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Storytelling with the Tarot

Thoth EmpressOn Wednesday, May 25th, to celebrate World Tarot Day, I led a workshop entitled ‘Demystifying the Tarot’ at a natural food store in Erin called Treehaven.  The small turnout caused a ‘rethink’ of the structure of this workshop. So, three Tarot peeps… me, a woman who had been part of our bi-monthly Tarot study group and another who I had met through the Guelph Occult Meetup group proceeded to spend 2 hours just talking Tarot. I must say, despite my initial disappointment at the turn out, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

We began by simply talking, about our favourite decks, cards we see often in our Tarot work, our past experience with the Tarot and how we work with it. The three of us asked each other questions. We moved to an unstructured comparative look at cards from different decks, looking at the differing symbols and meanings in front of us.

We then moved to a storytelling activity. I can’t give direct credit as to where I got the idea from but I won’t claim it as my own. I know Rachel Pollack does a significant amount of story-based work in the Tarot. Maybe I read it in one of her works. I was also inspired by the teacher-librarian at my school who had shared a storytelling deck with me that she was using in one of our classrooms.  Regardless, I’m sure it’s an adaptation of someone else’s idea.

To prepare for this workshop, I had previously divided the decks I brought into 3 sections: the pips, the courts and the majors.  I suggested we use these 3 piles to tell a story. We selected the Thoth deck and randomly drew our cast of characters from the courts, our theme from the majors and began developing a plot with the pips. It was a great process. At first, we laughed a little at a suggestion that the story might become risqué. We then began the process. The deck shared our sense of humour and offered up the Empress, home of abundance, fertility, and sensuality,  as our theme.

Thoth Queen of CupsWe continued the exercise by drawing the Queen of Cups as our protagonist (a supportive, but at times overemotional and menopausal mother), the Queen of Swords as a secondary character (her sharp-tongued adult daughter – although, upon reflection, maybe her equally sharp-tongued neighbour would have better suited the Queen but, for our purposes, the daughter worked fine) and then began constructing our story. Our starting plot points were the 6 of disks (success) and the 2 of swords (peace).  I believe, had our time not expired, we would have created quite the story; we appeared to be in fine form 🙂

Try the activity. Divide your deck into three sections (pips, courts, majors). Shuffle them well. Begin by drawing a card from each. Remember that your major card will remain the overarching theme of your story. Draw just one. You drew ‘The Fool’? Your story could develop into an adventure story. ‘The Chariot’? A fast-paced story a la ‘Fast and the Furious’.  ‘The Moon’? Could be a little twisted and scary, don’t you think?

You might find that, once you’ve drawn your characters, beginning your story with ‘Once upon a time, there was a …’ and then proceed to describe the character using your knowledge of the Tarot or the image presented on the card. Then make them go somewhere or do something by drawing cards from the pips.  The 6 of swords might take them on a journey over water, the ace of wands might be the sign of a new song idea or the 5 of pentacles might indicate a struggle to make ends meet.

The three of us decided that at some point, we would take this concept further. If you decide to as well, please feel free to post about here.

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In Honour of Mothers’ Day

Queen of Cups

It was a recent episode of Modern Family that got me thinking.

Mitchell serves his partner Cameron breakfast in bed and all is well until Cameron realizes that it’s Mothers’ Day. This upset Cameron because he feels that Mitchell is casting him in the role of woman. (As an interesting aside, of all three couples portrayed on Modern Family, it may be the same-sex Mitchell and Cameron who most closely represent the ‘Rockwell-esque’  ideal of the distinctive roles of the two-parent family).

What it made me think about is what and who exactly are we honouring on Mothers’ Day? I suspect the first intent is that we all honour our mother. That’s a given, since we all have one. We may not know her, we may not live with her, we may not talk to her much, but she is the reason we are here. There’s no way around that one (and Happy Mothers’ Day to mine, BTW :)).

But, on this day, (and we might not even realize it) we also honour ‘Mother’. We recognize the importance of the nurturer, the care-giver, the empathetic listener, the cuddler, the keeper of the den, the compassionate one, to name but a few roles that ‘Mother’ would take on.

This week’s ‘Modern Family’ episode reminded me that there is an important distinction between the two.  The episode ended with the acknowledgement that just because Cameron was ‘slightly mommer’ than Mitchell, didn’t make him any less of a man. I know as a half-time single Dad (albeit with significant support from my fiancée), there are many times where I take on a ‘Mom’ role.  But I never feel as if I relinquish my masculinity.  In fact, I believe that by embracing different aspects of the role of mother, regardless of our gender,  we honour the archetype. Actually, a little while ago, while sharing praise for one another as part of a Circle activity, one of the most powerful compliments I ever received from a friend was the following: “Peter, I honour the fact that you don’t always have to act like a man to assert that you are one.”  As a male whose spiritual practice equally celebrates Feminine and Masculine divinity and the importance of those archetypes in all of us, I was touched by the words.

So, this morning, I turned to the Tarot and chose a couple of ‘mothers’ from the deck.  I selected the Queen of Cups from my RWS deck as representative of the role of mother . She is the penultimate listener. She is nurturing and emotionally receptive. I also selected the Empress from the same deck as representative of the Archetype of Mother. The Empress is fertility, compassion and, for fear of sounding a little Freudian :), sensuality.

The RWS Empress

Take a moment and reflect when and where you or others around you play ‘Mom’? Was it while listening to a friend in need? Perhaps you’re a teacher and needed to show compassion to a struggling student? Or maybe you know someone who happily nurses a sick animals back to health?  Find a Tarot deck and select a card that best exemplifies the role played in this situation. If you feel the need, honour us by sharing.

Wishing a Happy Mothers’ Day blessing to all.

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Where’s the Love: A Valentine’s Day-inspired look at the Tarot

Two of Cups - Rider Waite
Two of Cups - Rider Waite

Where’s the love?

Like all other emotions, love has its place in the Tarot. The Lovers, card of choice and, perhaps obviously, card of love, would be a great starting point for a search for love in the Tarot. It is the card where passion and reason come together, where difficult choices need to be made and where the very concept of synergy lives.  

The Two of Cups, representing a covenant or a coming together of two, is another obvious place to find love in the Tarot. Interestingly enough – well… at least interesting for me 🙂 – many couples have their songs and will be listening to them during a romantic moment on Valentine’s Day.  My partner and I have our card… it’s the Two of Cups and it will be on display on the 14th. (We have our songs as well but perhaps I’ll save that for another Valentine’s Day blog.)

The Cups are the resident suit of our feelings. Many cards in that suit at least hint at Cupid’s emotional realm. The Ace is the seed of love’s potential, the Three is the celebration of a love of company and companionship and the Ten is one’s recognition of the presence of emotional abundance and fulfillment.  Our Queen of Cups, who possesses the never-dormant ear, is an endless source of compassion, is the Tarot’s version of the Kindergarten teacher 🙂 and is another place to find love.

Our other Cup courts are no strangers to love. Our Page is the personification of the Ace and the representation of being in the early stages of love. Our Knight is in the business of love ‘em and leave ‘em. Upon reflection, that might not be how one would define love but don’t tell that to the knight. When he’s in love’em mode, he’d tell you that he’s clearly residing in the realm of Eros, as would the beneficiary of his attention. Our King is the master of love. He is blessed with the ability to both love fully and to keep his love in check as opposed to wearing it for all to see.

The Lovers is not the only place in the Major Arcana where we find love. The Empress represents, among other things, a mother’s unconditional love. As the home of the outwardly Feminine principle, hers is a passionate love.  A little further along the path of the Fool’s Journey, Strength shows us the resultant action of the Empress’ unconditional love.  Looking for one example of this strength-based love in action? Try crossing a lioness when she has her cubs nearby.  I would also argue that we can easily find love in two of the last three majors: The Sun, where our overwhelming optimism and joy includes a love for all things; and the World, where, as the card of completeness, contains all things, love included.

Like it or not, Valentine’s Day is a day where, at least commercially (oops, my bias is showing), we are reminded that love indeed makes the world go ‘round and is a many splendid thing. And I’m sure I’ve just scratched the surface of the presence of love in the Tarot. Do tell… where’s the love for you in the Tarot?

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Three of Earth and Hockley Valley

I found the Three of Earth here 🙂

On Saturday morning, I did what I so often do;  I drew a card from one of my decks. It was the Three of Earth from the Gaian Tarot deck. And, on Saturday morning, I did what I sometimes do; I forgot all about it.

I was hiking alone late that afternoon; halfway through a 6-kilometre hike through Hockley Valley. And I was struck by the beauty that surrounded me. It was as if I couldn’t take it all in. My head turned frantically, trying to look in ten places at once.  So I took out my X10 and started snapping.  I had a strong need to capture everything around me.  The trees were connected to the earth and sky.  The landscape was a never ending expanse of white. The Sun was just about to touch the western horizon. I was struck by the interconnectedness of everything around me. But more than that, I felt I was in the presence of true creation. A community of spirit had gathered together and had made something for me to enjoy. The labour of those who conceived this space had truly created something lasting.  At that moment, I thought of the morning card and smiled.

Here you are, Three of Earth.

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Thanksgiving

This weekend, in Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving. It seemed like the appropriate time to ask the following two questions:

For what can we give thanks? Elder of Air – Gaian Tarot

Elder of Air - Gaian Tarot
Elder of Air - Gaian Tarot

 

Interesting that Joanna Powell Colbert, creator of the Gaian Tarot, uses the phrase “a grandfather’s prayer of thanksgiving” (I drew the card randomly, honest I did!) as one of the descriptors for this card. As it relates to the question, we can give thanks for the counsel and the wisdom of our elders.   There is a vast well of knowledge available to us that those who have come before us has left for us to use. We need to recognize it and hear it… truly hear it.  See the flute in the elder’s hands? Listen carefully and we can hear its familiar song.  For that we say, ‘Thank you.’

Where can we show our gratitude? Four of Air – Gaian Tarot.

Four of Air - Gaian Tarot
Four of Air - Gaian Tarot

Note the four eggs in the robin’s nest. They’re tucked in tightly, like we would a young baby. We can show our gratitude by taking the wisdom of our elders and making it ours. Tuck it in and make it safe. Only once we have truly embraced and embodied what those before us intrinsically knew, lived and share with us every day can we find the sacred security represented in the Four of Air.

Suggestion on moving the above into action:  Find a forest, go for a walk and marvel and the rich colours. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, you have a beautiful palette of reds, oranges and yellows. Place your hand on a tree and feel the pulse of life moving through it. Know that the forest is alive and thriving and listen for the Voice of all those who came before. With both cards coming from the suit of Air (swords), I’m sure there’s something to hear!

For those of you in the Orangeville area, there are still two spots left in our Tarot Study group. It starts on October 13th at 7:00 in my space with the Fool and will walk through the entire deck over the next 10 months. Contact me at whitesagetarot@gmail.com or 1-519-217-7243 if you’re interested in joining us.

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Venus and the Child of Fire

I got up this morning, very early, and decided I’d start preparing for my Tarot Study Group coming up in mid-October. There was clearly an autumn chill in the air. Seeing summer now clearly in the seasonal rearview mirror, I bit the bullet and fired up the gas fireplace to help alleviate the fresh early morning bite. I find the flickering flame has the same soothing effect as running water, even if it’s gas-generated. (Note to self – New house discovery: check and see if the chimney is an insert or if it has the ability to burn wood.) I notice movement out of the corner of my eye. Our cat, Venus, is slowly approaching the fireplace.

She’s moving in predatorily, circling as if she’s going to attack. If it’s fire she perceives as her prey, she may have her work cut out for her. She circles to the side and approaches from outside of the flame’s direct line of sight. She moves to within a few feet and then withdraws. She circles to the side, walks up the glass insert and then runs away, at full speed, up the stairs.

Gaian Tarot - Child of Fire
Gaian Tarot - Child of Fire

I have witnessed my very own Child of Fire this morning.

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Death and the Child of Water

Last weekend, I decided to stray slightly from my usual practice of drawing a single card and drew two. I had no real intention or focus. I took three breaths. I kept my mind as blank as possible. And, in order of their appearance, I turned over the following two cards:

Death and the Child of Water from The Gaian Tarot. This two card combo left me somewhat perplexed. These two cards stayed, face up, on our home altar.

I have to say that, despite my knowledge of the Tarot, I was unnerved at having the Death card stare me in the face. I can’t think of the last time I drew ‘Death’. Clients often take a little breath inward when they see this card during a session.  I now have a better sense of why that might be.  I have always said that the Death card is amongst my personal faves.  Kelly might say that might be directly related to the propensity of Scorpio in my birth chart :).  But I believe it is because the Death card begs action. We can stare at the end of anything forever and come to the same realization; it’s over. But if we look at death closely, it allows us to grieve but then forces us to move.  The death of a relationship must  transition into a new phase of life. The death of a loved one must transition from one existence to the next – the first that included their earthly presence; the second that does not. The death of a season must transition into the next.   Death signals an end but it also signals a transition.

So, with ‘Death’ figured out :), I focused on card number two: the Child of Water.

You must realize one thing about me. Drawing a Tarot card is often a simple act; like drawing air. Although, at times, I often study the Tarot in depth, this simple act of drawing allows me a brief moment of groundedness. I draw, I examine, I pause and I reflect.  But these two cards intrigued me. It might have been the Tarot’s way of shaking me from my position of complacency and saying: “Hey, student, you still have lots to learn from me.” With the cards propped on the altar, each time I passed this sacred space, I thought briefly about this combination. Then, as Archimedes did as he stepped his foot into the bath, I found my ‘Eureka’ moment.

According to Joanna Powell Colbert, creator of the Gaian Tarot, the children cards can refer to “the quality of being child-like and having a ‘beginner’s mind’.” What a way to explore this transition but with the wondrous eyes of a child! The Child of Water explores instinctually. Her imagination is newly developed. There are no limits to the possibilities this child sees before her.

The Child of Water stands ankle-deep on the shore and looks around. She points at a starfish. She watches a hermit crab. She’s not worried that one day, both will die, perhaps someday soon.  She might instead be amazed that the crab’s home is carried on its back or that the starfish has an odd yet beautifully symmetrical shape.  She is living in the moment and will cheerfully move on to the next one.

Imagine if we approached each transition, regardless of how difficult, with childish wonder. Instead of staying in the moment of grief, we would move into the marvelous moment that the unknown will bring. I imagine my upcoming ‘deaths’: the death of my vacation time; the purchase of our new home that signals the death of my transitory existence;  the soon-to-be arrival of the divorce certificate that signals the official ‘death’ of my previous marriage and the burial of my father’s remaining ashes and thus the final ‘death’ of his earthly remains. Tarot’s Death ‘permits’ the grieving that is the natural process for all of these losses. But the Child of Water reminds us that what comes after needs to be explored and enjoyed with wonder, innocence and awe. Imagine the difference if we looked at death from the perspective of the Child of Water.

There is a quote by Richard Bach, from his novel Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah that sums up the juxtaposition of these two cards beautifully,  “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.”

Take pleasure in the breaking cocoon.