Tuesday 30 October 2012

Tarot Blog Hop: Samhain - meeting your shadow

Welcome to Alison’s Alembic!   You may have arrived here as a stop on the Tarot Blog Hop from either Koneta Bailey's blog or Joy Vernon's blog, depending on which direction you're moving through this Samhain Tarot Blog Hop.  Or you may have found this through TABI’s Facebook page, or though one of the many wonderful tarot bloggers in the ether... It doesn’t matter – what does matter is that you’re here!

We’ve been asked, for this Samhain blog, to explore ourselves – to go on an inner journey and to get in touch with our true selves. Who are we really?  What a perfect time to go down into the depths of our beings, our souls, and to mine some of the riches we keep hidden!

I decided to start by looking at two Major Arcana cards from the Wildwood Tarot (created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, beautifully illustrated by Will Worthington, and published by Connections). I chose this deck because it reflects the Wheel of the Year, providing me with an ‘instant’ pathway to Samhain, through The Journey (13) and The Guardian (15).

Wildwood Tarot (Connections)
The images on both cards focus on creatures who are considered to be guardians of the dead, or guides to the otherworld.  In The Journey we see the raven, while in The Guardian it’s the skeleton of the cave bear.  The raven tears 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.  In astrology, these are 8th house themes, so it comes as no surprise that (in the astrological correspondence system I follow) that the Death card (which The Journey approximates to) is linked with Scorpio, the sign having affinity to the 8th house.   ‘The Journey’ feels like a good place to start my own inner exploration, as it requires – no, demands – that I acknowledge my deepest fears and desires. Yes, both – this is about the shadow, after all. 

Wildwood Tarot (Connections
The Guardian takes that a step further – not only do those deep, dark fears and desires need to be acknowledged or admitted, but they also need to be overcome.  The skeleton of the bear, in the image, stands at the entrance to the cave of ancestral memory. It appears dark and forbidding, but until we go down that path into the unknown, we cannot have any understanding of what it is we carry within us.  Which is exactly what we’re being asked to do here, in this blog.

 The more ‘traditional’ Death and The Devil cards that roughly correspond to the The Journey and The Guardian are ruled by Saturn and Pluto respectively (in the system I follow). It just so happens that Saturn is currently transiting Scorpio (the sign that Pluto rules), while Pluto is in Capricorn (ruled by Saturn).  This ‘mutual reception’ seems to emphasize the collective shadows that surround us – and perhaps encourage us to accept and even embrace our individual shadow. 

When I first started working with this deck, I was very drawn to both these cards.  I’ve since learned that they are both, through their placement on Samhain, linked to the elements of Water and Earth – the two elements that are strongest in my natal chart.  Not only that, but Samhain has always been the festival that ‘spoke’ to me more than any other. Even as a child, it wasn’t the ‘trick or treating’ of Hallowe’en that drew me, it was the otherworldliness of that time of year.  My favourite treat was always the soul-cakes that a friend’s mother used to make – my initial introduction to the idea of the day of the dead and the ‘lifting’ of the veil between the worlds.... I’m convinced, now, that something ancestral was at work, even then. 

So, how to go about my journey for this particular blog?  

As I was contemplating inner journeys, and wondering how to set off on this one, I happened to be talking to a good friend who’s just completed his own personal journey on the Camino de Compostela, in northern Spain - a famous pilgrimage, which people have been walking for centuries. 
At night, the Milky Way appears to guide the way. The starting (eastern) point of the journey is said to represent the Gate of Capricorn (between the constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius, not Capricorn, due to the differing sizes of the constellaions and to their 'drifting apart' through what's called the precession of the equinoxes!). The western point of arrival represents the Gate of Cancer (between the constellations of Taurus and Gemini).  Along the Camino Frances route, there are seven cathedrals – each having an association with the seven traditional ‘planets’ in astrology. These ‘planets’ include the Sun and Moon, as the ancients saw them as wanderers across the sky in the same way as the other planets they were aware of – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  So, starting in the east, you would encounter Pamplona (Saturn), Logrono (Jupiter), Santo Domingo (Mars), Burgos (the Sun), Leon (Venus), Astorga (Mercury), and finally Santiago (the Moon).   This gave me the idea of a journey spread, using the qualities associated with those luminaries and planets and their own journeys across the heavens.

Card 1 (Saturn): What restrictions or limitations do I place on myself? 
Card 2 (Jupiter): What blessing or gift do I carry on my journey?
Card 3 (Mars): What’s driving me on my journey?  
Card 4 (the Sun): What light or warmth do I carry within me?
Card 5 (Venus):   What do I attract on my journey?  
Card 6 (Mercury):  What can I give in exchange, on this journey?
Card 7 (the Moon):  What protects me?

I chose to continue with the Wildwood Tarot for this, as I find the ‘wild wood’ makes an excellent metaphor for the inner self. All images below are from the Wildwood Tarot (published by Connections).

My first card, representing the restrictions or limitations I place on myself, is the Five of Bows. I see this as a reference to lack of confidence, and the need to face and defeat my fears.  Fits well with The Journey and The Guardian!

My second card, representing the blessing or gift I carry, is the Archer (7).  The two dogs are said to symbolize the power that’s held within, while the archer herself symbolizes focus, patience and control – the way to overcome lack of confidence, perhaps?

My third card is the King of Bows, represented by a mass of adders – my least favourite image in the deck (snake phobia!).  Strength and wisdom drive me forwards. 

Card four is the Stag (8), which carries elements of the traditional Justice card.  The light that shines from within me is rooted in the need for justice and fairness.

The Forest Lovers, my fifth card, represent what I attract – the “light of love”; my many friends.

The sixth card is the Nine of Vessels, representing what I can give in exchange.  The keyword here is generosity – sharing what I have with those I meet on my journey.

And finally, representing what protects me – the Page of Vessels. Another card associated with Samhain, the otter depicted here is at home on both land and water (as am I). This ability is also seen as the ability to move between worlds, perhaps through dreams or visions. But for me, it’s also the loyalty and sense of fair play associated with Otter that protects me. 

So it seems that patience and the ability to focus (not a thing I find easy to do), not to mention drawing on my inner strength and what I’ve learned through experience are what I carry on my journey to meet my ‘shadow’ - the need to face and master fears and desires (yes, desires can be scary!). I’m happy to have Otter accompanying me... and I’ve also just been reminded what Jung said about the shadow – that “it’s 90% pure gold”. A good thought to take with me.

Thank you for stopping off here on your own journey through this Samhain Tarot Blog Hop!  Please do come back and read some of my other posts.  

The next stops on the Tarot Blog Hop are - depending on whether you’re moving backwards or forwards through the list – Koneta Bailey's and Joy Vernon's blogs. The Master List can be found here.



  1. This hop is being a treasure trove of spreads to work with. Thanks for this great addition.

  2. I totally agree, Arwen. Another great spread suggestion! :)

  3. Thank you for the orbit of this 7-placed journey, Alison. It brings back an intense memory of the movie "The Way" from back in 2010 which poignantly follows this pilgramage. Thank. Every emotion came in that movie. The memory of it itself is a gift. Happy Samhain on your journey. Diggin' the alchemical Alembic. Like a lemniscate, except cooler.

  4. Another wonderful spread to file away for using, thank you Alison! Have you read Paulo Coelho's book - The Pilgrimage, I think it was called. About this self-same pilgrimage route that you mention.

    So nice to see how comfortable you are with The Wildwood!

    Ali x

    1. Thank you! Yes, I've read Paulo Coelho's book - wonderful.

  5. Hi Alison,

    I've seen planetary spreads before, but I love the twist you put on this one. And what a beautiful reading, too :) Good luck on your journey!

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  7. I nearly walked the Camino de Santiago in 2003, but then got chronic shinsplints and couldn't even walk up a single flight of stairs for a month *doh* Still, I never heard about the association of the French cathedrals with the planets - how fascinating! I love the wealth of knowledge here, and a lovely spread to boot. Thanks, Alison!
    BB, Kerry

  8. Also glad to see your comfort with the Wildwood. It seemed to resonate so well with you in our little FB group (except the snakes!). I really like the spread and how your example gave the initial descriptions of the positions more depth. I used them when I drew for the spread using the Universal Waite, and your draw helped me to see the meaning in several of my cards because they were reversed. Thanks!

  9. Thanks, Joanne! A few people have tried this spread now and seem to have found it useful. Looking forward to seeing you in our next FB foray :-)