Friday, 28 April 2017

Taurus in the Major Arcana – The Hierophant

Today let’s look at Taurus in the Major Arcana. That means it’s time to look at the Hierophant!

The Hierophant (trimmed):
© HaindlTarot
The word ‘hierophant’ is Greek, meaning ‘he who shows’. This referred to the role of the priest in ancient mystery rites, but could represent any priestly figure whose function is to show the objects that are to be used in any sacred ritual. The Hierophant card has come to be associated with the search for spiritual meaning (often symbolized by a key in the image), as well as with any ‘structure’ or tradition that’s been passed down through family, society, culture, and that influences our thoughts, beliefs, and values. While the High Priestess represents inner awareness, the Hierophant shows us the ‘outer’ forms – the texts, the prayers, the teachings, the rituals.  

Such teachings have held together societies and cultures for millennia – the Haindl Tarot’s Hierophant carries  the Hebrew letter ‘vav’, meaning ‘nail’, to remind us of this.  The Thoth Tarot also uses nails – nine of them – to surround the crown of the Hierophant (although these nails are said to represent the suffering that accompanies change or transformation).  

The Ancestor (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
Ritual carries with it a sense of the seasons, the turning of the year.  The Hierophant card in the Haindl Tarot carries a reminder of this through the rune ‘radh’, meaning ‘wheel’.  The Wildwood’s Ancestor represents the end of hibernation and the coming of warmth and light; the return of abundance – a very Taurean word!

Which brings us to the question - why the link to Taurus? The bull was associated with many ancient religions – both patriarchal and matriarchal. In some Stone Age temples, depictions of bull’s heads were found on the walls of chambers used for giving birth; it’s been postulated that the shape of the bull’s head and horns were representative of the shape of the uterus and fallopian tubes.   That aside, Venus – the ruler of Taurus – holds a crescent moon and a sword in the Thoth’s version of the Hierophant, symbolizing the balance between emotion and wisdom.  Compassion in conjunction with knowledge – that’s another meaning ascribed to the Hierophant by Hermann Haindl.  Some might call that the uniting of the feminine and masculine, another theme of the Hierophant, although others would say the Hierophant and High Priestess, both of which sit between two pillars in many decks, represent the masculine and feminine that need to be balanced. 
The Hierophant (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot

Gerd Ziegler, in his Tarot, Mirror of the Soul (Weiser Books, 1988) talks about the Hierophant as symbolizing spirit being made flesh, the bull representing the flesh. Again, the idea of unity, of bringing things into balance.  He also writes about transformation only being able to happen when one is in a receptive state – Taurus being one of the ‘receptive’ signs (along with the other Earth and Water signs).

Remember, Taurus is the fixed Earth sign.  Social mores, religious dogma, cultural traditions passed down from one generation to the next (depicted by the grandfather-father-son in the Haindl image) – these all carry the idea of being fixed – perhaps even (talking of fixed Earth!) ‘set in stone’.  That’s not to say that such structures, or the institutions associated with them, can’t or won’t change.  But it’s not just about conformity to society’s rules, it’s also about changing or transforming. The people associated with those structures – be they teachers, priests, mentors, gurus, advisors, therapists – can help to explore our psyche, our need to find a higher purpose or inner meaning, regardless of creed or doctrine.  The Hierophant is about a journey, a search... see the new moon in the Wildwood card? A new beginning – and with Venus there too, as the morning star, offering hope.  Such a search will require strength, wisdom, perseverance, and patience – all good Taurean qualities!

Haindl Tarot, created by Hermann Haindl. Published by US Games Systems Inc.

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

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

Monday, 24 April 2017

Taurus in the Minor Arcana: The Five of Pentacles

Today I’m looking at the role of Taurus in the Minor Arcana.  In the astrological correspondence system that I follow, Taurus is linked to the Five, Six and Seven of Pentacles – or Disks, or Coins, or Stones...depending on the deck.  Today I’m going to look at the Five of Pentacles, which corresponds to Mercury in Taurus – and the first ten days of Taurus.

Taurus is the fixed Earth sign, so we’re looking at maintaining our resources in a practical, down-to-earth way. Those resources include anything that gives us a sense of security or stability – so this covers financial matters, material concerns, issues around health and well-being...whatever it takes to make us feel safe and comfortable.

