Fear & Loathing in La TarotBroad

I am a huge fan of the TV show Supernatural (I might have mentioned this before) and while watching a recent episode it occurred to me that even after 11 years of taking on all matter of supernatural creatures (including angels and demons) and emerging victorious, the two main characters (the Winchester brothers) still see themselves as worthless. They willingly sacrifice themselves for the greater good because they truly believe their only value is in their ability to save people. It’s heart-breaking and tragic to watch them fight their inner demons and try to convince each other they have value and worth.

Of course as I watched it I realized that I have the same tendency (as do many others I know). We all seem to willing to believe the worst about ourselves; to see ourselves are petty, venal and rather pathetic. We incorporate all the criticism, self-doubt and negativity aimed at us by the world but neglect the positive traits we possess, the good we do for others and benefits we bring to those in our lives. Why? Why do we all seem so willing to wallow in a trough of self-loathing? I have no idea. I’m sure psychologist and healers have been trying to answer that question for decades if not centuries. Sometimes it seems to me that the more free time we have, the more ways we find to fill our minds with negative attitudes and self-loathing. The human capacity for self-doubt and self-hatred is mind blowing.

So, if I can’t tell you why we’re like this then why am I writing this post? Because I am determined to wage a battle to stop or at least reduce this behavior in my own life & mind. How? Well, I do not have any clear answers to that so I decided to ask the Tarot. Using Arnell Ando’s wonderful Transformational Tarot, I asked “How can I release the self-doubt, self-loathing and inner demons that populate my psyche?”

I drew the 6 of Swords R, 3 of Cups + 4 of Wands.

The 6 of Swords tells me no one else can save me, this is something I must do for myself. No knight in shining armor will sweep me up and carry me away. This is a only I can steer my way through.

The 3 of Cups tells me that friendship, camaraderie and joy will help in this endeavor. Finding emotional support and people who can serve as sounding boards when things get bad; caring people who can counteract those negative voices we all hear inside our own heads.

The 4 of Wands suggests that I need to find stable and exiting creative outlets and support networks. Just as knitters love to talk to others knitters, we may all find our creative juices enhanced by interacting with folks of a like mind. It also helps to have a support network to guide and advise us when something gets screwed up.

So it would seem that the key to overcoming and releasing all those self-doubts and self-loathing; to slaying those inner demons is accepting responsibility for yourself and then making sure you surround yourself with supporting nurturing people who appreciate you for who you are and who enhance and appreciate your creative endeavors rather than tearing them down. We also need to make sure that we offer this same support and appreciation to friends and loved ones. I speak from experience – “positive criticism” can often come across as an effort to shred someone’s confidence and to sound superior. No one likes a know-it-all (trust me on this, I know of what I speak). It sounds so simple and yet I know so many who still allow this energy into their lives and continue to behave this way towards others. My goal is to call myself on this behavior when I am exposed to it and when I subject others to it. (Did that come off sounding know-it-all-ish and superior? I hope not!)

What will help me embrace the grayness? 5 of Stones R (Wildwood)

Wildwood 5 of Stones

It’s another gray, rainy, gloomy day here in the lower Hudson Valley.  I decided to ask what I might learn from this grayness because we’ve had quite a bit of it lately.  Using the Wildwood Tarot I drew the 5 of Stone.  The card shows a child huddled in  cave tending a fire – alone and isolated.  Perhaps the child is engaged in a rite of passage; a vision quest.  That can be an empowering and deeply spiritual experience but I don’t believe that aspects applies to my question today.

The card’s reversed nature suggests that the answer to my question is the opposite of this.  Instead of isolation and solitude I need to reconnect with people.  I need to reach out and communicate with friends and loved ones.  It makes perfect sense because a rainy, grey, gloomy day is the perfect time to make a pot of tea and chat on the phone with someone.  I may not be able to leave the house but that doesn’t mean I need to suffer in solitude.

On another level this card may be reminding me that being solitary allows me to focus within myself and find the answers I seek.  I don’t need to leave house to engage in a spirit quest, I simply need to find a place in the house where I can carve out some alone time; some time to focus on me.  Of course that can be easier said than done but I do think it’s important to do in order to keep my spiritual fires burning.

What is love truly about? Judgement (Tarot of Prague)

Tarot of Prague Judgement

Sometimes I am amazed at the answers Tarot gives me to certain questions.  I decided to ask this one after watching a classic In Search Of episode about great lovers.  It focused on the fictional tale of Don Juan and the (possibly somewhat fictionalized) life of Giacomo Casanova.  In both cases these men are viewed as legendary lovers but when you listen to the tales of Don Juan’s conquests he seems more victimizer than lover.  He lies, cheats and steals to have his way with women.  No trick is too devious or to low.  When he is finished the women are often embittered and furious.  Casanova, on the other hand, seems to be a scoundrel and con artist in many ways but his lovers are left with fond memories and seem to bear him so ill-will.

Considering the very different styles and personalities of these two legendary lovers, I decided to ask Tarot what is love?  At it’s core, what does love truly mean?  Drawing Judgement in response to this question was surprising.  The card shows a winged angel with a determined expression in the foreground.  Behind him are several coffins that have been opened and their inhabits are beginning to emerge.  Three additional angels hover in the background offering their assistance.  Not exactly the visual I was expecting in response to a question about love.

Upon further reflection it started to make more sense.  Love, true love not the initial passion and attraction that we often claim is love, is about seeing our partners for who they really are and loving them anyway.  Real love is about constantly working to revive the relationship; to bring it back from the dead, and not lose sight of the fact that untended it will wither and die.  Real love may experience dormant periods but that doesn’t mean it’s dead, merely hibernating.  Real love is about accepting that sometimes we go through dark patches in our lives and when we emerge into the light we might need the support and love of a partner.

Romantic love is often portrayed as unconditional and never-changing.  In my experience real love is very conditional and constantly changing.  It morphs and expands and grows.  Sometimes we may think it has died but then something will reignite it and it comes roaring back in a wave of memory and joy.  I have found that sometimes those we love and who love us can be very judgemental, weighing and evaluating our behaviors and failure but loving us anyway.  Rather than wrapping relationships in rose-tinted gauze, real love accepts our flaws and screw ups.  Perhaps Shakespeare said it best – love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.  Real love is not perfect and flawless.  It is riddled with cracks and flaws but it endures; it is strong enough to face any judgments made of it.  In fact that may be part of the message here too – real love makes us strong enough to face Judgement together, powerful and enduring and not wilting under pressure.

There is a wonderful Twilight Zone episode called The Hunt about an elderly country man who loves hunting with his dog.  Before leaving he has a conversation with his wife, whom he clearly loves.  Their every interaction speaks of that love but they never say the words.  Instead they have this conversation:
Old Woman:  “Old man I never said this to you but we have endured powerful well over the years together.”
Old Man:  “Hmm? Nearly 50 years we’ve been married, eh? Come October 16.”
Old Woman:  “Long time to travel together.”
Old Man:  “Well, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
To me, that is real love.

Reach out and touch somebody’s hand – 5 of Duckets (Dark Carnival Tarot)

Dark Carnival 5 of Duckets

This is the second time I’ve drawn this card this week.  I guess I need to listen to its message more closely.  Looking at the two “ghetto smurfs” (I love this phrase from the Gone in 60 Seconds movie) on this card the one thing that strikes me is that they’re together but not together.  They aren’t touching each other.  The girl has her arms wrapped around herself and the guy, with his foot wrapped in a bandage, is reading what appears to be an arrest warrant.  A 40-ounce bottle rests in the snow alone with other pieces of litter.  The girl seems to be glancing hopefully at a closed door nearby while the guy seems wrapped up in himself.  There is a loneliness and sadness to this card that goes beyond their apparent poverty.  They seem so isolated and disconnected from their world and from each other.  All one would need to do is reach and touch the other and offer comfort but their body language suggests that not going to happen.

It seems that as a society we are more disconnected and isolated.  Although we have perpetual access to each other via cell phones, text messaging and online social media sites, we rarely connect on a physical and human level.  How many people have hundreds of Facebook friends and yet would consider themselves lonely?  How many times do we yearn for a simple hug or comforting touch on the arm and instead we are offered a plethora of platitudes on Facebook?  I think this card serves as a reminder that all we really need to do is reach out and touch somebody’s hand (to quote the song).

I’ve recently found myself pondering this tendency in myself.  Over the years I’ve lost contact with many friends.  Some of this is simply the natural process we often go through as we grow and change, realizing we no longer share interests.  Some of if is because I feel as though I no longer have anything to offer in a relationship.  My world is so narrow that all I have to talk about is caring for the in-laws (okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement but not much).  I also have a tendency to feel as though I’m interrupted people’s lives when I call them. I think I need to make more of an effort to keep connected with friends and loved ones.  If they can’t talk to me then I have to hope they’ll feel comfortable enough to let me know.  Of course this says more about me than anything else.

On another level I think the reversed nature of this card is telling me that even though finances are tight and we are in a physically restrictive environment (we just don’t have the freedom to come and goes as we’d like), hubby and I do have each other.  We do support each other.  We try to give each other much needed breaks and work through our frustrations.  It’s not easy but we manage.  We may not be in the best shape financially but at least we are there for each other and care for each other.  Our shared experiences, even the miserable ones, have created a strong, enduring bond.  That’s the important thing right now.

What will help me achieve my bliss? 6 of Cups R + 4 of Wands (Hidden Realm)

Hidden Realm 6 of CupsHidden Realm 4 of Wands

The woman on the 6 of Cups is up to her breasts in dark blue water.  She seems calm and at ease.  She is obviously there by choice and in no danger of drowning.  Flowers float atop the water all around her.  She seems contemplative as though pondering deep issues.

The 4 of Wands shows a quartet of rather rag-tag musicians.  They seem to be engaged in an impromptu jam sessions for flute and violin.  I get a sense of untamed, enthusiasm.  They are channeling their creativity and in the process drawing us into this magical energy.

I was struck by two things as I looked at these cards.  The first is that the reversed 6 of Cups is reminding me not to get overwhelmed by the past; don’t let the negative emotions still lingering drown my dreams.  I need to gain some distance, the ability to view them as learning experiences but not let them still hurt me.  I need to be able to keep my head above the water and not feel like the water will soon be over my head.  What’s past is past and it’s time to move forward.

The 4 of Wands reminds me that I need to improve my networking skills.  The 4 musicians remind me that playing with others is always more fun than playing alone.  It’s a great way to improve my skills, trade ideas and build a support network.  In the past I’ve found it difficult to network.  It often required me to act more outgoing than I felt at the time.  I do love attending events such as Readers Studio but sometimes in smaller venues I have a hard time feeling comfortable.

My friend E-M has been hosting a gathering of like minded women at her house every few months.  The women share ideas, create vision boards and things like that.  They support each other and apparently have a lot of laughs.  I’ve manage to miss them so far.  Perhaps this is telling me that I need to cut it out and find ways to create this kind of energy for myself.

I think the difficulty is in letting my guard down and trusting.  In the past when I’ve created what I thought were support networks with friends (or at least friendly colleagues), I’ve learned that when the chips were down I could not count on them.  That hurt more than anything else about my firing from my last job.  I felt abandoned and as though once my usefulness to these folks ended so did our network.  That left a bad taste in my mouth.  I can use that experience as a lesson and find ways to be cautious without being cut off completely.  Otherwise I’m making things more difficult for myself than they need to be.

How can I maintain my momentum? – 9 of Disks + 5 of Wands (Crone)

Crone 9 of Disks Crone 5 of Wands

When I read Ellen’s interpretations for these two cards in her companion book, two sentences jumped out at me.  For the 9 of Disks Ellen speaks of community and sharing.  She points out the the antidote to isolation is sharing and that struck me.  I’ve been feeling so isolated and detached lately and I’ve also been avoiding friends and group activity.  How can I expect to feel like part of a community and overcome this sense of isolation if I withdraw?  It’s counter-intuitive.  For so long I’ve felt like the outsider watching through a window as others embrace and share experiences.  Part of that is due to my childhood – my branch of the family was something of an embarrassment to the rest so we often weren’t invited to family events.  This gave me the sense that every other branch of the family was close.  With age sometimes comes wisdom and enlightenment.  In the last few years I’ve had some conversations with cousins that made me realize my belief was an illusion.  Some of them might have been closer to others but that was due to being of a similar age with similar interests.  Unfortunately that sense of otherness and outsider status is still in my bones.

The 5 of Wands has that bright, fiery, dancing star at it’s center.  Ellen’s descriptive phrase for this card shouts “Look at me.  I’ve got something to say!”  Oh brother do I feel like that right now.  For Simpsons fans, I feel like Lisa when the teachers go on strike.  She stands in the kitchen near Marge begging “Rate me, evaluate and rank me.  I’m ever so smart.”  That’s how I feel now that I’m no longer in the workforce or attending classes.  I feel as though I have no external validation or recognition.  One way to lessen that sense is by participating in group activities and becoming part of a community of folks with similar interests.

Okay so I get it – the way to maintain my momentum is to find support groups or special interest groups that will nourish my spirit and provide me with folks of a like mind with whom to share ideas and trade experiences.  If I don’t have some sort of support group I’ll eventually run out of steam and become distracted.  so for my own benefit and healing, I need to stop trying to do things alone.  This message has been coming through loud and clear over the past few weeks.  Now I need to actually listen and do something about it.

What is my next step? Shatter those crystal walls and allow myself to wallow in every experience – Beast of Disks + Shadow of Swords (Crone)

Crone Beast of Disks Crone Shadow of Swords

The first thought that struck me looking at the black pig on the Beast of Disks I heard the phrase “the Cutty Black Sow” in my head.  I wasn’t sure what that meant so I looked it up.  The primary reference is to an old Tales from the Darkside episode.  There are also some indications that it was a mythical creature used to scare children in Wales on Halloween.  I’m sure it has its roots in older legends of wild boars and dangerous pigs but the majority of references using this specific term refer back to the old TV show.  And how appropriate to draw this image on the night of a full moon.  I seems symbolic – as though I’m giving birth to new dreams.

Looking at the Shadow of Swords the phrase “shattered self” drifted through my mind.  This was a concept I learned about in psychology class.  It occurs when someone who has experienced a traumatic experience manages to cope for many years but the psyche eventually shatters because the trauma was never healed.  I also get a sense of someone who has become crystallized in an effort to separate from the pain and isolate the emotions.  That is one way to survive and make it through traumatic experiences but eventually it can cause a split from one’s emotional nature that results in deeper trauma.  It reminds me a bit of what Voldemort must do to his soul in the creation of Horcruxes.  Eventually what is left is barely human.

So with these two rather bleak images in my head, what do I think these cards are telling me?  That I need to allow myself to devour and destroy those areas in my life that are unhealthy and no longer useful so that I can give birth to new possibilities.  Yes, the Cutty Black Sow devours what she catches but sows are also quite prolific breeders.  Sows may eat almost anything including their young but they also produce litters larger than most mammals.  The potential to manifest something amazing is unlimited.  The Shadow of Swords is reminding me that I have to stop living in my head.  I need to interact with people and start picking away at those shards of crystal forming on my skin.

It’s ironic that as I was reading The Dark Goddess:  Dancing with the Shadow by Marcia Starck and Gynne Stern I connected with something Gynne wrote about her experience meeting Inanna.  She describes how she felt more of a connection to Erishkigel because she always saw herself as an outsider.  She writes about avoiding participating in group activities and then regretting it because she ends up creating the very situation she dreads.

How many times have I done this very thing?  I talk myself out of participating in group activities unless I know all the participants.  Then I have regrets because it sounds like everyone had a wonderful time.  That is the Shadow of Swords manifesting itself.  It keeps me isolated and safe behind crystal walls.  I need to shatter those crystal walls and allow myself to wallow in every experience like the black sow.  Sounds a little gross but maybe I’ll learn more that way than by thinking everything through to the point that I’m mentally paralyzed.