Friday 31 October 2014

Tea with the Ancestors

Welcome to Alison’s Alembic!   You may have arrived here as a stop on the Tarot Blog Hop from either Inner Whispers' or Ania M'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! 

It’s the time of Samhain (“summer’s end”), a luminal time, a 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.

There are many traditions that have been passed down through the years surrounding Samhain. One of these involves the souls of the dead re-visiting their old homes. To this end, rituals are performed, inviting them in, and places are set at tables for them.  Food and drink would be left out for them.  It’s the likely origin of the tradition of dressing up at Hallowe’en - based on the mumming and guising of older times, with people going around their neighbourhoods in disguise, reciting verses or performing in exchange for food.  I have fond memories of All Hallows Eve as a child, dressed up as a witch or ‘gypsy’ (complete with crystal ball, of course!), having to recite something in order to receive my ‘soul cake’, baked by one of our neighbours...

Secret Tarot
With this in mind, our wrangler for this particular Blog Hop, Louise of Priestess Tarot, has asked us to write about who we’d invite to afternoon tea on the Day of the Dead. After much deliberation, I've decided to invite my grandmothers.  My maternal grandmother died when my own mother was still a child, so she’s a complete mystery to me. My paternal grandmother, on the other hand, survived to the age of 86 – but in many ways I feel I don’t know much about her, as she could be very secretive.  So, my table’s set for three, the tea’s in the pot and the soul-cakes are laid out carefully on Mum’s best china.

I already knew I wanted to use the Queen of Swords to represent Mum’s mum.  She died from TB at the age of 41, when Mum was only 13, so I associate a sense of having to accept loss and sorrow with her.  She was born with the sun in Aquarius (one of the astrological associations for the Queen of Swords), reinforcing my choice.  

Thoth Tarot
I was tempted to use The Devil for Dad’s mum – she had a wicked sense of humour, as well as holding many qualities associated with Capricorn (a stellium of planets in that sign, including the sun), but decided to use the Thoth’s Queen of Disks instead.  That, to me, represents the struggles my grandmother had to overcome in her life - and the expression on that mountain goat's face rather eerily reminds me of one of her expressions!

Strangely, when I looked at their charts I discovered that their Moons were in the sign of the other one’s Sun – Sun in Aquarius and Moon in Capricorn for Cissie, Sun in Capricorn and Moon in Aquarius for Alice. Connections?
But what to ask?  Both sides of my family seem to be shrouded in secrecy – ‘black sheep’ who no one would ever talk about, things that were never spoken of, an unexpected legacy from a great-great-aunt we never knew existed. It’s no wonder that my family has never been very good at communicating with each other, especially when it comes to feelings (both sides show a preponderance of Earth – and I’m the only one with any Water in my chart).  There’s so much I’d like to know...  and of course, Samhain falls in Scorpio, associated (through its affinity with the 8th house) with family secrets and power struggles within relationships!

I’ve chosen the Wildwood Tarot, as it’s the ‘earthiest’ deck I own. I’ve laid a card out for each grandmother, to represent what they’re bringing with them to my tea party.

The Journey: Wildwood Tarot
What Cissie, Mum’s mum, has brought is represented by (I kid you not) The Journey (13), the Wildwood’s version of Death, located on the Wheel of the Year at Samhain.  As I never met this woman, it seems even more fitting.  She brings me a reminder that it’s time to face my fears – that change is not to be feared.  It’s time to let go of what I no longer need, but also to celebrate or acknowledge what’s past. Time to withdraw, to reflect, to make way for the new.  All true – so much change going on for me these days....

Knight of Bows: Wildwood Tarot
What Alice, Dad’s mum, has brought is represented by the Knight of Bows, symbolized in the Wildwood by a fox.  More of a surprise, initially, but as I think about it, I’m reminded of her quickness, her shrewdness – and her playfulness. I tend to remember her sternness mostly, but it’s true, she did have a great sense of fun; we just didn’t see it that often.   There’s a sense of leaving the past behind here, as well – that Sagittarian quest for new adventures. She was an avid traveller, a love that I’ve inherited from her.

Now that they’re here and sipping their tea, I draw another card to see what I can give them in return – it’s the custom, after all, to offer gifts to our otherworldly visitors at this time.

Six of Bows: Wildwood Tarot
The Six of Bows for Cissie. A celebration – perhaps even this tea party!  But apart from the tea and cake, I can acknowledge the abundance of love I’ve received from my family – whether or not I ever met them in this life – and continue to share this gift with others.

Four of Bows: Wildwood Tarot
For Alice, the Four of Bows. Another image of celebration – also representing this occasion, this sharing of tea...but also health, wealth and security, all things that meant a great deal to my Capricornian, earthy grandmother.  It’s not unlike the message of the Six, in this context – sharing my good fortune, my inheritance from my ancestors, with those around me now. The image reminds me of dancing around the Samhain bonfires, another tradition that's still with us today. The ashes of the fires would later be spread over the land as protection - as well as fertilizer. And now that I think about it, the ashes of both my grandmothers were spread over the earth...

Hmmm...after tea, perhaps I'll see if my grandmothers would like to join me in a dance of celebration around the fire.

Thank you for stopping off here on your own journey through this Samhain Tarot Blog Hop!  Please do come back and read some of my other posts, looking at astrology in the tarot.

The next stops on the Tarot Blog Hop are - depending on whether you’re moving backwards or forwards through the list -  Inner Whispers’ or Ania M's blogs.

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Secret Tarot created by Marco Nizzoli, published by Lo Scarabeo
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 27 October 2014

Scorpio in the Minor Arcana: The Five of Cups

Just for a change, 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.

Sharman-Caselli Tarot
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.

Shadowscapes 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, such as that from the Sharman-Caselli deck. Here we see a figure facing away from us, looking down at the three overturned cups at their feet. The figure is so intent on these and what’s spilling out of them, that she/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.

In the Shadowscapes Tarot, we have a slightly different interpretation. The figure is ignoring the overturned cups, focusing on the one in her hands. The fifth cup, bobbing on the waves in front of her, holds her hopes that she's sending across the sea - representing emotional imbalance.

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!

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 this 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!

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