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.

Previous | Master | Next

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


  1. What a lovely post! It resonates a lot with what I wrote about for this Hop as well, in a couple of ways, which is really cool. I like how you used different decks (I have the Secret mini deck though I admit I rarely use it. There are some really nice cards in it, though!).

  2. Very interesting connections there, Alison, in both their charts and their cards! Altogether a lovely tea party :)

  3. I love that Queen of Swords. I haven't seen that deck. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Interesting traditions - I'd never come across the 'soul cake' one before.Thanks for sharing :)

  5. I knew someone who did geneaological astrology. She would look for the similarities within families. My mother was a Scorpio and I have my moon is Scorp, for instance. :D

    1. I do this too - Saturn in Capricorn is strong in my family! In fact, a colleague and I run a workshop on this, although we call it Family Dynamics :-)

  6. Grandmother connections. So wondrous! Great stories, great stories. Some of your best writing, Alison.

  7. It's nice to see a Grandmother feature in the Hop. I would have liked to have known mine - apparently she was the local wise woman and people came from all over for her advice, not to mention her linen cloth. She made everything for fine linen shirts to horse blankets with the flax she grew herself.

  8. Oh Alison. A thin veil.... :D