Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Lion Roars!

Today, at 22.41 BST, we enter the sign of Leo, astrologically speaking.  This sign is associated with the heart – and gold, the metal associated with the sun (which rules Leo), is used in homeopathic remedies for the heart.  It’s also associated with royalty – with kings, in particular. The brightest star in the constellation of Leo (‘Leo’ being Latin for lion), Regulus (Alpha Leonis) was called ‘qalb al-Asad’ by the early Arab astronomers – which translates as ‘heart of the lion’.  Allegedly, it was Saladin who called Richard I the ‘lion-hearted king’.  The lion has been called the king of the forest, or jungle – long before Disney came along with ‘The Lion King’ – and has come to symbolize natural leadership, as well as royalty.  

‘Leo’ ©Alison Coals

Leo’s ruler, the Sun, is the star at the centre of our solar system. The sun gives us life – without the light and heat that it provides, life as we know it wouldn’t exist.  Psychologically, the Sun is said to be the core of our being or centre of our personality. It’s the fiery, creative spirit - our essential vitality - that drives us to seek out our individuality.  In medieval astrology, the Sun is called ‘the Great Light’. No surprise then that we think of Leo as a sunny, warm-hearted, larger-than-life sign – a sign that loves to be centre-stage, in the spot-light.  On the wonderful Alchemical Journey, one of the things we did to celebrate Leo was to make our way, one at a time, a ‘cat-walk’ toward a ‘throne’, where we would each receive the honour and respect of the others in the group.  Some found it easy to be in the spot-light; others, less so!

Leo is one of the three Fire signs, along with Aries and Sagittarius – all signs concerned with the discovery and fulfilment of future possibilities and passions. In Leo, the focus is more on the self – in terms of mythology, you could say it’s about seeking an answer to the question ‘Who am I?’.  The myth of Parzival (Sir Percival in the Grail legends) is a wonderful example of the hero on a quest for self. Hero and protector of the ‘weak’, Leo is associated with generosity, loyalty and steadfastness, but as a ‘yang’ sign is also outgoing and sociable.  

Another quality associated with Leo is pride – and what do we call a group of lions?!  Leo is the ‘I want’ part of the zodiac, and the lion symbolises this self-interested drive, which we all have – it’s what we use to survive.  

As well as being one of the Fire signs, it’s also one of the four Fixed signs.  Leo represents the fire that’s burning in the hearth, the fire that Aries may have ignited – Leo tends that fire, keeps the passion alive. As the fire heats the house, keeping its inhabitants warm and dry, Leo encourages and supports others.  

‘Leo Totem’ ©Alison Coals
 Being Fixed, Leo likes to be in control of the environment, though – disruption is NOT encouraged.  We can see this in Leo’s tendency for extravagance too – yes, Leo loves beauty and maintains a distinctive, individual style but that disregard for the cost comes from a ‘fixed’ trait (one more often associated with Taurus!) – that of laziness. Leo can’t be bothered to find out if there’s enough in the coffers – and would not be happy about the idea of having to make adjustments to expenditure. Leave that to a mutable sign – practical, earthy Virgo, perhaps!

The fixity of Leo also takes us back to the idea of being in the spot-light, of being centre stage – and the ‘shadow’ side of that.  Leo may expect the world to revolve around his ideas; taking other people’s views or dreams into account, or even acknowledging them, may be one of the challenges that Leo has to deal with. 

The image (top right) comes from my AstroArt series, inspired by walking the Glastonbury Landscape Zodiac, part of the Alchemical Journey (www.alchemicaljourney.co.uk).  ‘Leo’ is a collage: watercolour on paper, and origami paper. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Cancer in the tarot... ruled by the Moon: the High Priestess

The ruler of Cancer is the Moon, so I thought it might be fun to have a quick look at the card in the tarot that’s associated with it. It’s not the Moon card, as you might imagine - that corresponds to Pisces - but the High Priestess.  

Universal Waite Tarot
When we think of the High Priestess, we think of mystery, the unconscious, wisdom, intuition, inner guides – all of which come under the auspices of the Moon.  In many depictions of the Priestess, we see a crescent Moon – something new starting to grow deep in the unconscious, that we may not be fully aware of at a conscious level, the New Moon representing unrealized potential.  That depth of feeling feeds into all of the cards associated with the sign of Cancer.

Traditional depictions of the High Priestess show her sitting between two pillars, often – but not always – black and white, symbolizing her role as bringing together opposites. She carries the number ‘2’ in the Major Arcana, reminding us not only of the early stages, the newness of the Fool’s Journey, but also that duality.  She acts as a conduit between the conscious and unconscious – the creativity and intuition that can link the two realms. 

She sits in front of a curtain or veil, behind which can sometimes be seen water, symbolizing the unknown – the mystery.  The High Priestess represents our intuition, something long linked with the Moon – the need to trust our instincts, to look inwards for answers, rather than to the outer world.  The Moon has come to symbolize the feminine, as well as psychic energy.  Through the Moon’s rulership of Cancer, a water sign, we see the links between the formlessness of water and the shapeless unconscious.

Shadowscapes Tarot
We see the moon depicted in its various phases on the robe of the Shadowscapes' Priestess. She hovers in the sky beneath two brances of a tree, not unlike the twin pillars of the more traditional Rider-Waite-based images.Below her flies an owl, symbolizing wisdom.  The High Priestess carries a pomegranate, a symbol of both the mysteries of birth and death (through the myth of Persephone).

The High Priestess often holds a scroll, which in some decks carries the letters ‘TORA’.  Unlike the Jewish Torah, which is unrolled every Sabbath in order to read its wisdom, the High Priestess’ scroll remains rolled up, keeping its secrets.  To uncover them, we have to reach within; we have to learn to listen to our intuition in order to unearth the truth.

Thoth Tarot
In both the Thoth and the Haindl decks, we see the Hebrew letter ‘gimel’, meaning camel – in fact, at the bottom of the Thoth’s High Priestess, a camel appears. This represents the idea of emotional self-sufficiency, the Moon being all about our emotional needs.  Like the camel, which can go long distances without additional water, we contain the resources – the ‘fertile oases’ depicted at the bottom of the card - within us that are needed to sustain us on an emotional level.

Haindl Tarot
The Haindl’s version of the High Priestess also shows us the rune ‘Ur’, meaning ‘aurochs’ as well as ‘rain’.  The aurochs, an extinct European bison, reminds us that both the buffalo and the cow have been symbols for the goddess in many cultures – the feminine...bringing us back to the Moon again.  The crescent Moon is often seen reflected in the shape of the horns. 

‘Ur’ is also known as the rune of secret passage – the flow of intuition between those two pillars seen in the more traditional images of the High Priestess – and can also mean ancient, primal. Again, the High Priestess takes us deeper, to an instinctive level, leaving the conditioning of the conscious world on the other side of the veil.

Haindl Tarot created by Hermann Haindl, published by US Games Systems, Inc.
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn

Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by US Games Systems, Inc.

Universal Waite Tarot created by Mary Hanson-Roberts & Pamela Colman-Smith, published by US Games Systems, Inc.