Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Tarot Blog Hop Samhuinn 2017: Birth, Death & Rebirth


Welcome to Alison’s Alembic!   You may have arrived here as a stop on the Tarot Blog Hop from either Hannah Berg's or Brandi Hopkins' 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!

It’s the time of Samhuinn (“summer’s end”), a liminal time when the veil that separates us from those who are no longer walking in this world is thinnest. The Day of the Dead, a time to honour the ancestors - and, in the old Celtic tradition, the end of the year.  Our wrangler for this particular Blog Hop, Jay Cassels, has asked us to look at where we are at the end of this cycle – what’s happened to us since last Samhuinn, and where we might be headed as we begin a new year.
This resonates with me more than usual, as I’m approaching the end of an even bigger cycle early next year – my Saturn Return!  Not only that, but this year sees Jupiter travelling through Scorpio, the home of my natal Jupiter, so I’ll be experiencing the end of yet another cycle during the coming year.
With all that in mind, I’ve decided to use the Spirit of the Circle spread (as described in the accompany book to the Druid Animal Oracle) and my ‘go to’ deck for this time of year, the Wildwood.
Card 2                                   Card 7                                   Card 4
Spirit of the Ancestors             The Gift                           Spirit of Time

Card 1
Self
Card 5                                   Card 6                                   Card 3
Spirit of Place                     Spirit of the Journey       Spirit of the Tribe

Self: Queen of Bows - Hare
This suggests that over the past year I’ve become kinder to, and more understanding of, myself – and, I hope, others too. These qualities have certainly helped me to complete several of my long-term projects earlier this year, and I'm sure they will stand me in good stead in whatever I set out to do over the coming year.
Spirit of the Ancestors: 5 The Ancestor 
(I kid you not - I really did draw this card!)
I’m at the gateway of a new cycle, I know. A turning point. I’m wary of what lies ahead but I know that if I listen to my ‘inner ancestor’ and draw from all my past experience – not only from the past year but from all my experiences – I will have the strength and patience (I’m a double Taurus, after all!) to keep me going on whatever new path calls me.
Spirit of the Tribe: Page of Bows - Stoat
Second card from the Bows, and second court card too!  The stoat is a hunter, with the ability to change the colour of its fur. That, and the fact that it lives underground, has given me a strong sense of secrecy (highlighting my Scorpio Ascendant), of staying hidden when necessary and adapting to changing circumstances.  There’s a bit of the “free spirit” at work too, underlying all the “shoulds” and “ought tos” that The Spirit of the Tribe – today’s culture, in other words – projects, which I’d be wise to listen to. Keep my head down until it feels right to pounce! 
Spirit of Time: Ace of Bows
Subtitled “The Spark of Life”, the Ace of Bows (the third Bow to appear in the spread), this suggests that the “spirit of the times” is inviting me to start a new fire burning, to kindle a new spark of creativity, to hunt out new skills to learn.
Spirit of Place:  6 The Forest Lovers
I have been working with the image of the Forest for the past couple of years, as part of my path, so seeing the Forest Lovers representing Spirit of Place  resonates on that level.  I feel I'm nearing the end of this part of the path, so this card reminds me that I'll have choices to make when I reach the next "fork" in my journey.
Spirit of the Journey: Ten of Arrows
Subtitled “Instruction”, this card conjures up the completion of two long-held writing projects over the past year.  The passing on or sharing of knowledge and ideas…that’s the journey I’ve been on this year – perhaps there’s more to come as the wheel continues to turn...
The Gift: King of Bows – Adder
A bit of a shudder when I drew this card (snake phobia) but I also felt a shiver of excitement at this gift. Maturity, strength of resolve, energy and wisdom are phrases associated with this card – what wonderful qualities to receive as the new year begins.
Thank you for stopping off here on your travels 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 - Hannah Berg's or Brandi Hopkins’ blog. The Master List can be found here.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Scorpio in the Minor Arcana: The Five of Cups

Let’s start our exploration of Scorpio in the tarot in the Minor Arcana.  In the astrological correspondence system that I follow, Scorpio is linked to the Five, Six and Seven of Cups. Today I’m going to look at the Five of Cups, which corresponds to the first ten days of Scorpio (this year, the 23rd October to around the 1st November) – and to Mars in Scorpio.

Scorpio is the fixed Water sign, so we’re looking at maintaining our emotional resources, delving into the depths to get at the heart or root of what’s going on.

