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

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Scorpio in the Major Arcana: Death (part 2)

In Part 1 of our look at the Death card, we saw the phoenix rising from the ashes of the fire that consumed what was no longer needed – not unlike the bonfires consuming fallen leaves, or the fires in the fields, burning away the debris after the harvest – in order to prepare the ground for the new. 

Death (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot
The Shadowscapes Tarot also draws on the promise of renewal with its phoenix rising from the ashes of the devastation, the tearing down of what has been, now ready for what’s to come. It's one of the more 'optimistic' versions of the Death card, I think - the fiery-red phoenix looks upwards and outwards towards what appears to be a sunny future... What do you think?

Death (trimmed):
© Zillich Tarot
Christine Zillich’s and Margarete Petersen’s Death cards both invoke the Crone in their depictions of Death. There’s an element of looking backwards and forwards with the Crone-Hermit, and that ‘crone knowledge’ or wisdom associated with the Hermit is necessary in order to make the changes that Death demands. 

The Zillich Tarot’s Death shows a crone-like figure in black, butterflies – a symbol of transformation – around her. 
Death (trimmed):
© Margarete Petersen Tarot

In Margarete Petersen’s version, we see two serpents – another symbol of transformation: one white, one black. There are links back to her High Priestess, Chariot, and even the Lovers in the way she’s used duality and opposites in her work. Her Death image is almost a mirror image: white serpent meets black serpent; Death, in the form of a cloaked skeleton, stands behind the white, earth-bound figure. Out of the dark comes light. A bit like the phoenix, then?

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books, 2004.
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Zillich Tarot, created by Christine Zillich, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Scorpio in the Major Arcana: Death (part 1)

Given what we know of Scorpio, it probably comes as no surprise that the card associated with Scorpio (in the system I follow) is Death. Death, as in the end of a cycle – something that’s necessary in order to allow something new to grow and develop. Not physical death, or at least, not necessarily. 
Death (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot

Traditional depictions of Death show us a knight in armour on a white horse, a king dead underfoot, a religious figure in its path, sometimes children. The image in the Sharman-Burke/Caselli tarot is a variation on that theme; here the horse is black (the colour associated with death in some cultures), its rider a skeleton. The skeleton’s headdress is a swaddling cloth, used at birth, reflecting the link between birth and death and the unending cycle of life. The skeleton carries an hourglass, reminding us that everything has its time. 

In the distance, we see a river – another reminder of the ongoing process of transformation, this time in the form of the hydrologic cycle (the river water evaporates and forms clouds, the clouds rain, rainwater falls back to earth). The boat is said to symbolize both the cradle and the coffin. In the foreground we see a raven, thought to be a harbinger of death in many traditions. The theme is Scorpionic – transformation and change; endings creating openings for new beginnings.

XIII Death (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
The skeleton with his scythe are also seen in the Crowley Thoth tarot’s version of Death. He wears two faces here – one is that of the destroyer, the other that of the liberator – reminding us that in order to change, we may have to let go of things that hold us back, that no longer serve us. The headdress of this skeleton is a funereal head-covering, used in ancient Egypt – a reminder of the need to bury old, out-dated, invalid ideas and beliefs so that new life can begin. We see the scorpion at the bottom of the image, ready to sting, and the snake – perhaps THE symbol of transformation – ready to bite. A fish, representing the past, swims through the serpent’s coils: is it the next victim? Above it all, the phoenix, which can only rise from the ashes once the fire has consumed everything in its way. Intense? Oh yes! 

Beginner’s Guide to the 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.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

A dip into the Runes

Now that we’re in Scorpio, the sign of – among other things – secrets, I thought it was time to dip into the runes and see what secrets I could unearth there.  Today, out of the Alembic comes …


…also referred to as Beorch, and Ba, depending on what source or system you’re using.  According to some, Beorc means ‘birch goddess’, but ‘birch’ seems to be the most common translation.  

Birch symbolizes growth, birth, becoming.   The birch was considered as the tree of fertility.  I’ve also heard it used to represent the idea of liberation, although it might be more about increasing vitality, which in turn could lead to shaking off the old and feeling liberated as a result. Being lightly whipped with twigs of birch was meant to increase vitality; this practice still exists in Scandinavia where, after being in a sauna, you’re meant to roll in the snow and then lash yourself with birch twigs!

Beorc is a fertility symbol, the two lobes resembling a woman’s breasts.   The rune suggests the start of something new – the birth of a new idea or new project, perhaps even the birth of a child.  It can also symbolize your home, where you come from, your roots.  You might be being asked to develop greater awareness of ‘hearth and home’.

XIII Death (trimmed):
© Haindl Tarot
Ba can also mean ‘boat’ and ‘bier’.  That might not seem to relate to the other meanings associated with this rune, but just think about the Viking funerary traditions:  they set the biers on boats, sending their dead across the sea to a new life.  Death, birth.

Beorc shows up on Hermann Haindl’s eponymous Tarot deck’s Death card.  We see the boatman ferrying his boat across the marshes – Charon, perhaps, or one of the Avalon boatmen waiting for another soul to carry onwards. The cycle of life and death again, appearing in the card of transformation and the ‘great journey’.  Here the presence of Beorc reminds us of (re)birth part of the cycle, and the sense of liberation that comes from letting go of what’s no longer of use.

…and Death is also linked, astrologically, to Scorpio…the sign we entered only a few days ago.  More about this card in the next few days…

Haindl Tarot, created by Hermann Haindl, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.