The Hanged Man and the miracle of spring

Nine nights I hung in the windy tree, wounded with the spear, sacrificed to Odin,

I myself to myself.

Major Oak, whose branches are as big as trees.
Major Oak, whose branches are as big as trees.

This weekend I went for a walk to Sherwood Forest, to decompress from a very long and tiring week. To fill my soul with the wonder of nature, by watching  the wild life and the ancient oak trees, still sprouting acorns after those many centuries in their belts. We were blessed with the delightful sight of many great tits, blue tits, blackbirds, squirrels, wrens and robins, whose fun-spirited demeanour filled my heart with a joy that it’s difficult to translate into words. Even though we’ve changed seasons, at least by name (the spring equinox is old news already), it felt like the winter was still among us. There was quite a bit of snow on the ground and the wind was still bitterly cold, leaving the noses red and dripping with silent tears.

Barbara Walker, Gran Tarot Esotérico
Barbara Walker, Gran Tarot Esotérico

When I saw those magnificent oak trees with their branches still bare, oblivious to the arrival of spring, I couldn’t help but think of the Hanged Man, one of the cards of the Tarot that cannot conceal its pagan origin. For example, the Great Priestess is related to Hathor and Isis, but as their cult was disguised as Virgin Mary’s, they could get away with it. Unlike the Hanged Man, that shows a man hung upside down, with an unusual expression of bliss or contentment for someone in such predicament, this kind of worship (men hanging themselves as a sacrifice to Odin) wasn’t considered appropriate to keep when Christianity took over.

Odin’s is a male-centric myth, as he had to hung himself in the Yggdrassil for 9 nights in order to gain the knowledge of the runes, magic, the secrets of Fate and poetry. All these lores had traditionally been preserved and taught by women, hence his choice of staying 9 nights, as a symbol of the 9 months of gestation. According to some versions of the legend, he had to endure all this ordeal to earn all this knowledge by drinking from the sacred blood of the womb of the Goddess. However, as it can be seen in Barbara Walker’s 5 of swords, despite having become a wise man thanks to all this knowledge, he wasn’t above the control of the Fates, who still remained the ones who called the shots 😀

The other card shown is from the Gran Tarot Esotérico, a deck designed by a Basque witch, with many references to Basque mythology  that has omitted the hanged man but kept the bare trees. The name of the card La Picota means “The Gallows” which I think that keeps the theme of the card in a simple but effective way. We may not see the hanged man as the trees have become the focal point of the card.

The main theme of this card is sacrifice, we have to sacrifice something precious to us (the ego, our time, our friends…) in order to gain something better in the future.

Today this card resonates deeply within me because it’s my birthday and I’m away from my family. I wasn’t born in this island of Faery, she’s treated me well and given me many things, I grew up as a woman here, I found my voice, but I had to leave many things behind. I don’t regret that decision  but a price had to be paid; I wasn’t there when my dad died, I was even late for his funeral; now, I’m missing watching my sister’s belly grow with my nephew and I grieve for my native language that I seldom get to speak anymore.

To end with a more positive note, this card is really good to use as an amulet, combined with the World as they are mirror images of each other, as their legs point one to the sky and the other to the ground, for the following situations:

  • For students revising for exams: all that work may seem overwhelming at times, but this period of intense concentration will pay off when the results come up. Make a colour photocopy of the cards and keep it in your wallet, o somewhere in your desk.
  • When trying to beat an addiction: meditate on these cards when you are fighting the cravings, as they will help you remember why you are quitting.

And remember that spring is coming, whether we like it or not. I want to be like the daffodils that are blooming and filling the roads with the happiness of yellow just because they must.

daffodils

10 of wands – Stretching out too thin

Gran Tarot Esotérico, Marseille, Barbara Walker, Balbi
Gran Tarot Esotérico, Marseille, Barbara Walker, Balbi

I’ve taken a day off work to catch up with my uni homework and I feel a bit tired. So I’ve decided to change the card I was going to talk about today, the 9 of wands, for the 10 of wands, as I feel outflanked by life in general and by this homework in particular.

While the 9’s are more about getting there, you’ve worked your way up the minor arcana scale, enjoying the ride, happy that you are moving on; the 10’s are a different matter: the terminus and end. When you’ve gone full circle and accomplished your tasks or when a relationship breaks down. Depending on the cards that appear along the 10’s in a spread, they can even potentially indicate serious illness.

So, do pay attention if many 10’s turn up in your spread, that means that the end of the current cycle is nigh and you are going to get what you saw, whether it’s positive or negative. The Major Arcana marked with the 10th is the Wheel of Fortune, which reinforces the idea of change and impermanence of our toil, although I find its message more positive and uplifting that the one conveyed by the Minor 10’s, which is quite dramatic and final.

Let’s go into to the general meaning of the 10 of wands. First of all, it’s a funny card within the Wands suit. The Wands, all fiery and energetic, full of life and stamina, are symbols of our inner creativity to fight obstacles, while this one is all about tiredness, of being at the limit of our physical endurance and forced to live under someone else’s rules*.

  • Among the cards shown in the picture, the one in the far left is from “El Gran Tarot Esotérico”, a friend of mine found out that I’d been looking for it for some time and decided to send it to me. Thanks for that! I’ll make a review of it next week. I like the fact that the artist has drawn the 10 wands interleaved as a circle, very neat.
  •  Balbi and Marseilles have the same geometry: 2 vertical in the centre and the other 8 pointing to the centre in a star-like pattern. Balbi feels more about being under attack from all directions while the central interweave of the Marseille is like a solid weight over our shoulders that we just can’t take off.
  • The Barbara Walker one shows the fall of Lucifer, the Morningstar, after his rebellion against God (We all know how the story goes**). It focuses in injustice, abuse of power and a sense of powerlessness. And, sometimes, of stubbornness and refusal to acknowledge that the battle is lost.

So, a few points for when the 10 of wands turns up in a spread:

  • Ask yourself in which side of the tyranny or oppression you are: are you the oppressor or the oppressed?
  • Remember that this situation won’t last forever and try to come to terms with it.
  • It’s also a not so subtle nudge to take more care of our health, as we are feeling overworked. So a bit of meditation and trying to take things easy wouldn’t go amiss. One of the simplest tips to accomplish that is to go to bed earlier than usual. If that’s not possible, meditation is the key to a happy life (I can vouch for its effects); it can be done anywhere and you only need a few minutes.

That’s all for today, folks. Please let me know if this has been useful.

* Just a normal day at the office 😉

** I must recommend, if you are interested in this story to obviously read “Paradise Lost” (I haven’t yet… I know, I’m not proud of it either), but also the collection of comic-books, created as a spin-off of the hugely successful series of The Sandman, called Lucifer Morningstar. A tremendously fun read!

The Secret Dakini Oracle – review and musings on how to create your own oracle

Dancing Durga
Dancing Durga

I recently purchased The Secret Dakini Oracle, the book and the cards. Being honest, I didn’t know a lot about dakinis or Durga, whose fierce image appears on the cover, but I felt somehow intrigued by it, so I went ahead, made a bid and crossed my fingers hoping I’d be lucky enough to win it. You know how this ended up, don’t you? 😉 After all, I chose the name of this blog because No 28 “Cosmic Carrot” made me laugh the first time I heard about it.

This copy was originally released in 1977. The cards were printed by AGMueller. I wasn’t familiar with this card maker as my all decks have been from other makers so far, I must say that they are of outstanding quality more than 30 years on. This copy hadn’t been used much by their previous owner, fact that explains their mint condition. They have really vivid  colours and a lovely satin feel. I’m afraid I’m going to give them a worse life that they had before; I plan to use them for meditation and self-guidance quite often!

I was expecting that they were going to portray fierce goddesses or even abstract symbols of the many sides of femininity, but what I got was completely different. I was a bit disappointed to be honest at the beginning.

The artwork consist on collages of different things: the head of a snake between two mirror apples, a dark unicorn resting on a tree, Lord Ganesh on a throne made of jeweled spider webs… This technique seems to have been the flavour du jour during the 70’s, but somehow it doesn’t make the deck feel dated in the slightest. I found these whimsical and sometimes random mixture of pictures quite inspiring.

In fact, making collages has been used by artists in order to nurture their creativity or as a release of their inner demons. A very dear friend of mine, who was following The Artist’s Way method and got a bit bored with the Morning Pages, decided to create one of them a day during several months and she reported that revisiting her earlier work did wonders to kick-start her creativity when it was flagging. Let’s not forget that tarot readers and artists are closer that it’s usually assumed, we both think in images.

Example using the Celtic Cross
Example using the Celtic Cross

I did a reading for the husband, who had never had a reading done and surprisingly volunteered as guinea pig for the experiment**, and I wasn’t following the descriptions on the book to deliver the reading but they were surprisingly spot on. In fact, he said that I was just making things up as I went along, so I ended up handing over the book to him so he could read how the author had described each card. You can see what was going on in his life on the picture! I won’t go into depths apart from the fact that they provided a pretty accurate description of the question while also delivering a profound spiritual message.

They are 64 cards in total, the  first 22 follow more or less the Major Arcana and the rest are inspired by the elements of the Minor Arcana: fire, water, earth and air. And it made me think that I may create my own oracle one day: like a magpie, taking inspiration on different things.

My first card would be “Important message” and it would be from that scene in the Bible where king Belshazzar is having a banquet and a mysterious hands writes on the wall: “MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN” There you go, Rembrandt had thought of it before me. The passage in Dan 5:6, in case anyone is interested.

As always, plenty of information about dakinis in wikipedia. Although a visit to your local library to pick up a couple of books on Tibetan buddhism would be great as well. That’s my plan for tomorrow, anyway!

*A quite interesting link on collage, art, copyright and fair usage : What is fair use?

**I think the delightful Milky Way picture on the back of the cards won him over, these science-loving guys, huh?

Friday reading – 3 of wands – Use your gifts wisely or lose them.

The weird sisters :D
The weird sisters 😀

Today we start a feature of the blog, where I give a 1 card reading to anyone who asks for it, don’t be shy!

I’ve decided to use one card only as anything longer will be tedious to read and it will help me to keep focused in the present card. I do consider that one-card spreads are quite difficult to master, specially when you begin reading tarot or any other oracle of your choice, because there are no props, just you and your intuition. This spread is really useful to tune into the energy of the card/deck* and to create your own Tarot lexicon. Do start this practice and let me know if you need any help or clarification.

I may include wider spreads in the future if they are specially insightful. However, there is always a card in them that holds the key of the reading and I will just elaborate on that one.

I want to share that I pay quite a bit of attention to numbers when doing a reading: an abundance of Aces or of 10’s (for mentioning the full gamut) has a meaning that can give you clues about specific time (when something is going to happen) o in which step of the process the consultant is currently immersed. I’ll make a post about this shortly.

Let’s begin!

This time, it’s a question about work. The consultant has a work project and wants to know the present situation and whether it’s an opportunity worth pursuing or not.

The 3’s mean that something is coming to fruition, we are still in the initial steps of the way but we have all the required tools to start this project with a solid foundation. The Weird sisters tinge the meaning of the reading with their strict and powerful nature; sometimes, we think that life is being too hard and, resigned to the inevitability of our destiny and powerless, we think of throwing the towel. Not so, despair is not a feeling we should dwell on**.  The only option is to continue on our path because this is something that we are meant to do.

So, the card tells me that it’s a good opportunity, go for it! There is plenty of work ahead for you but the rewards will be worth it. Remember to make a business plan and advertise your work.

* Further instructions in Gordon’s amazing blog: How to calibrate your oracle – runesoup

** The giant from Stephen P Donaldson’s First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant said something along this lines. I love that Giant.

5 of swords – beware your pride

Crowley, Balbi, Barbara Walker, Marseille
Crowley, Balbi, Barbara Walker, Marseille

My favourites of this lot are the Marseilles one, as I find the interleaving of the swords very pleasing to the eye and the Barbara Walker one, for its rich symbolism. The martyrdom of Odin, hung from the Yggdrassil, in order to get the secret knowledge previously only held by women. He descended from the tree with poetry, runes, the gift of prophecy and many more wonderful presents for humankind.

That’s the positive twist of this potentially negative card: many rewards await for those who can accept life’s setbacks with sacrifice, patience and faith. Just as the days are becoming longer and winter, coming to an end.

Ah, the infamous 5’s… they are all about strife, annoyance and adversity. I can see that there is something positive about all this upheaval, it’s something necessary to break the statu quo marked by the 4’s and their tendency to write things in stone.

But the one we are talking about today even more so. There are plenty of fights, specially of the dirty variety, when this card turns up. Scheming, double intentions, manipulation (the venerable Bene Gesserit teachings come to mind)…  Vatican City may well be a very good representation of these energies at the moment, don’t you think?

It is just as well that it’s one of those cards that is always referring to “someone else” and never us or the consultant. It is: “They will be angry because…”,  “They are waiting for me to fall..” , and so on.

And that’s the second point I wanted to make with this post, what to say when the cards are not pretty? It’s important to make the difference between reading for ourselves and reading for others.

So, if reading for ourselves:

As a firm believer that what we encounter in the physical reality is a reflection of the energies we send forth*, I think that, regardless of whether it’s true that strife, opposition and malevolence may surround us and we’d better be prepared for it (that’s the usual intention of gathering intelligence, isn’t it?), it would be an ideal time to make an internal examination of the motives behind our actions:

  • Are we doing this thinking of the greater good or just because it’s more convenient for “us”?
  • What part of ourselves is being so selfish?

When reading for others:

– The consultant is embodying the “5 of swords” energy: They may be in denial (or not necessarily), unfortunately this kind of people wins too many times. Maybe something along the lines: “Beware your pride” or “Remember to be kind when you win” I’ve been pondering on this a lot lately, on how we can skew them to a less selfish path, but I haven’t got any satisfactory answers. Maybe I’m just reading too much into this card: being the bad guy is a karmic path as valid as any other.. At the end of the day, it’s just the 5 of swords on its humble own. Maybe when in company with the Devil or the Hierophant…

– The consultant is on the receiving end of the “5 of swords”: Be extremely careful as an impresionable consultant may fall in the “self-fulfilling prophecy” trap. Tell them to protect themselves as best as they can, to watch their back and to rethink their approach to the matter in hand. It’s not time to be naive.

*In respect of this, there is a powerful and really easy meditation to do, go and check it out: Ho’oponopono. Such a beautiful name!