Card of the Day: Six of Cups

Six of Wands from the Shadowscapes tarot.
Six of Wands from the Shadowscapes tarot.

I woke up sad. Yesterday was a tough day, and I didn’t sleep much – I went to bed still hanging, and I woke up exhausted. I want some encouragement. I want some reassurance. I want to know that things will be okay, and I want to know that the definition of “okay” will include me and my springtime love reunited, and I want that reunion to be soon – not as long, this time, between hugs. There are just a lot of questions begging for answers and not a lot of space to be present in the now. I woke up with all that weighing heavy on my heart.

And I know that I can’t make his choices for him. And I know that I can’t ignore my own choices while I wait. So I got up, instead of doing my card of the day draw in bed like I often do. I checked my social media sites to see if there was anything, any post or hint or flicker of hope. There was not. I sat down on the couch and took a bit of time with this.

I got out my peacock ore – it’s so beautiful and hopeful. I chose Middle Pillar and Anthelion from my Twilight Alchemy Lab oils. Middle Pillar to help “find your center, recover and maintain internal balance” and Anthelion to “[d]rive off despair and grief, and enable you to find hope and joy in life again.” A drop of Middle Pillar on my left hand, and a drop of Anthelion on my right, and then I rubbed them together and smelled the sharp, resiny, warm scent and then I shuffled my cards, and then I drew.

The Six of Cups.

It feels like such a hopeful, peaceful, encouraging card. She’s hosting a tea party, with her red sash (and me, still clinging to the idea of the red string of fate, and hoping our hearts are tied together). She looks like me, when I was little. And the card is so balanced. There’s water in the stream, and fire in the lanterns, and earth sending up those strong trees, and the calm blue air. And there’s abundance, too. There’s not one or two fish in that stream, there’s a wealth. There are mushrooms and trees and grasses, dryads and all sorts of fae folk, and there’s her stuffed animals – her imagination bringing even more life to the moment.

And there’s that one teacup, down there by the stream. And I think, that’s for my love. That’s space at my table, and he can join whenever he’s ready, but I can keep pouring tea while I wait. There can be holding on and holding space and being open, without being rigid and joyless and full of despair. That’s what I got from the card when I first saw it.

The companion book says:

The Six of Cups is a reminder of childhood innocence, good intentions, noble impulses, simple joys and pleasures. It is not meant to be overly sentimental, but more an urging to remember the open-mindedness of a child’s perspective, and to push back the narrowness that folds in on you over time, with the complexities of life and responsibility.

I get a lot of “be child-like” cards, it seems. And they resonate for me. There was something magical about child-me. She was fae and hopeful and generous and loving and I loved her, and I lost a lot of her to depression and anxiety and trauma. Or, not lost. It’s all still there. I’m just in the process of rediscovering and reclaiming it.

I have this vivid memory from the week before I left my husband. I had the place I was moving to already arranged, and everything was done. We were in the car. I forget what was said, but I laughed, and he said, “I will always miss you. There’s nobody else like you, the way you can be so much like a child, in a good way.”

It was a really generous, loving moment in a really difficult time for both of us. There was a lot of grief and a lot of hurt. But that was a gift. The way he saw the spark in me and named it and honoured it. That was a gift. I am grateful for it.

The Six of Cups tells me that I will be okay. That the strong, resilient child I was is still there, and she has come through so much. She will come through this too. She’ll do it with tea and with friends and with creativity and with joy.

I have a deep well of sadness in my soul. Dark depths of grief. And it is all present in this moment, my longing and my homesickness for my love and the intense feeling that this separation is wrong on a soul-deep level, that when we are together it is right. But I can’t make that happen. I can’t. I can’t summon him to the cup. I don’t have that power and I don’t want it. It has to be him. It has to be his choice.

There’s another side to the well of sadness in me. There’s the wide capacity for joy. That’s present too, if I let it be.

Leave the cup for him, he does have a place at this table. But pour the tea for myself and my friends and my other lovers in the meantime.

Card of the Day: The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man from Stephanie Law's Shadowscapes tarot.
The Hanged Man from Stephanie Law’s Shadowscapes tarot.

Like with yesterday’s card of the day, I am having some capital-f Feelings about this.

The Hanged Man.

Stuck. Powerless. My thoughts about the trope are separate, I realize, from my thoughts about the card. The card itself is beautiful, even hopeful. The little fae creature in front of his face looks loving and positive, almost as if she is about to boop him on the nose. The dryads look worried, sad, but the man himself looks peaceful. Almost like he is mid-dive, rather than suspended.

The purples and browns are calming, and the ankh hanging from a red thread in the top corner… I have feelings about that too. About red threads, and soul mates, and life. Red threads.

I’m working on the week 2 exercises now, the suits and elements of the minor arcana. So I notice that he’s hanging from a wand. From the fire and action that he will eventually take? Or the action he is suspending in order to surrender to this moment?

Last night when I did my week 1 weekly reading – The Reader’s Reading, which I’ll write up later today – the card in the “About you in general: what is your most important characteristic” was The Hanged Man. I had a long, long moment with that. It resonates. And that… hmm. I don’t want it to. But it does. Metaphor, metaphor, metaphor. Fuck you, accurate metaphor.

From the Shadowscapes companion book:

Letting go and surrendering to experience and emotional release. Accepting what is, and giving up control, reversing your view of the world and seeing things in a new light. Suspending action. Sacrifice.

Letting go and surrendering to experience and emotional release. Accepting what is, and giving up control. That does mark my entire journey right now – my effort to let go, to let whatever it is be what it is, to accept it, to give up control (whether it is in my controlling codependent behaviour or in my desire to control the outcome of what my springtime love will eventually do – giving up all those elements of control that are always already illusory. Illusory, but comforting. Fuck, so comforting. The Hanged Man does not look comfortable.)

I also purchased Rachel Pollack’s book Tarot Wisdom, Spiritual Teachings and Deeper Meanings and she writes that a fundamental meaning of the Hanged Man is:

to seem, at least, upside down, the wrong way around.

To others (who think that my holding on and holding the door open to my love is causing me pain, or who think that my spiritual journey is too woo-tastic, or whatever) but for me, now, mostly to myself. Because I think all that. Because I think this is all stupid bullshit and I should close the door on him and on this and fuck all this challenging work. I was just fine as a caterpillar. I don’t need to be a butterfly or moth or whatever I’ll be at the end of this. Fuck it all! It hurts! It’s hard! It hurts. It’s hard.

Rachel Pollack writes:

[M]any modern Tarot readers assume a negative meaning for the Hanged Man… being stuck, hung up, a painful sacrifice. To be honest, this surprises me, for I’ve always seen this card as a kind of liberation of the spirit. …

The Hanged Man… shows us at a stage where we can glimpse the great truths. We begin to understand, not just conceptually but with genuine knowing….

And that is why I’m still doing this.

That red thread, and my belief that I am not done with my springtime love, that we have more to explore together, and that the door needs to stay open in order for that to happen.

And the sense of readiness. The feeling that I am on this path right now because I’m ready to be on this path right now. I am doing this because I am ready to do this. I am ready to let go of old habits that no longer serve me. I am ready to let go of my need to control. I am ready to let go of my codependency, my old pains and traumas. I am ready. I am here because I am ready.

Yes, it sucks.

Yes, it’s hard.

Yes, it feels upside down and I hate it and I struggle with it and I don’t know how much longer I can do it for and I want to get down off this fucking tree, holy fuck, I hate this! Yes.

But also…

Yes, it’s amazing.

Yes, it’s easy, it’s right.

Yes, sometimes I stop struggle, call truce with myself, and see everything shifted and beautiful.

Yes.

I love this, yes. Yes. Yes.

I’m not stuck. I’m growing.

And this, too. The Hanged Man is in a position very much like a caterpillar cocooned and ready for metamorphosis. And that’s a metaphor I’ve been using for myself for weeks now. So.

Onward, with grace and ease.

Card of the Day: Ten of Wands

Ten of Wands, from the Shadowscapes deck.
Ten of Wands, from the Shadowscapes deck.

I have a lot of feelings about today’s card of the day draw. A lot. A lot.

When I first drew the Ten of Wands, and sat with the card, I felt such a strong resonance and sense of encouragement. My initial thought was that this card means “if you do the work, it will be okay.” She’s building that whole beautiful city up there! It’s gorgeous. All those little people, they’re living in such a lovely space because she’s supporting them. (Dude, I can’t even type this shit without recognizing how bad it is… because, what is she getting from that??? Where are her needs being met?)

I saw myself in the Ten of Wands, and I thought, yeah. The world should be on my back, because I can support it and then everything will be lovely and good and glowing and look at that! That’s right.

And then I read the companion book about it.

This dryad bears the weight of what seems to be a miniature world upon her back. Her branches are weighed down, bent beneath the heavy structures. The support and welcome of the beings who inhabit those towers are hers to nourish with the flow of life’s safe through her branches and leaves. … But the gray cold seeps into her roots, and it is a hard burden to bear. She pushes and strains upwards, reaches towards the sun for the fire that can help to sustain through dark times.

Overextending, taking on far too much, burdened with overwhelming responsibility, being held accountable, doing things the hard way. Perhaps those little beings who live among her branches do no need the constant watchfulness and nourishment that she believes must be her duty.

So.

I struggle with codependency. The way I enact my codependent tendencies is to prioritize other people’s well-being over my own, to give more than I can afford to give, to pay closer attention to others’ needs than to my own and to be most comfortable when I am meeting other people’s needs rather than meeting my own. Lest that sound like a good thing – “oh, boo hoo, you’re kind and generous and empathetic” – it’s not. Because I don’t do it to be kind or generous or because I’m empathetic (I am all of those things, I think. But when I’m acting out of codependency those positive traits get twisted.) When I’m acting out of codependency – out of fear – I do those things because I am trying to control the situation. I am trying to make sure that I won’t be abandoned. I am trying to make myself indispensable so that I won’t be dispensed with. I am trying to manipulate my friends and lovers into needing me.

It’s all about need.

It’s all about wanting to know that I’m needed, because you can’t get rid of something you need.

But that’s bad. It’s bad on so many levels. (And it’s also not true. The sense of control is false.)

It’s disrespectful of my friends and lovers. It’s disrespectful of myself. It treats the people that I love as incompetent and it treats my needs as irrelevant.

That little city that the dryad is holding on her back in the card – there’s nowhere else for those little beings to go. That city is contained to her branches. And if I am honest, there is a dark part of me that wants that. That is willing to make that trade. I will give you every drop of my life, but you have to need me. You have to need me. I need to be needed.

Yuck.

Admitting it is so gross.

But as I work through this codependency stuff, and learn how to observe my motivations for behaviours and when I’m acting out of fear, pause and maybe choose another action, and when I’m acting out of my generous and empathetic nature without the strings attached, celebrate those moments… as I work through this, I’m also working with Brenè Brown’s research and insight into shame resiliency and vulnerability. So even though admitting this feels gross, I can do it. Because I don’t have to be ashamed of these maladaptive patterns, I can just choose to see them, turn a compassionate eye inward, accept that these behaviours, at one point, kept me safe, and let them go.

She can put that city down.

She can let it put down roots for itself, and she can stand up. She can stretch. She can trust that those little beings she loves so much will choose to stay close, and that if they don’t, that’s still okay. She can offer help without offering herself. She doesn’t have to always do it the hard way, she doesn’t have to always drain herself, overextend herself, hurt herself.

It doesn’t have to be so codependent.

(Edited to add a link to this post – More Joy, Less Shame – Ten of Wands from Little Red Tarot. Yes! Yes. More joy, less shame. Yes!)

Alternative Tarot Course Week 1, exercise 1

(This is copied from the downloadable form that I got with the course. You can sign up for the course here, and so far I would highly recommend it.)

The Alternative Tarot Course

Week 1: What is tarot?

I first came across tarot when…

I don’t honestly remember. It’s one of those background awareness things, like palm reading and roasting a chicken, that I don’t really remember initially coming across. It’s such a common part of popular culture.

The reason I want to learn tarot is…

Because I have been struggling significantly in the last little while, and I feel like I really need some ritual, and some externalization of my inner turmoil, and some help focusing and figuring myself out. It also feels like something that can become an important part of my spiritual practice, and I’m looking forward to that.

Here’s how I feel about learning tarot in three words:

Excited, ambivalent, awkward.

Tarot’s main purpose (for me) is…

Providing a physical, emotional and mental space for looking at challenges from different angles, and for seeing myself and my situation with new perspectives, and as a way to engage mindfully with myself and the world around me, and the challenges that I’m facing. Tarot has also been hugely helpful for me in interrupting anxiety spirals and panic attacks, because it forces me to slow down, think through what I’m actually anxious about in order to ask the question, and look at the situation with a bit of calm observation as I read the cards.

Here are some things I don’t believe about tarot:

I don’t believe tarot is magic. (I don’t believe in magic, but I do believe in metaphor.) I don’t believe it can predict the future or set a path.

I think the most important qualities for a tarot reader are:

Compassionate interpretation, and a willingness to sit with uncomfortable realizations.

In learning tarot, I hope to…

Learn more about myself, and become more comfortable with the things I can’t control. To learn how to “allow, allow, allow” and to welcome ease and grace into my life. To become more observant, and more mindful in my actions.

I think my main challenges will be…

Honestly, I think my main challenge will be that I want a specific future for myself and I want to read that future into each spread. My biggest challenge will be remaining open to what is, rather than trying to force my situation to be something that it isn’t.

But I will try to overcome them by…

Being mindful of this desire, and trying to gently let go when I notice myself clinging tightly.

Card of the Day: Knight of Wands

Knight of Wands

I’ve started the Little Red Tarot Alternative Tarot Reading eight-week course, so I’ll be doing a card of the day every day (rather than my “most days” of the last few weeks) and blogging about it. It’s a little intimidating. What if I get the interpretation wrong? What if I prove that I’m a failure? These fears are why I don’t submit my writing to be published, why I have never seriously pursued a creative career.

So, when I look at the Knight of Wands, all confidence and self-assuredness, I think – that’s not me. Except for a tiny voice in the back of my head that says – it’s a little bit me.

I love the colours on this card (to be honest, this entire deck just brings me incredible joy – it’s such a gentle, calming, encouraging deck). The purples and greens of the ground, and the red of the foxes, and the shadows and smudged sky. I love it. It’s majestic.

The companion book says, about the Knight of Wands:

The Knight of Wands indicates change and a progression towards a goal. … The knight is on a journey for adventure. Excitement flows along his trail. He does not necessarily seek it, but his presence invariably spurs rivalry and conflict, perhaps because of his cocky and assured attitude and self-confidence. Sometimes his aggressive nature can be seen as being overconfident, too impetuous. He is a knight with a blazing lion’s heart and the sparking cleverness of foxes, but not always the wisdom to match it.

And Little Red Tarot says:

The Knight’s challenge is often to tame her/his energy, to rein it in so as to direct it productively. On the other hand it can be fun to let loose – we all need to go a little crazy sometimes, to let our hair down, ignore our responsibilities, act like teenagers.

I’m not sure how I feel about this card. I guess I’ll keep coming back to it over the course of the day, and try to notice moments of impetuous, courageous energy.

Taking Heart

Shadowscapes Tarot, Queen of Cups, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

I am in the middle of a difficult time. Difficult, but productive. For the first time in a very long time, I’m allowing myself to explore my spirituality. I got my heart broke, hella broke, but the connection that left my heart so vulnerable also reminded me of important things that have been abandoned for a long time. It reminded me of a connectedness and openness that I had forgotten was possible, and that I now know is needed. A desire for a ritual, for the mindful acts that bring me deeply into my body and my soul. A desire for a spiritual practice that somehow also fits with my skepticism. A way to heal, not only this present pain but also the past traumas that have shaped me, and to reconnect with myself.

Part of this process is Tarot. Learning to listen to myself in moments of despair or desire, learning to listen to my heart. I love the Queen of Cups for the way she captures the essence of what I’m hoping to find for myself. This description (from a reading done for her) from Little Red Tarot really resonates for me:

“…lead with your heart, but don’t lose your heart. This Queen looks to her intuition to make mature, informed decisions from a point of personal power and strength. Just because she is the Queen of emotions, doesn’t mean it isn’t backed by a heaping helping of sensibility and foresight that has been fine-tuned over years of experience. … [S]he knows that sometimes you offer the cup and the receiver drinks it all greedily; but sometimes – when you offer it to someone worthy – it is a drink that is shared.”

And from the companion to my own Shadowscapes deck (the image above):

“Her very being is a creative nexus, she is poetry in motion, imagination incarnate. She can dance upon the swells of the ever-shifting, ever-changing seas, in unison with the dance of life that engages all the world and its creatures around her. Guided by instincts, she is attuned to that otherworld and finds joy in that communion of kindred spirits. For another who did not comprehend her synchronicity, a mistep from her position would mean a plunge into unfathomed depths, but not so for the Queen of Cups. She dances on, embraced by the endless azure ocean and heavens, and where the sea meets the sky there is no seam.”

The ability to misstep, to make mistakes, and to dance on – that’s what I’m hoping to find. A little less perfectionism, less control. A little more balance, more intuition, more trust. And a queen, like Beth at Little Red Tarot describes:

Queen

This person is more mature still, having a deeper understanding of their suit and how it works within themselves. They know how to use their powers creatively to develop as people, and how to share this with others. They are able to exude the power of their suit, helping others to enjoy and develop that element of themselves, too.

A deeper understanding of the suit of Cups is something I need, especially as I navigate this time of deep and overwhelming emotion. If I can find a way to mature into and through this, then I think this heartbreak and grief will be an incredibly valuable gift. Again at Little Red Tarot, the Cups are described:

The Cups are the cards that look at what lies beneath the surface including secret pains, emotional heartache and triumphs, memory, and the stuff that makes up our inner world. The Cups can be sources of great nourishment and healing, helping us to reach depths we did not think possible, and revealing to us the complexity of our emotional resilience. They can also show us where we are struggling to stay afloat and how our inner and emotional world can feel out of control, far away or a sea storm of confusion.

This blog is mostly for my Tarot journey, but also for the other elements of my spiritual exploration. Tending to my inner garden, and honouring that process. Letting the seeds that have been planted with my now-distant love and in my own heart grow into whatever they will be, and trying to use this as an opportunity to grow, and shift, and become more deeply rooted and more solidly self-aware and more meaningfully mindful in my engagement with myself, and others, and the world around me.

I am taking heart, accepting this cup, moving onward and inward.

Card of the Day with Commentary – Four of Wands, Two of Wands, Judgement

I did the “Card of the day with commentary” from my Complete Book of Tarot Spreads.

The Shadowscapes deck doesn’t really have reversals, but in today’s spread they felt really important, so I used the Little Red Tarot wisdom on reversals when I interpreted this.

The card of the day was the (reversed) Four of Wands. I don’t normally do anything with reversals, but I drew this one reversed, and when I looked at it – so bright and joyful and triumphant, I felt my heart sinking. This isn’t me, not right now. Today, the whole day, has been heavy and I feel like Sisyphus, pushing that fucking boulder forever. It feels hopeless. Where is the “Celebration, freedom, harmony, prosperity, peace, letting go of limitations, jubulation“? The reversal felt right.

Both the “fear of” and the “blocking of” reversal interpretations feel like they apply. There is actually a lot of joy in my life right now, but I have so much trouble feeling it because things have also been so stressful and overwhelming. Not just the ongoing process of grieving my distant love and hoping for a future together, but also our new house presenting endless (expensive) problems, and the difficult (holy fuck, so difficult) process of dealing with my codependent patterns and trying to process old pain. It’s been a lot. It overshadows the joy, and I will admit that there is also an element of martyrdom in it. If I just suffer hard enough, I’ll be rewarded with joy, right? And on the flip side, if I don’t suffer endlessly, I’ll never get what I want because… I don’t know. Latent Calvinism? I don’t know.

So my card of the day has forced me to think about why I am so afraid of joy and celebration, and what I am doing to block myself from feeling it. It also made me think about Brenè Brown’s discussion of “fearful joy” as one way to avoid vulnerability, which is something I’ve been starting to notice in myself more and more. It was a good reminder that there is nothing inherently noble in suffering, and that denying myself the freedom to taste the sweet and the bitter in some misguided attempt to store up the sweet for some perfect future time is a little bit misguided. (Where “little bit” means “an awful lot.”)

The second card, representing the present situation/what is on your mind, was also reversed. The Two of Wands, “Personal power and influence, authority, courage.” Again, “fear of” and “blocking of” apply, because I have felt so deeply that I have no power in the situations that are most painful, no influence, no authority, and very little courage. But that’s not true. It is absolutely true that I don’t have any influence over what is happening in my love’s life and with their choices, but you can’t read Tarot for someone who isn’t there, and this spread is for me. I do have personal power, influence, and definitely authority over my own life. I can make choices that are right for me, and that move me in the direction I need to go. But I don’t want to. I don’t want that responsibility. I don’t want that weight. I don’t want to do this work. I’m tired. I’m sad. I’m discouraged. I want to stay in bed until everything is sorted out, and then step into my life once it’s better.

But I can’t. That’s not how it works. (And I know that – I do. I just don’t want to know it and don’t want to act on it.)

The last card, the background of the day’s events, is Judgement. Choices. Yeah, ya think? I laughed when I saw it.

And then I made a choice. I flipped the reversed cards right side up. I started a blog. I took a deep breath.

I can’t make choices for anyone else, but I can make them for myself. And I am.