Saturday 22 December 2018

Mid-winter arrives!

At 10.22 pm UT yesterday (21st December), those of us in the northern hemisphere celebrated the Winter Solstice, the solar festival sacred to the Old King and to the reborn ‘Sun Child’, whom we find in various incarnations - Mithras, the Mabon, Jesus, among others.  ‘Solstice’ means ‘sun still’, and refers to the sun seemingly being at a standstill – its turning point, the ‘shortest day’ – as well as its lowest point in the sky.  Up to now, the hours of daylight have been decreasing, the nights growing longer.  Today though, the sun ‘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.

‘Capricorn’ ©Alison Coals
The Solstice also marks the Sun’s ingress, astrologically speaking, into the sign of Capricorn, the tenth astrological sign in the zodiac. It originates from the constellation of Capricornus, usually shown as a goat with a fish’s tale, but is also seen as a more conventional goat that we’d see on land.  

There are, as usual, a number of myths and stories behind the sea-goat. One involves Pan, the goat god. When he was attacked by the monster Typhon (so now you can guess where the name ‘typhoon’ came from!), he ran into the Nile to escape. The part of him below the water’s surface transformed into a fish.  Images of sea-goats go back to Babylonian times, with symbols for the god Enki being both a goat and a fish. The constellation of Capricorn is also sometimes called Amalthea, the goat nymph (in Greek mythology) who reared Zeus after he was saved from being devoured by his father Kronos.

Kronos, of course, was the father of the Greek gods, and was also known as the ‘father of time’, giving us the word ‘chronology’. In the Roman pantheon, he was known as Saturn – the planet that rules the sign of Capricorn.

Capricorn, then, has links to time, as well as to structure and boundaries.  In the image of the mountain goat we can see the Capricornian qualities of tenacity and sure-footedness, determination to overcome obstacles as it works its way towards to its goal.  
It’s about retaining integrity, but can also be ambitious. There’s a business-like quality to Capricorn, too – it’s an Earth sign, so it’s practical and level-headed, but at the same time it’s also a Cardinal sign, so it’s not afraid to get things going, to start new enterprises. On the ‘shadow’ side, it can appear as greed, in terms of material ambition. 

‘Capricorn’ comes from my AstroArt series, inspired by walking the Glastonbury Landscape Zodiac. The image is a collage, using watercolour on paper. 

Thursday 22 November 2018

Shoot for the stars!

At 09.01 UTC/GMT today, the 22nd 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 Fire sign of Sagittarius.

‘Sagittarius’ ©Alison Coals 
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! 

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, as well as being a Fire sign, is also classed as a mutable sign – being able to change and adapt, and to disseminate or spread. We can see this in the growth and expansion associated with Jupiter.

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 ‘Sagittarius’ collage comes from my AstroArt series, inspired by walking the Glastonbury Landscape Zodiac.  

Monday 12 November 2018

Scorpio in the Major Arcana: Death (part 3)

13 The Journey (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
In Part 1 of our exploration of the Death card, we saw the raven appear.  The raven is considered to be, among other things, a guardian of the dead, or a guide to the otherworld.  In The Wildwood Tarot’s ‘The Journey’, Will Worthington has given us an image of the raven tearing flesh from a skull of a reindeer - a symbol of the stripping of life, and of the (re)cycling of life through death and birth; all Scorpio (and by affinity, astrological 8th house) issues. 

XIII Death (trimmed):
© Wild Unknown Tarot
The skeleton in Kim Krans’ Wild Unknown Tarot’s Death card may or may not be a raven, but the image reflects that idea of the stripping of life - the disintegration of flesh, leaving only bones behind.  Again, the cycling of life, and the knowledge that something needs to come to an end.  Krans talks about the need for closure, in the book that accompanies her deck, and about the inevitability of the ending.  And through experiencing the ‘death’, we’re able to move towards a new stage in our lives.

Wild Unknown Tarot, created by Kim Krans, published by HarperCollins, 2016.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Thursday 8 November 2018

Scorpio in the Major Arcana: Death (part 2)

In Part 1 of our look at the Death card, we saw the phoenix rising from the ashes of the fire that consumed what was no longer needed – not unlike the bonfires consuming fallen leaves, or the fires in the fields, burning away the debris after the harvest – in order to prepare the ground for the new. 

Death (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot
The Shadowscapes Tarot also draws on the promise of renewal with its phoenix rising from the ashes of the devastation, the tearing down of what has been, now ready for what’s to come. It's one of the more 'optimistic' versions of the Death card, I think - the fiery-red phoenix looks upwards and outwards towards what appears to be a sunny future... What do you think?

Death (trimmed):
© Zillich Tarot
Christine Zillich’s and Margarete Petersen’s Death cards both invoke the Crone in their depictions of Death. There’s an element of looking backwards and forwards with the Crone-Hermit, and that ‘crone knowledge’ or wisdom associated with the Hermit is necessary in order to make the changes that Death demands. 

The Zillich Tarot’s Death shows a crone-like figure in black, butterflies – a symbol of transformation – around her. 
Death (trimmed):
© Margarete Petersen Tarot

In Margarete Petersen’s version, we see two serpents – another symbol of transformation: one white, one black. There are links back to her High Priestess, Chariot, and even the Lovers in the way she’s used duality and opposites in her work. Her Death image is almost a mirror image: white serpent meets black serpent; Death, in the form of a cloaked skeleton, stands behind the white, earth-bound figure. Out of the dark comes light. A bit like the phoenix, then?

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books, 2004.
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Zillich Tarot, created by Christine Zillich, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Sunday 4 November 2018

Scorpio in the Major Arcana: Death (part 1)

Given what we know of Scorpio, it probably comes as no surprise that the card associated with Scorpio (in the system I follow) is Death. Death, as in the end of a cycle – something that’s necessary in order to allow something new to grow and develop. Not physical death, or at least, not necessarily. 
Death (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot

Traditional depictions of Death show us a knight in armour on a white horse, a king dead underfoot, a religious figure in its path, sometimes children. The image in the Sharman-Burke/Caselli tarot is a variation on that theme; here the horse is black (the colour associated with death in some cultures), its rider a skeleton. The skeleton’s headdress is a swaddling cloth, used at birth, reflecting the link between birth and death and the unending cycle of life. The skeleton carries an hourglass, reminding us that everything has its time. 

In the distance, we see a river – another reminder of the ongoing process of transformation, this time in the form of the hydrologic cycle (the river water evaporates and forms clouds, the clouds rain, rainwater falls back to earth). The boat is said to symbolize both the cradle and the coffin. In the foreground we see a raven, thought to be a harbinger of death in many traditions. The theme is Scorpionic – transformation and change; endings creating openings for new beginnings.

XIII Death (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
The skeleton with his scythe are also seen in the Crowley Thoth tarot’s version of Death. He wears two faces here – one is that of the destroyer, the other that of the liberator – reminding us that in order to change, we may have to let go of things that hold us back, that no longer serve us. The headdress of this skeleton is a funereal head-covering, used in ancient Egypt – a reminder of the need to bury old, out-dated, invalid ideas and beliefs so that new life can begin. We see the scorpion at the bottom of the image, ready to sting, and the snake – perhaps THE symbol of transformation – ready to bite. A fish, representing the past, swims through the serpent’s coils: is it the next victim? Above it all, the phoenix, which can only rise from the ashes once the fire has consumed everything in its way. Intense? Oh yes! 

Beginner’s Guide to the 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 U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Tuesday 30 October 2018

A dip into the Runes

Now that we’re in Scorpio, the sign of – among other things – secrets, I thought it was time to dip into the runes and see what secrets I could unearth there.  Today, out of the Alembic comes …


…also referred to as Beorch, and Ba, depending on what source or system you’re using.  According to some, Beorc means ‘birch goddess’, but ‘birch’ seems to be the most common translation.  

Birch symbolizes growth, birth, becoming.   The birch was considered as the tree of fertility.  I’ve also heard it used to represent the idea of liberation, although it might be more about increasing vitality, which in turn could lead to shaking off the old and feeling liberated as a result. Being lightly whipped with twigs of birch was meant to increase vitality; this practice still exists in Scandinavia where, after being in a sauna, you’re meant to roll in the snow and then lash yourself with birch twigs!

Beorc is a fertility symbol, the two lobes resembling a woman’s breasts.   The rune suggests the start of something new – the birth of a new idea or new project, perhaps even the birth of a child.  It can also symbolize your home, where you come from, your roots.  You might be being asked to develop greater awareness of ‘hearth and home’.

XIII Death (trimmed):
© Haindl Tarot
Ba can also mean ‘boat’ and ‘bier’.  That might not seem to relate to the other meanings associated with this rune, but just think about the Viking funerary traditions:  they set the biers on boats, sending their dead across the sea to a new life.  Death, birth.

Beorc shows up on Hermann Haindl’s eponymous Tarot deck’s Death card.  We see the boatman ferrying his boat across the marshes – Charon, perhaps, or one of the Avalon boatmen waiting for another soul to carry onwards. The cycle of life and death again, appearing in the card of transformation and the ‘great journey’.  Here the presence of Beorc reminds us of (re)birth part of the cycle, and the sense of liberation that comes from letting go of what’s no longer of use.

…and Death is also linked, astrologically, to Scorpio…the sign we entered only a few days ago.  More about this card in the next few days…

Haindl Tarot, created by Hermann Haindl, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Full Moon in Taurus

Today’s offering comes from the Wildwood Tarot, created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, beautifully illustrated by Will Worthington. 

18 The Moon on the Water (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot

The Moon on the Water seems like the perfect card to work with on the day of the Taurus Full Moon.  Full moon overhead, casting light over a marshy landscape – that’s appropriate too, as we’re in the watery sign of Scorpio.  And against the backdrop of that moon we see the silhouette of an aurochs, the ancestor of our bull – the symbol of Taurus. 

Taurus is associated with fertility, among other things.  In the old Druidic traditions, a bull or ox might be sacrificed at midwinter, as a symbol of new life emerging from the ‘dead’ of winter.  In the accompanying book to the Wildwood Tarot, the creators write of the auroch’s horns representing not only the waxing and waning of the moon, but also fertility: they see the womb and fallopian tubes in the bull’s horns. 

New growth emerging from death is also a theme of Scorpio, of course, with the transformation from what’s decaying or no longer of use into something from which new life can emerge. Just think of your compost heap!  The Moon represents this too – the cycles of life: birth and death, new and old, waxing and waning.

So what might The Moon on the Water be saying to us today? It’s difficult to see a way through the marsh, although the Moon does cast a path of light (reflected from the Sun) over the water. The 'passage through the unknown', perhaps? The heron, a water bird, represents psychic ability as well as reflection - and there's plenty of reflection in the imagery. The heron also stands at the gateway between life and death, acting as mediator on the soul's journey to the underworld. Or between conscious and unconscious? Under the surface (how Scorpionic!) lies the “primal egg” (to quote Ryan and Matthews), waiting to be fertilized. So, at this time of the Taurus New Moon, perhaps it’s time to stand still for a moment, and see the potential that lies before us. Pay attention to your dreams and your imagination – what are you being called to create?

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

Tuesday 23 October 2018

The sting of the Scorpion

Today, at 12.22 BST, the Sun moved (astrologically) from Libra into Scorpio. 

Leaves continue to change colour, but now they’re falling from branches, covering the earth in a blanket of gold, bronze, and orange.  The autumn winds lift them up; they whirl through the air, twisting and swirling in a vortex... Since the equinox, the nights are growing longer, giving us the opportunity to spend more time dreaming.   

Here in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere, people are planting bulbs – the ‘seed’ of life being sown underground where it will lie protected and nurtured until it’s ready to ‘spring’ forth in a few months’ time.  Is it any wonder that Scorpio, the scorpion, is the sign of transformation?  

All around us, in nature, the world appears to be going to sleep; animals are starting to hibernate, the birds are gathering and forming their migratory v-shapes as they head for warmer climates. 

'Scorpio'  © Alison Coals
Before long it will be Samhain (“summer’s end”) the end and start of the Celtic New Year, the Day of the Dead – times of transformation and change, which is what we’ve come to associate with Scorpio.  In astrology, Scorpio is one of the three Water signs, along with Cancer and Pisces, as well as being one of the four Fixed signs.   It ends the second cycle of the elements (Cancer through to Scorpio), and opposes Taurus on the axis of resources.  While Taurus is interested in material resources, Scorpio – as a water sign – is more interested in emotional resources.  As a fixed sign, Scorpio wants to know what’s going on at a deeper level, not at the bubbly surface – “still waters run deep” is a good description of Scorpio’s focus.  Only by diving into the depths can Scorpio unearth the root of a problem and attempt to transform it – and it will probably take a crisis or something similar before Scorpio will take that plunge. 

The traditional ruler of Scorpio is the planet Mars, providing passion and drive.  It also has a modern ruler, Pluto, named after the Lord of the Underworld, reflecting the cycle of life and death and the change involved.  Both planets are associated with power; “knowledge is power” is another good description.  We’ve just left Libra, with its 7th-house focus on partnership, and the need for harmony and balance through negotiation and diplomacy. Now we’re about to move into 8th-house issues with Scorpio – shared resources, power issues, life cycles,… and recycling! What follows once the contract is made, within partnerships and relationships (of all kinds)…  Emotions run deep, and power struggles can ensue.  Intensity.  What will be the fall-out, as we move into (in the northern hemisphere) fall)? What are we recycling, or composting? Any transformation, under the auspices of Scorpio, will be intense!

Sunday 30 September 2018

Libra ingress - turning point

Yes, the Sun has moved into Libra, in astrological terms at least. It often feels, to me, like the start of a new year - perhaps reflecting many years spent in the world of education in the northern hemisphere: the start of a new school yar, new term, new friends, new connection.  A turning point in our lives - and in the astronomical world too.

The Libra ingress marks the turning point where, depending on which hemisphere you’re in, the days either become shorter (north) or longer (south), due to the tilt of the Earth and its position relative to the Sun.  This point, where the length of day apparently is equal to the length of night, is marked by the ingress of the Sun into the astrological sign of Libra (in the tropical zodiac) – the scales.

The constellations of Scorpio (left) and Libra (right)
The constellation of Libra (Latin for “weighing scales”) was known as Zibanu (“balance” or “scales”) in Babylonian times. Scales were sacred to Shamash, the Babylonian sun god, who was also associated with truth and justice, concepts that are still associated with the sign of Libra today.  The Babylonians also called this constellation the Claws of the Scorpion – the constellation sits next to that of Scorpio and may have been considered to be part of the scorpion. The Arabic word for scorpion is “zubana”, not dissimilar to the Babylonians’ “zinbanu”, which might perhaps account for the “claws” becoming the ‘scales”.

In Egyptian mythology, Libra is represented by Ma’at, the goddess of the scales who would, at the time of death, weigh the human soul against an ostrich feather to determine whether or not the soul would reincarnate.  Greek mythology gives us Themis, a blindfolded seer who also carries a pair of scales.  The archangel Michael, in Christianity, holds the scales. In each tradition, the theme is balance, of keeping things – be they social or spiritual – in order.  But the story that resonates most with me is the Greek story of the Judgment of Paris.

It starts with the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Eris, the goddess of Discord (a “shadow” side of Libra), hasn’t been invited but decides to gate-crash. She throws a golden apple down in front of all the goddesses who have been invited.  On the apple is inscribed ‘to the fairest’.... and so we have perhaps the first beauty pageant! Hera, Aphrodite and Athena are the front-runners, and ask Zeus (Jupiter, in Roman terms) to choose. Zeus, in his wisdom (or some would argue, cowardice!), elects Paris, a Trojan mortal to be the judge. Atop Mount Ida, the three goddesses attempted to bribe Paris – Hera dangled the prospect of becoming king of Europe and Asia, Athena wisdom and battle skills, and Aphrodite the most beautiful woman in the world.  Paris chose Aphrodite’s gift – Helen, wife of the Greek king Menelaus... and the rest, as they say, is history, at least in mythological terms.  The Trojan horse, the “face that launched a thousand ships” ... even the idea of “who is the fairest” comes up again and again – and not only in fairy tales such as Snow White!

'Libra' © Alison Coals
So many Libran qualities are illustrated in this myth –beauty, harmony, attraction, negotiation and adjudication.  And no surprise that Venus (the Roman goddess most similar to Aphrodite) is the ruler of Libra!  But “to the fairest”?  That also taps into Libran ambiguity!  The fairest in terms of the most beautiful, or the most even-tempered? The most well-balanced when it comes to making judgments? 

Libra, despite the association with beauty and attraction through Venus, is more a sign of balance. It’s considered and reflective, more concerned with “the other” (7th house) than with the “I” (1st house). Libra is mediator, negotiator, and diplomat.

Saturday 17 March 2018

New Moon in Pisces

The Sun and Moon join each other in the final degrees of Pisces (26°53) at 13:11 UT today.  Pisces, as we’ve seen over the last month’s posts, is the dreamer, the chaser of the Grail. Pisces represents compassion and sensitivity, empathy – and shows us 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.

It can also represent the willingness to let go of things that hold us back.  We may find that we have to let go of some of the ‘fixed’ ideas we had at last month’s Aquarian New Moon.  Now it’s time to let go of what isn’t working, of what doesn’t want to be pushed into a fixed structure, and to be more open to whatever unexpected joys lie ahead.

Mercury and Venus are in Aries at this New Moon, so there‘s also some Cardinal energy around, playing with new plans or initiatives.  But whatever we start now, at this New Moon, has to be practical. Why? Because a couple of hours after the New Moon, Mars enters Capricorn (at 16.40 UT).  Mars is exalted in Capricorn, adding a burst of fiery energy to Capricorn’s earthy efficiency and tenaciousness.  But it’s also moving closer to Saturn, very much at home in Capricorn, so some boundaries may be needed after all! I think the trick to this is the willingness to accept (a very Piscean concept) some practical structures that will prevent us from straying into murky waters.

Any new intentions that we set around this time will be worth revisiting at the Pisces Full Moon, which falls on August 26th this year.  What might we want to achieve in the next 6 months?

Wednesday 14 March 2018

Pisces in the court cards - the Knight of Cups

Last but not least, by any means – Pisces in the court cards.  Different traditions have different astrological correspondences when it comes to the Court Cards.  Generally (but not always!) these correspondences depend on how cardinality, fixity and mutability have been assigned.  As Pisces is the mutable Water sign, I’m looking for the Cups court card that’s associated with fluctuating emotions and changes within relationships of all kinds – romantic, platonic, familial.

Prince of Cups (trimmed):
© Druid Craft Tarot
So what court card does this represent?  If you work with a system that assigns mutability to the Knights, as do most of the Rider-Waite-Smith-based decks, you’re looking at the Knight of Cups.  This Knight will react through his feelings – his heart will rule his head! He’s kind and sympathetic, with an affinity for the underdog.  Not one of the speedy Knights, the image usually depicts the Knight on horseback walking slowly, often beside water – letting things happen in their own time, not pushing or rushing. In some images, he wears a winged helmet, representing the wings of spirit – the realm that Pisces is most interested in.  The Piscean Knight is a dreamer, one who longs for an all-encompassing, ideal love.

Son of Cups (trimmed):
© Haindl Tarot
Knights are often associated with quests – this one will be in search of love, in pursuit of dreams and ideals, and will be willing to make sacrifices.  The Son of Cups in the Haindl deck is represented by Parsifal, one of the Knights who searched for the Holy Grail – an ideal if ever there was one.  Inspired, too – another Piscean Knightly quality. Emotional integrity is a good phrase for a Piscean court card; could this be the object of the quest?

The shadow side of this Knight could be a tendency to be moody, or to becoming lost in a dream world – possibly to the point of becoming addicted to something in the quest to lose oneself, to escape the reality of daily life.

Druid Craft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections
Haindl Tarot, created by Hermann Haindl, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might be interested in my e-book, Astrology in Tarot

Saturday 10 March 2018

Pisces in the Minor Arcana: The Ten of Cups

The Ten of Cups, in the astrological correspondence system I follow, is linked to Mars in Pisces, and the final third of Pisces (10th-19th March). 

First of all, what qualities does Mars bring to Pisces?  Fire and Water... Mars is assertive and determined, and takes the initiative – so in Pisces, we could be looking for assertiveness in terms of ideals or ideology. Assertive, but at the same time compassionate and kind.  The initiative and drive we associate with Mars will be softened by the sensitivity of Pisces.  Desires and dreams are achieved by following instinct, or those moments of inspiration. The shadow side of this could manifest in emotional vulnerability.
10 of Cups (trimmed):
© Crowley Thoth Tarot

And in the Ten of Cups?  I’m going to start with the Thoth deck, because – being a visual person – I like to see the astrological symbolism in the card’s image! If you look carefully at the cups, you can see that the handles are actually rams’ horns, giving us the Mars (through its rulership of Aries) connection. Gerd Ziegler writes, in his Tarot: Mirror of the Soul (published by Weber Books, 1998), Mars in Pisces provides “the apparently fragile being with the decisiveness needed to bring forth into the outer world the beauty which it holds within.”  So we have the drive of Mars, but not the drama of Aries – instead, Pisces allows those qualities to gently radiate. 

Ten of Cups (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
That helps me to see the more permanent sense of contentment that we’ve come to associate with the Ten of Cups – as opposed to the moment of ‘bliss’ of the Nine.  With the Ten, we have a sense of completion – emotional fulfilment in relationships, be they romantic, familial, platonic.  To achieve and maintain this sense of fulfilment (Crowley used the word ‘satiety’ to describe this card), we need the effort and drive of Mars, allowing us to turn our dreams into reality, rather than let them stay a Piscean vision. But we still have that Piscean flow (Mutable Water) of feeling running through the card – symbolized in the Sharman-Burke/Caselli image (from the Beginners Guide to the Tarot) by the river off to the side, as well as the contentment represented by the happy family.

Ten of Vessels (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
The Wildwood shows that unconstrained happiness – compare it to the Saturn in Pisces Eight of Vessels. In the Eight, the water is flowing but it’s being channelled – a structure has been imposed on the flow. In the Ten, there’s no such constraint – the water is in free-fall, splashing, full-on Mars flow!

Beginner’s Guide to the 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 U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might be interested in my e-book, Astrology in Tarot.

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Pisces in the Minor Arcana: The Nine of Cups

9 of Cups (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
Today we move on to the Nine of Cups, which - in the system I use - is linked to Jupiter in Pisces, as well as the  middle third of Pisces (28th February to 9th March, roughly).  Jupiter is the ruler of Pisces, so already we have a sense of how this might play out! Jupiter, the ‘Greater Benefic’, expansive, generous, jovial... and in Pisces, described so well by William Blake’s “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom" (from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell). Jupiter in Pisces is compassionate and sensitive, and has great faith or trust in a higher power (and the self).  It wants to grow by living according to its ideals – it’s high-minded, yet its generosity of spirit makes it sympathetic to everyone and everything.

9 of Cups (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
Jupiter’s expansiveness gives rise to overflowing watery emotions, symbolized in the Sharman-Bruke/Caselli version of the card by the fountains, or the overflowing cups in the Crowley Thoth and Wildwood decks. In Pisces, it’s all about bliss, deep joy, overflowing love... without restrictions.  Mutable Water.

It’s the benevolence of Jupiter, the all-expansiveness,  that gives the Wildwood’s Nine of Vessels its keyword ‘generosity’. The emotions are nourished, the senses are satisfied (symbolized by the spread of food and the embracing couple depicted in the Sharman-Caselli card) – it’s a time for indulging, to enjoy relationships.  Often referred to as the ‘wish card’, the Nine of Cups can represents dream or wishes coming true and, through Jupiter in Pisces, the sense of ‘blessedness’ that comes from deep-rooted, absolute joy.

9 of Vessels (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
The shadow side of Jupiter in Pisces, and the Nine of Cups, is the tendency towards escapism, and losing focus. Not that escapism is always a bad thing, but Jupiter takes things to excess, so what might be healthy escapism runs the risk of becoming an addiction. It could be difficult to deal with the outpouring of emotions, to the point where the emotions end up becoming blocked for fear of the consequences. 

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might be interested in my e-book, Astrology in Tarot, now available from Amazon.

Beginner’s Guide to the 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 U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Friday 2 March 2018

Virgo Full Moon

In the early hours of the morning (00:51 UT here in the UK), the Moon was exactly opposite the Sun in the sky – meaning it was a Full Moon.  If you’re interested in the details, the Moon was at 11°23 Virgo opposing the Sun in Pisces.

At Full Moon we look back at what progress we’ve made since the New Moon (that amazing Lunar Eclipse on February 15th!). What did we set in motion then? That New Moon was in Aquarius so perhaps we were thinking about starting something original – exploring an unorthodox or unconventional approach to a new project. 

We’ve reached the peak of that now, with this Full Moon.   It’s time to look back and assess the strengths and flaws of our intentions.  If we think of the Full Moon as a mirror (the Moon reflects the light of the Sun), we may ‘see the light’ as to how to make the most of the virtues (Virgo) of our plans.  The challenge, on this Virgo-Pisces axis, is to find a way to integrate judgment and compassion. 

It’s also worth thinking back 6 months or so, to the Virgo New Moon, back in September 2017 (on the 20th).  What were your intentions then?  Perhaps you were setting new work routines in place, or starting a new fitness regime? Anything to do with your daily routines and what keeps you healthy – be it in mind, body, or spirit.

Monday 26 February 2018

Pisces in the 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 (so this year, the 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.

Eight of Cups (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
So how might this play out in the Eight of Cups?  Let’s start with a relatively ‘traditional’ depiction of the Eight of Cups – as illustrated by the Sharman-Burke/Caselli (Beginners Guide to the Tarot) deck. Here we see a figure walking away from eight cups, neatly and carefully stacked.  Despite the care taken to place the cups in this pattern, the figure is abandoning them because they no longer provide the emotional security needed.  Notice the waning 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. But ‘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). Otherwise, stagnation looms.

Eight of Cups (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
Stagnation is the theme of the Eight of Cups in the Thoth deck, showing us the other side of the coin, so to speak.  Here we see standing water, unmoving, at risk of becoming stagnant without the flow of fresh water to refresh the situation.  Saturn represents the needs to set some new limits, to learn to say ‘no’, to walk away from a situation or relationship – something that’s close to the heart - that’s no longer working, despite all the time and effort that’s been put into it. Things have run their course, the well is dry; it’s time to move on. Saturn in Pisces speaks of the need to change old patterns so that we don’t become stuck in an emotional rut, or stagnate.

Eight of Vessels (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
The Wildwood Tarot wasn't created with astrology in mind, but I like to look at it to see if there's any connections in the imagery.  In the Eight of Vessels we see water flowing freely - but is it? The rocks place boundaries on the water, collecting it in pools before channelling it between rocks to keep it moving! So yes, Saturn in Pisces works here...

Eight of Cups (trimmed):
© Margarete Petersen Tarot
In Margarete Petersen’s Eight of Cups, the frame around the image alone gives us a sense of structure being imposed, something being restricted.  Within the frame, an upside-down head is submerged in the deep blue sea. A stream of lighter blue emanates from it up to the surface – air rising to the surface and on up into the atmosphere (as I see it!). Again, the idea of being trapped in the depths of something that feels out of our control, yet we find a way to breathe and draw in air from beyond the barrier that holds us in this ‘hemmed-in’ state/place. And if we don’t? Indolence, or a sense of stagnation, could set in.

Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books, 2004.
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections