The Tower

The Tower is kind of a disturbing card to receive on a daily card draw.  Every morning I do a quick shuffle and draw a card. It helps me get familiar with the deck, and provides me with a touchstone to consider throughout the day. Drawing the Tower always stymies me a bit. I surreptitiously look around for cracks in the walls and wait for a rumble of thunder. I mean, the meaning of the card is pretty forthright: destruction, catastrophe, radically shifting paradigms, fast movement, etc.

I thought the best way to approach it was to write down some thoughts that have been changing in my life, or thoughts that have the potential to prove to be transforming down the line. That worked and provide valuable insight into what may be coming next.

Later that evening, after J and I had watched out TV show, and I had taken my magnesium to help me go to sleep (’cause I’m obviously an old lady, right?! :)) I got a sudden urge to clean. It started by remembering that I wanted to purge the pantry of the gluten-containing items that we don’t use any more.  Besides making me feel sick, C also seems to be allergic to either wheat or all gluten, so I decided to get rid of everything but white flour and sugar (since, if I wanted to bake for friends, that’s what I’d use). I packed up the whole-wheat flours and couscous and specialty pastas and then…suddenly…I remembered that I had empty jars that I could fill with our bulk bin items still in plastic. Did that. Then just started cleaning, rearranging, wiping, muttering,  you know. I had ‘The Clean’ on me and followed it till I leaned back against the counter and realized…

I had put the flour and sugar canisters in the pantry.

Most of you reading this don’t know me personally, but if you had for any length of time you’d know that I bake. Or I did. I learned to cook and bake sitting on my grandma’s counter, early as two. She always had flour and sugar out, and mixed biscuits up about every morning. Rolls, biscuits, cakes, cookies–all delicious, all made without a measuring cup in sight. Just took handfuls of ingredients out of canisters sitting on the counter.

My mom is the same, and I’ve continued that ‘tradition’. Always have the goods within reach, always in sight, always homey and comforting. It was my mark of ability as a cook that I could mix up biscuits without measuring cups, that I was able to judge the completion of a dough or batter by its looks rather than following a recipe.

But now, since those ingredients are actually detrimental to Claire and me, and I don’t even use them that much anymore, they went into the pantry. Without me even thinking about it.

I know. It’s just flour and sugar.

But at the same time that I’m proud for changing, I’m more than a little uncomfortable to be leaving that behind. Or in the pantry.

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The Empress (III)

Today during the daily card draw I drew the Empress.

Funnily enough, Dinosaur Train is on right now, and the episode is about Maiasaura, the Good Mother Lizard. Gotta love synchronicity.

Traditionally, the Empress card is the Good Mother card. Across the Tarot decks  she’s usually portrayed with pomegranates, wheat, a starry crown, a shield and sometimes pregnant. It’s read as a card of new beginnings, nurture, creativity, sensuality, fertility, promise and assurance.

It was a refreshing card to pull. The first five days of the Primal eating/devotion challenge haven’t gone swell. I’m not upset about it, at all, just learning from what’s keeping me back (lack of sleep, lack of planning). It was also encouraging because I have a lot of ‘new’ things going. First, a more and more directed interest in the Celtic pantheon. A few in specific, one that terrifies me and will require more…consideration. On both parts, I think. But I’m excited nonetheless.

Two, a renewed and growing interest in a few crafts: herbalism and sewing.

Three, a new story idea that I’m very, very excited about. I’ve been working on two stories for the past four years, but this is a left turn from both of them. It feels…right. It’ll take a lot of research, but the start seems so vivid!

The only thing in life right now that seem to be in a process of deconstructing is…the blog, actually. I feel like it needs an infusion of something, mainly, my own time and consideration. I have a lot of ideas but nothing that I’ve done yet. And as this is my main portal into any kind of Pagan community, I want to make sure that I’m putting thought and time into it. It also helps that after two years of disparate spiritual wanderings are finally becoming cohesive (herbalism/gardening, the Celtic pantheon, going to the UU church, hearth-witchery).

I hope the New Year is going swimmingly for all of you!

Halloween/Samhain 2011

Halloween and Samhain 2011:

-Baby C as a cow (running around mooing) and Mama M as a thrown together gypsy to great our…one group of trick or treaters. How does that happen? Last year there were 75. This year our whole street decked out for the occasion and we had one group! I blame the church ‘fall festivals’ and ‘trunk or treats’. Spoil sports.

-We had Colcannon, as always. Simple, adjustable recipe as follows: melt butter in a skillet. Add chopped ham. Let the fat render a bit. Add leeks, sauté till soft. Add cabbage. Turn off heat. Make mashed potatoes. Add cabbage/ham/leeks to your mashed potatoes and stir together. Top with cheese, if you wish, and bake until bubbly. Delicious.

-I set a dumb supper for the first time. Very calm and reflective.

-Divination with Tarot cards, the Wildwood Tarot Deck. I want to jive with that deck so badly, but I just…don’t. I can’t seem to get a clear reading, and I feel like the card meanings are too positive. Sometimes that can be encouraging, sometimes it just makes the message hard to decipher. It’s so silly though, because I feel like if I go back to reading with the Shadowscapes deck then I’ll be ‘abandoning’ the Wildwood. So silly.

-Performed some magic/ritual/whatever. It was a nice ceremony, a general banishing-bad-habits type of thing. I always seem to forget that when one does that, one should expect those bad habits to rear their ugly head in full force. And they definitely, definitely have. The past three days have been…kind of ugly…in many ways. Today I feel more grace though, and I thank the Great Whoever for it.

-I love the Samhain season. For the past few years I always hated waking up on November 1st. Kind of like the let down of December 26. But when I read the term “Samhain season” on an email I received this week I thought: “Yeah! A season of Samhain!” and…its true. It’s a season, a period of time, the process of drawing inward and dying. It takes time for the earth to do that just like it takes time to truly banish bad habits. To mark that continued remembrance I plan to get a professional Tarot reading done on Saturday. I’m excited. I haven’t had one since Imbolc 2010.

And that was our Samhain! Because our camera died there are sadly no pictures, but hopefully once it gets juiced up again I’ll be back with photos of our winter vegetable garden.

First Public Ritual

So, I went to my first ever public ritual. It was an esbat held by the local CUUPS in a Methodist church. How is that for mind-boggling? Kind of weird to be doing a circle invoking a goddess under a cross. However, the church is a ‘reconciling’ congregation, and very other-faith and gay friendly.

It was nice. I was surprised by how much older everyone else was—I’d say the average age was 50.

The ritual itself was contemplative, focusing on Aphrodite. The ritualist seemed nervous, but during the guided meditation she really hit her stride. Her voice turned suddenly rich and soft and the meditation itself was incredibly evocative. What disrupted it was people coming in late. I like the yoga take on that–five minutes late, don’t even bother coming in. The energy is set, and it only serves to disrupt.

I felt nervous before going, so nervous that I did a small Tarot spread before hand. It was a three card spread. First card reflecting the nature of the group, second card being the implication if I did go, third card being the implication if I didn’t.

First: Three of Cups

Second: The Tower

Third: Six of Swords

Having the Tower card show up was…interesting. With the group seeming to be genial and 6/S evoking a certain listlessness if I stayed home…well…I decided to go. While the ritual didn’t exactly shake me to my core, it did remove a certain hesitancy I’ve had about attending pagan gatherings. You know…like…wow. Everyone’s so normal. Who knew?

Summer Tarot Spread

For the my seasonal Tarot reading I chose to do a spread I found online called Hekate’s Sickle, in honor of the darkening moon. The spread can be found here.

Summer Seasonal Tarot Reading, Hekate's Sickle Spread

1. Significator (drawn randomly)–Queen of Pentacles

2. The Key to unlock mysteries–Eight of Pentacles

3. The Rope that binds, for good or ill–Knight of Swords

4. The Dagger that cuts through illusions–Death

5. Torch 1, the maiden, raw energy/beginnings–Nine of Swords

6. Torch 2, the mother, creativity/growth–Two of Pentacles

7. Torch 3, the crone, death/rebirth–Six of Cups

——-

I’m a newbie Tarot reader. I only have one deck, the Shadowscapes Tarot, and I’ve only had it for about a year. I’m definitely no expert, so if after I post my analysis you, dear reader, can see some things I’m missing please point them out! I have no idea how to contextualize relationships between cards yet, or anything like that…So any guidance would be appreciated.

That said…here’s my (working) analysis.

The Significator (tone of the season), Queen of Pentacles: When I drew this card I felt an immediate kinship with it. This card contains a lot of elements I recognize in myself that I don’t think will change over the summer: a mother, lover or nature, keeper of the home, working to nurture and provide. I take it to be a positive card, one of contentment and the potential for future positive growth.

The Key to unlock mysteries, The Eight of Pentacles: I had not drawn this card before. At first, I saw elements of universality: the spider spinning a web much like a storyteller spinning a story. It speaks strongly to my desires to write and continue my craft, though I seemingly hit bumps all the time. It is a card that represents hard work and admonishes us to consider our earthly home as well as our natural and universal one. It is a great personal reminder that the way to get what you desire in life is work.

The Rope that binds us, for good or ill, The King of Swords: Easily the hardest card for me to interpret. It seems like the Shadowscapes card says one thing to me and other, more traditional cards say another. In the Shadowscapes card I see a troubled, slightly melancholy man. A warrior, obviously, trying to balance the dark and the light. His boot sits on a skull; his throne has Davinci’s Vitruvian Man carved on it, exemplifying the blend of art and science. The suit of swords tells me this is about the mind and thoughts. A sword itself is an implement of pruning (positive) and potential destruction/death (can be positive). That it is the King tells me the energies might be a bit more forthright, aggressive. The title of the card placement–for good or ill–already tells me that I’m working with a ‘double-edged sword’, so perhaps the advice is that though my I can think about ____ all I want to, eventually, I need the experience/feeling/action/creativity behind it.

The Dagger that cuts through our illusions, Death (XIII): Nothing cuts through our illusions like Death, right? This card is vivid and in context of all the others–the purple-hue Swords, green Pentacles and blue Cups card it stands out like a beacon. I don’t think it requires much explanation–change, transformation, pruning, wildfire, birth/death/rebirth.

Torch 1, The Maiden, raw power/beginnings, The Nine of Swords: At first glance this card stumped me. This card definitely did not seem to be about energy! I huffed a bit. Then after I finished the spread and looked over it again it made sense. The figure on the card is fearful, so anxious about the threat out there (!!!) that she doesn’t even notice that a raven is pecking her wings off. She clutches her sword to her, has her fear/anxieties tattooed on her chest. The message was clear: you can’t access your power or even begin while you’re too busy being afraid of what people might think, what the future might bring. I’ll talk about my issues with anxiety later, but especially paired with the Six of Cups (Crone placement) it was the most potent combination of the spread.

Torch 2, The Mother, creativity/growth, Two of Pentacles: A playful card. Light greens and yellows, a jester juggling two pentacles while a monkey, butterfly and lizard watch on. Symbols of spirals indicate a universal theme of balance with juggling all things and play time, too. A reminder to have fun, that creativity and growth isn’t all about ANGST.  It’s also about…fun. Plain and simple. Play time. Imagination time.

Torch 3, The Crone, death/rebirth, Six of Cups: A child has tea time with her stuffed animals, fae, dryads and sylphs. Golden fish swim along the stream. The background is richly colored in blues, illuminated by soft gold. A reminder of simpler times, of childhood, of the freedom of imagination. To me, in direct opposition to the Nine of Swords. Sometimes the knowledge of a crone is in the wisdom of a child.

——

In summary: I thought this was a very interesting and layered reading. Lots to chew on for the summer season. I think it is overall advising me that this summer I need to work, research and develop my crafts. Whether that be witch craft, herb craft, writing, house keeping, whatever…It is a season where work will bring pleasure and reward, as well as help me get past mental hangups and anxieties.

Not to be forgotten in all of this work though is play time. Summer is a child’s time. Even if you’re an adult you can feel the freedom and exultation on your community’s last day of school. That’s a powerful energy to tap into. Temper work with play, better yet…find play in work.

The card of Death sets a powerful overall tone for the reading. It is a reminder that this summer I might lose things I hold dear. Perhaps I’ll come out more publicly as Pagan and lose/damage some relationships. Maybe I’ll fight those fears and anxieties with phoenix-fire and emerge stronger for it. All possibilities. All interesting possibilities.

That’s what I like best about the Tarot. Nothing can be foretold, absolutely, but the possibilities are always so interesting.

Tarot: The Moon and Pleasure/Addiction

As I washed dishes after dinner tonight I began to think of the nature of pleasure. Mostly this was brought about because my husband and I had just finished a low-carb dinner: bison meatloaf, cauliflower, sautéed mushrooms. During the meal I thought about how we usually had meatloaf with creamy, rich mashed potatoes. Yum.

While I scrubbed I thought of those potatoes. Then I thought of pasta, cheesecake, cookies, scones. I thought of how I don’t do well with a lot of sugary carbs–I have the “I can’t stop at just one Reese’s cup” problem. People often decry low-carb diets for “cutting out an entire food group!” and exhort you to “eat carbs in moderation!”. They often remind me, too, of how pleasurable carbs are. “Remember cookies? Cakes? Frosting? Tarts? Pasta?”

Remember?! How could I forget?

As this warred back and forth in my mind, suddenly the image of the Moon card popped up in my mind.

I saw how her face was alight with moonbeams. The pleasure we feel when we (rightly) indulge ourselves, perhaps in a decadent dessert, perhaps in a spontaneous (or planned, as we parents know!) romp in the sheets with our lover/spouse. When we pamper ourselves after a long day of work. Or perhaps when we finally give in to doing nothing, just being sensual in our present experience.

But pleasure is so slippery, isn’t it? Too much and you’re not just drunk; you’re hung over. You’re not just in love; you’re obsessed. You’re not just moaning, “mmm!” while you eat lava cake; you have heart disease. It seems extreme, I know, but is it? What tempers pleasure but restraint, self-discipline? Those Puritan words I shy away from.

I don’t think pleasure should be demonized, but I do feel that it comes with a very real, very palpable (even when you’re indulging in them) dark(er) side. That’s what makes them pleasurable, right? That’s what makes us long and desire those experiences. Because we’re touching some…darker, perhaps? deeper? experience.

But the Moon card reminds us that though that slippery slope, though that brief detour thrills us–as it should, as we need from time to time–going too far can be full of perils. You can lose your way; you can start to take illusions for reality.

I know, all of this about a macronutrient, right? But I think it fits and fits well. I deny myself the pleasure of the everyday cookie because at some point it began to make me sick.  I felt awful. Now, instead of the everyday cookie (or five, or a dozen–no joke) I indulge in some food-related experience a week. Hey–I love food. It’s one of my passions. Telling me to get a manicure instead is just not going to cut it, ya know? But I make sure it’s special. I make sure I share it–usually an excellent wine and some spectacular cheese or gooey dessert, homemade.

It also means that I have to limit my carbs, and not just the cookies, because without limiting all of them then I’m not able to just eat a little dessert when the time is right. I go back to eating the whole fucking cake.

I’m grateful for this sink-side epiphany. Many times this week I’ve just wanted to give in! Eat the cookie! Cook the easier side dish! But I’m reminded that I must, must temper this desire. For my health, and for my future pleasures.