#ComparativeTarot – The Devil (Bohemian Gothic, RWS, Transformational & Whimsical)

The Devil – quite a scary concept isn’t it. How often over the years have humans blamed their aggressive, inappropriate, unhealthy behaviors on some external construct? “The Devil made me do it” is often claimed in a joking manner but perhaps there is some truth to our belief that the evil, wicked things we do are because of the influence of some otherworldly entity but is this true? Does human belief in such an evil figure give it power and strengthen its hold on our psyches? Did we create “The Devil” so we could fob off the blame on something or someone else; a scapegoat? Are we so unwilling to face the darkness in our own souls that we would prefer to allow “The Devil” to claim it instead? These are probably much deeper questions than I can answer right now. Who knows, over the course of my Tarot After Dark blog posts I’ll probably express my opinion on some of these issues but that’s all it will be – my opinion. I have no expertise or additional insight and knowledge that grants me the power to find the answers for anyone but myself. I’m curious to learn where it will lead me.

So, I’ve been missing my Comparative Tarot essays and decided that I’d commit to writing one each week to share with any and all interested readers. Each week I will randomly select a card and then pull matching ones from three other decks. My goal is to include one RWS clone, one deck with a darker sensibility, one lighter more approachable deck and one collage or less traditional deck. This week I’ve decided to use the Bohemian Gothic, classic RWS, Transformational and Whimsical Tarot decks. Let’s explore what insights these diverse decks can offer into one of everyone’s favorite “bad” card.

The first thing that struck me looking at these cards is that one figure appears to be dominating or controlling the other(s). The black-winged figure in the Bohemian Gothic Devil is administering something in a syringe to the other. The recipient is resting against the “devil” and even hugging her close. The “victim” fully embraces her victimization or is she even a victim? The reality is that we can easily blame drug dealers for a loved one’s addiction but what caused them to take that first step? Very few are forcibly addicted to drugs or alcohol. In my experience, they seek them out in an effort to escape the reality of their lives. So is the drug use a cause or an effect? Self-medicating is quite a common extra-curricular activity in the US.

The RWS and Whimsical Devils both show figures that are physically chained or manipulated. They appear to be at the beck and call of whoever is at the other end of their chains.  However, a closer look reveals that those restraints can be easily removed. How fascinating because it implies that, once again, the “victim” is complicity in their enslavement. They could easily take control and free themselves from the restraints but chose not to do so. It makes me wonder about the allure of giving up control to another; to be void of responsibility for one’s actions. We see the reverse quite often when followers seek out rigid and strict religious movements. There is no need to consider what behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable – the church leaders will clearly define that for you. The bound people on the Devil cards show us the flip side of that scenario.  They can indulge in whatever depravity or “debased” behavior they desire because their master told them to do it. Quite a bit of psychological research has been done in this area and the results reveal that in most cases people are willing to do cruel, inhumane things as long as an authority figure told them to do it. Clearly being truly independent and free thinking is a rarity.

The Transformation Devil is quite a bit different in imagery but similar in message.  It shows a woman in a black dress standing behind a web, framed in red-orange flames.  Outside the frame are black & white figures, some being restrained by horned demons. Is the woman a prisoner of the web or the ruler of it?  Is she trapped or the entrapper? Perhaps she’s both.  Let’s face it, nothing in life is as black and white as we would like.  Perhaps she was trapped by her own addictions and indulgences and now seeks to trap others because misery loves company.  Or is she the only truly free figure in the card?  She may be framed by the web and flames but does not appear to be part of them or imprisoned by them. Could she be like a Crossroads Demon in the TV show Supernatural – not necessarily seeking out victims but coming when called and promising to fulfill one’s desires at the cost of one’s soul?  Sometimes I get the sense we do not value our souls as much as we should and as a result are willing to lightly trade it away for the promise of materials possessions.

Although the images on these four cards are very different their messages are similar. They remind us that in most instances our enslavement is the result of our continued choices. We have the ability to break free and move forward but that requires a strength of will and willingness to take responsibility for one’s life that many do not truly want. We may prefer the blame self-destructive, addictive and violent behaviors on some external devil but the truth is that human’s need so external influence to engage in atrocious behavior. What The Devil in the Tarot reminds us is that we do not have to remain enslaved. We have the ability to free ourselves if we also possess the desire and will to do so. It may not be easy. Let’s face it, regardless of how or why we became enslaved or addicted once we become so it can be almost impossible to free ourselves without some assistance. Even if you can’t cut those strings or pull away from that addictive devil by yourself, you can seek help once you realize that you want to free yourself. The Devil is frightening and seductive but it’s also a wake-up call. If you want to take those chains from around your neck you need to do whatever it takes to be truly free. That message is clear throughout these four very different takes on this intimidating card.

#TarotDaily – King of Discs + 8 of Swords Rx #AllHallows)

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would advise my younger self that I will eventually manifest the life I truly desire. I will become comfortable in my own skin and not need external validation and approval. My life will have the things I truly need to be content and happy, even if those things turn out to be markedky less “stuff” than I imagined I needed to be happy and fulfilled.

Restricting myself according to others’ rules will never serve me well. Limiting myself to meet others’ standards will frustrate me and lead to a lot of sublimation and retail therapy. Regretting instances where I let myself become ensnared is natural but letting them continue to haunt me puts the control and power in someone else’s hands. Screw that! Once free of those restraints, i need to leave them in the dust at my feet and move forward; reclaim my life and pursue my future.

I wasn’t raised to be a girl, I was raised to be a broad

I’m being deliberately provocative with the title of this blog post. I am a female and, as such, I was a girl when I was younger. However, I was not raised to think of myself as “just a girl”. I decided to write this post after reading an article a woman wrote about gender expectations and American Gods. This got me to thinking, pondering if you will. Why have I never felt the weight of gender expectations? In fact, I clearly remember a very vehement argument I once had with a former friend about sexism and gender in the workplace. It’s entirely possible that I have been denied promotions or suffered a lower salary because I am female, but if that’s the case I was as oblivious to it as I was to the Stations of the Cross in my childhood church. I simply plowed forward and did my job. If my behaviors upset or offended supervisors because I didn’t act in a typically female way, I either addressed it head on, was oblivious to it, or ignored it.

I have never been told that I could not achieve something because I’m “a girl”. I was never discouraged from trying or accomplishing something because “girls don’t do that”. Sure my parents tried to civilize me and teach me to behave but they also encouraged me to be independent and strong-willed. They regularly gave me the “would you (fill in the blank) just because everyone else does?” speech. I was never encouraged to downplay my intelligence because boys don’t like smart girls. I was never told I was too aggressive for a girl and should tone it down (in fact my father preferred to teach me the correct way to throw a punch). When boys touched me in ways I did not want, I punched them or kicked them in the balls. My nickname as an adolescent was “the Nutcracker”. At the same time, I accepted that if I was going to hit others I might get hit back. I couldn’t use the “I’m a girl” excuse. I was fine with this. Looking back, I was truly blessed to have two parents who never, ever fell victim to gender roles and stereotypes – at least not when it came to me. I remember one Easter my grandmother bought my sister and me matching outfits – they were royal blue pantsuits (think polyester button-down shirts and pants) with T-shirts that proclaimed “Anything boys can do, girls can do better” and a graphic of a girl in a baseball outfit getting ready to swing her bat. We LOVED those shirts and proudly wore them every chance we got. In fact, that saying became our unofficial motto throughout childhood.

I was also influenced by Greco-Roman and Norse mythology as a child. I identified with Athena, the wise virgin who owed nothing to a man (okay, I’m oversimplifying because that’s what I believed as a child). I loved Freya who was the leader of the Valkyries and free to sleep with whom she chose, even if they were dwarves. It wasn’t just independent female goddesses that appealed to me – they had to have a fierceness to them, a martial aspect as well. I loved goddesses who bowed down to no man or god. As I grew older and learned about Irish goddesses I felt a strong connection to many of them too. Once again, fierce feminine figures who were not bound to a male.

Looking back, I am also a product of my generation. I grew up in the 70s and clearly remember the hoopla that following the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. I remember how excited I was when Charlie’s Angels premiered! Yes, in retrospect it was a T&A show but as a young girl, all I saw were these tough, independent women who took on bad guys every week and triumphed. I was a fan of both Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter, Isis, and Electra Woman & Dyna Girl. I read Wonder Woman and Supergirl comic books. I remember being vaguely disappointed when the ERA was defeated. I didn’t fully understand what it was or why I wanted it but I knew that its failure was not a good thing for me. I remember having an epiphany during a religious class in Catholic high school when our teacher while conducting a cakes & wine ritual, informed us that ancient frescoes showed that women administered the sacraments in the early Christian church. I was floored! It never occurred to me that women could serve as priests. I often think that this was the pivotal moment that ultimately led me to pursue Paganism.

So, it occurs to me that if we don’t want to raise our daughters to be “just girls” we need to reinforce that message. We need to support them when they show interest in traditionally “ungirly” things or behave in non-girly ways. We also need to let them know that if they choose to pursue traditionally feminine pursuits, that is wonderful too. It’s so easy to denigrate traditional feminine pursuits, interests, and behaviors but that’s just as damaging as only allowing them to pursue these things. Some girls want to be fairy princesses and some want to be G.I. Joe. Some want to play with dolls and some want to play with toy guns. Some will do both and all of that is great and should be encouraged. For that matter, we should use the same approach with boys. I guess the important thing is to focus on what the child wants and needs and make sure to nurture and support them. Sounds easy and yet somehow we make it so complicated.

Blue Rose Tower

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Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance

The creator says: The struggle within the Fool has triggered all three of those “laws that we have just discussed”. In that tiny flicker of a moment, the Fool has opened a space within himself. A space ready for change and open for filling. He has appealed to the Universe for help. That tiny flicker of internal light radiating outward like a beacon in this absolute darkness, is immediately detected by the Universe. And lastly, the indecision within himself and his own inability to decide his fate creates an imbalance . . . And still the Fool soars upward. Frightened yes, but there is a strange exhilaration, a reckless abandon which now pervades his senses. He sees something – an opening – a gateway that wasn’t there before. The opening that was created by the Universe to gain access to the Fool and snatch him away. As he speedily makes his way to that gateway, its aperture crackling with the same electrical energy that encases him, he sees something else. Something so beautiful, miraculous and magical that he is overcome with emotion and gladness – the tears springing from his eyes and rolling down his flushed face. And as our Fool explodes like a lightning bolt through that sizzling gateway, leaving the womb behind him, he weeps with joy and whispers a thank you to the Great Creator of the Universe who has interceded for him and allowed him to see what his eyes now behold.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This is one of the more intense and frightening Tower cards I’ve seen. Is the head exploding out of the top of the building? Is the hand opening it for him?  Or is trying to trap the man forever?  Either way it is a disturbing image but it reminds me that Tower experiences are painful and traumatic even if they are ultimately liberating.  We have climbed to the top of the building and now we have to make a choice – do we quietly walk back down the stairs, stay stuck at the top forever or break free and start over again?

The expression on the man’s face reminds me of that painful moment of self-awareness we sometimes experience; that flash of insight that makes us realize just how beneficial or pointless our life has been. It reminds me of the addict who, when sober, realizes just how much of a mess has been made of his/her life. Once we accept this realization, then we are faced with a challenging choice. We can either accept this self awareness, learn from the experience and make our lives better. Or we can try to avoid the truth, remain in the dark and subsume our pain and knowledge under something else – alcohol and drugs, work, false illusions.

This is an intense card but the Tower is an intense experience. What we get out of it and how we use this knowledge is entirely our choice.

Tarot Truth Tyr’s Day: The Chariot – Blue Rose Tarot

Blue Rose Chariot

Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance

The Book says: The Chariot symbolizes the active realization of those concepts by getting out there and participating in Life. And you begin with the basics; navigating through the world, getting to know the other players, learning how to fend for yourself, cloth yourself, educate yourself. Control yourself.

The Chariot card is all about mastery and control. And in most cases, when you first attempt to control a situation, you exert a lot of energy and concentration. It’s a kind of “brute force” attempt to navigate one’s way through a situation, issue, relationship, whatever. You rely upon great strength of will. You constantly employ the concept that every action results in an equal but opposite reaction.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: When I first looked at this card I didn’t see the monitor, I saw it as representing people heading to the “big city” to find success, money or themselves. It reminded me of the expression “all roads lead to Rome”; if you can make it there you can make it anywhere. All of which I though fit The Chariot card – the desire to steer your own course, follow your own destiny. The need to move beyond your starting point (home town) and move on to a bigger challenge. Then when I realized that it was representing the electronic age, the information superhighway – it added an additional layer to the meaning.

On the Internet there is a need to be focused on your goals and aims, to have an idea where you are heading and how to get there. Without this focus and aim you can find yourself spending hours doing absolutely nothing but roaming without direction. You may have a goal in front of you but it is very easy to get lost on a byway or side route. There is also, unfortunately, a serious need for cautious and taking steps to protect yourself. Some strange and dangerous people populate the Internet just waiting for someone to cross their path.

The Internet also demands a certain amount of self-control and discipline. Communicating with people online can be tricky. One misplaced word can lead to a flame war of immense proportions. So The Chariot can also represent the need for maturity and responsibility. It can be so easy to send off a letter shredding someone else’s opinion to bits without giving a second thought, something many of us would never do in person. But the anonymity of the Internet seems to release us from some of the controls we usually place on our tongues. The Blue Rose Chariot card is a reminder and a representation of all the potential and the lure of such freedom. The road lies gleaming ahead of us and it is up to us whether we steer through it following some of the basic rules of the road or being a road hog, leaving pockets of road rage in our wake.

Tarot Truth Tyr’s Day: The Chariot – Mansions of the Moon Tarot

Mansions of the Moon Chariot

Mansions of the Moon
ZADOK (dahogue@nctc.net)
Self-Published

The LWP says: The rise to higher realms.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: While not the traditional Charioteer guiding (or being guided by) horses, this image shows a lovely woman riding a pair of wings. She seems to be at one with the environment around her and comfortable with where she is going. As she rises up on the wings, there is no fear or worry on her face. She appears to be calm and enjoying the experience. This card suggests that she is in control of the situation and knows where the journey will take her, or is just not concerned with the destination. She does not need to physically control the situation or impose her will. She will allow the wings to take her where she needs to go, secure in the knowledge that she is as one with her surroundings. She moves along her spiritual path with a sense of calmness and serenity. There is no need to force things to her will. She understands that her connection to the Universe and to the Divine will carry her to the correct destination.

There is a sense of giving oneself up to the journey and trusting that you are heading in the right direction. It is almost like surrendering to fate but without any sense of fatalism. This card symbolizes the need to let go of the need to control the situation and trusting in our connection to the Divine to raise us up. It reminds me of the Steve Miller song “Fly Like an Eagle” – “I want to fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me”. The wings are her spirit carrying her to the next level of her journey. And she trusts in herself and her spirit enough to give up control and allow it to guide her.

Shadow Side Saturday: Supernatural’s Nasty Angels & Humorous Demons

Okay – I might have mentioned that I’ve become a fan of the show Supernatural (okay, full disclosure – I love the Impala and Dean). One of the aspect I’ve found fascinating is the portrayal of angels and demons on the show. The writers have chosen to make these creatures complex, multi-faceted characters. There is no simplistic belief that all angels are good and all demons are bad. There have been angels who commit atrocities in the righteous belief that they are doing God’s work. There have also been demons who help the shows’ two protagonists (monster hunting brothers Dean & Sam Winchester) due to enlightened self-interest. This is one of the most appealing aspects of the show for me (well after the two brothers).

Sam & Dean Winchester with Baby

Sam & Dean Winchester with Baby

In many New Age and modern traditions, angels are seen as winged guardians and helpers; beings who are there to protect and help humanity when possible. However when one explores more ancient Judeo-Christian tradition we see far different descriptions of angels and their responsibilities. They are God’s soldiers and police force. When humanity doesn’t toe the line and Yahweh has had enough of his recalcitrant, disobedient creations he sends his angels down to smite us. Let’s face it, Michael the Archangel could give Norman Schwarzkopf tips in the art of war. How many times has Yahweh punished humanity using the angels? Yahweh can be fairly unforgiving and rather vindictive. The angels are the ones who administer Yahweh’s justice.

There are angels who watch humanity, recording and remembering what we do. Apparently they do not interfere in humans’ lives unless instructed to do so. There are angels who support Yahweh’s throne and sing his praises. The archangels are often portrayed as Yahweh’s right hands, his lieutenants. There are the cherubim with their four different faces (ox, lion, human and eagle). None of these creatures seem to be the warm and fuzzy angelic beings so prevalent in New Age thought today.

Uriel

Uriel – an angel who has no use for humanity

Over the course of the several seasons since angels have appeared on Supernatural they have proven to be vindictive, violent, willing to maim, torture and brutalize in order to achieve their goals. They often cloak their actions with claims that they are God’s will or for the greater good but they are as violent and destructive as any demon. Their willingness to smite entire towns in order to achieve their goals is frightening and quite eye-opening. When the angels turn their wrath on each other, the havoc created is . . . cosmic.

Naomi

Naomi – angelic torturer

There are angels who willingly torture other angels during various battles for supremacy in Heaven. Angels who willingly ally with demons to achieve their goals. There are angels who happily sacrifice human lives and souls in pursuit of their agendas. Many of the angels in Supernatural are portrayed as looking down upon humans – referring to them as “mud monkeys” and “larva”. These angels are infuriated by Yahweh’s favoritism towards humanity. They may be forced to help us but they’re not happy about it. While the individual angels may not be based in ancient tradition, some of their actions are similar to those described in the Bible.

CastielSeason9

Castiel – a helpful angel (most of the time)

In the Supernatural universe, even demons have different levels. Some demons are humans whose souls were corrupted due to their behaviors and decisions while living. Some (like Lucifer and Azazel) are fallen angels who defied Yahweh and were punished. Others (like Lilith) were created by the fallen angels and never lived as humans. You also have such well-known demons as Cain and the Knights of Hell he helped create. Based on the description, the Knights of Hell sound like the demonic equivalent of archangels. Demons can possess humans and take over their bodies, forcing them to engage in horrific acts that often leave the hosts traumatized, assuming they survive the experience.

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Meg the demon – a former enemy turned mistrusted ally.

Most of the demons behave in ways we might expect – seducing and corrupting humans to the dark side, committing acts of mayhem and violence and bartering for human souls. Some are more violent and aggressive than others. Crossroad demons are rather like persistent salespeople – the won’t pursue you but once you make a deal with one you can be sure she or he will collect.

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Crowley – King of the Crossroads and King of Hell

Over the course of the series some demons have proven very helpful to the Winchester brothers – although their motivations were not always clear or benevolent. Ruby shows up at the start of Season 3 with a demon-slaying knife that aids the brothers in slaying some of the demons that escaped when the devil’s gate opened. Crowley, King of the Crossroads, has proven quite helpful to the brothers during their efforts to defeat Lucifer and short-circuit Armageddon. Even Meg, a demon who was quite an enemy of the brothers in Season 1, returns in later seasons and prove to be quite an asset. The Winchester brothers can never full trust these demons because each time their helpfulness has proven to mask a hidden agenda. Sometimes their aid is not worth the price that must be paid.

Angel or demon, in Supernatural all have the ability to prove dangerous to humanity. As Dean has noted numerous times “Angels are dicks” and if one is a believer in free will this certainly will seem to be the case. Angels appear to ensure we follow God’s cosmic plan for us. If we resist they tend to get aggressive in their efforts to bring us in line. Demons are corrupting influences and, as expected, quite detrimental to humanity’s spiritual health. However they also raise several valid points regarding humanity’s tendency towards self-destruction and the fact that we cause more damage to each other than any demons ever could. I find these portrayals both thought provoking and refreshing. Instead of falling into the simplistic approach that angels are good and have humanity’s best interests at heart and demons are bad, corrupting and evil influences, the writers have created a multitude of shades of gray. For better or worse, these are not your grandmother’s angels or demons.