Sunday, 23 August 2015

Harvest time!

Warm, sunny Leo has moved on, bringing us into the time of harvest in the northern hemisphere, overseen by Virgo (astrologically, the sun moved into Virgo today at 10:37 GMT).  Virgo is the Latin word for ‘virgin’, and the constellation was linked, in ancient Greece, to Astraea, the Greek goddess of innocence.   Perhaps more familiar is Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, but also known as the virgin goddess.  Her arrows found their mark, hitting their target – getting right to the point. That can be translated as the sharp, critical faculty associated with Virgo.

‘Virgin’ also refers to a free woman, which we also see reflected in the constellation; Virgo is the only female figure in the sky who is free – Andromeda and Cassiopeia are both chained.  The brightest star in the constellation is Spica, representing a spike of a grain of wheat in her left hand.   An early Roman astrologer referred to the constellation as Erigone, linked to wine-making by association with Dionysius.... 

 ‘Virgo Harvest’ ©Alison Coals Virgo has come to represent the harvest - and the time when things start to shut down, ready for winter and rest.  

Virgo is ruled by Mercury, the swift-footed messenger of the Roman gods. Like his Greek counterpart Hermes, he was also god of trade, in particular of grains. He carries a caduceus, a symbol of trade and commerce. 

The caduceus is also often incorrectly associated with medicine – the correct symbol for that is not Mercury’s winged staff and two serpents, but the single serpent-entwined rod of Aesclepius, a Greek god of healing.  Nevertheless, Virgo is often associated with issues of health, in particular nutrition and diet – perhaps through its bodily rulership of the intestines (where things are broken down), as well as the nervous system.  The ability to work with lots of information and finding a way to make them fit – like working with jig-saw puzzle pieces – can also be connected to healing, particularly holistic medicine.

‘Virgo’ ©Alison Coals
Virgo is one of the three Earth signs, along with Taurus and Capricorn. It’s the mutable one – taking what’s been established in Leo and turning it into something useful. It combines earthy practicality with the sharpness of Artemis’ arrows and the swift thinking and dealing of Mercury, resulting in great organizing skills, the ability to design in great detail - and with deliberation and discrimination.   

So how does Virgo fit into the tarot - and does it fit into the Druidcraft, the deck I'm working with this year?  Like the other signs, it’s associated with a card from the Major Arcana, at least one court card, and three cards from the Major Arcana.  We’ll start with... watch this space!

The image on the right (watercolour and ink) comes from a series inspired by Native American artists.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Leo in the Druidcraft: The Seven of Wands

The Seven of Wands is linked to the Mars in Leo, and the final ten days of the Sun’s passage through Leo (12th-22nd August).  Mars is associated with ‘masculine’ energy – drive, determination.   It’s sometimes described as war-like, Mars being the Roman god of war.  Here Mars joins forces with the strength and courage of Leo, the ‘heart’.  This is a battle that will be well-planned.  Again, like Jupiter in Leo in the Six of Wands, there’s a danger of arrogance – Leonine pride combined with Mars aggression.  But as long as that’s kept in check, Mars in Leo suggests initiative and drive, confidence and creative flair.  

Seven of Wands - Druidcraft (detail)
The Seven of Wands is often associated with the idea of fierce or stiff competition, and with keeping the momentum gained in the Six going.  After all that glory and acclaim, we can’t just sit back!  The Seven is about being ready to take on whatever comes next. That’s where the Mars in Leo energy comes in. We can draw on the Leonine daring and strength, allowing ourselves to take risks.  I think of the word ‘courage’ – of the French word for the heart (Leo), coeur, combined with Mars ‘rage’.  The phrase ‘take no prisoners’ comes to mind – there’s no room for compromise here.  There’s also an awareness of our fears, something else that comes through experience – perhaps through overcoming the obstacles in the Five of Wands.  

Can we see this Mars in Leo energy in the Druidcraft’s Seven of Wands?  Here we have a single figure, his back to us, defending his position from the invaders coming from below. He’s taking a stand, defending what he believes in – the thing that’s most important to him. He’s ready to do what’s necessary to protect this, the key word being ‘necessary’. The Seven of Wands is about doing what’s needed – so yes, I can see the astrological association here.

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

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Leo in the Druidcraft: the Queen of Wands

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 Wands as the Leo card.  That combination of fire and fixed-ness suggests a mix of fiery enthusiasm and optimism, but there are some boundaries this Queen won’t cross. She’s not going to take risks – not in the way that the roving, changeable Knight or the dynamic, ‘go-getter’ King might.  But she’s quite likely to be able to look after a number of things at the same time – she can compartmentalize very successfully, and can make herself available to whoever needs her.  And given all the mythology (see my previous post, ‘Leo in the Major Arcana’) linking women with lions, it feels appropriate that it should be the Queen, rather than one of the other Wands court cards, with the link to the sign of Leo!
Druidcraft Tarot: Queen of Wands (detail)
The Druidcraft Tarot was not designed with astrology in mind, but I can see a Leonine element in its Queen of Wands, with that rather lion-like cat under her throne. In the accompanying book, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm write that ‘if she or a friend are attacked, she can be ferocious in defence’ – that cat looks as though it’s ready to pounce!  The Queen too, with that Wand held firmly upright in her right hand (the side of action), is the only Queen in the deck shown wearing shoes – she’s dressed and ready for whatever’s coming her way.

(and Happy Birthday to my favourite Queen of Wands – Alison Cross of This Game of Thrones fame!)

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