Slow Holler, for healing and waking up

I’ve been messing around with various potential posts for this blog because there are so many things happening inside me that are not getting written down anywhere. My tarot slump has continued, but two things happened yesterday that have rekindled my faith that tarot can help me with the changes that we are facing on Earth right now.

Yesterday morning, I found this post by Siobhan Rene on Little Red Tarot: Face Up Judgement: Trumpets, Grief, and Getting Woke. Siobhan drops some serious wisdom about the Judgement card and its relationship to waking up.

The Judgement card heralds a cycle of sleeping consciousness, its awakening, and resistance to the revelation. Nothing is static. No one arrives and stays woke forever to all things. No one sleeps forever. At least not without a ton of grief.  We regularly face opportunities to awaken or resist reality again and again. The direction we move in the cycle depends on our willingness to wake up or our commitment to bury our heads in the sand.

Please go read this beautiful post. It puts so much stuff that I’ve been thinking and feeling lately into an entirely new context. I’m a proponent of the work of Joanna Macy, who points out that the grief we feel for the world–which others may try to privatize and pathologize as personal neurosis–is actually proof that we are inseparable from the world. When we hear the trumpet calling us to awaken from the sleep of distraction and separation, we actually awaken to several things all at once: our love and gratitude for the world, our grief at its destruction, the interconnection of all beings and things, and the need to take action.

As Siobhan points out, we go through cycles of sleep and awakening–it’s not true that we sleep forever or wake up once and for all. Instead, waking up is something that we choose over and over, whether it’s a self-prompted awakening from within, or a trumpet call from without. (And yes, I am deliberately playing on the fact that trump is embedded in trumpet.) In either case, we have a choice to either move toward waking up or to fall back asleep. I’ll also add here that what is usually translated as “enlightenment” or “awakening” in Buddhism is in many schools not seen as a permanent state. Zen in particular, which I study, talks about awakening as a series of experiences both sudden and gradual.

slow holler 2.jpgAnyway, I was pondering all of this when a package arrived at my house well after dark. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, the Slow Holler deck!

In some ways, it’s hard to even believe that I now hold this deck in my hands. I wrote my first blog post about it back in March of 2015–over a year and a half ago. The creators ran a great Kickstarter campaign, keeping us all apprised of updates as the deck has progressed, and shipping it out on schedule.

slow holler 1.jpgAlready, I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this deck, but I think it will be a while before I write a review. Let’s just say that, in working with the Slow Holler Tarot, I have felt more supported and healed by the tarot than I have in months. I knew the deck was going to arrive soon and kind of wistfully thought that it might pull me out of my tarot slump, but I did not anticipate that it would be this powerful. The deck is true to its promise of diversity of all kinds, but I think what is making the biggest impression on me now is its orientation toward the collective. The messages behind the Slow Holler Tarot are about sustaining yourself by sustaining others, and vice versa. It’s clearly a deck that has been created by people who know the challenges and rewards of collective action.

It’s time for me to wake up and lean in–to keep waking up and leaning in–and the Slow Holler Tarot has offered itself as a compass.

awakening.jpg

Mid-Summer Check-In

luckLately, I have needed to put my feet in the water. Lately, my life has been feeling so stagnant and stifled and I need to experience the flow of the river. Still no job, but I haven’t been looking for one. I’ve felt like something needs to stay on hold. Yes, I’m doing volunteer work–building my portfolio, I tell people, to ward off suspicions (in others and myself) that I’m just not doing enough, or that I’m being perverse or irresponsible.

But I have never done anything irresponsible in my entire life. Not one single thing. I make good decisions, I have my shit together. How would I have gone from the 17 year old from a working-class background and a 2.8 high school GPA to a 30 year old with a Ph.D. if I didn’t seriously have my shit together? Well, I’ve had lots of luck and privilege too, don’t I know it.

So mostly, I stay in. I knit, I read. I’ve begun a journaling practice again after letting it go for at least a year. I’ve been doing asana yoga and thinking about shadow work and soul work.

The river near me goes through many widths and depths as it winds through the city, but my favorite place is where it’s wide, fast-flowing, and shallow. People regularly struggle to get kayaks and canoes through certain spots, often having to get out in mid-calf high water to carry them to deeper areas. This summer, I have realized that getting out into nature alone must be a priority for me, and right now the river is calling.

I’ve found so much life in the fast-rushing shallows–mussels, crayfish, minnows, dragonflies and damselflies, ducks, geese. I saw an osprey diving for fish, and a painted turtle digging her nest. I sit quietly and watch; or wade slowly and turn the river stones over with curiosity and trepidation. I take my cards, too.

In May, I spent 10 days in an intensive with Joanna Macy, which is an experience I will be grateful for for the rest of my life. I brought my Mary-el with me, and while I did almost no readings for myself, I got the chance to do several readings for other people, and news of my crazy-ass tarot deck spread like wildfire among the participants. People saw and recognized the depth of Mary-el immediately.

After returning, however, I didn’t touch my cards for a week or two. I don’t know why–it just didn’t feel right. When I began doing readings for myself again, they were mostly focused around the circle teachings of the four directions. I’m still not sure what I’m doing with that, but I may write about it in the future.

I’ve been feeling the closest to my nature-centered decks: the Wildwood Tarot, the Wild Unknown Tarot, the Druid Animal Oracle, the Earthbound Oracle. 20160630_150041I feel like my practice is shifting and deepening somehow. I’m trying to take a more intuitive turn, but it’s also been hit or miss. I think my problem is that I want to do bigger spreads (especially spreads I’m just making up on the fly) and it’s not really clicking with me. I’m sort of groping my way to a more body-centered, nature-centered way of card reading.

Looking at my site traffic (which was bizarrely high in May and nearly as high in June, despite the fact that I published almost nothing), I see that a lot of people are landing here looking for info about the Wooden Tarot. I finished the minors months ago, but looking at the majors will take more time. I haven’t even begun with them yet, to be completely honest. I tried to start soon after I finished the minors, but something just wasn’t clicking. I didn’t feel like I could find a way into them. That may begin to loosen up and change a little bit, but I imagine it will be a while before posts start going up.

Today I made up a small daily spread that may be useful to some. Right now, all of my questions are about finding my place in the world–that is, my true place. It’s a much bigger question than getting a job; it has to do with what I was born to do, and I don’t know. Remember how my word for 2016 was UNKNOWN? Well, I’m finally making it into the unknown. It may be irresponsible, perhaps, but I don’t to get a new job–a new set of responsibilities and identities, a new social scene–until I dwell in this place of unknowing a little longer. Anyway, this spread is a version of the questions that I’m asking myself all the time nowadays, so here goes.

  1. Today’s theme, or most important feature
  2. What do I need?
  3. What needs me?

I hope you find it useful; if you do, let me know.

I just felt the impulse to apologize for all this navel-gazing, but you know, I’m not going to apologize. It’s part of what I need, and it’s part of what the world needs from me.

2016 Part 2: Gathering In

A happy New Year’s Eve to you. Things have been quiet here because of the holiday craziness, which has finally died down. (Or rather, it died down a few days ago and I’m just now recovering.) A couple of weeks ago, I posted my massive Year Ahead Spread for 2016. While it is a predictive (i.e. fortune telling) spread, I’m not a predictive reader, so I did it for fun and also because whether it predicts the future or not, it has given me a broad range of things that could happen, which is important to think about.

When I did that spread, I chose a card each from the Wild Unknown deck and the Earthbound Oracle for the theme of the year ahead, and got the Emperor and Failure. Yup. I don’t know about Failure, but we’ll get back to the Emperor in a second.

After I did that spread, I downloaded and filled out Susannah Conway’s workbook Unravelling the Year Ahead (last year’s version of this workbook, by the way, is the reason why I got back into tarot.) Part of her method for helping people plan the year ahead is to choose a word that will set the theme. Last year, my word was OPEN, because I really felt like I needed to open myself to new experiences and others. This year, I chose the word UNKNOWN because I  have now graduated and am switching careers, so my life is one giant unknown. I believe that embracing what is uncomfortable or uncertain is a vital part of spiritual practice, so my hope is that UNKNOWN will help me not only deal with uncertainties in my life, but also cultivate curiosity about things that I think I know. (Being a know-it-all is one of my biggest–and most tiresome–habit energies.)

Inspired by Unravelling the Year Ahead, which has a page for you to mediate on the four elements of your life and how you’d like to cultivate them (air/intellect, water/relationships & self-love, earth/possessions & connection to nature, and fire/creativity) I decided to create a year ahead spread that involved the four elements. And I added a fifth, spirit, just for fun. I never actually work with this element in my tarot practice, but I know a lot of people do. Then I added four cards about your direction and personal power–not predicting what will happen from the outside, but the things that help you though any situation, not matter how unpredictable. Finally, the last optional card is to choose a theme for the year ahead, or reflect upon one you’ve chosen.

The Gathering In Spread

Gathering In spread.jpg

This spread could be used for a new year (either a calendar year or a new birthday year) or the pieces of it could be split off and used for different purposes. The Gathering part of the spread could be used anywhere, anytime. It’s the bringing together of your resources and personal power–how to stay on track, what your personal power is, how do deal with the things, as they say, that you cannot change, and how to take care of yourself. For mine, I used the Wild Unknown Tarot (fitting for the theme, eh?)

1-5: The Elements

1: Fire This is the realm of creativity. What is the theme of your creative life for the coming year?
2: Air Air is intellect–how should you be thinking about things, how do beliefs or knowledge help or hinder you?
3: Earth Possessions, finances, your body, your environment–anything tangible. What role do these play in your life the coming year? How should you work with them?
4: Water Emotions and relationships: what’s the theme for this year?
5: Spirit What is the tenor of your spiritual life? Even if you are an atheist, what’s the role of your connection to others in your life?

6-9: Gathering

6: What is my guiding light? This is the lighthouse beacon. It calls you back when you get off course; it provides guidance in times of darkness or confusion.
7: What is my personal power? What is that place of untouchable power in you–the thing that others can’t break, the thing that only you can access?
8: How do I deal with things that are out of my control? While we use our personal power to guide our selves, the truth is that control over people or events doesn’t exist. From a recalcitrant two-year-old to someone rear-ending you to the politicians signing off on oppressive legislation, no matter how many protests were had, sometimes we can’t control things. But how do we deal with them?
9: How do I take care of myself? Let’s remember to make this a priority.

(Optional) 10: What is ________? (Word, theme, card of the year, etc.)

When drawing these cards, I decided to work with upright cards only. Those who read this blog know that I work with reversals most of the time, but for big, archetypal energy stuff like this, I prefer to just stick with upright cards. As I turned each card over, I was amazed at what I drew:

Gathering

I wrote my findings in the back of my 2016 planner, so I could flip back to them whenever I feel the need.

1 Fire of this year: 9 of Cups. Spiritually driven and creatively fulfilled by things that make me emotionally fulfilled.

2 Air of this year: The Star. Intellectually at my best when I am optimistic and focus on hope, larger lessons, and deeper meanings.

3 Earth of this Year: Daughter of Cups. Striving for a relationship with money and possessions that fosters emotional simplicity and gratitude.

4 Water of this Year: 8 of Cups. Walking away from things that are not emotionally fulfilling. Knowing when to move on.

5 Spirit of this Year: The Magician. My practice is whole-hearted and combines all elements of myself. Powerful because balanced.

6 My Guiding Light: The Sun. At this point, I have nothing to lose by pursuing what makes me happy.

7 My Personal Power: 9 of Wands. Sticking to my values and principles. This is the card of personal power. I have it!

8 How to respond to what I can’t control: 7 of Pentacles. Take a moment to remember that this is a small step in a larger process. Overall, progress with happen.

9 How to take care of myself: 3 of Cups. Do not isolate! Seek friends and lovers for comfort.

10 What is UNKNOWN? The Emperor. My encounters with institutions, organizations, and people in places of power.

If you’ll remember, the Emperor was the yearly theme card that I drew in my Year Ahead Spread. I did that spread before Susannah had made Unravelling the Year Ahead available and before I had even begun to think about picking a word. And yet–my yearly theme and my word of the year collide. This is why, when I want to get all super-rational about tarot and say it’s just completely random and it only works because of the things we project onto the cards, I pause. There is something amazing about opening ourselves up to chance on a daily basis, because stuff like this happens.

Overall, I feel empowered by this spread. Since it’s now in the back of my 2016 planner, I hope to return to it periodically, especially when things get rough. And I will keep my eye out for the Emperor since he showed up in critical places in both of my New Year’s spreads.

If you use this spread for the beginning of 2016, or for any other turning point in your life, please let me know how it went!

 

2016 Part 1: The Year Ahead Spread

Year Ahead Spreads are quite common in the tarot world–the idea is that you draw one card for each month, or some variation thereof, and perhaps also a card signifying the overall theme of the year. From this reading, you will be able to predict or plan for the coming year.

Now, I am not a predictive tarot reader, meaning that I don’t use tarot to predict the future or think that it can do a particularly good job of doing so in many cases. (That is, it can’t “predict” things that the querent doesn’t already intuitively know.) While tarot can predict the outcomes of certain events based on our habitual patterns and known factors of a situation, this is more like a meteorologist predicting the weather than anything else. And when I said “tarot can predict” in that last sentence, I meant, “tarot can open up a space for understanding.”

And yet, last week I decided that I wanted to do a year ahead spread. And I’d out do myself (and everyone else) by drawing THREE cards for each month plus an oracle card! That’s right–we’re talking a 50 card spread here; definitely the largest I’ve ever done. I chose the Wild Unknown Tarot and the Earthbound Oracle because they are both rich in meaning but simple in imagery.  I imagine that doing a spread this large with very visually complex decks could get pretty overwhelming. I also went through both of those decks and turned all the cards upright. (With a 50 card spread, there’s enough going on without the added complications of reversed cards.)

So here’s what I got:

year ahead full.jpg

Now, if you look closely in the center, you can see my two yearly theme cards: The Emperor and Failure. AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! Yes. The Emperor and FAILURE. With, like, a flaming moth and everything. Who would be happy turning these cards over? I mean, it could be worse–I could have gotten the Tower or the 10 of Swords or something, but these are pretty two intense cards.

I am not going to go into all the details of this spread because it would take forever and you don’t want to read them. (I am thinking about doing a monthly post using these draws, though. We’ll see.) But I had a ton of fun with this reading: counting courts vs pips vs majors, seeing how the elements break down, following the thread of each suit through the months and seeing what stories it creates, and figuring out a narrative for the oracle cards.

Following the suits through the months was the best way to make sense of all this information. For instance, from March to July, there is a Pentacles card for each month: Six, Eight, Son, Two, and Four. This narrative would suggest that in these months I will not lose financial stability, but I will need to work to maintain it (Eight and Son), that I will be faced with some choices surrounding money, like perhaps a new job and new benefits package (Two), and I will reach financial stability (Four) by July. After that, Pentacles basically peace out for the rest of the year, with the exception of the Ten in November, suggesting that I will be in a place of abundance by the end of 2016.

A long Cups narrative picks up just when the Pentacles are leaving off, with a Cups card in each month from June to November: Mother, Five, Seven, Three, and Nine. The Five and the Seven suggest that around the time I’m gaining financial stability, there’s some emotional upheaval going on–perhaps because I’ve had to move for my new job and I’m sad at leaving my old home behind (Five.) Perhaps I will encounter a new group of people and won’t know quite who to trust at first (Seven.) The month that the Seven is in, September, also contains The Devil and the Mother of Wands, as well as the oracle card Resistance. This suggests to me that I may actually fall prey to some sort of emotional temptation and will have to stay on my toes if I want to keep on course. Overall, however, the narrative ends happily with the Three in October and the Nine in November–that I will be able to find a new group of friends and figure out how to keep in touch with the old ones.

OK, I’ve bored you with this stuff long enough. Yes, it’s fun! I had so much fun doing it, but the question is: do I believe this is what the future holds? I’d love it if this were so, but I’m pretty skeptical of the idea that some cards I drew on an evening in December 2015 can predict every twist and turn of my life for the next year. Nonetheless, putting this narrative together was useful because it reminded me of a lot of basic things it’s easy to forget: yes, finding a new job is probably going to take a lot of work and involve some uncertainty. Yes, moving away is a big possibility and that entails grief as well as new beginnings. Yes, entering a new social circle is going to involve uncertainty and a lot of ego, as well as a lot of joy.

But honestly, it’s the Emperor + Failure that makes it. If as my yearly theme I’d gotten Fluffy Bunnies + Sugardoodlins, this spread wouldn’t have been very useful. The Emperor reminds me of what I’m up against: applying for jobs, dealing with health insurance, moving all our stuff from one place to another, renting or buying a home. Almost nothing is certain for the coming year, except one thing: I am going to be dealing with institutional structures and people in positions of power A LOT. And not only that, but I am bound to screw up a lot of stuff along the way because I’ve never done most of these things before. In the midst of the diversity of things happening in the monthly card draws, Failure reminds me that failing is a necessary part of the process. That I don’t deal with the Emperor by never failing, but by learning from my mistakes. What a beautiful and necessary message for the year to come.

Since I’m not a predictive tarot reader, I don’t think of the Year Ahead Spread as actually predicting what will come in the following year. I do think, however, that it’s a great way of entertaining and preparing for the range of possible things that could happen. I want to check in with this spread periodically to see if it was “right” about anything, but that’s for fun more than anything. Whether it comes true or not, the purpose of doing this spread was not to predict my future, but to leave me feeling empowered. I believe that’s the purpose of tarot, anyway, and it did indeed succeed.

Stay tuned for a significant (and frankly, sort of creepy) reappearance of the Emperor in my actual, non-predictive Gathering spread for 2016.