Mars, the traditional ruler of Scorpio, is associated with the element of Fire.  Mars is the warrior, the Roman god of war – powerful, passionate, driven by strong desires, and very likely to take the initiative.  Mars is decisive, and needs to express himself freely – which could come into conflict with the Scorpio preference for keeping things hidden, buried away in the depths.  Mars likes to be in control but when combined with Scorpio’s energy, this is likely to manifest through an intense transformation of emotional power at a very deep level.

Five of Cups (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
So how might this play out in the Five of Cups?  Let‘s start by looking at a relatively ‘traditional’ depiction of the Five of Cups, from the Sharman-Burke/Caselli deck (Beginners Guide to Tarot). Here we see a figure facing away from us, looking down at the three overturned cups in front of him. He’s so intent on these and what’s spilling out of them, that he doesn’t see the two that still stand, intact.  Juliet Sharman-Burke uses the words ‘regret’ and ‘sorrow’ for this card. So we have someone who feels deep sorrow at what’s happened (the three cups emptying), but who’s ignoring or overlooking at what still exists (the two full cups).  The decisiveness and freedom of expression that Mars would usually exert is being held back by the compulsion to look only at the loss and the emotions that accompany it – to become lost in the emotion itself perhaps?
Five of Cups (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot

In the Shadowscapes Tarot, we have a slightly different interpretation. The figure is ignoring the three overturned cups at her feed, focusing on the one in her hands. The fifth cup bobs on the waves in front of her – does she see it? Which one holds her hopes – the one she’s gazing into with Martian determination, or the one that’s trying to head out to sea with Martian determination of its own?  Perhaps the cup she holds represents what’s happened, and her feelings of sorrow or disappointment, while the cup on the waves is pushed and pulled by the tide, unable to move forward. Again, the decisiveness and freedom of expression associated with Mars being held back by being lost in the emotion of loss.

Five of Cups (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
In the Thoth deck, the emphasis is the same – regret, sorrow, and the disappointment of unfulfilled expectations.  The cups are empty and look as though they could easily break. The lotus has been uprooted, and its blossoms have died. Even the water looks dead.  But the roots of the lotus form a butterfly shape, representing the idea of transformation – the theme of Scorpio.  The card warns against allowing the potentially aggressive, potentially destructive Martian energy to spill over.  That energy can be used usefully though, by transforming it – by shifting the emphasis from what’s lost to what’s still available to us. We can learn from disappointment – nothing is ever wasted. Remember that Scorpio represents cycles, endings and beginnings – and is the ultimate recycler!


Five of Vessels (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
The Wildwood, on the other hand, shows us a rather different view!  Although Mark Ryan and John Matthews, the deck’s creators, haven’t use astrological correspondences I see Will Worthington's figure symbolising the passion of Mars, using that energy to travel to deep levels through dance.  I think here of shamanic work – dancing in trance – and the revelations and transformations that can come through this. Powerful stuff!

Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
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 U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections


Monday, 23 October 2017

Scorpio: The Great Composter!

Today, at 06.26 BST, the Sun moved (astrologically) from Libra into Scorpio. 

The leaves continue to change colour, but now they’re falling from branches, covering the earth in a blanket of gold, bronze, and orange.  The autumn winds lift them up; they whirl through the air, twisting and swirling in a vortex... 

Since the equinox, the nights are growing longer, giving us the opportunity to spend more time dreaming.   Here in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere, people are planting bulbs – the ‘seed’ of life being sown underground where it will lie protected and nurtured until it’s ready to ‘spring’ forth in a few months’ time.  Is it any wonder that Scorpio, the scorpion, is the sign of transformation?  All around us, in nature, the world appears to be going to sleep; animals are starting to hibernate, the birds are gathering and forming their migratory v-shapes as they head for warmer climates. 

Before long it will be Samhain (“summer’s end”) the end and start of the Celtic New Year, the Day of the Dead – times of transformation and change, which is what we’ve come to associate with Scorpio.  In astrology, Scorpio is one of the three Water signs, along with Cancer and Pisces, as well as being one of the four Fixed signs.   It ends the second cycle of the elements (Cancer through to Scorpio), and opposes Taurus on the axis of resources.  While Taurus is interested in material resources, Scorpio – as a water sign – is more interested in emotional resources.  As a Fixed sign, Scorpio wants to know what’s going on at a deeper level, not at the bubbly surface – “still waters run deep” is a good description of Scorpio’s focus.  Only by diving into the depths can Scorpio unearth the root of a problem and attempt to transform it – and it will probably take a crisis or something similar before Scorpio will take that plunge. 
‘Scorpio’ ©Alison Coals

The traditional ruler of Scorpio is the planet Mars, providing passion and drive.  It also has a modern ruler, Pluto, named after the Lord of the Underworld, reflecting the cycle of life and death and the change involved.  Both planets are associated with power; “knowledge is power” is another good description.  

We’ve just left Libra, with its 7th-house focus on partnership, and the need for harmony and balance through negotiation and diplomacy. Now we’re about to move into 8th-house issues with Scorpio – shared resources, power issues, life cycles,…and recycling! What follows once the contract is made, within partnerships and relationships (of all kinds)…  Emotions run deep, and power struggles can ensue.  Intensity.  What will be the fall-out, as we move into fall/autumn (northern bias again)? What are we recycling, or composting? Any transformation, under the auspices of Scorpio, will be intense!




The 'Scorpio' image, from my AstroArt series, is a collage, using watercolour on paper.  





Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Libra in the Minor Arcana: The Four of Swords

The last of the three minor Swords cards associated with Libra, the Four of Swords is linked to Jupiter in the cardinal Air sign. It also corresponds to the last ten days of Libra, from the 13th through to the 22nd October this year (see Elizabeth Hazel’s excellent Tarot Decoded, published by Weiser, 2004, for more on Planetary and Zodiacal dignities).

So, what qualities does Jupiter bring to Libra? Well, Jupiter is associated with expansion, the broadening of horizons – and by association, optimism and faith.  Jupiter was a Roman god, also known as Jove, giving us the word ‘jovial’ – so we have humour, as well as benevolence to add to the Jupiterian or Jovian mix. But we also have the sense of fairness – Jupiter as the arbiter at the tribunal.

Four of Swords (trimmed):
© DruidCraft Tarot
Add this to the cardinal airy-ness of Libra, the quest for harmony and balance within relationship, and what happens?  The quest expands!  The objectivity and fairness is still there, but now we can add diplomat as well as negotiator – the ability to see the ‘bigger picture’.  Not only fair-minded, but also broad-minded, Jupiter in Libra wants to see things grow and develop through co-operation, and encourages this.  One thing to be wary of might be the need to weigh everything up, which could perhaps inhibit the confidence and decisive thought!

How does this fit with the Four of Swords?  This card is often associated with themes of recuperation, rest, and convalescence. Four is a number of stability – think of a square: it rests solidly on four corners, and it takes a lot to shift it.  Taking time to stand still (or lie still, as often depicted in Four of Swords images) to recover or re-charge before facing the next challenge is definitely indicated.

Four of Feathers (trimmed):
© Margarete Petersen Tarot
Jupiter in Libra brings a sense of clarity, after the pain and sorrow of the Three.  With acceptance – the lesson from the Three – comes time to breathe, to take a deep breath, to expand the lungs, to expand our view of the situation.  To quote Gerd Ziegler (‘Tarot: Mirror of the Soul’, published by Weiser Books), what “has seemed hopeless until now actually carries within itself all the elements for a fortunate, prosperous solution.”  Through rest, the body, mind, spirit and emotions have all been brought together ready to face another day.



If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might be interested in my e-book, Astrology in Tarot, now available from Amazon.


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.



Thursday, 12 October 2017

Libra in the court cards

I’m taking a break from the Minor Arcana today. Instead, I’m looking at Libra 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 Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn chose to assign 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. 

Queen of Swords (trimmed):
© Secret Tarot
Following this system, we end up with Cardinal Air sign Libra being associated with the Queen of Swords (Water of Air). What qualities do we associate with this Queen? Extremely perceptive and observant, quick-witted, confident. She’s often seen as a figure who’s been touched by sorrow, who’s learned to accept and assimilate her experiences with grace and dignity – a fine balancing act, bring that Venusian ruling of Libra into play.  The peacemaker, perhaps?

Queen of Swords (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot
The Shadowscapes’ Queen of Swords holds two (duality and balance again) curved swords to cut through deception, to see the issue clearly.  The white chrysanthemums symbolize purity, clarity and honesty; the purple lilies inner strength (so says the deck’s creators in the accompanying book; details below).

Queen of Swords (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
The Thoth deck follows the Golden Dawn convention. Here we have the Queen, sword in hand, having cut away the mask to reveal the reality – or to see more clearly.  Her sword liberates, allowing us to move out of the clouds and into a clear, open sky.  There’s a sense of the balance of Libra, too, I think, in the way she sits on her throne – a bit like the figures seen in Justice cards in other decks, perhaps?

King of Swords (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
If you work with a system that assigns cardinality to the Kings, you’re looking at the King of Swords.  In the image from Juliet Sharman-Burke’s Beginner's Guide to the Tarot, we see the King on his throne, wearing blue (Air) and purple (wisdom). Two birds fly above his head; the number ‘two’ reminds us of the Libran theme of balance and choice, as well as the Air-like quality of the mind being able to rise above things.  The King of Swords is sometimes associated with the legal profession, particularly in terms of truth and social justice.  As in the Adjustment card of the Thoth deck, we’re always having to make adjustments in order to keep things in balance.  This King appears calm and in charge of things – everything’s in balance, in order.  As Libra is an Air sign, that balance and order is likely to be maintained by words, rather than by physical force.  The pen may be mightier than the sword, but here I think the sword represents the pen!   I could certainly see him as a mediator.


If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might be interested in my e-book, Astrology in Tarot, now available from Amazon.

Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Secret Tarot created by Marco Nizzoli, published by Lo Scarabeo, 2004
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 U.S. Games Systems, Inc.


Saturday, 7 October 2017

Libra in the Minor Arcana: The Three of Swords

Today we move on to the Three of Swords, linked to Saturn in Libra.  It also corresponds to the second ten-day period in Libra – this year, that’s from about the 3rd October through to the 12th (see Elizabeth Hazel’s excellent Tarot Decoded, published by Weiser, 2004, for more on Planetary and Zodiacal dignities).

Just to recap: Libra is the cardinal Air sign, so we’re looking at creative energy around activity involving thought, ideas, logic, reason.  It’s about partnerships of all kinds, but the emphasis is on the contractual side of things – wanting to ensure equality and fairness within the relationship, be it personal or professional – rather than the romance and passion.  Libra is ruled by Venus, so often takes on the role of peacemaker or mediator.

But here we have Saturn in Libra!  One of the things that Saturn symbolizes is the imposition of limits and restrictions. Sometimes this works to our advantage – where would we be without some boundaries in place? But sometimes it feels as though it’s working against us.  Through the connection to Kronos (the Greek counterpart to the Roman god Saturn), we have a link to time and chronology as well.

Interestingly, Saturn is what we call ‘exalted’ (not to be confused with rulership) in Libra, meaning that it’s very comfortable in this sign.  Saturn in Libra represents the ability to establish and maintain relationships on an equal footing.  Through the ‘time-management’ quality of Saturn, it also symbolizes the ability to organize and structure relationships based on harmony and balance.  Discipline plays a big part in maintaining these partnerships, in which promises and commitments are honoured.

Three of Arrows (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
A connection to the Three of Swords isn’t obvious, is it?  Traditionally, we’ve come to think of this card as representing a release of tension, and the need to accept that disappointment and pain are an inevitable part of life’s journey.  I like Rachel Pollack’s view on this: that the way to deal with sorrow is to take it into our hearts, accept it, and to go beyond it.  We see that in the traditional images in this card - often shown as a heart being pierced by arrows.  I think too of Venus, Libra's ruler, when I see the heart; she represents harmony, which is what we're after here - the bringing into balance of sorrow and joy, if you like.

To me, the links to Saturn are the time and discipline elements – recognizing that there are times and situations where things have to change, and that sometimes it takes time and self-discipline to accept that, no matter how sad or painful the circumstances.  I’ve heard it said that joy and sorrow come from the same place, which conjures up the images of the scales of Libra; sorrow has to be balanced by joy, through a process of resolution – all very Libran themes.

Three of Swords (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot
The Shadowscapes Tarot reflects this, I think. The swan is an ancient symbol of wisdom; knowing that hope can emerge from sorrow. We're in the suit associated with air and the mind; we talk about having heads in the clouds...perhaps we can see this as being about (as the accompanying book, details below, says) "...overcome the pain, the weeping of the heart is perhaps a necessary cleansing...lift up white wings to dance with the sky once again".


Three of Swords (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
I also like Gerd Ziegler’s (‘Tarot: Mirror of the Soul’, published by Weiser Books) take on this. He talks about Saturn making all our limitations visible – the restrictions that we place on ourselves through fear and doubt place – and the need to bring clarity (the Swords) to this in order to bring things back into balance and harmony (Libra).  The image in the Thoth deck reflects the heaviness comes with worry and sadness. The sword in the centre reminds us of the need for clarity, Saturn making all the restrictions (the two smaller swords) visible to us, showing us how limiting fear and doubt are.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might be interested in my new e-book, Astrology in Tarot, now available from Amazon.


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 U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections


Monday, 2 October 2017

Libra in the Minor Arcana: The Two of Swords

Now let’s turn to the Minor Arcana.  In the astrological correspondence system that I follow, Libra is linked to the Two, Three and Four of Swords. Today I’m going to look at the Two of Swords, which corresponds to the Moon in Libra. It also corresponds to the first 10 days of Libra – this year, from the 23rd September to 2nd October.

Libra is the cardinal Air sign, so we’re looking at creative energy around activity involving thought, ideas, logic, reason.  Libra, as we’ve already seen in previous posts, is also about partnerships of all kinds, but the emphasis isn’t on the passion but rather on the contractual side of things – wanting to ensure equality and fairness within the relationship, be it personal or professional.  Libra, through its rulership by Venus, is the peacemaker, the lover of harmony and refinement.

The Moon is associated with the element of Water, through its rulership of Cancer, and so we have a link to the watery realm of feelings and emotion.  The Moon in Libra, then, will bring sensitivity to what could otherwise be a quite detached, ‘airy’ approach to relationship.  The Moon in Libra will want to protect and nurture those partnerships, and will quite probably be very aware of their partner’s emotions and how they might react to situations. They may also be very vulnerable to their own emotions!
Two of Swords (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot

So how might this play out in the Two of Swords? I’m going to start with the Crowley Thoth deck, not least because the Two of Swords in this deck carries the keyword ‘peace’.  The two crossed swords in the image pierce a rose; the symbolism suggests surrendering to love (the rose) rather than war. Remember that slogan ‘Make love, not war’?!  The message is about being able to use intuition and awareness (the Moon) to see things clearly so that a decision can be made.  The windmills in the background represent the ideas – the inspiration (‘in-spire’ – to breath in) – in our imagination that need to be brought forward.

Two of Swords (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
A more traditional depiction of the Two of Swords can be seen in the Sharman-Burke/Caselli deck. Here we have a woman, blindfolded, with two swords crossed over her chest, sitting with her back to a stormy sea.  There’s a waxing crescent moon in the sky behind her; that, and the fact that her back is turned to the sea, suggest she’s chosen to ignore her emotions.  She wants to protect herself (the Moon, again) from the challenges and difficult decisions facing her.  The blindfold is part of that protection; the challenges are in front of her but by choosing to cover her eyes, she doesn’t have to face them.  No sign of the ‘peace’ that the Thoth’s Two of Swords shows us (although the crossed swords in that image represent the sense of being at a crossroads).  However, the message is similar – hiding from reality takes a lot of effort, and that effort can’t be maintained indefinitely; those two swords will become too heavy.  By drawing on intuition rather than over-protection (i.e. using the Moon’s energy in a different way), a way forward can be clearly seen.

Two of Swords (trimmed):
© Druid Craft Tarot
The creators of the Druid Craft Tarot follow the tradition of the blindfolded woman and the crossed swords, but here she turns her back to us, facing instead into the forest.  Two paths stretch out ahead of her, both leading into the forest but where they will end up is unclear.  By wearing the blindfold, she avoids having to make the decision as to which way to go.  Again, if she were to choose to use her awareness, rather than choosing to hide (thinking she’s protecting herself), she might be able to ‘see’ which path to choose.


Two of Arrows (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
In the Wildwood Tarot, created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, and beautifully illustrated by Will Worthington, the Two of Arrows also shows a blindfolded woman with crossed arrows against her chest. We also see the scales of Libra overhead, against the backdrop of a stormy, cloudy sky, but the scales are not balanced.  The reading points for this card talk about injustice and inequality – very Libran themes – and the need to balance the scales through honesty.  We’re asked here to question, to use our mental awareness – the cardinal, airy qualities of Libra as well as the instinct of the Moon – to decide what is just and fair.  In that way, the scales will be balanced, bringing perhaps that sense of ‘peace’ of the Thoth’s Two.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might be interested in my new e-book, Astrology in Tarot, now available from Amazon.

Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
DruidCraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections
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.