#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.

#TarotfromtheDarkSide – December 2018 Dark Moon Spread (#BohemianGothic)

What is revealed in the darkness this month?

How can I best work with this energy?

What must I be cautious about during this time?

What serves me about this energy?

Wow, this is very interesting to me. I have been thinking about focusing some of my blog posts on the dark side of Tarot and the human psyche in general, hence the #TarotAfterDark. This reading certainly seems to support this idea.

The reversed 5 of Wands suggests that it’s time to put my creative struggles behind me. I’ve found my niche and now I need to begin exploring it further. All those ghostly self-doubts and inner critic can’t hold me back anymore. It’s time to move beyond those spectral annoyances and explore my new domain.

The Sun – how ironic! I’m in my natural element in the dark; it’s my native milieu. I am a Leo sun sign so this card is even more appropriate and impactful. I have always connected more with solar energies than lunar ones and yet I am also drawn to the darker side of human nature. I love exploring the darkness. I even pursued a masters degree in forensic psychology because I wanted to learn what contributes to some of the less pleasant, more horrific elements of human nature and behavior. Maybe this focus will be my platform to share some of my explorations with other interested parties.

The Queen of Pentacles nudges me to be careful about continuing to care for myself; nurturing my creative energies and manifesting them in ways that don’t exhaust me. I sometimes jump into the deep end and don’t consider long term ramifications or burning out. I think the Queen of Pentacles reminds me to go slowly; be practical about how often I can post and how often I want to post. I want this to be fun and enjoyable not become one more fucking thing I gotta do.

The Star reminds me that this is a way to re-energize my connection to Tarot; an opportunity to further explore the relationship between Tarot cards and the human psyche. The Star also gives me hope that this is doable and may even be another tool in my healing journey. Perhaps (if this isn’t too arrogant) this work will allow me to be a beacon in the dark for others who feel overwhelmed or lost.

Who knows, this may turn out to be totally inaccurate but it makes me feel hopeful and excited and maybe at the end of the day that’s more important.

#TarotDaily – The Empress + 10 of Discs (#AllHallows)

How are you exploring your subconscious? Why might it be a good idea to seek a connection with it?

Ironic that I drew The Empress in response to this; for many years I had quite a hostile relationship with her. Perhaps, like a lot of abused children, in an effort to avoid feeling powerless I identified with the abuser. I think I already had a well-developed Yang personality. Add in the perceived weakness of the women in my life and it was almost inevitable that to feel strong I expressed traditionally masculine attitudes and behaviors. Now, in order to explore my subconscious I need to follow a more Yin, feminine path.

This unfamiliar, to me anyway, path can help me become whole; learn to blend my outer Yang and inner Yin. It will help me heal and become more comfortable, more at home in my own skin. The truth is that I will always be assertive, forceful, quick to express my opinions and somewhat obnoxious. Diplomacy and tact are not really in my repertoire. Soothing the feelings of others rarely occurs to me but I suppose it’s never too late to learn. The first step is to embrace the belief that Yin energy is just as powerful and strong as Yang energy. Maybe it’s time to accept that I don’t need to be so defensive. I can let my guard down a bit (just a bit) and let a select, trusted few within the perimeter.

#TarotDaily – Knight of Swords + The Devil (Toscano)

TarotHunter’s Silver Bullets:

  • If you really want to free yourself from addictive or unhealthy behaviors then be smart about it. Seek out advice from trusted friends and advisors and listen to them.
  • The only way to truly slay inner demons is to face them head on. Denial and avoidance only allow negative situations to linger and grow stronger. Take up your sword, face the truth and then seek out a path through it.
  • We all have a shadow side, that somewhat frightening and rather unappealing part of our nature. Ignoring it will not weaken or banish it. Instead, try facing it head on. Use your wits and intellect and learn to embrace it rather than letting fear guide you. Made that side of your psyche work for you not against you.

The Menendez Brothers – what motivated them to kill their parents?

 

Like a lot of folks my age, I remember the media frenzy that was the Menendez brothers’ trial. I remember how the media swarmed when it was revealed that police suspected the brothers killed their parents motivated by greed and selfishness. I remember how I snickered along with most reporters, pundits, and comedians when the brothers’ claims of abuse were revealed. I remember watching as the Menendez brothers’ tears and breakdowns on the witness stand were mocked and mimicked *ad nauseum*. It became impossible to separate out the facts of the case from the media circus and mockery that surrounded it. Few people had any sympathy for these two privileged, rich boys who slaughtered their parents because they wanted money and freedom. The brothers were convicted. The media would periodically revisit the case near an anniversary and if there was a slow news day but that was it. Another media circus would pull into town to draw their attention and feed our relentless need for distraction and amusement.

The Menendez murders recently came back into mainstream attention due to the ABC documentary *”Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers — American Sons, American Murderers”*. While re-watching the media footage of Lyle Menendez on the stand as he broke down while admitting that not only had he been molested by their father but that he had molested his brother, my opinion about this case changed. Along with most people at the time, I refused to even consider that the brothers had been molested. I viewed it as an attempt to justify their actions and garner sympathy. I was unaware there was corroborating evidence supporting their claims of sexual abuse by their father. Even if I had been aware of it at the time, the odds are the I would have ignored it. With the passage of time and maturity on my part, I was more open to hearing facts of the case I’d previously ignored. In September, NBC will run a program entitled Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders. I have no idea what its focus will be but based on the ads, the trial will feature prominently.

Watching the documentary made me reconsider my beliefs about the Menendez brothers’ motivation for murdering their parents. The reality is that in most of the cases with which I’m familiar, abuse played a starring role for the child’s actions. I’m not taking a stance on whether such actions are justifiable, simply interested in trying to gain some insight into what pushed these brothers over the edge and led to the murders.

Using the Dark Days Tarot, I drew three cards to acquire some insight into this situation and pulled the 3 of Cups (tilted left – which subtle impacts the cards meaning in this deck), 2 of Swords and 4 of Cups. I studied these cards for a while because I am not familiar with this deck and began to realize that despite the celebrating that appears to be going on in the 3 of Cups, its leftward tilt makes me feel that things were not as they seemed. There was no celebration and joy inside this family, it was an act put on for observers. I don’t know any more about Joe and Kitty Menendez than was revealed on the ABC documentary. It certainly made the father out to be a driven, successful, Type A personality who had a history of infidelity. The mother, Kitty, is portrayed as either complicit in her husband’s abuse of the boys or deliberately obtuse. I’ve often thought this might explain why the brothers killed their mother as well as their father. If the father abused the brothers and the mother did nothing to protect them, their rage towards her must have been just as consuming.

While I make no claims to having gained much additional insight into the Menendez brothers decision, this reading does seem to at least reinforce my belief in their claims there was sexual and emotional abuse in this family. While it might not excuse murdering their parents, it does make more sense than simple greed. I realize greed is a major motivation for many murders but killing one’s parents takes things up a notch. Even the most abused child will often cling to the abusive parent. For the Menendez brothers to be driven to take such dramatic action, I have to believe more than greed was involved. Of course, your mileage may vary and others may draw very different interpretations from these cards but this is my interpretation and I’m sticking with it.

Poking around the dark nooks & crannies of my soul with Tarot

Before writing this blog post I asked the universe how I should approach this topic; where should my focus be? I drew the Page of Wands Rx – all sorts of potential creative and dynamic energy being blocked or channeled in wrong directions. Hmm, so is writing about the dark nooks and crannies of my soul focusing in the wrong direction or is are the dark nooks and crannies of my soul created when I channel my energies in inappropriate or unhealthy directions? I’m choosing to interpret the Page of Wands Rx as indicating the latter – blocking my creative energies creates the dark nooks & crannies.

So, now that I’ve established that where am I going with it? I’m doing to dive right in the deep end. Reality is that I’m not an especially introspective person – at least not on a daily basis. I tend to be more of a doer than a planner. I can plan but it’s not my first instinct. My tendency is to dive into the deep end of any endeavor and then just figure my way out. It’s been relatively successful so I’ve had little incentive to change this pattern. Which also explains the reversed Page of Wands – when I take on a new project or creative impulse I tend to jump right in to things. Poking around in my dark places is rather counter-intuitive to me.

I will say that using Tarot has been a great way to sneak into my subconscious. I can be quite good at rationalizing and intellectualizing my actions. Deflection and denial can be quite powerful so the only way for me to subvert them is a tool like Tarot cards. Tarot forces me to hold a mirror up to myself and address what I see. It often takes more than one attempt but eventually even my stubbornness cannot hold out against the slaps upside the head that Tarot offers. Each deck offers different insights and perspectives.

I realize now that I’ve used Tarot as a therapeutic tool. Despite my MA in forensic psychology, I have a resistance to therapy. I resist believing that I need another person’s input to my therapeutic process. I hate being told what to do, even when I know the suggestions might be useful. I am one of those people who has to stumble through the jungle on my own. I don’t value the experience unless it’s first hand. It’s the same reason I rarely find self-help books helpful – I may be glad that others have found their way to healing and wholeness but I need to forge my own path. I also have no interest in mentoring others. If you find something useful in these musings then I’m thrilled. If not, that’s okay too because it helped me.

Over the next few months I’ll probably share more specific tales of this journey through the wilds of my own mind. I don’t know if it will be especially interesting or edifying but I’ll guess time will tell. What I do know is that for some reason I’m compelled to share. Maybe just knowing that they’re not alone out there will help others who have similar experiences. Maybe at the end of the day that’s what helps us all stay a little saner – the knowledge that we are not alone.

 

I embrace the shadowed darkness but flee the brilliant light

Once again, this is something that has been incubating in me since last year’s Readers’ Studio. All three presenters (Heatherleigh Navarre, Barbara Moore & Sasha Graham, who were all amazing!) focused on shadow work. It was an awesome experience because each session managed to enhance and build upon the energy from the other sessions. Quite a lot of magical power was unleashed that weekend. As we worked through the exercises and listened to the presenters I had a bit of an epiphany. I realized that I had no problem working with the darker side of human nature because I’ve been so exposed to it during my lifetime; it’s familiar territory.

I’ve probably hinted or even outright stated this before on this blog, but the fact of the matter is that much of my childhood was exposed to the darker side of human nature. My household was one of alcoholism, abuse (emotional, psychological, physical and sexual) and poverty. Most of my childhood friends came from similar backgrounds. We didn’t realize things were screwed up because this is the way it had always been for us. It’s not until I share tales of our exploits and get horrified looks from listeners that I realize how violent, dark and different my childhood was compared to many others.

I have learned to thrive in darkness, like a flower that blooms at night. It has become my milieu; I am comfortable in its environs. What I tend to avoid is the light, the gentle, the calmer approach to things. While sitting at Readers’ Studio I realize that one of my strengths is that I can help someone find their way through their own darkness. I can embrace and accept this side of their nature and help them work through it and find their way to wholeness. I can serve as the guide across the River Styx but I prefer not to accompany them back to the light. I prefer the shadows. I trust the darkness; I know what to watch for and what to expect. The light is something unfamiliar and untrustworthy. Random acts of kindness and spontaneous acts of generosity make me twitchy and a bit suspicious (something I am working on changing).

This realization also forced me to understand that my ability to endure and survive this experiences does not mean everyone can do so. It doesn’t make those who get lost in the shadows or who fear them weaker than me, simply different. I a bit like a colorblind person who doesn’t miss color because she has never seen them. I don’t miss the light side because it isn’t something I had a lot of experience with growing up. As an adult, I’ve been lucky enough to make friends who have slowly exposed me to the benefits of the light side and I am more grateful to them than words can express but it hasn’t shifted my orientation much.

Maybe in a way, I’m like the Tarot version of a sin eater. I can absorb the darkness or shadow side that others fear so much and help them learn to become more comfortable with it too. Hmm, maybe I’m more like a dark side Brita filter, helping purify the dark side so it’s more fully appreciated.

Let’s face it – there are a lot of folks out there working the light side of the street. They try to convince us that it’s healthier and more positive. In my experience, it’s much healthier to embrace both sides. As Star Trek (yes I love classic Star Trek, Gene Rodenberry was a genius, and I plan to use examples from the show as often as possible) showed, humanity needs its darker side; messier, more violent shadow side. Without it we risk becoming indecisive martyrs, trying to harm none – that’s just not possible. I think we need to accept that every action has consequences, some good and some bad. In some ways, every choice we make has the potential to harm others. That is just how life works. If you are offered a job that means all the other applicants were rejected – someone was harmed. Get over it. Instead of ignoring or denying the shadow side, try working with it a bit. You don’t need to immerse yourself in it but try accepting and acknowledging it and learn what its energy can do for you. I think you’ll be surprised.