Archive for April, 2007

The Moon

April 27, 2007

The Moon

Yesterday I got a chance to catch part of Caroline Casey’s radio show, The Visionary Activist, on KPFA. She interviewed Sandra Ingerman about her new book, How to Heal Toxic Thoughts: Simple Tools for Transformation. At the end of the show, Ingerman told the following story, which she includes in her book:

A boy says to his grandfather, “Grandfather, there are two wolves in my heart and they are fighting.” The grandfather replies, “Which do you think will win?” And the boy answers, “The one I feed.”

I was instantly reminded of the dog and the wolf of The Moon card. The wolf represents the wild in us—the part of us that is motivated by a desire for fun or adventure, or perhaps instinct, or survival. The dog represents the tame in us—the part of us that is motivated by social norms and conventions, or a desire for domestic stability.

When The Moon Card appears in a reading, it, in part, asks us to consider whether there is a conflict in our heart symbolized by the dog and the wolf. We must ask ourselves which one we will feed.

Exercise for Reflection:

Go through your deck and find a card that represents the wolf in your heart. Find another card that represents the dog. Lay the cards next to each other. What story do they tell? If there are people or animals in these cards, imagine what they might say to one another.

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Illustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright 1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.  Further reproduction prohibited. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

The Empress and the Ivy

April 23, 2007

The Empress

The other day, my friend Carole and I pulled into a parking space near one of our favorite restaurants, Joy Meadow. When we got out of the car, Carole pointed to a hardy bamboo bush infested with ivy and said, “Look at that! The bamboo and the ivy are at war!”

I think of Carole, who always notices the plant and animal life around her, as The Empress—though I know she will reject that label. She sees in The Empress ivy growing out of control, a closet or a garage that needs cleaning out. Carole’s Empress makes herself sick on chocolate—she is a symbol of excess.

My Empress buys peanuts for the squirrels and the blue jays. She finds a cement bench near a waterfall and brings cushions and pillows to make the visit more comfortable. My Empress knows how to take care of herself when she needs a little pampering and therefore has energy to nurture others as well. She is a symbol of vibrancy.

In reality, The Empress is all of these things. She represents our ability to nurture and appreciate nature as well as our tendancy to overindulge, to be effusive, or to let things get out of hand. Like all of us, she is multifaceted.

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Exercises for Reflection:

  • Consider the excess in your life. What needs to be pruned? Cleared out? Hauled away? What would you be better off without? Find a card in your deck that symbolizes the excess, or the clutter in your life, or that which is growing out of control. Find another card that shows how you would feel if you were more on top of it.
  • Find a card in your deck that represents how you nurture yourself.
  • Find a card in your deck that shows the way you feel when you nurture others.

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Illustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright 1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Finding The Star in the Painted Desert

April 18, 2007

 

The Star

When I was in grad school, my friend Cody and I took a cross-country road trip to deliver our friend, Susan, to Syracuse University, where she would begin her new life. For me, it was a long ride home without her. I was morose and irritable.

At the end of a particular 12-hour day on the rode, I became resentful when Cody insisted on a 45-minute detour, which would bring us to the park of the Painted Desert at dusk. “It’s getting dark,” I complained. “What’s the point?”

At the entrance, the ranger didn’t even charge us. He just shrugged his shoulders and waved us through—me in the passenger seat of the dust-laden truck, tired and cranky, and Cody, leaning forward, both hands on the wheel, annoyingly as eager as he was when we first began our journey.

My irritation manifested into terrible fits of laughter as I watched Cody examine a petrified stump illuminated by the headlight of the truck. He was stern when he told me to fuck off, which only made me stifle my laughter, snorts escaping through my hand tightly clamped over my mouth.

I didn’t dare utter a word as we pressed on through the desert, where I could only imagine the pastels underneath the layers of night.

At some point Cody stopped the truck, turned off the headlights and got out. I did the same. He headed a few paces east, so I headed west, or maybe it was north and south.

Eventually my eyes adjusted to the darkness—the moon was at the other end of the world—and gazing at the stars, I suddenly felt myself a privileged confidante to the private thoughts of night.

The Star card reminds me of the inner peace I unexpectedly found in the Painted Desert—thanks to Cody!—and, in fact, it does symbolize a sense of peace and enlightenment.

Exercises for Reflection:

  • Find a card in your deck that represents a situation or a place that has brought you peace and solitude.
  • Look at The Star card and make a wish. Find a card in your deck that represents the wish. Find another that shows you what you need to do to make that wish come true.

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Illustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright 1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

 

 

The Devil and “A Passion for Clothes”

April 15, 2007

Inspired by The Fairytale Tarot, which illustrates 78 different fairytales from around the world, I revisited my anthologies of Jewish folktales. I found the story, “A Passion for Clothes” by Y.L. Peretz to perfectly reflect the theme of The Devil Card.

The Devil card can symbolize playfulness and fun, the appreciation of material and sensual pleasures. But The Devil card also warns that overindulgence in this realm can distract us from the truth, with the resulting ignorance leading to oppression. There is an additional lesson to be learned from the man and woman in the card who seem to have accepted or become accustomed to their enslavement and are unwilling or unaware of their ability to remove the loose chains from around their necks.

The Devil

Below is my retelling of “A Passion for Clothes.” A full version can be found in Great Tales of the Jewish Occult and Fantasy, compiled, and translated by Joachim Neugroschel.

Once upon a time there was a Jewish woman named Bashe Gitel who enraged Satan because she was so virtuous. He made it his mission to turn her into a compulsive shopper.

He came to her in the guise of the Good Spirit and suggested that she would do God a great honor by buying a new dress for the Passover holiday. Besides, he said, giving the tailor a chance to earn a little money before the holiday would be a good deed. So Bashe Gitel scrimped a little on her holiday donation to the poor and prepared a less extravagant holiday meal than usual so she could buy a new dress.

Then Shavuoth came along, the holiday commemorating the day that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and Satan reminded Bashe Gitel that this was an even more important holiday and suggested a new necklace. With each holiday that passed, Bashe Gitel added to her wardrobe and accessories, and when Satan pointed out that Bashe Gitel was neglecting the Sabbath, her purchases became weekly.

It was easy for Satan to convince Bashe Gitel that she should have more gems. Rubies would help her in childbirth, an emerald would turn cloudy if she had a sinful thought and therefore keep her honest and pious, and sapphires would give her the wisdom she needed to help her figure out her finances, which was becoming an increasing problem.

Soon, no amount of money could appease Bashe Gitel’s insatiable desire for jewels and clothing. She stopped giving money to charities, and even sent her sons to less expensive teachers. She also fired her maid and tricked an orphan into working for her for free.

One day she discovered that there were food stains and rips and tears on her finest silk. She accused the orphan of borrowing her clothes and wearing them out at night. She humiliated her in front of the whole community and ran her out of town.

As it turned out, it was demons who had soiled her clothes. For when a woman has too many dresses and neglects her duty to clothe the poor with the old ones, demons will take them at night and wear them to their feasts.

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Exercises for reflection:

  • Is there a little devil in you who talks you into overindulging? Go through your deck and choose a card that illustrates the devil in you. Find another that represents the part of you that knows when you need to treat yourself or live it up a little and when you are being too extreme or getting out of control.
  • Find a card that represents the chain about your neck and another that shows you how to remove it.

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llustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright 1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

The Four of Wands: The Chuppah and the Sukkah

April 13, 2007

I have been unable to find reference to a Jewish themed tarot deck except for an unpublished deck, which I found online years ago. For his degree in Design and Illustration from Tel Aviv University, Leon Jacobowitz Efron created a deck which he describes as drawing “its symbolism and correlations from Jewish traditions and Kabbalah rather than from Golden Dawn, Hermetic or Christian Qabbala, as is the standard nowadays.” He included the major arcana cards along with extensive interpretations on his website, which is now under reconstruction: http://pws.prserv.net/leon/.

The one card in the Rider-Waite deck that always reminds me of my Jewish roots is the Four of Wands.

Four of Wands

It evokes the chuppah, the Jewish wedding canopy, which symbolizes the home the couple will build. It also evokes the sukkah, the canopy of loosely woven branches with hanging fruits and vegetables, which is a part of Sukkot, the Jewish holiday in celebration of the harvest.

The Four of Wands does, in part, symbolize celebration and rejoicing in the fruits of one’s labors. It can also symbolize the completion and success of a project or a home life that breaks from tradition and cultivates creativity.

There are some great folktales from the Jewish occult that go nicely with some of the cards, and I plan to share a few here, so stay tuned!

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llustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright 1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Do you have to be psychic to read the cards?

April 13, 2007

No! Here’s what you need:

Intuition. Have you ever gotten the sense that a friend might be saying one thing but feeling another? Well, then you have intuition, and it will serve you well as a tarot reader. A person might be voicing one question when he or she is really concerned about something else entirely. Your role as a reader is to be a good listener and help get to the heart of the matter.

Each card has a range of meaning, not all of which is pertinent to a particular reading. Your role is also to intuit which aspect of the cards’ meanings might be most helpful.

Sensitivity. Like a good therapist, a tarot reader should never tell a person what he or she should do, nor should a reader judge a person’s values or predict what they think is going to happen. The role of the reader is to empower others to achieve clarity and find their own solutions.

Also, no matter what cards turn up, everyone should walk away from a tarot reading feeling good. A negative card can validate a person’s experience, and ideally the reading will also give the person ideas about how to work through their stress or sadness.

A sense of imagination and an ability to think in metaphor. A tarot reader should be able to see the spectrum of possibilities the cards offer and discover metaphors and stories in their images.

The Ten of Swords and Acupuncture

April 12, 2007

The Ten of Swords is probably the most gruesome card in the deck and is certainly more disturbing in its imagery than the Death card.

Ten of Swords

Swords in tarot represent our mind, and this poor guy is being pinned down by his many weighty thoughts. James Ricklef in his book Tarot Tells the Tale refers to the Ten of Swords as “analyzing something to death.” Mark McElroy in his book, Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Tarot, refers to it as the “the human pincushion.” I love both of these interpretations, but I also have my own personal association with this card. I call it my headache card.

I’ve had migraines for years, and before I really knew what they were, I came up with the following metaphor to try to describe them. In a bullfight, before the matador enters the ring, the picador stabs the bull’s neck with a lance to weaken its muscles so that it can’t raise its head. The banderilleros also plant little flags in the bull’s neck to further weaken it. When I have a migraine, I feel like the bull with lances and little flags piercing my energy. I can feel my spirit slump.

In more recent years I tried acupuncture, and I found relief in being pinned down to the practitioner’s table. I liked having a regular appointment that allowed me to be alone with my thoughts. Solitude!

Anyway, when the Ten of Swords card appears, all of these associations surface.

Exercise for Reflection

Go through your deck face up and choose a card that represents something that you have been “analyzing to death.” Find another card that represents what you need to do in order to lay that issue to rest.

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llustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright 1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Tips for Learning To Read the Cards

April 11, 2007

Here are some ways that were helpful for me:

Books. It was books that got me started. See the Books category of this blog for recommendations. It was also helpful for me to make a binder with tabs for each card and notes, which I compiled from the books I read.

Internet. There’s a vast tarot community out there, and no matter where you live, you’ve got access to it! I have found following sites very helpful:

  • Learning the Tarot: An On-line Course, www.learntarot.com. A great free course for beginners.
  • The Tarot School, www.tarotschool.com. A Tarot community offering courses in New York and correspondence courses and telecourses for those of us far away. Also home of the popular e-newsletter, Tarot Tips.
  • Tarot Passages, www.tarotpassages.com. Wonderful source for Tarot book and deck reviews as well as interesting articles.
  • TarotL, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TarotL/. A very popular Yahoo! group.
  • Aeclectic Tarot: Tarot Cards, Readings & Community, www.aeclectic.net/tarot/. Dedicated to the diversity & beauty of Tarot. See images of Tarot cards, read reviews of Tarot decks and Tarot books, learn about Tarot, receive Tarot readings, visit Tarot links, or join their Tarot community.
  • American Tarot Association, www.ata-tarot.com. A membership organization that offers courses and sends newsletters to members. See information below about their free reading sites that provide mentors for volunteer readers. (more…)

Diversity

April 10, 2007

Recently my tarot partner, Carole, and I did readings at a birthday celebration. The guest of honor sat down for her reading and The Lovers card turned up. Ordinarily I love it when this card appears, knowing it is the most hoped for, but this time I winced inside.

lovers.jpg

I pushed on. “How would you describe this card?” I asked her. “Well, there’s a man and a woman,” she said, pointedly. She was a lesbian. I knew this only because her partner, a woman, threw the party.

I love the Rider-Waite deck, but The Lovers card, the Two of Cups, and the Ten of Cups—the three cards of love—all depict male/female couples. (more…)

Five Decks for Art Lovers

April 9, 2007

Of course all tarot decks appeal to art lovers, but here are some that may be of particular interest. The links below will take you to pages on Aeclectic Tarot, where you can view sample images from each deck. If you have never been to Aeclectic Tarot, watch out! They’ve got hundreds of tarot decks to explore, and book reviews, too. You can get lost for hours!

  1. Golden Tarot by Kat Black—digital collage of European paintings from 1200 – 1500 AD. Also see Kat Black’s website!
  2. Dali Universal Tarot by Salvador Dali—Dali made this deck in the last decade of his life. It is a must have for Dali enthusiasts!
  3. Bosch Tarot by A. Atanassov
  4. William Blake Tarot of the Creative Imagination by Ed Burn
  5. Da Vinci Tarot by A. Atanassov and I. Ghiuselev