Thursday 29 December 2016

Balancing act - Margarete Petersen’s Two of Coins

Two of Coins (trimmed):©Margarete Petersen Tarot
Margarete Petersen’s Two of Coins reminds me of the Thoth’s depiction of this card, with the serpent forming the lemniscus.  The two resulting circular shapes (coin-shaped) each hold a footprint - our contact with the earth perhaps. One footprint is a dark shade, the other light. In the darker one I’m sure I can see an animal – a hare, or a goat? - but even with my magnifying glass I can’t be sure.  I’m leaning towards a goat, given this card’s astrological link to Capricorn…Jupiter in Capricorn, in fact.
Two of Coins ( (trimmed):© Thoth Tarot

Jupiter in Capricorn, astrologically, is looking to expand and grow through hard work. Self-discipline will be required in order make progress – which will be steady but sure.  There’s plenty of optimism around, as long as the Saturnian side of Capricorn (remember this sign is ruled by Saturn) isn’t allowed to constrict that expansive faith and confidence by becoming too serious or fearful.  The faith and optimism of Jupiter here is rooted in reality and experience – while the opportunities for change and development come through reliability, sense of responsibility, and patience.

The two circles and the light-dark feet reflect the idea of balancing opposites – perhaps even a uniting, given that the two circles are part of one creature. And the lemniscus reminds us that this is a never-ending process! 

A cinquain, for a change…

Two become one
Feet rooted in the earth
Expand and grow through hard work; change is

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA, 2004
Thoth Tarot, created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris. U.S. Games

Sunday 25 December 2016

A new start - Margarete Petersen’s Ace of Coins

Well, we’ve finished our journey through the suit of Feathers, or Swords.  And with the winter solstice (in the northern hemisphere) and our ingress to Capricorn just past, I thought I’d turn my attention to the suit of Pentacles – or Coins, in the Margarete Petersen deck.

What do we associate with this suit? We’re in the element of Earth, so the practical, down-to-earth affairs that matter to us. The things that bring us a sense of security and comfort.  Work - the ability to earn enough to keep us warm, dry and fed.   That leads us to the idea of wealth, not only in monetary terms but also in terms of our personal resources - not to mention spiritual ones.  Our health is also covered by the Pentacles/Coins – our physical well-being affects our comfort and sense of stability.
Ace of Coins (trimmed): ©Margarete Petersen

Here’s the Ace of Coins.  I see a seed in the centre of image, protected by the coiled serpent.  The coils of the serpent hold energy – like a seed, it’s just starting to warm up before it begins to move. New growth, beginnings,…  What better card to see on this day of exchanging gifts?  Merry Christmas!

Continuing with the haiku...

Earth full of promise
Nurturing, stabilizing,
Ready to take root.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA, 2004

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Hello darkness, my old friend... Tarot Blog Hop Yule 2016

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

This is the Yule Blog Hop, celebrating the Winter Solstice (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) that falls on December 21st – the solar festival sacred to the Old King and to the reborn ‘Sun Child’.  Solstice means ‘sun still’, and refers to the sun seemingly being at a standstill – its turning point, the ‘shortest day’.  Up to now, the hours of daylight have been decreasing, the nights longer.  As the sun appears to ‘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.

At this time of greatest darkness (again, northern hemisphere bias, sorry!) our wrangler for this edition of the TBH, Joanne of CosmicWhispers, writes: "Winter Solstice was also a time to count the resources gathered during the previous harvest to make sure they would last, to look around and dig for hidden abundance beneath leaf and snow and soil, to know that all the bareness of tree and starkenss of landscape was just at time of sleep and not really death, and that life simply rested in preparation for another season of growth. we need to trust our intuition now more than ever since we can't see the abundance beneath our feet, in the living roots of the world."

With that in mind, she’s asked us to pick a card or cards, or develop a spread, that we think reveals a useful message from the Dark or Hidden realm of life. What can we learn from those messages as we wait for the return of the Light, and how do we find uses for the dark times in our own lives?

The Hooded Man (trmmed): ©Wildwood Tarot
THE card, for me, that represents this best is the Wildwood’s version of the Hermit, the Hooded Man.  The creators of the deck place The Hooded Man at the Midwinter Solstice, on their Wheel of the Year, a choice reflected in the (again, hemisphere bias at work) wintry scene, complete with holly and other evergreens, and a wren.  The Hooded Man survives the cold and darkness by drawing on his wisdom, and the strength he’s gained through what he’s experienced on his journey so far.  He can now withdraw, or perhaps even pass on the knowledge and wisdom gained to others in need.

The idea of evergreens being a constant throughout the year, and the qualities they imbue, seems to be a theme this year - not to mention Joanne's mention of living roots.  It just so happens that I took part in a midwinter gathering a week ago, where we called on the spirits of four evergreens to remind us of what we can draw on during the darkness.  I’ve borrowed from this idea to create the following spread.  

Spirit of Fir

Spirit of Mistletoe                   Spirit of Holly

Spirit of Ivy

Spirit of Fir:  A tall tree that, from a mountainside, offers views to the far horizon.  The smoke from its wood is said to purify and to cleanse.  Its gift to us then, in this time of darkness and withdrawal, is perception or clear vision – access to our own wisdom.

(moving clockwise...)

Spirit of Holly:  With its prickly leaves and hard wood, it offers protection.  When its wood is burned, it provides warmth and light during the cold months.  Its gift to us at this time is protection, but also the heat and energy we need to act, even during the bleakest times. 

Spirit of Ivy:  Associated with intuition, ivy needs the support of other trees or structures in order to reach the light.  Its constant spiralling around other trees echoes the search for spiritual understanding.  Its gift to us during the darkness of winter is to remind us of the importance of the support and companionship we can offer each other.

Spirit of Mistletoe:  Also known as all-heal, mistletoe grows on trees, suspended between earth and sky.  Druid tradition says you should never let mistletoe touch the ground… Its white berries symbolize fertility and growth.  Its gift is not only healing, but also the blessing of the seeds we nurture through the cold and the dark with good fortune and fertility.

I’ve then drawn a card from the Wildwood tarot to represent how I can use these gifts during the darkness (bearing in mind I’m just about to become unemployed again).  (All images copyright Will Worthington and the Wildwood Tarot)

The Pole Star
Ace of Arrows
Spirit of Fir/The Pole Star (17).  I breathe in the clear cold air of a starry winter’s night, and let the light of the stars show me a new path to take.

Spirit of Holly/Ace of Arrows.   The warmth of burning holly wood gives me energy to take that first breath, to speak the new idea and give it life.  
Queen of Arrows
Spirit of Ivy/Queen of Arrows.  It’s time to let go of some bonds, and seek out new companions on my next adventure.

Ten of Stones

Spirit of Mistletoe/Ten of Stones.  Subtitled ‘Home’ in the Wildwood, this reminds me how much ‘home’ – not so much a physical location but more to do with being with my family - gives me in terms of love and support. It’s/they’re where I go to heal.  And certainly, during the dark of the winter, the physical home and the comforts it offer are where I want to be.  Time to hibernate…

Thank you for stopping off here on your own journey through this Yule Tarot Blog Hop. Please do come back sometime and read some of my other posts.  

The next stops on the Tarot Blog Hop are - depending on whether you’re moving backward or forward through the list – Ania M's blog or Aaron Lozano's blog. The Master List can be found here.

Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Saturday 17 December 2016

Big sky… Margarete Petersen’s Father of Feathers

Father of Feathers (trimmed): ©Margarete Petersen Tarot
Margarete Petersen’s Father of Feathers image contains no figures (as far as I can see), much like the Mother of Flames. I tend to mix this card up with the World or the Wheel, even though the sphere has been present in every other Feathers card! This time it contains a vista that reminds me of the badlands or Grand Canyon country. Sky and cloud are reflected everywhere, though, which helps to bring me back to the realm of Air and Feathers/Swords!
I do feel the sense of intellectual freedom here, the wide-ranging ideas that I associated with the King, as well as the ability to DO something with them, to communicate them clearly (sky is mostly clear of cloud). The high cliffs suggest (to me) the high moral codes and rules that he would hold – the moral high ground, as it were.
Ideas abound -
Rules in place, yet free to think,
See the big picture.

And that's it for the suit of Feathers - stay tuned for the Coins next!

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA, 2004


Tuesday 13 December 2016

Mother of all movement - Margarete Petersen’s Mother of Feathers

Mother of Feathers (trimmed):©Margarete Petersen Tarot
Margarete Petersen calls her Mother of Feathers the mother of all movement. She uses her sword (not visible in the image, as far as I can see) to cut through delusion and illusion, bringing clarity. Within the ever-present sphere sits a giant eye, all-seeing - the result of her sword-wielding, perhaps. 
In the image we see swans (often seen in Queen of Swords images: the Wildwood and Shadowscapes come to mind) flying high among the clouds – their feathers represent ‘new, freshly born thoughts’ that are now ‘singing through the air, breathing the happiness of belonging’.  There’s a sense of nurturing in this, I think, even though the swans are so high they appear remote, detached, aloof – which could perhaps be perceived as the thwarted nature of this Queen.
A cinquain to start with, for a change…
Cuts to the chase.
Clarity of thought, word -
Dispassionate yet nurturing
All clear.
And now back to haiku!
Cleanly and calmly
Cut thoughts free from confusion -
Dispassionate eye.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA, 2004

Friday 9 December 2016

Whirlwind! Margarete Petersen’s Daughter of Feathers

Margarete Petersen’s Daughter of Feathers appears to be leaping through the air as she battles a demon-y dragon-y creature. Is she a kick-boxer? A huge feather hangs overhead. As in all the Feathers cards, the great sphere hangs in the background, but like the other courts the image is framed - again making me wonder about things becoming more focused in the courts...
Daughter of Feathers (trimmed):© Margarete Petersen Tarot
In the accompanying LWB, Margarete Petersen refers to the Daughter receiving gifts from her family: space and mobility from her Mother, the ability to discern from her Father, and awareness from her brother (Son).
Like the Daughter of Flames she too dances, but here she’s dancing and moving to free herself from rigid thinking. Always on the move, not allowing dust to collect – I think of whirlwinds!  In her leaping about ‘from specific to abstract’, she could be seen as vacillating – but ‘weightlessly focusing my thoughts’ sounds like a good thing to aspire to. 
Interestingly, Margarete Petersen doesn’t seem to focus much on the inexperience of her Daughter/Knights, although she does refer to experiencing oneself anew; instead she appears more interested in how they use the gifts of the other Courts in their family to change their experience.
Leaping to and fro,
Never still, ever reaching
For new ideas.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA, 2004.


Sunday 4 December 2016

New directions - Margarete Petersen’s Son of Feathers

Is it me, or are Margaret Petersen’s court card images crammed with more detail than in the Minors?! 
Son of Feathers (trimmed):©Margarete Petersen Tarot
The sphere that’s been a constant feature in the background of the Feathers’ pips holds a feather, a carved mask that’s not unlike the one in the Eight, and perhaps the Nine, of Feathers), another figure sitting in a yoga position, as well as flowers (and possibly birds?) against the backdrop of the sky. 
Can I see any of the ‘traditional’ meanings of the Page of Swords here? Well, the way that the seated figure is looking at his hands does suggest he’s looking at something he hasn’t encountered before, so perhaps inexperienced and curious. In terms of Swords/Feathers, this could be the impulse to learn, taking on new ideas and seeing how they grow.
In the accompanying LWB, Margarete Petersen refers to the Son receiving gifts from Mother (sword to cut through entanglements, which reminds me of the Thoth’s Swords court cards), Father (compass for direction), and sister/Daughter (courage to jump into the unknown). The Son uses these to slow down and look back to learn the lessons of the past, the knowledge of which allows him to be in the present.
In the Feathers’ court cards, the ever-present sphere is now surrounded by a square frame – as if whatever’s been shown in the image is being held or contained...
Sharp sword and compass
New directions, clarity,
Knowledge to be gained.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA, 2004. 

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Oppression – or drama queen? Margarete Petersen’s Ten of Feathers

Ten of Feathers (trimmed): ©Margarete Petersen Tarot
Margarete Petersen brings that sense of oppression that’s often associated with the Ten of Swords to her Ten of Feathers – the darkening colour scheme of the Eight and Nine carry on into the Ten. A battered feather lies on the ground, but to me it seems less battered than in previous cards. I also feel that despite the darkness of the colours, there is a lightening across the sky with those swathes of crimson – the dawn approaching?  To me the Ten of Swords embodies the saying ‘it’s always darkest before dawn’, and I can really see and feel that here.

Petersen writes in her LWB “you have experienced fear without being destroyed….The choice is yours. You can always leave the realm of your nightmares. Put a stop to old patterns…” 

Shadows come to rest
Banish fears to the darkness -
Dawn breaks every day.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA, 2004. 

Friday 25 November 2016

Fear of the dark? Margarete Petersen’s Nine of Feathers

Margarete Petersen’s Nine of Feathers has a slightly terrifying, or terrified, feel about it, I think – the eyes alone seem full of fear.  The blood-red and deep blues and indigo colour scheme carries on from the Eight, giving this a very different feel from the first seven Feathers/Swords cards, which have tended to be pale blue-white-mauve – much lighter and ‘airier’.    
Nine of Feathers (trimmed):
©Margarete Petersen Tarot

Have the fears and anxieties been building since we started this journey through the Feathers/Swords with the Ace? Not to say that the nightmares and cruelty of the Nine are necessarily ‘worse’ that the grief and loss of the Three, but the images are certainly darker.  To me, the pain and grief of the Three are ‘real’ – related to external sources, whereas the nightmares of the Nine are more often ‘in the mind’ (which isn’t to say that they aren’t real, more than it’s something we’ve created – more internal).  

Or perhaps the loss and pain of the Three have been multiplied by three, creating a situation of (to quote Margarete Petersen) “killing by not acknowledging”.  That seems to sums up the idea of being cruel to yourself not doing any good. She also writes: “Walk towards that which you reject and fear.”  

Nightmares terrify

Yet fears faced starve the demons,

Freeing us from fright.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-Urania, 2004

Monday 21 November 2016

Sagittarius - quest for fire!

At 21.22GMT on the 21st 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 Mutable Fire sign of Sagittarius.

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! Closer to home, for me, is the fact that the theatre group I belong to is currently performing Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing - talk about free-spirited women, not to mention riotous love!

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’ ©Alison Coals
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 image comes from my AstroArt series.  ‘Sagittarius’ is a collage, using watercolour on paper and origami paper.