trip overseas. This particular deck is called la Baraja de las Indias, and Jorge said it’s exactly the kind of deck that his grandmother used in Cuba. The last time he went home to visit he tried to find her cards to bring back to me, but was unable to locate them. So he was very happy to come across this set in an antique store in Spain this summer, and I was happy too: not only do they create some sort of connection with his grandmother (who died before I could have met her), but I’d never seen a Baraja Española that looked so….old….before! And I love it.

This Baraja de las Indias is a reproduction (by RBA Editors) of a deck created in the 18th Century. There is little information available online about this precise deck, but what I did learn is that it was created in Spain specifically for distribution in the Americas. As with many Barajas, this has a total of 48 cards split into four suits: cups (copas), wands (bastos), swords (espadas), and pentacles (oros). Each suit has Ace-9, plus three court cards: Page (sota), Knight (caballo), and King (rey).

Baraja de las Indias

There is a reasonable amount of literature available on the Baraja Española both online and in print, though it’s not nearly as exhaustive as for Tarot. Most of the more interesting information I’ve found about card meanings and reading methods has been in Spanish rather than English (which makes sense, no?) so the principal reference I’m using for practice readings is a Spanish eBook I found on Amazon. I’m not sure that it’s the very best, but so far it’s been very helpful, particularly because the system is different, to some degree, from Tarot. You may be tempted to transfer Tarot meanings from the Minor Arcana to these cards, and while in many cases you may be on the right track, there are enough substantial differences that you really need to study it as a separate kind of divinatory system.

Today I had a rather important meeting at work, so last night I decided to pull three cards from my Baraja de las Indias to see how things might transpire.  My husband has a great opportunity this autumn, but it will require some changes to my own work schedule in order to accommodate things, and of course I had to meet with my program manager to verify the feasibility of those changes. If she were to say that the changes would work out well, Jorge could finalize his plans. If there were problems, he couldn’t. So I shuffled my lovely, blue flower-backed cards and laid three out before me:

Baraja de las Indias (Baraja Española)

King of Espadas – 3 of Oros – 4 of Copas

The first thing that caught my attention was that all were in the upright position, which was nice to see. I felt that the King of Espadas/Swords may represent my program supervisor and the clarity of mind necessary to work out the details of my work schedule over the next three months. The 3 of Oros/Pentacles looked good – it has a similar meaning to Tarot: positive upswing in business; success. The 4 of Copas/Cups in the Baraja Española tends to be a positive card, predicting a satisfactory conclusion to an important meeting, or successful agreements. Hmm! That was encouraging! I took a picture of the cards, and went to bed.

Shortly after arriving at work this morning I wrote to my program director to request a meeting, and within an hour I was sitting in her office going over my proposal. Following some dialogue and a few minutes of poring over spreadsheets, she gave me a full and happy approval! So I sent a message to Jorge and told him to go ahead and make his plans. The cards spoke clearly, and the ball is rolling!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Rain in the Hills: Lenormand Dailies

Drawing daily cards (or runes, etc.) is a common practice for getting to know a deck or a divinatory system. You pull a card or two in the morning or in the evening and consider how its influences speak to you on a given day. It's a practice I love, and in particular I think it's great for Lenormand learners as a way to understand card combinations. But one important thing to understand about daily draws is that the meanings are often toned down from the full energy of that given card (or two). (In other words, don't let negative cards prevent you from leaving the house!). Another thing to consider is that these dailies can often manifest in your day in various ways, so interpret your combinations in as many different manners as possible, and see what happens!

In early July I was in the northern lands of Michigan, heading even further north toward the Straits of Mackinac. That morning I drew a daily line of three Lenormand cards. I can't remember what the first in the line was, but the latter two were Mountain - Clouds. Neither of them are particularly positive cards, and Clouds are considered the most negative card in the deck! However it was a daily draw, so it didn't concern me too much… Lenormand dailies can often be literal. Most of our ride was going to be on relatively flat land, but toward the end of our journey I knew we'd be entering into some hilly terrain. I decided that Mountain - Clouds likely referred to the possibility that we would encounter rain at that point in our trip. I left it at that, we packed up, and departed.

Our mountain range made of clouds/O. Destrades

Most of the ride was bright and sunny, so I started to think that my rain forecast might be a bit off. However for nearly our entire voyage, a low line of clouds accompanied us on the horizon. It was pretty magnificent, and at some point one of my daughters exclaimed: "Those clouds look like mountains!" Ah hah! She was completely right. Those clouds looked exactly like snow-covered mountains in the distance. There were my Mountain - Clouds!

We continued our drive, and I noticed that as we reached the last thirty minutes of our trip, those clouds started to stretch out, and reach over us. As we rose and descended, and wove through the newly developing northern hills, the sun disappeared and the rain started to fall.

There were my Mountain - Clouds…again!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Taroscopes for August 2014

A day late but not a dollar short! It's been a long month, but I did make the Taroscopes happen for August!!

My husband spent several weeks traveling around Europe and naturally he had just one task assigned to him: find me some cards. And one of those decks was the Viking Tarot by Lo Scarabeo. This is a deck I've been wanting for close to a year, but simply hadn't bought yet. These days I don't want very many decks, so to receive one that I really craved was a special treat! And the best part? Yes, I could have driven down to Luna Sol Esoterica (author Ann Moura's shop in Sanford, FL) - they're carrying a copy currently. But the particular copy I used for this month's Taroscopes was purchased in Sweden, in a store dedicated to Viking history. So come on. No contest.

So here we go!

Viking Tarot - Lo Scarabeo

Capricorn - Judgment: August will be a month for figuring out what's really important to you, reviewing the path that has lead you to where you are at present, and considering how to respond to the voice that's calling to you. The possibility for significant change is just around the corner.

Aquarius - Page of Pentacles: If you're feeling weighed down by work or studies, remember, it's temporary. Hitting dead-ends just means you haven't found the right road yet - keep trying!

Pisces - 6 of Cups: You're going to really enjoy being home with loved ones this August. It's time to replenish the reserves by reconnecting with the people and places that anchor you.

Aries - Tower: Make sure your car is in good working order, and perhaps consider getting a case for your cell phone so it won't crack with you drop it. You can't always control change, but you can always do your best to prepare for it!

Taurus - Ace of Wands: Don't hide your light or mute your flame this month! You have a lot of creative passion and potential to share with the world - take a risk and see what happens.

Gemini - Lovers: You may have a big decision this month between two equally enticing - but very different - options, so it may be hard to decide. If you're feeling uncertain, get some advice from a trusted friend! On the love front, make time for date night!

Cancer - 4 of Cups: It's time to get real with yourself, and focus on narrowing down your next steps. You need to feel inspired, and you will, just give it some time.

Leo - 8 of Cups: You may feel like you're teetering on the edge of staying or going, trying something new or sticking with the tried and true. What will be most emotionally fulfilling in the long run? Let your answer guide you.

Virgo - Page of Cups: Enjoy the last remnants of the northern summer. Relax with a good deck of cards, and share your kindness with your loved ones. If you're a parent, make sure to have fun getting your little ones ready for school!

Libra - 3 of Cups: August will be a month of joy, happiness, and pleasure shared in great company. What more needs to be said?

Scorpio - 7 of Swords: This month brings a time for honesty, sincerity, and clarity. Keep alert for anything that feels less-than-Kosher, because it probably is.

Sagittarius - 9 of Wands: Pressure builds, the air gets hot, you wonder if you'll make it to the finish line…the good news is that you will. Dedication and fortitude will bear good results when all is said and done.

Viking Tarot - Lo Scarabeo

Enjoy the last, full, scorching month of summer. Be well!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lammas Blog Hop 2014: Remembering to Nurture Yourself


Welcome to the Tarot Blog Hop! To navigate to more wonderful blogs in this circle, please use the links above, or at the bottom of this post!

For this Lammas Blog Hop our lovely wrangler Joanna Ash, from Sun Goddess Tarot, asked us to consider how the energy of the Queen of Pentacles manifests in our lives. This topic came at a particularly interesting and important time for me, as my typical nurturing role as mother and wife had been entirely turned on its head for the month of July: my husband was gallivanting about Europe, and our three children were spending vacation time with their grandparents. That meant….that I was alone!

I love having alone time. But it’s one thing to carve out bits of alone time while balancing children, dinner, work, bath time, date night, studying, divination, etc. etc. etc. It’s quite another thing to have a large block of alone time placed gently in your lap, the Universe looking you in the eye as if to say, “What will you do with the time you’re given?” Oh easy… I’ll go to the bookstore and browse for hours on end! I’ll head over to the library, pick out some books, and camp out all afternoon at that table in the far back corner where no one ever goes. I’ll go to a movie all by myself! How wonderful that will be!

Crystal Tarot by Elisabetta Trevisan
Lo Scarabeo/Llewellyn 2000

It is wonderful. There’s just a bit more to it than that. With no family serving as my anchor I was left entirely unmoored, ungrounded, unearthed. The first thing that hit me was the empty space. I was really alone. No noises of chattering children, no husband out mowing the back lawn. Just silence and my own thoughts.

The second thing I started to realize was that I had no idea what to do with myself. I don’t mean that I was at a loss for activity, per se, I just had no sense of how to regiment my time. That first day, I worked for nearly 8 hours, came home and spent three hours cleaning, doing laundry, organizing… only to realize I’d entirely forgotten to feed myself, and I was ravenous!  So I threw together a simple meal: a veggie burger on a bagel, some carrot sticks and frozen peas. Why bother cooking a proper dinner when no one is there to enjoy it?

So without a family to structure my time, I had to start to guide myself. I made a list of the things that I needed to do so that I could check those off bit by bit, but I also started to build in time for the things that I actually wanted to do. One day I left work and instead of heading home (to clean, do laundry, and organize!), I decided to keep driving, and finally managed to get to the bookstore. I plopped myself right down on the floor of an aisle and thumbed through books, reading for an hour. Almost bliss! Except then I remembered that once again I’d forgotten to eat! There seems to be a learning curve when it comes to caring for oneself! So I headed home to another veggie burger, another plate of carrots and peas.

DruidCraft Tarot - S./P. Carr-Gomm
Will Worthington
St. Martin's Press

Eventually I decided that I really needed to feed myself properly. I realized that I cook primarily because I have to take care of people, because I want my children to eat well, and because doing that for them gives me pleasure. Here I was alone, not cooking at all, and not finding much pleasure in the thought of putting that effort and creativity forth for…just…me! So I went to the grocery store and purchased some things to make a good meal for myself. When you’re used to feeding five people, it’s quite an experience shopping for one. I learned that a single russet potato is more than enough to make myself a side of mashed potatoes! Who knew? I even picked a tomato from the garden for my salad. And instead of multitasking while I ate my first hot meal, I put on a movie and simply sat there, enjoying my food, and focusing on just that one thing.

I was alone for nearly a month, but instead of remaining listless I took advantage of that time to replant my feet in the ground of my own, individual life. I did clean quite a bit admittedly, and I figured out (eventually) how to enjoy feeding myself appropriately. I acquired books I’d been wanting to read but never made time for  (and I read them). I took my many floating ideas, brought them down to eye-level, and determined which I truly wanted to pursue and which I could release (kind of like cleaning out the mental closet). I enjoyed a fat piece of chocolate cake, all for me!

The Queen of Pentacles nurtures her family and her home. She protects her children, and works to provide a healthy and comfortable environment for her dear ones. There is immense value in that! But there is just as much value in learning how to care for and nurture oneself. When I was temporarily stripped of my familial responsibilities, it gifted me the opportunity to realize how little I prioritize my own needs. I don’t think this is entirely a bad thing – when you’re a parent, this is often what you do, and it’s usually out of deep love. But there must be a balance, and by becoming aware of my own needs, and learning how to tend to those needs, I can work to find a healthy and happy balance between caring for others and caring for myself (turning the reversed Queen upright again).

Queen of Pentacles Activity

Find your favorite Queen of Pentacles/Earth from whatever deck you like. Study the image. How does she make you feel? What do you love about this particular Queen of Pentacles? How might you see yourself in her, and how might you see her as a part of yourself? Set the card down, in view – she will be the center card for the rest of the activity.  Shuffle your deck and pull a card for each of the following questions:

1) In what ways am I neglecting my own needs?

2) How can I better nurture myself? 

Lay one card down on each side of your Queen. What do your cards tell you about yourself? How can you allow yourself to be inspired to action in regards to self-care?

Make this a journal entry that you can reflect on, and keep track of your own efforts to be good to yourself.

Thoth Tarot - A. Crowley/F. Harris
U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

That concludes this Lammas BlogHop post, and I wish you all many harvest blessings! I encourage you to keep moving through the circle of wonderful divination writers: look both at the top of the post and along the bottom to find the links to continue your journey!