Monday 29 February 2016

Pisces in the DruidCraft Minor Arcana: The Eight of Cups

In the astrological correspondence system that I follow, Pisces is linked to the Eight, Nine and Ten of Cups. Today I’m going to look at the Eight of Cups, which corresponds to Saturn in Pisces – and to the first third of Pisces (18th-27th February).

Pisces is the mutable Water sign, so we’re looking at our emotional resources and how these might need to change.  Saturn sets limits – something that Pisces doesn’t like! – but also helps us to maintain our integrity. Combined with Pisces, it wants to transcend the restrictions that we find ourselves surrounded by so that we can ‘merge’ with others.  It needs to find a way to express its feelings in such a way that it still feels stable – but not stuck.
8 of Cups (trimmed)
DruidCraft Tarot

So how might this play out in the Eight of Cups? The DruidCraft Tarot follows the relatively ‘traditional’ (i.e. Rider-Waite-Smith) depiction of the Eight of Cups, with a figure walking away from eight cups, neatly laid out on a flat stone beside the stream.  Despite the care taken to place the cups, the figure is abandoning them because they no longer provide the emotional security needed.  Notice the waning crescent moon in the sky – something is drawing to an end.  There’s no sign of any life in the landscape, so there’s no hint as to what the figure is heading towards. 

The number ‘8’ is the number of death and birth (8th house themes, in astrology), cycles and recycling – time to let go of what’s no longer working, time to move forward to something new and (as yet) unknown (shades of the Moon card, associated with Pisces).  The cloaked figure is letting go of what’s no longer of use, searching for something deeper within or beyond.

DruidCraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections 2004

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Pisces in the DruidCraft Major Arcana

Let’s start our exploration of Pisces in the tarot with the Major Arcana. The card associated with Pisces is the eighteenth one, The Moon.  That often comes as a surprise – you might think that The Moon in the tarot would be associated with the Moon in the sky, but no, confusingly, the Moon that orbits the Earth is linked to the High Priestess.  

So why The Moon?  Well, let’s think back to what we know about Pisces. It’s the mutable water sign, the sign that puts no boundaries on emotions and feelings, the sign that merges conscious with unconscious, that’s linked to compassion, sensitivity, all-encompassing love and nurturing... all qualities that have become associated with the Moon.  Often referred to as a psychic sign, Pisces is interested in exploring the soul, the psyche. It opposes Virgo on the axis of ‘service’ – while Virgo wants to be of use on a practical level, Pisces wants to be involved on the spiritual level.  Pisces can feel restricted by the ‘mundanity’ of everyday life; it wants to transcend this, and does so through dreams (the daydream variety or in sleep) as well as through creative expression and the imagination.  The Moon card, too, is linked to intense dreams and the power of the imagination. 

The Moon: DruidCraft Tarot (trimmed)
Created by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm,
illustrated by Will Worthington
We often see water in the Moon card, another link back to the water sign of Pisces, and the DruidCraft Tarot is no exception. Pisces floats through life, flowing with the tides – another link to the Moon. The gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun, combined with the effects of the rotation of the Earth, produce the rise and fall in sea level – the ebb and flow of the tides.  The Moon is also linked to cycles through its phases – new, waxing, full, waning, old. In Will Worthington’s depiction of The Moon card in the Druidcraft, we see clearly the waxing crescent moon, although with a bit of imagination I can also see the outline of the new and full moon as well.

The shadow side of Pisces can be a tendency to escape into a fantasy world, a world of illusion – which can also lead to addiction.  The Moon card is often associated with illusion – that things are not what they seem. Rachel Pollack, in her Seeker: The Tarot Unveiled (Llewellyn Publications, 2005) talks about ‘the passage through the unknown’, and how this can refer to actual journeys as well as inner ones. Either can be adventures, journeys of discovery – but both involve uncertainty.  Sometimes the uncertainty can make us feel a little ‘mad’ – bringing us to the link between the Moon and lunacy (‘luna’ being Latin for ‘moon’).  The dog and wolf depicted here, as in many versions of this card represent the wildness, the animal instinct to howl at the moon, to run wild, the ‘madness’ that needs to be released, the unconscious.  The crab, half in water, half on land, also symbolizes the connection between conscious and unconscious.  

Have you noticed how rarely people are depicted in this card? It’s often only animals...our wild side, our unconscious.

And it takes courage to walk that unknown path, not knowing where we’re going to end up or what we’re going to encounter on the way.  Yes, we could fall prey to illusion or deception on the way, but fear of this shouldn’t stop us. Fear, represented in the image by the two standing stones (the Gateway of Fear that leads to Rebirth, according to the accompanying book), has its place, as the creators of the deck say in their book, “in protecting us from danger and clarifying our emotional limits....but ...fear can also be our ally and teacher”. The dog and the wolf, the Guardians of the Threshold in the DruidCraft Tarot, can become our guides, our allies, as we step into the unknown.

Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm go on to say “The challenge offered by The Moon is to confront your fears, and use your discrimination to separate truth from illusion, while at the same time allowing yourself to be open to the realm of imagination..”.  By accepting the fears, the ‘madness’, the uncertainty, we gain access to instinct, to our unconscious – the goal of Pisces!

DruidCraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections 2004

Friday 19 February 2016

Going with the Pisces flow

Today at 5.33 GMT, the Sun moved (in the Tropical System of astrology) into the zodiac sign of Pisces.  The twelfth sign of the zodiac spans 330°-360° of celestial longitude, although strictly speaking this region of the zodiac is now covered mostly by the constellation of Aquarius, due to the precession from the point when both the constellation and sign of Pisces coincided*.  

In the northern hemisphere, at mid-latitudes, it’s the time of year when the ice and snow starts to melt.  Water begins to flow as it’s released from its frozen, crystalline (Aquarian!) state. Boundaries melt. It’s a time of release, of letting go, of merging. A time to learn to accept what can’t be changed or controlled, as well as a time to surrender to change that is beyond our control.
Unsurprisingly, then, we find that the sign of Pisces is one of the three Water signs. We’ve already met Cancer, the cardinal Water sign, and Scorpio, the fixed Water sign. Pisces – the mutable Water sign - completes the triplicity. In many ways, I think this is the easiest of the three triplicities to understand – after all, water in its natural state is free-flowing, and can be found in many forms (mutable meaning the ability to transform).

Image from Atlas Coelestis
The astrological glyph for Pisces is said to symbolize two fish held together by a string. In the constellation, the fish are usually ‘seen’ as swimming away from each other.  Alpha Piscium, the star at the point corresponding to the knot in the cord joining the two fish, is also known as Alrescha, from the Arabic al-Risa – the “well-rope” or “the cord”. The glyph’s symbolism can be extended to represent our dual nature - one fish could be seen as swimming upwards towards the heavens as if looking for spiritual guidance, while the other continues along the path of the Sun (the elliptic), concentrating on more earthly or material pursuits.

In Greek mythology, Pisces has many associations with Aphrodite (Venus in the Roman pantheon), who - as a reward to the fish who rescued her - placed the fish into the night sky. In astrological terms, Venus (the planet) is said to be exalted in Pisces, expressing all-encompassing love and compassion.

'Pisces' panel on my Zodiad dodecahedron (mixed media):
© Alison Coals
The traditional ruler of Pisces is the planet Jupiter.  Jupiter, as you may remember, is a huge planet comprised mainly of hot gas. Known as the ‘Greater Benefic’ (Venus being the ‘Lesser Benefic’), Jupiter is associated with growth, expansiveness, benevolence and laughter (Jove, the Roman version of Jupiter giving rise to the word ‘jovial’).  It’s also linked to higher learning, to philosophy, law, and religion (in the broadest sense of the word) – to expanding our horizons, lifting us to new heights (remember that hot-air balloon?!). With Pisces, it’s expressed by living through our ideals, by being compassionate and sensitive, and by developing faith in the universe as well as the self.  William Blake wrote, in his The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, that “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom" – a wonderful description of Jupiter in Pisces! 

'Alchemical @Pisces' ©Alison Coals
Pisces also has a modern ruler, Neptune.  This planet was ‘discovered’ (or identified!) in 1846, and was named after the Roman god of the sea.  Neptune is associated astrologically with compassion and empathy, and is said to show us the areas in our lives where we want to merge, rather than stand out. It’s linked to dreams and visions, and our highest ideals. Imaginative, but not a lover of boundaries – it wants to transcend limits.

So, where does Pisces fit into the tarot?  Stay tuned for an exploration of the final zodiac sign in the cards...

*In Sidereal astrology, the sun currently transits Pisces from approximately 15th March to 14th April.