Shadow Side Saturday: What is there in the darkness that I need to see? 3 of Bows (Wildwood)

Wildwood 3 of Bows

The hooded figure on this card holds up his hand as he stands before a large tree just beyond two staves planted in the ground serving as a gateway.  Is he greeting me or warning me back?   He seems to guard a path that splits off behind him.  Is he a guardian of the crossroads?  How does his energy merge with the energy of this card?

The keyword on this cards is fulfillment.  In traditional Tarot interpretation it is often seen as representing projects or creative endeavors coming to fruition; seeing the fruits of our efforts come back to us.  In this card I get a sense that this hooded man is both guardian and guide.  Our efforts have brought us to this point but now the choice to go on must be made and he is there to remind us that all choices carry some peril with them.

Behind him on the left side the road seems to dip a bit lower while on the right it rises up.  Will the lower path take us to the Underworld?  For me, today, that is the sense I am getting.  With each week that passes I get a stronger sense that shadow work and embracing the dark side is becoming more important to me.  There are dark sides to myself and to the world that I still need to explore.  I’m very curious about this dark side.  I’ve always been partially drawn to it but I resisted its call because part of me felt that I needed to stay on a more “normal” path.  I was already odd enough without adding a layer of darkness.

I have been known to joke that I’m as deep and mysterious as a babbling stream.  To some degree this is true because this is the persona I don when I interact with people.  I’ve tried being more withholding and aloof but it never seems to work.  I think it’s a defense mechanism that I developed over the years to hide my shyness and genuine introverted nature.  As a child I would much rather lose myself in books of fantasy or mythology than interact with peers.  With rare exception, I just didn’t get it, I didn’t understand kids my own age.  I still don’t understand many of the drives and desires that motivate my peers.  Although there are times when I desire company and people, most times I am find being alone.  I find myself seeking answers to supernatural phenomenon and mythical creatures such as Sasquatch and UFOs.  I’ve already mentioned my fascination with serial killers and criminal behavior.  The darker side of human nature calls me.

I remember many years ago when I read The Mists of Avalon that Viviennne (at least I believe it was Vivienne) mentions that there are four faces to the Goddess and that Morgause manifested the fourth face – the dark mother.  This concept has called to me since.  As a child I understood Medea’s choice to kill her children in revenge for Jason’s betrayal.  As an adult I understand the rage and pain that drove Betty Broderick to shoot her husband and his new trophy wife.  I am not condoning these behaviors but I do understand them.  I identified with Persephone as Queen of the Underworld.  The need to separate from one’s mother and forge an independent identity (even if it is somewhat forced upon you) resonated with me.  I connect with Sekmet’s rampage through Egypt until she is calmed by blood-colored beer.  Even now I am (in many ways) dealing with death and dying on a daily basis.  I have walked through many dark places both internal and external and emerged transformed.  Maybe the message for me today is that my focus needs to be on finding a way to use those experiences to help and heal others.  It’s a lot to process.

Shadow Side Saturday: Embracing Lilith’s Darkness

Dark Goddess Siren of Air

I wasn’t sure what to write about for Shadow Side Saturday.  It’s not that I can’t find lots of dark things in my life it’s that I don’t necessarily feel the desire to share them with anyone.  So I decided to ask the Dark Goddess Tarot what I can write about and I drew the Siren of Air – Lilith.  At first I wasn’t sure what she was telling me.  Then I got an email letting me know that a movie I  requested was mailed to me.  The movie is The Stepford Wives, the original version.  This movie focuses on a community of men who seek to create wives who are the antithesis of Lilith’s energy.  They are submissive and subservient, catering to their husbands’ needs and putting their own on hold.  In fact once they are transformed they don’t even acknowledge having needs.  Of course they also happen to be highly sophisticated androids.

That made me wonder if that’s what men truly want?  I think there is always a layer of this desire in men.  They can feel emasculated if their wife is more successful or accomplished.  In it’s most violent form, this attitude manifests itself as an abusive partner however it cal also subtly pervade various aspects of our lives.  How many women in the work world have been overtly or subtly told that she was behaving in an unfeminine way or is excluding by the “boys”.  Even today these kind of behaviors and attitudes exist.

While working on a paper for my psych degree I read the book Against Our Will by Susan Brownmiller.  One concept she put forth that struck me to the core is that even men who will never rape benefit from the fear of rape.  She points out that rape is sometimes an effective tool for dominating (not just women, it is quite effective with men too).  If women are afraid that certain behaviors might cause them to be raped, they will avoid those behaviors.  Even now we read stories that imply or outright state a woman brought it on herself.  Why was she out so late?  What was she dressed that way?

Things are changing – there are many more men willing to be the stay at home parent but they are still in the minority.  And while the men are praised for getting in touch with their nurturing side, the women are often castigated and view as exhibiting aberrant behavior for not being satisfied with the fulfilling life of a stay at home mother.  Attitudes towards rape of all types as well as domestic violence are being treated more seriously.

This is where Lilith comes in.  Lilith is the patroness of those women; those who are honest enough with themselves to admit they won’t be satisfied to be a stay at home parent.  Lilith understands the need to be true to yourself and claim your power.  In a world where women are still marginalized or penalized for trying to claim their independence, Lilith defiantly walks (or flies) her own path).  In a world where women are convinced they need to stay youthful looking and beautiful; where no price is to high to pay to achieve these goals, Lilith doesn’t care what you think of her appearance.

She terrifies men because they can’t control her or dominate her.  Lilith stands up for all women and shrieks “I won’t be boxed in or dominated!!”  She’s rather like Glenn Close’s character in Fatal Attraction when she declares “I won’t be ignored”.  Lilith may reproduce but she doesn’t mother.  She consorts with demons and demands to be on top.  Lilith won’t let someone else dictate her life or sexual preferences.  She may be frightening and dark but she’s also powerful and fierce.  She is free and independent and that might be considered dark but it is very appealing to me.  So let’s take a moment today to embrace this dark goddess and honor her fiercely free and frighteningly forceful approach to claiming her power.

Of serial killers and the dark side of the human psyche

Serial killers & cult leaders- I’ve been interested in serial killers and other societal deviants for a long time.  I can still remember reading the book Helter Skelter when I was about 10 years old.  I can vividly recall the fear and terror that gripped NYC when the Son of Sam David Berkowitz was randomly killing in the late 70s.  The Jonestown massacre in Guyana still holds a fascination for me.   I even studied forensic psychology in college (in fact I have a masters degree in it).  I’ve often wondered what is says about me that I am drawn to such darkness in human nature.

Even while studying psychology I knew I had no desire to be a therapist.  I just wasn’t sympathetic to the neurosis and petty problems of most folks (what can I say – I was very arrogant and fairly young).  I didn’t even necessarily want to work with the criminal population.  I think my pursuit of a  psychology degree was an effort to understand what makes people tick.  I was drawn to the darker aspects of human behavior because on some level I believed if I understood it then I could avoid falling victim to it.  The fact that I had already fallen victim to one act of violence as a child was also a motivating factor.

It seems to me that humans believe we are civilized and intelligent enough to rise above our more animal nature.  However two psychologists, Stanley Milgrom and Phillip Zimbardo, each conducted a well-known and disturbing experiment looking at how humans behave in various situation.  Milgrim’s experiment studied human behavior in response to authority figures.  He set up various scenarios but the core of this experiment was that the subject was put in a room and instructed to ask questions of another person and to issue a shock if the answer was incorrect.  The results were disturbing – in the initial study 65% of the subjects administered the highest shock voltage even when clearly uncomfortable.  Over the years this experiment was replicated in different cultures and with different parameters but with very similar results.  It makes me wonder why we are so willing to take actions we consider unethical or uncomfortable because an authority figure instructed us to do so.

Zimbardo conducted the Stanford Prison Study, an experiment in which volunteers were randomly assigned to either the guard or the prisoner group.  Neither group was given much instruction in how to behave or what to do but it quickly became apparently that left to their own devices, the “guards” began acting sadistically and cruelly.  The “prisoners” began exhibiting signs of depression and rage.  The experiment, scheduled to run for two weeks, was canceled after 6 days because the results were disturbing and it was decided it was causing harm to the volunteers.

What fascinates and frightens me about both these experiments is how quickly we are willing to commit cruel, sadistic and atrocious acts either because we have been told to do so or because we feel that our “role” requires it of us.  Some elements of this may be due to the influence of peers or an internal desire to appease authority figures but it forces me to wonder just how civilized and humane we really are.  Is our willingness to engage in these behaviors really the result of a deep, hidden and unacknowledged desire to hurt others?  Maybe we all have a dark side that revels in cruelty and viciousness.  We learn to control it over time because we learn that such behaviors are unacceptable but those desires are still there – dormant and awaiting a chance to express themselves.  We all want to believe we would never commit certain acts but in reality I think that we might depending upon circumstances.

In fact I believe that one of the reasons some people need Lucifer or Satan is because it’s an effective way to project those nasty, dark, vicious aspects of our personality onto an external figure.  We’re not evil, we did something evil due to Satanic influences.  Or like the young accusers of Salem who behaved in shocking, socially unacceptable ways claiming witches were making them do it.  It’s always the fault of someone or something outside of ourselves.  It’s also made me realize that humans will use various excuses – “I was following orders”, “it’s my job” and even “the devil made me do it” to excuse viciousness and cruelty.  It’s why some are drawn to cults – they can submit to a more dominant personality and not feel the need to make decisions or be responsible for their behaviors.

One thing I’ve learned about my explorations into the dark side of the human psyche is that awareness of it helps me restrain it.  Not all the time but enough to be considered tolerable.  I am fully cognizant of my dark side.  Sometimes I even embrace it and allow it some form of expression that won’t hurt anyone else.  What I’ve also accepted is that it’s not the result of the influence of anyone or anything else.  It’s part of who I am.  It is also not an excuse for cruel or vicious behavior.  Knowing the cause of something is not an excuse.  Having an addiction does not excuse the behaviors that result.  Instead of trying to correct the behaviors we have a tendency for find excuses for them (which is a topic for another day).  I think it’s time to cut through the bullshit.  We’re all a blend of dark and light.  We all have mean, vicious aspects to our personalities.  What makes us human is our ability to know that and change our behaviors so that we aren’t hurting others simply because we feel like it.  We have the ability to shine light on the darkness and not lose ourselves in its embrace.

Shadow Side Saturday: Dark Carnival Tarot review

Dark Carnival 2 of Duckets Dark Carnival Queen of Axes

Dark Carnival Tarot
Created by Rachel Paul
Self-Published

Dark Carnival Strength

I first learned about the Dark Carnival Tarot at the 2013 Readers’ Studio when I won a print of the Strength card from this deck.  When I looked at the image I was blown away by the art.  It has a graffiti style with a very gritty, urban, edgy feel to it.  The cards drew me into a surreal landscape that is both familiar and frightening.

In the companion book, Rachel introduces the reader to the Dark Carnival/Juggalo worldview with its bizarre face paint, supportive community and sometimes gratuitously violent imagery.  I had never heard of this movement before and found it interesting.  I may never enter Juggalo-world myself but, other than the music, it’s not all that different from the one in which I grew up.  Perhaps that’s why this deck appeals to me so much.  Despite its otherworldly, sometimes creepy imagery, I have a feeling this deck will kick me in the teeth when necessary to force me to face facts and not sugar coat my bullshit.

The suits in this deck are Gats, Faygos (you have no idea how excited I was to realize I know what Faygos are –  they make a diet chocolate soda I love), Axes and Duckets rather than Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles.  Each suit is inspired by a Juggalo musical artist:  Gats – Violent J; Faygos – Shaggy 2 Dope; Axes – Twiztid and Duckets – Blaze.

Dark Carnival King of Duckets Dark Carnival Warrior of Faygos

The Court Cards are either real or symbolic characters who populate the Dark Carnival/Juggalo world with names like Big Baby Sweets (King of Duckets) and Boondox (Warrior of Faygos).  Even as I write this I have no idea who these artists are but I don’t think it’s necessary.  I’m sure knowing gives the reader additional insights into the meanings of these cards and the energies behind their imagery but I don’t think it’s essential.  I know who Insane Clown Posse is and I’ve heard of a few of the other groups but this a lifestyle with which I’m totally unfamiliar.  It rather reminds me of a grittier, more urban group of Deadheads but that might be quite a superficial understanding.

Dark Carnival Juggla Dark Carnival Emperor

The Majors are Juggalo takes on the familiar archetypes.  Most maintain their traditional names with some having a more Dark Carnival tag added on.  For example The Magician becomes The Juggla, The Emperor is aka The Carnival of Carnage, The Star is aka The Spirit of Detroit.  Even amidst the chaotic, violent, vivid imagery there is depth, hope and insight.  Although the companion book is written in a manner reminiscent of a gangsta rap song, it has a similar depth of feeling, rawness and emotional honestly.  There is something searing and honest in this deck.

Dark Carnival Star

Rachel Paul is not trying to sugar-coat anything or pretty up reality.  She is tearing back the curtain and saying “this is my world, my reality and welcome to it.”  She reminds us that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that life can bloom in the middle of a garbage strewn lot.  This deck proudly proclaims “the world is full of chaos and craziness but if you can find the truth at its core you will also find depth, meaning and beauty.”  This deck reminds us that there are various worldviews and lifestyles out there.  Each is just as valid and legitimate as another.  The Dark Carnival Tarot offers a glimpse into one of them.

I’ve used this deck for my daily draw for the past few days and must say I find it easy to read.  Although the companion book offers additional insights and background information, I think anyone familiar with Tarot could use this deck right out of the bag.  The art might not be to everyone’s tastes but if you are open to its energies I think this deck will prove quite useful for shadow work or pushing you beyond your usual preconceived notions.  So take a chance and step in the tent of the Dark Carnival Tarot.  Who knows what wonders might be revealed to you?

Thoughtful Thor’s Day: Gloomy thoughts on a gloomy day

Actually today is more of a Thoughtful Thor’s Day.  It’s rather gloomy, gray and chilly outside which means I’m limited to inside stuff today.  I can’t say that really excites me much but then again I don’t do a whole lot when it’s sunny out either.  I realize that part of the problem is my own focus and initiative.  It’s difficult to become excited about anything when I feel like such a prisoner.  The situation is getting worse and I don’t know what to do about it.  Maw Maw (the mom-in-law) becomes so agitated sometimes that it’s impossible to sleep.  Very often we’re almost asleep and she wakes up.  Then one of us has to get up with her because she starts touching things like the stove or trying to open the front door.  This results in both the hubby and I being sleep deprived and exceedingly cranky.  Putting her in an institution is a last resort to both of us but I’m afraid we might be reaching that point soon.

This entire situation makes me wonder at caring for the aging in this country.  So many of the resources available are limited and/or difficult to access.  In many cases we’ve been told that because she is not on Medicaid she’s not eligible for free services and she doesn’t have enough income to afford the paid ones.  I’ve seen this time and time again with friends whose parents are in similar situations.  Nursing homes or senior facilities are costly (ranging from $1500 per month to $6000 per month in this area) and also tend to be few and far between.  this means if we want to visit her it would take an hour drive to get to most of these places.  We’re also very hesitant to place her anywhere because her mental condition means she has no ability to communicate if someone is hurting her.

I’ve never been under the illusion that life is fair.  However many recent experiences have made me question our societal obsession with staving off death as long as possible regardless of the consequences.  I’ve seen many people caring for elderly parents who take them to the doctor or hospital for a variety of reasons.  The hospital is able to stabilize the parent but not actually heal or cure them.  As a result the parent is often either back in the hospital again in a few months or given another batch of medicine to “help” whatever condition the doctor believes he or she has now.  Maw Maw would probably be taking 10 pills a day if her doctor had his way.  He means well but he doesn’t truly know what is wrong with her and seems to believe that if he keeps giving her medications she’ll eventually find one that works.  It seems to be an all to common approach to healthcare in the US.

I’ve had several friends and neighbors battling various forms of cancer over the past few years.  It amazes me how painful and ultimately unsuccessful this process appears to be.  So often they believe they caught the initial cancer only to have it spread to a new area a few years later.  It’s almost as though the treatment actually accelerates the grown of the tumors.  I know the professionals state this is not what happens but from a layman’s perspective this is how it appears.  I think some of the miscommunication stems from the fact that for a doctor prolonging the patient’s life for another 5 years is a victory.  To the patient it just seems to be a long and painful battle that they ultimately lose.  I know some people do live for over 10 years after treatment for cancer.  In fact Maw Maw was diagnosed with uterine cancer back in 1981 and beat it, remaining cancer-free for over 30 years.  I would also never try to influence someone else’s choice for treatment.  That is a personal decision and something that needs to be left to the patient and her/his doctor.  However it makes me wonder what I would do if the situation ever arises (although I hope it never, ever does).

Wow a gloomy day really seems to bring up gloomy thoughts.  Of course my current situation doesn’t help matters any either.  It’s hard to be cheerful when your life has become a relentless deathwatch with no end in sight.  It also points out to me how much I rely on external distractions to keep me from focusing on negative things in my life.  In the past, my salary allowed me to buy books, Tarot decks and dolls (among other things) to keep me from realizing how unhappy I was with my job and other aspects of my life.  I’ve been rather slow to develop other coping skills.  I’d prefer to avoid the matter entirely and just zone out in front of the television or read a book.  I can tell that’s not going to work much long either.

To gain so clarity about this situation I asked the Tarot “How can I deal with this situation in a more healthy manner?”  I used the Dark Carnival Tarot and drew The Moon.

Dark Carnival Moon

The companion book offers a very contemporary and urban interpretation of this card, referring to blood moons, treacherous paths and ready to put a garden claw in the face of a foe.  This resonates with me right now.  Things do feel bleak and desolate (although I don’t feel threatened enough to need a garden claw),  It is an unsettling landscape that lies ahead of me.  It’s unfamiliar terrain and if I can’t trust myself then who can I trust?  I think The Moon is telling me that I need to stop fooling myself and see things for what they really are.  I also need to acknowledge that while things are bleak and desolate right now, they will eventually improve.  I just have to make it through this dark and scary night.  It’s not an especially pleasant image but it does offer some hope.