Mercury is about sharing and trading information and ideas. Normally when we think of Mercury, we might envisage the fleet-footed messenger of the gods, but in Taurus it’s much harder for him to get off the ground, let alone fly!  Instead, he finds himself having to take care with his words, having to speak more slowly and with more consideration.  Having to slow down and be more deliberate and down-to-earth is a challenge to Mercury!  Rather than communicating through words and ideas, he may express himself in a more physical way.

Five of Pentacles (trimmed):©Sharman-Caselli Tarot
So how might this play out in the Five of Pentacles?  Let start with a relatively ‘traditional’ depiction, for example, the Sharman-Caselli deck. Here we see two beggars shivering in the cold, unaware of the warmth and shelter and help on the other side of the window.   They are aware of physical sensation, in this case the cold, but they are so lost in the physicality that they can’t see beyond that.  The assumption here is that they’ve also lost all their material possessions – a source of concern to the Taurean archetype. If they were to look up at the window though, not only would they see the promise of light and warmth, but also the fruit and flowers carved in the stone around the window, reminding them of the bounty of the earth – which they haven’t lost.

Five of Pentacles ((trimmed):©Shadowscapes Tarot
Juliet Sharman-Burke talks about ‘the loss of wealth and faith’ for this card. The loss of wealth – financial or material - is perhaps easier to see.  The loss of faith comes through the loss of self-worth that can accompany loss of status in the material world.  Mercury brings the anxiety and worry, through its ‘Air-iness’ – the thoughts and beliefs that we carry in our minds – to the earthy concerns around Taurean comfort and security. But it’s not just about the money; the loss of faith or self-esteem or self-worth can also lead us into a ‘black hole’ of feeling hopeless; it may be time to address more ‘spiritual’ issues too.

The Shadowscapes deck also has this sense of being cut off or lost, but this (for me) is more to do with the pose of the figure, and with the way it’s been squeezed into a small space in the bottom right corner of the card.  The pentacles in the top left corner seem huge – so there is a sense of imbalance or destabilization. 

Five of Pentacles ((trimmed):©DruidCraft tarot
The DruidCraft, though, shows us this sense of loss in a woman, obviously in distress, leaning against a tree.  Her eyes are covered by her hands, so she can’t ‘see’ – she only feels what’s within.  On the horizon, a greyhound chases a hare – part of the story of Taliesin, who is trying to escape Ceridwen. In the first part of the chase, he takes the form of a hare, while Ceridwen assumes the shape of a greyhound. The chase – shown in the Fives of all suits in the deck – symbolizes the need to transform, to find a way forward from the crisis, the loss, that the Five of Pentacles represents.
Five of Disks ((trimmed):©Thoth Tarot

In the Thoth deck, the emphasis is similar, the focus here being ‘worry’ (Mercurical) over the state of our personal resources. It’s a reminder not to let worry and anxiety over such matters prevail to the point that we find ourselves stuck in a rut.  The pentagram in the image is upside-down, suggesting that things are out of balance.  Communication will be a key, thanks again to Mercury, in finding a way out of the ‘black hole’ or rut that we find ourselves in.

DruidCraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Sharman-Caselli 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.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The bull roars!

At 22.26 BST today, the Sun moved (astrologically) into the zodiac sign of Taurus. Here in the northern hemisphere, the buds that started to appear in Aries (or maybe even earlier, this year) are now bursting into blossom.  Taurus is ruled by Venus, the Roman counterpart to the Greek Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty (among other things), adding an appreciation of the splendour of the natural world around us.

Taurus, though Venus’ rulership, has become known as the sensual sign of the zodiac.  Through our senses, we experience the growth of the seeds planted in Aries – we see the colour, we smell the blossom, we hear the birds, the bees... the world continuing to come to life and live up to the promises and intentions set in Aries.  I have to admit to a particular attraction to this time of year, being a double Taurus! There’s so much pleasure to be had simply by going for a walk in the woods, or out on the Levels – seeing and listening to all the birds, seeing the flowers coming out. Even in my mini-garden I love watching the plants beginning to emerge.

In astrology, Taurus is one of the three Earth signs, along with Virgo and Capricorn, as well as being one of the four Fixed signs. You could say that this makes it the most enduring of the three Earth signs, although some might associate that with stubbornness!  It takes what’s been initiated in Aries and gives in form – as we see in the natural world around us at this time of year (again, apologies for the northern hemisphere bias).  

Taurus is often called ‘the builder’; it provides the stability as well as the tenacity to maintain what’s been started.  Other qualities associated with Taurus are solidity, dependability, reliability, patience, and perseverance.  Taurus is a hard worker, like the other Earth signs, willing to put in the hours in order to maintain financial and/or material security.

Taurus is also known for being indulgent!  Going back to the sensuality of Taurus, via Venus, it’s not only pleasure through sight, smell and sound, but also taste and touch.  Good food and wine... and not only the enjoyment of consuming (Easter eggs, perhaps?!) but also the growing.  Being an earth sign, Taurus loves being close to the earth – it’s the sign of the farmer and the gardener - but by extension, to any form of creativity.  

‘Taurus’ © Alison Coals
As an example, the idea for the image to the left (from my AstroArt series) was born during an exploration of Taurus during a workshop held at Chalice Well in Glastonbury and in the Glastonbury Landscape Zodiac., a few years ago. The exploration of our senses in those surroundings brought ‘Taurus’ (a collage created with watercolour on paper) into being!  

Monday, 20 March 2017

Lambs and rams! The spring equinox 2017

The Sun entered Aries, astrologically speaking, at 10.28 UT this morning. The first degree of Aries marks the point at which day and night are of equal length – the equinox.  Here in the northern hemisphere we’re celebrating the spring or vernal equinox – the point at which days become longer. The light returns to the earth.

Traditionally, astrologers view Aries as the first sign in the zodiac. It’s also a cardinal sign, so it’s a ‘mover and shaker’. Aries is the initiator, the pioneer – the one who comes up with the ideas.  Again, apologies for the northern hemisphere bias – but Aries, for me, really does connect to the ‘first breath of spring’.  To take a breath in is to in-spire; this is the time for inspiration, for setting intent, for coming up with the seeds of ideas.  Ideas hatching from the egg.  A time of birth and renewal.

Aries is the first of the three Fire signs encountered in the zodiac, bringing drive and passion to the creative process.  It’s also thought of as ‘masculine’, or ‘active’ – ‘yang’ energy.  The name ‘Aries’ is Latin for ‘lamb’; its glyph is meant to represent the horns of a ram.  In the sky, it was originally referred to as a farmhand, but in late Babylonian times, through associations with shepherds and the ‘shepherd kings’ of ancient Syria, it became associated with the figure of a ram. Amun, a Kush deitry, was often shown as having a ram’s head; later, Amun became merged with the Egyptian sun god Ra – another ram’s headed-figure, representing creativity and fertility.  Through its position at the vernal equinox, Aries became known as the ‘Indicator of the re-born Sun’, and also the ‘Lord of the Head’.  Today, Aries is still said to rule the head in astrology.
‘Aries’ ©Alison Coals

Aries is ruled by Mars, the planet named after the Roman god of war.  This gives Aries its drive and determination, its enthusiasm for things new. Mars is emotional and passionate about the things it believes in, and will defend self and others against attack. It also symbolizes the thrust for life, and the enjoyment of a good battle, of challenges and competitions for worthy causes.  Champion of the underdog, maverick...that’s Mars, and by association, Aries.  (The Ram’s Head Device, or Military Mountaineer Badge, is a military special skill badge of US Army National Guard.)

It’s not all about war and battles, though. Although we tend to think of the ram when we talk about Aries, the lamb represents the other side of this sign – the compassion and the willingness to sacrifice for the greater good.  The Lamb of God (‘Agnus Dei’), the Paschal Lamb of Passover, refers to the sacrifice of Christ. This – again in the northern hemisphere – is the time when we see lambs bouncing around in the fields.  And note that Easter and Ostara fall in Aries.  We come back to the idea of breaking out of the egg, representing new, or renewed life, waking up and seeing the world with fresh eyes – it’s all part of the ‘first-ness’ of Aries.  The time to set your intention for the coming year – and enjoying the vision, the rush, the buzz of it NOW! 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

King of the castle… Margarete Petersen’s Father of Coins

Father of Coins (trimmed):
© Margarete Petersen Tarot
Margarete Petersen’s Father of Coins does look as though he might be sitting in a ‘king-like’ pose, although I can’t actually see a throne. Some of the ‘shapes’ in front of him look a bit lizard-like - I’m reminded of the salamander being a creature of fire...wrong suit! Petersen writes, in her LWB, about having restrained animal instincts and drives, so perhaps this is him subjugating the animals.

In the bottom right corner of the inner frame I can make out some people – his subjects, perhaps? I can certainly see a man in his castle being comfortable with what he’s achieved, and now rules over. Underneath there’s a man on horseback with what could be a dog, and a bird - now I’m getting a Sagittarius feel, even though that’s the astrological association usually reserved for the Knight of Wands. A sense of freedom or independence, though; the independent wealth of all realms, be it hearth, home, health or resources in general.

Home is his castle –
From roots he creates empires
Resourceful leader.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books. 2004

Friday, 10 March 2017

Earth Mother - Margarete Petersen’s Mother of Coins

Margarete Petersen’s Mother of Coins reminds me of the Mother of Earth in the Haindl deck. She’s enclosed by the square frame, bathed in gentle golden light. She too nourishes, like the other Mothers, but her nourishing comes from nature and from the body. She “gathers, heals, and enjoys”. 

Mother of Coins (trimmed):© Margarete Petersen Tarot
Mother of Stones in the West: ©Haindl Tarot

In the accompanying LWB, Petersen writes of the coiled serpent, taking us back to the Ace and Two of Coins. Here she says the serpent is coiled at the base of the spine, unseen in the image but implicit, I think, in the use of the boundary, the square frame. 

This Queen/Mother knows “the power of coins”: “when the serpent uncoils, the grass trembles”. She also knows both “wealth and poverty, abundance and scarcity” – and has the wisdom to know how to use them to manifest.

There’s definitely an earth-mother feel to this card, I think: a reminder to look after our bodies, possessions, finances – all the things that constitute ‘personal resources’. Generous, patient and pragmatic. I’d add innate talents and abilities to that list.

Mother of the earth,
Guardian of health, home, wealth
Practical, kind, calm.
Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books. 2004. 
Haindl Tarot, created by Hermann Haindl, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Slow growth - Margarete Petersen’s Daughter of Coins

Margarete Petersen’s Daughter of Coins stands in Tree pose, so not moving at all – much like the more traditional depictions of the Knight of Pentacles. The only sense of momentum comes from the swathes of light drifting across the card. In the background we see a rock wall, and below the jewel that appeared in the Ten of Coins.

Daughter of Coins (trimmed):© Margarete Petersen Tarot
In the LWB, Petersen calls her the ‘daughter of the senses and of consciousness’. Like the Son, she too has wandered through her ancestry; her mind becomes ‘pure like a crystal’ – more Swords than Coins, I would have said, although crystals are of the earth, of course. Her wanderings are through deserts which speaks more of Wands associations – but again, it’s earthy. Wisdom comes through the yoga Tree pose, which connects her to the ancestors (root, trunk, crown). Her quest is for connection to ancestral wisdom, in order to regain mind-body balance. No horse needed!

Tree rooted in earth
Wisdom of the ancestors
Spirit embodied.
Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books. 2004

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Stretching - Margarete Petersen’s Son of Coins

Son of Coins (trimmed):
© Margarete Petersen Tarot
Margarete Petersen’s Son of Coins, like the other Sons in the deck, is shown in a yoga posture. As one of my friends said, he looks as though he’s literally stretching into being (thanks, Margo!). In the accompanying LWB, Petersen refers to using Yogic wisdom in order to surrender to the body, which would also represent the earthy, material, practical side of life.

Margarete Petersen’s court cards all receive gifts from one another, within their suit. I can see the Son as the more traditional ‘inexperienced child’, receiving the gifts of security or stability from his Mother, structured strength from his Father, and learning how to change and transform from his Sister – all through that yoga pose!

Shedding old patterns
Respect ancestral knowledge
Strength to start anew.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books. 2004. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Enjoying the wealth - Margarete Petersen’s Ten of Coins

I love Margarete Petersen’s suit of Coins – the imagery is so rich! Rich being a good word for the Ten of Coins…  The Ace showed the snake curled around to form a circle – the one-ness, the potential for creation. In the Ten we see a labyrinth at the bottom, with a jewel – richness mined from the earth – above it. 
Ten of Coins (trimmed):
© Margarete Petersen Tarot

Above that is an eye – and off to the right is a faint outline of a human figure. The Ten represents the culmination of the journey to ‘wealth’; the eye looks over it all – leaving the safety of the womb (the Ace), and the labyrinthine path that’s been followed to find the diamond/treasure at the centre of the earth. MP writes “The coiled-up serpent…has uncoiled itself and become your visible and invisible companion” – the figure on the right, perhaps?

Layers of the earth
Mined and explored; at the core
Riches of the earth.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books. 2004. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Fishing in the Piscean sea

At 11.31 GMT today the Sun moved (in the Tropical System of astrology) into the zodiac sign of Pisces. In the northern hemisphere, at mid-latitudes, it’s the time of year when the ice and snow starts to melt.  Water begins to flow as it’s released from its frozen, crystalline (Aquarian!) state. Boundaries melt. It’s a time of release, of letting go, of merging. A time to learn to accept what can’t be changed or controlled, as well as a time to surrender to change that is beyond our control.  

Unsurprisingly, then, we find that the sign of Pisces is one of the three Water signs. We’ve already met Cancer, the cardinal Water sign, and Scorpio, the fixed Water sign. Pisces – the mutable Water sign - completes the triplicity. In many ways, I think this is the easiest of the three triplicities to understand – after all, water in its natural state is free-flowing, and can be found in many forms (mutable meaning the ability to transform).

from Atlas Coelestis
The astrological glyph for Pisces is said to symbolize two fish held together by a string. In the constellation, the fish are usually ‘seen’ as swimming away from each other.  Alpha Piscium, the star at the point corresponding to the knot in the cord joining the two fish, is also known as Alrescha, from the Arabic al-Risa – the “well-rope” or “the cord”. The glyph’s symbolism can be extended to represent our dual nature - one fish could be seen as swimming upwards towards the heavens as if looking for spiritual guidance, while the other continues along the path of the Sun (the elliptic), concentrating on more earthly or material pursuits.

In Greek mythology, Pisces has many associations with Aphrodite (Venus in the Roman pantheon), who - as a reward to the fish who rescued her - placed the fish into the night sky. In astrological terms, Venus (the planet) is said to be exalted in Pisces, expressing all-encompassing love and compassion.

Jupiter (
The traditional ruler of Pisces is the planet Jupiter.  Jupiter, as you may remember, is a huge planet comprised mainly of hot gas. Known as the ‘Greater Benefic’ (Venus being the ‘Lesser Benefic’), Jupiter is associated with growth, expansiveness, benevolence and laughter (Jove, the Roman version of Jupiter giving rise to the word ‘jovial’).  It’s also linked to higher learning, to philosophy, law, and religion (in the broadest sense of the word) – to expanding our horizons, lifting us to new heights (remember that hot-air balloon?!). With Pisces, it’s expressed by living through our ideals, by being compassionate and sensitive, and by developing faith in the universe as well as the self.  William Blake wrote, in his The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, that “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom" – a wonderful description of Jupiter in Pisces!

Neptune (
Pisces also has a modern ruler, Neptune.  This planet was ‘discovered’ (or identified!) in 1846, and was named after the Roman god of the sea.  Neptune is associated astrologically with compassion and empathy, and is said to show us the areas in our lives where we want to merge, rather than stand out. It’s linked to dreams and visions, and our highest ideals. Imaginative, but not a lover of boundaries – it wants to transcend limits.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Three-fold return - Margarete Petersen’s Nine of Coins

In Margarete Petersen’s Nine of Coins we see a woman meditating on a stone. Waves of light emanate from the stone, encompassing everything around it. My imagination sees a lone tree on the distant horizon.
Nine of Coins (trimmed):© Margarete Petersen Tarot

I usually see this as the card of fruition, being able to reap and enjoy the rewards of hard work – be it physical, mental, or spiritual. Venus in Virgo - enjoying the fruits of the  harvest. But it is the penultimate card, so there’s still something else to come; perhaps that’s why the woman in more traditional decks often looks (to me) thoughtful? The woman in the MP deck meditates on the stone; she might be giving thanks for all she has, but she might also be searching within to find out what’s still missing. Virgo - paying attention to detail!

Margarete Petersen’s Three of Coins was about starting something new, letting go of the old, and being aware of physical space. Co-operation on all levels (physical, social, emotional). In the Nine, we have the appreciation of all the hard work, and the abundance that it’s brought – three-fold return!

Ordinary stone,
Earth’s treasure trove; discover
Abundance within.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books. 2004. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Creation! Margarete Petersen’s Eight of Coins

Eight of Coins (trimmed):
© Margarete Petersen Tarot
Isn’t this a beautiful image? The idea of a single leaf telling an entire story…the tree it belongs to, its roots – in some ways it seems to reflect some of the Three of Pentacles/Coins attributes, co-operating, connecting with others to create a whole. But in terms of the Eight and the idea of balance (2) and stability (4), this is even bigger than the Three – the nourishment from roots, drawing up nutrients from the earth (Pentacles, after all!).

Margarete Petersen, in her LWB, talks about the boundaries of the Four, and the ‘cosmic dimensions’ of the Eight. More numerology!  In anything involving boundaries, we’re going to have to exercise prudence – unless we’re going to exceed those boundaries. This is the Sun in Virgo card (and the card associated with Virgo is the Hermit, also linked – by some writers – with Prudence, so it’s all linked: don’t you just love all this stuff?!?!); let the sun nourish you as you grow, paying attention to all those connections. MP also writes “If you look closely at a leaf, whole worlds will open up” – the close inspection of Virgo shining light.

Earth nourishes, provides the tools;
We, with care, create the jewels.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books. 2004. 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

To harvest or not to harvest? Margarete Petersen’s Seven of Coins

Seven of Coins (trimmed):
© Margarete Petersen Tarot
Margarete Petersen’s Seven of Coins has an autumnal feel, to me – probably the colours, but also the skeleton/bones and the plant on its last legs… A time of change, liminal space-time. Things dying back to make way for new growth.  I wasn’t sure what to make of the rock drawings in the image, but in the LWB Margarete Petersen talks of them (and the bones of the skeleton) in reference to things happening in different times, different ages – and on to how growth is possible because things decay over time.

I usually associate this card with choosing whether to harvest what’s grown so far or to let it continue growing to fruition (i.e. the Ten). The LWB supports this: Margarete Petersen writes “Don’t interfere; commit to the process of growth” (another reference to non-interference, as in the Seven of Cups).  This is not unlike what Juliet Sharman-Burke has written, in her accompanying book to the Sharman-Caselli tarot: there’s no judgement here, merely an indication that this is a good time to weigh things up – that we have choices. We can stick with what we know, or branch out.

Does astrology help? The Seven of Coins, in the astrological correspondence system I follow, is linked to Saturn in Taurus (and to the final ten days of this sign).   Saturn is about establishing and preserving, as well as about having integrity.  In Taurus, that integrity could grow out of a sense of loyalty or reliability, or perhaps through building (Taurus) or establishing (Saturn) a safe and secure base – one that provides a sense of stability.  Saturn can also be about traditional values, as can Taurus (through its association with the Second House), as well as preserving the status quo, perhaps in order to maintain some sort of approval or recognition within a social context.   There can be a tendency towards conservatism in this combination, as well as that Taurean stubbornness (I like to call it tenacity!), linked to a Saturnian fear of not being in control.  Saturn wants to achieve but Taurus can slow things down, and at its worst could impede progress by not only stubbornness but also laziness.  At its best, progress is slow but sure; it’s steady, and often self-reliant.  Certainly a good time to commit to the process of growth.

Growth, decay, life and death.
Everything is connected
through time; let it be.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books, 2004. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Ace! Tarot Blog Hop – Imbolc 2017

Welcome to Alison’s Alembic!   You may have arrived here as a stop on the Tarot Blog Hop from either Karen's The Pure and Blessed Way's or Chlöe's Inner Whispers blog.  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!

Imbolc (pronounced i-molk or i-molg), also called Brigid’s Day or Candlemas, is a cross-quarter festival , marking the end of winter and beginning of spring (in the northern hemisphere). As the Celtic year was based on both lunar and solar cycles, the festival would probably have been celebrated on the full moon nearest the midpoint between the Winter Solstice (Yule) and the Vernal Equinox (Ostara) -  so if you’re living in the southern hemisphere, you’ll be celebrating this in August!

The name ‘Imbolc’ comes from the old Irish “i mbolg”, meaning “in the belly”, referring to the time of year when sheep and goats are pregnant, carrying their young.   Other etymology includes “oimelc”, meaning “ewe’s milk”, a reference to the onset of lactation in ewes about to give birth.

Birth, beginnings… a time of hope, a time to look towards the future, and what might be.

 Our wrangler for this Imbolc blog, Arwen Lynch Poe, has asked us to look at the Aces in the tarot.  The Ace represent the seed, the thing we plant and then go on to nurture as it grows. Each Ace holds the seed of the energy of its suit, be it the creativity and fire of the Wands, the ideas and … of the Swords, the … of the Cups or the … of the Pentacles.

With this in mind, Arwen has asked us to answer the question -
“How can I best foster the energy of the Aces in my life?”

- in whatever form we choose, be it a spread, a poem, a recipe, or whatever our imaginations come up with. I’m excited to see what everyone else is writing about!

And me? I’m fostering Ace energy by creating Ace haiku…

Ace of Pentacles (trimmed):© Shadowsapes Tarot

Earth full of promise
Nurturing, stabilizing,
Ready to take root.

Ace of Vessels (trimmed):© Wildwood Tarot

Well-springs’ constant flow
Carries seeds of love and joy
To fresh hearts and homes.

Ace of Swords (trimmed):© DruidCraft Tarot

Clouds lift, storms abate,
A sword cuts through, points the way,
Stimulates new thought.

Ace of Flames (trimmed):© Margarete PetersenTarot

A small spark of light
The flame grows higher, hotter:
Ignition, blast off!

Thank you for stopping off here on your own journey through this Imbolc 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 – The Pure and Blessed Way or Inner Whispers. The Master List can be found here.

DruidCraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections
Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books, 2004
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn

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

Friday, 27 January 2017

Give and take: Margarete Petersen’s Six of Coins

Traditionally, the Six of Coins, or Pentacles, is associated with giving and receiving. Astrologically, it’s linked to the Moon in Taurus. The Moon represents what we need, as opposed to what we want – our automatic or instinctive responses to things on an emotional level.  In Taurus, that automatic response may not be as speedy as it would be in Aries, for instance, but it’s there – it’s grounded, connected to the earth and nature. It’s patient, willing to wait, to be still.  And of course, the physical sensations that accompany feelings – the ‘gut’ instinct, for example, or the need to be in physical contact (touch) – is very much a part of this.
Six of Coins (trimmed):© Margarete Petersen Tarot

In the Six of Coins, we can see the Moon in Taurus in the generosity and sharing of our personal resources with others in need.  The sharing is unconditional, almost unthinking – the instinct to help and care and share comes naturally.  In Margarete Petersen’s version, we have two hands and two feet; we give with our hands, and receive (through the earth) through our feet. It’s a very earthy card – all about using the senses to experience and establish harmony in order to encourage new growth. 

Feet planted in earth,
Hands giving freely to all -
Loving exchanges.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books, 2004. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Fear and losing in … - Margarete Petersen’s Five of Coins

Traditionally, we tend to think of this card as representing loss – loss of faith, loss of material wealth or possessions.  It’s associated, astrologically, with Mercury in Taurus: Mercury representing the anxiety and worry, through its ‘Air-iness’ – the thoughts and beliefs that we carry in our minds – and Taurus the earthy concerns around comfort and security. But it’s not just about the money; the loss of faith or self-esteem or self-worth can also lead us into a ‘black hole’ of feeling hopeless; it may be time to address more ‘spiritual’ issues too.

Five of Coins (trimmed): © Margarete Petersen Tarot
The image on Margarete Petersen’s Five of Coins shows a dark oval face set in a gold-bronze-green rectangle. I can make out another face etched into the paint, and what looks like a ‘P’ painted at the top, but no other obvious (to me) symbols.  In the LWB, Petersen writes of the ‘blind woman who stays on the track of fear and loss regains her sight’; the face on the card, perhaps?  I see the Five as a reminder that movement is necessary to avoid getting stuck in the potential rut that the Four presents, with all its solidity.

Stuck in routine, fear
of losing security -
Movement is required.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA, 2004

Friday, 20 January 2017

Wish upon a star… Aquarius and Margarete Petersen's Tarot

At 21.23 UT yesterday (19th January) the Sun moved (astrologically) into the zodiac sign of Aquarius. Here in the northern hemisphere the days are starting to lengthen, now that the Midwinter Solstice has passed, and there’s a sense of hope in the air. Spring (again, in the northern hemisphere) is on its way, and we may perhaps find a spring in our step too, as we look forward to this! Hope in the air – how appropriate... Aquarius is an Air sign, and the tarot card from the Major Arcana associated with it is the Star, the card of hope and optimism.

But first, what is Aquarius all about, in terms of astrology? It’s represented in the zodiac by the water carrier, but who is this figure? There are many Aquarian myths – that of Uranus, the sky god of the Greeks who looks down from above and sees into the future, for instance. He was the first creator god in Greek mythology, married to Gaia, the Earth. His creations never met his high expectations, and he was considered to be cold and aloof. Ganymede, also from Greek myth, became the cup-bearer to the gods and was placed in the heavens as the constellation of Aquarius. Other stories include that of Prometheus (his selfless act in stealing fire from the gods to give to humanity being the epitomy of Aquarian humanitarianism), Hercules’ cleaning of the Augean Stables (“cleaning the slate”), and Gilmagesh’s search for the Herb of Immortality (realizing that man can’t live forever).

The sign of Aquarius has two planetary rulers. It’s traditionally ruled by Saturn, emphasizing restraint, objectivity and detachment. Detachment also comes from Uranus, which became the modern ruler of Aquarius after its ‘discovery’ in 1781 in Bath (UK) by William Herschel. Uranus had been observed a number of times before this, but was usually mistaken for a star. Herschel himself originally thought it was a comet but by 1783 it was classified as a planet - the same year that the American Revolution ended with the signing of a peace treaty with the British, and only six years before the French Revolution. The Industrial Revolution had not long begun either – so it’s no wonder that Uranus has become associated with rebellion, revolution, and the reforming of society. The famous “liberté, equalité, et fraternité” of the French Revolution could sum up Uranian, and by association Aquarian, qualities.

The sign of Aquarius combines the element of air with fixed energy, making it a very ‘in your head’ sign. Despite being the carrier of water, it often seems to be out of step with emotions and can – like the sky god Uranus - seem very detached or aloof. It’s linked to original thinking, ingenuity, inventiveness, and innovation. Aquarius is a reformer and a humanitarian, and is linked to the (astrological) 11th House through its concern with community and groups, not to mention ideology. But despite that, the Aquarian could be seen as an “armchair activist”, not wanting to be in the thick of things but preferring to remain detached. On the other hand, some see “Citizen Smith” (1977-80) as an Aquarian figure!

Looking now to the tarot, the card from the Major Arcana that’s associated with Aquarius is The Star. Going back to Ganymede, what did that cup of his contain? Nectar or ambrosia which gave the gods immortality. In other words, the contents of that cup were life-sustaining – and what is it that sustains us, more often than not? Hope. And what card in the Major Arcana could we connect with hope? The Star!

The Star (trimmed): © Margarete Petersen Tarot
Margarete Petersen’s Star isn’t the ‘traditional’ RWS depiction. Here we see a rather ethereal spiral (which reminds me of a translucent nautilus shell) set against a star-filled universe. Below it is a sea. As the shell-like spiral turns it lifts water up, much like a water-wheel - a water carrier...Aquarius again!

Stars have been used to navigate for centuries, perhaps millennia. They held hope not only for the ancient mariners, but also today – we often wish upon stars, don’t we? 

Shining through the dark
Hope and faith lie in the stars
Within and without.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA, 2004