This year Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday and a Full Moon.
Wishing you all a wonderful evening.
Click on the picture to hear the simplest, sweetest, yet most passionate love song ever written. (IMHO)
Any other favorites?
In the United States, most of us are familiar with Punxsutawney Phil and his fascination with his shadow. But in Ireland, another beastie signals the beginning of the end of winter. The Irish watch for the snake, the chthonic symbol of transformation, to slither out of her hole and bring forth spring.
The Carmina Gadelica, an amazing compendium of Celtic folklore, prayers, etc., has this to say about Imbolc/St. Brigid’s Day, the Celtic Groundhog’s day.
On the day of Bride of the white hills
The noble queen will come from the knoll,
I will not molest the noble queen,
Nor will the noble queen molest me.
Early on Brigid’s morn
The serpent shall come from the hole,
I will not molest the serpent,
Nor will the serpent molest me.
Tav is the final letter of the Hebrew alphabet (or aleph-beth) and is associated with The World, the final card in the major arcana. It means signature or mark. The earliest representation of this letter was an equal armed cross, which is the astrological glyph for Earth and has come to symbolize the four quarters of the earth and the four elements. The four figures at the corners of the card also stand for the four elements and, of course, the four quarters of The World. See “The World, Part I.” It also symbolizes the union of masculine, conscious mind (vertical line) and feminine, not conscious mind (horizontal line) into a perfect whole. This is essentially what The World key is all about. The cross evolved to an “x” in middle Semitic script. On a treasure map, “x” marks the spot where, after a long and arduous journey, the seeker will find the treasure. The World is, indeed, the treasure at the end of the hero’s journey.
The World’s planet is Saturn.
This makes absolutely no sense at first glance.
The World is the most favorable card in the Major Arcana and Saturn is the most malefic of the planets. In fact Saturn is so malefic that medieval astrologers referred to it as the “major malefic.” Today, however, astrologers describe Saturn as boundaries and limitations, the inner teacher. Saturn is portrayed as an old man with a scythe and one of his nicknames is Father Time. His Greek equivalents are the Titan Cronus, father of Zeus, and/or Chronus, the Greek personification of time. Old age and time are certainly relentless teachers of boundaries and limitations. But this is still a far cry from the meaning of The World, which implies removal of boundaries and limitations.
To understand this correspondence we must take a closer look at Saturn. He is probably the most ancient and least understood of the Roman deities. His temple at the base of the Capitoline Hill, which was originally called Saturnius Mons, was consecrated in 497 BCE–just 12 years after 509 BCE, the accepted starting date for the Roman republic–and housed the state treasury throughout Roman history. However, the roots of his worship reach back to before recorded history. One Roman writer connects Saturn with the ancient Etruscan god Satres.* The original Saturn was a chthonic diety of fertility, agriculture and wealth. His first wife was Lua, whose name derives from the Latin verb luo, meaning compensate, atone, or clense. Roman soldiers burned battle spoils taken from the corpses of their fallen enemies in her honor. She was her husband’s shadow side. His second wife was Ops, a goddess of fecundity and fertility–his mirror image. Saturn was once the ruler of the gods and his reign was known as the Golden Age. Humans lived in harmony and abundance and there was no pain or suffering. This reminds me of the Jewish myth of the Garden of Eden. Perhaps these were times when the human psyche was whole and not divided between conscious and not-conscious. This state of being is precisely what The World key is about.
When The World appears in a tarot spread it is time to rejoice. The querent has successfully completed a long and arduous journey. If there are lots of pentacles in the spread it could signify the end of a long and successful career, a lucrative business accomplishment, or complete recovery from a long, debilitating illness and the wsdom gained from the experience. Swords and cards that suggest study and work, such as the eight of pentacles and The Hermit could indicate a graduation with honors from some field of training or university. Lots of wands and transformation cards such as The Hanged Man, ten of cups, and even The Tower might indicate spiritual awakening and new engagement with the universe on a less selfish and personal level. The querent now sees herself as part of the web of life, intimately connected with all of creation. She understands that each of her actions affects the entire universe and the successes and failures of each member of the universe are also her successes and failures. If it appears with travel cards like The Chariot, six of swords, or eight of wands the querent may be about to set off on a trip that will transform her. Wands and pentacles in the spread might indicate a successful move or a victory of some sort.
A good friend of mine pulled The World as this year’s card during our last Samhain ritual. She had just moved to a place that was perfect for her and her husband and she was about to retire from a long and successful career. I also have no doubt that her retirement will be a time of spiritual awakening and rejuvenation.
If The World is reversed it could mean the same things only not quite so good. It could also mean that the querent hasn’t been recognized for her achievements. Or she may be resisting a much-needed transformation or has somehow lost focus on achieving an important goal.
The World is the final card in the major arcana and signifies the last, triumphant stage in the hero’s journey. The hero has overcome impossible odds and returned to the ordinary world with the prize he sought.
In The Lord of the Rings, the whole reason Frodo reluctantly left on his harrowing adventure was to protect The Shire from the destruction of Mordor. The trilogy ends with Frodo returning to the peace and unspoiled beauty of his beloved home.
And this is also the end of our hero’s journey through the wisdom of the major arcana. But the final lesson of The World is that the Multiverse moves in circles. There are no final endings, only new beginnings. The Empire isn’t defeated, Luke and his friends will continue to fight for the Federation. Dorothy and Frodo are home, but their new lives are just beginning, and this blog will continue with more tarot insights and tales about writing and living magically.
*Marcus Terentius Varro, De lingua latina libri XXV (or On the Latin Language in 25 Books, of which six books (V–X) survive, partly mutilated)
At least until he gets hungry.
My husband, son, and a few friends are off for a weekend of camping on an island in the middle of the Columbia River. Unlike the island, the house is warm and silent and filled with joyous holiday energy. I have the entire weekend and Monday to catch up on my writing. There are several things I need to work on, all of which are emotionally charged for me in one way or another.
I could do part two of The World. This is the last major arcana card and will be the end of the series that I have been working on for the past three or so years. I’ve enjoyed the work and feel sad that it’s coming to a close.
I could work on a blog that continues the story of my Grandfather Mellinger.
I could begin pulling together a talk I will be giving in February to the local Theosophical Society on “The Tarot and the Synthesis of the Conscious and Not-conscious minds.”
Or I could begin rewriting the two books I sent in to my editor, Jessica Morrell. My main character needs to be totally reworked, and I have spent the past five months researching and agonizing over just how I’m going to do this.
I think I will begin rewriting my books.
Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year; and it’s stuck smack dab in the middle of weeks of other really long, cold nights. Humans, as well as the rest of Mother Earth, are solar powered. Without the Sun, our planet would be a frozen ball of rock hurtling through dark, empty space. And so Winter Solstice is essentially all about light—especially for those of us who live above the 40th parallel.
We invoke it constantly and fervently.
Drive down almost any neighborhood street in the northern US after 5 o’clock.
See what I mean?
But at this time of year you can never get enough, and so I have posted two amazing displays for your light-starved eyes.
This is a most spectacular offering. Click on the pic and scroll down the blog for an “amazing” video :
And this is Carson Williams’ display–the one that probably started it all in 2005–and my personal favorite. Just click on the pic and scroll down to the video.
So fill your home with light and warmth and love, take your vitamin D, and have a marvelous holiday season!
As we gather together and give thanks for all the joys of our lives—friends, family, a fabulous feast, a home full of warmth, love, and laughter—it is also important to remember that our wonderful world is only a tiny stitch in the tapestry of the Multiverse. Its vastness surrounds us and supports us and blurs the edges of our safe reality, inviting us to come out and play with the divine.
And it is this thrilling yet scarcely perceived sense of infinite possibility that makes life truly worth living.
By reducing our worlds to the material, our thoughts to chemical reactions, our stories to illusions, and our experiences of the Other to delusions, Materialism rips from us the very tools by which we world the Other into the earth. While denying the Other and turning our desire and experience of it into mere psychological states and disorders, we find ourselves disarmed, alienated: we become disinhabited things. – Rhyd Wildermuth
Thank you Gwyllm Llwydd
She dances freely in mid-air, unconstrained by the laws of gravity and perhaps any of the other laws of this world. She looks totally feminine to me, but all my sources say she’s an androgynous being, which is probably why Pamela Coleman Smith and many of the other tarot artists discretely drape her private parts. Each of her hands holds a wand, suggesting positive and negative poles of energy. The symbolism here is thick and obvious. When we are able to integrate our masculine and feminine natures, our positive and negative sides, our conscious and not conscious minds, we enter into a state of being in which we can accomplish wonders (see my previous posts on The Sun and Judgement).
“What can we say of an understanding, a freedom and rapture beyond words? The unconscious known consciously, the outer self unified with the forces of life, knowledge that is not knowledge at all but a constant ecstatic dance of being….”* A quick troll through the Internet yielded the following quotes from people who’d been there and made a valiant effort to describe the undiscribable:
…I was immediately captivated by the magnificence of the energy around me. And because I could no longer identify the boundaries of my body, I felt enormous and expansive. I felt at one with all the energy that was, and it was beautiful there…
Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist who suffered a brain hemorrhage and was trapped in her right brain.
The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.
Meister Eckhart, Sermons of Meister Eckhart
A laurel wreath surrounds the dancer. Laurel wreaths were given to victorious Greek athletes, notable poets (it’s where we get the laureate in poet laureate), and scholars. And so the wreath implies that the dancer has accomplished a great victory; and, indeed, she has. She is The Fool who has at last reached the end of his hero’s journey. A.E. Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith go to great lengths to make sure we understand this. The Fool and androgyne on The World card are the only figures in the major arcana that are dancing. We dance to bring ourselves into alignment with the multiverse, which, as quantum physicists are quick to tell us, is simply a dance of particles. The cosmic dancer began her journey toward enlightenment as The Fool and struggled through all the trials and dangers of the major arcana. She hung on the Tree of Life and overcame Death itself. Through her adventures she has achieved the goal of The Great Work—“Know thyself”. Her conscious and not conscious minds are in communion and the multiverse is open to her. A supreme victory indeed.
The Fool’s number is zero, the cosmic egg. The laurel wreath in The World, instead of being round like most laurel wreaths, is also shaped like a zero—another clue that these two are the same being. The wreath in the Marseilles decks actually comes to a point at both ends and looks remarkably like a Vesica piscis. This is the space formed when two circles intersect, and has come to symbolize liminal space . Gods and Goddesses and Saints are often pictured inside a Vesica piscis. Our dancer has transcended reality as we know it and is looking at things from the viewpoint of a god.
The wreath, come to think of it, is also shaped like an eye. Perhaps this is the eye Meister Ekhart was talking about?
The symbols of the elements, the four cardinal directions, the fixed signs of the zodiac, the archangels, and the gospel makers nail down the four corners of The World.
Nobody agrees on which gospel maker goes with which animal. But I do know that in Venice the statue of a winged lion stands atop a pillar in St. Mark’s square near St. Mark’s Basilica because it is a symbol of St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice.
When magicians and witches cast a circle for magical workings they draw the circle and invoke the above four quarters. They don’t invoke all the symbols for each quarter, of course, but choose the one or ones most appropriate for their work. Usually the directions and the elements are called, sometimes the archangels. A magic circle is an entity that exists in liminal space, between the worlds, and effects all of them. Those within the circle are, by definition, in all places at all times, at one with everything. Alchemists call this state of being “squaring the circle”, a concept which implies that with the grace of the divine all things are possible, that the mysterious can be “squared” with physical reality.
“As with other alchemical images, this etching was believed to possess all that is needed to transform lead into gold. A caption above the picture proclaims, ‘Here followeth the Figure conteyning all the secrets of the Treatise both great & small.’ The image echoes a recipe from the Rosarium, ‘Make a circle out of a man and woman, derive from it a square, and from the square a triangle: make a circle and you will have the philosopher’s stone.’ The circle containing the male and female figures is the microcosm and the larger outer circle represents the macrocosm. Note how the alchemist connects the concentric circles with a sexton. Circles are considered feminine in nature because they act to contain matter, much in the same way a womb acts to hold within itself the embryo. The square represents a masculine aspect and signifies earth with each of the four elements.
“Finally, the triangle symbolizes fire and acts to connect and integrate the above with the below. In the same way it signifies body, soul and spirit. Male and female energies are fused into a complementary wholeness that forms the basis for effective functioning in reality (the square). Extending outward from this inner psychic structure, human consciousness is brought into a divine relationship with the cosmos (the large, outer circle). Thus, there is inner and outer harmony within oneself, with the opposite sex and with the universe.” Thom F. Cavalli, Ph.D.
The Wheel of Fortune key also squares the circle, but in this case, the circle is a physical wheel, and the viewpoint of The Wheel of Fortune is from its rim. We, and by extension, our fates, go up and down as it turns. But the viewpoint of The World is from the center of the card—the center of the circle and the center of the square. The dancer understands that there is no single center or axis to the multiverse. In the dance of the cosmos, each of us dances at the center, a still-point around which everything moves. Nothing and everything all at once.
William Butler Yeats might have been describing The World when he wrote:
“O chestnut tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom, or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance
How can we know the dancer from the dance?”
“Among School Children” from The Tower 1928
To be continued…
*Rachael Pollack on The World card, Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom.