Thursday, 26 November 2015

Sagittarius in the Druidcraft Major Arcana - alchemy at work!

Let’s start our exploration of Sagittarius in the Druidcraft tarot with the Major Arcana.  In astrology, Sagittarius is the last of the three Fire signs that we encounter as we go around the zodiac – the first being Aries, the second Leo.   It’s the mutable one – taking what’s been established in Scorpio and transforming it into something else.  It combines fiery passion and creativity with the expansiveness and benevolence of Jupiter, its ruler, to give us the visionary, the explorer, the philosopher.  

The key word for me here is ‘transforming’ – that ability to take what we have and change it, to temper it... ah, you’ll see where I’m going with this now!  In the astrological correspondence system for the tarot that I follow, the Major Arcana card associated with Sagittarius is Temperance.  It’s THE alchemical card, for me – all those symbols of alchemy present in most depictions of the card, including the Druidcraft’s version.

Druidcraft: The Fferyllt (detail)
The creators of the deck, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, chose to re-name this card after the Druid alchemists, the Fferyllt.  In the image, so beautifully rendered by Will Worthington, we can see the alchemist at work.  She pours a red liquid into a bowl containing a white liquid to create ‘gold’ – the transforming of one or two substances into another. 

As in many depictions of this card, the need for flow between the conscious and unconscious is indicated by the flow between the two hands.  The rainbow symbolizes promise, as does the sun – part of the Sagittarian vision. So, transformation gives us the link to the mutable nature of Sagittarius, but what about the Fire?

Well, fire plays an essential part in alchemy – some of the main alchemical processes take place in a furnace.  We see here the alchemical union of fire and water.  While water can extinguish fire, it can also join together with fire to form steam – which we see rising from the vessel she’s working with. 

 (The actual alchemical process associated with Sagittarius is that of ceration – the softening of hard material, achieved by continuously adding a liquid to a hard, dry substance while it’s being heated, ending up with something the consistency of molten wax.  That’s a simplification, of course... and there are a number of different definitions.)

The Fferyllt, or Temperance, reminds us about uniting, integrating, blending, bringing things into balance and harmony, drawing on Sagittarius’ mutability and, if you think of this as an alchemical process, on fieriness!  

Druidcraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Quest for fire?

At 15.25 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 Mutable Fire sign of Sagittarius.

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’ ©Alison Coals
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!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Scorpio in the Druidcraft court cards

Last in our exploration of Scorpio on the tarot -but not least - Scorpio in the court cards. But which one – or ones?  Different traditions have different astrological correspondences when it comes to the Court Cards.  

For instance, the Book-T system attributes the cardinal attributes (initiating things) to the Queens, fixed (maintaining order) to the Kings, and mutable (being able to adapt and transform) to the Knights.  Each court card is also linked to the elements, with Pages with Earth, Knights being associated with Fire, Queens with Water, and Kings with Air.

Other decks follow a different convention. They keep the Knights as carriers of mutable qualities, but have the Queens taking on the ‘fixed’ attributes and the Kings the ‘cardinal’ ones.  This gives us the Queen of Cups as the court card associated with Scorpio.  That combination of Water and fixed-ness suggests being in control of her emotions and very self-contained – strong Scorpio qualities! She trusts her instincts and is very intuitive, in touch with the watery world of emotions. Feelings cannot be ignored – or only at your peril.  Other Scorpio traits which could be seen in the Queen are seductiveness and mysteriousness!  

Queen of Cups (detail): Druidcraft Tarot
The Druidcraft Tarot was not designed with astrology in mind, but I can see a Scorpionic element in its Queen of Cups, not least from the scorpion edging out from under her cloak and the snake emerging from under her throne! The Queen stands at the water’s edge, a chalice in her hands, positioned in such a way that the full moon appears to be rising from it. She’s able to draw deep into the depths of her emotions and intuition to transform dreams into creative reality. 

The Queen of Cups is often seen as a healer, such as a therapist or counsellor – someone who’s willing to accompany others into the depths of their psyche and emotional world in order to heal themselves. 
The snake and the scorpion, both creatures associated with Scorpio, remind us that we need to recognize our desires, our fears, our cravings – whatever it is that’s driving us; only when we’re truly aware of them should we attempt to master them, otherwise we run the risk of drowning.  The water appears tranquil, as does the Queen - calm on the surface yet carrying tremendous power for transformation within.

Druidcraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections