Sunday 22 September 2013

Tarot Blog Hop - Mabon 2013

Welcome to Alison’s Alembic!   You may have arrived here as a stop on the Tarot Blog Hop from either TABI's or Cassandra Santori'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, today marks the Autumnal Equinox; in the southern hemisphere, the Vernal (or Spring). It’s the turning point where, depending on which hemisphere you’re in, the days either become shorter (north) or longer (south), due to the tilt of the Earth and its position relative to the Sun.  This point is marked by the ingress of the Sun into the astrological sign of Libra; this year it occurs at 20.44 UT. 

The Autumnal Equinox is also known as Mabon in some traditions. The name was coined in the 1970s, and refers to a character from Welsh mythology, Mabon ap Modron.  Our wrangler for this particular Blog Hop has asked us to consider myth and divination as a theme.

Myths... well, where to begin?!  So many to choose from... Because my own blog has been focusing on astrological associations in the tarot for the past year or so, I've decided to explore myths that have connections to the sign of Libra. 

In Egyptian mythology, Libra is represented by Ma’at, the goddess of the scales who would, at the time of death, weigh the human soul against an ostrich feather to determine whether or not the soul would reincarnate.  Greek mythology gives us Themis, a blindfolded seer who also carries a pair of scales.  The archangel Michael, in Christianity, holds the scales. In each tradition, the theme is balance, of keeping things – be they social or spiritual – in order.  But the story that resonates most with me is the Greek story of the Judgment of Paris.

Judgement of Paris (from the Louvre)
It starts with the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Eris, the goddess of Discord (a ‘shadow’ side of Libra), hasn’t been invited but decides to gate-crash. She throws a golden apple down in front of all the goddesses who have been invited.  On the apple is inscribed ‘to the fairest’.... and so we have perhaps the first beauty pageant! Hera, Aphrodite and Athena are the front-runners, and ask Zeus to choose. Zeus, in his wisdom (or some would argue, cowardice!), elects Paris, a Trojan mortal to be the judge. Atop Mount Ida, the three goddesses attempted to bribe Paris – Hera dangled the prospect of becoming king of Europe and Asia, Athena wisdom and battle skills, and Aphrodite the most beautiful woman in the world.  Paris chose Aphrodite’s gift – Helen, wife of the Greek king Menelaus... and the rest, as they say, is history, at least in mythological terms.  The Trojan horse, the ‘face that launched a thousand ships’, ... even the idea of ‘who is the fairest’ comes up again and again – and not only in fairy tales such as Snow White!

'Libra' (Copyright AlisonCoals)
So many Libran qualities are illustrated in this myth –beauty, harmony, attraction, negotiation and adjudication. And no surprise that Venus (the Roman goddess most similar to Aphrodite) is the ruler of Libra!  But ‘to the fairest’?  That also taps into Libran ambiguity!  The fairest in terms of the most beautiful, or the most even-tempered? The most well-balanced when it comes to making judgments? Libra, despite the association with beauty and attraction through Venus, is more a sign of balance. It’s considered and reflective, more concerned with ‘the other’ than with the ‘I’. It’s the mediator, negotiator, and diplomat.
Libra has a reputation for being indecisive!  Following from Virgo’s need to analyze everything in great detail, Libra weighs it all carefully but is always having to take new factors into account, upsetting that delicate balance, hence appearing to be constantly changing its mind.  For this reason, my favourite version of the tarot card associated with Libra, Justice, comes from the Thoth deck, although Crowley has re-named the card Adjustment.     
'Adjustment' (Thoth Tarot)
Like many versions of the Justice card, the image still shows a figure with a set of scales, although here the scales appear to be balanced on her head.  She holds the sword of truth in both hands, between her legs, while balancing on her toes. The entire image of one of balance and harmony – including the coloured spheres (blue for spirit and intellect, green for creativity) in their symmetrical placement. But how long can this balance be held?  All it takes is one distraction, one thought, one new factor, to be added to the scales, and the whole thing is no longer balanced.  So it’s not that Libra is indecisive per se – it’s more that that the picture isn’t static; there’s always something else that needs to be considered, something else to knock us off track. That’s why I like the name ‘Adjustment’ – we’re always having to make adjustments as new elements come into play, in order to maintain our (always precarious) balance!
The Wheel (Wildwood Tarot)
The Wildwood Tarot places its Major Arcana cards around the Wheel of the Year. At Mabon, we have two cards - The Wheel (X) and The Mirror (XII).  The Wheel reminds us of the constantly changing seasons, and that what comes around, goes around.  The equinox is but a moment in time – one where the hours of day and night are balanced, before the hours of darkness increase at the expense of the light.  In many traditions, the autumnal equinox marks the start of a period of withdrawal - not just in terms of physical withdrawal or hibernation, but a time of introspection and inner journeying, contemplation and rest.   
The Mirror (Wildwood Tarot)
The Mirror shows us our reflection and allows us to see our inner selves, and by sitting on the Equinox represents the point at which our journey changes direction – from outer to inner; the point where we’re balanced between the two. The myth here focuses on Morgan/Morgaine, accompanying Arthur on his final journey to Avalon, as well as the Lady of the Lake, "arbiter of Arthur's actions", to quote Mark Ryan and John Matthews.  The authors of this deck aren't making any astrological associations in their deck, but I'm struck by the inclusion of the mirror in the image, as the mirror is often used as a symbol for Libra - another myth with a Libran link. Both through Venus' rulership and its affinity to the 7th house, Libra is concerned with attraction and partnership. Aries, the sign opposite Libra in the zodiac's wheel, is about 'I' - how we're seen and how we meet the world as individuals. Libra is concerned with ‘the other’ - what we look for in our relationships with others.  The mirror allows us to see what others see in us. ‘Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?’ indeed!


Thank you 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 AlembicArts. 

The next stops on the Tarot Blog Hop are - depending on whether you’re moving backwards or forwards through the list – the TABI blog or Cassandra Santori's blog . The Master List can be found here.


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.