Thursday, 22 November 2018

Shoot for the stars!

At 09.01 UTC/GMT today, the 22nd of November, the Sun moved (astrologically) into the zodiac sign of Sagittarius.  Here in the northern hemisphere, the days are getting shorter and the path of the sun – when we see it at all! – is low in the southern sky.  The time of solstice, when the sun will appear to be at a standstill, is approaching – but for now, we’re in the Fire sign of Sagittarius.

‘Sagittarius’ ©Alison Coals 
The constellation of Sagittarius represents a centaur - the half-archer, half-horse figure who, in Greek mythology, was a disruptive creature, a lover of riot. The most famous story of the centaurs has them causing havoc at the wedding of Hippodamia and Pirithous, where they attempted to carry of Hippodamia and some of her women - the aim being to free the spirit of the women! 

Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, the largest of the planets in our solar system, and one that’s composed almost entirely of gas.  Not difficult to see how Sagittarius has come by its reputation for being larger than life, full of hot air, and a tendency to overdo things!  Jupiter is the Roman counterpart to Zeus in the Greek pantheon - the ruler of the gods, as well as being the god of thunder.  Often shown with a lightning bolt as his symbol, Jupiter came to represent growth, expansion, and benevolence (in astrology, the planet is referred to as the 'greater benefic') - as well as good humour.  Jupiter was also known as Jove, giving rise to our word 'jovial'.  Sagittarius, as well as being a Fire sign, is also classed as a mutable sign – being able to change and adapt, and to disseminate or spread. We can see this in the growth and expansion associated with Jupiter.

The sign of Sagittarius sits at the other end of the axis of information on the zodiac, opposite Gemini. Both signs carry the quality of wanting to know what’s going on but Sagittarius takes this quest for knowledge out into the wider world and beyond into the universe.  It takes Gemini’s information and data on its quest, searching for ways to turn that into wisdom.  Like the other Fire signs, Sagittarius is fun-loving, cheerful, and full of energy - but that mutable energy means it can be restless and always on the move.  In cardinal Aries, we have ignition; in fixed Leo, the fire is maintained; in mutable Sagittarius, the fire is carried out into the world. That’s part of being on its quest for knowledge, of course – but that doesn’t stop Sagittarius from enjoying the journey and having adventures; just think of the Knights on their quest for the Holy Grail!

Adventure and challenge, wide open spaces, the freedom to roam – that’s what Sagittarius loves.  It’s not just physical exploration though – it’s also the need to expand consciousness, acquiring wisdom as well as experience.  Philosophy, religion, law – anything that involves expansion of the mind will appeal to Sagittarius. There are shamanic associations to this sign too – the vision quest or shamanic journey could be seen as very Sagittarian.

What happens when you overfill a balloon with hot air? It’s likely to burst. Well, this happens here too – Sagittarius is optimistic to the point of being unrealistic, promising to do more than is humanly possible and not being able to deliver.  There’s a tendency to live in the future, imagining the endless possibilities, but not noticing what’s going on in front of them, on the ground.  But that optimism also leads to a belief in luck and good fortune – more Jupiterian qualities!

The ‘Sagittarius’ collage comes from my AstroArt series, inspired by walking the Glastonbury Landscape Zodiac.  

Monday, 12 November 2018

Scorpio in the Major Arcana: Death (part 3)

13 The Journey (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
In Part 1 of our exploration of the Death card, we saw the raven appear.  The raven is considered to be, among other things, a guardian of the dead, or a guide to the otherworld.  In The Wildwood Tarot’s ‘The Journey’, Will Worthington has given us an image of the raven tearing flesh from a skull of a reindeer - a symbol of the stripping of life, and of the (re)cycling of life through death and birth; all Scorpio (and by affinity, astrological 8th house) issues. 

XIII Death (trimmed):
© Wild Unknown Tarot
The skeleton in Kim Krans’ Wild Unknown Tarot’s Death card may or may not be a raven, but the image reflects that idea of the stripping of life - the disintegration of flesh, leaving only bones behind.  Again, the cycling of life, and the knowledge that something needs to come to an end.  Krans talks about the need for closure, in the book that accompanies her deck, and about the inevitability of the ending.  And through experiencing the ‘death’, we’re able to move towards a new stage in our lives.

Wild Unknown Tarot, created by Kim Krans, published by HarperCollins, 2016.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Scorpio in the Major Arcana: Death (part 2)

In Part 1 of our look at the Death card, we saw the phoenix rising from the ashes of the fire that consumed what was no longer needed – not unlike the bonfires consuming fallen leaves, or the fires in the fields, burning away the debris after the harvest – in order to prepare the ground for the new. 

Death (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot
The Shadowscapes Tarot also draws on the promise of renewal with its phoenix rising from the ashes of the devastation, the tearing down of what has been, now ready for what’s to come. It's one of the more 'optimistic' versions of the Death card, I think - the fiery-red phoenix looks upwards and outwards towards what appears to be a sunny future... What do you think?

Death (trimmed):
© Zillich Tarot
Christine Zillich’s and Margarete Petersen’s Death cards both invoke the Crone in their depictions of Death. There’s an element of looking backwards and forwards with the Crone-Hermit, and that ‘crone knowledge’ or wisdom associated with the Hermit is necessary in order to make the changes that Death demands. 

The Zillich Tarot’s Death shows a crone-like figure in black, butterflies – a symbol of transformation – around her. 
Death (trimmed):
© Margarete Petersen Tarot

In Margarete Petersen’s version, we see two serpents – another symbol of transformation: one white, one black. There are links back to her High Priestess, Chariot, and even the Lovers in the way she’s used duality and opposites in her work. Her Death image is almost a mirror image: white serpent meets black serpent; Death, in the form of a cloaked skeleton, stands behind the white, earth-bound figure. Out of the dark comes light. A bit like the phoenix, then?

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books, 2004.
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Zillich Tarot, created by Christine Zillich, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Scorpio in the Major Arcana: Death (part 1)

Given what we know of Scorpio, it probably comes as no surprise that the card associated with Scorpio (in the system I follow) is Death. Death, as in the end of a cycle – something that’s necessary in order to allow something new to grow and develop. Not physical death, or at least, not necessarily. 
Death (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot

Traditional depictions of Death show us a knight in armour on a white horse, a king dead underfoot, a religious figure in its path, sometimes children. The image in the Sharman-Burke/Caselli tarot is a variation on that theme; here the horse is black (the colour associated with death in some cultures), its rider a skeleton. The skeleton’s headdress is a swaddling cloth, used at birth, reflecting the link between birth and death and the unending cycle of life. The skeleton carries an hourglass, reminding us that everything has its time. 

In the distance, we see a river – another reminder of the ongoing process of transformation, this time in the form of the hydrologic cycle (the river water evaporates and forms clouds, the clouds rain, rainwater falls back to earth). The boat is said to symbolize both the cradle and the coffin. In the foreground we see a raven, thought to be a harbinger of death in many traditions. The theme is Scorpionic – transformation and change; endings creating openings for new beginnings.

XIII Death (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
The skeleton with his scythe are also seen in the Crowley Thoth tarot’s version of Death. He wears two faces here – one is that of the destroyer, the other that of the liberator – reminding us that in order to change, we may have to let go of things that hold us back, that no longer serve us. The headdress of this skeleton is a funereal head-covering, used in ancient Egypt – a reminder of the need to bury old, out-dated, invalid ideas and beliefs so that new life can begin. We see the scorpion at the bottom of the image, ready to sting, and the snake – perhaps THE symbol of transformation – ready to bite. A fish, representing the past, swims through the serpent’s coils: is it the next victim? Above it all, the phoenix, which can only rise from the ashes once the fire has consumed everything in its way. Intense? Oh yes! 

Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

A dip into the Runes

Now that we’re in Scorpio, the sign of – among other things – secrets, I thought it was time to dip into the runes and see what secrets I could unearth there.  Today, out of the Alembic comes …


…also referred to as Beorch, and Ba, depending on what source or system you’re using.  According to some, Beorc means ‘birch goddess’, but ‘birch’ seems to be the most common translation.  

Birch symbolizes growth, birth, becoming.   The birch was considered as the tree of fertility.  I’ve also heard it used to represent the idea of liberation, although it might be more about increasing vitality, which in turn could lead to shaking off the old and feeling liberated as a result. Being lightly whipped with twigs of birch was meant to increase vitality; this practice still exists in Scandinavia where, after being in a sauna, you’re meant to roll in the snow and then lash yourself with birch twigs!

Beorc is a fertility symbol, the two lobes resembling a woman’s breasts.   The rune suggests the start of something new – the birth of a new idea or new project, perhaps even the birth of a child.  It can also symbolize your home, where you come from, your roots.  You might be being asked to develop greater awareness of ‘hearth and home’.

XIII Death (trimmed):
© Haindl Tarot
Ba can also mean ‘boat’ and ‘bier’.  That might not seem to relate to the other meanings associated with this rune, but just think about the Viking funerary traditions:  they set the biers on boats, sending their dead across the sea to a new life.  Death, birth.

Beorc shows up on Hermann Haindl’s eponymous Tarot deck’s Death card.  We see the boatman ferrying his boat across the marshes – Charon, perhaps, or one of the Avalon boatmen waiting for another soul to carry onwards. The cycle of life and death again, appearing in the card of transformation and the ‘great journey’.  Here the presence of Beorc reminds us of (re)birth part of the cycle, and the sense of liberation that comes from letting go of what’s no longer of use.

…and Death is also linked, astrologically, to Scorpio…the sign we entered only a few days ago.  More about this card in the next few days…

Haindl Tarot, created by Hermann Haindl, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Full Moon in Taurus

Today’s offering comes from the Wildwood Tarot, created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, beautifully illustrated by Will Worthington. 

18 The Moon on the Water (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot

The Moon on the Water seems like the perfect card to work with on the day of the Taurus Full Moon.  Full moon overhead, casting light over a marshy landscape – that’s appropriate too, as we’re in the watery sign of Scorpio.  And against the backdrop of that moon we see the silhouette of an aurochs, the ancestor of our bull – the symbol of Taurus. 

Taurus is associated with fertility, among other things.  In the old Druidic traditions, a bull or ox might be sacrificed at midwinter, as a symbol of new life emerging from the ‘dead’ of winter.  In the accompanying book to the Wildwood Tarot, the creators write of the auroch’s horns representing not only the waxing and waning of the moon, but also fertility: they see the womb and fallopian tubes in the bull’s horns. 

New growth emerging from death is also a theme of Scorpio, of course, with the transformation from what’s decaying or no longer of use into something from which new life can emerge. Just think of your compost heap!  The Moon represents this too – the cycles of life: birth and death, new and old, waxing and waning.

So what might The Moon on the Water be saying to us today? It’s difficult to see a way through the marsh, although the Moon does cast a path of light (reflected from the Sun) over the water. The 'passage through the unknown', perhaps? The heron, a water bird, represents psychic ability as well as reflection - and there's plenty of reflection in the imagery. The heron also stands at the gateway between life and death, acting as mediator on the soul's journey to the underworld. Or between conscious and unconscious? Under the surface (how Scorpionic!) lies the “primal egg” (to quote Ryan and Matthews), waiting to be fertilized. So, at this time of the Taurus New Moon, perhaps it’s time to stand still for a moment, and see the potential that lies before us. Pay attention to your dreams and your imagination – what are you being called to create?

Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

The sting of the Scorpion

Today, at 12.22 BST, the Sun moved (astrologically) from Libra into Scorpio. 

Leaves continue to change colour, but now they’re falling from branches, covering the earth in a blanket of gold, bronze, and orange.  The autumn winds lift them up; they whirl through the air, twisting and swirling in a vortex... Since the equinox, the nights are growing longer, giving us the opportunity to spend more time dreaming.   

Here in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere, people are planting bulbs – the ‘seed’ of life being sown underground where it will lie protected and nurtured until it’s ready to ‘spring’ forth in a few months’ time.  Is it any wonder that Scorpio, the scorpion, is the sign of transformation?  

All around us, in nature, the world appears to be going to sleep; animals are starting to hibernate, the birds are gathering and forming their migratory v-shapes as they head for warmer climates. 

'Scorpio'  © Alison Coals
Before long it will be Samhain (“summer’s end”) the end and start of the Celtic New Year, the Day of the Dead – times of transformation and change, which is what we’ve come to associate with Scorpio.  In astrology, Scorpio is one of the three Water signs, along with Cancer and Pisces, as well as being one of the four Fixed signs.   It ends the second cycle of the elements (Cancer through to Scorpio), and opposes Taurus on the axis of resources.  While Taurus is interested in material resources, Scorpio – as a water sign – is more interested in emotional resources.  As a fixed sign, Scorpio wants to know what’s going on at a deeper level, not at the bubbly surface – “still waters run deep” is a good description of Scorpio’s focus.  Only by diving into the depths can Scorpio unearth the root of a problem and attempt to transform it – and it will probably take a crisis or something similar before Scorpio will take that plunge. 

The traditional ruler of Scorpio is the planet Mars, providing passion and drive.  It also has a modern ruler, Pluto, named after the Lord of the Underworld, reflecting the cycle of life and death and the change involved.  Both planets are associated with power; “knowledge is power” is another good description.  We’ve just left Libra, with its 7th-house focus on partnership, and the need for harmony and balance through negotiation and diplomacy. Now we’re about to move into 8th-house issues with Scorpio – shared resources, power issues, life cycles,… and recycling! What follows once the contract is made, within partnerships and relationships (of all kinds)…  Emotions run deep, and power struggles can ensue.  Intensity.  What will be the fall-out, as we move into (in the northern hemisphere) fall)? What are we recycling, or composting? Any transformation, under the auspices of Scorpio, will be intense!