Friday 31 July 2015

Leo in the Druidcraft: The Five of Wands

Now it’s time to turn our attention to the Minor Arcana.  The three minor cards linked to Leo come from, not surprisingly, the fiery suit of Wands.  Because Leo is a fixed sign, we look to the middle three cards of the minors – the 5, 6 and 7 - to find the planetary correspondences.  (For more information on this system of Planetary and Zodiacal dignities, I recommend Elizabeth Hazel’s Tarot Decoded, published by Weiser, 2004).  

Let’s start with the Five of Wands, which in this system is associated with Saturn in Leo – and with the first ten days of Leo (approximately 23rd July-1st August). Can we see this astrological association in the Druidcraft?

Saturn was a Roman deity, similar to Kronos (or Cronos) in Greek mythology. That’s where the word ‘chronology’ comes from, and we are probably familiar with the idea of Saturn or Kronos representing ‘old Father Time’.  Saturn has come to be associated with time management, in effect - putting boundaries in place, recognizing limitations and restrictions, but also the idea of self-discipline and control. Sometimes this works to our advantage – where would we be without some boundaries in place? But sometimes it feels as though it’s working against us.  

Five of Wands: Druidcraft (detail)
But in Leo?  Well, we could think of Saturn applying the brakes on that fiery Leonine energy.  It can make it more difficult for us to express ourselves, and can affect our self-confidence.  On the other hand, it can push us into finding ways to establish ourselves through creative projects, or through loyalty and disciplined affection.   Leo is about individuality, so Saturn could help to focus that into some sort of achievement that would help to attain some sense of security. Alternatively, looking at the ‘shadow’ of this combination, Saturn in Leo could reflect a fear or inability to trust in our own self-worth, which could in turn act as an obstacle or restriction when it comes to being able to express ourselves confidently.  

Can we see this in the Druidcraft’s Five of Wands?  Here we see five lads battling each other with sticks, but they appear to be laughing or smiling – it’s not serious.  The crossed wands represent difficulties – things that stand in the way; writer’s or artist’s ‘block’ is a good example of this kind of creative frustration.  Saturn in Leo suggests a period of time when things might seem to be conspiring against us, and we feel we’re striving in vain.  By taking things one step at a time (Saturn at work again), we are less likely to feel overwhelmed. Instead, we’ll be able to recognize what’s blocking us and be able to use our creativity to do something about it. So yes, in this case I can see how the astrological associations work with this deck.

Druidcraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Monday 27 July 2015

Leo in the Druidcraft Tarot: the Major Arcana

Continuing on with my exploration of the Druidcraft, and how – or if – the astrological associations work with this deck, it’s time to look at Leo.  The Druidcraft follows, obviously, Druid traditions, and was not created with astrology in mind.  Instead it focuses on the elements and the seasons.  Some of that may link to astrology – some of it may not.  We’ll see!

Let’s start our exploration of Leo in the tarot with the Major Arcana.  The card associated with Leo is, unsurprisingly, Strength.  I say unsurprisingly, as many (but by no means all) tarot decks include the image of a lion in that card.  Struggles involving lions crop up frequently in literature, mythology and folklore – Gilgamesh’s encounter with the lions on his epic journey, Hercules’ labour with the Nemean lion, Androcles and the lion ... While Gilgamesh and Hercules end up killing their lions, Androcles (and St Jerome) helps the lion by removing a thorn from its paw.  Either way, the lion symbolizes inner strength, strength of character, inner struggles.

Strength - Druidcraft Tarot (detail)
In traditional imagery, the woman appears to be opening or closing the lion’s mouth but not with the brute force of a Hercules or a Gilmagesh. Instead, she’s being gentle, using love rather than force.  Lions rely on instinct – that’s a strength, not a weakness.  We can rely on our inner strength, our instinct, just like the lion – and act from a place of love.

In the Druidcraft, the lion has been replaced by a wild boar, lions not being that common in ancient Britain!  We can see the gentleness with which the woman holds the boar at bay – she only needs the fingertips of one hand on the back of its neck, even though a sword lies unused in the grass beside her.  With her other hand she pulls back her cloak to expose her heart – her bravery, her ‘cour (couer=heart in French)-age’.

And why a woman? Well, some might say it’s the lioness who does all the work, and that the male is lazy! But if we look at mythology, why not a woman?  The Sumerian goddess Innana (Ishtar in Akkadian mythology) was associated with lions. In Egyptian mythology, we have Bast, depicted both as a lioness and a lion-headed woman. Bast was a protector goddess and defender of Ra, the sun god (images of Bast as a lion were created in a local stone, now known as alaBASTer).  Sekhmet, the Egyptian goddess of war, as well as healing, is also often depicted as a lioness.  Her breath was said to have created the desert – how’s that for powerful?! . She’s a solar deity, the daughter of Ra... which leads us to another Major card associated with Leo.... the Sun! But that’s the subject of a future post, so stay tuned!

Druidcraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections