Monday, 30 December 2019

Moving into Capricorn...

...and the depths of winter - well, at least that's the idea, here in the Northern Hemisphere! Not that wintry in the UK but even so...

I created a Midwinter Meditation tarot spread for the TABI blog - please do check it out here.

See you in the New Year!

Monday, 30 September 2019

Sitting in Judgement

I’ve been challenged, recently, about my interpretation of the Judgment card.  In a reading, I’d said that Judgment wasn’t about judging and being judged – or at least, not only about that.  But others clearly don’t agree, so I thought I’d have a look and see what other views are around.

© Judgement
Universal Waite Tarot
The Little White Book (LWB) that accompanies the Universal Waite Tarot deck simple says “Change of position, renewal, outcome.”  Short and to the point. 

Rachel Pollack, in her Seeker: The Tarot Unveiled (Llewellyn, 2005), adds “rebirth, new possibilities, and wholeness” to the list.  In fact, she maintains (as do I) that Judgment is not about judging others, showing good judgement, or being judged themselves at all.  The child in the image reminds us that new opportunities and possibilities can appear when we heed the voice that tells us to let go of old, out-of-date, ways and beliefs.  The nakedness of the figures symbolizes openness as well as new beginnings – the state in which we were born into this world, but also the state in which we need to embrace this “re-birth”.  The trumpet, far from being the call to judgement, is in fact the “voice”, the push, the call – however it manifests – to step into the unknown and stop hiding.

© Judgement
Game of Thrones Tarot
Juliet Sharman-Burke, in her Beginners Guide to the Tarot (Connections, 2001), adds “resurrection and resolution” to the list.  She too sees this as an opportunity to greet the new with joy.  She calls it the card of karma, saying “it heralds the time of reaping what has been sown”.  You might see an element of judgement in that but, reading between her lines, I feel it’s more about assessment.  Yes, she does use the word “judge” – “to judge your actions and appraise what you have done” – but she goes on to say it’s more about the preparation for the next stage in life. 

Liz Dean, in the accompanying guidebook to The Game of Thrones Tarot (Home Box Office, Inc., 2017), doesn’t use the word “judgement” in her description of the card.  She writes about being on the edge of a change, and focuses on the need for second chances after a review or appraisal, and about the chance to make sense of the past.

© Judgement
Shadowscapes Tarot

In the accompanying book to the Shadowscapes (Tarot Llewellyn, 2010), Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore do refer to making a judgement.  They talk about holding an accounting, and about it being “time to evaluate the phase of life just past, to recognize and to appraise with an unbiased mind and honesty to oneself”.  They too see Judgement as a card of awakening, of hearing and responding to a voice or call, and the need to respond to it.

The creators of the Wildwood Tarot (Connections, 2011), Mark Ryan and John Matthews, are very clear in their view.  In the accompany book, they write that “The major element in this process [surviving inevitable change] is judgement of yourself and others.”, yet the word “judgement” doesn’t come up in their list of keywords.  “Karma” and “cosmic law” do, as does “inescapable truth”.  They do talk about renewal and rebirth, themes that are echoed in the image that Will Worthington has created for the card.  That idea of rebirth is also seen in the DruidCraft Tarot’s image (also by Will Worthington).

© The Great Bear
Wildwood Tarot
© Rebirth
Druid Craft Tarot

So yes, my challenger was right in saying that the card is about judging the self and others, but I think perhaps it depends on how we define “judgment” – and maybe I need to be clearer about that when I read!  (To be fair, the deck I was reading with, Kim Krans’ Wild Unknown Tarot, does focus on the forgiveness aspect, as I did in the reading.)  Kim Krans’ view is that the word carries such negative connotations – fear, guilt, shame – that it’s more helpful to seek the truth and forgive, not blame.  The image, the dove rising up above all the negativity (the darkness) and spreading its wings reflects that beautifully, I think.

© Judgement
Wild Unknown Tarot
Pollack, Rachel. Seeker: The Tarot Unveiled. Llewellyn Publications, 2005.

Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Druid Craft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections
Game of Thrones Tarot, created by Liz Dean, published by Home Box Office, Inc., 2017
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Universal Waite Tarot created by Mary Hanson-Roberts & Pamela Colman-Smith, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Wild Unknown Tarot, created by Kim Krans, published by HarperCollins, 2016.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Monday, 23 September 2019

Tarot Blog Hop Mabon 2019: What is my harvest, and how do I find it?

Welcome to Alison’s Alembic! You may have arrived here as a stop on the Tarot Blog Hop from either Tarot and Stars' or Tarot of Change's 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!

In the northern hemisphere, we're approaching the Autumn Equinox, also known as Alban Elfed, as well as the time for paying tribute to Mabon. It's the time of year when we’re poised between light and dark, with the hours of daylight and darkness being equal in length. It’s also the culmination of the harvest that was begun at Lughnasadh. At this time we celebrate the beginning of harvesting grapes, making wine, bringing in the sheaves for the canning, preserving, and other ways of gathering the fruits of months, sometimes years, of effort and care.

With all this in mind, our wrangler for this particular Blog Hop, Aisling, has given us the title

What Is My Harvest, and How Do I Find It?

She’s asked us to focus on the collecting of our personal harvest – what we’ve learned, what we’ve decided is important, what we’ve have decided to get rid of. How are we planning to make productive use of the autumn and winter months? How have we changed, what are we beginning, and what have we completed, and – most importantly, how have we begun to further and more deeply understand our ‘self’?

Aisling’s suggested using the concept of the Three Realms – Land, Sea, and Sky – to represent Body, Mind, and Spirit, and to draw three cards for each of the Realms, nine cards altogether. In each case, the cards will answer three questions, one set for Body, one for Mind, and one for Spirit.

These are the questions:

1. What do I need to know about the current condition of my body/mind/spirit right now?

2. What is the most important thing on which I need to focus in the realm of my body/mind/spirit as I move into the winter months?

3. What is the main content and context of this harvest of better health/new ideas/deeper spiritual resonance that I am going to receive if I focus on these things?

So, here goes! I’m using Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s lovely Shadowscapes deck.  
This is what it looks like, overall – bottom row: Land, middle row: Sea, top row: Sky...

All cards © Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Starting with the first column (left-hand-side), Body –

Card 1, at the bottom (Land), represents what I need to know about the current condition of my body, my health, right now. The Page of Wands tells me that I’m in the early stages of a new phase, and that it’s good news. That’s encouraging! With this being Wands and the suit of action and adventure, I see this as a pointer to do as much travelling and exploring as I can while I still have good health and the ability to do so.

Card 2, in the middle (Sea), represents the thing that’s most important for me to focus on as we move towards winter in terms of my health, or body. The Ace of Cups suggests more beginnings, but on an emotional front. That’s good too – emotional happiness has an effort on the body, and vice versa.

Card 3, at the top (Sky), represents what it is I will harvest in terms of improved health. The Ten of Pentacles indicates continued good health – not just in the body but in all material areas.

Moving over to the middle column, Mind –

Card 4, at the bottom (Land), represents what I need to know about the current condition of my mind right now. The World reminds me that I’ve achieved a lot this year, even if I haven’t always been aware of it. Despite difficulties there’s also been joy. New ideas for the coming months are about to seed themselves…

Card 5, in the middle (Sea), represents the thing that’s most important for me to focus on as we move towards winter in terms of my mind, my thoughts and beliefs. The Two of Swords indicates the need to stop procrastinating, something I’ve been doing a lot of recently. Find workable solutions – not necessarily perfect ones!

Card 6, at the top (Sky), represents what it is I will harvest in terms of new ideas. Another Two, the Two of Cups suggests a coming together of ideas. Moving from the edginess of the Swords to the softer Cups, from procrastination to creativity – bring it on!

And finally, the third (right-hand-side) column, Spirit –

Card 7, at the bottom (Land), represents what I need to know about the current condition of my spirit right now. The Ace of Wands tells me that a new spark is ready to be ignited, that within me there’s a way forward just raring to go! My spirit is lifted by the thought of travel and adventure of all kinds, and by the creativity that is born through such wanderings.

Card 8, in the middle (Sea), represents the thing that’s most important for me to focus on as we move towards winter in terms of my spiritual growth. The Fool tells me to take a leap of faith. Instead of wondering if I’m following the ‘right’ path, just pick one (shades of the Two of Swords sitting to the left) and see where it takes me.

Card 9, at the top (Sky), represents what it is I will harvest in terms of deeper spiritual resonance. The King of Pentacles is the court card that’s associated with the decan in which I was born, so this has particular resonance for me – I feel a sense of ‘coming home’ with its appearance here. A greater wealth in terms of spirit, some of which may come from voluntary work that I’m involved in, as well as my personal spiritual work.

Even though they cross realms, I’m really struck by the appearance of the first and final Majors in the spread. Those, and the two Aces and two Twos, really give me the sense of new beginnings, which will be very welcome. I’m also drawn to the richness of the greens and golds in the ‘Land’ row; it gives me a sense of being very grounded and supported (which I am). The blue-mauves of the ‘Sea’ row suggest flow, movement (Water and Air) – a good thing on which to focus. And the blue-green of the top row (Sky) suggests emotional, creative and intellectual fulfilment to come…

Thanks so much, Aisling, for this inspiring idea!

And thank you, readers, for stopping off here on your journey through this Mabon Tarot Blog Hop!  Please do come back and read some of my other posts – and if you’re a Facebook user, you can find me at Alison’s Alembic.  

The next stops on the Tarot Blog Hop are - depending on whether you’re moving backwards or forwards through the list – Tarot and Stars or Tarot of Change. The Master List can be found here.

Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Pisces in the Minor Arcana: The Nine of Cups

The Nine of Cups, which - in the correspondence system I use - is linked to Jupiter in Pisces, as well as the  middle third of Pisces (28th February to 9th March, roughly).  Jupiter is the ruler of Pisces, so already we have a sense of how this might play out! Jupiter, the ‘Greater Benefic’, expansive, generous, jovial... and in Pisces, described so well by William Blake’s “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom" (from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell). Jupiter in Pisces is compassionate and sensitive, and has great faith or trust in a higher power (and the self).  It wants to grow by living according to its ideals – it’s high-minded, yet its generosity of spirit makes it sympathetic to everyone and everything.
Nine of Cups (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot

Jupiter’s expansiveness gives rise to overflowing watery emotions, symbolized in the Sharman-Burke/Caselli version of the card by the fountains, or the overflowing cups in the Crowley Thoth and Wildwood decks. 

In Pisces, it’s all about bliss, deep joy, overflowing love... without restrictions.  It’s the benevolence, the all-expansiveness, of Jupiter that gives the Wildwood’s Nine of Vessels its keyword ‘generosity’. 

Nine of Cups (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
The emotions are nourished, the senses are satisfied (symbolized by the spread of food and the embracing couple depicted in the Sharman-Burke/Caselli card, from the Beginners Guide to the Tarot) – it’s a time for indulging, to enjoy relationships.  Often referred to as the ‘wish card’, the Nine of Cups can represents dream or wishes coming true and, through Jupiter in Pisces, the sense of ‘blessedness’ that comes from deep-rooted, absolute joy. Mutable Water.

Nine of Cups (trimmed):
© Margarete Petersen Tarot
In Margarete Petersen’s version of this card we see a pearl in a shell, bathed in bright (sun?) light, possibly on a beach… the colours conjure up evening, for me  - the Cups correspondence with twilight-evening, perhaps. Pearls are metaphors for something rare, fine, admirable, and valuable – so I can see why Margarete Petersen has used this to represent the penultimate goal.  You’d think there was nothing more to gain after this, but it is the ‘almost but not quite’ idea.  

In the LWB, Petersen writes about the pain involved in the process of reaching this goal: the pearl forms from a grain of sand embedding itself in the soft flesh of the mollusk, and the continuous pain the creature feels as its shell covers the grain of sand with calcium carbonate to create the pearl.  So it’s not all happy-happy in this version – there’s a need to accept the pain in order to truly appreciate the gift from the ‘depths of the ocean’ (i.e., from within ourselves, if we allow it to surface).  The shadow side of the card, perhaps?

The shadow side of Jupiter in Pisces, and the Nine of Cups, also reflects the tendency towards escapism, and losing focus. Not that escapism is always a bad thing, but Jupiter takes things to excess, so what might be healthy escapism runs the risk of becoming an addiction. It could be difficult to deal with the outpouring of emotions, to the point where the emotions end up becoming blocked for fear of the consequences. 

Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books, 2004.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Mid-winter arrives!

At 10.22 pm UT yesterday (21st December), those of us in the northern hemisphere celebrated the Winter Solstice, the solar festival sacred to the Old King and to the reborn ‘Sun Child’, whom we find in various incarnations - Mithras, the Mabon, Jesus, among others.  ‘Solstice’ means ‘sun still’, and refers to the sun seemingly being at a standstill – its turning point, the ‘shortest day’ – as well as its lowest point in the sky.  Up to now, the hours of daylight have been decreasing, the nights growing longer.  Today though, the sun ‘stands still’, the Wheel of the Year seems to stop, and time appears to hang...but from now on the light will start to increase and days will lengthen.

‘Capricorn’ ©Alison Coals
The Solstice also marks the Sun’s ingress, astrologically speaking, into the sign of Capricorn, the tenth astrological sign in the zodiac. It originates from the constellation of Capricornus, usually shown as a goat with a fish’s tale, but is also seen as a more conventional goat that we’d see on land.  

There are, as usual, a number of myths and stories behind the sea-goat. One involves Pan, the goat god. When he was attacked by the monster Typhon (so now you can guess where the name ‘typhoon’ came from!), he ran into the Nile to escape. The part of him below the water’s surface transformed into a fish.  Images of sea-goats go back to Babylonian times, with symbols for the god Enki being both a goat and a fish. The constellation of Capricorn is also sometimes called Amalthea, the goat nymph (in Greek mythology) who reared Zeus after he was saved from being devoured by his father Kronos.

Kronos, of course, was the father of the Greek gods, and was also known as the ‘father of time’, giving us the word ‘chronology’. In the Roman pantheon, he was known as Saturn – the planet that rules the sign of Capricorn.

Capricorn, then, has links to time, as well as to structure and boundaries.  In the image of the mountain goat we can see the Capricornian qualities of tenacity and sure-footedness, determination to overcome obstacles as it works its way towards to its goal.  
It’s about retaining integrity, but can also be ambitious. There’s a business-like quality to Capricorn, too – it’s an Earth sign, so it’s practical and level-headed, but at the same time it’s also a Cardinal sign, so it’s not afraid to get things going, to start new enterprises. On the ‘shadow’ side, it can appear as greed, in terms of material ambition. 

‘Capricorn’ comes from my AstroArt series, inspired by walking the Glastonbury Landscape Zodiac. The image is a collage, using watercolour on paper. 

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Shoot for the stars!

At 09.01 UTC/GMT today, the 22nd of November, the Sun moved (astrologically) into the zodiac sign of Sagittarius.  Here in the northern hemisphere, the days are getting shorter and the path of the sun – when we see it at all! – is low in the southern sky.  The time of solstice, when the sun will appear to be at a standstill, is approaching – but for now, we’re in the Fire sign of Sagittarius.

‘Sagittarius’ ©Alison Coals 
The constellation of Sagittarius represents a centaur - the half-archer, half-horse figure who, in Greek mythology, was a disruptive creature, a lover of riot. The most famous story of the centaurs has them causing havoc at the wedding of Hippodamia and Pirithous, where they attempted to carry of Hippodamia and some of her women - the aim being to free the spirit of the women! 

Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, the largest of the planets in our solar system, and one that’s composed almost entirely of gas.  Not difficult to see how Sagittarius has come by its reputation for being larger than life, full of hot air, and a tendency to overdo things!  Jupiter is the Roman counterpart to Zeus in the Greek pantheon - the ruler of the gods, as well as being the god of thunder.  Often shown with a lightning bolt as his symbol, Jupiter came to represent growth, expansion, and benevolence (in astrology, the planet is referred to as the 'greater benefic') - as well as good humour.  Jupiter was also known as Jove, giving rise to our word 'jovial'.  Sagittarius, as well as being a Fire sign, is also classed as a mutable sign – being able to change and adapt, and to disseminate or spread. We can see this in the growth and expansion associated with Jupiter.

The sign of Sagittarius sits at the other end of the axis of information on the zodiac, opposite Gemini. Both signs carry the quality of wanting to know what’s going on but Sagittarius takes this quest for knowledge out into the wider world and beyond into the universe.  It takes Gemini’s information and data on its quest, searching for ways to turn that into wisdom.  Like the other Fire signs, Sagittarius is fun-loving, cheerful, and full of energy - but that mutable energy means it can be restless and always on the move.  In cardinal Aries, we have ignition; in fixed Leo, the fire is maintained; in mutable Sagittarius, the fire is carried out into the world. That’s part of being on its quest for knowledge, of course – but that doesn’t stop Sagittarius from enjoying the journey and having adventures; just think of the Knights on their quest for the Holy Grail!

Adventure and challenge, wide open spaces, the freedom to roam – that’s what Sagittarius loves.  It’s not just physical exploration though – it’s also the need to expand consciousness, acquiring wisdom as well as experience.  Philosophy, religion, law – anything that involves expansion of the mind will appeal to Sagittarius. There are shamanic associations to this sign too – the vision quest or shamanic journey could be seen as very Sagittarian.

What happens when you overfill a balloon with hot air? It’s likely to burst. Well, this happens here too – Sagittarius is optimistic to the point of being unrealistic, promising to do more than is humanly possible and not being able to deliver.  There’s a tendency to live in the future, imagining the endless possibilities, but not noticing what’s going on in front of them, on the ground.  But that optimism also leads to a belief in luck and good fortune – more Jupiterian qualities!

The ‘Sagittarius’ collage comes from my AstroArt series, inspired by walking the Glastonbury Landscape Zodiac.  

Monday, 12 November 2018

Scorpio in the Major Arcana: Death (part 3)

13 The Journey (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
In Part 1 of our exploration of the Death card, we saw the raven appear.  The raven is considered to be, among other things, a guardian of the dead, or a guide to the otherworld.  In The Wildwood Tarot’s ‘The Journey’, Will Worthington has given us an image of the raven tearing 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; all Scorpio (and by affinity, astrological 8th house) issues. 

XIII Death (trimmed):
© Wild Unknown Tarot
The skeleton in Kim Krans’ Wild Unknown Tarot’s Death card may or may not be a raven, but the image reflects that idea of the stripping of life - the disintegration of flesh, leaving only bones behind.  Again, the cycling of life, and the knowledge that something needs to come to an end.  Krans talks about the need for closure, in the book that accompanies her deck, and about the inevitability of the ending.  And through experiencing the ‘death’, we’re able to move towards a new stage in our lives.

Wild Unknown Tarot, created by Kim Krans, published by HarperCollins, 2016.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections